The wait is finally over and action returns to the Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) this weekend.
Rivers United will face El Kanemi Warriors in one of the stand out fixtures of the opening weekend of the 2017/18 NPFL campaign at the Yakubu Gowon Stadium, Port Harcourt.
United largely underwhelmed last season with only a late surge preventing a shock relegation to the second tier of Nigerian football in a season the ‘Pride of Rivers’ flew the flag of the nation in Africa’s premiere club competition, the CAF Champions League.
Reinforcements have since been made in areas of perceived weakness with areas of strength consolidated.
El Kanemi Warriors completed arguably the biggest coup of the transfer window, from a coaching perspective, as they snapped up Imama Amapakabo who was unceremoniously hounded out at Rangers after leading them to a first league title in over three decades.
Amapakabo, a keen student of the game, is one of the most astute tacticians in the land.
The youthful trainer, currently in Morocco on national assignment with the Super Eagles, knows Port Harcourt like the back of his hand having played for and coached Sharks during his younger days.
Amapakabo loves attacking football, irrespective of where the game is played, and it will be no real surprise to see the ‘ Borno Army’ give as good as they get at the Yakubu Gowon Stadium on Sunday.
“I believe that football is football anywhere and I believe that you could go get results anywhere if you (play) to win.
“I don’t come with a defensive structure to play any game.
“I come out to play and that is my philosophy,” Amapakabo said.
Rivers United, however, will be gunning for maximum points and will be buoyed by recent success at the just concluded Garden City pre-season tournament in Port Harcourt.
United came out tops in the four-team competition, beating Abia Warriors in the final decided at the Sharks FC Stadium.
Captain of United, Festus Austin says victory on Sunday is a major priority.
“The first match is very important and we want all three points.
“We are going to defeat El Kanemi Warriors in Port Harcourt,” he told our official website, www.riversunitedfc.com.ng.
Game: Rivers United versus El Kanemi Warriors
Competition: Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL)
Match day: One
Current positions of respective clubs on the NPFL log: Rivers United (-);
El Kanemi Warriors (-)
Date: Sunday, January 14, 2018
Venue: Yakubu Gowon Stadium, Port Harcourt
Time: 4 pm
**Live coverage** There will be robust coverage of this game by our media team (that will include videos and photos from the venue) simultaneously via our official Twitter account
(@RiversUnitedFC) and official Whatsaap channel from 2:45 pm on match day.
Form guide (last five NPFL matches)
Rivers United (LWDWW)
Rivers United 3-1 Remo Stars (Away)
Rivers United 2-1 Enyimba (Home)
Rivers United 1-1 Plateau United (Away)
Rivers United 3-0 Gombe United (Home)
Rivers United 1-4 Abia Warriors (Away)
El Kanemi Warriors (WLDLW)
El Kanemi Warriors 2-0 FC Ifeanyiubah (Home)
El Kanemi Warriors 2-3 Lobi Stars (Away)
El Kanemi Warriors 1-1 Shooting Stars (Away)
El Kanemi Warriors 0-2 Kano Pillars (Away)
El Kanemi Warriors 2-1 MFM FC (Home)
Previous meetings (Head-to-head)
Matches: Four (4)
Rivers United wins: Two (2)
El Kanemi Warriors wins; Two (2)
Details (Specific breakdown)
Game one: Rivers United 1-0 El Kanemi Warriors (Yakubu Gowon Stadium, Port Harcourt; April 6, 2016; NPFL)
Game two: El Kanemi Warriors 1-0 Rivers United (El Kanemi Stadium, Maiduguri; August 6, 2016; NPFL)
Game three: El Kanemi Warriors 2-1 Rivers United (El Kanemi Warriors Stadium, Maiduguri; May 28, 2017; NPFL)
Game four: Rivers United 2-1 El Kanemi Warriors (Yakubu Gowon Stadium, Port Harcourt; January 15, 2017; NPFL)
LIST OF REGISTERED PLAYERS OF RIVERS UNITED FC FOR THE 2017/18