When Ghana national team head coach Kwesi Appiah and his counterpart Sébastien Migné named their respective squads for the AFCON qualifier slated for tomorrow, many Kenyan and Ghanaian fans expected big names.
There were, however, some who were left disappointed as some of the star names were omitted. On the Ghanaian side, 2010 quarterfinalist Asamoah Gyan missed out while Jesse Were was left out of the Harambee Stars squad.
Despite major omissions, every side strives to include a couple of star players in their squads, which was definitely the case when the two lists came out.
Game Yetu now looks at five Black Stars and five Harambee Stars to watch ahead of the mouthwatering clash that win be played on Saturday at the 40,000 capacity seater Ohene Gjan Sports Stadium in Accra.
Coach Appiah isn’t taking any chances ahead of this encounter. He made his intentions known when he named a strong 24-man squad dominated by Europe-based stars. He only afforded three spots for locally based players.
Here are the five Black Stars to watch as the clock ticks towards tomorrow’s match.
The Atletico Madrid star is one of the best players in Appiah’s squad and one of the chosen few deemed indispensable by the tactician. The Atletico man is set to walk right into the team despite the arrival of some old and experienced faces this time.
The combative midfielder is known for his physical style and Appiah will be counting on him to pull the strings from the middle of the park.
The 28-year-old Alaves midfielder is one of the players many Ghanaian fans will be hoping to see on the field on Saturday.
He has helped Alaves to 5th place in the La Liga table and if his Spanish exploits are anything to go by, then Ghana have sizzling talent in their squad.
After his struggles in the Premier League with Swansea prior to their relegation in the 2017-18 season, the Fenerbache forward is among the Black Stars who need to work hard to convince the manager. This call up will act as an assessment for him but with his current form in Turkey, he remains a strong contender for a big role.
This fan-favourite has not played for the Black Stars for a very long time due to his poor fitness record.
The Inter Milan star has however recovered and has been good in his campaign in the Serie A.
The versatile Crystal Palace man didn’t make to the national team before thanks to his poor form in England last season.
However, with a better record this time that has seen him bag four goals and one assist in 26 games for his club, there is hope.
The omission of Jesse Were is the most notable one in the Harambee Stars squad perhaps due to the nasty reactions by Kenyan fans after coach Sebastien Migne’s decision.
The absence of star striker Michael Olunga has also left Kenyan fans a bit ‘uneasy’ since most consider him to be among the few players capable of tearing the Ghana defence apart.
Japan-based forward is out with injury but will undoubtedly walk back into the squad in the next international break should he be fit and available.
Kenyan fans boast a number of stars in the squad including:
The Tottenham Hotspur midfielder is one of the best players Kenya has ever exported to Europe.
He has struggled with injuries which have cost him a place in the Spurs’ squad.
But fit-again Wanyama will hope to avoid any more injuries in his quest to fire his country past these mighty Ghanaians.
The former Tusker FC custodian is one of the most experienced players in the Stars squad and the manager will be counting on him to keep the Black Star guns at bay.
The 33-year old’s peak days may be behind him but he still has skills that could be useful in Accra on Saturday.
He recently graduated with a Diploma in Human Resource Management from the University of Nairobi, signalling his preparation to end his decorated football career.
He will be tasked with filling in for the injured Olunga and his experience in attack will have fans licking their lips prior to the match.
The UD Las Palmas midfielder hit the Kenyan sports headlines when he earned his first international call up in 2016.
Although not a regular in the starting 11, Kenyans will be hoping to have a glance at their Spain-based star when the team walks out of the tunnel in Accra.
The winger has played with several Kenya Premier League clubs where he made his name before heading out to seek greener pastures.
His strength on the wings provides serious firepower for the Harambee Stars who will be looking to keep the Ghanaians in their own half and cushion their defence from
Paris St-Germain missed the chance to win the Ligue 1 title at the third attempt as they lost 3-2 to Nantes on Wednesday night.
Thomas Tuchel’s side drew 2-2 with Strasbourg and lost 5-1 to Lille in their last two games when they could have clinched the title.
