The next Nigeria Professional Football League campaign will begin on December 6, with Abia and Akwa Ibom derbies taking centre stage.
League Management Company, the body that runs the league, has yet to make a formal announcement concerning the upcoming season but according to documents sent to all 20 NPFL clubs on Monday, the season will commence on December 6 and run till July 4 next year.
There were rumours that the organisers were considering having an abridged season, but the fixture table — which was leaked to newsmen — shows the LMC will run a full season with 38 round of matches held between December 6 and July 4 next year.
Akwa Ibom and Abia derbies headline the opening week of the campaign, as Akwa United host Dakkada while Abia Warriors travel to Enyimba.
Akwa United share their home ground — Nest of Champions — with local rivals Dakkada. But despite having met the former Nigeria National League champions several times in the past, the two sides have only faced each other only two times in the NPFL, meaning the upcoming season’s opening week clash will be the third meeting between the Akwa Ibom clubs in the top-flight.
In the first-ever fixture between the sides in the NPFL — which was listed as a Dakkada home game — Akwa United beat Caleb Esu’s side 1-0. Dakkada looked on course to winning the reverse fixture after taking a 2-1 lead in the 80th minute, but Ndifreke Effiong’s goal a minute from normal time ensured a share of the spoils.
Enyimba will meet Abia Warriors for the first time since their blood-soaked game in February.
The Aba side completed a double over Abia Warriors last season. Fatai Osho’s men beat Abia Warriors 2-1 at Enyimba Stadium, before claiming a 4-1 victory in the reverse tie, which was marred by violence.
Clashes between rival fans disrupted the match in Umuahia, forcing officials to stop the game after 23 minutes. Enyimba were leading 1-0 at the time.
The remainder of the match was played at Okigwe Stadium, with goals from Victor Mbaoma, Iwuala Anayo and Stanley Dimgba’s second goal of the game increasing Enyimba’s lead to 4-0, before Yakub Hammed pulled one back.
In the wake of the humiliating defeat, Emmanuel Deutsch was relieved of his job and Willy Udube named as interim head coach.
The Umuahia warlords have since appointed Imama Amapakabo — who led Enugu Rangers to league glory in 2016 — as head coach on permanent basis and have added some big names to their squad.
Warriors have signed Godwin Obaje, Markson Ojobo, Felix Osia, Vincent Edafe, Harrison Ibukun, Nzube Anaezemba and Olorunleke Ojo.
Amapakabo’s side — who played out a goalless draw against Akwa United in a friendly match at the Nest of Champions last week — will be looking to get their season off to a good start, just like their their local rivals.
All Round 1 Fixtures
Adamawa United vs Katsina United
Akwa United vs Dakkada
Enyimba vs Abia Warriors
FC Ifeanyi Ubah vs Lobi Stars
Jigawa Golden Stars vs Sunshine Stars
Katsina United vs Heartland
MFM vs Warri Wolves
Nasarawa United vs Wikki Tourists
Plateau United vs Kwara United
Rivers United vs Enugu Rangers
- Bologna 0-1 Napoli: Victor Osimhen scores winner
- Stanley Dimgba completes move to Stellenbosch