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AFCON: Mahrez key to saving Algeria's blushes

It has been a disastrous start to Algeria's Africa Cup of Nations title defence, with no goals and one point to their name after two outings.

The Desert Warriors' final Group E game comes on Thursday against group frontrunners Ivory Coast, and Algeria are in desperate need of their stars to step up to the plate.

An unimaginable start

Considered one of the favourites to win AFCON before a ball was kicked in Cameroon, the tournament could not have gone much worse for reigning champions Algeria.

The Greens were expected to breeze past Sierra Leone in their opening game but an inspired performance from keeper Mohamed Nbalie Kamara denied Algeria a winning start in a goalless draw in Douala.

Things were to go from bad to worse for manager Djamel Belmadi and his side as they then went on to suffer a 1-0 defeat to Equatorial Guinea, again at the Stade Omnisport de Douala.

Sat rock bottom of Group E with everything riding on their last game against Ivory Coast, things are looking pretty bleak for an Algeria side yet to find the back of the net at AFCON 2021.

Algeria are currently 13/10 to win, 23/10 to lose and 21/10 to draw against Ivory Coast on Thursday in Douala.

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Mahrez must lead from the front

As captain, and the most recognised player in this Algeria side, plenty of responsibility rests on the shoulders of Manchester City star Riyad Mahrez.

Enjoying a superb season in the Premier League with the runaway leaders City, much had been expected of Mahrez at this tournament.

However, the former Leicester City forward has so far been unable to deliver without the same standard of players around him that he’s used to at the Etihad Stadium.

A strong Mahrez performance would go a long way in Algeria's bid to overcome Ivory Coast but he can't do it alone.

Duo pushing for starts

It was surprising to see both Islam Slimani and Said Benrahma both named on the bench for the defeat at the hands of the Equantorial Guinea.

Slimani, who is Algeria's all-time leading goalscorer with 39, did come off the bench but it was too little too late for Belmadi's side.

The Greens need much more of a cutting edge and Slimani could provide that, as could West Ham United attacker Benrahma.

The Hammers star came off the bench against Sierra Leone in the goalless draw but played no minutes in the defeat to Equatorial Guinea.

Having seen both players impress in the Premier League, it seems like Mahrez and Benrahma would cause teams all sorts of problems at the AFCON.

Pressure is mounting on manager Belmadi to get his selection right against Ivory Coast to give Algeria any sort of hope of reaching the knockout stages.

The Algerians are still available at 9/1 to bounce back to win the tournament but first they have to get through all the challenges that Thursday will certainly bring them.

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