Defending champions Morocco face Algeria without injured stars

Ayoub El-Kaabi
Updated 20 September 2019

Defending champions Morocco face Algeria without injured stars

  • Morocco will miss injured stars Ayoub El-Kaabi and Mahmoud Benhalib

JOHANNESBURG: Morocco will miss injured stars Ayoub El-Kaabi and Mahmoud Benhalib when they begin their defense of the African Nations Championship title away to Algeria on Saturday.

El-Kaabi starred at the 2018 tournament, scoring nine goals in six matches for the host nation as they won the competition restricted to home-based players for the first time.

The same year, Benhalib was the leading scorer with 12 goals in the CAF Confederation Cup, the African equivalent of the UEFA Europa League.

The predatory instincts of El-Kaabi won him a contract with Chinese Super League outfit Hebei China Fortune, who loaned him to Wydad Casablanca this year.

Benhalib plays for Raja Casablanca, three-time African champions and arch rivals of Wydad, with whom they share the biggest stadium by capacity in the north African country.

Wydad and Raja stars dominate the squad chosen by coach Houcine Ammouta to face Algeria in Blida, 55 km southwest of Algiers. In the absence of El-Kaabi and Benhalib, one of the biggest threats to Algeria could come from an unusual source.

Mohamed Nahiri is a Wydad fullback, but he scored five goals in the CAF Champions League last season and another last weekend in their first outing of the latest edition.

Algeria are not able to call on any of the players who won the Africa Cup of Nations in July, but they have selected Zakaria Benchaa and Amir Sayoud, who have shown impressive early season form in the two African club competitions.

Benchaa bagged a brace last Sunday for USM Alger, the second time he has achieved the feat in three Champions League outings.

Sayoud has netted once in each of three matches played by CR Belouizdad in the Confederation Cup. A worrying statistic for Morocco is that the last three Nations Championship winners to defend the title — Tunisia, Libya and the DR of Congo — all failed to qualify.

Tunisia host Libya on Saturday in a geographically-based qualifying competition so only two teams from the north of the continent can make it to the 2020 tournament in Cameroon.

Nigeria, who reached the 2018 final only to have Peter Moses sent off and suffer a 4-0 hiding from Morocco in Casablanca, are away to Togo, who edged past Benin in the previous round.

Ghana have home advantage first as they seek to avenge a shock 4-3 aggregate defeat by Burkina Faso in 2018 qualifying.

DR Congo, the only country to win the Nations Championship twice, visit the Central African Republic as they chase a fifth appearance at the tournament, which now features 16 teams.

After surprising Kenya, Tanzania host Sudan hoping history repeats itself as they won home and away when the countries last clashed.

In the southern region, eSwatini (formerly Swaziland), Madagascar and Lesotho are hoping to secure finals places for the first time.

eSwatini and Madagascar play at home against Zambia and Namibia respectively while Lesotho visit Zimbabwe, whose Prince Dube scored a hat-trick in their last outing, against Mauritius.


Liverpool cleared to win Premier League at Anfield

Atletico Madrid’s Marcos Llorente scores a goal against Liverpool during their match in London. The Reds will play against Everton on June 21. (Reuters/File)
Updated 06 June 2020

Liverpool cleared to win Premier League at Anfield

  • All remaining 92 Premier League games this season will be played behind closed doors, but there are fears that hosting the game in Liverpool could encourage supporters to congregate around stadiums

LONDON: Premier League leaders Liverpool could claim a first title for 30 years at Anfield after the initial batch of fixtures of the restart was announced on Friday.
Jurgen Klopp’s men, with a commanding 25-point lead at the top of the table, were just two wins away from clinching the title before coronavirus forced the suspension of football in March.
Liverpool’s first match back is against Everton on June 21. The Merseyside derby is due to take place at Goodison Park, less than a mile from Anfield, but a venue has not been confirmed by the Premier League. Crystal Palace will then visit Anfield three days later.
Wins in both of those matches would guarantee Liverpool’s first English top-flight title since 1990. But if Manchester City lose at home to Arsenal on June 17, the Reds would be champions if they beat Everton.
Liverpool City Council’s safety advisory group will meet next week to make a decision on whether the game can go ahead at Goodison or should be moved to a neutral venue.
All remaining 92 Premier League games this season will be played behind closed doors, but there are fears that hosting the game in Liverpool could encourage supporters to congregate around stadiums.

SPEEDREAD

Liverpool’s first match back is against Everton on June 21. The Merseyside derby is due to take place at Goodison Park, less than a mile from Anfield, but a venue has not been confirmed by the Premier League. Crystal Palace will then visit Anfield three days later.

The only other match that could be moved to a neutral venue from the first three rounds of fixtures is Liverpool’s visit to City on July 2.
The mayor of Liverpool, Joe Anderson, voiced fears that “there would be many thousands of people who would turn up outside Anfield” on the day Liverpool’s long wait for a league title was ended.
That has been disputed by the club, who said they have engaged with supporters’ groups to make sure social-distancing guidelines are followed.
Aston Villa will host Sheffield United in the first match of “Project Restart,” followed by Arsenal’s trip to City on June 17.
Manchester United’s visit to Tottenham will spearhead the first full round of matches spread over four days from June 19 to 22.
Premier League CEO Richard Masters said: “We know it won’t be the same without our loyal supporters in stadiums but, together with our broadcast partners, we are able to ensure fans can watch or listen to each match live from home.”