Akwa United Football Club has been boosted by the return of its four home-based Super Eagles players ahead of a crucial Nigeria Professional Football League matchday 36 clash with Lobi Stars at the Uyo Township Stadium on Friday, August 25, by 4pm.
Centre-back Ariwachukwu Emmanuel and midfield trio Alhassan Ibrahim, Aremu Afeez and Ifeanyi Ifeanyi, who were part of the team that defeated Benin Republic 2-1 on aggregate to qualify for Kenya 2018 CHAN, trained with the rest of the squad.
Christian Pyagbara, who has missed the club’s recent games due to a trial stint in Europe, also returns.
Coach of the Uyo side, Abdu Maikaba has selected the quintet in his 18-man matchday squad for the Friday afternoon game, which will be beamed live by Supersport on DStv and GOtv platforms.
Anthony Okpotu’s double earned the Makurdi side a 2-1 win in the first leg and the Promise Keepers will hope to avenge the matchday 16 loss.
Speaking to the club’s media department, Coach Maikaba said he expects his team to focus on getting maximum points.
“This game is very critical for us. At this stage of the season, we have our destiny in our hands and we cannot afford to lose it.
“We have three matches before the end of the season starting from this game against Lobi Stars. Our target is to pick all available points so we can finish strong and also meet our target at the end of the season.
“The game is a must win for us, the players are ready and committed to give their best. With three matches to go, a lot can still change and if we win all our remaining matches, then we will finish in a very comfortable position.”
The match has been moved from Akwa home ground – Godswill Akpabio International Stadium – to the Uyo Township Stadium, as the Nest of Champions is currently undergoing maintenance in preparation for the 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifier between Nigeria and Cameroon on September 1.
The former Wikki Tourists tactician admitted the state of the pitch in Udoumana street may have a negative effect on the quality of their game, but added that his players were “determined” to claim victory.
“We are told the match will be played at the Uyo Township Stadium. Although the surface may affect the flow of our game, but one thing is certain, we are determined to win this match irrespective of the venue,” he concluded.
Akwa United are third on the NPFL log with 54 points from 35 matches, and a win against Lobi Stars will reduce the gap between themselves and second-placed MFM FC to just two points pending the outcome of the tie between the Lagos side and Abia Warriors in Umuahia on Sunday.