By Sulaiman Alao:
MUSA, SAMUEL IN TOP RUSSIA CLASH
Super Eagles captain, Ahmed Musa, and his compatriot Aaron Samuel Olanare will be filing out for CSKA Moscow in a top of the table clash that will see them embark on the road trip to the 15,840-capacity Stadion Olimp 2 to take on Rostov today.
Musa was on the score sheet last weekend scoring the only goal as CSKA defeated Spartak Moscow 1-0 at home in a game Samuel only made it to the bench. Musa is currently CSKA’s leading scorer with 7 goals and he will be leading the attacking line while Samuel who recently joined the club from Chinese Super League side Guangzhou R&F, will be looking to earn his debut for his new Russian team.
CSKA still lead the Russian Premier League table with 40 points after 19 games while Rostov who also beat Krylya Sovetov 1-0 last weekend are close on the heels of the leaders in the 2nd spot with 37 points. With just 3 points separating the two leading sides, today’s tie is therefore a crunch tie for both teams as CSKA will be battling to maintain their lead in the summit of the league table while Rostov will be looking to tie with them on points.
Aside home advantage, Rostov go into this tie on better form having won 3, drew 1 and lost 1 in their last 5 games while CSKA only last weekend returned to winning ways having previously drew 1 and lost 3 of their last 5 outings.
Musa and Samuel are in the Eagles squad called up to battle Egypt in a double-header African Cup of Nations qualifier later this month.
BALOGUN SET FOR DORTMUND WAR
Nigerian international defender, Leon Balogun will be filling out for his German Bundesliga side Mainz 05 when they embark on a difficult road trip to the 81,359-capacity Signal Iduna Park tomorrow to take on host Borussia Dortmund. Balogun played for 90 minutes last weekend when Mainz played out a goalless draw at home against Darmstadt.
Mainz currently sit in the 5th position on the league table while Dortmund are 2nd on the log and a massive 18 points separate the two teams, with Dortmund enjoying the lion share of 58 points over Mainz with 40 points. The odds clearly favour Dortmund to make form and home advantage count in this tie but the host team must be wary of a Mainz team who against all odds beat league leaders, Bayern Munich 2-1 right at the Allianz Arena penultimate Wednesday in a game Balogun again featured for the entire duration of the game.
Dortmund boast of a potent attack that will be led by current African Footballer of the Year, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang who is currently the second highest scorer in the Bundesliga with 22 goals and was also on the score sheet Thursday as Dortmund took Tottenham Hotspurs of England to the cleaners with a 3-0 bashing in an UEFA Europa League game. Mainz defence will not be fazed having recently done well to shut out Robert Lewandowski who is the league hotshot with 23 goals.
Balogun who has featured in 17 league games for Mainz this season, has been recalled to the Super Eagles squad that will take on Egypt in the double-header African Cup of Nations qualifier later this month.
SIMON PRIMED FOR CHARLEROI CLASH
Super Eagles forward, Moses Simon will be leading the attacking line for Gent tomorrow when they travel on the road to the 14,967-capacity Stade du Pays de Charleroi to take on host Sporting Charleroi. Simon fired blanks Tuesday as Gent lost 1-0 away to Wolfsburg – a result that saw Gent crash out of the UEFA Champions League on 4-2 aggregate to the German side.
Returning to the Belgium Pro League, Gent who are currently 2nd on the table with 59 points will be targeting the maximum points against Charleroi to keep up the pressure on league leaders Club Brugge who sit atop the table with 61 points. And though Gent’s form has been inconsistent of late, they still remain favourites against a Charleroi side who are 9th on the log with 38 points and have only managed only 1 win and 1 draw in their last 5 games. Gent boast of a slightly better form going into this tie having recorded 2 wins , 1 draw and 2 losses in the last 5 outings.
The odds favour Gent but the travelling side must be wary of a certain Jeremy Perbet who interestingly is one of the highest goalscorers in the league with 13 goals. But Gent can also bank on the duo of Laurent Depoitre and Sven Kums both of whom have 12 goals each to their credit as well as the resourcefulness of Simon who has bagged 2 goals.
