Senegal v Algeria: Misfiring favourites in last-chance saloon
Algeria's Africa Cup of Nations hopes are hanging in the balance, with a daunting clash against in-form Senegal their last hope of securing passage to the quarter-finals.
Georges Leekens' team, boasting Leicester City stars Riyad Mahrez and Islam Slimani among a heavyweight squad, were one of the competition's favourites, but they are staring at the prospect of an embarrassingly early exit following a 2-2 draw with Zimbabwe and a 2-1 loss to Tunisia.
Aliou Cisse's Senegal, in contrast, have marched into the last eight courtesy of 2-0 victories against those two opponents, as they aim for a 100 per cent record for the first time in their AFCON history.
Liverpool striker Sadio Mane has two goals to his name, ably supported by Napoli defender Kalidou Koulibaly, attacker Keita Balde of Lazio and Premier League midfielders Idrissa Gueye and Cheikhou Kouyate.
Only a victory at Stade de Franceville on Monday will suffice for Algeria, although even that will not be enough if second-placed Tunisia avoid defeat against Zimbabwe, or if the latter win by a large enough margin to overhaul the Desert Foxes on goal difference.
"Senegal play good football and, in an ideal world, we would have qualified before facing them," Leekens said.
"To be frank, this is going to be a very tough match for us to win. We dare not give away soft goals like we did against Tunisia.
"Unfortunately, we no longer have our destiny in our own hands."
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Senegal - Henri Saivet
Mane is one of Senegal's most high-profile players, but it was Saivet, on loan at Saint-Etienne from Newcastle, who stole the show as the Lions of Teranga dispatched Zimbabwe 2-0 to reach the quarter-finals. The 26-year-old midfielder netted a brilliant free-kick in that clash and will be hopeful of carrying his good form into the knockout stages, perhaps with a view to catching the eye of Newcastle manager Rafael Benitez.
Algeria - Riyad Mahrez
Mahrez has been directly involved in four of the last six AFCON goals scored by Algeria, netting three times and supplying one. The Leicester star bagged a brace, including the opener and a late equaliser, in a 2-2 draw with Zimbabwe, but finished empty handed in the damaging 2-1 loss to Tunisia last time out.
Key Opta Stats
- Senegal are making their 14th appearance at the African Cup of Nations - a record for a team that has never won the trophy; the closest Senegal came to winning the AFCON was in 2002.
- This is Algeria's 17th participation in the African Cup of Nations; their solitary title dates back to 1990, it was on home soil. They haven't reached the final since then.
- Algeria have won their two previous AFCON fixtures against Senegal (2-1 in the 1990 semi-final, 2-0 in the 2015 group stages).