Nigeria’s Predicted XI against Sierra Leone

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With just hours to Nigeria’s 2023 AFCON qualifier against Sierra Leone, head Coach Jose Peseiro’s first competitive game in charge of the NT will be his biggest test yet, so how will he line up the team?

In his previous Super Eagles matches; International friendlies against Mexico and Ecuador, the Coach deployed a 4-4-2 formation on both occasions, but with a slight variation in the second game.
Thursday’s Opponent is different though and unlike the two games before, Nigeria is favorite on paper.
Peseiro has a better grasp of his personnel and their abilities now – having trained with them longer than the six days he had between the Mexico and Ecuador matches.
He also has a lot more options now, obviously, with the likes of Frank Onyeka, Victor Osimhen, Leon Balogun and Sadiq Umar joining the camp in Abuja.
At first glance, the squad appears imbalanced as the Midfield looks light on Defensive options and it could be a concern.
With this obvious challenge, there’s a likelihood Peseiro will stick with the Four-man back line, but the midfield dynamics will change.
Injury to Innocent Bonke means Frank Onyeka is the only recognized DM available for selection, the player himself has been out of action for the best part of the year.
Onyeka played just 242 minutes – for club and Country – since the turn of the year.
On the other hand, Peter Etebo – who could fit as a makeshift – suffered a long term injury since October 2021 and only recently returned. He has played just 39 minutes.
Should Peseiro opt for a Midfield trio, which will be a diversion from his structure in the Friendly games, then Aribo will play on top of the Midfield Pyramid with Etebo and Onyeka handed Central midfield duties.
It becomes a 4-3-3 and in defensive transition the Super Eagles fall into a 4-5-1.
On both sides, Alex Iwobi and Moses Simon flank Victor Osimhen as the lone Attacker.
But there’s reason to believe the Coach will go with a two-man attack and thus a 4-4-2 formation.
A Forward line partnership of Osimhen and Cyriel Dessers could give Sierra Leone a lot of problems and be lethal.
The goalkeeping position seems to be the most certain, with first choice Maduka Okoye not called up, Francis Uzoho is almost guaranteed 100 percent to start if he is fit.
Nigeria’s Predicted XI:
Uzoho; Troost-Ekong, Oluwasemilogo Ajayi, Ola Aina, Calvin Bassey; Onyeka, Aribo, Simon, Iwobi, Dessers, Osimhen.

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