Three months after coronavirus stole football from our lives, the beautiful game is making a remarkable comeback.
The German Bundesliga and the Spanish La Liga have braved the tough times we find ourselves in to return to our screens.
Italy have tested the waters with the Coppa Italia (Congratulations, Napoli!), and all looks set for the Serie A to be reactivated in the coming days.
Days ago, Manchester City and Arsenal treated us to a delicious appetizer of the things to come, and we just can’t wait to welcome back to full flow (yes, no fans in the stand) the much-beloved English Premier League and its sidekick, the Championship.
There’s more to come at the weekend, and Nigerian-born and Nigeria-eligible stars will be involved.
Soccernet.ng previews seven compatriots to be on the lookout for at the blast of the referees’ whistles across England on Saturday.
Odion Ighalo, Manchester United
For a while, it appeared that COVID-19 had denied Ighalo the chance to help United navigate their remaining EPL hurdles with his loan deal expiring before football returned.
Thankfully, the Red Devils managed to extend the Nigerian’s contract, and his dream spell is now billed to continue until next January.
Ighalo has netted four times for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side, but none of those has come in the Premier League.
That may have to change if United are to gatecrash into the Champions League spaces.
Next Match: Tottenham vs Man United
Wilfred Ndidi, Kelechi Iheanacho; Leicester City
Ndidi has been excellent so far this season, and it’s not luck or coincidence that the defensive midfielder is continuously rated among the best, not only in England but also in the world.
His compatriot Iheanacho can also be pleased with the way his season has panned out – the former City forward began the campaign as a cast-out but has played his way into Brendan Rodgers’ plans.
The duo’s contribution has been crucial to make the Foxes a force to reckon with this term, and more of it would be required to push Leicester over the line in the hunt for an automatic Champions League spot.
Next Match: Watford vs Leicester City
Alex Iwobi, Everton
The Super Eagles midfielder has not had the kind of impact he would have desired when he switched the Emirates Stadium for the Goodison Park last summer.
The former Arsenal man has started only 13 of Everton’s 29 league games and has been used as a substitute in another five matches.
But the Toffees didn’t part with millions of euros for him to produce just one Premier League goal all season.
Iwobi’s quality, though, is undeniable, and he has nine more games to show the Everton faithful why he comes so highly rated.
Next Match: Everton vs Liverpool
Isaac Success, Watford
Success has had a mostly disappointing campaign with Watford, having played only a handful of games despite the Hornets’ struggles.
Watford are fighting the battle of their lives to avoid relegation, but the Nigerian forward is still not trusted to the Hornets cause.
If things remain the same till the end of the season, Success may do well to secure a move away from Vicarage Road.
Next Match: Watford vs Leicester City
Ebere Eze, Bright Osayi-Samuel; QPR
One player who may be playing in the English top-flight next term is the magnificent Ebere Eze.
The attacking midfielder has been by far Rangers’ best player scoring goals for fun and creating chances seemingly at will for his teammates.
A couple of EPL sides are already lining up to snatch the 21-year-old off Rangers’ grasps. And the same can be said for Osayi-Samuel.
The young winger took time to find his feet for Mark Warburton’s men, but he has not looked back since.
QPR will look to both these young attackers when pursuing the season targets in the coming weeks.
Only six points stand between QPR and the last playoff places, meaning there’s all to play for when the Championship resumes.
Next Match: QPR vs Barnsley
Semi Ajayi, West Bromwich Albion
Another Nigerian gearing up for Premier League football next term is West Brom’s defender, Semi Ajayi.
The Super Eagles centre-back has been majestic at the heart of the defence for the Baggies, playing a large portion of their games and contributing with five goals.
Slaven Bilic’s team currently sit second behind Leeds United on the table and needs a few more wins to guarantee an automatic promotion.
That should not be a mission impossible, with Ajayi having voiced his ‘hunger’ to get the job done.
Next Match: West Brom vs Birmingham City
Leon Balogun, Wigan Athletic
A terrible first half of the season at Brighton and Hove Albion has been followed by a superb second half on loan at Wigan for Balogun.
While he struggled to get game time at Brighton, the former Mainz star has been a revelation at the Championship side, with his signing coinciding with a resurgence for the relegation-threatened team.
He must have been gutted when coronavirus interrupted his fine form, but he will be keen to show that his excellent performances early in the year were no fluke.
Next Match: Huddersfield Town vs Wigan Athletic