Nigeria and Benin will be looking to boost their hopes of qualifying for the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations when they face off on Saturday at 4pm (UK time).
The Super Eagles are one point clear of Benin at the top of Group L but neither side are secure in qualification, with Sierra Leone and Lesotho not too far behind.
Benin go into this game in more danger of failing to qualify for next year’s tournament, which would be their second in a row, four points clear of Sierra Leone with two games left to play. Although that may look to be a comfortable distance to some, after playing group leaders Nigeria, Benin then face Sierra Leone and know the pressure would be on. However, it is also very straight forward for Benin in that, they can secure their spot at the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations with a win over Nigeria (or Sierra Leone), or even just by staying undefeated across the two games.
Like Benin, Nigeria only need to remain unbeaten in their final two group games to qualify for what would be a 19th Africa Cup of Nations. Gernot Rohr’s side remain unbeaten in their opening four games, beating Benin and Lesotho with two draws against Sierra Leone, including a 4-4 thriller at home in November which did see them lose a four-goal lead. But that 4-4 draw with Sierra Leone means Nigeria do need at least two points from their two games. If they were to finish level on points with Sierra Leone, which is still a possibility, then Nigeria would fall below due to away goals scored.
Form Guide: Benin
Benin are also on the verge of booking their place at next year’s continental showpiece that is set to hold in Cameroon.
Michel Dussuyer’s men bounced back in style from an opening defeat to Nigeria, picking up seven points from the next nine available.
The Squirrels were held to a disappointing draw by Lesotho in the last round, missing out on an opportunity to move into first place.
However, they have another chance to do that this weekend as the current leaders come visiting, but they would need to claim a first win in four years over their visitors.
On a brighter note, Saturday’s hosts are a force to reckon with on their own patch having not lost a home game since 2013.
Form Guide: Nigeria
Nigeria kicked off their qualifying campaign with consecutive wins versus Benin and Lesotho, but back-to-back draws in the subsequent two games against Sierra Leone have thrown a spanner in the works.
The more notable of those stalemates was a 4-4 thriller in Abuja last November when the Super Eagles bottled a four-goal lead which they took inside the opening 30 minutes.
However, the 2013 AFCON winners need only one point from the final two games to complete the job, while one more victory would secure first place in Group L.
Goals in either half from Victor Osimhen and Samuel Kalu saw Gernot Rohr’s men come from behind to claim a 2-1 win when the sides last met in 2019’s reverse fixture at the Moshood Abiola National Stadium.
Overall, Saturday’s visitors have a historical advantage over their hosts, who they have beaten in 12 of the 15 previous clashes, losing just once in that time.
How the Match Could Go
A closely contested affair is expected in this one with both sides battling it out to secure qualification. The Super Eagles are looking like favorites to claim a narrow victory and cement their place as group winners. If anything at all, don’t expect too much goals in this one.
Tip: Over 1.5 goals
While we don’t expect ‘too much’ goals, asking for just two goals in the game is a very fair shout. For all of the attacking quality Nigeria have, they can easily get caught in defence. Depending on the way Benin chooses to approach the game, it could be one where both teams could easily score as well. If only one team would get the goal(s), then Nigeria could do that if they manage to completely dominate the game as we expect. Bet9ja have 1.60 odds, Bet365 have 1.66 and 1xbet have 1.68.
Nigeria to Win
Benin have won just one out of their last six meetings with Nigeria in all competitions. The latter have scored nine goals and conceded three in the process. However, Benin are on a four-game unbeaten run beating Sierra Leone, Gabon, and Lesotho and it means we could be set for a cagey affair. However, Nigeria is a different kettle of fish entirely. It will take a piss poor performance from the Super Eagles to lose this match.
Gernot Rohr’s men are deserved favourites, but Saturday’s affair may be more closely contested than the bookies suggest, though.
With Afcon qualification at stake, fans could be served an exciting match with both teams giving their best shot in order to advance. Based on quality, the Super Eagles are better (on paper) and we’re backing them to win. 1xbet have 1.93 odds, Bet365 have 1.95 and Bet9ja have 1.98.
Anytime Goal-scorer (Nigeria)
Victor Osimhen will be hoping to return to happier times when he links up with Nigeria after a testing year. Injuries and coronavirus struggles have seen the ex-Lille star lose his place under Napoli boss Gennaro Gattuso. Against the Leones Stars, he did everything right on the night, scoring one and setting up two goals, but ended the game with an injury. Osimhen will be looking to set the records straight by adding Les Ecureuils to his list of casualties. Bet365 have 2.30 odds for him to score while Bet9ja have 2.75.
Victor Osimhen is the regular starter for the Super Eagles but Iheanacho’s current form will leave Rohr with a headache? Should Osimhen start alone still? Should Iheanacho start alone? Should both forwards play alongside each other? However it may happen, Iheanacho is a credible candidate to keep up his new-found form for Leicester City. Prior to the international break, he had seven goals in his last four games, making him the most in-form Premier League player. It is no surprise he was nominated for Player of the Month for March as well as the goal of the month. Either from the start or from the bench, ‘Senior Man Kelz’ will fancy his chances at getting a goal today. Bet365 have 2.40 odds while Bet9ja have 2.75.
Football Lover. All-round junkie of the beautiful game. Could be found watching football most of the time. If not he’s writing about them or making some punditry you don’t agree with. A certain bias for Arsenal and Santos FC.