It’s a battle of two sides in the top four of the Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) standings on Sunday as Abia Warriors and Rivers United go toe-to-toe in Umuahia.
The Warriors have proven the most difficult side to beat in the league this season and have suffered just two reverses in 15 games.
In Kennedy Boboye, Abia Warriors have one of the most progressive young coaches in the country.
He punched well above his weight last season with Akure club, Sunshine Stars and has continued to lay down the marker with his new side.
Boboye, who was recently appointed as a member of a three man consortium of coaches for Nigeria’s Super Eagles, is however well aware of the threat posed by Sunday’s high-flying visitors to the Umuahia Township Stadium.
“Rivers United is a very good team blessed with very good players.
“Their strongest point is their attack. I know some of their strikers recently picked up injuries but I don’t know if they are back yet.
“I have already spoken to my defenders to track them down so they don’t hurt us,” Boboye told Rivers United Media.
The Umuahia Stadium (Abia Warriors’ home ground) is a fortress, at least so far this season.
No team has won there this season but United come into Sunday’s game in boisterous mood having won their last three games in the league.
The 3-1 win over the leaders, Enugu Rangers in Port Harcourt on May 1 set the tone for a shock 1-0 away win over Warri Wolves (a side that had not lost at home prior to that game) a week ago.
United followed that up with a routine 1-0 win over Wikki Tourists on Sunday to go level on points with Rangers at the summit of the standings.
The United manager, Stanley Eguma insists his charges are in Umuahia to get at least a point.
“Abia Warriors are a good side and they have proved that by their recent results in the league.
“We have won three straight games but it will not get into our heads.
“We will not underrate them but will instead work above our capacity because a point in Umuahia will be extremely important.
“Our strategies will have to be perfect if we are to achieve our objectives on Sunday,” he said.
Eguma can afford to sound upbeat as he welcomes back captain, Festus Austin who was suspended for the match day 16 clash with Wikki Tourists in Port Harcourt last Wednesday.
Strikers, Guy Kuemian and Wilson Andoh are also in the frame to make cameos against the Warriors after they recovered from varying degrees of indisposition.
The duo trained with the rest of the United squad on Friday evening before the team travelled to Umuahia on Saturday.
Right back, Chigozie Ihunda will however miss out as he is yet to recover from the knee injury he sustained in United’s 1-0 success at Warri Wolves last Sunday.
As always, all eyes will be on United’s pin up “Magic seven”, Bernard Ovoke who has been peerless in the past month.
Ovoke has scored four goals in as many matches for United and provided the assist for his side’s only goal in the 1-0 win over Wikki in midweek.
The former Bayelsa United man believes the “Pride of Rivers” can upset the apple cart by becoming the first side in the league to win at Abia Warriors this term.
“I think we can win because we are better than them.
“They are a good side but we are going there to get all three points,” he submitted.
This one promises to be an intense battle on Sunday afternoon as two ambitious sides go all out to amass maximum points.
Form guide (last five matches)
Abia Warriors (LWDWL)
Abia Warriors 0-1 Warri Wolves (A)
Abia Warriors 3-1 MFM FC (H)
Abia Warriors 0-0 FCIU (A)
Abia Warriors 1-0 Giwa FC (H)
Abia Warriors 2-3 Nasarawa United (A)
Rivers United (WLWWW)
Rivers United 1-0 Kano Pillars (H)
Rivers United 1-2 Plateau United (A)
Rivers United 1-0 Warri Wolves (A)
Rivers United 1-0 Wikki Tourists (H)