The UEFA Europa League Round of 16 matches will be played tomorrow in eight different European countries with 39 African players from 13 different African countries on the books of the 16 teams still left in the competition.
Dinamo Zagreb-Benfica Lisbon
At the 37, 168 capacity Stadion Matsimir in Zagreb Croatia, there might be a clash of Nigerians. Coach Nenad Bjelica of 19 times Croatian Champions Dinamo Zagreb can turn to 23 years old Nigerian midfielder Iyayi Believe Atiemwen, while Benfica’s coach Bruno Lage has always counted on the solid defensive displays of Nigerian International defender Tyronne Ebuehi.
Eintracht Frankfurt- Internazionale Milan
At the Commerzbank Arena, as usual, Cameroon’s Evans Ndicka Obitte will be part of a solid back three for Frankfurt that will try to stop Inter Milan’s 23 years old Senegalese forward Keita Balde Diao and experienced Ghanaian winger Kwadwo Asamoah. The 30 years old Ghanaian, a former Juventus defender is one of the most reliable players for Inter’s coach Luciano Spelletti.
Born in Douala on May 4, 1999, 1,77cm Cameroon forward Nelson Mandela Mbouhoum joint Frankfurt in 2015 and has scored 10 goals in 24 games for them in their youth teams. Adolf Heutter might give him a run in the game.
Stade Rennais- Arsenal FC
After their heroic qualification against Betis Seville, Julien Stephane’s team will try to resolve the Arsenal equation. It will certainly be more challenging against a team under the tutelage of Unai Emery who has won the competition three times with FC Sevilla. However challenging it might be the French team can count on the hunger and strength of its African players. Senegalese goalkeeper Abdoulaye Diallo might hardly play any part in the gain, but his compatriots, 24 years old forward Mbaye Niang and the ever dependable winger Ismaila Saar will definitely be crucial for Rennes. Cameroon’s James Edward Lea Siliki and Jordan Siebatcheu have quickly turned into fringe players after an interesting start of the season but they will definitely have their say. The same cannot be said for their 22 years old defense compatriot Gerzino Nyamsi who though a regular on the team sheet has hardly featured.
Côte D’Ivoire’s 18 years old midfielder Yann Gboho and defender Souley Doumbia are part of the African contingent at the disposal of Julien Stephane. Algeria’s Mehdi Zeffane and Ramy Bensebaini are amongst the first names on the team sheet week in week out. The same cannot be said for Mozambique’s 30 years old defender Edson Andre Sitoe. Mali’s Hamari Traoré who joined Rennes in 2015 is another one the coach depends on.
Arsenal on their part are not short of Africans and have some of the best in Europe. Gabon’s wonder boy Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has lived up to the hype. He is currently amongst the top scorers in the English Premier League with 16 goals. He is definitely the one to watch. Emery has also shown great faith in Nigeria’s Alex Iwobi who is having the season of his life. A little more on the fringes is Egypt’s Mohamed Elneny and potential Ghanaian International Jordi Osei-Tutu.
Sevilla – Prague
At the Estadio Ramon Sanchez Pijuan, Micheal Ngadeu-Ngadjui and Slavia Prague will be looking forward to show the form they used to outperform Genk in the previous round away from home. Jindrich Trpisovsky can also really on dependable Ivorian defender Simon Deli and his compatriot 30 years old midfielder Ibrahim Benjamin Traoré as well as growing in reputation Nigerian 23 years old Ibadan born striker Peter Oladeji Olayinka.
As for FC Sevilla, they will try to make their experience and history in the competition count. Pablo Machin has always given 25 years old Cameroon midfielder Ibrahim Amadou a run in the team, the same cannot be said for 22 years old Ivorian defender Joris Gnagnon who joint Sevilla from Rennes in 2017, he will definitely grab any opportunity to feature in the game with both hands.
Zenit St. Petersburg-Villarreal CF
Javi Calleja’s team are surprise relegation fighters in the Spanish La Liga but seem to find form when the turn to Europe. At the Saint- Petersburg Stadium Cameroon’s Karl Toko Ekambi and Villareal will try to get a positive result against Segey Semak’s Zenit.
This will be another game in which a lot of Africans will be on the spotlight. Carlo Ancelloti can count on Europe’s most wanted defender, 27 years old Senegalese Kalilou Koulibaly. Algerian defender Faouzi Ghoulam and midfielder Adam Ounans have also been very present in the team. 21 years old Guinea Conakry midfielder Amadou Diawara is another option for the San Paolo outfit.
Meanwhile Marco Rose knows the importance of Jérôme Onguéné in the Salzburg back line. The native of Mbalmayo in the central Region of Cameroon has grown in status with excellent performances week in weeek out in the Austrian top flight. Rose can also count on his interesting Zambian pair of youngsters, midfielder Enock Mwepu and his Chingola born compatriot Patson Daka the revelation in the round of 32.
Malian midfielder Diadie Sammasekou brought in from Liefering in the Austrian second tier in 2015 is another low profile player who can do a specific job assigned to him.
Valencia CF-FC Krasnodar
Former Lens, Monaco and Inter Milan midfielder Geoffrey Kondogbia is a key player for Marcelino Garcia Torral’s Valencia which welcomes FC Krasnodar at the famous 55000 capacity Estadio de Mestalla. The 26 years old Central African Republic midfielder will have an epic battle in the midfield against experienced Burkinabe midfielder Charles Kaboré who plays for their Russian visitors.
Of the eight games in the competition tomorrow, only the game between Chelsea and Dynamo Kyiv will be played without any Africans likely to be present.
Cameroon with nine players and Senegal with five are the most represented African countries at this stage of the competition.
As always kick442.com will be there to give you all the updates.