Nigeria's Foreign Legion 24/11/2012
Posted: Nov 24, 2012
BAPTISM OF FIRE!
Mikel, Moses feel pressure to deliver under new coach, Benitez As Chelsea play host to league defending champions, Man City
It is definitely not the best of times for Nigerian duo of John Mikel Obi and Victor Moses at their England-based clubside, Chelsea, which is currently facing raw deals both in the domestic league and in Europe.
Both players have played some part in the Blues disappointing outing of recent which has seen the London club drop from their summit position on the English Premier League table to 3rd, and which has also put their chances of qualifying for the knockout stages of the Champions League in jeopardy.
The Nigerian internationals featured in Wednesday’s 3-0 spanking handed Chelsea by Juventus in their CL clash in Turin and will be praying for better luck this weekend against EPL defending champions and current league leaders, Manchester City, who will be storming the Stamford Bridge tomorrow in what is clearly a top of the bill clash. For Mikel and Moses, things don’t seem to be getting any easier at Chelsea with coach Roberto Di Matteo’s sack following Chelsea’s downward spiral of recent which has seen the Blues pick just 2 points from available 12 in their last four matches.
And with new manager, Rafa Benitez, now in charge of the Blues, all Chelsea players will be eager to impress the new gaffer and will be under intense pressure to beat the Citizens to revive their sagging title aspirations. It remains to be seen in weeks ahead how the Super Eagles stars will fare under the new gaffer but there is no gainsaying that they are in for a totally new experience.
With Man City’s chances of qualifying for the knock-out stages of the Champions League virtually up in smoke following their lacklustre 1-1 draw at home against Real Madrid on Thursday, Roberto Mancini’s team will now be fully focused on fighting to retain their league title which will further make the Chelsea tie a firecracker.
DUE FOR EAGLES COMEBACK!
A case for Millwall’s Danny Shittu
While Super Eagles coach, Stephen Keshi is spoilt for choice in picking attackers for his team ahead of the January Nations Cup, the gaffer definitely is not open to such luxury when it has to do with the team’s defence line.
Despite the fact that the Big Boss was an accomplished defender in his hey days and one would have expected him to bring that to bear on his team, the fact on ground is that quality Nigerian defenders have been hard to come by in recent years and that explains why not much has been achieved by Keshi in trying to blood home-based players to fit into the Eagles rear.
Soon, Keshi would soon be hard-pressed to take drastic actions and look farther towards the foreign legion.
And readily available to the Eagles gaffer would be the battle-tested Millwall defender, Danny Shittu, who will be featuring in his 13th Championship game away to Blackburn Rovers today at Ewood Park. The 32-year old big centre-back has rejuvenated his career with the modest England 2nd tier club where he has become the team’s mainstay. Shittu, who last featured for the Eagles at the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa has seen it all and could bring his wealth of experience to bear to help plug the obvious holes in the team’s rear.
While Keshi is still courting the likes of QPR’s Nedum Onuoha to commit their international career to Nigeria, he should consider a ‘ready-made’ Shittu who has always given above 100% to the national team. The former Bolton star might yet re-ignite his solid paring alongside Joseph Yobo in the heart of the Eagles defence if recalled to the team.
LEARNING FROM THE MASTER
Emenike seeks to emulate Messi’s scoring magic
After watching at close quarters the goalscoring prowess of Lionel Messi in the 3-0 spanking of Spartak Moscow by visiting Barcelona in an Champions League outing in the midweek, perhaps, Emmanuel Emenike might have learnt one or two goalscoring lessons from the Argentine wizard which might help him achieved his personal target of scoring 20 goals for his Russian club this season.
The Nigerian forward who is currently Spartak’s arrowhead could only watch helplessly as Messi grabbed a brace in an encounter that Emenike failed to convert the chances that came his way during the game. And having just 4 league goals to his credit in 14 league games so far, the power-playing forward is goal-thirsty and would be looking to return to scoring ways against visiting Dinamo Moskva tomorrow.
Spartak are currently 5th on the table and would be desperate to beat 10th placed Dinamo to at least console their fans who had to endure the bitter pills of home defeat Barcelona forced down their throats at their reverred Olimpiyskiy Stadium in Luzhniki Tuesday.
Meanwhile, compatriot Ahmed Musa who has banged in 5 goals for his table topping CSKA Moscow would be going on the road trip against 3rd placed Zenit on Monday.
Six points separate the two sides and an away win for CSKA would further help their title aspirations which might see them open an 8-points lead especially if 2nd placed Anzhi Makhachkala fail to beat homers Amkar Perm also on Monday.
SHORT MEN DEVILS!
Martins dares Messi in La Liga cracker
Resurgent Super Eagles forward, Obafemi Martins will have his work cut out as his modest Spanish side Levante, play host to La Liga giants Barcelona tomorrow at the Estadio Ciudad de.
