NPFL18 Match Day 16 Preview: Katsina United versus Rivers

The last time Rivers United played a competitive fixture against Katsina United at the Muhammadu Dikko (Karkanda) Stadium, Katsina, no fans turned up with the contest decided ‘behind closed doors’ as a result of a sanction by the League Management Company (LMC) on the home club.
Playing without vociferous support however did not prevent the ‘Changi Boys’ from inflicting a 2-0 defeat on the ‘Pride of Rivers’ though, as powerful striker, Chinedu Udechukwu plundered both goals.
The two sides will look to serve up another exciting instalment of a fast unravelling rivalry on Sunday with both coming into the fixture on the back of contrasting results on match day 15 of the Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL).
Katsina United lost 1-2 to Nasarawa United in Lafia in midweek while Rivers United cruised to a 2-0 victory over Heartland FC in Port Harcourt.
A win for the hosts on Sunday will see them increase their points haul to 23 but the visitors will be desperate to avoid defeat as they look nervously over their shoulder with the battle to avoid the drop gaining momentum.
Katsina United and Rivers United are both four points above the relegation zone going into Sunday’s game thereby raising the stakes even higher.
Katsina United; Team News
Forward, Lukman Mohammed (who played for Rivers United last season) has yet to make a complete recovery from the knee injury he sustained in the 2-0 win over Akwa United last month.
That aside, head coach, Abdullahi Usman Biffo has a complete squad to work with.
Danjuma Paul will start in goal while Ajanah Chinedu and Timothy Danladi are favoured to continue their pairing as centre halves.
Faisal Sani, the marauding left back, is sure to worry the Rivers United right back with his overlapping runs and he puts in a good shift defensively as well.
As always, the Changi Boys will look to midfielder, Destiny Ashadi to deliver the goods with his range of passing, deft movement and quickness of thought.
Ashadi is one of the shining lights of his side with defence-splitting through passes his forte.
Joshua Agboola complements the play of Ashadi on the right side of midfield and makes regular forays upfront via the channels.
Tasiu Lawal is another winger of repute who the visitors will be careful not to ignore while Martins Usule can plunder goals from near impossible situations.
Katsina United is an extremely formidable side at home (only Kano Pillars have amassed more points than the Changi Boys in NPFL home fixtures this term) and are overwhelming favourites to win on Sunday.
They have picked up 19 out of a possible 21 points at home this term with a fearsome goals difference of +13 posted at the Kardanda this season.
Rivers United team news
Sunday Rotimi returns to the side after serving a three match ban but he is not certain to start with erstwhile, Emeka Nwabulu outstanding in his only two appearances for the club.
He kept a clean sheet in United’s 2-0 success over Heartland and was peerless in a controversial 2-3 defeat at the leaders, Lobi Stars on match day 13.
Two of the goals conceded by Nwabulu in Makurdi were penalties while he was anything but culpable for Lobi’s only from open play.
The Rivers United technical manager, Stanley Eguma will work with an extremely depleted squad with less-than heart-warming news arriving from the infirmary on the .
Emeka Atuloma suffered a hamstring injury in the win over Heartland and did not made the trip to Katsina.
Club captain, Festus Austine will not play on Sunday as he has failed to recover from the hip injury he sustained in the win against Heartland in Heartland.
United’s top scorer, Ochowechi ‘Oche’ Salefu has still not made a complete recovery from the hamstring injury he picked up in Makurdi on match day 13.
Ivoirian striker, Guy Kuemian is still out with illness with Eguma also stating that fatigue could also be an important factor in the game on Sunday.
“Fatigue will be (a factor); we cannot rule that out as Katsina is quite far from Port Harcourt,” Eguma said to our official website,
“We played (against Heartland) on Wednesday and had to commence the trip to Katsina on Thursday.
“It is not easy as the players have not recovered from the wear and tear of that game against Heartland but had to embark on such a long trip to Katsina just a few hours later.
“It is a very tough time for us but we will try as much as possible to manage the situation because there is nothing we can do about it.
“We will try to get a good result from Katsina,” he said.

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