Morocco suf­fer an­other set­back as Bo­ufal is ruled out of Afcon

The Star Early Edition - - SPORT -

RA­BAT: Southamp­ton’s record sign­ing Sofi­ane Bo­ufal has been sent home from Morocco’s African Na­tions Cup train­ing camp af­ter in­jury ruled the mid­fielder out of the tour­na­ment.

“Sofi­ane Bo­ufal has left the camp af­ter ex­am­i­na­tion of his in­jury showed he would not be ca­pa­ble of play­ing at the Na­tions Cup,” the Morocco Foot­ball Fed­er­a­tion said in a state­ment.

It gave no de­tails about the in­jury and there was no im­me­di­ate com­ment from his Premier League club. Morocco, who are train­ing in the United Arab Emi­rates, played Fin­land in a friendly yes­ter­day be­fore head­ing to the tour­na­ment, which starts in Gabon on Satur­day.

The Moroc­cans kick off their cam­paign against the Demo­cratic Repub­lic of Congo in Oyem on 16 Jan­uary but their chances of suc­cess have been hit by a length­en­ing in­jury list that in­cludes mid­fielder Younes Bel­handa, side­lined with a bro­ken toe. Ous­same Tan­nane is also out due to a thigh in­jury and Wat­ford winger Nordin Am­ra­bat with an an­kle prob­lem.

Bo­ufal’s re­turn to Eng­land could be a boost for Southamp­ton, who faced los­ing the player for five weeks if Morocco reached the Na­tions Cup fi­nal, but the in­jury will also bea con­cern for a side cur­rently 10th in the English top flight.

Southamp­ton have had a crowded fix­ture sched­ule, in­clud­ing Europa League group matches be­fore their exit last month, and have looked jaded lately with a run of three straight league de­feats in which they have con­ceded nine goals and scored twice.

They host Liver­pool in a League Cup semi-fi­nal first leg to­mor­row.

Hav­ing to lose key play­ers to the African Na­tions Cup has long been a bone of con­tention for Premier League man­agers, with the tour­na­ment com­ing at a stage of the sea­son when clubs are chas­ing tro­phies or are locked in a bat­tle to stay up.

Southamp­ton have been luck­ier than some of their ri­vals, with Bo­ufal their only player called up for the tour­na­ment. Stoke City and rel­e­ga­tion-threat­ened Sun­der­land have both had to re­lin­quish three play­ers.

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