Mohamed Salah, will lead Egypt against bogey team Nigeria in a blockbuster Group D opener at the Africa Cup of Nations in Cameroon.
Salah leads all scorers in the Premier League this season with 16 goals, including one in the 2-2 draw with Chelsea on Sunday, his last match before leaving for west Africa.
Although Egypt have won a record seven Cup of Nations titles, they have triumphed only twice in seven clashes with three-time champions Nigeria in the competition ahead of the January 11 showdown.
The Pharaohs’ Portuguese coach Carlos Queiroz has backed Aston Villa forward Mahmoud ‘Trezeguet’ Hassan to shine at the Cup of Nations although he has not played a full senior match since mid-April due to injury.
The 27-year-old was an unused substitute in three Premier League matches during December before coming off the bench for a cameo appearance against Brentford.
“Trezeguet is an experienced and good player,” former Real Madrid manager and twice Manchester United assistant manager Queiroz said. “I am sure he will be a key figure for us.”
Unlike most Cameroon-bound teams, Egypt will rely heavily on home-based stars, choosing 19 and only six based abroad, including Salah and Arsenal midfielder Mohamed Elneny.
A chaotic build-up for Nigeria has included a change of coaches, the loss of a star forward because they requested his release too late, and the withdrawal of several key players due to Covid and injuries.
German Gernot Rohr was sacked after the Super Eagles scraped into the final round of 2022 World Cup qualifying and Augustine Eguavoen, who played for Nigeria at the 1994 World Cup, has been placed in temporary charge.