The pacy striker has been a big hit since arriving Spain where he has notched 5 goals for Levante and has become the club’s main arrowhead.
Martins’ goals have helped Levante to the 4th place on the league table but a massive 14 points separate them from Barcelona who are on the summit with 34 points. But the former Inter Milan star faces a daunting task as the league leaders come to town complete with goalscoring machine, Lionel Messi who already has 17 goals to his credit in 12 games.
In fact, Messi has scored more goals than the entire Levante side with cummulative 15 goals in the league!
While it would take a miracle for Levante to survive the Barca invasion, Nigerian fans will still be delighted to see how their own Obagol will fare against arguably the best team in the world. And if Martins gets to nick in a goal, then it would be a massive bonus.
In the Segunda division, compatriot Ikechukwu Uche faces a less daunting task and would be looking to increase his goals tally when Villareal host Lugo today at the Camp El Madrigal.
Uche, like Martins, currently has 5 goals to his credit which have helped his club to the 4th place on the table with 26 points. A win against the 16th placed Lugo would further enhance Villareal’s promotion bid with Elche currently leading the 2nd tier league with 32 points.
STALKING THE CATS
Odemwingie targets vital goals against Sunderland
Fleet-footed Super Eagles forward, Osaze Odemwingie looks prime to continue his superlative form for West Bromwich Albion today as they go on the road trip to the Stadium of Light to confront homers, Sunderland.
And with the appetising prospect of climbing even higher on the league table, the Baggies can fancy their chances of bagging The Cats.
Odemwingie who scored the match-winning goal against current European champions Chelsea last weekend in a 2-1 win, is now riding high with the Baggies who currently sit 4th on the English Premier League table. Albion coach, Steve Clarke is happy with his Nigerian import and would be banking the bi-racial forward to again deliver the goods against a Sunderland side who would be hoping home support would be enough to see off the threat of the visitors.
Sunderland are currently 15th on the log with 12 points in as many matches but are recently on a resurgence, having surprisingly beaten homers Fulham 3-1 last weekend following a spate of poor runs which saw them lose to Everton and Aston Villa.
Odemwingie has formed a potent partnership with Shane Long and both are currently on four goals while on-loan striker, Romeu Lukaku is on three goals.
The Nigerian forward who would be staging a return to the national team ahead of the African Cup of Nations next year in South Africa has been the Baggies top goleador for the past two seasons in which he scored a cummulative 25 goals.
Uche, Yobo in Turkish League title race
Super Eagles skipper, Joseph Yobo and his national team colleague, Kalu Uche will be in action for their respective clubsides this weekend in the Turkish Premier League.
Yobo’s Fenerbahce will confront visiting Gençlerbirligi which is currently 7th on the league table while Uche’s Kasimpasa also play host to 10th place Orduspor. The Nigerian stars clubsides are currently tied on 20 points apiece as the race for the league title hots up but Kasimpasa’s better goals difference place them 3rd on the table, a step just above Fenerbahce. Galatasaray and Antalyaspor are also tied on 22 points in the first and second place on the table.
Yobo, who recently returned to action for Fenerbahce after overcoming injury setback is aiming for his 9th game while Uche with six goals to his credit would be playing his 13th league game for Kasimpasa.
While Yobo is destined to captain the Eagles to next year’s Nations Cup in South Africa, it remains to be seen if Uche would make the cut, as he has been left out of the Eagles in recent times despite his splendid club form.
ON THE FRINGES
Eagles stars eye club prominence
Several Super Eagles stars are currently on the fringes at their respective clubsides in Europe battling to tie down first team places.
Germany-based Schalke 04 forward, Chinedu Obasi has recoverred from injury and would be available for selection in today’s home tie against Eintracht Frankfurt in what will be a winner takes all game for the 2nd place on the table between the two sides who are currently tied on 23 points. His compatriot at Werder Bremen, Joseph Akpalla is gradually getting to grips with life in the Bundesliga and would be looking to grabbing his second goal against homers Wolfsburg today.
One cap Eagles star, Shola Ameobi is still searching for his first league goal for Newcastle United after 8 matches and would fancy getting that away to Southampton tomorrow.
Senegalese forward, Demba Ba is stealing the show this season having grabbed 8 goals already.
Italy based duo of Joel Obi and Nnamdi Oduamadi have been hampered by injuries but feelers reveal that both are due to return to full fitness for Inter Milan and Varese respectively.
In France, Onyekachi Apam has overcome his injury setback and would be available for selection as Rennes
Everton’s Nigerian forward, Victor Anichebe’s blistering form at the beginning of the season has not earned him a regular first team place in the Toffees squad. Perhaps, the power-playing forward would be reconsidering his stance to focus more on his club rather than his international career having featured in only six games and scoring 2 goals this season. Anichebe might feature in today’s home tie against Norwich City.
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