Africa Cup of Nations players to watch: Joe Aribo, Franck Kessie, Karl Toko Ekambi

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The Africa Cup of Nations is live on Sky Sports and ahead of the competition, WhoScored.com have picked out 10 players to keep an eye on…

Karl Toko Ekambi – Cameroon

Lyon have struggled in Ligue 1 this season and head into Sunday’s meeting with PSG in the bottom half of the table, but they’d be in a far more perilous position were it not for Karl Toko Ekambi. Only Lucas Paqueta (6) has scored more league goals than Ekambi (5) for Lyon this season, and, as a boost for Cameroon, is the joint-top scorer in the Europa League, netting six in the group stages, proof that he comes alive in cup competition.

The Indomitable Lions will certainly look to the Lyon star to fire them to glory on home turf.

  • Sky Sports to show all AFCON 2021 games
  • Which players could miss PL & Scottish games?
  • AFCON fixtures and results | Tables

Mohamed Bayo – Guinea

Clermont Foot will miss Mohamed Bayo and then some.

Bayo has scored nine of their 20 league goals and has a better WhoScored.com rating (6.98) than any other player for the promoted side. That their next highest scorer – Elbasan Rashani – has just four league goals to his name is a concern for the Lancers. A conversion rate of 23.1 per cent is the 11th best in Ligue 1 of the 65 players to muster 20 or more shots this season and while his international career is in its infancy, Bayo has the goalscoring touch to help Guinea to the knockout stages of AFCON.

Sky Sports to show AFCON live

The Africa Cup of Nations tournament will be broadcast live on Sky Sports in January and February.

Pape Sarr – Senegal

Tottenham supporters are set to keep a close eye on Pape Sarr when Senegal kick off their AFCON campaign on Monday. The teenager moved to Spurs last summer, but was immediately loaned back to Metz in order to garner regular action to aid his development. The 19-year-old hasn’t exactly caught the eye as some Spurs fans may have hoped in Ligue 1, but then nor have 18th-placed Metz. There is ample competition for a starting spot in a packed Senegal midfield, yet Sarr could prove to be Aliou Cisse’s ace in the hole when the going gets tough for the Lions of Teranga.

Kamaldeen Sulemana – Ghana

Rennes have a knack for picking up exciting wingers and Kamaldeen Sulemana is no exception. Following in the footsteps of Ousmane Dembele, Ismaila Sarr and Raphinha, Sulemana has proven a revelation in Ligue 1, even if his spot in the Rennes XI came under threat prior to France’s winter break.

Also See:

  • Sky Sports to show all AFCON 2021 games
  • Get Sky Sports
  • Which players could miss PL & Scottish games?
  • AFCON group tables

A dribbling machine, the teenager is completing more dribbles per 90 (4.8) than any other player in France’s top tier this term. Ghana do have quality personnel in the final third and Sulemana boasts the trickery to ensure the Black Stars will prove more than a match for any opponent at AFCON.

Sofiane Boufal – Morocco

Following a couple of sub-par seasons, Sofiane Boufal is enjoying a career resurgence in Ligue 1.

Angers are exceeding expectations in France with Boufal key for Gerald Baticle’s side having directly contributed to eight of their 26 goals scored, netting five times. This season is already the 28-year-old’s most prolific since rattling in 11 goals for Lille in 2015/16.

His rate of 3.5 successful dribbles in the sixth-best in Ligue 1 this season and Angers’ loss is very much Morocco’s gain. With Hakim Ziyech overlooked by Vahid Halilhodzic for AFCON, Boufal is the man tasked with prying apart defences, being it through his eye for a defence-splitting pass or by driving forward with the ball at this feet.

Joe Aribo – Nigeria

With the Scottish Premiership on its winter hiatus for at least another week, Joe Aribo’s absence for AFCON won’t hit too hard for Rangers. Obviously the decision to bring the break forward due to COVID-19 means the key midfielder will miss a handful of games, Rangers have ample depth to cover the Nigerian’s absence. Aribo ranks second for league goals (6) and third for assists (3) of all Gers players this season, and Nigeria will be hoping he can transfer that goal threat to the international stage, starting with the blockbuster meeting with Egypt next week.

Youcef Atal – Algeria

With a rating of 7.66, Youcef Atal was the WhoScored.com player of the tournament at AFCON 2019. A raft of injuries means the Algerian hasn’t had a real chance of building upon a reputation that saw him take the competition by storm, yet the 25-year-old has been impressive for Nice this season and comes into the tournament in good form. His 2.5 interceptions per 90 ranks among the top 10 players in Ligue 1 and his commendable reading of the game is set to be key as the Fennec Foxes seek to defend their 2019 crown.

Franck Kessie – Ivory Coast

Ivory Coast are one of the favourites to land international glory and with Franck Kessie operating in a midfield that features top-quality stars in the mould of Jean Michael Seri and Ibrahim Sangare, the Elephants will fancy their chances of winning AFCON. Kessie, who has been linked with a move to Tottenham, has been superb for AC Milan this season, netting five times for the Serie A title contenders; only Zlatan Ibrahimovic (7) has scored more. A goal threat from deep, AC Milan will miss the 25-year-old, but Ivory Coast are hopeful this trait sees them crowned AFCON champions for just the third time next month.

Ellyes Skhiri – Tunisia

While he has scored three goals for FC Koln this season, Ellyes Skhiri’s primary strength has always been his ball-winning ability. Three tackles per 90 is the sixth-best in the Bundesliga this season, while 2.2 interceptions per 90 ranks among the top 20 players in the division. Anchoring the Tunisia midfield, opponents will find it hard to get the better of the Eagles of Carthage with Skhiri mopping up in front of the defence.

Amadou Haidara – Mali

Manchester United fans will be paying close attention to Mali at AFCON. The Premier League powerhouse have been linked with a move for RB Leipzig’s Amadou Haidara in a bid to correct their midfield issues. A commendable ball winner, Haidara chips in with an average of 1.3 tackles per 90 for RB Leipzig this season, while a modest dribble success rate of 72.2 per cent, that the ninth best of the 118 players to attempt 15 or more dribbles in the Bundesliga this season, highlights a strength to drive forward in possession to good effect. As such, Mali are not to be underestimated at the competition.

Sky Sports to show AFCON live

The Africa Cup of Nations tournament will be broadcast live on Sky Sports in January and February.

The tournament, originally scheduled to be played in June and July 2021, will be played in Cameroon between January 9 and February 6, 2022, with Sky Sports showing all 52 games live.

Twenty-four teams will take part, kicking off on January 9 as hosts Cameroon host Burkina Faso in Yaounde, before culminating in the final on February 6 in the capital.

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Sourse: skysports.com

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