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By ESPN Staff

Evaluating the NPFL contenders' transfer dealings

Ahead of Sunday's Nigeria Professional Football League kickoff, KweséESPN evaluates the transfer business undertaken by the division's title contenders.

Which of the league's top teams improved on their deficiencies during the offseason, and how could the new faces shape the title race this term?

Plateau United

The defending league champions have astutely reinforced their title-winning squad from last year, as they look to defend their crown and compete in the CAF Champions League for the first time.

Tosin Omoyele was recruited from Osun United in the Nigeria National League on the strength of his 15 league goals from open play. The forward has the ability to consistently score, a luxury which was missing during the title run-in last year.

Wingers King Osanga and Amos Gyang have also been brought in to give more options in the wide areas, while Charles Henlong and Raphael Ayagwa add steel in the engine room

Enyimba

The People's Elephant have avoided any major big-name signings.

The one exception, Ikechukwu Ezenwa, is a controversial addition considering the fact that the Nigeria international goalkeeper is arguably not a notable upgrade on either Theophilus Afelokhai or Fatau Dauda.

Ernest Governor Wasiu Alalade and Mohammed Mohammed were signed from relegated ABS FC, while experienced forward Abdulrahaman Bashir returns to the fold after two seasons at Nasarawa United.

Led by the returning coach Paul Aigbogun, Enyimba do not look like title contenders based on their recruitment and pre-season form.

However, a continental ticket could be within the reach of the seven-time league champions.

Akwa United signalled their intention of succeeding both domestically and in the CAF Confederation Cup by signing 16 players in the transfer window.

Kelly Kester is a direct replacement for the departed Afeez Aremu in midfield, but despite failing to sign a high-profile striker, the Promise Keepers' won the race for the signatures of both Ajibola Otegbeye and Victor Mbaoma, their headline attacking reinforcements.

The increase in goal scoring options this season and a competitive bench makes Akwa United firm favourites for the title.

Kano Pillars

Sai Masu Gida endured a disappointing season last year, finishing eighth on the table, but look set to mount a title challenge after a host of impressive signings.

A major Achilles heel last season was an inability to shutout goals at the back, with Pillars conceding 35.

The coaching crew have moved swiftly to plug the leaky defence, signing Stephen Eze from FC Ifeanyi Ubah

While the towering 23-year-old offers stability in the centre of defence, youngster Ifeanyi Nweke replaces the departed Bala Zakka at right back.

Rivers United have disappointingly failed to fix a glaring problem from last year... goalscoring!

Stanley Eguma's team boasted several excellent attacking midfielders and wingers last term, but the absence of a proper poacher denied them numerous goalscoring opportunities, in a season where they netted 34 league goals.

Despite the smart acquisition of goalkeeper Emeka Nwabulu to provide competition for veteran Sunday Rotimi, the unavailability of a trusted goalscorer could mean the fans are left frustrated again this year, at least until the midseason transfer window.

FC Ifeanyi Ubah

Billionaire-sponsored FC Ifeanyi Ubah recruited low-profile players in the transfer window, a departure from the practise in the past where a high number of foreigners dominated their squad.

New coach Ladan Bosso might not be renowned for his title winning exploits, but the former Flying Eagles coach should definitely build a team capable of creating upsets an upset or two.

Could the El-Kanemi Warriors team of last season represent a template for how they should approach this campaign?

If the club management are able to operate professionally, without undue interference, this present crop of players could quietly work their way to a top-six finish, an upgrade from last season's ninth-place.

Enugu Rangers

The Flying Antelopes can hope for a better outing this term following a disappointing campaign last year which ended in a 13th-place finish.

It does appear to be a new start for the 2016 champions, with Gbenga Ogunbote arriving as head coach for the season and the recruitment of 18 players as Rangers look to rebuild their reputation

The addition of Femi Thomas further fortifies the goalkeeping department, but the same cannot be said of the outfield positions, especially in attack, where Godwin Zaki remains the most notable signing.

However, we do not expect a repeat of last season's struggles, and considering the recruits, a finish just outside the top four could realistically be termed a pass mark.

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