Preview: Senegal-Algeria

All four teams are in with a chance of progressing into the knockout phase heading into the final match but the coach is sure his side can see it through

Christian Gourcuff insists morale within Algeria’s squad is high ahead of their Africa Cup of Nations Group C decider with Senegal.

The two African heavyweights go head-to-head in Malabo on Tuesday, with all four teams in the pool still able to progress to the last eight.

After their opening-game win over South Africa, Algeria suffered a 1-0 defeat to Ghana and reports began to surface of altercations within the 23-man squad.

However, coach Gourcuff believes his players are fully focused on ensuring they do not fall at the group stages for a second successive tournament.

“It is certain that in a group, there is always something going on, but the relationships are excellent and there is a great atmosphere,” said the Frenchman.

“There is a lot of unity and solidarity and this is priceless. Now there are totally false things that are said here and there and I leave full responsibility to the reviewers.

“We will address this game against Senegal and we’ll do everything to win. We will have time to recover and prepare as it should be for this very important game.”

Algeria are looking to make the quarter-finals for the ninth time, and will be keen to ditch the tag of ‘nearly’ men, having lifted the title only once in 15 attempts.

Their chances have been blighted by an injury to star striker Islam Slimani. The Sporting forward suffered a muscle problem against South Africa and was only able to play 34 minutes last time out.

With Slimani’s fitness still in doubt, Gourcuff may opt to start Ishak Belfodil alongside Yacine Brahimi for a second game, although there may be a rare start for El Arbi Hillel Soudani.

Senegal currently sit top of the group with four points, but they know an early exit is still possible should they lose and Ghana beat South Africa.

Group C was highlighted as the toughest to escape from prior to the tournament, and with one game to go those predictions look accurate.

A point would be enough to guarantee a top-two finish for Alain Giresse’s side, but he knows Senegal must play to win to avoid becoming an early casualty.

“Nothing is settled,” he said. “The final day will be critical.

“That shows how difficult a group this is.”