The two teams take their battle to Warri after the first leg in Owerri ended 3-1 in favour of the Naze Millionaires last weekend
Heartland will seek to have a continuum of their impressive away form of late which has seen them notch a six- match unbeaten run away from home but Warri Wolves are eager to halt that imperious record when they clash this Sunday at the Warri City Stadium.
It is the start of the second stanza of the Nigeria Premier League and when the two did battle last week at the Dan Anyiam Stadium, Owerri, Heartland triumphed 3-1.
The technical adviser of Warri Wolves, Maurice Cooreman blamed his team’s loss on the marching orders he got from the centre referee in Owerri and emphatically told Goal.com shortly after the encounter that he would instruct his boys to destroy their visitors.
"Come to Warri this Sunday and you will see a different Warri Wolves. I was ordered to the stands even without doing anything to the match officials because I was actually talking to my player, Jude Aneke who was badly tackled and not the referee. Heartland will not know what hit them when they play us in Warri," Cooreman boasted.
Heartland may have defeated Wolves in that game, but Warri Wolves rested four of their regulars who returned 48 hours before that encounter from the Super Eagles friendly against Egypt in Dubai.
Austin Egwueke, Uche Ossai, Chigozie Agbim and Sunday Mba would have added to the missing link in the Wolves’ team had they played the match in Owerri but they should have rested enough for this encounter on Sunday in Warri.
Heartland also dropped the duo of Obinna Nwachukwu and Daniel Akpeyi from the team that faced and conquered Wolves last Sunday because they also travelled with the Super Eagles to Dubai.
Heartland and Wolves are no strangers to each other and their ties have always produced talking points at the end of the duels.
Heartland visited Warri in the Week 2 of the NPL last season and it was a 2-2 draw with the Naze Millionaires surrendering their lead twice in the match. It ended goalless when Wolves went to Owerri with Ike ThankGod, Emmanuel Omodiagbe, Mine Ojo all combining to hurt their former club.
Ojo received a red card and Heartland lost a last minute spot kick taken by captain Chinedu Efugh to ensure that the Warri side went back home with a truly deserving draw.
Heartland got a scare from little known Police Machine team in the quarter final of the Federation Cup before progressing owing to their protest that their opponents fielded an ineligible player and this match against Wolves will be an opportunity to show their loyal fans that their poor showing against Police Machine was just a one-off thing.
"We are ready this encounter against Warri Wolves because the city has always been a good hunting ground for us," Heartland's Effugh said.
The Naze Millionaires currently have 27 points from 19 matches while their opponents are a point better on 28.
In terms of the squad available for the encounter, Heartland have almost their full complement of players. Brendan Ogbu who got his club’s match winner against the Cameroonian team Unisport Haut Nkam is also availabe if the coaches find him fit.
He was badly tackled by warri Wolves defenders and had to be stretchered off last Sunday but Ogbu said: “I am fit and okay now. I have started training and I will await the coaches’ final decision if I will be in the trip to Warri”.
All other players including the two that were on the Super Eagles’ train to Dubai are back in the team and will be available for selection.
Aneke showed how indispensable he is to the Delta government-sponsored team when he was a constant thorn in the flesh of Heartland defenders and it was his hard work that fetched his sides’ only goal scored by Azuka Ebinum. Aneke also had a good shot tipped over the bar in the second half.
With Aneke in the attack and the resolve of coach Cooreman and other players of Warri Wolves to win this match, Heartland will have a mountain to climb at the Warri City Stadium.
Warri Wolves 2-1 Heartland