The Super Eagles will be severely tested on patience as they came up against a crop of players that are used to holding on to possession
Kwambe, Egwueke, Ambrose, Oshaniwa
Musa, Onazi, Reuben, Igiebor, I. Uche
Amat, Puyol, Pique, Alba
Busquets, Xavi, Tejera
Tello, Krkic, Garcia
One thing is sure on Wednesday evening at the Estadi Cornellà El Prat, the Super Eagles players will be given a stiff test in endurance and patience.
This is the first of the three friendlies that the team will undertake before they take on Burkina Faso on January 21 in Nelspruit and they could not have chosen a stiffer test than Catalonia.
The Super Eagles players will have to be prepared to chase after the ball and when they get it they must be patient in trying to play their own game.
The Catalonia side that they will come up against will be laden with players from Barcelona and joined by some Espanyol players. Barcelona and the Catalonia coach, Johann Cryuff are the real exponents of tiki-taka, with Xavi Hernandez, expected to lead the display.
The first time that the Super Eagles played this team was in December 1998 and they were hammered 5-0 but no one expects a repeat of that score line.TACTICS
Nigerian coach Stephen Keshi has largely used the 4-3-3 formation but this may be changed to a 4-5-1 to try and negate the passing strength of the Catalonia side by flooding the midfield with more players.
Catalonia, under Cryuff will stick to their tried and tested 4-3-3 formation of which they are the greatest exponents although the Eagles will be glad that Lionel Messi will not play for Catalonia.
Emmanuel Emenike or Brown Ideye could be placed at the focal point of the attack supported by Ikechukwu Uche and Ahmed Musa.
Xavi Hernendez will lead the midfield supported by Sergio Busquets while Carles Puyol will lead the team.
Anyone chosen by Coach Keshi to play on the left side of defence will be tested thoroughly by Cristian Tello, who is very fast and also has an eye for goal. Juwon Oshinawa, now in Israel may get that unenviable job and his three months in Israel will definitely be put to the test.
Reuben Gabriel should make his return to the Super Eagles team and there will be a lot of pressure on him to perform to be part of the 23-man squad. But he would be better advised to pace himself against the clockwork passing of the Catalonia team.
The presence of Nosa Igiebor in the squad will mean that he will be expected to be the play maker of the team supported by either tough tackling Ogenyi Onazi or Raheem Lawal, who will then be tasked with keeping the ball when the Eagles are in possession – this will be hard as the Barcelona are trained to win back the ball within six (6) seconds of losing it.
And for the Nigerian strikers, they have to utilise every chance that is created because the Super Eagles are not expected to create much against a Puyol-led defence.
But overall it will be interesting to see the defensive formation that Coach Keshi will use against these astute passers of the ball.
The Catalonia province has played 43 friendly matches since 1912, winning 17, with the 5-0 over Nigeria the highest recorded victory. It will be a good test for Stephen Keshi and his boys.
"This match is another crucial step in our preparations for the Nations Cup in South Africa,"said Ademola Olajire last week.
"The players and officials are all looking forward to another opportunity to continue building momentum after the victory against Venezuela in Miami. The Catalonia side will provide a tough test at the right time for us," he added.
For it being a test is a confirmation after the fact because of the pedigree of players that will be on show for Catalonia on Wednesday, the Eagles must make sure that they put up a great show as the whole world will be watching.
|DID YOU KNOW?|
Catalonia beat the Super Eagles 5-0 in 1998.
There are only two Spain-based players in the current Super Eagles team - Ik Uche and Nosa Igiebor.
- Nigeria is ranked 52nd in the world by Fifa while Catalonia is unranked.
Catalonia is managed by Johann Cryuff because he holds Catalunya citizenship.
Cesc Fabregas, (pictured) will have appeared for Catalonia but he is currently injured.
- The Super Eagles beat La Roja of Spain 3-2 at the 1998 World Cup