On Sunday, Enyimba host rivals Kano Pillars in the first meeting between the sides in the League this season and though not the dominant teams they used to be, the matchup is expected to still serve up some excitement.
For the first time in the history of the NPFL, an Enyimba vs Pillars fixture will be without fans and it won’t be for disciplinary reasons.
In recent times, this Clasico type encounter has drawn some of the wildest crowds; their arenas packed to the bleachers.
However, with COVID-19 and the ban on fans at match venues, this game will wear an odd look.
That notwithstanding, the Coaches of Enyimba and Pillars – Fatai Osho and Lionel Soccoia respectively – are well briefed on the history of the clash and each will come with his agenda.
Enyimba are unbeaten against Pillars at home in the League, but go into Sunday’s fixture on the back of a Derby defeat to Heartland.
On the other hand, Pillars are unbeaten this season in four league games and are just a point off the top spot.
Rabiu Alli continues to be an inspiration for the four times league champions and the 40 year-old will be relied on by Soccoia to give his team leadership.
On his part, Osho has a team that’s transitioning, but Victor Mbaoma is the player they’ve looked to for goals while captain Austin Oladapo is the team’s anchor point.
In truth both teams have had a slow start to the season, perhaps owing to the Managerial situations and players adapting to new surroundings.
Osho was caretaker coach mid last season after Usman Abdallah was shown the exit. His appointment as permanent Manager was confirmed at the beginning of this campaign.
He is on his biggest job till date and the pressure has been evident, following Enyimba’s ouster from the CAF Champions League and the defeat to a relegation battling Heartland.
Pillars are a big test and Osho’s future as team handler at Enyimba could be determined by the outcome of this game.
On his part, Soccoia’s appointment divided Pillars fans and the elimination from the Confederation Cup heightened the fears about his credentials.
But gradually, the French man is converting doubters to his fanboys and a first ever win for the team at the Enyimba Stadium could inspire Pillars to a remarkable season.
All is set as both teams are poised ahead of this encounter in Aba and kick off 4pm local time.