The first leg clash will take place at the Ahmadu Bello Stadium in Northern Nigerian city of Kaduna.
On their way to winning Africa's first Silver medal at the FIFA U-20 World Cup in 1989 in Saudi Arabia, the Flying Eagles recorded a 6-1 aggregate win over the Young Crocodiles in the qualifiers, 4-0 at home in Ibadan and another 2-1 away win in Maseru .
Coach Tunde Disu who supervised the demolition of Lesotho then and was later bestowed with a national honour for his near conquest of the world 25-years ago in Saudi Arabia, believes Nigeria has an edge over Lesotho, as both countries battle for a slot for the 19th edition of the continental Championship to be held in Senegal next year.
“Generally, you judge a team in terms of performance, “Disu, an American trained coach told Cafonline.com.
The Flying Eagles, who drew bye into the second round, saw off Tanzania with an emphatic 6-1 aggregate win in May, yet Disu has warned against complacency, revealing on hindsight that the trip to Maseru could be tricky as well.
“I would advise that the Flying Eagles win convincingly in Kaduna on Saturday because I remember the circumstances we played in our away game against Lesotho since we had to get on to the pitch barely two hours after we landed in Maseru for the second leg.
“Though we won 2-1, it was not an easy game nonetheless and it would be good if they (Flying Eagles) don’t concede in the first leg because football is such a funny game."
The Flying Eagles are more experienced being the most successful team at this level on the continent whereas Lesotho has managed to qualify for the competition only once in 2011, where they finished bottom of their group behind Egypt, Mali and South Africa. The Young Crocodiles withdrew from the last edition but this term, they eliminated Swaziland and Angola with a 4-2 and 4-1 aggregate win respectively to reach this far.
“Definitely, Lesotho must be a very good side having eliminated a country like Angola and we are not going to treat them with kid gloves,” noted Flying Eagles’ Head coach, Manu Garba who led Nigeria to win the 2013 FIFA Under-17 World Cup in the United Arab Emirates.
“They must be respected for sending out Angola which is a strong force in youth football. However, we are lucky to have my two assistants; Nduka Ugbade and Fancy Ewulu (goalkeepers trainer) who were part of the Flying Eagles that beat Lesotho in 1989,” Garba observed.
The Nigeria trainer remains optimistic despite the absence of foreign-based players, Tottenham Spurs’ Musa Yahaya, Chidera Ezeh of FC Porto and Manchester City’s duo of Kelechi Iheanacho and Chidiebere Nwakali, all graduates of the Golden Eaglets that won the world title last year in the United Arab Emirates.
“Frankly, I’m not disturbed that some of our players in Europe would not be available for the match on Saturday because they would still have fought for their places in the team.
“Our objective would be to win with a very good margin on Saturday and based on what I have seen in training and our recent friendly matches, we have the players who would get the job done.
“We have Taiwo Awoniyi who has been one of our key players since we started this campaign, Alhassan Ibrahim, Ifeanyi Matthew, Chisom Eze and Wasiu Jimoh, who have been impressive. On a good day, any of these players can give us an average of two goals and I have no doubt we are going to win with a wider margin on Saturday.”
Echoing the views of Garba is striker, who celebrated his 17th birthday on Tuesday with a pledge to be among the goals.
“I thank God for another year in my life and I now wish to celebrate with a goal against Lesotho on Saturday. There is nothing better I can give to my coaches and teammates than to get the goals that will give us this victory,” said Awoniyi, who has joined Swedish side, FC Kalmar.