An absolutely special football match in prospect comes up on Wednesday in Port Harcourt as the Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) enters match day 18.
Rivers United will welcome Akwa United to the Yakubu Gowon Stadium in a game that should have the purists purring with delight and licking their lips in anticipation.
Akwa come into the game in fearsome form (the best of any of the 20 sides in the division) having won their last three games in the NPFL.
A win for the seventh-paced Uyo based club in Port Harcourt on Wednesday could see them move into second place on the NPFL log so the stakes could hardly have been higher.
In former junior international, Bassey Akpan, Akwa United are blessed with a goal keeper who can almost single-handedly repel some of the best strike forces in the country.
The ‘Ubongs’, Ubong Ekpai and Friday Ubong have come good in recent games, weighing in with crucial goals as Akwa continue their renaissance.
Godspower Igudia, Emmanuel Ariwa, Nnamso Edo, Aniekan Ekpe and Ottobong Effiong are the other individuals make up a solid spine for the ‘Promise Keepers’.
Head coach, Daboere Dokubo is confident Akwa United will upstage the applecart and condemn Rivers United to their first home defeat of the season.
“This game is going to be a super cracker. Rivers United and Akwa United are neighbours so this is like a derby. And as derbies go, expect lots of passion in the game.
“Akwa United is in Port Harcourt to provide the best,” Dokubo told Rivers United Media.
Dokubo is from Rivers State but he says loyalties will not be divided as he will shelve any sort of sentiments when the game gets underway.
“I am from Rivers State (Rivers United is owned by the Rivers State Government).
“I am going to be playing at home when the game kicks off but trust me, I will be going all out to win this game for Akwa United because football is what it is.
“Akwa United will win the game 2-0; I am very sure of that,” he added.
Such a prediction will not please the Rivers United technical manager, Stanley Eguma who has slowly but effectively built a solid side this season.
No player from an opposition club has yet to score against Rivers United at their fortress, the Yakubu Gowon Stadium, this season and the ‘Pride of Rivers’ are well aware that a win on Wednesday could see them return to joint top spot in the standings.
Eguma will prosecute Wednesday’s game without first choice defenders, Yaovi Douhadji and Chigozie Ihunda who are still side lined with varying degrees of indisposition.
There is happier news to report from the sick bay as Ivoirian marksman, Guy Kuemian looks set to make his first appearance since April 10 when he strained his left quadriceps in United’s 2-1 loss to Heartland at the Dan Anyiam Stadium, Owerri.
Big Ghanaian forward, Wilson Andoh is also back in full training after suffering a knee injury on April 24 in United’s 2-1 reverse against Plateau United at the Rwang Pam Stadium, Jos.
Star midfielder, Obomate Frederick missed out on United’s last game-a 1-0 loss to Abia Warriors in Umuahia- because of a slight foot injury but he returns for the big game on Wednesday.
Eguma is looking forward to Wednesday’s game with positive sentiments.
“The game against Akwa United is a very big game. We will work harder than we did in our last game against Abia Warriors.
“That is the only way we can beat Akwa United.
“Playing at home makes no difference; we must work hard to win,” Eguma said.
So the stage is set, the war cry has been sounded and intense, fascinating football awaits in Port Harcourt.
Form guide (Last five matches)
Rivers United (LWWWL)
Rivers United 1-2 Plateau United (A)
Rivers United 3-1 Enugu Rangers (H)
Rivers United 1-0 Warri Wolves (A)
Rivers United 1-0 Wikki Tourists (H)
Rivers United 0-1 Abia Warriors (A)
Akwa United (WWWLL)
Akwa United 0-1 Enyimba (H)
MFM FC 3-0 Akwa United (A)
Akwa United 2-0 FCIU (H)
Akwa 3-0 Giwa FC (A)
Akwa United 1-0 Nasarawa United (H)