Two of the top teams in the Nigeria Professional Football League, Enyimba FC and Rivers United are to battle for one of the semi final tickets of this year’s Federation Cup this afternoon at the legendary Lekan Salami Stadium in Ibadan.
The two sides reached this stage of Nigeria’s oldest football competition in contrasting style.
United scored eight times in their opening two games of the competition against Papilo FC and Kaduna United before meeting a brick wall against Shooting Stars Sports Club (3SC) in the round of 16.
Rivers United required a penalty shoot out to eventually over power 3SC after regulation time at the Ahmadu Bello Stadium, Kaduna finished 0-0.
Enyimba also suffered a scare against lower-tier Julius Atete FC in their rescheduled round of 16 clash at the Confluence Stadium, Lokoja before Ezekiel Bassey calmed jangling nerves with an opportunistic winner at the death.
United and Enyimba both suffered defeats at the weekend in the Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) on Sunday to Sunshine Stars and Plateau United respectively but all that will count for nothing when the two giants go toe to toe on Wednesday.
Goals have surprisingly been in short supply in clashes between these two sides but excitement levels have almost reached manic heights with no goals scored from open play in games involving Enyimba and Rivers United.
On match day one of this season’s NPFL season, Obomate Frederick’s 66th minute free kick proved to be the difference as United shocked Enyimba 1-0 at the Yakubu Gowon Stadium, Port Harcourt.
Enyimba dominated the reverse fixture in Umuahia but met the United goalkeeper, Sunday Rotimi in inspired form as the game, one of the best in the NPFL this season, finished goalless.
But today, it promises to be yet another titanic battle with the stakes arguably higher than the two times the two sides had met earlier this season.
Enyimba’s Head Coach, Paul Aigbogun, expects a tough examination for his side in Ibadan.
“The game against Rivers United is going to be tough but then It’s never easy when you get to the quarter finals (of the competition),” he stressed.
The Rivers United Technical Manager, Stanley Eguma, also addressed the media ahead of the big game.
“It is always a big game when you play Enyimba. They are the only Nigerian club still left on the continent and we have a lot of respect for them.
“However we are an ambitious club and we want to announce our arrival to the Nigerian football scene.
“We want to compensate our Governor (Wike) and the people of Rivers State who have been solidly behind us all season,” Eguma said.
There can only be one winner today and the side that shows the greater desire will take the garlands at the end of the clash in Ibadan.
In another Federation Cup clash today in Abeokuta, FC Ifeanyi Ubah will be looking to extend their eight match unbeaten run in all competitions when they face Warri Wolves in the quarter finals at the MKO Abiola Stadium.
Speaking ahead of today’s clash, coach of FC Ifeanyi Ubah, Rafael Everton, is confident that his team can get the job done against Warri Wolves.
“Warri Wolves are a very good side but right now the team spirit and confidence in the team is high. Especially after Saturday’s game. Getting a point against a highly physical team like Heartland in that sought of atmosphere has really lifted the spirit of the team.”
Coach Rafael also went on to charge his players to put on a good defensive display on Wednesday.
“We are yet to concede a goal in this tournament and that means that we have been strong defensively, we will try to also put up a great defensive display tomorrow because in a knock out competition, it is very important to keep it tight at the back.”
Rafael went on to urge the fans to me out in their numbers and support the team today.