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SPORTS UPDATE

AFCON 2023: Peseiro’s Super Eagles in a testy encounter against Sierra Leone

Nigeria will look to start their 2023 Africa Cup of Nations qualifying campaign positively when they face Sierra Leone at the Abuja National Stadium.

Nigeria, Sierra Leone, and Guinea-Bissau were all at the 2021 Afcon in Cameroon, but all three have been placed in Group A alongside Sao Tome and Principe.

Only two of these teams can qualify for Ivory Coast 2023, with the Super Eagles favourite to finish top of the standings and make their 20th appearance at the continental showpiece.

The three-time African champions will aim to end a five-game winless run as they look to pick up maximum points against the Leone Stars on home soil.

Match preview
The Super Eagles have not claimed victory in their last five matches, including friendly defeats to Mexico and Ecuador in the United States over the past ten days.

Nigeria’s last win came in a 2-0 triumph over Guinea-Bissau at the Afcon in January, with two defeats and three draws coming after.

Jose Peseiro’s men have shown some good signs under the Portuguese tactician but will likely not have it easy against Sierra Leone. The Leone Stars secured friendly wins over Liberia and Congo in March after enjoying a nice run of two draws at the Afcon in Cameroon.

Nigeria boast the better head-to-head advantage over Sierra Leone, losing just twice in 16 matches against their tiny West African neighbours.

With nine wins in their favour and 78 places above their opponents on the FIFA ranking, the Super Eagles (30th) are a tower above the Leone Stars.

The Super Eagles have, however, only drawn their last two games against Sierra Leone.

The two teams played out a thrilling 4-4 draw in the Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium in Benin before managing a stalemate in Freetown in November 2020.

Super Eagles team news
Head coach Jose Peseiro had several key players unavailable against Mexico and Ecuador but has welcomed a few more crucial stars ahead of this encounter.

The arrival of Napoli’s Victor Osimhen, Stoke City’s Oghenekaro Etebo, Porto’s Zaidu Sanusi, and team captain Ahmed Musa will add more depth to the squad.

Goalkeeper Maduka Okoye and Leicester City midfielder Wilfred Ndidi are unavailable, but the Eagles possess enough quality to outclass their foes.

Nigeria possible starting lineup (4-4-2):
Uzoho; Aina, Omeruo, Troost-Ekong, Bassey; Etebo, Aribo, Simon, Iwobi; Dessers, Osimhen

Sierra Leone possible starting lineup (4-3-3):
Kamara; Kakay, Sesay, Caulker, Wright; Conteh, Cesay, Quee; Turay, Kamara, Kaikai

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