12 Eagles Chase Title; Face Round Of 32 Battles

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The 2020/2021 UEFA Europa League Round 32 fixtures are out following the draw conducted on Monday, December 14. In this piece, ’ SULAIMAN ALAO profiles the 12 Nigerian stars whose clubs are still involved in the race and who will be battling to
join the elite league of four Super Eagles stars: Taribo West, Chidi Odiah, John Obi Mikel and Víctor Moses who have won the trophy.

Odion Ighalo is not captured in this piece because his Manchester United future is uncertain. With his loan contract due to run out at the end of January 2021, the former Nigeria striker may not be there when the Red Devils face Real Sociedad in the Round of 32 in February.

Wilfred Ndidi, Kelechi lheanacho (Leicester City)

Super Eagles duo of Wilfred Ndidi and Kelechi Iheanacho will continue their Europa League adventures with Leicester City who has a fair chance of going far in the competition.

Iheanacho featured prominently scoring three goals and recording three assists in si games to help the Foxes finish as Group G leaders with 13 points.

Injury limited Ndidi to two appearances in the group stages büt the midfield star is expected to gain more match time in the Round of 32.

It is Iheanacho’s first outing in the Europa while Ndidi is having his second run having previously made 12 appearances in the competition while he was with Genk and scoring two goals in the 2016/2017 season.

Round of 32: Slavia Praha vs Leicester

Joe Aribo and Leon Balogun (Rangers)

Both Nigeria internationals Joe Aribo and Leon featured prominently for Scottish giants Rangers in their quest to land the Europa League trophy.

Eagles midfielder Aribo clocked 214 minutes while his compatriot and Eagles centre-back, Balogun clocked 441 minutes as both players made five appearances each to help Rangers finished as Group D leaders with 14 points.

Also Read: Europa League Knockout Draw: Arsenal, Man United Get Tricky Draws

Aribo is having his second go at the Europa League trophy with Rangers, scoring four goals in 15 appearances last season while Balogun’s previous outing was with Mainz 05 where he made two appearances in the 2016/17
season.

Round of 32: Antwerp vs Rangers

Samuel Chukwueze (Villarreal)

Super Eagles winger, Chukwueze has booked qualification for the Round of 32 with Villarreal despite having their last group game
against Qarabag postponed.

Chukwueze has one goal and one assist to his credit in four appearances, while clocking 315 minutes to help Villarreal top Group I with 13 points even with one in hand.

The 21-year old is having his second shot at the Europa title having previously clocked 501 minutes in nine appearances and scoring one goal in the competition for Villarreal last season.

Round of 32 match: Salzburg vs Villarreal

Victor Osimhen (Napoli)

Nigeria’s goalscoring sensation, Osimhen will be gunning for the Europa League title with Italian Serie A side, Napoli who battled to top Group F with 11 points.

The 21 year old striker has been hampered by injury which saw him made just two cameo appearances totaling 95 minutes without a goal or assist in Napoli’s run in the group stage.

It is the first Europa League outing for 0simhen who had previously made five Champions League appearances for French Ligue 1 side, Lille last season and scoring two goals.

Osimhen will have the chance to further his Europa ambition with Napoli in the Round of 32.

Round of 32: Granada vs Napoli

Ramon Azeez (Granada)

Super Eagles midfielder, Azeez is in the running for the Europa League title with Granada who booked qualification for the Round of 32 after finishing second in Group E with 11 points.

Azeez did not kick a ball in all six group matches for Granada with the Nigerian sidelined by an injury that has kept him out of action since October and limitingg him to just two Laliga appearances so far this season.

The 28-year old who recently returned to training is having his first shot at the Europa League in his career and will be hoping to make his debut in the Competition for Granada in the Round of 32.

Round of 32: Granada vs Napoli

Kevin Akpoguma (TSG Hoffeinheim)

New Super Eagles defender, Kevin Akpoguma, will continue his Europa League adventure with Hoffeinheim in the Round of 32.

Akpoguma had a decent run making four appearances totaling 330 minutes to help Hoffeinheim finish top of Group L with 16 points.

It is the first Europa League outing for the 25-year old whose previous European experience was his two 180 minutes appearances in the Champions League for
Hoffeinheim in 2018/19 season.

Round of 32: Molde vs Hoffenheim

Leke James (Molde)

Nigerian striker, Leke James,is making another run in the Europa League with Molde who finished second in Group B with 10 points behind leaders Arsenal.

James made five appearances for the Norwegian club clocking 181 minutes and bagging an assist in what is his fourth season in the competition.

The 28-year old is no stranger to the Europa League having previously made 16 appearances in the competition for Molde and Aalesund, and scoring seven goals while clocking 927 minutes.

Round of 32: Molde vs Hoffenheim

Peter Olayinka (Slavia Praha)

cap Super Eagles striker, Olayinka had a good outing for Czech side, Slavia Praha, to finish second in Group C with 12 points behind leaders Bayer Leverkusen.

Olayinka featured in five group games for Slavia Praha scoring two goals in 387 minutes to help the side book a spot for the Round of 32.

The 25-year old had previous stints in the competition while with Skenderbeu Korce, Zulte Waregem and Slavia Prague making 18 appearances without scoring any goal and clocking 1,173 minutes.

Round of 32: Slavia Praha vs Leicester

Emmanuel Dennis and David Okereke (Club Brugge)

The duo Emmanuel Dennis and David Okere featured for Club Brugge in the Champions League , but the Belgian side failed to reach the knockout stages after finishing third in Group F and consequently dropping down to the Europa League. Brugge finished third on eight points behind leaders Borussia Dortmund, (13 points), Lazio (2nd 10 points). Zenit brought up the rear with one point.

Dennis and Okereke will now look to help Brugge fight for the Europa League titles.

Round of 32: Dynamo Kyiv vs Club Brugge

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