Ghana have been dealt a major blow ahead of their must-win match with Burkina Faso tonight, with the news that their influential midfielder Michael Essien will miss the rest of the African Cup of Nations. The Chelsea player was desperate to feature for the Black Stars, who need three points to avoid elimination from the tournament, after returning to action in last week's 3-1 defeat to the Ivory Coast following a month out with a hamstring problem.
However, Essien broke down in a routine training session on Sunday with a knock to his right knee, which has subsequently ruled him out of the tournament. The outcome of Group B, cut to three teams after the withdrawal of Togo, is still in the balance despite Ghana having no points going into their final group game. Their coach Milovan Rajevac will have Anthony Annan back after the midfielder recovered from a knock, but injuries have plagued the Black Stars right through the build-up to the tournament.
Key men John Pantsil, John Mensah and Stephen Appiah all withdrew from the squad prior to kick-off, while the Inter Milan midfielder Sulley Muntari was not considered due to discipline problems. Rajevac said: "Against Ivory Coast, their quality and experience was key to victory. We must do our best to prepare for the game and win it". Burkina Faso, on the other hand, have enjoyed a quiet build-up to the crunch game away from the spotlight. After a 0-0 draw with the Ivory Coast in their opening game more than a week ago, the Stallions have qualification within their grasp. A repeat result will see them through to the knock out stages. The coach Paul Duarte, who has the luxury of having a fully fit squad, is confident his side have the quality to progress to the next round.
"That goalless draw has allowed us to start thinking of qualifying for the last eight," he said. "Now we have to take on another World Cup qualifier in Ghana, but my team has the ability to put in a good performance." @Email:email@example.com Ghana v Burkina Faso, KO 8pm, Aljazeera Sport + 9