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Preview of Africans abroad
This weekend’s top FA Cup semi-final clash between Manchester City and Chelsea brings Riyad Mahrez face to face with Hakim Ziyech and Edouard Mendy, with the latter pair hoping to avenge the 3-0 Premier League defeat by City in January.
In Italy, Achraf Hakimi and Kalidou Koulibaly face off when Napoli hosts Inter Milan, looking to throw a spanner in the works to the Nerazzurri’s title charge.
Mahrez vs Ziyech & Mendy
Manchester City and Chelsea face off in this year’s first FA Cup semi-final at Wembley on Saturday, seeking to pick up where they left off after Champions League progress in midweek.
Riyad Mahrez was an important part in City’s success over Borussia Dortmund on Wednesday, scoring from the spot to level proceedings on the night and put the Cityzens ahead on aggregate.
While Hakim Ziyech has been out of the Chelsea side since that shock 5-2 defeat by West Bromwich Albion, the Morocco superstar will hope to start at the Home of Football this weekend.
Thomas Tuchel has opted for Kepa Arrizabalaga in the cup competitions and the Blues boss has a big decision to make over opting for the Spain goalkeeper or utilising Edouard Mendy from the off against Pep Guardiola’s men.
The Morocco frontman may have been disappointed by not scoring in Sevilla’s last game at Celta Vigo, despite the visitors scoring four times.
En-Nesyri’s blank means he hasn’t netted in three La Liga appearances on the spin and it was no surprise Julen Lopetegui replaced him just after the hour.
The Andalusians travel to out-of-form Real Sociedad seeking a continuation of their five-game unbeaten La Liga run that has seen them accumulate 13 points.
While observers have focused on the top three separated by just two points, fourth-placed Sevilla are only six points behind and may feel they have an outside chance of winning the league if Atletico Madrid, Real Madrid and Barcelona all manage to blow their current advantage.
Kessie & Bennacer
AC Milan’s dynamic midfield pairing of Franck Kessie and Ismael Bennacer has been on display in the last two fixtures, with the former netting in last week’s 3-1 success at Parma.
Ismael Bennacer ought to play alongside the Ivorian on Sunday afternoon when Stefano Pioli’s side host 13th-placed Genoa in Sunday’s early kick-off.
Given that Atalanta and Juventus, as well as Napoli and Inter Milan, face off later, Milan have a chance to put pressure on other top four challengers to get points in their encounters by increasing the lead they have on the Old Lady (one), La Dea (two) and the Azzurri (four).
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Koulibaly vs Hakimi
Kalidou Koulibaly and Achraf Hakimi ought to start when Napoli host in-form Inter Milan looking to end the champions-elect’s 11-game winning streak in Serie A.
The Senegal centre-back and his teammates arguably need a win more given the consequences their result could have on finishing in the top four that guarantees Champions League qualification.
As for Hakimi and his colleagues, it looks to be a matter of when, not if, they finally claim the Scudetto after over a decade without a domestic title.
Having come off the bench to assist the winner in last week’s 1-0 Cagliari, the Morocco wide defender will hope to feature from the start against Gennaro Gattuso’s charges.