When Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) champions make more than the three-hour drive into Lafia to face Nasarawa United in a central derby on 14 January, two players, Elisha Golbe and Suraj Ayeleso are expected to feature in the game.
Both men told npfl.ng about their expectations when the new season kicks off next month and they already sound optimistic of beginning their campaigns on sterling notes.
Nasarawa United goalkeeper Ayeleso who made 36 league appearances and kept 15 clean sheets knows what to expect in the derby after the champions took four points off them last term including playing out a 0-0 draw at the Lafia City Stadium before grinding out a 1-0 success in their second meeting in Jos in June.
Ayeleso has made it clear that this time the champions will find the going tough when they come visiting for their first game of the campaign.
“It is a local derby and it has always been tough whenever we meet them.
Last season they picked a draw in Lafia and we lost narrowly in Jos.
We will not let that happen this time round,” Ayeleso told npfl.ng.
Last term Golbe provided solidity for Plateau United in the heart of defence leading to their first-ever title, and the big defensive leader is hopeful that they can kickstart their season on a good note.
But he acknowledged that the Jos club are now the team to beat after cruising to their first league triumph almost effortlessly and expects the Solid Miners to push them through their first game on 14 January.
“We just have to forget what we did last season and now focus on the future,” began Golbe who scored five times for the champions last season including three from direct free kicks.
“Playing Nasarawa United first is a tough fixture and other teams to come later will be equally difficult because we are the champions of the league. That much we have seen during the pre-season as teams now take us very seriously. First we must focus on the first game against Nasarawa United and I trust we can get a good result to start our title defence in a good way.”
Last season Nasarawa United finished the season in fifth position with 56 points, 10 behind their rivals and Ayeleso believes the Lafia club will improve on their return in the coming campaign but wants full concentration on the derby.
“We can improve on that I believe, but the first match remains important for now,” he said.
Sunday, 14 January, 2018
Kwara United v Niger Tornadoes
FC Ifeanyiubah v Yobe Desert Stars
Wikki Tourists v Go Round
Akwa United v Rangers
Lobi Stars v Enyimba
Heartland v Sunshine Stars
Katsina United v Kano Pillars
Nasarawa United v Plateau United
Rivers United v El-Kanemi Warriors
Abia Warriors v MFM FC