Action returns to the Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) on Sunday as the competition enters match day 15.
Enyimba International FC versus Rivers United FC at the UJ Esuene Stadium, Calabar is one of the stand out fixtures of the round and it is intriguingly-poised for a number of reasons.
Enyimba is arguably Nigeria’s most successful football club but the Peoples’ Elephant underwhelmed hugely last season, failing to win any silverware.
The Aba club is currently in ninth place on the NPFL log, an unaccustomed position going by their lofty standards of recent seasons.
Rivers United seem to be in an even more precarious position.
The club is currently ensconced in the relegation zone, two places and two points clear of the bottom side, Remo Stars.
Stanley Eguma’s men need to start racking up the (positive) results and quickly too, a fact not lost on the experienced Rivers United technical manager.
“Playing against Enyimba is always a big (occasion).
“We know that Enyimba are former champions and so far they have not been doing badly.
“So we expect (to face) very strong opposition but we are confined to a back to the walls situation and we have to ensure that we come out with three points.
“Our mission to Calabar is to ensure that we get the three points at stake and we are prepared for the game,” Eguma said.
Talk is cheap they say as beating Enyimba on home patch is easier said than done.
Enyimba may not have hit desired heights this season but the Peoples’ Elephant still look extremely strong with a solid spine.
Ghanaian goalkeeper, Fatau Dauda has continued to win admirers far and wide following a string of impressive displays for the seven-time Nigerian champions.
He will be hard to score against on Sunday, if he starts.
Samson Gbadepo, Isiaka Oladuntoye and Dare Ojo have been the main defensive stalwarts for Enyimba this term while ‘man-mountain’, Kelly Kester and the sleek-playing Ikechukwu Ibenegbu represent the anchors on which the side’s midfield is built.
Enyimba is blessed with outrageously talented personnel upfront with captain, Mfon Udoh, Joseph Osadiaye, Stephen Chukwude and Ismaila Gata known to have thrown their weight about with panache this season.
Underrating the threat posed by Enyimba in Calabar on today will be foolish and head coach of the Aba club, Gbenga Ogunbote believes United will suffer a reverse in the ‘Canaan City’.
“It is an important one (this game versus Rivers United) and knowing fully well that Rivers United is coming (into this game on the back of) two (consecutive) losses, they will want to put effort in this game and make it more interesting.
“We are not too comfortable on the (NPFL) log so we are condemned to win the game, we will do our best to make sure that we better our position on the log.
“We know they will want to come out to resist a loss but of course, they don’t have a choice but to lose,” he told the Rivers United official website, http://www.riversunitedfc.com.ng.
This is shaping up to be a football battle for the ages as two sides with lofty ambitions look to put floundering showings to bed for good.