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Africa Cup of Nations

Algeria’s Riyad Mahrez: African Player of the Year is between Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah

11:50 GMT+3 21/06/2019
Riyad Mahrez Algeria
The 28-year-old sees Egypt as favourites for the African title but he is pleased with their status as an outsider

Riyad Mahrez believes Algeria’s status as an underdog in the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) will ease them from pressure.

The Desert Foxes have endured a difficult campaign in the tournament, having failed to reach the semi-final stage since 1990, including their group stage ouster in 2017.

Following their not-too-impressive performances, the North Africans are not considered as favourites for the African title, a sentiment echoed by the Manchester City winger.

Mahrez has tipped Egypt as a major contender for the diadem, being the host nation but he is confident his side will give their best to challenge for the title as well.

"We are ready, we know that a Cup of Africa is never easy,” Mahrez told Al Kass.

“Host country (Egypt) is going to be supported by everyone, there will be a hundred million people behind them. This is the first time in a long time that we do not start as favourites in Afcon, and sometimes this position is beneficial for us to get rid of the pressure.

“We are going to try to make our way to the final, we have very good players, we have a good mix of young and experienced players, a good team and a good coach. Thanks to that, we will try to go far.

“To the Algerian fans, we will do our best to make you happy and come back with the Cup."

Mahrez won the 2016 African Player of the Year award following his imperious form with Leicester City, helping the Foxes to clinch the 2016 Premier League title.

The winger has, however, had a roller-coaster campaign in the just concluded season with Manchester City, where he was limited to 14 league starts.

Although he helped the Citizens to win a treble, the English top-flight title, FA Cup and League Cup, he believes Senegal’s Sadio Mane and Egypt’s Mohamed Salah are in pole position to clinch the African Player of the Year award following their stunning performances for Liverpool last term, where they helped the Reds to win the Uefa Champions League.

"I must be realistic. I was up there (Caf Award 2016) in the best African players but this year considering my playing time, I think it's between Mane and Salah".

Algeria have been paired along with Senegal, Kenya and Tanzania in Group C. They will play their first game in the Afcon tournament against the Harambee Stars on Sunday.