High flying Rivers United will look to transfer their impressive continental form in the Nigeria Professional Football League against Enugu Rangers, following a commanding away victory in the CAF Confederation Cup against Bloemfontein Celtic last week.
Rivers United will play their first game of the 2020/21 NPFL season at home against former champions, Enugu Rangers live on npfl.tv and NTA on Wednesday, December 30, and will be riding on that morale-boosting victory on the continent.
The Pride of Rivers had solid preparations to the new season, winning the Governor Nyesom Wike Preseason Tournament in Port Harcourt before playing three matches in the CAF Confederation Cup.
Coach Stanley Eguma has added quality and experience to his squad with the signing of former Rangers midfield maestro, Godwin Aguda, defender Ifeanyi Anaemena and Super Eagles goalkeeper Theophilus Afelokhai from rivals Enyimba. They also have two other former Rangers players in striker Bobby Clement who is a handful for any defense in the league and midfielder Kehinde Adedipe who knows Rangers inside out. Other players to join the team this season are, Emmanuel Israel, Godwin Chika, and Joseph Onoja.
While Coach Salisu Yusuf and Enugu Rangers have been quiet in their preparations for the new season. They beat Rivers United 2-0 in the finals of Ifeanyi Ekwueme Tico Select preseason tournament early this month.
Rangers are coming into this game in an environment they are well aware of against a familiar foe but will be without Charles Tiesso (strained metatarsal) and new signing from Dakkada FC, Esor Archibong (groin strain) for the match. They will rely on the abilities of striker Chinonso Eziekwe and the finesse of elegant midfielder Aniefiok Godswpower. Defender Femi Ajayi has also joined from Dakkada FC while Shedrack Asiegbu joined the team from Abia Warriors.
Rivers United are slow starters to matches and could be punished if that is repeated against Rangers. Eguma seemed to have worked on that weakness in the 2-0 victory in South Africa and will hope his team starts strongly today. Three points for either side will put them in front of the chasing pack and both coaches will hope to start the season as they mean to go on.
Captain of Rivers United, Festus Austin said Rangers is “unlucky” to visit Port Harcourt while the team is in good form.
“We just came back from South Africa with a great result and we the players have put that behind us as this is a league match and it’s a different ball game.
“We are playing a big side, a tactical side and a big team in Nigeria and I think we will need to step up our game.
“We know how important the three points are, so we can’t afford to lose any at home now, we just have to go all out.
“I think Rangers will be unlucky because we need the three points to be on top of the log of the league,” Festus said.
Enugu Rangers coach, Salisu Yusuf is optimistic his side can pick maximum points against Rivers United in the season opener despite their opponent’s resurgent on the continent.
“My immediate task is always to win and we have worked so hard and I believe we will have a good result there.
“That is football. You can win today but lose tomorrow. The most important thing is that we know what we want to play and how we want to go about it to get the result we want. My belief is that you can get any result anywhere and our target in Port-Harcourt is a positive result.”
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