Adeleye Olaminekan of FC IfeanyiUbah
Tuesday Jan 24, 2017. 11:08
The FC Ifeanyiubah Stadium in Nnewi will be the arena for Wednesday’s NPFL clash that will pitch two of Nigeria’s flag bearers in CAF club competitions this year.
Ifeanyiubah will feature in this year’s CAF Confederation Cup, while Rivers United are drawn in the Champions League.
‘Anambra Warriors’ Ifeanyiubah boast a fearsome form at home and they totally outclassed high-flying MFM FC 4-0 in the only game played in front of their vociferous supporters thus far this season.
Coach Yaw Preko is spoilt for choice in a squad teeming with quality personnel.
Captain Ikechukwu Ezenwa remains one of the best goalkeepers around, while Valentine Nwabili, Onyekachi Akakem, Elu Wilson and Stephen Eze make up an extremely impregnable-looking ‘back four’.
In Madrano Tamen, FCIU possess probably the most naturally-gifted playmaker in the land, while Kone Yaya, Jimoh Oni, King Osanga and the enigmatic Prince Aggreh represent threats from midfield and up top.
Seka Paschal and the Brazilian, Alberico Da Silva can also influence issues as impact substitutes while new addition, Ifeanyi Onuigbo comes with bags of experience.
Rivers United forward Maduabuchi Okereke knows the inner workings of FCIU quite well having played for the Anambra Warriors last term.
He insisted that the Pride of Rivers will be vanquished unless they play the perfect game on Wednesday.
“I know most (of the FCIU) players very well and I have spoken to some ahead of this game,” he said.
“They are eager to beat Rivers United just as they did last season and if we don’t play a perfect game, I don’t think we can avoid defeat because they are very determined and have very good players.
“Last season, I played against Rivers United (in Nnewi) and I did well (he grabbed the assist for the first goal of the game that finished 2-0).
“Now, I face my former club and my expectation is to do much better than I did last season.”
While FCIU appear to be the overwhelming favourites on paper, United, unbeaten in their last NPFL matches, have been flying under the radar and quietly and effectively going about their business.
The Port Harcourt club have been effective if not spectacular this term and are just one of three unbeaten sides in the NPFL.
Wednesday’s game against FCIU however represents their sternest test thus far but club captain, Festus Austin is making the right noises and understandably so.
“Last season’s visit to Nnewi was not a good one for us but we know what is at stake for us,” he said.
“We just have to improve on our performances away from home.
“The objective is to at least avoid defeat in Nnewi.”
Form guide (last five NPFL matches)
Rivers United (WDWWD)
Rivers United 0-0 Abia Warriors (Home)
Rivers United 2-1 Akwa United (Away)
Rivers United 2-1 El Kanemi Warriors (Home)
Rivers United 1-1 Akwa United (Away)
Rivers United 1-0 Niger Tornadoes (Home)
FCIU 1-0 Enyimba (Home)
FCIU 0-1 MFM FC (Away)
FCIU 0-3 Kano Pillars (Away)
FCIU 4-0 MFM FC (Home)
FCIU 0-1 ABS FC (Away)
Previous meetings (Head-to-head)
Matches: Three (3)
FCIU wins: One (1)
Rivers United wins: Two (1)
Draws; Nil (0)
Details (Specific breakdown)
Rivers United 2-0 FCIU (NPFL; Yakubu Gowon Stadium, Port Harcourt on February 28, 2016)
FCIU 2-0 Rivers United (NPFL; FC Ifeanyiubah Stadium, Nnewi June 19, 2016)
FCIU 0-2 Rivers United (NPFL Super 4, Nnamdi Azikiwe Stadium, Enugu on December 10, 2016).