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Algeria vs. Nigeria: Profiling Algeria's danger men

11:24 AM MYT 09/11/2017
Riyad Mahrez Leicester City
There might be little riding on it, but the Algerians are on a bid to salvage pride in the shirt and will pose a threat to the Super Eagles

COMMENT    By Solace Chukwu     Follow on Twitter 

For the third in these World Cup qualifiers, the Super Eagles go into an encounter against a coach undertaking his first competitive game in charge. It is a factor that goes some way toward explaining just how easily a pool vaunted as the 'Group of Death' was navigated with such embarrassing ease that Nigeria afforded a late slip away to Cameroon, yet still qualified with a game to spare.

Or maybe new managers are just happy to engage the three-time African Champions. Who knows with these things?

Algeria away had all the trappings of a glamorous final qualifier, with all on the line and the pressure cranked up to maximum. Instead, we have a dead rubber, and the only thing Les Fennecs can look forward to is the project of new manager, the legendary Rabah Madjer.

The 58-year-old is back for a third spell, and will hopefully fare much better than the previous two occasions. To that end, he has set about infusing the national side with players based in the Algerian league, in line with the clamour of much of the local press, and will demand they evince the qualities most have felt missing in recent times: desire, pride in the shirt, and a willingness to fight.

That's all well and good for them, but also for the neutral, and even for the Super Eagles. It perhaps will elevate the status of the game, making it enough of a competitive test that Nigeria cannot afford to switch off.

In the sense that, having qualified, tests are needed for the sake of preparation, Gernot Rohr will not be best pleased at his list of absentees for this game, and even less at those of Algeria. Faouzi Ghoulam has proved arguably the best left-back on the continent, but is unavailable, having ruptured his anterior cruciate ligament; he highlights a number of defensive absences. Hillel Soudani will also miss out.

That said, there remains plenty of strength, especially in attacking areas.

He may be absent from the shortlist for African Footballer of the Year, but Riyad Mahrez is a delightful player on his day, capable of fantasy at any given turn. He has not shown it enough this year, amid the long ebbs and brief flows of Leicester City's form, but he has been in devastating form since Claude Puel was appointed, and will come into this game in fine nick.

The absence of regular left-back Elderson Echiejile is probably a good thing here, as Ola Aina will almost certainly deputize. Being dominant right-sided, he would in theory be better equipped to deal with Mahrez cutting inside on his stronger left foot.

Nabil Bentaleb is another whom the Super Eagles would do well to mind. The Schalke man plays slightly further forward than his midfield partner, and has license to push up behind the forward (or forwards, as the case may be). Of course, this is not news to Rohr: Bentaleb was on target in the reverse fixture in Uyo, as Algeria teased a comeback.

It was arguably the freedom he enjoyed in that zone that persuaded the German trainer to bring in Wilfred Ndidi alongside Ogenyi Onazi in order to protect that zone in front of the defence. Onazi is unavailable through injury, and so it will be interesting to see how the selection adapts to blanket that space.

There will also have to be allowances made for in-form winger Yacine Brahimi.

The 27-year-old is in probably the form of his life, and is the lynchpin for Porto's attack, as the Dragons reign supreme in Portugal. Over the last three games, the Super Eagles have been admirably compact between the lines, but Brahimi's dribbling at close quarters and his ability to slalom past challenges will test that defensive organization to the limit.

It is unclear who will feature at right-back, but if Rohr elects to give a competitive debut to youngster Tyronne Ebuehi, he is unlikely to have it easy on the night.

As is not often the case in African football, all the danger men are well known. There is no element of surprise; Rohr will know what is coming. The challenge will simply be how to stop it.