After seeing their clubs battle all-season for the Premier League title, Liverpool’s Sadio Mane and Manchester City’s Riyad Mahrez are set for another titanic battle as Senegal and Algeria clash at the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) in a match that will certainly test the title credentials of the Teranga Lions.
Senegal and Algeria head into the encounter at the June 30 Stadium in Cairo joint top of the group with identical records after getting their respective AFCON 2019 campaigns off to a winning start, with the Teranga Lions beating Tanzania 2-0 while the Desert Foxes got same result in their clash with Kenya.
Both teams showed their class to get the job done last time out but a higher level of football is expected in this blockbuster encounter which pits the highest ranked African team on the FIFA world ranking and tournament favourites Senegal with an Algerian team not lacking in experienced talents looking to bury the massive disappointment from AFCON 2017.
Algeria spent much of 2016 as Africa’s top ranked team and went into the last AFCON held in Gabon as one of the title favourites, only for the Desert Foxes then managed by Georges Leekens to fall well short of expectations by crashing out from the group stage without a win.
Interestingly, Algeria’s final group stage match in 2017 was against Senegal who had sealed a place in the last eight after winning their first two matches while the Algerians needed a win coupled with Zimbabwe getting a shock result against Tunisia to qualify.
However, Tunisia raced to a 4-1 lead by half time before winning 4-2 eventually while Algeria twice came from behind thanks to an Islam Slimani brace to play out a thrilling 2-2 draw with Senegal and bow out meekly from the last AFCON.
Senegal on their part were also tournament favourites but met their waterloo at the very next stage, as Mane’s missed attempt during the penalty shoot-out saw the Teranga Lions crash out at the quarter final stage against eventual champions, Cameroon.
As a result, both teams have points to prove in Egypt, which sets up their latest meeting as one to watch. In eight previous matches between both teams, Senegal and Algeria have claimed three wins each while two more matches have ended in draws.
However, Algeria have the upper-hand in the most recent matches against Senegal, winning three of the last four encounters and with Mahrez holding a psychological advantage of sorts from helping Man. City beat Mane’s Liverpool to the Premier League title, the odds look to be in favour of the Desert Foxes even if slightly.
The punters have a different view, though, as it is Senegal who are slight favourites for the match with odds of 2.15 for a Teranga Lions win compared to the 3.90 odds placed on Mahrez and his compatriots to maintain the upper-hand in recent contests between the AFCON title rivals.
Mane is set for his AFCON 2019 debut having sat out Senegal’s opener against Tanzania due to a one-match suspension carried over from the qualifying series where he accumulated enough yellow cards to earn the punishment.
But Mane’s return coincides with the absence of influential defender, Salif Sane, who has been ruled out from the rest of the group stage after the 28-year-old Schalke 04 star picked up an ankle injury against the Taifa Stars.
Algeria on their part have no new worries as they look to get a foot into the last 16 ahead of Mane and his highly-fancied compatriots.
Senegal XI: Edouard Mendy (GK) – Moussa Wague, Cheikhou Kouyate, Kalidou Koulibaly, Youssouf Sabaly – Idrissa ‘Gana’ Gueye, Badou Ndiaye, Krepin Diatta – Ismaila Sarr, Sadio Mane, Keita Balde
Algeria XI: Rais M’Bolhi (GK) – Youcef Attal, Aissa Mandi, Djamel Benlamri, Ramy Bensebaini – Riyad Mahrez, Adlène Guedioura, Sofiane Feghouli, Ismael Bennacer – Yacine Brahimi, Baghdad Bounedjah
Which of these teams will emerge victorious from this crunch clash? Share your predictions with us in the comment section.