Af­con blues bite Le­ices­ter

REDS, UNITED WILL ALSO MISS PLAY­ERS

Sowetan - - SPORT -

LON­DON – Manch­ester United and Liver­pool have each lost an im­por­tant player, but in the Premier League it is Le­ices­ter City for whom the Africa Cup of Na­tions is the big­gest in­con­ve­nience.

While United cen­tre-back Eric Bailly has been called up by the Ivory Coast and Liver­pool have lost Sene­galese flier Sa­dio Mane, Le­ices­ter have had to cede Riyad Mahrez, Is­lam Sli­mani and Daniel Amartey.

Fif­teenth on the ta­ble, Le­ices­ter are fight­ing to avoid be­ing dragged into a rel­e­ga­tion dog­fight and left-back Chris­tian Fuchs says it is a chance for the squad’s fringe play­ers to prove their worth.

“Th­ese are very es­sen­tial play­ers for us,” Fuchs told lo­cal news­pa­per the Le­ices­ter Mer­cury.

Mahrez, 25, was named African Player of the Year last week for his star­ring role in Le­ices­ter’s ti­tle tri­umph, hav­ing also been named Eng­land’s Play­ers’ Player of the Year for last sea­son. He is joined in Al­ge­ria’s squad by Sli­mani, who has scored six goals since his switch from Sport­ing Lisbon. Com­plet­ing the tri­umvi­rate is Ghana mid­fielder Amartey, but his com­pa­triot Jeff Schlupp re­mains at Le­ices­ter man­ager Clau­dio Ranieri’s dis­posal af­ter miss­ing out on se­lec­tion by Avram Grant.

While the three ab­sen­tees will be missed, Ranieri can count him­self lucky that Nige­ria are not among the 16 teams as­sem­bled in Gabon.

Nige­rian for­ward Ahmed Musa scored twice as Le­ices­ter came from be­hind to beat Ever­ton 2-1 in the FA Cup on Satur­day and his in­ter­na­tional team­mate Wil­fred Ndidi has just ar­rived in a R251-mil­lion move from Genk.

Bailly’s de­par­ture leaves Manch­ester United light in cen­tral de­fence, par­tic­u­larly with Mar­cos Rojo hav­ing sus­tained a mus­cu­lar in­jury dur­ing Satur­day’s 4-0 FA Cup win over Read­ing.

Mane will be missed by Liver­pool, hav­ing scored nine goals since ar­riv­ing from Southamp­ton to help Jur­gen Klopp’s side climb to sec­ond place.

“It is a chance for the squad’s fringe play­ers to prove their worth to the team

PHOTO: PHILIPP SCHMIDLI/GETTY IMAGES

Le­ices­ter City have been hit hard as their star Riyad Mahrez of Al­ge­ria has joined to ex­o­dus to the Af­con fi­nals.

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