Nigeria will be hard pressed to beat Egypt on Good Friday so as to get their AFCON 2017 qualifying campaign back on track.
Seven-time African champions Egypt are top of Group G with six points from two matches, Nigeria are two points behind on four points with only the overall group winners guaranteed automatic passage to Gabon 2017.
Tanzania have a point, while Chad are bottom of the standings without any points.
The standings will be much clearer after Nigeria and Egypt play again in Alexandria on Tuesday.
As always Nigeria’s build-up for these crucial matches have been chaotic after coach Sunday Oliseh quit his post a month ago, citing lack of support from the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) and several violations of his contract.
Olympic team coach Samson Siasia was appointed as caretaker coach to be assisted by Salisu Yusuf and the country’s U20 coach Emmanuel Amuneke.
A bogus call-up list of 42 players has now been cut down to 23 players following injuries to Europe-based defenders Kenneth Omeruo and Leon Balogun as well as a major clear-out of the players who feature in the domestic league.
Siasia is now most likely to line up most of the players he has previously worked with like Chelsea star Mikel Obi as well as players from the Olympic team like Oghenekaro Etebo, Stanley Amuzie and Azubuike Okechukwu.
He has admitted his biggest concern would be how the players from overseas cope with the heat in the northern city of Kaduna, where this match will be played.
“I don’t know why Nigerians are so afraid of Egypt. They should be worried about us,” Siasia wondered at a recent briefing.
“The players are very positive and for me, it is really how can we play well in the heat?”
Kick-off time has now been moved to 5pm local time to ensure the home team do not struggle in the baking heat.
Nigeria players remain bullish about their chances of victory.
“We will give all we have on Friday, we will give it a big push,” vowed Odion Ighalo, who has snapped out of a month-long goals drought with his English Premier League side Watford just in time for these matches.
Nigeria skipper Ahmed Musa admitted it will be a difficult game, which they have to win.
“It’s a very important match, which we have to win, but we also know it won’t be easy,” said the CSKA Moscow forward.
Egypt are equally under pressure to qualify for Gabon after their last appearance in Angola 2010.
Argentine coach Hector Cuper, whose job is on the line, has named as many as nine players from league and cup winners Zamalek with bitter rivals Ahly also providing a good number of the players for these matches.
The Pharaohs will play as a team while also relying on the individual brilliance of their overseas-based pros led by AS Roma forward Mohamed Salah and Arsenal midfielder Mohamed Elneny.
Egypt striker Ahmed Hassan ‘Koka’ said he expects Egypt to play as a unit.
“The team don’t rely on foreign-based players as Mohamed Salah, Mohamed Elneny, Mahmoud Trezeguet, Amr Warda and myself; the team consist of 11 players,” Koka told Sada El-Balad Channel.
“Players who play for the national team make every effort to fully represent their country.”
‘Koka’ has scored 13 goals this season for Portuguese club Sporting Braga since his transfer from Rio Ave.
Nigeria and Egypt have met 16 times with Nigeria winning seven times, Egypt with five victories, while there have been four draws between them.
Their first meeting was a friendly on January 1, 1960, which Nigeria won 2-1.
The Egyptians have won their last two meetings – 3-1 on January 12, 2010, in an AFCON 2010 clash, and 3-2 in a friendly on April 12, 2012.