Nigerians Stars To Watch Out For As The Champions League, Europa League Return

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Europe’s biggest club competition, the Champions League returns today, while the Europa League also starts on Thursday.

The two competitions are starting late than usual because of the delayed end to last season’s competitions. It’s just over two months since Bayern Munich beat Paris Saint Germain to win their sixth European trophy.

Sevilla won their fifth Europa League title after beating Inter Millan in a 3-2 thriller last August. It must be stated that the qualifying rounds for this season’s competition had already started while last season’s competition was yet to finish.

But with qualification complete, the race to Istanbul and Gdansk starts with the group stages kicking off this week.

The two competitions will not be lacking Nigerian players, and as a result, Soccernet takes a look at the Super Eagles stars that will feature in Europe this season.

Leading Nigeria’s contingent in the Champions League is Odion Ighalo. The 31-year-old has had limited game time since he joined Manchester United on loan from Shanghai Shenhua in January.

Nonetheless, he will hope to make his debut in Europe’s premier club competition when United kick-off their campaign against PSG.

Ighalo has fallen in the pecking order following the arrival of Edinson Cavani. However, United manager, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer recently stated the Nigerian is still an important member of the squad. 

Aside from Ighalo, another Nigerian to watch out for is Emmanuel Dennis. The 22-year-old caught the eye of many in last season’s competition after he scored twice in Club Brugge’s 2-2 draw against Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu. 

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Although Dennis could not add to his tally after then, he will be hoping for another similar start when Club Brugge take on Zenith St Petersburg in their opener.

Dennis is not the only Nigerian in Brugge’s ranks as David Okereke will also hope to make his impact with the club.

Staying in the Champions League, new Super Eagles debutants, Frank Onyeka and Zaidu Sanusi will feature for FC Midtjylland and FC Porto respectively.

Both players made their international debuts in Nigeria’s clash against Algeria and have been tipped for a big future.

Onyeka’s Midtjylland’s are in a difficult group that includes Liverpool, Ajax and Atalanta, but it allows him to prove himself against the best.

Meanwhile, Sanusi faces the likes of Raheem Sterling, Riyad Mahrez and Dimitri Payet as Porto have been drawn alongside Manchester City, Olympique Marseille and Olympiacos.

While the Champions League group stage starts today, the Europa League does not start until Thursday. A lot of Super Eagles stars will also be in action.

Kelechi Iheanacho and Wilfred Ndidi are part of Leicester City’s squad- even though the latter is currently injured.

Joe Aribo was one of Rangers stars that reached the round of 16 last season, and he would hope to go one further along with Leon Balogun when Steven Gerrard’s men kick off their campaign this season against Standard Liege.

Samuel Chukwueze will be eager to make his mark in Europe this season with Villarreal while Ramon Azeez could feature for Granada.

Napoli, who are one of the favourites, will rely on Victor Osimhen for goals. New Nigerian international Kevin Akpoguma is part of Hoffenheim’s squad while Chidera Ejuke will get his chance to showcase his talents on the European stage with CSKA Moscow.

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