Forward Kelechi Iheanacho and midfielder Wilfred Ndidi will feature for their English side Leicester City on Friday night when they face Manchester United in the opening game of the 2018/19 Premier League season in England.
The number of Super Eagles players in England’s top division continue to reduce season after season but the Leicester duo will be involved in the game at Old Trafford, hoping that four, three or two others will join by the weekend when hostilities spread across the country.
Record league winners Manchester United struggled to add to their squad in the summer but a game at Old Trafford will always be a huge platform for Ndidi to further demonstrate that the height he attained last season was no fluke while it provides Iheanacho with a chance to continue his good work from pre-season.
The Foxes, as Leicester are called are managed by Frenchman Claude Puel who has shown immense trust in Ndidi since he took the reins at the King Power Stadium last season. For Iheanacho though, the battle for a regular spot remains as intense as ever with the former Manchester City star still up against Shinji Okazaki and club’s top marksman Jamie Vardy.
Iheanacho started just seven league games last season after joining from Manchester, making a further fourteen substitute appearances as he played second fiddle to Vardy. Algerian striker Islam Slimani is almost certain to leave the club this month but the presence of Vardy and Okazaki still represents a challenge as big as he faced last term.
Super Eagles dependable centre half Leon Balogun will be the next to take to the pitch when his new side Brighton and Hove Albion visit Watford at 3’o clock on Saturday. The 30-year old joined Chris Hughton’s side on a free transfer after the expiration of his contract with German side Mainz last June.
The destination is new and the challenge is fresh for the German-born star (Left) who will be playing outside of his birth country for the first time in his career. Brighton surprised many with their displays last term with centre backs Shane Duffy and Lewis Dunk at the heart of many good things done by The Seagulls.
Balogun must contend with the duo while also hoping he stays injury-free so as to contribute his own quota to improving what Brighton achieved last term. His club added nine new players to their first team this summer meaning that fight for positions in the squad will be as competitive as they can come.
? CH on multicultural squad: “It’s a very welcoming squad and it helps that we have achieved what we have over the past few seasons to help players settle in.”
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— Brighton & Hove Albion ⚽️ (@OfficialBHAFC) August 9, 2018
Watford have another Nigerian, Isaac Success who had been expected to play a major role at the Vicarage Road this term after the transfer of Brazilian Richarlison to Everton. However, latest indications are that the former Granada starlet could leave the club before the transfer window closes for the rest of Europe later in August. His participation or otherwise in Saturday’s game against Balogun’s Brighton will go a long way in telling about his immediate future with The Hornets.
2016/17 champions Chelsea face Huddersfield Town at the same time Watford and Brighton do battle on Saturday. The Blues are not short of options in a any department of the field, leaving the futures of defender Ola Aina and winger Victor Moses in questioning. With the window for Premier League clubs closed on Thursday, both players might have to find moves out of England or face a drastically reduced playing time at the Bridge.
Aina was on loan at Hull City last term and has been linked to Italian club Torino this summer, he is expected to definitely leave Stamford Bridge at least temporarily this summer. For Moses, he was linked with a late move Wolves and Crystal Palace on Thursday but in the event that he stays, it remains to be seen where he features in Maurizio Sarri’s squad with the numerous options available for the Italian on the wings and full back positions.
Across London at the Emirate Stadium, Alex Iwobi recently signed a new deal with Arsenal. Although he has not yet grown to the status of a regular at the North London side, that looks to be a vote of confidence passed on him by new manager Unai Emery who took over from Arsene Wenger at the end of last season.
Iwobi’s side face a difficult opener to the league season on Sunday when they welcome champions Manchester City to the Emirates. The 22-year old is expected to be named among the substitutes for the high-profile game and should be a regular figure in the team’s Europa League campaign this term.
With the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations scheduled for the end of the season, the players in this article will be expected to play key roles for Nigeria’s Super Eagles during qualification and also remain in good shape for the tournament.