The El-Kanemi Sports Complex in Maiduguri is expected to have a full house this Sunday when El-Kanemi Warriors play hosts to Enyimba. The mouth-watering clash will be characterized by home superiority, familiar foes and stiff competition, which is promising the best of soccer actions.
The questions are already popping up. Will the home record of the hosts be maintained? Can the Peoples Elephant pull out a surprise result from this match? How will Enyimba pair of Chinedu Ohanachom and Ibrahim Mustapha perform against their former team?
These few questions make up what proves to be a tantalizing contest. The Borno landlords have proven to be a strong force at home since returning to their fortress in mid-April of 2016. The record signifies that none of the npfl teams is yet to pick a point in Maiduguri since their arrival, boosting the Warriors with a total of 15 home wins.
El-Kanemi will strive to stretch their home record against the People Elephant, but will face a daunting task containing the striking forces of Ohanachom and Mustapha. The pair pitched tent with Enyimba before at the start of the current season, after helping the Warriors to stay in the top flight last term. Both players had 19 league goals in between them for El-Kanemi last season before their departure.
The Peoples Elephant are one of the teams who did not travel to face El-Kanemi in Maiduguri last term. They played in Katsina where the Warriors won by 2-0. The previous season ended 2-1 in favor of the hosts at the same venue. Since the 2014/15 campaign both El-Kanemi and Enyimba have kept their home superiority playing against each other, with the latter winning 3-1 and 2-0 respectively from last two seasons. The Peoples Elephant edged out El-Kanemi Warriors 4-1 on penalties in a round of 32 fixture of the Federation Cup last year. Being the only result that pits the former champions higher going into this clash.
Enyimba embark on a distant journey of about 2,000 kilometres from Calabar to Maiduguri, where they confront the Warriors whose biggest strength is rooted on home soil. The Borno Army under coach Ladan Bosso have won two home matches played so far and lost all three matches played on the road. They are currently 14th on the league table, having garnered six points from a possible 15.
Gbenga Ogunbote's team have started well this season and are currently in the top-four with 10 points from five matches. The Enyimba gaffer has all the arsenal to his kitty and have been saddled with the responsibility of returning the team to a glorious height by his employers. He has won three matches at home, one draw away and their only loss was away to leaders Plateau United.
One of the high points of this encounter are some big stars set to be paraded by the clubs. The hosts have a decent attacking force in the trio of Japhet Daniel, Hussaini Bata and former Kano Pillars striker Bello Kofarmata.
Enyimba's rear guard must be on their toes to contain the crafty moves of petite Bata. The teenage striker is an undergraduate from the University of Maiduguri. He earned a regular playing time under Bosso, having graduated from the Warriors B team last year. He scored five goals to guarantee El-Kanemi's topflight status. Bata is likely to be a torn in the flesh of the Peoples Elephant.
Enyimba, on the other hand, have a stock of prolific strikers raring to go in Maiduguri. Skipper Mfon Udoh, Ismaila Gata, Chinedu Ohanachom, Stephen Chukwude, Ugochukwu Leonard and Ibrahim Mustapha are among the striking options before Ogunbote for the trip to Maiduguri.
In the central area, it is expected to be a survival of the fittest as the host team may likely file out with Samuel Mathias, Aghahowa Otakho, Aguda John or Abraham Audu. While the visitors will rely on experienced campaigners in Solomon Okpako, Ikechukwu Ibenegbu, Osadiaye Joseph or Kelly Kester for a formidable midfield network.
The defence line of the Warriors may parade the likes of Lucky Erimuya, Hussaini Mohammed, Alhaji Mohammed, Malika Usman, Samuel Tswanya or Promise James. At the rear guard of the Peoples Elephant, Ogunbote will likely list Ifeanyi Anaemena, Chima Akas, Dare Ojo and Ogbonnaya Nelson.
Kazeem Yekeen is favoured to be in goal for the hosts, having proven to be the safest hands since last term and may have Usman Mohammed as understudy. Theophilus Afelokhai remains Enyimba's undisputed number one between the sticks, while his fellow custodian Njoku Izundu will continue from the bench.
The strength of both teams in the Nigerian top flight is at par, judging by their previous meetings. It is obvious that the outcome of this match remains a difficult one to predict. Perhaps bookmakers are pointing towards the hosts as being potentially capable of clinching all three points considering their marvellous record on home soil. It will definitely be a surprise if Enyimba pull off a result from this encounter.