Russia 2018: Algeria Unleashes Mahrez, Bentaleb, Slimani on Eagles

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  •   Fennecs fans dread Ahmed Musa’s form

Olawale Ajimotokan in Abuja

Algerian coach Georges Leekens has named 18 foreign-based players for the crunchy 2018 World Cup qualifying fixture against Nigeria in Uyo on November 12.

The Belgian, who was appointed by the Football Algerian Federation (FAF) last Friday after a grueling search for a permanent replacement for Milovan Rajevac, will face a litmus test in his first game against the Super Eagles.

But he appeared unfazed by limited time in preparing the team when he listed high profile players for the Fennecs led by Leicester electrifying forwards, Riyad Mahrez and Islam Slimani.
Other players in the squad include unattached goalkeeper Rais M’Bolhi, Faouzi Ghoulam, Napoli; Nabil Bentaleb, Schalke; Adlene Guedioura, Watford; Ismael Taider, Bologna; Mehdi Abeid, Dijon; Yacine Brahimi, Porto; Sofiane Feghouli, West Ham and Aissa Mandi, Betis.

The list also had Hicham Belkaroui, Esperance; Carl Medjani, CD Leganes; Ryad Boudebouz, Montpellier; Rachid Ghezzal, Olympic Lyon; Hilal Soudani, Dinamo Zagreb; Liassine Cadamuro, Servette and Adam Ounas, Bordeaux; who only recently completed his nationality switch from France, which he represented at U20 level.

This list is expected to be finally composed of 23 players with the addition of five local players after last night’s Algeria Super Cup. Leekens, however, stunned the public by leaving out Mehdi Zeffane, Sofiane Hanni and Ramy Bensebaini from the party.

The new tactician first led Algeria in seven matches in 2013, before leaving for the Carthage Eagles of Tunisia.

He admonished the media at the unveiling of his team that though everything was virtually in place for the confrontation with Nigeria, the public should not be purged of the illusion that he is capable of conjuring a magic in the Russian 2018 campaign that will see fixture against Zambia, Nigeria and Cameroun.

“I’m not a magician but I will work towards realising the objective. I am dreaming of Russia but this is not an obsession,” Leekens said adding, Algeria which has not beaten Nigeria in competitive fixtures since the North Africans edged the Super Eagles in the final of the Africa Cup of Nations in 1990 are well focused on the task.

Meanwhile, Algeria fans are unanimous in picking Leicester City on-form Ahmed Musa as Nigeria’s most dangerous striker for a crucial World Cup showdown in Uyo.

And after a slow start, 24-year-old Ahmed Musa has now rediscovered his scoring boots at Premier League champions Leicester.

He has scored in the club’s last two league games to outshine Algeria top stars Riyad Mahrez and Islam Slimani.

Leicester is the best followed Premier League club in Algeria thanks to the presence of Mahrez and Slimani and understandably Algeria fans are now very much aware of how dangerous Ahmed Musa could be in front of goal.

“Ahmed Musa is very dangerous!” warned Algeria fan, Mohamed Attia.
“He is not only fast, but has shown he can score goals.”

“We must beware of Musa, he’s the most dangerous player for Nigeria. If he is not scoring, he is running down defences before passing for his teammates to score,” added another fan.
The former CSKA Moscow star started in Gernot Rohr’s first game in charge at home against Tanzania, but he was dropped to the bench in last month’s World Cup qualifier in Zambia because the German coach felt he “lacked focus”.

ALGERIA SQUAD :
Goalkeeper: M’Bolhi (Antalyaspor/Turkey)

Defenders : Mandi (Real Bétis/Spain), Belkaroui (Espérance Tunis/Tunisia), Medjani (CD Leganès/Spain), Ghoulam (SSC Naples/Italy), Cadamuro (Servette Genève/Switzerland)
Midfielders : Bentaleb (Schalke 04/Germany), Guedioura (Watford FC/England), Taider (Bologne FC/Italy), Abeid (Dijon/France), Brahimi (FC Porto/Portugal), Boudebouz (Montpellier Herrault/France), Feghouli (West-Ham/England), Ghezzal (Lyon/France)
Forwards: Ounas (Bordeaux/France), Mahrez , Slimani (Leicester City/England), Soudani (Dinamo Zagreb/Croatia)