Edouard Mendy and Baba Rahman are Chelsea’s representatives at the Africa Cup of Nations, which starts today in Cameroon, and here we have everything you need to know about the tournament and our players’ involvement.
AFCON 2021 was put back a year because of the pandemic. It will now take place over four weeks in five different cities in Cameroon, with the final scheduled for Sunday 6 February. Stadiums can be at 80 per cent capacity for the hosts’ fixtures, and 60 per cent for the rest.
Africa Cup of Nations format
For the second straight Africa Cup of Nations 24 teams will be participating, split into six groups of four teams. The top two teams from each group and the four highest-ranked third place teams advance to the last 16.
Both Comoros and Gambia are participating at an AFCON for the very first time.
What about Mendy and Senegal?
Senegal start the tournament as many pundits, and the bookmakers’, favourites to win it. As well as Mendy, capped 15 times by his country, their squad contains stars like Sadio Mane, Idrissa Gueye, Kalidou Koulibaly and Ismaila Sarr.
Unfortunately, reports are that Mendy, Koulibaly and a third player, Famara Diedhiou, have tested positive for Covid, which may disrupt their start to the tournament.
The Lions of Teranga have never lifted the trophy, finishing as runners-up in 2002 and 2019, the last edition hosted in Egypt. They are in Group B this time around, alongside Zimbabwe, Guinea and Malawi.
Their first game is against Zimbabwe tomorrow (Monday) at 1pm UK time. Senegal then play Guinea on Friday 14 January (also 1pm) and Malawi on Tuesday 18 January (5pm). All their group fixtures take place at the Kouekong Stadium in Bafoussam, in the west of the country.
Should Senegal win their group, they will face one of the best third-placed finishers on 25 January and try to make their way to the final in the top half of the draw, which could contain other strong contenders such as Nigeria, Egypt, Morocco or Ghana.
The quarter-finals are set for 29/30 January, the semis will be on 2 and 3 February, while the third place play-off and final in Cameroon's capital city of Yaounde will take place on Sunday 6 February.
What are Baba Rahman and Ghana’s prospects?
Baba Rahman, on loan at Reading this season, was a runner-up with Ghana at the 2015 AFCON. He made his return to the national team last year after serious injury and with 41 caps is one of the more experienced members of Milovan Rajevac’s squad.
The Black Stars are in a tough group with Morocco (tomorrow, 5pm), Gabon (Friday 5pm) and newbies Comoros (Tuesday 18 January, 8pm). The first two of those games are in Yaounde, with the third in Garoua in the north of the country.
Should Ghana top their group they will meet a third-placed side on 25 January, while a runner-up spot would likely see them take on Burkina Faso or Cape Verde two days earlier.
How to watch the Africa Cup of Nations
In the UK, Sky Sports will be showing every match live. The BBC will broadcast 10 games, including two quarter-finals, both semis and the final. beIN SPORT, Canal+ and SuperSport are among those offering coverage across Africa.