Enyimba, Kano Pillars to battle for bragging rights in Nigerian Clasico

Kano Pillars clash with Enyimba LMC Media

Enyimba and Kano Pillars renew their intense rivalry on Sunday in Calabar in a matchday 32 Nigeria Professional Football League game.

The traditional Nigerian giants have won a combined 11 league titles, Enyimba edging it with seven triumphs against Pillars' four, including their three-in-a-row successes earlier this decade.

Historical games between the pair are rarely one-sided; the last encounter in Kano a testament to this.

Enyimba have had the upper hand in recent meetings - winning three of the last five - but they'll be looking to avenge a 3-1 lost suffered in the reverse fixture in March.

Though largely inconsistent for much of the season, Enyimba are fourth on the table, and know that a win increases their points haul to 50, although they cannot overtake the sides above them.

The People's Elephant at this stage of the season are fighting tooth and nail to earn a continental ticket, and will fancy their chances against a Pillars side who sit tenth and who haven't taken a point on the road this term.

"It is a very important game, which expectedly will be intense," Pillars defender Jamiu Alimi told KweséESPN. "Our major objective is getting three points which will aid our upward progression on the table.

"We believe in our abilities and want to win our first away game of the season, due to the renewed confidence that has engulfed our team in the second round of the league."

Masu Gida made a midseason managerial change when they replaced Kadiri Ikhana with Ahmed 'Yaro Yaro' Garba, a CAF Champions League winner under his predecessor - but with Enyimba - in 2003.

This game is the biggest test of his nascent coaching career, and pits him against the experienced Gbenga Ogunbote - an ominous foe.

Enyimba captain Mfon Udoh has told KweséESPN that he and his teammates will be taking nothing for granted against Pillars, even if they are in the midst of an underwhelming campaign.

"The Kano Pillars game is as important as every other game. The main objective is picking up maximum points, which are vital in keeping us up there, and ultimately maintaining our unbeaten home record.

"We can't underestimate the pedigree of their playing squad as majority of them are former Enyimba players," he added. "We are battle-ready to match them stride for stride, and very optimistic about earning a win."

Key players to watch: Ikechukwu Ibenegbu (Enyimba) - 'Mosquito', as he is fondly called, is a highly experienced attacking midfielder who has rediscovered his groove in the last few matches.

Successive free-kick goals at home make him a likely outlet for goals and inspiration on a day when much of the attention will be focused on Udoh.

Nwagua Nyima (Kano Pillars): The forward has stepped up in the absence of Gambo Mohammed, scoring vital goals to endear himself to Pillars fans. The ex-Lobi Stars man is a dangerous customer and a potential match-winner.

Probable Line-ups

Enyimba: Fatau Dauda (GK); Dare Ojo, Isiaka Oladuntoye, Samson Gbadebo, Ikouwem Udoh; Stanley Dimgba, Olufemi Oladapo, Ikechukwu Ibenegbu, Chinonso Okonkwo; Mfon Udoh, Musa Mustapha.

Coach: Gbenga Ogunbote

Kano Pillars: Yusuf Mohammed (GK); Bala Zaka, Chinedu Udoji, Jamiu Alimi, Chris Madaki; Jamil Mohammed, Kamal Sikiru, Rabiu Ali; Ibrahim Alassan, Lokosa Junior, Nwagua Nyima.

Coach: Ahmed Garba