Osimhen, Awoniyi, Chukwueze’s Return Boosts Eagles’ World Cup Plans

Contrary to fears in the Super Eagles’ camp that the trio of Victor Osimhen, Taiwo Awoniyi and Samuel Chukwueze would not be ready for Nigeria’s 2026 FIFA World Cup qualifiers against Lesotho and Zimbabwe, reports in the players’ different clubs indicate that the forwards have returned earlier than expected.

Osimhen, who plays for Italy’s Napoli, has not featured in any of their last three fixtures across all competitions, owing to a hamstring injury picked up whilst on international duty last month. The expectation was that the striker would be out for about a month.

Everybody associated with Rudi Garcia’s troops were no doubt desperate for some positive news regarding the wellbeing of the club’s talismanic goal scorer. Their fears were eased on Friday when Garcia said, ahead of Napoli’s clash with Salernitana yesterday, that he expects to have Osimhen at his disposal as soon as this week.

“The doctors manage and guarantee me that he is following the programme. He will be with us next week.”

The same is also true with Chukwueze, who is set to return to action earlier than expected following the latest update from AC Milan coach, Stefano Pioli. Chukwueze, who was in the 2015 FIFA U-17 World Cup winning team with Osimhen, picked up a hamstring injury in the same international break and could only feature in the Super Eagles encounter with Saudi Arabia.

The injury also made him miss AC Milan’s league games against Juventus and Napoli respectively and was supposed to be out for at least a month. But, with the latest information given by the Rossoneri boss ahead of his side’s encounter with Udinese yesterday, the Super Eagles forward has recovered earlier than expected.

“Loftus-Cheek is well and will be available against Udinese, while Pulisic, Chukwueze and Kjær should return against PSG (on Tuesday),” Pioli told AC Milan’s official website.

The possible return of the right winger is a big boost for the Italian giants, who have had a disastrous start to their UEFA Champions League campaign, with two points garnered after three games and will need all players available ahead of their crunch tie with PSG on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Awoniyi returned to Nottingham Forest’s first team as a substitute in their 0-3 loss to Liverpool last week and is expected to be eased gradually into the team’s programme, beginning with today’s clash with Aston Villa.

Nottingham Forest are “continuing to manage” Awoniyi’s injury situation to ensure he does not go under the knife

The striker was not fit enough to start against Liverpool, but he came off the bench in the Reds’ 3-0 defeat. His return was a considerable boost for head coach, Steve Cooper, who still finds himself short of attacking options. Divock Origi, Chris Wood and Callum Hudson-Odoi remain absent, while a call will be made on Awoniyi’s fitness for today’s clash at the City Ground.

“Taiwo is a player we have to manage. He’s in a bit of a complex situation with his injury. It’s an ongoing one, and it will be for a little while,” Cooper said.

“It’s frustrating, for him more than anyone else. He was doing so well and this has really held him back

“It’s not been as simple as he’s back training and he’s fully fit. It’s something that is going to be a managing process for a little bit of time now.

“We’ll see if he is available for the weekend. We hope he is, but it could go either way.”

He added: “I am not sure that he will need surgery down the line, but it is not a straightforward injury, it has also aggravated an injury he had last year. He can have indifferent days (with the injury) and it is an annoying one for him”.

“It is something we will have to take day-by-day. He has good support around him, in terms of the medical staff we have, and hopefully he will be able to play more often than not.

IMAGE: SoccerNet

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