Enyimba-Enugu Rangers Preview: The Flying Antelopes seek to halt the People’s Elephant

Coach Usman Abd’Allah has delivered another league trophy for the two-time African champions
Coach Usman Abd’Allah has delivered another league trophy for the two-time African champions

Enyimba and Enugu Rangers experienced contrasting results in their last few matches but they must place that aside and slug it out at the Enyimba International Stadium, Aba.

The People’s Elephant are the in-form team in the elite division having not tasted a defeat in their last 10 matches. They know that they must still be wary of the fixture as they have only picked up one win from their last five matches against the Flying Antelopes. That solitary victory was in 2017.

Enyimba have a brighter chance of putting an end to their recent poor record against Enugu Rangers based on the current form of Gbenga Ogunbote’s men. The Enugu side started the season brightly and went on a 13-game unbeaten run. In their last two games, they have conceded five goals, losing to Bendel Insurance and Rivers United.

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Enugu Rangers must do something about their free-fall in the league if they do not want to suffer a relapse the way they did in the Caf Confederation Cup which denied them a place in the quarter-final of the competition two months ago. They began the second-tier African club competition with irresistible results and were even unbeaten throughout the qualifiers but during the group stage, they were unable to cope with the fixture congestion and injuries.

The Flying Antelopes have opened up a six-point gap at the top of the NPFL Group A table after only 14 games but they spurned the chance to extend it in their last two matches which they lost. They could lose further ground in their quest to qualify for the playoffs if they do not arrest their slump against Usman Abd’Allah’s men. They risk the points difference being cut to three at the end of the weekend fixture if they lose to Enyimba.     

Enyimba head coach, Abd’Allah insisted ahead of the fixture that his major concern was to qualify for the playoffs but he will fancy lowering Rangers unassailable lead which will further boost their own qualification hopes. It will also pull them further away from other teams such as MFM, Lobi Stars and Rivers United with only six matches remaining for the regular season.

Enugu Rangers’ head coach, Ogunbote will be visiting his former club, with whom he secured a Caf Confederation Cup ticket in 2017 but left the People’s Elephant at the expiration of that season to join the Flying Antelopes. His team pipped Enyimba 1-0 last season in Enugu (but there was no return leg because of the way the season ended abruptly) and also in the first round of the current campaign.

INJURY UPDATES

Enyimba have nearly an injury-free squad with the return to fitness of Mustapha Ibrahim, who recently resumed training but it seems this game may be too early for him to return to the team. The People’s Elephant will be missing the services of Ikouwem Udotin and Valentine Ozornwafor, who are presently in Germany in the camp of the Flying Eagles preparing for the Fifa U20 World Cup slated for Poland.

Enugu Rangers have the opportunity of recalling Pascal Seka for the game with Enyimba. The red card the Ivorian received against Bendel Insurance had been wiped off after his team lodged and won a protest for wrongful dismissal. They still have Bobby Clement, Bright Silas, Ugwu Uwadiegwu and Tope Olusesi unavailable for the game.

PREDICTED LINE-UPS

Enyimba Predicted XI: Theophilus Afelokhai, Andrew Abalogu, Nasiru Sani, Ifeanyi Anaemena, Nelson Ogbonnaya, Dare Olatunji, Austin Oladapo, Chinedu Udeagha, Thomas Zenke, Joseph Osadiaye, Abdulrahman Bashir.

Enugu Rangers Predicted XI: Nana Bonsu, Chidera Eze, Adun Osamudiamwen, Tony Shimaga, Pape Ousmane, Issif Traore, Godwin Aguda, Michael Uchebo, Emeka Ayogueke, Solomon Okpako, Chiamaka Madu, Pascal Seka.

 

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