Rivers United face stiff MFM test
Rivers United have punched above their weight so far this season and currently sit in second place in the Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) standings.
United are among the surprise top hitters in the division after their first 17 matches but face a tough task in their next NPFL game.
The Pride of Rivers embark on a Banana skin trip to Lagos for one of the standout fixtures of match day 18 and the opposition comes in the shape of MFM FC.
Rivers United have never escaped defeat against MFM in Lagos and the ‘Olukoya Boys’ will be looking to bounce back to reckoning following their elimination from CAF’s Inter club competition.
The Lagos club failed to go past the first round of the CAF Champions League and were eased out of the Confederation club by Malian side, Djoliba Athletic Club in the playoff round.
MFM head coach, Fidelis Ilechukwu as always, will be relying on his trusted stalwarts to deliver the goods at the charged ‘Soccer Temple’, the Agege Township Stadium on Monday.
Abayomi Folarin kept a clean sheet against the 22-time Malian champions at the Modibo Keita Stadium, Bamako in midweek and will be looking to replicate a similar performance against United on Monday.
Left back, Jonathan Zikiye knows the Port Harcourt club well having played under veteran gaffer, Stanley Eguma at Dolphins.
MFM’s backline is likely to be completed by Uwaga Chuka, Austine Opara and Okorom Stanley, all tested campaigners in Nigeria’s top flight.
Pint-sized Chukwuka Onuwa is largely underrated but his sublime talents have marked him out as one of the finest midfielders in the land.
He was tormentor-in-chief the last two times United visited the Agege Stadium, Lagos and he will be looking to pull the strings to devastating effect yet again.
Chijioke Akuneto, Akinyemi Nojeem and Zinte Udeh have almost telepathic understanding upfront and will look to make goal scoring contributions against the high-flying visitors from the Garden City.
Rivers United team news
The injury crisis that wrecked the team in recent weeks have slightly abated with Ochowechi ‘Oche’ Salefu returning to action from the hamstring strain that kept him out of action between March 25 and April 15.
Club captain, Festus Austine also returned to first team action against Nasarwa United on April 15 in Port Harcourt after missing out on the 1-2 defeat to Katsina United at the Karkanda Stadium, Katsina on April 8.
Technical manager, Eguma has an almost fully fit squad to choose from, a luxury he has been denied of in recent weeks.
The trainer however knows only a solid performance will guarantee a positive result on Monday.
“Last season, we lost by two goals to one to MFM in Lagos but it is a different ball game this season,” Eguma told our official website, www.riversunitedfc.com.ng.
“We are going to perfect our strategies to see that we don’t come back empty handed (from Lagos).
“That match (against MFM) is important to us because it is going to (help) us consolidate on our position on the log which is the more reason why we are not leaving any stone unturned.
“Tactically, we want to cover all our bases to ensure that we get points from our trip to Lagos,” Eguma said.
Game: MFM FC versus Rivers United
Competition: Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL)
Match day: Eighteen (18)
Current positions of respective clubs on the NPFL log: MFM FC; Eleventh (11th) Rivers United: Second (2nd);
Date: Monday, April 23, 2018
Venue: Agege Stadium, Lagos
Time: 4 pm
Live coverage of this game will be available on Twitter (@RiversUnitedFC) and our official WhatsApp channel from 3:45 pm on match day.
Form guide (last five NPFL matches)
Rivers United (WWLWL)
Rivers United 2-3 Lobi Stars (A)
Rivers United 2-0 Heartland (H)
Rivers United 1-2 Katsina United (A)
Rivers United 2-0 Akwa United (H)
Rivers United 1-0 Nasarawa United (H)
MFM FC (WLWWL)
MFM FC 1-2 Sunshine Stars (A)
MFM FC 3-0 Heartland (H)
MFM FC 2-1 Katsina United (H)
MFM FC 0-2 Enyimba (A)
MFM FC 2-1 Nasarawa United (H)
Matches: Four (4)
MFM wins: Two (2), Rivers United wins: Two (2)
Draws; Nil (0)
Goals for: MFM FC: Five (5); Rivers United; Seven (7)
Goals against: MFM FC: Seven (7); Rivers United; Five (5)
Points accumulated (in competitive matches): MFM FC: Six (6) Rivers United: Six (6)
Details (Specific breakdown)
Game one: MFM FC 2-1 Rivers United (NPFL. Agege Stadium, Lagos on February 24, 2016)
Game two: Rivers United 4-1 MFM FC (NPFL. Yakubu Gowon Stadium, Port Harcourt on June 12, 2016).
Game three: Game one: MFM FC 2-1 Rivers United (NPFL. Agege Stadium, Lagos on March 22, 2017)
Game four: Rivers United 1-0 MFM FC (NPFL. Yakubu Gowon Stadium, Port Harcourt on July 12, 2017).
Photo credit, LMC and @MFMFC_Lagos