The two teams already know their fate ahead of today’s clash with the Super Eagles guaranteed a spot at the next edition of the Africa Cup of Nations, while the Crocodiles continue to dream of appearing at the continent’s premier championship
Nigeria beat the Benin Republic in Porto Novo on Saturday to qualify for Cameroon 2022 with a game to spare, leaving this game against Lesotho as a mere formality.
Gernot Rohr fielded an attack-heavy starting eleven against the Squirrels, but the team only needed a 93rd-minute strike from substitute Paul Onuachu to clinch all the three points at stake.
Much of the same is expected against Lesotho, but with a significant change in personnel as the German manager has the freedom to rotate his team with qualification ticket already in the kitty.
Maduka Okoye was the first choice in Benin, and the Sparta Rotterdam goalkeeper kept a clean sheet to enhance his rising profile.
However, this is the best time to afford Francis Uzoho his comeback since that disgusting injury against Brazil in 2019 that kept him out of action for so long.
Tyronne Ebuehi and Jamilu Collins played no part in that last-gasp win three days ago and could come in as fullbacks in place of Fulham’s Ola Aina and Porto’s Zaidu Sanusi.
Sanusi was phenomenal in Porto Novo and deserved to be allowed to run rings round the Crocodiles in Lagos but Collins, consistent in the 2 Bundesliga for Paderborn in recent times, also merits a spot.
Stand-in captain William Troost-Ekong should continue in central defence, but while his partnership with Leon Balogun produced a clean sheet against Benin, it could be broken up for Lesotho.
West Brom’s Semi Ajayi is the top pick to pair up with the Watford strongman. Still, Abia Warriors’ Adekunle Adeleke is also in line to make his Super Eagles debut after impressing in training.
In midfield, bank on Wilfred Ndidi to retain his place as the shield for the defence even though Abdullahi Shehu can also do a decent job.
Joe Aribo starred beside Ndidi against the Squirrels, but he might be rested to make room for Galatasaray’s Oghenekaro Etebo, who offers another energetic dimension to the team at the centre of the park.
Alex Iwobi missed the game against the Benin Republic due to a questionable coronavirus test result, but he’s already confirmed to feature versus Lesotho, making him the number one choice on the left flank.
Samuel Chukwueze should start on the opposite flank, although it would be pleasant to see what Enyimba’s Iwuala Anayo offers from kick-off.
The striking pair of Kelechi Iheanacho and Victor Osimhen caused the Benin Republic many problems even if they miss a plethora of chances.
But the quick and pretty inter-play between the Napoli man and the rejuvenated Leicester City ace could tempt Rohr to start them again today.
Genk’s Paul Onuachu, however, made a case for a place in the starting eleven, with a match-winning display in Porto Novo, and it could be Osimhen who makes way to accommodate him.
Nigeria’s Predicted Starting XI
DF: Ebuehi, Ajayi, Ekong, Collins
MF: Ndidi, Etebo, Iwobi, Chukwueze
ST: Iheanacho, Onuachu