Saturday, January 07, 2012

NPL preview for opening day

The 2011/2012 Nigeria Premier League (NPL) season will get underway on Saturday with nine games after the Kaduna United versus Jigawa Golden Stars match was called off over wage issues.

Port Harcourt will be the focus on the opening day as champions, Dolphins play host to Sunshine Stars, who finished as runners-up last term.

Here are the preview of all nine games billed to hold on Saturday:

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Dolphins v Sunshine Stars (Liberation Stadium, live on SuperSport 9)
Owusu Addae was the hero in this same game last season when Dolphins won 1-0. In spite of suffering a 2-3 loss at Sunshine Stars, Stanley Eguma's men went on to win the title on the last day of last season.

Expect to see pockets of battles all over the park between both sides as Eguma unleashes new signing, Isiaka Olawale on the Akure Gunners. The champions should edge this game.
Our prediction: 2 – 1

Enugu Rangers v Warri Wolves (Nnamdi Azikiwe Stadium)
Last season in this same fixture, the Flying Antelopes 'huffed and puffed' but Paul Aigbogun’s men defended resolutely to earn a point. In the reverse game Rangers lost by a lone through Oghogho Oduokpe’s strike but will start this season under former Enyimba head coach, Okey Emordi, who makes a return to the club.

Wolves have made five visits to Rangers since 2004 and have been able to leave the Nnamdi Azikiwe Stadium with draws in their last two visits.
Our prediction: 1 – 1

Kwara United v Ocean Boys (Ilorin Township Stadium)
Both sides have met nine times since 2006 with Kwara United edging the former champions with three wins to two. The other games ended in draws. Ocean Boys’ best result at Kwara United remains a 1 – 1 draw in January 2007.

In this corresponding fixture, Isiaka Olawale, who has completed a move to NPL champions Dolphins scored both goals to hand the home side all points. Coach Tunde Sanni will have to look for another talisman to produce same display this time against the Divine Warriors.
Our prediction: 2 – 1

Wikki Tourists v Heartland (Abubakar Tafawa Balewa Stadium)
Surprisingly newly-promoted Wikki Tourists have had the advantage over cup holders, Heartland in nine years and have also won all seven home games in Bauchi against their opponents.

The last meeting between the two sides before the Tourists were relegated ended three-nil in favour of the home. Ladan Bosso has returned to the saddle at Wikki and will take charge of his first game, as Heartland continue their search for a first win on the road in more than a season.
Our prediction: 1 – 0

Enyimba v ABS FC (Enyimba Sports Stadium)
Samuel Tswanya’s penalty ensured that six-time champions, Enyimba ran out lone goal winners over ABS FC (formerly Bukola Babes) in Aba in this same game last season. In the first-ever top flight game between both sides, Audu Akeem scored the winner for ABS FC to record a stunning result over Enyimba.

In spite of losing some of their top stars in the off-season, the Peoples Elephant should coast to three points in this tie as ABS FC have lost too many key men upfront.
Our prediction: 1 – 0

Kano Pillars v Niger Tornadoes (Sani Abacha Stadium)
Last season Tornadoes took four points off Kano Pillars over two legs. Baba Ganaru will start his tenure as head coach of Pillars after Ladan Bosso left.

Ganaru will not have new signing Papa Idris in centre-back as he is away on international duty. Pillars have failed to beat Tornadoes in Kano only twice in 2011 and 2009 in eight games since March 19, 2003.
Our prediction: 2 – 0

3SC v Sharks (Obafemi Awolowo Stadium)
It is three wins apiece between both sides in eight head-to-head top flight meetings since 2005. In July 2005, the Blue Angels recorded a one-nil win at 3SC – their best result in their last four visits to Ibadan.

Festus Allen will take charge of his first game as head coach of 3SC and he will be expected to lead out his men to replicate last season’s 2 – 0 win over Sharks in this same encounter almost a year ago.
Our prediction: 2 – 1

Rising Stars v Akwa United (Dipo Dina Stadium)
This is the first time both sides will meet in the top flight. It is a clash of newly-promoted teams though Akwa United have competed at this level in this past while Rising Stars are making their debut in the Premier League.

Akwa United head coach, Solomon Ogbeide has signed a handful of experienced players for this campaign while Rising Stars have been quiet in the off-season transfer window. United are capable of earning a result in this tie.
Our prediction: 0 – 0

Gombe United v Lobi Stars (Pantami Stadium)
In nine years, both sides have met 18 times with Gombe United edging Lobi with eight wins to seven while the other games have ended in draws.

In this same game last term, MacMarcel Obioha’s goal sealed all points for Gombe United. Dominic Iorfa’s men since 2003 have only been able to muster just two points at Gombe in nine visits. The Desert Scorpions look set to their dominance at home over Lobi Stars.
Our prediction: 2 – 0

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