Dani Alves’ stunning long-range strike gave PSG the lead in the 19th minute. But Diego Carlos struck twice, either side of Majeed Waris’ goal, with Metehan Guclu netting a late consolation goal for PSG.
Kalifa Coulibaly could have scored Nantes’ fourth but missed an open goal with Gianluigi Buffon well out of his area.
PSG are still 17 points clear of second-placed Lille with six games remaining and can win their sixth title in seven seasons if they beat Monaco on Sunday.
They can also win the double when they face Rennes in the Coupe de France final on 27 April.
Jurgen Klopp admitted he cannot wait to lead Liverpool into a Champions League semi-final against Barcelona after watching his side crush Porto 4-1 in Portugal on Wednesday to complete a 6-1 aggregate victory in their last-eight tie.
On a wet night at the Estadio do Dragao, Liverpool weathered an early storm against Porto before scoring from their first attempt just before the half-hour, Sadio Mane prodding home for a goal given after a lengthy VAR review.
Already in control of this tie after a 2-0 win at Anfield in the first leg, Liverpool had effectively killed off Porto there and then, but Mohamed Salah, substitute Roberto Firmino and Virgil van Dijk added further goals after the break.
Eder Militao scored a consolation for the hosts 21 minutes from time, but this was another miserable night for them after they lost 5-0 to the same opponents on this ground a year ago.
Liverpool now march on to a clash with Lionel Messi’s Barca, the first meeting of the clubs since a last-16 encounter in 2006/07 that the Reds won on away goals.
“I’m looking forward to it. The news that there is a proper football game between Barcelona and Liverpool is great,” said Klopp as his side move a step closer to matching their run to the final a year ago.
“To be in the semi-finals for the second year running is a big statement. I am really proud of the boys for what they did.”
On the night Manchester City’s quadruple bid died, the dream of a Champions League and Premier League double remains alive for Liverpool and their supporters, whose spirits were not dampened by the dreary weather by the banks of the River Douro.
This was their 17th game without defeat and their eighth straight victory, although Barcelona will offer a far tougher test than Porto.
The first leg of that tie is in a fortnight and in the meantime, Liverpool will revert their focus to domestic matters, with games against Cardiff City and Huddersfield Town up next.
“Tonight we are in the semi-finals and we play on Sunday against Cardiff. That will be 100 per cent on my mind when I wake up tomorrow and not Barcelona,” insisted Klopp.
With the matches coming thick and fast, he made three changes to his team here following Sunday’s 2-0 win over Chelsea. Firmino and Naby Keita, who both scored in the first leg, dropped out along with Jordan Henderson.
They were replaced by Georginio Wijnaldum, James Milner and Divock Origi, with the latter making his first Champions League start for the club. However, the Belgian only played the first half before making way for Firmino.
– Early onslaught –
He had hardly touched the ball during a Porto onslaught in the opening stages, sparked by a Jesus Corona shot just over the bar in the first minute.
They had 13 attempts on goal in the first 25 minutes but would regret not scoring while on top.
“There was a very good football atmosphere and they used it and it was so powerful the game of Porto and so difficult to deal with,” Klopp said.
“Porto needed an early goal tonight and didn’t score it. I’m completely happy. It’s only important to go through, and we went through.”
Their opening goal came when Salah — his every touch jeered by the Porto support who felt he should have been sent off in the first leg — rolled the ball into the six-yard area for Mane to get his 22nd of the campaign.
The offside flag came up but Dutch referee Danny Makkelie conferred with his video assistants before awarding the goal.
Porto knew their chance was gone, with their fans cursing Mane again — he scored a hat-trick in Liverpool’s win here in the last 16 last season.
Trent Alexander-Arnold released Salah to run through and beat Iker Casillas on 65 minutes to make it 2-0 before Porto got their consolation shortly after when Militao headed in from an Alex Telles corner.
However, Mane missed the target after rounding Casillas, before Henderson set up fellow substitute Firmino to head in Liverpool’s third on 77 minutes and Van Dijk nodded in from a corner to complete the scoring.
“Like at Anfield, it was a harsh result for how we played,” said Porto coach Sergio Conceicao.
“If we had been more clinical, everything would have been different.”