By Sulaiman Alao:
IHEANACHO SET FOR TOTTENHAM CRACKER
Nigerian international, Kelechi Iheanacho, will be looking to play a part in Manchester City’s crucial Premier League home game against title-chasing rivals Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday at the Etihad Stadium. Iheanacho played as a second half substitute for Fabian Delph last weekend when the Citizens lost 3-1 at home to league leaders Leicester City. The result was a set-back for the Manuel Pellegrini-led side in their title aspirations and they will be desperate to make amends against Spurs who on their part rallied to a 1-0 home win against a hardfighting Watford side last week.
Sunday’s clash will see Manchester City, who have dropped to the 4th position in the league table with 47 points, try to make home advantage count against Tottenham who have overtaken them on the log and currently sit in the 2nd position with 48 points. With season surprise team Leicester having opened a 5-point lead atop the league table, both Man City and Tottenham will be going all out for the maximum points in order not to fall further behind a Leicester side who on their part will be going on the road against another title aspirants and 3rd-placed Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium.
Iheanacho’s profile has risen tremendously this season and he has arguably become the most-improved Nigerian player in Europe this term. The 19-year old forward who got promoted to the Citizens’ first team at the start of the season has made the best use of his limited opportunities playing mostly as substitute in the star-studded team. And with star players like Samir Nasri, Kevin De Bruyne, Jesus Navas and Wifried Bony still out injured, Iheanacho has enjoyed more play-time and has also been listed for the club’s Champions League outings.
City therefore go into this crucial tie with a depleted side but that will be no excuse against Spurs who not only enjoy a better form but will be at the Etihad with the full complement of their squad including Harry Kane with 15 goals and new sensation, Dele Ali with 7 goals not to mention the likes of Dembele, Erickson, Lamela and others. But the visitors need to be wary of City’s Argentine star, Sergio Aguero who on a good day can single-handedly turn a game on its head as well as the ingenuity of midfield combination of Yaya Toure and David Silva.
Finally, Spurs should also be wary of Iheanacho!
KAYODE PRIMED FOR DERBY CLASH IN AUSTRIA
Nigerian youth international Olanrewaju Kayode, is set to return to the starting line-up for Austria Wien when they play host to city rivals Rapid Wien at the Generali Arena tomorrow. The 22-year old former Flying Eagles star is back to full fitness having recovered from the ankle injury he suffered in a game against Wolfsberger before the Winter break.
Kayode, currently with 8 goals to his credit for the Austrian Bundesliga side featured for the whole duration of the game in his side’s 1-0 away win against Grodig in a league match last weekend but was rested Tuesday in a Cup game that saw Austria Wien beat visiting team, Lask Linz 1-0.
Tomorrow’s Bundesliga fixture will see the two sides who are based in the city of Wien take to the field in a derby cracker what will also see them battle for league supremacy. Austria Wien are currently 2nd on the league table with 38 points after 21 matches while Rapid Wien are just below them in the 3rd position with 37 points – so much at stake for the two title chasing teams who are currently trailing Salzburg who sit atop the league table with 40 points.
AKPALA LEADS OOSTENDE AGAINST BRUGGE
Super Eagles forward, Joseph Akpala will be leading the attacking line for KV Oostende when they welcome league leaders, Club Brugge to the Albertparkstadion for a Belgian Pro League game. Oostende suffered a slump in form of recent, going 4 games without a win but they returned to the winning ways last weekend after beating host team, Lokeren 1-0. Despite Oostende poor form, they still remain 4th on the league table with 43 points but they face a difficult home game against Club Brugge who are riding high on top of the log with 52 points after 25 games – a clear 9 points separating the two teams. Besides, Club Brugge go into this tie on superb form having won their last 5 league games.
Akpala currently has 5 goals to his credit for Oostende and even though he is not the club’s leading scorer with Gohi Cyriac and Knowledge Musona having 11 and 10 goals to their credits respectively, coach Yves Vanderhaeghe should still be banking on the Nigerian international’s experience to lead the forward line against a Brugge side who also boast of potent attackers like Abdoulay Diaby with 11 goals, Jelle Vossen with 9 strikes and Tuur Dierckx with 5 goals.
Aside from Akpala, 19-year old Saviour Godwin also plies his football trade with Oostende as a striker with one goal in four games while Club Brugge also has 22-year old midfielder, Mikel Agu who has featured in just 2 games in their ranks
ENYEAMA IN LINE OF FIRE!
