Sports / Updates
Thursday, 12 Jan 2017 18:27 EATtmatalanga@kenyafreepress.com
The Africa Cup of Nations has dealt English Premier League clubs a huge blow. Manchester United and Liverpool have each lost an important player, but it is Leicester City for whom the tournament is the biggest inconvenience. While United center-back Eric Bailly has been called up by the Ivory Coast and Liverpool have lost Senegalese flier Sadio Mane, Leicester have had to cede Daniel Amartey, Islam Slimani and Riyad Mahrez.
Leicester are fifteenth on the Premier League standings and are currently fighting to avoid being dragged into a relegation dogfight. Leicester left-back Christian Fuchs thinks that the absence of the stars provides a chance for the squad's fringe players to prove their worth. "These are very essential players for us. We can talk about how it will hurt us and make us weaker, but it is the time for the other guys to step up and show they are needed," Fuchs told local newspaper the Leicester Mercury.
Mahrez, 25, who was recently named African Player of the Year for his starring role in Leicester's 5,000-1 odd title triumph, having also been named England's Players' Player of the Year for last season, is joined in Algeria's squad by Slimani, who has scored six goals since his club-record £29 million (33.4 million euros) switch from Sporting Lisbon.
Although Mahrez has gone off the boil this term, the talismanic Algerian winger remains a key figure for Leicester and with seven goals in all competitions he is the club's leading scorer. Completing the triumvirate is Ghana midfielder Amartey, whose compatriot Jeff Schlupp remains at Leicester manager Claudio Ranieri's disposal after missing out on selection by Avram Grant.
Despite the absence of the three, Leicester manager Claudio Ranieri counts himself lucky because he will not miss the services of Nigerian forward Ahmed Musa as the Super Eagles are not taking part in this year's Afcon. The Nigerian scored twice as Leicester came from behind to beat Everton 2-1 in the FA Cup on Saturday and his international team-mate Wilfred Ndidi just arrived in a £15 million move from Genk.
League leaders Chelsea, will be completely unscathed by the latest edition of the tournament as Nigerian Victor Moses is the only African player in Antonio Conte's first-team squad. Manchester City are in the same boat as Chelsea with Ivorian Yaya Toure having hang up his international boots in the last continental showpiece while city teammate Kelechi Iheanacho's Nigeria have not qualified.
Matalanga is a student of journalism at the East Africa School of Media Studies and an intern writer at the Kenya Free Press.