Saturday, March 22, 2014

The Big Game: Rangers v Pillars

Two of Nigeria's biggest clubs in the Glo Premier League, Enugu Rangers and Kano Pillars, will go head-to-head this Saturday in the big game of Match Day 3. This clash is coming early in the season with the two clubs having started their campaigns in contrasting fashion.

Reigning champions, Kano Pillars were just seconds away from losing their 10-year-old unbeaten record at home to Sunshine Stars before Gambo Muhammad saved them the embarrassment.

Rangers began the season at southeast rivals, Enyimba and failed to fly by losing 1-2.

Match background

Kano Pillars head coach, Okey Emordi, has endured a slow start since taking charge of the bench of the Nigerian champions. He has watched his team exit this year's Caf Champions League early and also saw as they began the league season with a 2-2 draw at home to Sunshine Stars.

Emordi will face his former employers in Enugu and has now played down any emotional attachment. He also acknowledged Rangers will not make it "an easy game" for his men.

"No special feeling facing my former side. It's a normal game with normal preparations. We've done our very best as humans preparing for the game. I only believe our best will be good enough to give us a good result. It won't be an easy game but I'm certain we'll get something positive from the game," said Emordi to this week.

Rangers winger, Ejike Uzoenyi, is not ready to make things easy for Pillars and is keen to use this game to kick-start his season after losing at Enyimba last weekend.

Uzoenyi, named the 2014 African Nations Championship (Chan) most valuable player, also wants to start scoring his own fair share of goals and hopes he can begin that quest from the Kano Pillars game.

"This game is perfect for me to start scoring this season. The game is also on television, everything is made perfect for me," he said.

Another member of the Nigerian squad to the Chan, Rabiu Ali, admitted it has been a poor start for Kano Pillars this season. But he is confident Pillars can turn things around in Enugu.

"We have not done well this season so far. But I know we will do well and this game is important for us to start doing well," said Ali.

Team news

Ali and his Kano Pillars teammates will definitely have their hands full as Rangers head coach, John Obuh, has got quality in his playing personnel. The like of Emmanuel Daniel, Ugonna Uzochukwu, Ousmane Pape Sane, Cyril Oriaku, Obinna Nwobodo, Emeka Eze, Chinedu Udeagha, Christian Ighadaro and Uzoenyi are all available for selection.

But Rangers will still be without the duo of Senegalese centre-back, Pierre Coly (hamstring) and Haliru Umar (long-term injury), who missed last weekend's trip to Enyimba.

Kano Pillars captain and goalkeeper, Theophilus Afelokhai top the list of his team for this game.  Promise James, Nafizi Ammani, Kingsley Udoh, Abdullahi Shehu, Ezekiel Mbah, Bello Musa Kofarmata, Eneji Otekpa and Ali are among the Pillars squad.

Unfortunately, the champions now have new injury concerns to key players and made the long trip from the north without injured strikers, Gambo and Kabiru Umar for this clash.

Head-to-head in Premier League era

This is the 23rd meeting since the Premier League started in 2003. Rangers have only lost once in 11 home matches to Kano Pillars - on July 3, 2011 when they lost by a goal scored by Musa Musa.

Since 2003 till date, the biggest win between both teams remains the four-nil triumph by Rangers in April 2013. Bitrus Dada, Oghogho Oduokpe, Alhaji Gero and Sanusi Sani scored for Rangers on that occasion.

Overall, Rangers have edged Pillars in the previous 22 meetings in the premier league era - winning 10 matches (all at home) against the Kano club's nine. Can Kano Pillars level up on the numbers of wins?

Catch the Rangers versus Kano Pillars clash live on SuperSport 9 this Saturday.

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