Jose Peseiro is facing significant crisis in his defence line as he prepares for the Nigeria versus Guinea Bissau clash in a 2023 Africa Cup of Nations double-header later this month, PUNCH Sports Extra reports.
The Super Eagles take on the Wild Dogs in a match-day three encounter of the 2023 AFCON qualification series at the Moshood Abiola National Stadium, Abuja on March 24, with the reverse fixture billed for the Estádio Nacional 24 de Setembro de Bissau three days later.
If the Eagles win both games, it will place them in good stead for a qualification spot, ahead of the final qualifying matches against Sierra Leone and Sao Tome & Principe.
The Eagles have been struggling defensively lately, and Portuguese Peseiro has been feeling the pressure after his side let in at least a goal in seven of their last eight games and losing their last three matches.
Queens Park Rangers defender, Leon Balogun, is one of his club’s long term absentees and is still weeks from returning to action.
The centre-back, signed by the R’s last August on a free, has not played for four months due to a calf injury he sustained last November. His last game for QPR was against Huddersfield Town at the start of November and was replaced at half time after copping the injury.
Stand-in captain, William Troost-Ekong, who moved to Serie A club Salernitana from Watford in January, has only played three games for the Italian topflight club.
The 28-year-old, has been out of action since February 13, after suffering a worrying knee injury in Salernitana’s 1-0 loss to Hellas Verona.
He was replaced with seven minutes left to play by Norbert Gyomber and faces a race to be fully fit for the double-header against Guinea Bissau.
Kenneth Omeruo is another player who has not featured at club level for Legates since January 16, when he played against Albacete.
The defender is currently recovering from a shoulder injury he sustained two months ago and he remains a huge doubt for the encounter.
The 29-year-old, who missed the Eagles last encounter against Portugal last November, looks sets to be excluded from the fixtures against Guinea Bissau in a fortnight.
Speaking on his team’s defensive issues, Peseiro believes the Eagles are still a work in progress and can only get better.
“Of course, I want to improve our organisation of the team defensively on the field. We want to introduce our ideas and our style gradually and ensure no lapses.”
Super Eagles goalkeeper Adebayo Adeleye, who has kept nine clean sheets for Israeli side Hapoel Jerusalem this season, believes the defence will be fortified by other players despite the injuries to the aforementioned trio.
“We just need more games to get better and improve more than we are at the moment. We must believe the process and with hard work, the team will make Nigerians smile again.”
Former Eagles left-back Elderson Echiejile, who played under Peseiro at Braga during the 2012/13 season, said, “He (Peseiro) has been saddled with a responsibility to build a team, so, let us give him time to achieve that. The defence and the team as a unit will get better playing together.”