- Published on Saturday, 04 March 2017 15:33
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By Fisayo Dairo
Last season's top two teams in the Nigeria Professional Football League, Enugu Rangers and Rivers United go face to face on Sunday at the Yakubu Gowon Stadium in Port Harcourt. One won the NPFL title and the other claimed the NPFL Super4 crown.
Champions League hopefuls Rivers United are without a win in their last five league games and have managed to score only twice in that period. The Stanley Eguma-led side will be hoping for a repeat performance of the corresponding fixture last term when they dazed the high flying Rangers 3-1 and not their last league meeting when they were trounced 4-0 by the Champions.
It is a battle between two Rivers State-born tacticians who have earned rave reviews in the past few years following the exploits of their teams. At the moment however, both teams hover just above the relegation zone with Rivers United having same points as 17th placed Wikki Tourists while Rangers are a point better and sit on 14th spot.
Rivers United manager has grown wearied about the team's struggles in front of goal.
“It is really unfortunate (that we are not scoring as many goals as we would have liked) because we need goals at this point in time.
“It is especially important to score goals as it will motivate the players ahead of the next round of the CAF Champions League,” he told the club’s official website.
The former Gabros of Nnewi coach also emphasized the importance of Sunday's game against Rangers.
“Matches involving Rangers and Rivers United are always crackers and this one will be no different.
“Rangers have a very big pedigree and they are the champions and we will not take them for granted.
“I see this game as a derby as they are our rivals. " he asserted.
One of Rivers United's new buys is Nzube Anaezemba and the diminutive midfielder is already falling in love with life at his new club.
"Since I joined Rivers United, everything has been amazing," Nzube told www.npfl.ng
"I'm enjoying my football, going to other places for new challenges and meeting new friends has been a great experience for me. It has been very amazing honestly," added Anaezemba, Enyimba's top scorer in the league last term with five goals.
The former Rising Stars of Akure prodigy also toed the line of his manager, Eguma by affirming they cannot afford to take anything for granted against Rangers on Sunday.
"It is always a tough game against Rangers. I played against them (for Rivers) at the Super Four and I know how difficult it can be. We cannot afford to take anything for granted."
In the champions corner, Anaezemba's teammate at Enyimba, Daniel Etor is now plying his trade with Rangers and the flying winger is also expecting a very good game and better result than what the Flying Antelopes got in Port Harcourt last term.
"It is going to be tough no doubt because both teams are struggling a little bit in the league but I am confident we will get a positive result in Port Harcourt on Sunday," Etor told www.npfl.ng
The former Akwa United star is expected to be in action on Sunday despite some fitness concerns during Rangers' win over ABS in midweek, a game which saw Etor claim the match winner.
Sunday's big game will also see another homecoming for Rangers coach, Imama Amapakabo but the Sharks of Port Harcourt legend sees nothing special in leading out a team in Port Harcourt.
"I am a professional and I honestly feel indifferent about it. I am a Rangers coach and my desire is to be successful with Rangers.
"So it doesn't matter whether it is in Okrika or in Ogoloma, I just want to get a result for my team." said Amapakabo who is still expecting his promise from the Rivers State government after the governor made a cash promise at the end of last season.
The former Golden Eaglets goalkeeper however remains coy on what the outcome of the game might be on Sunday citing both teams' recent struggles domestically as a worry.
"Both teams are struggling especially with goalscoring this season and unlike last season when the two games between both sides produced four goals each, we can't say what will happen because both teams have been creating chances but not scoring much."
Sunday's game will be the last for both Rivers United and Rangers on the domestic scene before they take on Sudanese side Al Merriekh and Egyptian side Zamalek respectively in the CAF Champions League double header games.
Rangers coach Amapakabo believes the game will do both teams a lot of good in preparing for the bigger tasks.
"We're both in the Champions League and there could not have been a better way to prepare for the upcoming games.
"Rivers United are playing at home next weekend so they'll see this as a way to prepare for their visitors. Ironically, from what I know about the Zamalek team, they play identical styles with what Rivers United has been playing of late except they change it on Sunday. So it is a good avenue for me to experiment with what we may have to do in Cairo next week." he posited.
Sunday's game will definitely feature two of the best coaches in the league and some of the exciting stars that make the league tick.
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