By Sulaimon Alao:
MIKEL, IHEANACHO CLASH IN FA CUP CRACKER
Topmost Nigerian football ambassador in England, Mikel Obi, will be filling out for Chelsea on Sunday in a top of the bill FA Cup clash that will see him trade tackles against Manchester City that will also be parading another topmost and upcoming star, Kelechi Iheanacho in 5th round game billed for the 41,800-capacity Stamford Bridge. Mikel, arguably the ‘king’ of Nigerian football exports will come up against much younger compatriot Iheanacho who is arguably the ‘crown prince’ of Nigerian football exports in game that pitches two of the biggest clubsides in England against each other.
Interestingly, Mikel and Iheanacho were on the losing sides for their respective clubsides in their last outing ahead of this tie with Mikel going down with Chelsea 2-1 away to PSG in an UEFA Champions League outing on Tuesday at the Parc des Princes in Paris while Iheanacho also lost out with Manchester City as went down 2-1 at home against title rivals, Tottenham Hotspurs at the Etihad Stadium last weekend. Interestingly too, both Mikel and Iheanacho scored a goal apiece for their respective clubs but their goals were not enough to earn their clubs the maximum points.
Host Chelsea are obviously no longer in contention for the English Premier League title they won the last season and while they are also not considered as top favourites in the Champions League, the Blues are expected to take the FA Cup more seriously in other not to end the season trophyless. Manchester City however, are still in the race for the EPL title and even though they are also not favourites for a Champions League title, the erratic Citizens are still in the race for a treble and they face a daunting task against Chelsea to keep their ambitions on track.
The stage is therefore set for a highly contested game between both teams and it remains to be seen who between Mikel and Iheanacho – the king and the prince – that will carry the day.
MOSES, EMENIKE SET FOR BLACKBURN TIE
The duo of Nigerian football stars with West Ham United, Victor Moses and Emmanuel Emenike will be filling out for the Hammers when they go on the road trip to the Ewood Park to take on host Blackburn Rovers in an FA Cup date on Sunday.
Moses and Emenike featured in West Ham’s 2-2 draw away to Norwich City last weekend in an EPL and they should be in high spirit against Championship side, Blackburn who will also be looking to make home advantage count against the visitors like they did in the 3-0 spanking of Fulham on Tuesday. And while Moses who is only loan from Chelsea is really no stranger in the FA Cup, this game will however, be a debut FA Cup outing for Emenike having just secured a move to England from United Arab Emirates side, Al Ain in the January transfer window.
This tie will be a tricky one for both sides and even though West Ham will be going into this tie as favourites being an EPL side currently, they will need to be wary of their Championship opponents, Blackburn Rovers who themselves are no strangers to the EPL in former times.
OGU, NWAKAEME PRIMED FOR YEHUDA VISIT
Nigerian international, John Ogu and compatriot Anthony Nwakaeme will be leading Hapoel Beer Sheva’s title charge in the Isreali Ligat Ha’al when they play host to Bnei Yehuda in a late kick-off game billed for Turner Stadium on Monday. Both players were in action last weekend as Beer Sheva secured a valuable 2-1 away win over Hapoel Haifa.
Ogu and Nwakaeme have been instrumental in Hapoel Beer Sheva’s climb to the top of the Ligat Ha’al table where they currently occupy with 57 points after 23 matches. The league leaders are in top form having won their last five games to open a 5 points lead over closest rivals, Maccabi Tel Aviv who are 2nd on the log with 52 points.
Bnei Yehuda could not make home advantage count last weekend as they lost 0-2 to visiting Bnei Sakhnin but the result still see them retain their 6th position on the log with 30 points. Hapoel Beer Sheva are favourites to pick the maximum points at stake in this tie but they must not be complacent against a Bnei Yehuda side who will be content to at least share the points with their hosts.
Ogu, playing as a midfielder has 2 goals to his credit in 21 games for Beer Sheva while striker Nwakaeme has scored 7 goals in 23 league games for the title-chasing side.
LAWAL, UMAR FACES TRICKY TIE IN TURKEY
Super Eagles midfielder, Raheem Lawal has hit the ground running for his new Turkish club, Osmanlispor and will be pulling the strings from the midfield when they play host to Mersin Idmanyurdu on Sunday at the 20,000-capacity Osmanli Stadium. Lawal, having spent two and a half seasons with Eskisehirspor, switched to Osmanlispor in a two and a half year deal during the January transfer window and has already featured in 4 games for his new club that also have another Nigerian, Aminu Umar on their payroll.
Tomorrow’s home game against Idmanyurdu will be a tricky one for host Osmanlispor despite the fact that 9 points currently separates the two sides on the Super Lig table. Host Osmanlispor, currently sit 9th on the league table with 26 points while Idmanyurdu are languishing in the relegation zone where they occupy the 17th position on the 18-team log with 17 points. Both teams however, go into this tie on similar form with Osmanlispor having won 2, drew 2 and lost 1 in their last 5 games while Idmanyurdu have 2 wins, 2 loses and 1 draw in their last 5 outings.
Lawal and Umar (who has 3 goals to his credit in 16 games) featured for 90 minutes last weekend as Osmalispor grinded out a valuable 1-1 draw away against Konyaspor while Idmanyurdu lost 1-0 away against high-riding Besiktas on Wednesday. While Osmanlispor will be looking to make home advantage count against their visitors, they must be wary of Idmanyurdu who are desperate for points to climb out of the relegation zone and ultimately escape the drop.
IDEYE TARGETS WIN AGAINST ATROMITOS
After Olympiakos successive defeats to AEK Athens, Anderlecht
Out of favour Super Eagles striker, Brown Ideye will be filling out for Greece side, Olympiakos in a home fixture against Atromitos at the 33,296-capacity Stadio Georgios Karaiskaki tomorrow.
Ideye was on the losing side with Olympiakos when they traveled to the 26,361-capacity Stade Constant Vanden Stock in Belgium where they lost by a lone goal to Anderlecht in an Europa League fixture played on Thursday. It was the second consecutive loss for Olympiakos on their road trips having previously lost a derby Super League game against title rivals AEK Athens last weekend also by the odd goal. The defeat to Athens was Olympiakos’ first loss in the league after 22 rounds of matches.
Olympiakos still lead the league table with 61 points while Athens are second on the log with 45 points but the league leaders will be looking to vent their frustrations and return to the winning ways against Atromitos who currently sit in the 12th position on the 16-team table with 24 points. And considering that Atromitos’ form are nothing to write home about having recorded only 1 win and 3 draws in their last 5 outings, Olympiakos will need nothing short of the maximum points to gain back some confidence and compensate their fans.
Ideye has scored 7 league goals for Olympiakos whom he joined at the start of the season after moving away from English Premier League side, West Bromwich Albion.