With the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers commencing this week, Ghana and Madagascar will lock horns at the Cape Coast Sports Stadium on Wednesday night.

Kick-off for the game is scheduled for 19:00 GMT.

Ghana, Madagascar, Angola and Central African Republic make up Group E, who will all feature this week. Angola will host Central African Republic at the Estadio 11 de November on Wednesday evening.

The Black Stars last featured in March, after qualifying for the 2022 Fifa World Cup. Ghana faced Nigeria in a third-round fixture, winning on the away goals rule and subsequently booked their place in the tournament that will be held in Qatar later this year.

Ghana are without a win in 2022, having played six games since January 5, when they began their year with a loss against Algeria. The African giants also lost to Morocco and Comoros, while recording stalemates against Gabon and Nigeria.

Also, Ghana will miss Arsenal star Thomas Partey owing to injury while Alfred Duncan announced his retirement from international football. The Ghana Football Association (GA) also confirmed that Joseph Aidoo has been ruled out for the qualifier.

“Defender Joseph Aidoo has been ruled out of the Africa Cup of Nations Ivory Coast 2023 qualifier between Ghana and Madagascar after picking up an injury during training,” the GFA said in a statement.

“The Celta Vigo man twisted his right ankle during training and has been ruled out of the game on Wednesday.

“Aidoo, who missed Monday’s training, is currently being observed by the medical team as the undergoes a thorough rehabilitation process to fully recover.”

As for the visitors, Madagascar will play their first fixtures of the year, having played in 2022 Fifa World Cup qualifiers up until November 2021.

Madagascar was set to square off against Afghanistan in March, however, the international friendly was called off due to Covid-19 infections among the players of the Madagascar camp.

In their last five fixtures, Madagascar recorded just one win, which came against Congo in a Fifa World Cup qualifier, while suffering three losses and a draw along the way.

Madagascar will also be without former captain Abel Anicet, who recently retired from international football. As reported by the Madagascar tribune, the 32-year-old announced his retirement from the national team ahead of the tie against Ghana.

“For the good of everyone, for the good of my family especially my loved ones, I have decided to put an end to my participation in the national team,” Anicet said as per the Madagascar Tribune.

“Of course, we naturally prepare for everything. Although we are professional footballers, at some point, things do not go as we want and I have to make this decision.”

Ahead of the fixture, Madagascar coach Nicolas Dupuis mentioned that he expects his side, along with his opponents, to make it out of Group E.

“Ghana are favourite in this group and a difficult team to beat,” Dupuis told Original 91.9 FM.

“We can win against Angola and Central Africa Republic, I tip Ghana and Madagascar to qualify in this group.”

The Black Stars will be boosted by the acquisition of Bristol City forward, Antoine Semenyo, who will be looking to make his debut on Wednesday.

GHANA: PLAYERS TO WATCH

Jordan Ayew: The Crystal Palace attacker has been a crucial component in attack for Ghana throughout his career, especially during Afcon qualifiers. In 22 qualifier appearances, Ayew scored seven goals, while turning creator on four occasions.

Daniel Amartey: With Partey out of action, Amartey will be without the Arsenal star’s usual screening in the middle of the park. The Leicester City defender is known for his versatility and could be an option in the defensive midfield position.

MADAGASCAR: PLAYERS TO WATCH

Hakim Abdallah: The striker is Madagascar’s most recent scorer, after getting his name on the scoresheet in their 1-1 draw against Tanzania in November. Abdallah also scored seven goals, while recording two assists in 28 appearances for KSK Lierse Kempenzonen in the 1B Pro League this season.

Njiva Rakotoharimalala: Much like that of Abdallah, Rakotoharimalala has been a shining light for his national side in their most recent encounters. The goal-scoring winger was on target in their 1-0 victory against Congo in October last year.

In the head-to-head battle, Ghana and Madagascar have faced each other once before the set of Afcon qualifiers were announced, as the visiting team came out on top in a 2-1 win over the Black Stars in an international friendly.