Match Preview: Sierra Leone vs. Ivory Coast
Four points behind the group leaders and already having played their direct rivals for qualification twice, Ivory Coast find themselves in a predicament.
They face whipping boys Sierra Leone “away” in Abidjan on Friday, and know that any less than a win leaves them in a precarious position.
Most concerning for coach Herve Renard is the state of his defence. The pairing of Franck Kessie and Ousmane Viera suffered greatly at the hands of DR Congo in the last round of matches, as the Elephants crumbled 4-3 at home.
The Frenchman has been forced to recall veterans Kolo Toure and Didier Zokora (out of retirement) to plug the holes in his Swiss-cheese backline. While the latter has declined, it is expected that the return of the former will bring some fortitude to a defence that has shipped ten goals in four games.
There are also problems in forward areas: CSKA Moscow hitman Seydou Doumbia is injured, while Wilfried Bony is suspended, so it is very likely that Salomon Kalou will lead the line. Blessed with great pace and agility he is, clinical he is not.
The Leone Stars are out of the running altogether, but will take heart from their spirited displays against Cameroon last month, which saw them earn a point.
There is little to suggest the possibility of an upset though, and having fallen behind DR Congo on goals scored in matches between both teams, Ivory Coast will be hoping Cameroon beat the Leopards in Yaounde on Saturday.
Kick-off is at 1600 CET.