Burundi v Guinea: Keita in contention despite Nigeria withdrawal

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Guinea coach Paul Put will run a late fitness test on midfielder Naby Keita before deciding whether the Liverpool star should face Burundi in the Africa Cup of Nations on Sunday.

The National Elephants are third in Group B and victory over Burundi would give them a chance of progressing to the knock-out stage.

Keita has played in both of Guinea's games so far, coming on as a second-half substitute in a 2-2 draw with Madagascar and then playing from the start before being withdrawn after 71 minutes of a 1-0 defeat to group leaders Nigeria.

The 24-year-old arrived at the tournament short of fitness after sustaining an adductor muscle injury in the Champions League semi-final against Barcelona in early May.

But ahead of his country's final group game on Sunday, he said a member of Liverpool's staff had given him the all-clear.

Keita said, quoted by Guinean news website kibaro224.com: "A Liverpool doctor checked me yesterday and I was fine. I'm not going to say I'm sure I'll play tomorrow.

"I may be playing. After tonight's practice, the coach will decide."

He added: "Against Nigeria I didn't go out with injury. That's because I wasn't supposed to play more than 40-50 minutes."

Burundi head coach Olivier Niyungeko insisted there is still hope for his side to progress to the knock-out stage despite succumbing to 1-0 defeats in both of their opening two group games.

After Nigeria beat Niyungeko's men in their competition debut, Madagascar picked up their first AFCON victory in the nation's 72-year history when they edged Burundi 1-0 courtesy of Marco Ilaimaharitra's 76th-minute goal.

But Niyungeko said the result did no justice to his side's performance, and set his sights on taking all three points against Guinea.

"I don’t think we deserved to lose [against Madagascar] because we created the chances to score,” Niyungeko told reporters.

"I am sad we couldn't get a win and now this makes our work harder for us.

"We can't lose hope, we will continue fighting. We will go in and give everything we have to ensure we win the last game against Guinea."

 

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Burundi - Cedric Amissi

An experienced international who can play in defensive or attacking roles, Al Taawon's Amissi scored in Burundi's final warm-up game against Tunisia and enjoyed a good season at club level in 2018-19.

If Burundi can supply him with a chance or two, Amissi has the capability to bury anything that falls his way inside the box.

Guinea - Naby Keita

Guinea coach Paul Put has pushed hard for Keita to be part of his squad and if the Liverpool man is anywhere near match fit it seems likely he will play.

The midfielder's energy and creativity could give Guinea the edge they need against Burundi.

KEY OPTA FACTS

- This will be the first game between Burundi and Guinea in the Africa Cup of Nations.
- Guinea are winless in their last seven games in the Africa Cup of Nations (D5 L2), their longest win drought ever in the tournament.
- Guinea have failed to keep a clean sheet in each of their last 14 games in the Africa Cup of Nations (conceding 25 goals overall), with their last clean sheet in the tournament coming on January 30 2006 against Tunisia (3-0).
- Burundi could become the third nation to have failed to score in their first three games in the Africa Cup of Nations, after Ethiopia in 1957-1959 and Mozambique in 1986.
- Guinea’s defender Simon Falette is the only player who has attempted more than 100 passes during the MD1 of the Africa Cup of Nations 2019 (103, 93 successful).