Essien ready for Ghana return

ACCRA - Michael Essien is set to play his first international for 18 months on Friday, his return bringing joy to Ghana's new coach Goran Stevanovic.

"When I took this job I made his return a priority and he promised he would return in June which is what he has done," Stevanovic told the Ghana Football Association website.

"He is a great player and a great man and we are happy to have him back."

The Chelsea midfielder, who has been in self-imposed exile from international football, is poised to play on Friday against Congo in an African Nations Cup qualifier in Kumasi.

Essien last appeared for the Black Stars at the 2010 African Nations Cup finals where he played only 45 minutes before suffering a serious knee injury in training.

Stevanovic has been coach since January but Friday's game is his home debut.

Ghana lead Group I on goal difference from Sudan while Congo are third, four points adrift.