Nigerian Clasico: Kano Pillars vs. Enyimba preview

Paul Aigbogun of Enyimba EPA/KHALED ELFIQI

With four league titles in the last decade, Kano Pillars surely stand as Nigeria's dominant club of the last 10 years, even if they've gone three years without a title.

This year, however, their fortunes look set to change, with Sai Masu Gida boasting a formidable squad and a 100-percent record at home.

However, that excellent form - they've won all four games in front of their own fans - is set to be tested this weekend when seven-time champions Enyimba come to town.

The People's Elephant would surely love nothing more than to end their rivals' strong home record and deny them a chance to move to the top of the table.

There are subplots aplenty in this Nigerian Clasico, not least the presence of coach Paul Aigbogun, who masterminded Enyimba's last away success against Pillars - back in 2016 - and has previously enjoyed success at the Sani Abacha with Warri Wolves.

He may well have the edge over Ibrahima Musa, who is taking charge of his first Nigerian Clasico.

One player who played a decisive role in Aigbogun's triumph of 2016, but has switched allegiance to the arch-rivals is Chinedu Udoji.

The former Enyimba captain revealed exclusively to KweséESPN that he is mentally focused on the task ahead and can't be overwhelmed by emotions on the day.

"Enyimba are a very tough side to play," he began. "After playing and captaining the team for close to seven seasons, I am in a good position to know you don't take them for granted.

"Personally, I have no special preparation towards the game," he added. "As a professional, I have no room for emotions as my allegiance and loyalty are with Kano Pillars."

One player Udoji will need to keep tabs on is Enyimba's Stanley Dimgba, who has four goals for the People's Elephant this term.

"We feel good coming to face Kano Pillars on the strength of our five-game unbeaten run," he told KweséESPN, "but games between both clubs are never easy.

"Considering we earned a draw on a tough ground in Maiduguri against El-Kanemi Warriors, and equally can draw inspiration from our away victory in Kano two seasons ago, we are confident of ending Kano Pillars' perfect home record this season."

Pillars' own goalscoring hopes will be pinned on the division's top scorer, Junior Lokosa, who is currently the NPFL's top scorer with seven strikes so far this term.

The hitman is confident that his goalscoring will continue in this heavyweight clash.

"I believe I will continue my red-hot scoring streak on home turf, most especially against formidable opponents such as Enyimba who are never pushovers home or away," the league's top scorer told KweséESPN.

"We have the right momentum going into the game, and personally, I just want to make this moment count.

"My first encounter against Enyimba last season wasn't pleasing, as I got sent-off seven minutes into my involvement," he acknowledged. "It was a game we eventually lost away from home in Calabar, thereby ruining my big day.

"I look forward to a better outcome and memories come Sunday in Kano, both personally and collectively for the success of the team."