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Super Eagles: Who should Gernot Rohr start against Uganda?

16:10 GMT 19/11/2018
John Ogu - Nigeria vs. England
Following weekend exertions in Johannesburg, the German trainer is likely to rearrange his side for the visit of the East Africans

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Having secured passage to next year's Africa Cup of Nations courtesy of a 1-1 draw against South Africa in Johannesburg on Saturday, the expectation is that Gernot Rohr will give the more fringe players the chance to stake their claim for a first-team role down the line.

The German tactician changed his system to go with a 3-4-1-2 against Bafana Bafana on Saturday but you get the feeling he’ll revert to his preferred 4-2-3-1 setup against Uganda at the Stephen Keshi Stadium, Asaba.

Which players will Rohr turn to for this potentially key friendly now that a spot at the Afcon has been secured?

THE GOALKEEPER

Ikechukwu Ezenwa was largely a spectator at the FNB Stadium against Stuart Baxter’s side, and could do nothing to stop Lebo Mothiba’s strike just before the half-hour mark. While the Enyimba shot-stopper would love another chance to prove himself worthy of challenging the injured Francis Uzoho for a starting berth, the feeling is that Rohr will make a change in that position.

It wouldn’t be the worst decision in the world to hand Theophilus Afelokhai a start against the Cranes, after all he was called up as a replacement for the bruised Elche youngster to begin with.

Making his debut will be a whole new experience for the People’s Elephant’s stopper – who starts ahead of Ezenwa at club level – and with little riding on Tuesday’s game, it’d be a logical pick by Rohr.

However, this could be the perfect opportunity for Daniel Akpeyi to redeem his somewhat dented reputation in the eyes of a plethora of Nigerians. His tentative displays in previous outings will have many feeling he’s run out of chances, but he does deserve a showing, probably his final opportunity, to show he still has something to offer.

And with the pressure off against the Cranes, there wouldn’t be a more fitting advantageous condition for the Chippa United goalie to silence his many critics.

THE DEFENCE

A change from the back three – or five – is anticipated against the East African nation, and with it a couple of personnel tweaks.

William Troost-Ekong should get a rest, with Semi Ajayi replacing the Udinese man at the heart of the defence, and Leon Balogun, who desperately needs games, keeping his place in the side.

Adeleye Aniyikaye may just fall short of making a start, but the Ifeanyi Ubah centre-back may get a run-out as the game wears on.

The pair of Brian Idowu and Ola Aina may come into the full-back positions. The Lokomotiv Moscow left-back has recently lost his place in Rohr’s side to Jamilu Collins as a consequence of a succession of average performances, and this could be a perfect game to force his way into the side.

Aina, on the other hand, was unfortunately ruled out against Bafana having been hit by a late knock. The on-loan Torino defender was left out as precaution at the weekend and may get the nod on the right. However, Kenneth Omeruo may have to make do with playing in a slightly unfamiliar role at full-back if Aina’s health isn’t risked.

THE MIDFIELD

Oghenekaro Etebo should get a rest from his exertions at the weekend with Mikel Agu – a favorite of Rohr – replacing him in the XI.

With a few options to pick from in the squad, John Ogu is predicted to reprise his role from Saturday’s game by playing alongside the Vitoria de Setubal midfield man to complete the double pivot.

These two should see a lot of the ball against a Uganda side who are shorn of a few big names, although Ogu, in particular, will be charged with demonstrating his prowess in possession to feed those players ahead of him and ensuring the hosts keep things ticking over.

THE BAND OF THREE

It’s still anyone’s guess over who will be selected in the wide areas as well as in offensive midfield, owing to the glut of options available to Rohr.

Ahmed Musa should, however, sit this one out, with Henry Onyekuru getting a rare chance to impress from the start. The wide forward, like Musa, is a goalscoring threat, and regardless of his recent drought for Galatasaray, remains one of the better finishers in the side.

While a case may be made for as many as three different players to start on the right flank, you sense Samuel Kalu will get the nod over Moses Simon and Samuel Chukwueze. If Rohr elects to rest the Bordeaux wideman, though, it’ll be interesting to see who he plumps for between the other two options.

Simon was one of the tactician’s key players in World Cup qualifying, before an unfortunate injury ruled him out of the global showpiece. The Levante attacker has been unable to force his way into the side since and it won’t be much of a surprise if he’s selected from the outset against Sebastien Desabre’s team.

Chukwueze, on the other hand, is Nigeria’s new kid on the block, although Rohr could still hand him a start for his international debut. The 19-year old Villarreal wonderkid is an exciting prospect on the ball and the fact it’s a friendly encounter may just tip the scales in his favor.

With Alex Iwobi likely to get a breather, Kelechi Iheanacho, who had an absolute stinker last time out, may be selected in the hole with the license to join the frontman in attack – a noticeable structure against Seychelles a couple of months ago. The out-of-form Leicester City forward hasn’t been impressive in the green jersey lately and needs a really good outing to serve his critics a slice of humble pie.

THE FRONTMAN

While the option of going with two up top remains – that could see Victor Osimhen replace Iheanacho – it’s unlikely the Super Eagles’ trainer goes that route, which makes Isaac Success the obvious option to start up front.

Following the aforementioned appalling display of Iheanacho against Bafana, it’ll be somewhat surprising to see him retain his place, at least as the lone forward.

Osimhen could also play from the outset, but we're backing Success to lead the line from the start.