Congo will most certainly be weakened by the absence of skipper Delvin Ndinga and Jordan Massengo against Nigeria in a 2015 Afcon qualifier in Calabar on Saturday.
The vastly experienced Ndinga picked up a knock while featuring for Greek champions Olympiacos in a league game against Panaitolikos recently.
The class of the 26-year-old Ndinga, who has also featured for French club Auxerre and Monaco, in the midfield will be hugely missed.
While Massengo’s Belgian second division club Mons refused to release him, arguing they received the player’s call-up past the deadline.
Late comer Bernard Itoua Onanga is a doubt for an Afcon clash on Saturday as he may not get a visa to travel to Nigeria.
The Greece-based defender arrived late in Pointe-Noire and he is now stuck with this administrative formality, which could well deny him joining the rest of the squad to Nigeria.
The Red Devils were reinstated to the competition after Rwanda fielded an ineligible player against them in the previous round of the qualifying series.
The two teams have met nine times with Nigeria winning on five occasions, Congo have won once and there have been three draws between them.
The last meeting between the teams was a group game of the Nations Cup in 2000, which Nigeria co-hosted with Ghana.
Congo held the Eagles to a barren draw, while the Red Devils only win was achieved in 1970, when they beat Nigeria 2-1 in a 1972 Afcon qualifier in Brazzaville.
“Being the defending champions could make it tough for us and the Congolese have nothing to lose,” warned Nigeria star striker Emmanuel Emenike.
“Maximum three points is important and that’s what we are looking forward to in Saturday game but we should expect tough test from Congo.”
“We will hope for a winning start at home against Congo,” added Monaco left back Elderson Echiejile, who was ruled out of the recent World Cup in Brazil as a result of injury.
“This is not to say that we will underrate Congo because there are no longer small teams in the game and so we will respect all the teams, but we also want to win for the country.”
today’s match against African champions Nigeria comes at a time when football in Congo is enjoying a new lease of life.
The country’s top club AC Leopards are through to the semifinals of the CAF Confederation Cup after they won the competition two years ago.
Also, only last weekend the country’s U20 team eliminated defending champions Egypt to qualify for the 2015 African Youth Championship in Senegal.
Young striker Kader Bidimbou, who featured at last year’s African U17 Championship in Morocco, netted a brace against Egypt in the first leg and will be one of those the Eagles have to keep a special watch on.
He has also fired five goals in the last two matches in Congolese champions AC Leopards fine run in the Confederation Cup.