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Nigeria vs. Atletico Madrid: What should we expect?

20:39 IST 20/05/2018
Dayo Ojo Nigeria CHAN 2018
With the Europa League champions coming to the West African nation, Goal examine what Eagles fans should expect

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Atletico Madrid will be heading to the shores of Nigeria for the first time to lock horns with a select Super Eagles squad at the Godswill Akpabio Stadium on Tuesday evening.

Due to the ongoing preparations for the 2018 Fifa World Cup, both teams are expected to field fringe players, but while the game is a friendly -- the first of its kind in Nigeria -- don't be surprised to see both teams set out to make a statement.

It’s yet to be seen how both sides will line up in Uyo, but from the released Nigeria squad list, a bulk of Nigeria Professional Football League players are expected to take to the field, while a few foreign-based players who impressed in their respective leagues will also see some action.

Some of these players are on the stand-by list for the World Cup, so may be particularly keen to make an impression, while others will be determined to prove that Gernot Rohr was wrong to snub them for Russia.

Atletico Madrid are obviously the more superior side, but they're set to feature several fringe players as well, so the Super Eagles will fancy their chances of taking a giant scalp.

Expect the Rojiblancos to include several players not participating in the World Cup, so the likes of Jan Oblak, Angel Correa, Ghana's Thomas Partey, Kevin Gameiro and Fernando Torres could be around.

Despite having an abundance of talent, Atleti aren't the most attacking unit under Diego Simeone's watch.

They are usually conservative in their approach, often looking for chances on the counter while remaining solid at the back, and while this has made them a tough nut to crack, their games don't typically produce many goals. It's worth noting that they're only the eighth highest scorers in La Liga this term.

The same approach could well be used here, and the Super Eagles will need to be on their guard if they are to find a way through Atleti's defence and make a statement. 

If chances go begging against the Spanish side, it could prove very costly, as Arsenal demonstrated in their Europa League semi-final. The Gunners had a flurry of chances over the two legs, but Simeone’s charges held their nerve and ultimately secured the cup after defeating Olympique de Marseille.

This means the Eagles need to be very sharp and take their chances, otherwise they could regret it.

One worry for Nigeria will be in midfield. The main team isn’t the strongest when in possession neither is the second side made up of home-based players.  

It’s not that Atletico are also strongest when in possession either due to their rigid style of play, however, they know how to pounce when any side fails to get their passes right.

The Nigerian backline looks set to have an entire NPFL cast, but they’ll need to put in the game of their lives in this exhibition match, as any slim error could see their Spanish opponents capitalise.

What’s more is that the Madrid-based club are very potent at set-pieces and will look to take the advantage at free kicks and corners. 

Nigeria will need to be well drilled to keep Simeone's side at bay.

The goalkeeping department for Nigeria is an all-NPFL affair, with Enugu Rangers’ Olufemi Thomas, Lobi Stars’ Olufemi Kayode and Akwa United’s Olorunleke Ojo the contenders to man the sticks.

Each of them have done well, especially Kayode – who has played a key role in keeping Lobi Stars at the top of the current NPFL standings. 

Rohr is still not certain of his first-choice goalkeeper as the aftermath of Carl Ikeme's leukaemia diagnosis continues, and each of the three will be desperate to impress the German boss.

With increased calls from the former Burkina Faso boss to involve home-based players in his squad, this an avenue for them to prove their worth.

Scouts will also be in attendance, and this represents another opportunity for players to market themselves.