With just one week to the first leg of the 2022 World Cup playoff showdown with Ghana, there has been so much noise about the encounter. While Nigeria have unveiled their squad, Ghana are yet to do so.
The match venue has also been a major talking point. The draws for the Champions League quarter-finals and the Europa League were also held. Manchester United earlier lost to Atletico Madrid, piling more pressure on a struggling team.
These and other top sports stories this week are captured in First Eleven.
Nigeria may have reasons to worry ahead of the tie with Ghana following injuries to midfielder Wilfred Ndidi and defender Kenneth Omeruo. Ndidi was taken off the pitch in his side’s loss to Rennes in a Europa Conference League tie on Thursday.
Leicester City boss Brendan Rodgers in a post-game interview said the injury was disappointing but it is unclear when he would recover.
His compatriot has not played for Leganes in the last four league games following a groin injury but is expected to make a return this Sunday. The 28-year-old was a mainstay in the heart of Nigeria’s defence at the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations earlier in the year.
Nigeria will now play the waiting game to know if the duo will be fit for the double-legged tie.
Amuneke Backs Okoye
And ahead of the clash, Super Eagles chief coach Emmanuel Amuneke has backed Maduka Okoye to retain his place in the team. The youngster came under fire following his performance at the AFCON, especially in the game against Tunisia where the three-time African champions slumped to a shocking defeat.
Amuneke told Brila FM that the German-born goalkeeper may have made a mistake but believes it is not enough to sideline him.
Venue Changed, Ghana Squad Awaited
Nigeria’s foes Ghana are yet to announce their squad for the double-legged tie. Earlier in the week, Ghanaian football authorities confirmed that the venue for the first leg of the encounter has been changed. A Ghana Football Association (GFA) statement said the Baba Yara Sports Stadium in Kumasi will now host the playoff. The approval came after a CAF inspection.
Draws for Champions League
A day after Leicester City advanced to the next phase of the Europa Conference League, draws for the competition, the Europa League, and the Champions League were held. In one of the most mouth-watering ties in the Champions League, Spanish giants Real Madrid square off against holders Chelsea in the last eight. Manchester City battle Atletico Madrid.
Ndidi’s club will tackle Dutch power house PSV Eindhoven.
Europa League Fixtures
In the Europa League, Barcelona face Eintracht Frankfurt, and Scottish giants, Rangers take on Braga. Other fixtures are West Ham vs Lyon and RB Leipzig vs Atalanta.
Man United Crash Out
Before the draws, Manchester United were one of the biggest casualties in the Champions League round of 16. They lost to Atletico 2-1 on aggregate to pile more pressure on a struggling squad. On the home front, the former European champions are fourth on the league table, one point behind Arsenal who have two games at hand.
Bid For Chelsea Continues
As top European teams know their foes in various continental competitions, Chelsea are facing issues off the pitch. On Wednesday, reports emerged that Chicago Cubs owners, the Ricketts family, have confirmed they are leading a consortium to bid to buy English club.
Already, New York merchant bank Raine Group has set a Friday deadline for bids, with Roman Abramovich’s 19-year tenure as owner of the Stamford Bridge club ending.
Away from football, Joe Joyce’s manager says Anthony Joshua has been contacted but questioned the Nigerian-born boxer’s readiness to take the fight as he waits for a rematch with Oleksandr Usyk.
Joshua activated the clause for a rematch to vie for the WBA, IBF, and WBO heavyweight titles after Usyk defeated him in September. It is, however, uncertain when Usyk will be ready to make a comeback to the ring as his country has been invaded by Russian forces.
Yusuf Eyes Mitchell
Earlier in the week, Sodiq Yusuff defeated Alex Caceres at UFC Apex in Las Vegas, winning by a unanimous decision. Following the win, he expressed eagerness to face Bryce Mitchell in the next fight
“I really want to test myself against Arkansas’ finest,” the Nigerian said. “I’d really like to fight Bryce Mitchell.”
Brume Eyes History
Going to athletics, Nigeria’s Ese Brume is eyeing a historic medal as the World Indoors Championship begins.
The Olympics long jump bronze medalist wants to become the only third Nigerian to win medals in all three global athletics championships including the Olympics.
She has clinched bronze at the World Outdoor Championships in 2019 and is hoping to join Glory Alozie and late Sunday Bada as athletes who have won medals at the World Athletics Championships indoors and out and the Olympics.