The biggest of the Oriental derbies will go down on Sunday in the Nigeria Professional Football League as Enugu Rangers play host to Enyimba FC at the Nnamdi Azikiwe Stadium in Enugu.
With seven domestic league titles apiece between both teams and a measure of dominance on the continental scene, expectations are understandably high for an explosive tie at ‘The Cathedral’ on Sunday.
It is Match Day 12 encounter of NPFL 2018 season and all the fanfare associated with previous derbies will be present as the ‘Flying Antelopes’ try to outsmart the visiting ‘Peoples Elephant’ from neighbouring Aba, Abia state.
Interestingly, Coach Gbenga Ogunbote who is now in charge at Rangers was at the helms of affairs last season in Enyimba and the Ogun state born tactician will want to prove a point against his former employers.
Both Rangers and Enyimba are going into Sunday’s game on the back of impressive results.
While Rangers got a valuable 1-1 draw in a match day 11 encounter with Sunshine Stars in Akure, Enyimba were too hot to handle in their CAF Confederation Cup outing; beating their hosts 2-0 in Cotonou.
Coach Ogunbote may likely rely on ex-Enyimba players in his fold to do the damage against his former wards as he targets all three points to enhance his team’ chances of playing continental football next season.
On his part, Enyimba coach Paul Aigbogun would likely throw a first start in the league to mercurial midfielder, Ikechukwu Ibenegbu, to steady the midfield for the Elephants while Ghanaian shot stopper Dauda Fatau will keep his place between the sticks.
The duo of Ifeanyi Anaemena and Nelson Ogbonna will be manning the heart of the defence while Stanley Dimgba and Chinonso Okonkwo will lead the attack.
Ifeanyi George, a former Enyimba player now with Rangers, is optimistic the Flying Antelopes will come out tops even though he admits it will be tough.
He said: “Any day, Enyimba is a good side but I believe we are a better side now. My trying periods are over and I am focused at delivering the goods which, by God’s grace, shall continue Sunday in Enugu. We fear no foe.”
Former Rangers dribbling wizard, Chinedu Udeagha, now with Enyimba is high on confidence that the People’s Elephant will not leave Enugu empty-handed.
“With the result we got in Cotonou on Wednesday, I see us picking all points at stake or we secure a draw. Enugu had been a home to me for the past seven seasons, but I have a new home and club that pays my wages and I am ready to defend the Blue colours of Enyimba with the last drop of my blood. It will be a tough match but we shall leave Enugu with our heads held high.” Udeagha said.
For Rangers coach Ogunbote, there is nothing out of this world as far as Sunday’s derby clash is concerned.
“There is nothing really big about the match except that whether we like it or not, we have to play and fortunately or unfortunately, it has to be against my former club, Enyimba also it is an oriental derby.
“All we have to do is take our chances because ninety minutes will decide.
“I am not under any pressure and have never been under any pressure all through my career only what people may call pressure is how to actualize my set target and I believe that we shall start getting it right from Enyimba’ game.”