BY SAMMY WEJINYA
Nigeria’s most successful club, Enyimba International will on Thursday go toe to toe with Rivers United in a rescheduled high stakes Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) contest.
Enyimba will move into second place with a win while United will move up to joint third if they tear the form books to shreds and record a shock win at the Peoples’ Elephant’s cauldron of hate and noise.
Rivers United have lost just once all season, a 0-1 reverse against FC Ifeanyiubah on November 17 in Nnewi.
The Pride of Rivers will however face their toughest test of the season against an Enyimba side flying both domestically and on the continent.
Enyimba are riding the crest of a wave following Sunday’s 1-0 victory over Ivoirian club, San Pedro in the CAF Confederation Cup and head coach of the Aba club, Usman Abdallah expects United to make things ‘difficult’ for his side.
“This is a derby and it is going to be dicey,” Abdallah told the official Rivers United FC website, www.riversunitedfc.com.ng.
“They will come here and try to make it difficult for us, as usual but we’ve already known (what they will do) and that is why we have been working hard,” he said.
Enyimba have a fearsome record at home. They have won all (three) games played at the Enyimba International Stadium, Aba this season.
No team have scored more goals (eight) at home than Enyimba this season and the Aba club have won all three games played in the Commercial city this term.
Theophilus Afelokhai is likely to start in goal for Enyimba on Thursday with Daniel Darkwah, Andrew Abalogu, Ifeanyi Anaemena and Rueben Ogbonnaya all favoured to start in a four-man defence.
Oluwadamilare Olatunji and Austin Oladapo are likely to be saddled with the duties of protecting the back four and breaking up the opposition’s play with Stanley Dimgba, Samson Obi and Rueben Bala providing the creative juice and supporting the gangly Victo Mbaoma who will likely operate as the lone man upfront.
Abdallah will have Anayo Iwuala, Cyril Olisema and the dangerous Martins Usule (who scored against San Pedro on Sunday) to call upon should things not go according to script early on.
Rivers United are however extremely solid away from home and have conceded just once on their travels (three matches) this season.
United’s Technical Manager, Stanley Eguma is confident heading into Thursday’s contest.
“Enyimba is always strong especially when they play at home but we recall what happened when we met them in pre-season against them,” Eguma said.
“We dominated against them in Aba and they scored with a penalty in the 1-1 draw whikle we beat them in Port Harcourt.
“We know this Enyimba team very well and have perfected out tactics for the game,” he said.
United won on their last away trip in the league (against Warri Wolves) and could move into third place with yet another win on the road on Thursday.