Ahead of the Super Clash on Sunday, the Joy Sports team continues the build up. Three days to go now. Kweku Arhin and Gary Al-Smith highlight the four players, from each side, to watch.
Robin Gnagne (Hearts)
The Ivorian international has been the mainstay of the Phobian team despite their turbulent season. The captain has grown into his role as the undisputed leader of the team with some stellar performances all-season long.
Robin has consistently featured in the Hearts backline which has seen Vincent Atinga, Philip Boampong and Musah Inusah alternate as his partners. His main attributes? Strength, clean tackling and the occasional headed goal. All these will come in handy when he comes face to face with Kotoko's Ahmed Toure, another Ivorian.
Despite his defensive duties, Gnagne’s offensive contribution cannot be ignored.
The captain is a proven penalty kick expert, having last coolly converted for the Phobians in their draw against Ashantigold. The defender is a typical ball-playing guy who comfortably steers the ball out.
He's also usually an initiator of attacks for the Phobians. Gnagne's style is reminiscent of Hearts legend Dan Quaye and it seems we weren't the only ones who noticed.
Former club chairman Harry Zakkour rewarded the Ivorian's consistency with a plasma television a fortnight ago.
Emmanuel Hayford (Hearts)
The former Amidaus playmaker is one of the most gifted midfielders in the league. But his two seasons with the Phobians have been start-stop due to several injuries.
On his day, Hayford can run a team ragged from his roaming playmaker position where he combines a wide of range of passing with dribbling ability. His biggest asset, however, is his shooting ability.
Hayford can strike the ball from a distance and this is a weapon Hearts will look to utilize in Sundays’s game. The matchday 25 game will be the first league Super Clash for Hayford in Accra after missing the previous two due to injury.
Hearts will need a spark and there are few to do so than this man. A battle to savour will be with Kotoko’s anchorman Jackson Owusu. It may well decide the winner.
Foovi Aguidi (Hearts)
The Togolese international has gradually warmed himself into Ghanaian football after a slow start for the Phobians.
The former FC Santos striker has bagged four goals in nine second round matches and has picked up scoring duties from where his teammate, Gilbert Fiamenyo, seemed to have left off in March.
Aguidi’s ability to hold on to the ball and take pressure off his team is an attribute which will come in handy on Sunday. He will surely give the Kotoko backline no respite and his battle with Abeiku Ainooson will be one worth keeping an eye on.
Aguidi’s ability to also bring others into play adds another dimension to his game and and he was at his scintillating against Heart of Lions, providing an assist for Selasie Adjei’s goal in their 4-0 demolition. He drops deep to pick up balls in the hole and he's also decent with his back to goal.
The 23-year old is blessed with power and physique and every ball in his territory will surely be contested for.
Eric Kumi (Hearts)
The attacking midfielder/ striker has alternated between playing on the wings, up top or playing behind the striker.
Kumi’s ability to run at defenders and cause havoc is a factor which could surely unsettle the Kotoko backline. This will be Kumi’s second league Super Clash in Accra.
But this time, he'll be pushing for a starting berth after coming off the bench last season. He replaced the injured Selasie Adjei in that game and run at the defence on countless occasions despite Hearts going down.
The impressive Kumi (above, right is suited to playing out wide where he can capitalize on the space afforded him. He is likely to come against Eric Donkor and Amos Frimpong on this flank.
Another plus is his defensive contribution, which has been a major boost to Hearts all season. He tracks back to help the defensive shape as well making vital interceptions.
Ahmed Toure (Kotoko)
It will be unpardonable not to mention Ahmed Toure as a key man to watch on Sunday.
The Ivorian star flirted with the Phobians in preseason before signing for Kotoko and this will surely spice up the game. Toure loves to play against Hearts and on his last league visit to Accra, he found the net.
The striker, with 10 goals this season, is a handful for every defender on any day as he works tirelessly and keeps them on their toes. His touch is fantastic, awareness spot on and composure can be out of this world.
Toure began his second spell with Kotoko on a dull note but has picked up in recent weeks, scoring vital goals to pick priceless points for the Porcupine Warriors.
He is currently the leading scorer of the club with ten goals but his worth to the Reds is much more. Toure has been down with a bout of malaria but reports suggest he will be fit to make the clash and his presence can only add to the quality on the field.
Dauda Mohammed (Kotoko)
The teenager began the season acting in the role of an impact player off the bench. This was partly because experienced strikers Obed Owusu and Ahmed Toure were ahead of him in the pecking order. In that role, he performed admirably coming off the bench to score twice in his first four matches.
In recent weeks, Dauda has stepped up the plate holding a regular role in the team now.
The former Gold Stars player is currently the club’s second highest goal scorer, with four, and this is testament to his focus. Dauda’s grit and perseverance makes him a tough customer to mark and his willingness to chase down every ball adds a key dimension to his game. Dauda will run at the Phobian defence all day Sunday if picked.
Amos Frimpong (Kotoko)
The Kotoko captain is the most versatile defender in the Kotoko setup. The former B.A United man was signed on as a right-back four seasons ago but has matured into the complete package in that time.
The three time league champion can now play anywhere across the back line but is expected to feature on the left on Sunday as Abeiku Ainooson and Ahmed Adams continue start at center back pairing. Frimpomg will add much solidity to the defence where he can act as a third center back if need be. His strength has been tackling over the season with last minute tackles and interventions. His inclusion will surely afford Eric Donkor the opportunity to run riot on the left wing.
Eric Donkor (Kotoko)
He's been a surprise package for the Porcupine Warriors this season.
The defender was re-deployed in a left wing position against AshantiGold in the F.A Cup quarterfinal and there has been no turning back. His impressive season has seen him contribute eight assists and no one can bet against him reaching double figures.
The youngster is a set piece expert and it will come as no surprise if his free kicks and corners make a difference.
Donkor has a sweet left foot and his deliveries from open play can also create chances for his side. He has speed and will definitely act as an additional cover down the left flank to curb the Phobian attack down the left.
Also of note
These eight players notwithstanding, others on both sides can make the difference in Sunday’s game although they were not mentioned. Youngster Emmanuel Sarbah Laryea will complement Emmanuel Hayford’s work in midfield while Thomas Abbey will provide width down the left for Hearts.
For Kotoko, Abeiku Ainooson and Ahmed Adams will provide steel in defence with Jackson Owusu, Michael Akuffo and Kojo Poku fuelling the engine room for the Porcupines.
All these players are capable of providing the needed spark to decide Sunday’s game.
Look out more #JoySports team buildup to Sunday's big game. Analysis, news, and features on radio, TV, and online. Follow Kweku on Twitter: @nana_odum and Gary @garyalsmith.
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