Ghana’s Black Stars would be without three key players when they face the Palancas Negras of Angola in their Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers in Luanda, Angola, today.
Centre-backs, Alexander Djiku and Mohammed Salisu, as well as Skipper Andre Ayew are unavailable, having failed to make the trip due to injury but had Coach Chris Hughton believes he has good replacements for the potentially tough encounter at the Estádio 11 de Novembro.
France-based Djiku limped off the field with an injury in the second half of last Thursday’s encounter, Ayew was an unused substitute while injury ruled out Southampton defender Salisu from the match. For Ayew, he reportedly picked up an injury during training last Friday in Kumasi and has thus returned to his England base for treatment.
Currently, the Black Stars sit on the summit of the log with seven points after defeating the Angolans 1-0 at the Baba Yara Stadium last Thursday and will aim to maintain the momentum even at the backyard of the Angolans who need to win the match to remain in contention for a ticket from Group E.
Coach Hughton said after the first leg match that he expected today’s showdown to be a difficult task as the Palancas Negras looked a very organised side in Kumasi and gave the Black Stars a tough time until Antoine Semenyo’s stoppage time goal gave Ghana a deserved victory.
The Ghana coach was unhappy about the team’s failure to exploit the many scoring chances they created and says his players need to be sharper in front of their opponents’ goal area, especially as they have home advantage and are likely to adopt an attacking strategy in search for victory.
“We, perhaps, need to be a little bit more clinical when we have the opportunities,” he stated.
Coach Hughton described the Angolan team as a strong team with good defensive capabilities and in today’s game, Ghana must play a cautious game to avoid the home side from putting pressure on the team’s defence as happened last Thursday.
It is expected that Abdul Salis Samed will be handed a starting role ahead of Edmund Addo as a holding midfielder to partner Thomas Partey to allow Mohammed Kudus to operate deep in midfield, while Jordan Ayew and Kamaldeen Sulemana attack from the flanks with either Inaki Williams or Antoine Semenyo as the lead striker.
On the other hand, Coach Pedro Gonçalves will be under pressure to guide the Palancas Negras to a home victory, as the Central African Republic -- third on the group log behind Angola – are favourites to beat Madagascar at home and possibly leapfrog Angola into the second position, if Gonçalves’ side fail to produce a win at home today.
On a few occasions, the Angolans came close to scoring in Kumasi and will fancy their chances on home soil, with the Portuguese trainer counting on star player M’bala Nzola to lead the charge.
After last Thursday’s loss, the Angolan coach said his side still had a good chance to win today’s game and would ensure that his players keep their focus.
“Our challenge right now is to play and win against Ghana even if, for sure, they are the favourites in the group,” Gonçalves said.