Travel-weary African champions Nigeria are away to Kenya today in a 2014 World Cup qualifier they dare not lose.
The Super Eagles go into the match level on points and goal-difference in Group F with Malawi and top of the table only because they have scored more goals.
Namibia, who are away to Malawi at the same time, have three points and Kenya two in a group in which goals have been a scarce commodity.
Only seven have been scored in six matches, with Nigeria averaging just one a game when edging Namibia, then drawing with Malawi and Kenya.
While a home win over the Brave Warriors and an away draw with Malawi were satisfactory results, the home draw with Kenya was not and it could have been even worse for the reigning Africa Cup of Nations champions as Nnamdi Oduamadi equalized deep in stoppage-time to salvage a point.
Now Kenya have home advantage at the Moi International Sports Centre and are raring to have another crack at a country they have never beaten in the Kenyan capital.
Nigeria’s preparations have been far from ideal and they will have clocked about 35,400km in the air by the time they land in Kenya just 24 hours before the big match.
The Super Eagles drew 2-2 with Mexico last Friday in Houston, Texas, and returned to a training camp before flying to Nairobi via Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa.
“It will definitely have an effect,” coach Stephen Keshi said of the travel arrangements. “We may not have time for a proper practice session in Kenya. We need every training session that can be arranged because we must correct a few problems that cropped up during the match against Mexico. The game against Kenya will resemble a cup final. It is never easy to win away in Africa, and we have to prove worthy champions in Kenya this week and next week in Namibia.”
Keshi said midfielders John Ogu and Ogenyi Onazi, and striker Ideye Brown took knocks against Mexico, but he expects the Europe-based trio to be available.
Kenya may have struggled at home against Nigeria in the past, but there was no inferiority complex from Oman-based Jamal Mohammed after a training session.
“If we defeat Nigeria no one can stop us and the team can start thinking realistically about the World Cup in Brazil next year,” the midfielder told reporters.
Mohammed admitted the absence of goalkeeper Arnold Origi, and striker and skipper Dennis Oliech through suspension, was a double blow to the Harambee Stars.