By Anthony Nlebem.
With two weeks to the end of the 2022/23 football season in England., the race for survival is getting intense as some clubs battle to swim out of the relegation waters after Southampton were relegated on Saturday.
Nottingham Forest, Leicester City, Leeds United and Everton are all at risk of playing in the Championship next season.
PUNCH Sports Extra takes a look at Nigerians battling relegation after Onuachu and Aribo went down with the Saints.
Which other Nigerian star will go down?
Onuachu, Aribo (Southampton)
Joe Aribo and Paul Onuachu’s Southampton became the first club in the English topflight to be relegated from the Premier League this season after suffering a 2-0 home defeat to Fulham on Saturday.
The Saints needed to win to keep their hopes of staying in the topflight alive, but visiting Fulham cruised to a comfortable win at the St Mary’s Stadium to end a memorable 11-year spell in the Premier League.
This means midfielder Aribo, who left Glasgow Rangers last summer after a successful season where he helped the Gers lift the Scottish Premiership and Scottish Cup, as well as scoring in the Europa League final, is consigned to playing second tier football next season.
Also, power-playing Onuachu, who left Belgian side Gent after winning the Jupiler Pro League and the Belgian Cup, as well as the Golden and Ebony Shoes, will now play in the Championship next summer.
The Saints have won just six of their 36 topflight fixtures this term and are winless in 11 games since their 1-0 win over Leicester March 4.
Iheanacho, Ndidi (Leicester City)
Duo Kelechi Iheanacho and Wilfred Ndidi will face a tough task to ensure former Premier League champions Leicester City do not get relegated.
The Foxes are in a dire situation and will have to overcome Liverpool on Monday (today) at the King Power Stadium.
The Nigerians have played an important role in Leicester’s fight to avoid relegation and will have to push harder in the coming weeks, which are critical in deciding their future. They are 19th on the log with 30 points, behind fellow strugglers 17th place Everton (32 points) and 18th place Leeds United with 31 points.
Iheanacho is currently injured and missed Foxes’ two Premier League games against Everton and Fulham, but manager Dean Smith is hopeful the striker returns against Liverpool today and their last two matches against Newcastle May 22 as and West Ham United May 28.
“Hopefully he’s (Iheanacho) due to training earlier next week rather than later. We thought he’d only have a build-up of two days before the Newcastle game, but he’s ahead of schedule, which is really pleasing for us,” Smith said.
Ndidi, who has struggled with form this season, has made 25 league appearances,and will have to double his efforts to ensure the Foxes survive the drop.
The two stars have enjoyed playing in the Premier League for seven seasons, but their chances of playing topflight football next season are on the brink as Leicester will have to avoid losing two of their last three matches to stand any chance of survival.
Alex Iwobi (Everton)
After their stunning 5-1 victory over Brighton last weekend, Everton were brought down 3-0 by champions Manchester City at Goodison Park on Sunday to compound their survival woes.
Iwobi, who had a sterling performance against Brighton, was on the starting line-up but could not replicate last week’s performance at the American Express Community Stadium as the Toffees found themselves sitting just above the murky relegation waters.
Everton have had a rough season that led to the sack of manager Frank Lampard in January, after less than a year in charge, following a poor run of results that kept the Toffees in the relegation zone.
They have barely improved under new manager Sean Dyche and are 17th on the table with 32 points, a point ahead of 18th place Leeds and two ahead of Leicester, who are placed 19th.
Dyche, 51, has managed three wins, five draws and lost seven games in 15 Premier League games since February 2023.
Iwobi has been a regular starter for the Toffees and has contributed 10 goals (eight assists, two goals) in the league and will be hoping to help his side finish above the relegation zone.
They are still sitting in 17th position with 33 points and have to get at least three points from their remaining two fixtures against
Wolverhampton Wanderers and Bournemouth to stand a chance of survival.
Dennis, Awoniyi (Nottingham Forest)
Striker Taiwo Awoniyi scored twice against Chelsea to secure a vital point for Nottingham Forest at Stamford Bridge on Saturday.
The draw restored their three-point gap above the relegation zone.
Awoniyi had put Forest ahead at the break with a header on 13 minutes, after an error by goalkeeper Edouard Mendy and added the second in the 62nd minute.
The result keeps Forest out of the bottom three and 16th on the log with 34 points with two games left this season and the Nigerian forward has expressed confidence in his side fight to survive the relegation war.
“We still have two finals to go, the next one is Arsenal and from there we will see what happens,” Awoniyi said after the match against Chelsea.
This means that Awoniyi and countryman teammate Emmanuel Dennis will have to pull the strings to help the Tricky Trees avoid defeat in their final two games of the season against Arsenal and Crystal Palace.