With the kickoff of the much awaited 2020/2021 NPFL season at the weekend after over nine months of Covid-19 induced lockdown of football activities in the country, seven-time Nigeria league champions, Rangers International F.C start the chase for a double this season with atrip to Port-Harcourt for a date with Rivers United, ‘The Pride of Rivers’.
The encounter is fixed for the Adokiye Amiesiamaka stadium and the coach Salisu Yusuf tutored side have been charged to go for all three points to confirm that the 2-0 spanking handed the CAF Confederation cup hopefuls in a pre-season tourney recently was no fluke.
Going down memory lane, all matches involving both sides have always been an end-to-end stuff as Rivers United have won eight of the twenty-one officials encounters between both sides with four ending in a draw while the ‘Flying Antelopes’ have enjoyed victories nine times.
Scintillating soccer artistry is assured anytime the contending sides meet and much is expected in this fixture going by the calibre of playing personnels that would be on parade as Rangers unleash a very compact squad that have over eighty percent of last season’ players.
With Ugwuoke Ugochukwu, Kenechukwu Agu, Tower Godspower and Chiamaka Madu at their imperious best in the middle of the pack to supply all ammunition to the fearsome frontline that have last season’ top scorer, Israel Abia; new boys, Shedrack Asiegbu and Christian Nnaji, the possibility of nipping a win in this fixture is high on the scale.
The last time each side scored more than two goals in a fixture was in May of 2019 when the ‘Pride of Rivers’ dispatched visiting Rangers 3-0 at home to cancel out the 4-0 comprehensive spanking it received in September of 2016 when the ‘Flying Antelopes’ were crowned champions of the league for a 7th time.
Not minding the presence of three of its former players, Bobby Clement, Godwin Aguda and Kehinde Adedipe in the rank of the Port-Harcourt side, coach Yusuf is not bothered going into this season-opening fixture as he said, “We respect all teams in the top flight but we don’t fear anyone. For our former players in Rivers United, we shall handle them as we do others as there won’t be any special attention for them. Our target is to start the season in the best possible way so as to achieve our target of emerging champions again and playing continental football next season.”
Captain of the Enugu side, Tope Olusesi, said ahead of the crunch fixture, “We want to start the season on a high even when we know that Rivers United is not a small side. Our preparation has been top-notch and with some luck, we shall get the result we desire.”
FIFA badge referee, Adebimpe Quadri will take charge of this mouth-watering fixture while retired FIFA referee, Engr. Emmanuel Imiere will commission the game at the lush green turf of the sports facility.
Last five NPFL meetings of both sides read thus:
15/3/2020 – Rangers 1-0 Rivers United
20/11/2019 – Rivers United 2-1 Rangers
20/5/2019 – Rangers 1-0 Rivers United
2/5/2019 – Rivers United 3-0 Rangers
1/2/2018 – Rangers 1-0 Rivers United