Buoyed by a rare away draw at ABS FC at the weekend, Rivers United will hope to further improve their standing on the NPFL table with a win at home against troubled Sunshine Stars.
There is now a new-found belief in the Port Harcourt club after a heroic display in Ilorin on Sunday as ABS were stopped in their tracks by the darlings of Rivers State in a dramatic 0-0 draw.
It was the first time since March 1, when they outplayed Wikki Tourists in a high-octane 0-0 draw at the Abubakar Tafawa Balewa Stadium in Bauchi that United would avoid defeat on the road (a run that spanned seven away fixtures) in a Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) game.
Coach Stanley Eguma said he is eager to consolidate on that result in Ilorin by masterminding success for his side today.
“Sunshine Stars are a very strong team and they will fire (on all cylinders) having lost at home (on Sunday to Nasarawa United),” Eguma told his club’s official website.
“We have to intensify our efforts in training, strategize and try to beat Sunshine Stars.
“We know they are in Port Harcourt as a determined side that will try to redeem their image so we are not going to relent.
“We will work above our capacity and try to get the points at stake.”
United have yet to taste defeat at home in domestic competition this season, but they meet a side that can strike with deadly efficiency on their travels.
‘The Akure Gunners’ smacked ABS FC 4-2 the last time they played away from home in the NPFL and will be looking to avoid defeat in Port Harcourt following their shock 0-1 loss at home to Nasarawa United on Sunday.
Sunshine Stars coach Duke Udi has trusted personnel who will be saddled with the task of leaving pain, heartbreak and gnashing of teeth in their wake in Port Harcourt.
Goalkeeper, Henry Ayodele knows ‘The Pride of Rivers’ well having played for the Port Harcourt club, albeit an unhappy stint from a personal perspective last season.
He returns with a point to prove having failed to make any competitive appearance (save for a cameo in the 2016 Rivers State FA Cup final) for last season’s NPFL runners-up with Sunday Rotimi and Godwin Anyalogu the preferred goalkeepers.
Captain Sunday Abe is a man with bags of experience and he will marshal a mobile defence that also has Michael Okoyoh and Oke Ogagotewho.
Left back, Adeniyi Alaba can cuase dame on the flanks and Ifeanyi Nweke will have to be on top of his game to avoid any surprises.
Nojeem Raji, Michael Okoyoh, Agogo Dayo Ojo, Joseph Abbey and striker, Ajibola Otegbeye are other individuals who could cause problems for Eguma and his men.
Udi is full of respect for Eguma and his Rivers United side who seem to be on a renaissance having lost just once in their last five NPFL matches.
“Rivers United are a team with continental experience having participated in this year’s CAF Champions League and CAF Confederation Cup,” he said.
“They have a lot of good players and their coach (Eguma) is someone I respect.
“Many young coaches look up to him (Eguma) and you cannot question his technical (expertise).”
Having lost the reverse fixture 0-1 in Akure on match day 10, United will be keen to avoid yet another defeat against a side they also failed to beat in Port Harcourt last season.
Game: Rivers United versus Sunshine Stars
Competition: Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL)
Match day: 30
Current positions of respective clubs on the NPFL log: Rivers United (13th); Sunshine Stars (16th)
Date: Wednesday, July 19, 2017
Venue: Yakubu Gowon Stadium in Port Harcourt
Time: 4 pm