Senegal and Algeria between them boast two of Africa’s best players, yet the coaches are not distracted by individuals.
Sadio Mane and Riyad Mahrez will go head to head at the Africa Cup of Nations on Thursday, but the Senegal and Algeria coaches are focused on their team collectives.
Mane is back from suspension for Senegal, while Algeria’s Mahrez is again set to lead the way as the two sides hope to build on opening wins against Tanzania and Kenya respectively.
But while there is much excitement about the involvement of two Champions League superstars, the coaches are less interested in an individual tussle.
Asked about Mahrez, Senegal boss Aliou Cisse told a pre-match news conference: “There’s no anti-Mahrez plan or similar for [Sofiane] Feghouli or [Yacine] Brahimi. They’re all good players.”
Of Mane, he added: “The return of Sadio Mane can bring us more, he is one of our leaders and he is ready.”
Algeria’s Djamel Belmadi took a similar tone.
“Mane is going to arrive fresh, it’s going to be cool, but who says Aliou is going to start him? His team won without him,” he said. “Focusing only on individuals is not the best way to prepare a match.”
.@Mahrez22 doubles Algeria’s lead against Kenya just before half time
— Manchester City (@ManCity) June 23, 2019
Cisse concluded: “This is a game anticipated by everyone. It’s two teams with some potential, who started well, with individuals here and there.
“But there is a third game in the group. This is an important game, but not decisive.”
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Senegal – Sadio Mane
Mane will return to wear the armband for what looks to be a tougher clash on paper than the Tanzania match he missed. Keita Balde stepped up with a goal last time out, yet this side will rely heavily on Mane in the final third.
Algeria – Riyad Mahrez
There are other talents in this Algeria squad but, for many, this will be seen as a battle between two of the Premier League’s top wingers. His own country’s captain, Mahrez started with a goal against Kenya and will hope to build on that strong start.
KEY OPTA FACTS
– Algeria are unbeaten against Senegal in the Africa Cup of Nations (W2 D1).
– Senegal have won three of their previous five games in the Africa Cup of Nations (D2), as many as in their previous 17 (D4 L10).
– After winning against Kenya (2-0), Algeria could win two Africa Cup of Nations games in a row for the first time since 1996 (also two).
– Senegal had 10 shots on target against Tanzania, their most in the African Cup of Nations since Opta records began in 2010.
– Islam Slimani has scored Algeria’s past two goals against Senegal in the Africa Cup of Nations.