Having navigated their respective World Cup qualifying sections successfully – albeit after contrasting performances – Argentina and Nigeria are set to face off in a preparatory friendly game that’ll give their managers an idea of their current levels and where they can improve.
With the clash at Krasnodar set to go ahead, how do both sides match up against one another?
Jorge Sampaoli faces an easy pick for who will be between the sticks. Barring any rotation of players, Sergio Romero is expected to continue in goal for the South Americans. The Manchester United stopper started for the Argentinian’s slender victory over Russia a couple of days ago, as has been the case for five successive games.
Gernot Rohr, though, has a big decision on his hands over who will be in goal for the West Africans.
Ikechukwu Ezenwa, it has to be said, didn’t cover himself in glory in the Super Eagles’ final qualifier against Algeria.
The poor performance of the Ifeanyi Ubah stopper predictably resurrected doubts about the goalie’s ability to thrive as the long-term solution for Rohr. Consequently, it’s put the German tactician in a difficult situation; taking the under-pressure goalkeeper out of the firing line might project a lack of faith in the eccentric shot stopper, while electing to stick with him might show a lack of faith in the available alternatives – a blundering Daniel Akpeyi and an untested Francis Uzoho.
One thing is certain, however; Rohr’s pick will certainly make for interesting reading.
The Nigeria defence is most likely going to remain unchanged from the Algeria game, and how they manage to contain the forward line of the South Americans, who may be without Lionel Messi, but are still brimming with quality enough to test the Eagles' defence is certain to be a talking point.
In midfield, Mikel John Obi is a dead cert to return to the side following his absence against Algeria. His will be a welcome return, too, against a Sampaoli side who press all over the pitch in an attempt to win the ball early and take full advantage of the little pockets of space vacated by the opposition.
The captain’s ball retention, coupled with his knack for creating time for himself and his teammates will come in handy in the encounter.
Wilfred Ndidi is expected to provide a bit of protection for the defence, while his impressive ability to read a football game will be especially useful. It remains to be seen if Rohr opts for the controller John Ogu, the buzzing Oghenekaro Etebo or the tenacious (and somewhat unknown) Chidiebere Nwakali as the third man in midfield.
Further forward, the Nigeria attack might see a bit of reshuffling.
Safe to say, Anthony Nwakaeme didn’t take his chance to stake his claim for a starting spot in the side and might drop to the bench as a consequence of his tame performance in Constantine.
Rohr might go for the trio of Iwobi, Iheanacho and Onyekuru (following his decent cameo appearance) who certainly have what it takes to unsettle the backline of the White and Sky Blues. The South Americans' defence can be got at, especially on the counter, and with the pace of Onyekuru and to a certain extent Iwobi, it could be a long evening for them.
With the Super Eagles underdogs going into the game against their more fancied opponents, both managers will be out to get a positive result, but more importantly, will want good performances, as the games they have to experiment or build confidence before the World Cup are increasingly few and far between.