Tuesday’s League Cup meeting between English champions Leicester City and Chelsea is one with a major Nigerian subplot.
Only this summer, the Foxes shelled out a hefty fee, now the second largest in their history, to prise Nigeria international Ahmed Musa away from the Russian frost, while the Blues have had Victor Moses on the books since 2012.
Both find themselves on the periphery of things at their respective clubs.
For Moses, this is not an altogether unusual place to be; he has, after all, been sent out on loan thrice in his time at Stamford Bridge, and though he was influential in their Europa League triumph of 2013, he was far from a regular even then.
Musa on the other hand finds himself in a bit of an unfamiliar situation.
He could logically have expected that, having signed on for big money, he would have been afforded more than the solitary start on the opening day of the season at Hull. The champions were stunned by the Tigers, but even though Musa failed to mark his league debut with a goal, he was lively and inventive, and created all of Leicester’s good openings.
Had Jamie Vardy had his scoring boots on, that debut might have been viewed a lot differently.
It’s early days yet, but the signing, and immediate impact of Islam Slimani suggests chances are going to be fewer and further between for Musa. However, with the added burden of midweek European engagements, the League Cup is precisely the sort of competition in which Claudio Ranieri can afford to give his fringe men a run out.
The same goes for Moses, who opened his account for the season in the previous round against Bristol Rovers. His pursuits are different though: whereas Musa seeks a foothold in these early days, it is quite clear that Moses’ role at Chelsea is that of a squad player.
That said, there is a common motivation for both men, connected to the national team. The Super Eagles laboured to a 1-0 win over Tanzania less than a fortnight ago thanks to a moment of inspiration from Kelechi Iheanacho in the 77th minute, but aside the defiance of the Taifa Stars, culpability could easily be laid at the feet of these two.
Moses, especially, cut a frustrated figure in Uyo, sucking the life out of attack after attack. For a player of his ability, effectiveness is often a function of keeping it simple. Yet, eager to make up for a long international absence, the Kaduna-born winger seemed determined to do too much and it showed.
Musa was similarly ineffectual on the other flank, albeit in a less obvious way. One of his biggest strengths is his movement into central areas, but it failed to shine through. With Tanzania defending deep and the hosts struggling to break them down, especially in the first period, there was little scope for his scorching pace.
In the end, the result was secured, and while the game in itself was of little consequence in the grand scheme, it was especially significant for Gernot Rohr. The German, managing his first game with the national team, was surely taking notes and making quick evaluations as to who and what would prove useful going forward.
There is little time for experimentation: in three weeks, the Super Eagles travel to Ndola to face Zambia in World Cup qualifying.
If that window to impress was anything on which to base his selection, neither player did a particularly convincing job putting their hand up. If the likes of Mikel John Obi and Kelechi Iheanacho enhanced their reputations, then Musa and Moses weakened theirs significantly, especially as it was clear that, particularly in the case of the latter, the initial selection was based entirely on pedigree.
This makes their League Cup encounter something of a duel.
Alex Iwobi’s good form for Arsenal at the moment means that he surely cannot be overlooked when Rohr announces his squad for Zambia. This leaves one last slot in the attacking midfield strata, with Iheanacho’s place sealed. Essentially, come Tuesday, Musa and Moses will be playing for a place in the Nigeria starting eleven for October 9’s bout.
May the better man win.