Match - Sat 8 September, 20:00,
The heat is on Super Eagles
Eagles striker Emenike
The country’s President, Goodluck Jonathan, has further raised the stakes with his personal interest in this West African clash.
He first put a call through to coach Stephen Keshi, urging him to lead the team to victory in Monrovia and on Wednesday, he was at the team’s training in Abuja to further stress the importance of this game.
After sensationally failing to reach the 2012 edition of this tournament Nigeria are leaving nothing to chance to ensure they feature at the next competition in South Africa in January.
The Eagles will fly to Liberia on a chartered flight from Abuja on the eve of the match to ensure they arrive in comfort and at their choosing.
Keshi said he expects a tough and very physical fight from the hosts on Saturday evening.
“A country that has produced the likes of George Weah, who became world’s best footballer, cannot be said to be weak in talent, but we must show that we are stronger,” warned the Eagles coach.
“I expect a tough, bruising game against Liberia and I trust that all of us will rise to the occasion.”
Keshi has a full complement of his top stars after he overlooked Chelsea midfielder Mikel Obi and West Bromwich Albion striker Osaze Odemwingie.
Mikel opted out after it was initially believed this game will be played on astro turf, while Keshi said Osaze is not ready to return to the team after the player did not get back to him about his availability.
Kano Pillars midfielder Gabriel Reuben is the only injury doubt and he will face a late fitness test after a groin injury relapsed in training this week.
His likely replacement in defensive midfield would be either the versatile Efe Ambrose or Akwa United star Solomon Jabason, who shone on his debut in the recent friendly against Niger in Niamey.
Strikers Emmanuel Emenike and Brown Ideye have been recalled to the team on the back of superlative displays for their clubs in Europe.
Spartak Moscow striker Emenike told MTNFootball.com that he believes Nigeria will triumph in Liberia despite the resistance they should expect from the home team.
"Liberia will be tough no doubt because they are playing at home and their aim is same as ours. We both have 90 minutes to prove ourselves,” said Emenike, who is set to face mighty Barcelona in a UEFA Champions League clash on September 18 at the Camp Nou.
"We missed out at the last edition of Nations Cup and I believe ill luck will not be for us this time. We tried all we could then (vs Guinea) but we were unlucky.
“Now we can't wait to make Nigeria proud. We will qualify but not just on papers, but our determination and the support from fans everywhere will make it happen."
Like Emenike, Liberia’s top star Sekou Oliseh also features in Russia with CSKA Moscow and first moved to Nigeria under the mentorship of Churchill Oliseh, older brother of Sunday Oliseh, before he moved to Europe.
Sekou Oliseh will lead a dozen overseas-based players who ply their trade mostly in Asia in a bid to upstage the more illustrious Eagles.
They boosted their confidence on Tuesday with a 1-0 win over Nigeria 2014 World Cup rivals Malawi in a friendly in Monrovia and a fans awareness campaign has been flagged off by the country’s President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf to ensure total support for the team on Saturday inside the Samuel Kanyon Doe Stadium in Monrovia from 7pm Nigerian time.
However, the Eagles enjoy the upper hand over the Lone Star of Liberia in their previous six meetings.
Nigeria beat Liberia in 1984 in a 1986 World Cup qualifier, winning 3-0 in Lagos and 1-0 in Monrovia.
Liberia’s only win within that time was when they stunned the star-studded Nigerians 2-1 in a 2002 World Cup qualifier, which the Eagles later avenged 2-0 in Port Harcourt on their way to pipping the Lone Star at the post to qualify for the 2002 World Cup.
Earlier this year, Keshi led a team of players from the Nigeria Premier League to upstage their Liberia counterparts 2-0 in a match to mark the re-election of President Sirleaf.