The Super Eagles of Nigeria are set for what is their first game of the year having been hampered just like others by the coronavirus pandemic.
After initially lining up a game against the Elephants of Cote d’ Ivoire who have since pulled out, the Super Eagles will be testing their might against the Desert Foxes of Algeria, who also are the reigning African champions.
Ahead of Friday night’s duel, here are five things to expect as Super Eagles play the first game in 2020:
The Super Eagles coach has 26 players at his disposal for the friendly game against Algeria and then Tunisia.
Though Gernot Rohr has expressly declared that he cannot guarantee that all the 26 players will taste action, it is very certain that among the eight players that are looking forward to debut appearances with Nigeria national team, as much as half of the number will get the chance against Algeria to prove their mettle.
Mathew Yakubu (SKF Sered), Zaidu Sanusi (FC Porto), Samson Tijani (Hartberg), Chidera Ejuke (CSKA Moscow) and Cyriel Dessers (Genk) are all in line to earn their first-ever senior cap.
Some players are also expected to debut for Algeria against the Super Eagles.
Not a barren game
Though Friday’s friendly does not readily look like one that would witness a harvest of goals, it does not strike as one that would end in barren draw either.
Games between Nigeria and Algeria in almost 50 years have always produced at least one goal, except on one occasion, in 1984.
So, fans can expect one, two or more goals in Friday’s outing.
Nigeria to keep the head-to-head advantage
In their 20 previous encounters, it is the Super Eagles that have a slight edge over their North African counterparts.
Nigeria have nine victories, three draws and eight losses.
There is the optimism that the Super Eagles will at least pick a draw in this tie to maintain their slight edge over the Desert Foxes who actually won the most recent tie between the nations.
The Eagles lost 2-1 to Algeria at the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations semi-finals.
Ekong for 40th Cap
While Rohr has kept his team selection for the Algeria friendly close to his heart, the Franco-German needs the experience and solidity of the likes of William Troost-Ekong at the centre-back to give the Desert Foxes a run for their money.
Should Ekong get to feature against the reigning African champions, it would be the 40th cap for the Dutch-born defender.
Since making his debut against Chad in June 2015, the 27-year-old has gone on to be a regular face in the Nigerian defence, keeping 13 clean sheets.
A fast-paced duel
With Algeria and Nigeria boasting of fleet-footed players that can run any defence ragged, then one can expect a fast-paced encounter with some level of physicality too.
Samuel Chukwueze, Ahmed Musa, Riyad Mahrez and Sofiane Feghouli are not only fast on the ball but they possess the trickery to cut wide open opposing defences.
The Algeria, Nigeria friendly match will take place at the Wörthersee Stadion in Klagenfurt, Austria by 7.30 pm.