By Sab Osuji:
Photo by Ganiyu Yusuf:
Heartland will welcome arch-rivals Enugu Rangers to Dan Anyiam Stadium Owerri in the first Oriental Derby of the second stanza of the 2015/2016 Nigeria Professional Football League today, Completesportsnigeria.com reports.
Both sides shared the spoils in their reverse confrontation at Nnamdi Azikiwe Stadium, Enugu on May 2.
The Naze Millionaires are still feeling hard done by from that clash following the their late goal that was overruled. This could add more spark into the game today.
Dan Anyiam Stadium has not been a fertile ground for Rangers in recent times. The Flying Antelopes have not won at Heartland in three previous visits and would be keen to reverse the trend, which will do a lot of good to their fading title aspirations.
While Heartland captain, Chinedu Efugh, is upbeat about victory, he would nonetheless admit this could be a tough one.
“It going to be a difficult match. Rangers are a strong side but we are aiming for the maximum points and no going back on that,” Efugh, who scored the winner as Heartland beat Enyimba 2-1 in the 2011 Federation Cup final in Lagos, told Completesportsnigeria.com.
“Of course, you know Rangers have not won any game here in Owerri for a couple of years now and we don’t expect things to change this time around.”
Heartland were not active in the midseason transfer market. Instead, they lost a host of their quality players to several other top flight sides, a situation which may force Alphonsus Dike to field a depleted side against the marauding Antelopes.
Fortune Omiwari has been given all clear to star for Akwa United, Ebere Obi is out of the game as he finalizes his switch to FC Ifeanyiubah, same as Wale Opeyemi, Isaac Loute and Ifeany Onuigbo.
“We have not signed any new player and I find it hard to take the manner our quality players are moving in droves,” Dike lamented.
Mid-season leaders, Wikki Tourists, will visit struggling Ikorodu United at Onikan Stadium with the ultimate ambition to win and consolidate their top spot on the log.
Possession football master, Abdullahi Maikaba, has left no one in doubt over his title ambitions this term. His philosophy of ball possession has been yielding result and with leading scorer of the moment, Godwin Obaje, Ikorodu United must have to be at their best to contain the visitors.
Ikorodu United, sitting last in the table, received a 4-0 bashing in the reverse fixture with this clash presenting opportunity for a possible revenge.
Title holders, Enyimba, lost the opportunity to depose Wikki Tourists at the summit following a 3-1 defeat in Bauchi in a rescheduled game on Wednesday. They will attempt to fight back to the top if they win at Nasarawa United.
When the Solid Miners visited Umuahia in the corresponding game, the People’s Elephant ran out 2-1 winners.
At the Sani Abacha Stadium, Kano, four-time champions Kano Pillars will have the opportunity to earn the maximum points against visiting Plateau United. The Masu Gida side have lost their home myth following the 2-1 home defeat by Enyimba in recent games.
Second placed Rivers United welcome Lobi Stars at the Yakubu Gowon Stadium hoping for a win to overhaul Wikki Tourists from the summit of the league table.
Niger Tornadoes will have their hands full when FC Ifeanyiubah come calling. Ismaila Gata Tornadoes leading scorer with eight goals has completed a mid season transfer to big spending FC Ifeanyiubah and could make his debut for the Nnewi side today against his former club. Loaded with cash in the aftermath of a N100m war chest by billionaire owner, Dr Patrick Ubah, the club invaded the transfer market and bought all quality players available.
Gbenga Ogunbote’s Shooting Stars will welcome Federation Cup holders, Akwa United, in battle for survival. Shooting are in the bottom three in the table so cannot afford to drop points carelessly.
NPFL MATCH DAY 20 FIXTURES
Heartland Vs Rangers
Pillars Vs Plateau Utd
Nasarawa Utd Vs Enyimba
Sunshine Vs Abia Warriors
Shooting Vs Akwa Utd
Rivers Utd Vs Lobi Stars
Ikorodu Utd Wikki Tourists
Tornadoes Vs FC Ifeanyiubah
El-Kanemi Vs Warri Wolves