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Preview: Nigeria vs. Sierra Leone - prediction, team news, lineups

Sports Mole previews Friday's Africa Cup of Nations qualifying clash between Nigeria and Sierra Leone, including team news and predicted lineups.

Nigeria will be looking to maintain their perfect start to qualification for the 2022 Africa Cup of Nations when they face off against Sierra Leone in Friday's Group L clash.

In contrast, the visitors sit bottom of the group after picking up just one point from six on offer during the first matches of qualification last year.

Match preview

Nigeria's Odion Ighalo celebrates scoring their first goal against Tunisia on July 17, 2019© Reuters

The coronavirus pandemic has devastated the sporting calendar in ways that have never been seen before, with exactly a year separating Nigeria's first and third qualification matches for AFCON 2022.

Nevertheless, Nigeria made the perfect start to their qualifying group last November as they enjoyed back-to-back victories over Benin and Lesotho, with Sierra Leone desperate to avoid becoming the Super Eagles' third victims this Friday.

Napoli forward Victor Osimhen already boasts three goals from Nigeria's opening two matches, with the 21-year-old netting from the spot in a 2-1 victory over Benin before bagging a brace as the Super Eagles swept aside Lesotho 4-2 on matchday two.

The three-time AFCON winners took to the pitch for the first time since that six-goal thriller last month, but Gernot Rohr's men suffered a 1-0 friendly defeat to 2019 AFCON champions Algeria before sharing the spoils in a 1-1 draw with Tunisia.

The qualification format sees Nigeria face off against Sierra Leone in both of their games this month, and a victory here would go a long way towards staking a claim for a spot in the 2022 tournament, as well as giving the Super Eagles unbridled confidence before they meet Sierra Leone again a few days later.

Sierra Leone have not made it to AFCON since 1996, but John Keister's men have made a poor start to their qualification period and are already up against it with four games left to play in Group L.

Friday's visitors were seconds away from starting their campaign with a win against Lesotho before Jane Thabantso netted in injury time to cancel out Kwame Quee's opener, and Keister's side could not turn their fortunes around on matchday two as they lost 1-0 to Benin.

Like Nigeria, Sierra Leone's time on the pitch has been significantly hampered by the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak, and Leone Stars did not prepare for November's game in optimal fashion as they suffered friendly defeats to Mauritania and Niger last month.

Nigeria and Sierra Leone have met 14 times down the years, with the Super Eagles coming out on top in nine of those clashes, and a victory here would see the hosts make it four wins in a row against Leone Stars - who last beat Nigeria in 2001.

Nigeria Africa Cup of Nations qualifying form: WW
Nigeria form (all competitions): DWWWLD

Sierra Leone Africa Cup of Nations qualifying form: DL
Sierra Leone form (all competitions): LWDLLL

Team News

Leicester City's Wilfred Ndidi celebrates scoring their fifth goal in September 2019© Reuters

Leicester City's Wilfred Ndidi will be waiting a little while longer to score his first goal for Nigeria as he misses out here with an adductor injury, but his Foxes teammate Kelechi Iheanacho is in the squad and ready for action.

Fellow Premier League players Alex Iwobi and Semi Ajayi have also made the cut, while Rangers midfielder Joe Aribo is also back in the fold after missing last month's friendlies.

However, Ligue 1 attackers Samuel Kalu and Moses Simon are both on the treatment table and have not been included, while goalkeeper Sebastian Osigwe is the only uncapped player called up by Rohr.

Sierra Leone will welcome Kei Kamara back to the squad after the 36-year-old reversed his decision to retire, and the Minnesota United man is set to start up top.

On another positive note, captain Umaru Bangura - who has recently recovered from COVID-19 - has shrugged off concerns over his fitness to make himself available for Friday's clash.

Nigeria possible starting lineup:
Akpeyi; Aina, Balogun, Troost-Ekong, Sanusi; Ajayi, Etebo, Aribo; Chukwueze, Osimhen, Iwobi

Sierra Leone possible starting lineup:
M. Kamara; Kakay, Bangura, Sesay, Wright; J. Kamara, Strasser; Bundu, Quee, Turay; K. Kamara

SM words green background

We say: Nigeria 3-0 Sierra Leone

Given the respective form of the two sides heading into this match, and the gulf in quality on show, we can only see one winner on matchday three. Nigeria are highly unlikely to slip up and will feel capable of notching up a few goals even with some notable absentees, so the Super Eagles should march to victory in their first of two clashes with Sierra Leone in the coming days.


Who will win Friday's Africa Cup of Nations qualifying clash between Nigeria and Sierra Leone?

Sierra Leone
Sierra Leone
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