Nigeria take on Sierra Leone in a doubleheader Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers, knowing a win in both games will guarantee qualification.
The three-time African Champions currently sit on top of Group L with maximum points following victories over the Benin Republic and Lesotho last year.
They, however, go into the Sierra Leone clash following a loss to Algeria and a draw against Tunisia in last month’s international friendlies.
Super Eagles manager, Gernot Rohr, came in for criticism from fans after the games with many questioning his tactics. But given that the two games were friendlies, the German could be excused for trying out different tactics.
The clash against Sierra Leone is a different ball game, however, as it is the Super Eagles first competitive game in a year.
Rohr knows his side can’t afford a repeat of last month’s performance and will change things. And ahead of the game on Friday, Soccernet predicts the Super Eagles likely lineup and tactics.
In goal, is Rohr’s biggest dilemma as he has three options. Maduka Okoye is likely to get the nod having played in the games against Algeria and Tunisia.
Although the Sparta Rotterdam goalkeeper is yet to play in the qualifiers, his performance last month means Rohr will stick with him.
Other options available to Rohr include Ikechukwu Ezenwa and Sebastian Osigwe, but the former has not played in almost a year, while the latter is a new invitee.
In defence, William Troost Ekong and Leon Balogun should continue their partnership at the centre back while Tyronne Ebuehi and Zaidu Sanusi are set to occupy the full-back roles.
Sanusi made his debut last month, and he didn’t put a foot wrong in his left-back role. The Porto star looks to have usurped Jamilu Collins and Ola Aina in that position.
Ebuehi also made his return to the international scene in October after two years out due to injury. He delivered a brilliant performance against both Algeria and Tunisia, and that should see him retain his place
With the defence sorted, Rohr has a decision to make in the midfield as both Wilfred Ndidi and Frank Onyeka are out.
Their absence leaves Nigeria without a defensive midfielder. Semi Ajayi played in the position in games against Algeria and Tunisia, and fans could see him in that role again.
Another option is Shehu Abdullahi, who has always played as a right-back for Nigeria, but he plays as a central or defensive midfielder at club level.
Meanwhile, Joe Aribo, who missed October’s friendlies, should slot in easily as one of the two central midfielders Rohr is likely to play on Friday.
Oghenekaro Etebo’s energy and work rate will complement the creativity of Aribo in the midfield, which means Alex Iwobi is likely to operate from the flanks.
With Aribo likely to play in an advanced central midfield role, the only option is to play Iwobi on the left-flank, especially with both Moses Simon and Samuel Kalu injured.
Villarreal’s star Samuel Chukwueze looks set to occupy the right-wing, while Victor Osimhen will replace Paul Onuachu as the team’s marksman.
Onuachu led the line against Algeria, but that was because Osimhen missed the game. Onuachu’s performance was criticised, but that was due to Rohr’s approach to the match.
The Genk forward is Nigeria’s best striker in Europe with nine goals in 11 league games, but he has found it difficult to force his way into Rohr’s plan.
Osimhen, however, has fit in perfectly ever since Odion Ighalo retired from the international scene. The Napoli striker already has three goals in the two opening qualifiers.
While Rohr tweaked his style for the game against Tunisia, the former Bordeaux manager is likely to stick with his favoured 4-3-3 formation.
Nonetheless, irrespective of the team he puts out on Friday, anything other than they a win will not satisfy the football-loving Nigerian fans.
The first leg of Nigeria’s doubleheader against Sierra Leone takes place at the Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium, Benin, on Friday.
Kickoff time for the match is 5 pm, and Soccernet will be available to provide live updates.