The Europa League returned on Thursday, September 28 and a host of Nigerian players featured for their clubs in Europe. Chuba Akpom (Arsenal) Nigerian-born Akpom was on the bench the whole 90 minutes as his Arsenal teammates beat host Bate Borisov 4-2. His compatriot, Alex Iwobi did not travel with the team because of a minor injury. Anthony Nwakaeme (Hapoel Be’er Sheva F.C.) Super Eagles striker Anthony Nwakaeme scored a consolation for Israeli Champions Hapoel Be’er Sheva F.C. in their 3-1 loss to FC Viktoria Plzeň on Thursday. Nwakaeme was introduced in the 62nd minute and scored seven minutes later. John Ogu (Hapoel Be’er Sheva F.C.) John Oguplay John Ogu (Twitter/John Ogu) Nigeria international midfielder John Ogu played all 90 minutes but could not help Hapoel Be’er Sheva F.C. to avoid a 3-1 defeat to FC Viktoria Plzeň. Alhaji Gero (Öestersunds) Alhaji Gero played 90 minutes and scored the winner for Swedish club Oestersunds Fc in their impressive 1-0 win over Hertha Berlin. Friday Eze (Koyanspor) Nigerian striker Eze registered an assist in Koyanspor’s 2-0 win over Vitoria Guimaraes of Portugal. He assisted his side 24th-minute goal before picking up a yellow card in the 62nd minute. His compatriot Imoh Ezekiel was an unused substitute for the game. Alhassan Ibrahim (Austria Wien) Alhassan Ibrahim played 60 minutes as Austria Wien managed a 2-2 draw at home to AEK Athens of Greece. The former Akwa United player was booked in the 15th minute of the game. Peter Olayinka (Zulte- Waregem) Nigerian striker Peter Olayinka played just the second half in Zulte-Waregem’s 2-0 loss to Lazio.

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Veteran forward David Villa was dropped on Friday from coach Julen Lopetegui’s Spain squad to face Albania and Israel in World Cup qualifiers next month.

Veteran forward David Villa was dropped on Friday from coach Julen Lopetegui’s Spain squad to face Albania and Israel in World Cup qualifiers next month.

However, in-form pair Jose Callejon of Napoli and Valencia’s Rodrigo Moreno were both welcomed back into the 25-man squad.

Lopetegui said that Villa, 35, who is two caps short of reaching a century, had needed more time to recover from an injury suffered during the last international get-together and would likely be lacking match fitness.

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In Villa’s place Lopetegui called up Callejon, who has scored four goals for Napoli this season, and Rodrigo, who has hit the net three times for Valencia.

They have respectively just three and one caps.

“They’re in great form and we think they can help us,” said Lopetegui.

Another returnee is Real Sociedad’s defensive midfielder Asier Illarramendi.

Meanwhile, Lopetegui sprang to the defence of Barcelona centre-back Gerard Pique, often jeered by Spain fans due to his open pro-Catalan independence stance.

“I only judge players by their behaviour, application and attitude, and I have absolutely no doubts when it comes to Gerard,” he said.

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“He’s always given heart and soul for Spain.”

The 2010 world champions realistically need only one win from their final two qualifying matches to book their ticket to Russia as they hold a three-point advantage over second placed Italy, but with a goal difference that is 17 better.

They play Albania on October 6 and then away to Israel three days later.

Squad:

Goalkeepers (3): David De Gea (Manchester United/ENG), Pepe Reina (Napoli/ITA), Kepa Arrizabalaga (Athletic Bilbao).

Defenders (8): Dani Carvajal (Real Madrid), Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid), Nacho Fernandez (Real Madrid), César Azpilicueta (Chelsea/ENG), Gerard Piqué (Barcelona), Jordi Alba (Barcelona), Marc Bartra (Borussia Dortmund/GER), Nacho Monreal (Arsenal/ENG).

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Midfielders (9): Sergio Busquets (Barcelona), Andrés Iniesta (Barcelona), Asier Illarramendi (Real Sociedad), Koke Resurreccion (Atlético Madrid), Saul Niguez (Atlético Madrid), Thiago Alcantara (Bayern Munich/GER), Marco Asensio (Real Madrid), Isco (Real Madrid), David Silva (Manchester City/ENG).

Forwards (5): Pedro Rodriguez (Chelsea/ENG), Alvaro Morata (Chelsea/ENG), Iago Aspas (Celta Vigo), José Callejon (Napoli/ITA), Rodrigo Moreno (Valencia).

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