Simon is scheduled to return to international duty for Nigeria later in the month when the Eagles will be taking on the Pharaohs of Egypt in a double-header 2017 ANC qualifier.
ADI FACES EARTHQUAKES TEST
New Super Eagles invitee, Fernando Adi will be filling out for Portland Timbers when they travel to the 18,000-capacity Avaya Stadium to battle San Jose Earthquakes in an American Major League Soccer game billed to hold on Monday.
The 25-year old Adi scored 18 goals in 39 matches for Portland Timbers last season to help his side win the MLS Cup final after beating Columbus Crew 2-1 to clinch the title last December. And having been crowned MLS champions last season, Portland Timers have earned a berth into the 2016-17 CONCACAF Champions League with Adi expected to feature prominently for the team.
The MLS is made up of 20 teams grouped into the Eastern and the Western Conferences made up of 10 teams each. Portland Timbers and SJ Earthquakes are in the Western Conference and both have won their respective first games of the season last week. Playing at home, Timbers defeated last season finalist Columbus Crew 2-1 with Adi scoring one of the goals while Earthquakes made home advantage count against Colorado Rapids whom they beat 1-0.
Adi’s superlative performance for Timbers did not go unnoticed to national team selectors as returning Super Eagles coach, Samson Siasia named him in the squad to take on Egypt in a double-header African Cup of Nations qualifier later this month.
ENYEAMA EYES CLEAN SHEET AGAINST BASTIA
Former Super Eagles skipper, Vincent Enyeama, will be between the sticks on Saturday for his French Ligue 1 side, Lille, when they go on the road trip to the 16,480-capacity Stade Armand Cesari to take on Bastia. Enyeama was in goal and kept a clean slate last weekend when Lille made home advantage count against Reims whom they beat 2-0 and the 33-year old experienced goalkeeper would be looking to keep another clean sheet to help his side pick more points from today’s game.
Two points currently separate the two sides with Lille occupying the 14th position on the league table with 37 points after 29 games while Bastia who played out a goalless draw against visiting Nantes Wednesday are 10th on the log with 39 points. Today’s game will be Bastia’s third consecutive home tie and having previously drawn 0-0 against Lorient last weekend, they will be desperate for the maximum points against Lille this time out.
Bastia go into this tie with a slightly better form than Lille and having played out a 1-1 draw in their first meeting last November, both clubs will be targeting the maximum points to show supremacy.
Enyeama recently rebuffed the chance to stage a return to international football after turning down invitation extended to him by Samson Siasia, who has taken over the Eagles baton from erstwhile coach, Sunday Oliseh.
OGU, NWAKAEME START CHAMPIONSHIP ROUND FIXTURES
Having helped Hapoel Beer Sheva to the top of the Israeli Ligat Ha’al Regular Season, the Nigerian duo of John Ogu and Anthony Nwakaeme are set to lead the side in the Championship Round that will feature the top 6 teams during the Regular Season contest for the league title.
To this end, Ogu and Nwakaeme will be in action today as Hapoel Beer Sheva play host to Hapoel Ra’anana. Beer Sheva by virtue of leading the table in the Regular Season maintain their summit position on the 6-team Championship Rounds with 64 points after 26 matches while Hapoel Ra’anana are 6th on the log with 36 points after 26 matches.
Ogu and Nwakaeme are key players for Beer Sheva and they will be expected to help the side maintain their push for the Israeli title this season. Ogu, playing from the midfield currently has 3 goals to his credit in 24 games while Nwakaeme has scored 8 goals in 26 games for the side. Interestingly, Ogu and Nwakaeme’s compatriot Nosa Igiebor is also in the title race with Maccabi Tel Aviv who are second on the Championship Round with 61 points after 26 games. Igiebor has scored 3 goals in 15 games for Maccabi Tel Aviv this season.