European clubs will jostle for points and honours this weekend in their respective leagues.
Izuchukwu Okosi looks at the matches that involve Nigerian players and what could be expected from the foreign legion when they play.
1. Game: Arsenal vs Burnley
Time: 1.30pm (Saturday 22 December 2018)
Player To Watch : Alex Iwobi (Arsenal)
Alex Iwobi was in action in Arsenal’s previous two matches against Southampton (Premier League) and Tottenham) which they lost and rightly condemned his team’s inability to take advantage of their goal scoring chances against the former.
Despite a marked improvement under Unai Emery, Iwobi still gets the odd criticism for few errors in his games and he could be fired up to produce a spectacular performance when the Clarets visit the Emirates.
Arsenal may have lost a 22 match unbeaten run but are still undefeated in eight Premier League home games.
2. Game: Leganes vs Sevilla
Time: 4.15pm (Sunday, 23 December 2018)
Player To Watch: Kenneth Omeruo
Kenneth Omeruo will definitely be in action Sunday evening injury permitting, when Leganes welcome second placed Sevilla at the Estadio Municipal Butarque.
Omeruo has been impressive in the nine matches he has played for Leganes so far this season in the Spanish La Liga. He has been in action for 761 minutes in total and is one of the consistent Super Eagles defenders in Europe.
Sevilla will miss the duo of Pablo Sarabia and Ever Banega through suspension but battling it out against the team only behind Barcelona in the table will by no means be an easy task.
3. Bournemouth vs Brighton
Time: 4pm (Saturday, 22 December 2018)
Super Eagles defender Leon Balogun’s gaffe let Chelsea star man Eden Hazard score the Blues’ second goal last weekend in the 2-1 win over Brighton.
As the Seagulls visit the Vitality Stadium this evening, the Nigerian will be up for an improved outing.
The return to fitness of Callum Wilson means that Balogun will have plenty to do as he expectedly plays in a three man defence in the absence of Shane Duffy who serves the last of his three match ban.
4. Game: Chelsea vs Leicester
Time: 4pm (Saturday, 22 December, 2018)
Player (s) To Watch: Wilfred Ndidi, Kelechi Iheanacho
Jamie Vardy did not play in Leicester’s Carabao Cup quarterfinals defeat against Premier League leaders Manchester City which handed Kelechi Iheanacho a rare start against his former side so the return to fitness of the former England international means Iheanacho will take a seat on the Foxes’ bench.
It will be interesting to see how the 2013 FIFA U-17 World Cup winner performs in the game against an in form Chelsea who are unlikely to parade out of favour Victor Moses.
Wilfred Ndidi who was brilliant against Man City is likely to once again attract interests from suitors in the January transfer window and his potential battle with N’golo Kante whom he replaced at Leicester will be one to keep an eye on.
5. Game: Udinese vs Frosinone
Time: 3pm ( Saturday 22 December, 2018)
Player To Watch: William Troost Ekong
All Italian Serie A matches this weekend will hold on Saturday and from a Nigerian perspective the game between Udinese and Frosinone will be one to watch with Super Eagles defender William Troost Ekong expected to be in action.
Both sides are locked in a relegation dogfight with Udinese 17th in the table with 13 points while Frosinone have eight points and are second to bottom on the log.
Frosinone have sacked manager Moreno Longo and the players will strive to impress new boss Marco Baroni after last weekend’s 2-0 loss to Sassuolo.
6. Game: Aston Villa vs Leeds
Time: 4pm (Saturday, 22 December, 2018)
Player To Watch: Tammy Abraham
The biggest game of the weekend in the English Championship is arguably the clash between Aston Villa and Leeds United at the Villa Park.
Tammy Abraham may have been waiting for an England chance following his deadlocked meeting with Nigeria Football Federation boss Amaju Pinnick over representing the country of his father who hails from Delta State, Nigeria, but until then, if it ever happens, he can still play for the Super Eagles.
So we look forward to seeing of he can add to his 12 goals tally after 17 matches in the English second tier.
7. Game: Zulte Waregrm vs Sporting Charleroi
Time: 8pm (Sunday, 23 December, 2018)
Player To Watch: Victor Osimhen
Victor Osimhen was injured in Sporting Charleroi’s game last weekend and is expected to go through a fitness test for a knee complaint ahead of Sunday’s meeting with Zulte Waregem in the Belgian Pro Division.
Should he be declared fit to play on Sunday the Nigerian will be seeking to hit double figures as he currently has eight goals to his credit.
Osimhen is the FIFA U-17 World Cup record top scorer with ten goals scored in Chile 2015 so he is considered as one of the brightest Nigerian stars of the future. Hopefully his injury setback isn’t so serious as first feared.
By Izuchukwu Okosi