The UEFA Champions League group phase begins today and it will mark the presence of Nigerian duo Kelechi Iheanacho representing Manchester City and Alex Iwobi flying the colours of Arsenal.
Efe Ambrose’s Celtic will be competing at this stage of the competition but the Nigerian wasn’t listed by new manager Brendan Rodgers as they prepare to face Spanish giants FC Barcelona on the opening day.
Kelechi Iheanacho – Manchester United
This 19-year-old Nigerian has enjoyed a tremendous week as he picked up the CNN Goal of the Week Award and scored the winner against United in the Manchester derby just days later.
Iheanacho’s confidence is high under new manager Pep Guardiola who dropped Yaya Toure from the Champions League squad and loaned out Joe Hart, Wilfred Bony, and Samir Nasri for create space for the Nigerian youngster.
Last season, the Super Eagles forward broke into the Manchester City main team and posted the best scoring ratio in the world ahead of more illustrious names like Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.
He played a total of 799 minutes and from 28 shots on goal throughout the season he scored eight times in the premier league with a shot accuracy of 57%.
Ahead of the UEFA Champions League match against Bundesliga outfit Borussia Monchengladbach, Guardiola will be expected to reinstate Sergio Aguero in the starting line-up after he missed the Manchester derby via suspension but Iheanacho is not certainly faraway when needed as he has shown that he can hold his own also.
Alex Iwobi – Arsenal
At 20, Iwobi is already an integral part of Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal and will be expected to start against French champions Paris Saint German as they clash this evening.
Iwobi had his Gunners debut against Barcelona last season in the UEFA Champions League and it has been a blessing for Wenger ever since as he can now call on the Nigerian for big games without fear of the youngster bottling it.
Last season featured in 13 matches playing a total of 639 minutes with two goals to his credit from 15 shots on target and accuracy of 54%.
He started Arsenal’s first game of the premier league season Liverpool but unfortunately got injured and missed the matches against Leicester City and Watford but his timely return in the 2-1 win over Southampton was a welcome relief for Wenger.
This evening in Paris, Iwobi may likely be given the nod to start as the North Londoners seek a win against PSG.
In the past, Nigerians such as Kanu Nwankwo and Finidi George have lifted the UEFA Champions League trophy, same as current Captain of the Super Eagles Mikel Obi with Chelsea but will Kelechi Iheanacho and Alex Iwobi join that illustrious list? Time will surely tell.