[TR Sport] We’ll nullify Algeria counterattacks – Mikel

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The Super Eagles do not fear Algeria’s counterattacks often spearheaded by Leicester City’s attacking duo Islam Slimani and Riyad Mahrez, says Nigeria  captain Mikel Obi.

Algeria coach Georges Leekens is looking to pick up maximum points against Nigeria in their Russia 2018 World Cup Group B qualifier in Uyo on Saturday by hitting the Eagles on the counterattack with quick and direct forward passes.

Leekens, 67, who faces selection dilemma ahead of the visit to Nigeria following injury crisis, has reportedly settled for a  4-2-3-1  for the Uyo encounter.

The Desert Foxes will  play two midfielders in front of their back four, with one of them (midfielders) breaking up any Nigerian attacks through  Kelechi  Iheanacho and Alex Iwobi, while the other sends quick passes to Mahrez and Slimani.

But Mikel insisted on Tuesday the Eagles were ready for the encounter, saying the opponents’ counterattacking tactics would be nullified by the three-time African champions.

“We are ready for them, despite having young players,” the 29-year-old, who has been out of favour at Chelsea since the beginning of the season, told reporters  after  training with his teammates in Abuja on Tuesday.

“Even though we have some  of experienced players, the team is very young and energetic. So, the counterattacking play of the Algerians will not be a problem for us. We can recover, we can attack. We’ve got the legs to do that.

“They will play to their own strengths, while we also play to our own strengths and I think it is going to be a very tactical game.

“We have to be careful. We want to win but a draw wouldn’t be a bad result.”

 The South  Africa 2013 Africa Cup of Nations winner, who represented Nigeria at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, warned his colleagues against complacency in the clash.

He said the Eagles  would not  find it easy against the Desert Foxes, who were held to a 1-1 draw at home by Cameroon in their first World Cup qualifier on October 9, the day Nigeria beat Zambia 2-1 in Ndola.

Mikel said, “We must continue to do exactly what we are doing. We’ve been doing things right, we have been playing well and look solid as a team.

“Defensively, we look good, going forward we look good, we create chances and we score goals.

“So, we have to continue to do exactly what we are doing, maintain focus, discipline in camp and ensure we work very hard.”

Meanwhile, Germany-based defender Leon Balogun was injured in training on Tuesday.

Sources said Nigeria coach Gernot Rohr is concerned about the development.

The 23 players invited for the encounter trained on Tuesday.

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Rancy Jay

Rancy Jay

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