Last updated 7 months ago | By Rodgers Eshitemi
National football team Harambee Stars face a stern test of character when they clash with African giants Egypt tonight (7pm) in the opening Group G match of the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers at the Borg El Arab Stadium in Alexandria.
But the good news for Francis Kimanzi’s side, who held their first training session in Alexandria on Tuesday, is that the Pharaohs will have to play the game without the influential Liverpool forward Mohamed Salah.
Salah has been ruled out of today’s encounter with an ankle injury he suffered in last Sunday’s English Premier League match against Manchester City at the Anfield.
The former Chelsea and Roma man scored the second goal before he was substituted in the 87th minute as the Reds stunned their title rivals 3-1 to open a nine point gap at the top of the table.
This should give Stars’ technical bench a lift as they can now plan to face the 2019 Afcon finals hosts without one of their more dangerous strikers.
According to the Egyptian Football Association, Salah, who underwent further tests on Tuesday morning, will also sit out of Monday’s away match to Comoros.
“The medical staff of our national team, under the leadership of Dr Mohamed Abul-Ela, confirmed the lack of readiness of Mohamed Salah to play the matches of Kenya and Comoros after intensive tests,” read the EFA’s statement on their twitter page.
“The injury needs a period of treatment to recover. The player had come to camp this morning (Tuesday) after arriving in Cairo late yesterday evening and watched the evening training at the Burj Al Arab Stadium,” added the statement.
Salah is yet to feature for the record African champions under the new coach Hossam El-Badry after missing last Thursday’s 1-0 friendly win over Liberia.
In Salah’s absence, El-Badry will bank on Sporting Braga striker Ahmed Kouka and Aston Villa winger Mahmoud Trezeguet for goals.
Both Egypt and Kenya are coming off quite contrasting friendly results. While the Pharaohs recently struggled to beat Liberia, Harambee Stars fell by an identical scoreline to visiting Mozambique last month.
Kimanzi’s men will have limited time to recover as they will immediately fly back to the country from Cairo for Monday’s fixture against Togo at Kasarani Stadium.
Meanwhile, beleaguered Sofapaka striker John Avire has withdrawn from Harambee Stars squad for tonight’s 2021 Africa Nations Cup qualifiers against Egypt due to personal reasons.
Avire, who has been embroiled in a transfer saga involving Sofapaka and Egyptian side Tanta SC since featuring at the 2019 continental finals in Egypt, had been included in the final 24 man squad for the qualifiers opener.
By yesterday morning, all the players called up for the two opening matches of the qualifiers led by captain Victor Wanyama and Japan-based striker Michael Olunga had arrived in Stars’ camp.