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Who’s hot, who’s not!

 

With just three days to the crucial Qatar 2022 World Cup play-off between Nigeria and Ghana, JOHNNY EDWARD takes a look at the performances of the Super Eagles players ahead of the game

Who is hot!

Victor Osimhen (Napoli)

Osimhen is currently leading Napoli’s Serie A title charge this season with his goals and his form has offered Nigerians a massive hope ahead of the crucial Qatar 2022 World Cup qualifier against Ghana. He scored a brace each in the last two Serie A games before heading to Abuja for the play-off.

With 10 goals to his name from 18 appearances for Nigeria, the 23-year-old will be eager to add to his tally against the Black Stars.

Semi Ajayi (West Brom)

Ajayi is Nigeria’s most consistent central defender heading into the play-off against Ghana. The 28-year-old defender played 24 games in the English Championship, scoring a goal and providing one.

The versatile centre-back has been solid in defence for the Baggies this season, helping them keep nine clean sheets.

Emmanuel Dennis (Watford)

Emmanuel Dennis has lit up the EPL with his electrifying form, scoring nine Premier League goals with five assists across all competitions for Watford,

The 24-year-old is the fourth-highest scoring African in the EPL this season behind Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Riyad Mahrez.

His return to the Eagles after two years out will rekindle stiff competition on the wings, where his qualities in attack and selfless defensive work will be valuable assets in the Eagles’ bid to beat Ghana.

Kelechi Iheanacho (Leicester City)

He may have been struggling to replicate his form of last season, when he scored 19 goals, Iheanacho has shown severally that he can be relied on to deliver.

In 32 games this season, the 24-year-old has nine assists — the most by any player in the Eagles –- and six goals.

Odion Ighalo (Al-Hilal)

Another striker whose impressive form will help the Eagles in their quest for a seventh appearance at the World Cup is Ighalo.

Ighalo grabbed a hat-trick last Friday before travelling down to Nigeria for the play-off. This will definitely spark fear in the minds of the Black Stars fans.

The 33-year-old has scored 22 goals in 28 games across all competitions for both Al-Shabab and Al-Hilal this season. The top scorer in the Saudi Arabian topflight with 19 goals, Ighalo’s wealth of experience will complement Osimhen’s pace, guile and aggressiveness in attack when they face Ghana.

Moses Simon (Nantes)

The 26-year-old was in brilliant form at the AFCON in Cameroon, where he scored one goal and registered three assists in four games.

At club level, the Nigerian has scored three times and made seven assists in 32 games across all competitions for Nantes.

Maduka Okoye (Sparta Rotterdam)

After a shaky start to the Eredivisie season where he failed to keep a clean sheet, conceding nine goals in his first four league games, Okoye has impressed for Sparta recently.

The shot-stopper bounced back to keep three clean sheets in his last three games before the clash against the Black Stars.

Zaidu Sanusi (FC Porto)

Another Nigerian defender who has been consistent in Europe this season is Sanusi. The marauding left-back has played 31 of Porto’s 44 games this season, scoring once.

He is expected to keep his place in the Eagles’ starting line-up when they face Ghana in the play-off over two legs.

WHO IS NOT!

William Troost-Ekong (Watford)

Troost-Ekong has made 16 Premier League appearances for Watford this season, with the Hornets failing to keep a clean sheet in those games.

He last played for the Hornets on December 1, 2021 in their 1-0 loss to Tottenham Hotspurs and is yet to feature for the struggling EPL side in 2022, raising fears over his lack of match fitness.

Ola Aina (Torino)

Aina has appeared in 18 matches this season for Torino, but has been inactive for three months.

His last appearance for the Granata was in Torino’s 1-0 loss to Inter on December 12, 2021.

Though he impressed with the Eagles at the recent AFCON, his inactiveness will be a huge concern for Eguavoen.

Joe Aribo (Glasgow Rangers)

Aribo’s performance for Rangers since the start of the year has dipped. The 26-year-old has failed to replicate the form that saw Crystal Palace, Aston Villa jostle for him since he returned from the AFCON with the Eagles. He has scored seven times and made eight assists in 48 games so far this season.

Kenneth Omeruo (Leganes)

The 28-year-old only returned to Leganes’ first team squad after one month out due to an adductor’s injury.

He faces stiff competition to keep his place in the team with the return of Leon Balogun and the impressive Semi Ajayi in the squad.

Ahmed Musa (Fatih Karagumruk)

The Nigeria captain is having an indifferent season in Turkey despite scoring four goals in 27 games. Though Musa ended his three-month goal drought in February against Istanbul Basaksehir, he’s not been in the form expected of him, just like he’s been with the Eagles.

Oghenekaro Etebo (Watford)

After returning to action after a five-month injury layoff, Etebo’s inclusion came as a surprise to many.

The 26-year-old has seen only 17 minutes of club topflight football action since his return, though he played for 45 minutes for the Hornets U-23 before his cameo appearance. His fitness against a combative Ghanaian side will be tested in Kumasi.

Samuel Chukwueze (Villarreal)

Despite his immense talent, Chukwueze has failed to find consistency at club and national team levels. The winger, who has five goals and two assists, will be offered a fresh challenge from Emmanuel Dennis and Ademola Lookman, who have been included in the Eagles squad. ‘Samu’ as he is fondly called has made only nine starts in 26 appearances this season.

Frank Onyeka (Brentford)

Dubbed ‘Frank the Tank’ for his no-nonsense style, Onyeka has been restricted to the substitute role for Brentford since he joined the Bees last summer from Midtjylland. The former FC Ebeidei starlet was a back-up for Wilfred Ndidi at the AFCON, where he made only two substitute appearances for the Eagles. He made 13 starts in 24 games he’s played this season and failed to score or assist.

Daniel Akpeyi (Kaizer Chiefs)

These are certainly not the best of times for Daniel Akpeyi at his South African club, Kaizer Chiefs. The Nigerian goalie has not played for his Premier Soccer League club in the last three months.

His last game at club level was in Kaizer Chiefs’ 2-0 win over Maritzburg United on December 22, 2021.

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