With more leagues resuming for the 2020/21 season, TUNDE LIADI highlights some of the matches involving Nigerian players this weekend
The English Premier League is back after close to two months of hiatus with Liverpool winning their first league title in 30 years in July.
The 2020/2021 season will kick off today with the only fixture that may have involved a Nigerian, Odion Jude Ighalo, Burnley vs Man United postponed to a later date because of their involvement in the Europa League last season where they lost to eventual Champions, Sevilla in the semi-final.
Other Nigerians in the EPL may be in the thick of action tomorrow when their clubs lock horns with their opposition. At the Hawthorns, West Bromwich Albion with Semi Ajayi will make a return to the top flight since 2017/2018 season with a tough home fixture against Leicester City who have Wilfred Ndidi and Kelechi Iheanacho on their payrolls. Iheanacho seemed surplus to requirements at Leicester and it is unclear if he will be part of the squad for their first game of the season.
Alex Iwobi’s Everton have been busy in the transfer window with James Rodriguez and Allan among their new acquisitions. Their game with Tottenham Hotspur tomorrow away could present a glimpse of how the season will look like for Iwobi who is only in his second season with the club.
Rangers with their two Nigerian imports: Joe Aribo and Leon Balogun will be eager to continue from where they stopped before the international break when they host Dundee United at the Ibrox Stadium today. Aribo missed the Gers’ last three matches but he is available for selection now having fully recovered from his injury complaint, while Balogun who was only an unused substitute in their 2-0 away win at Hamilton Academicals two weeks ago is also very fit and raring to go. Steven Gerrard’s inspired Rangers are yet to concede a goal after six games to top the table.
Another Nigerian in the SPL is Efe Ambrose who was picked in SPL Team of the Week for Livingston in their 1-0 home win over Ross County a fortnight ago after a virtuoso display. Ambrose and his basement club have another home duel against Hamilton Academicals today as they search for more points to stay away from the drop zone.
Henry Onyekuru’s AS Monaco and Moses Simon’s Nantes earned their maiden victory of the season against Metz and Nimes respectively two weeks ago but both could face each other tomorrow if they are selected by their coaches in a league tie billed for Stade Louis II, Monaco.
Onyekuru featured for 59 minutes for Monaco in their 1-0 triumph at Metz before he was substituted but Simon played for 90 minutes for Nantes before he was replaced probably as time wasting ploy.
Bordeaux have two Nigerians: Josh Maja and Samuel Kalu in their squad and they traded tackles with Champions League semi-finalists, Lyon yesterday in an early kick off of the weekend games.
Maja saw action for 66 minutes before he was replaced in their 2-0 away win at Angers before the international break while Kalu, who is presently unsettled with reports linking him a move to Fenerbahce, only entered for the last 12 minutes in the same game.
League reigning Champions, Club Brugge showed what they could do while under pressure with a 2-1 away win at Genk in the last game played two weeks ago to move to the fifth spot on the table for their second win of the season.
David Okereke and Emmanuel Dennis both started the game for Club Brugge against Genk that paraded two Nigerians – Paul Onuachu and Cyriel Dessers. Brugge will face Waasland Beveren today searching for their first home win of the season after their surprise defeats to Sporting Charleroi and Beerschot.
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