As the Super Eagles get ready for the first leg against the Antelopes on Sunday, Goal looks at which player showdowns could determine the outcome
By Babajide Alaka
Ethiopia are a closely-knit team and play a lot of one-twos, especially in the midfield areas so it will be essential for Nigeria stars such as Ogenyi Onazi and John Obi Mikel to remain conscious of the movement around them.
Goal beams a light on some key battles that could swing the tie in either team’s favour in this first leg knock-out game of the final stage of Caf qualification.
|OGENYI ONAZI v MINYAHEL TESHOME
The real orchestrator for the Antelopes is 27-year-old Saint George midfielder, Minyahel Teshome. He is very nimble, extremely mobile and scored the goal that qualified his side for this match.
Onazi (pictured, right) on the other hand is the engine of the Super Eagles and is tireless, whether marking opponents or trying to open defences from deep, while he also poses a goal threat. The more energetic of these two players will win the midfield battle.
| JOHN OBI MIKEL v ADANE GIRMA
Adane Girma is another product of Saint George and likes to float between the lines of midfield and attack, an area in which Obi Mikel operates. But with it being an away match, Mikel has to restrict his attacking tendencies, as he does at Chelsea, to help Onazi win the midfield battle.
Mikel is also needed to slow the game down to negate the effects of altitude on the team. Girma will be hoping to draw the Eagles' talisman away from that area to help create one-on-one situations between Onazi and Teshome.
| GODFREY OBOABONA v SALADIN SAID
The Wad Degla striker likes to make his runs from the left wing, thereby catching the last central defender on the turn. Oboabona, who has not played much football since joining Turkish side Caykur Rizespor, is likely to be that man.
Oboabona must be sharp and wary of these runs or make sure that the right-back is always on the lookout. Saladin showed what he can do at the last Nations Cup, where naivety proved the undoing of him and those around him.
Now more experienced, he will want to be a more consistent performer and raise his game in this first leg.
|EMMANUEL EMENIKE v DEGU DEBEBE|
Emenike has not been free-scoring for Fenerbahce since his arrival from Russia, but the burly striker scored in his last two matches for the Super Eagles so will be in a buoyant mood. Debebe likes to pose a physical battle, though he is technically proficient.
It will be left to the Nigeria striker to impose his game on the Ethiopian captain. Debebe rarely makes mistakes in his tackling so it will be left to the striker to be fleet of foot and make sure to commit his opponent. An ideal situation for him would to get Debebe cautioned in the first half, making it more difficult to dive into tackles for the remainder of the contest.
|ELDERSON ECHIEJILE v GETANEH KEBEDE
In the last five matches for the Antelopes, Kebede (pictured, left) has scored three times, which spells danger for any opponent.
Echiejile has shown a propensity to overlap and help the Eagles going forward in recent matches but in thin air of Addis Ababa he must minimise those surges upfield in order to save his energy for nullifying Kebede.
The Ethiopia star likes to begin his move from the right, where he cannot be picked up by the central defenders and midfielders. The Braga man will need to almost do a man-marking job on Kebede.