Nigerian players will be pivotal for their European clubs again this weekend as important league games are decided in England, Germany, Italy while the Cup competition inkes centre stage in France writes Tunde Liadi as culled from The Nation Newspapers Saturday edition
After the exhaustion of the midweek games the revered most exciting league in the world, the ENGLISH PREMIER LEAGUE matches take centre stage again this weekend.
At the AMEX Stadium, Brighton & Hove Albion will host third-placed Leicester City who have Nigerian duo of Wilfred Ndidi and Kelechi Iheanacho under their stable, today. The Foxes played an entertaining 1-1 draw with Burnley at the Turf Moor on Wednesday with Iheanacho in scoring form for only his second league goal of the campaign. He was available for 67 minutes while Ndidi, his compatriot who deputised in the defence for the game, played 90 minutes.
At Anfield, Fulham with some Nigerian legions will hope to add to the misery of misfiring EPL reigning champions, Liverpool whom they will face tomorrow. The Reds were fortunate to earn a draw in the initial leg at the Craven Cottage. Ola Aina and Josh Maja are the two Super Eagles players at the club but there are also Tosin Adarabioyo, Ademola Lookman, and Joshua Onomah who possess England passports but are of Nigerian descents, also at Fulham.
At the Hawthorns, Super Eagles midfielder, Semi Ajayi could make a return to the West Brom first 11 ahead of their tomorrow’s clash with Newcastle United after he made a comeback from his suspension with a bench role at home to Everton on Thursday. Ajayi bagged his first EPL red card and second of his professional career when he was sent off in their goalless draw at Burnley two weeks ago and he missed the Baggies’ home win over Brighton to serve his one game suspension. He will hope to add steel to Sammy Alardyce’s defence as they continue their chase towards EPL retention at the end of the season.
Chelsea will also have their hands full as they welcome Alex Iwobi’s Everton to Stamford Bridge on Monday in the concluding fixture of Matchday 27. Chelsea won at Anfield midweek against Liverpool while Everton bagged maximum points at West Brom on Thursday.
In the GERMAN BUNDESLIGA, Kevin Akpoguma has recovered from the thigh muscle strain that has kept him out of Hoffenheim games since January 3rd this year but he is still short of fitness and won’t be available for his club’s home fixture with Wolfsburg today. Hoffenheim will eye a return to winning ways after the draw they got at Union Berlin last week and their ouster from the Europa League by Norwegian side, Molde.
Emmanuel Dennis is still adjusting to life at FC Cologne. He was hurled off at halftime last week in the 5-1 mauling at Bayern Munich. It was the Billy Goats’ third straight loss in the league since the Nigerian joined at midseason. The remaining Nigerians at the club, Tolu Arokodare has not been called up for the last two games at all while Kingsley Ehizibue was benched in the whitewash at the Allianz Arena. They host Werder Bremen tomorrow with the odd tipping them to scoop the maximum points.
Taiwo Awoniyi is still nursing a ruptured thigh muscle injury and will be unavailable when Union Berlin visit Arminia Bielefeld tomorrow. Union Berlin were held to a 1-1 draw by Hoffenheim last week and will need an outright win to re-solidify their aspiration to qualify for European clubs’ competition next season. The Nigerian has failed to add to his 19 games and five goals because of the injury.
In the ITALIAN SERIE A, Crotone will face another daunting task against Torino tomorrow after they were dazed 5-1 by Atalanta on Wednesday. Simy Nwankwo got his eighth goal of the season in Bergamo but it seems a return to Serie B could be imminent with the type of results they have recorded since the season began.
Victor Osimhen could still be excused from Napoli’s home game to Bologna tomorrow at the Stadio Armando Maradona after he concussed in the Partenopei’s 4-2 away loss to Atalanta. He missed Napoli’s ouster from the Europa League too against Granada. The Nigerian has only played 10 league matches with two goals scored. Napoli played an entertaining 3-3 with Sassuolo on Wednesday without Osimhen even on the bench.
The FRENCH LEAGUE Matchday 28 games were played midweek to pave way for the FRENCH CUP Round of 16 that will be played this weekend.
Moses Simon scored his fourth goal of the season for Nantes but they still got beaten at home 2-1 by Reims. The Nigerian is only a goal away from equalling his last season’s best of five goals. He has played 23 games this term despite his injury nightmares.
Lorient snapped their two-game losing streak at Montpellier on Wednesday with the Nigerian, Terem Moffi making his 22nd league appearance of the season. He came on in the 67th minute maybe for him to remain fresh for their French Cup Round of 16 tie with Le Puy at Stade Charles Massot today. Moffi had the ball at the back of the net 10 minutes after he entered the pitch but his goal was ruled out by the Video Assistant Referee. He has scored eight league goals and he is currently Nigeria’s best player in France.
Samuel Kalu played the opening 65 minutes of Bordeaux’s home loss to PSG on Wednesday. It was Kalu’s 17th league match with four goals to his credit.