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Sports Features of Tuesday, 20 November 2018

Source: Elliot Ramsden

Asamoah v Partey: Who can go further in the Champions League?

Partey has been a standout performer for Atletico this season

With the Ghanaian international players negotiating a showdown against Ethiopia in the AFCON qualifiers, and a vital round of UEFA Champions League fixtures following closely for some, November 2018 will be remembered as heaven or hell for the Ghana national team.

So far, Ghana’s attempt to qualify for the 2019 AFCON tournament has been a laboured one, but this has clearly not translated to club form.

Two regulars of the international side are in good form, and these are the key stats surrounding their remaining Champions League matches.

Kwadwo Asamoah (Internazionale)

With the arrival of Kwadwo Asamoah this summer, the ‘Nerazzuri’ have looked like a solid unit in this season’s Champions League campaign. Deemed surplus to requirements at Juventus, despite being an engine in one of Europe’s most feared club-level midfields, Asamoah has found a home with a one-time equal of his former club.

For Inter, a draw against Tottenham on Champions League matchday five would be enough to seal progress in the tournament. However, even a one-goal defeat would not be disastrous – provided that Inter Milan score within it – as the 2010 treble winners host weak-link PSV on the final matchday, while Tottenham travel to expected group winners Barcelona. Current projections show that Asamoah will be sufficiently fit to start the match against Tottenham, and as can be seen in the graphic below, his input could be potentially vital:

While he is by no means a popular pick to get on any scoresheet, his recent experience of facing Tottenham will be an asset nonetheless. Earlier this year – as a Juventus player – Asamoah (as recorded by Transfermarkt ) played just 32 of a possible 120 minutes against Tottenham in the Champions League round of 16. Though it was less time than the defensive midfielder would have liked, he knows better than anyone in the Inter squad how Mauricio Pochettino’s men tick.

Thomas Partey (Atletico Madrid)

Group A of the Champions League is, as expected, now a two-way battle between Borussia Dortmund and Atletico Madrid. This is reflected by current group winner odds on Betway which (as of 15 November 2018) have both clubs as ‘odds-on’ to win Group A. Already-eliminated Monaco represent Partey’s next opposition in the Champions League. Since Monaco’s 4-0 defeat to Club Brugge on matchday four (as reflected upon by the Monegasques only have pride to play for. As such, Partey has full licence to work further on his ability to fire in powerful shots from deeper areas.

In timely fashion, Partey went into the November 2018 international break immediately after scoring only his second goal of the season, in a 3-2 victory over Bilbao back on 10 November. Having also scored in successive friendly matches for Ghana this summer, Partey has shown a willingness to act as a box-to-box threat when needed, which could really throw Monaco off the scent of a shock result on Champions League group matchday five:

Rounding off the group stage against Club Brugge should be a similarly easy affair for Partey and his Atletico teammates, with the Belgian club likely to be eliminated from the Champions League by matchday six. In terms of winning the group, however, there is nothing that Partey or any of his club-level teammates can do, except win both of their remaining matches and hope that Dortmund slip up.

The verdict

If current bookmaker odds for the group winners are honoured, then both of Asamoah and Partey’s respective clubs are set to finish as runners-up in their groups:

Ultimately, this makes it difficult to decide which of them can go further, but the fact that Inter would avoid outright second-favourites Barcelona in the last 16 gives Asamoah something of an edge in the race to determine the best Ghanaian of this season’s Champions League. That noted, experience of being in a European competition-winning squad is a power in itself.

Tantalisingly from a Ghanaian perspective, Partey and Asamoah could still meet as early as the round of 16 if their clubs respectively finish 1st and 2nd (or vice versa) in their own groups. The two have never clashed in a UEFA competition, but with this could-be rivalry potentially able to motivate them both, the midfield of the Ghana international squad could once more become as combative as it was in the famous World Cup of 2006.

Atletico and Inter clash during the pre-season International Champions Cup of 2018. A rematch in the Champions League could pit together two vital components of the Ghanaian national team. [Source: Youtube]