Sierra Leone will be sweating over the fitness of captain Steve Caulker ahead of their opening 2023 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier against Nigeria at the Moshood Abiola National Stadium, Abuja on June 9.
The Gaziantep defender has missed the club’s last three league games following a bruise in training on April 21, according to Transfermarkt. No date has been listed for his return.
Caulker was instrumental to the Leone Stars’ impressive performance at the 2021 AFCON in Cameroon, where they played a goalless draw against then champions Algeria in their opening game, before another 2-2 stalemate against Ivory Coast. They lost 1-0 to Equatorial Guinea in their final group game, and the West Africans are now hoping to return to the competition for a second consecutive time.
Both countries will also need to ward off opposition from Guinea-Bissau (Nigeria’s opponents at the 2021 AFCON) as well as Sao Tome and Principe/Mauritius, as only the top two teams in each group qualify for the competition in Ivory Coast next year.
The Super Eagles may also be without midfielder Wilfred Ndidi, who has been out with a knee injury since March 17. He also missed out on Nigeria’s crucial 2022 World Cup play-offs against Ghana.
Both countries faced off against each other during the qualifiers for the 2021 AFCON in Cameroon, both encounters ending in stalemate.
The Leone Stars came back from four goals down to earn a 4-4 draw in Benin City, while the second leg ended goalless in Freetown.
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