Defending African champions Nigeria visit Sudan on Saturday desperate for a first win in final qualifying for the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations.
Nigeria suffered a shock home defeat by Congo Brazzaville and could manage only an away draw with South Africa in their opening Group A matches.
It has left them third in the table, five points adrift of leaders Congo.
Coach Stephen Keshi, who is working without a contract, knows he has to turn the Super Eagles‘ form around if they are to book their place at next year’s finals in Morocco.
But he suffered a blow when Victor Moses was forced to withdraw because of a thigh injury and then Keshi was involved in a public spat with Emmanuel Emenike.
The Turkey-based striker was angered by public criticism from the coach, who claimed Emenike lacked respect for fellow Super Eagles.
“I am honoured to play for Nigeria and respect the coach,” said Emenike. “If he feels I will not help achieve results or harmony, he can omit me.”
This weekend’s matches are the first of double-headers for all the teams, with each fixture being reversed on Wednesday.
South Africa tackle Congo in Atlantic city Pointe-Noire, the scene of ugly clashes between the countries in a 1998 World Cup qualifier which was won 2-0 by the central African Red Devils.
Several South Africans finished the game in blood-stained jerseys and TV coverage was temporarily halted when assault rifle-wielding soldiers threatened cameramen.
Cameroon have ignored West Ham United midfielder Alex Song for an ‘away’ Group D game against Sierra Leone, who will play in Yaounde because of the Ebola epidemic.
Song has completed a three-match ban after elbowing a Croatian in the back during the World Cup but does not feature in the squad.
Cameroon have put a disastrous World Cup campaign behind them with convincing victories over the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Ivory Coast.
And former Cameroon striker Patrick Mboma told BBC Sport: “I definitely think that Cameroon can take six points. Six points will give us 12 points – that will be enough.
“Cameroon are playing well – not because they have a strong coach and stuff – I think they are playing well because they are good quality players.”
Sierra Leone‘s preparations have been hit by a row over who will coach them for the games – the sports ministry insists it will be Atto Mensah, while the football association claim it will be John Ajina Sesay.
The Leone Stars’ chances have also been harmed by the withdrawal of Kei Kamara because of injury.
The Ivorians reacted to a 4-1 Yaounde drubbing by axing Souleymane Bamba and recalling another long-serving defender, Siaka Tiene, for the clash with DR Congo in Kinshasa.
Coach Herve Renard has recalled left-back Siaka Tiene but fellow defenders Artur Boka (visa issues) and Constant Djakpa (injury) miss out.
Guinea have also been forced to move their home game because of the Ebola outbreak and they will play their Group E match against Ghana in Morocco.
Black Stars striker Abdul Wajeed Waris is unconcerned about the venue and confident his team have prepared the right way to secure victory.
“We have worked very hard because all of us know how important the game is. There are no problems in the camp, we are united,” he said.
“As long as we work really hard we are going to beat Guinea.”
In Group F, 2012 champions champions Zambia meet Niger in Niamey.
Zambia have made a poor start to their qualifying campaign, drawing 0-0 with Mozambique and losing 2-1 to Cape Verde.
Earlier this week Zambia appointed Nico Labohm as assistant coach to Honour Janza. The Dutchman is contracted to stay on for the rest of the qualifying campaign.
Africa’s top-ranked side Algeria play Malawi in Blantyre in Group B and the Flames are hoping to pull off an upset.
Malawi coach Young Chimodzi said: “I think we have an advantage because they don’t know us and we can surprise them. We want to be very strong at home. They are one of the best teams in Africa but we stand up to anyone – it’s all about determination.
“Everybody is fit and training has been very impressive. A win at home is crucial – we want to get the maximum nine points from our home games.”
In the group’s other match, bottom side Ethiopia will be aiming for their first win when Mali visit.
And coach Mariano Barreto is in confident mood, saying: “I think we are doing the right things to face Mali. We know that if we want to go to Morocco we have to get four points from the two matches, so we are fixing some of the problems we have to make the difference.
“The players have a good spirit and they are working hard. I think we can expect to do a good job.”
Elsewhere, Burkina Faso and Cape Verde have six points and lead Group C and Group F respectively. Both sides will book their places in Morocco if they can record two wins.
Burkina Faso face Gabon. while Cape Verde are up against Mozambique.