With Nigeria already guaranteeing the top spot for themselves in Group D of the CAF World Cup Qualification stages, the Super Eagles travel to Constantine to face the Algerian Desert Foxes in a contest over nothing more than pride.
Algeria have endured a tough year during 2017, winning only three of 13 matches and being eliminated from the African Cup of Nations during the group stages. Riddled withed managerial uncertainties in recent times, they will be hoping that the appointment of Algerian footballing legend Rabah Madjer will give them a new lease of life.
Nigeria has emerged as Africa’s footballing powerhouse in recent months, despite not having qualified for this year’s African Cup of Nations. Instead, their focus has been solely on World Cup qualification, winning four of their five Group D matches in the process. They will be looking to carry their unstoppable form into Russia next summer and are widely expected to be Africa’s most exciting representatives.
Reigning African champions Cameroon put 2 past Algeria in their latest World Cup qualifier in Yaounde on the 7th of October with both teams knowing qualification was already out of reach.
24-year-old Marseille forward Clinton N’Jie, formerly of Tottenham Hotspur, netted the Cameroonians’ first goal in the 25th minute.
While Algeria looked to have found their rhythm early in the second half, they couldn’t capitalise on their short-lived dominance. A mistake from Algerian defender Ramy Bensebaini led to Franck Pangop finding a second goal for the Cameroonians, sealing the victory in the 88th minute.
Alex Iwobi came on from the bench to secure a ticket to Russia for the Super Eagles in what was a close encounter with the Chipolopolo.
There’s no getting away from the fact that this tie has Leicester City written all over it with Islam Slimani, Riyad Mahrez, Ahmed Musa, Wilfried Ndidi and Kelechi Iheanacho all plying their trade for the 2015/16 Premier League winners.
While Riyad Mahrez has had a renaissance of sorts this season for Leicester, taking two goals and six assists already, his fellow attacking compatriots have endured a less exciting start to the new season
Mahrez is back in the squad under new manager Rabah Madjer, following a dispute with the previous manager Lucas Alcaraz.
Despite not living up to expectations last season, Mahrez is a player who possesses an undeniable gift of ball control, pace, flair, and goal-scoring ability. His reputation alone is enough to make any opposition wary of his potential threat.
Algeria manager Rabah Madjer has left many surprised with the omission of veteran goalkeeper Rais M’bohli who has struggled to find game-time for Rennes in France this season.
Another noteworthy absence from the squad is Middlesbrough midfielder Adlène Guedioura, meaning that former Arsenal midfielder Ismael Bennacer could make just his third appearance in an Algerian jersey.
After picking up a cruciate injury in Napoli’s Champions League fixture against Manchester City, Faouzi Ghoulam will be replaced by Houari Ferhani at left back.
Riyad Mahrez and Nabil Bentaleb have both been recalled by Madjer for the clash with the Super Eagles.
While Algeria boasts a formidable squad, playing on home turf with a new manager, the odds are still stacked against them for this tie. Algeria’s inability to win against lesser opposition in recent times suggests that Nigeria will have the upper hand over the Desert Foxes on this occasion. Both teams have an impressive arsenal of attacking options, however, so goals from both sides should be expected.