As Lille take on high-scoring PSG
Former Super Eagles skipper and goalkeeper, Vincent Enyeama indeed faces a daunting task today when he file out with Lille in an away fixture that pitches them against high-riding PSG and that’s putting it mildly. The hard fact is that Enyeama will be in an un-enviable position between the sticks as he will be trying his best not to conceed an avalanche of goals from a PSG forwardline that parade lethal strikers like Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Edison Cavani, Angel Di Maria as well as Loucas Moura – the quartet of whom have combined to score 46 of PSG’s 63 goals so far this season.
PSG remain the undisputed champion-designate in the French Ligue 1 having gone unbeaten since the start of the league campaign and currently sit atop the league table with 69 points – a massive 24 points ahead of second placed Monaco with 45 points while Enyeama’s Lille are way down in the 15th position with 30 points.
Lille failed to make home advantage count last weekend as they ended up sharing the points with Rennes in the game that ended 1-1 while PSG dispatched Lorient 3-1 with league top scorer, Ibrahimovic accounting for 1 of the goals to bring his total haul to 21. Enyeama is Lille’s first choice goalkeeper and has starred in 22 of his club’s 25 games where Lille had scored 20 goals and also conceded 20.
ALUKO TACKLES AKPAN IN PROMOTION RACE
As Carl Ikeme eyes promotion play-off with Wolves
The race for promotion to the Premiership is heating up in England with a number of Nigerian internationals in the fray for their respective Championship clubsides. Super Eagles forward, Sone Aluko will be in the line-up for Hull City when they go on the road trip to the Ewood Park today to take on Blackburn Rovers who will also be lining up another Nigerian international, Hope Akpan.
Hull City are currently 2nd on the 24-team league table with 56 points, a point behind leaders Middlesbrough, and are forging ahead in the promotion race while Blackburn are no-hopers, sitting way down in the 18th position with 31 points. Aluko has starred in 17 of Hull’s 29 games and has 1 goal to his credit while Akpan has featured in 25 matches with 2 goals to his name.
Elsewhere in the Championship, Eagles goalkeeper Carl Ikeme, will also be in goal for Wolverhampton when they play host to Preston North End today at the Molineux Stadium. One point currently separates the two teams with Wolves sitting in the 11th position on the table with 40 points while Preston are 14th on the log with 39 points. Wolves are pressing towards finishing in the top-6 to earn a promotion play-off ticket.
Ikeme has kept the goal 18 times for Wolves this season and the 29-year old shot-stopper who is gradually inching his way to become Nigeria’s first choice goalkeeper is expected to be called up for Nigeria’s crucial African Cup of Nations qualifier against Egypt next month.
TIT BITS… TIT BITS…
Isaac SUCCESS: The Nigerian youth international will be leading the attacking line for his Spanish La Liga side, Granada when they go on the road trip against Real Sociedad tomorrow. Success played for 90 minutes last weekend as Granada put up a spirited fight at home against visiting Real Madrid who eventually ran away 2-1 winners. Granada are currently fighting to avoid relegation and Success currently has 4 goals to his credit in 21 games for the side.
Batholomew OGBECHE: The 2002 World Cup star for the Super Eagles will be starting his third game for his new Netherlands Eredivisie side, Willem II in a home tie against De Graafschap today. Ogbeche had previously scored 9 goals for his former team, Cambuur before switching to Willem II during the January transfer window and will be expected to score the goals to help the team currently 15th on the 18-team table avoid the relegation at the end of the season.
Peter Odemwingie: Back to fitness Super Eagles forward will be looking to feature for Stoke City as they travel to take on Bournemouth today. The 34-year old featured as a 62nd minute substitute when Stoke lost 0-3 at home to Everton last weekend. The former Lokomotiv Moscow forward has featured in only 5 games for Stoke this term due to injury but is looking to end the season on a strong note in order to secure the additional 12-months extension option on his contract.
Victor ANICHEBE: The self-exiled Super Eagles forward will be hoping to feature more for West Brom having featured and did well in the 1-0 loss away to Newcastle United last weekend. The Baggies face a more difficult opposition today when they again travel on the road to Goodison Park to take on Everton and if Anichebe gets to play against his former club, it will be his 7th league game for the coach Tony Pulis-led team who has managed only 3 draws in their last 5 games.