By Amaechi Agbo
As Super Eagles Team B squares up against Europa League Champions, Athletico Madrid today, coach of the side, Salisu Yusuf has expressed optimism that his boys are capable of creating an upset in the match at the Godswill Akpabio Stadium.
Super Eagles assistant coach and manager of the Team B, Salisu Yusuf is optimistic his team will put everything in training the players to make sure they are in prime shape and emerge victorious at the end of the friendly
The CHAN silver-winning coach revealed that the major reason for the friendly is to assemble young players that can replace some players in the main Super Eagles squad.
“The team is full of young players with some of them with U-20 experience, the spirit is high in the camp as we are looking forward to winning the game against Atletico Madrid today in Uyo” he told reporters
“It is a big stage for the invited players to show what they have, and if some players retire after the world cup they can easily be drafted to replace them.
The game is as a result of the partnership between League Management Company and La-Liga which according to him is a big avenue for the players to showcase their talents and also to access some players.
Atletico Madrid will be heading to the shores of Nigeria for the first time to lock horns with a select Super Eagles
Due to the ongoing preparations for the 2018 FIFA World Cup, both teams are expected to field fringe players, however, while the match is a friendly – the first of its kind in Nigeria – it will not be a huge surprise to see both teams set out to make a statement.
It’s yet to be seen how both sides will line up in Uyo this evening, 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.
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.
Be that as it may, the Rojiblancos are expected to include several players not participating in the World Cup, such as Jan Oblak, Angel Correa, Ghana’s Thomas Partey, Kevin Gameiro and Fernando Torres
Atletico Madrid is not the only European club coming to Africa to play a friendly match as Hull City, a Championship side in England, visited Kenya and played play Gor Mahia; Everton of England also went to Tanzania to play Gor Mahia
and just last week, Barcelona went to South Africa to play Mamelodi Sundowns to mark late South African hero, Nelson Mandela’s 100th birthday. Barcelona won the match 3-1.
Before the team departed for Nigeria on Tuesday, Fernando Torres scored two goals to mark his final match with his childhood club on Sunday against Eibar.
As the match kicks off, one worry for Nigeria will be the midfield. The main team isn’t the strongest when in possession neither is the second side made up of home-based players.
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.
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With increased calls from the former Burkina Faso boss to involve home-based players in his squad, Athletico match offers the podium for them to prove their worth and perhaps not only stage an upset in winning the Europa Champions, but in breaking into the main Super Eagles team.