Thursday’s African star to watch: Aissa Mandi

Thursday’s African star to watch: Aissa Mandi
Aissa Mandi of Algeria during the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations Finals, Semifinals match between Algeria and Nigeria at Cairo International Stadium, Cairo, Egypt on 14 July 2019 ©Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix

by Graeme Jackson

Thursday Jun 11, 2020. 16:00

Algerian defender Aissa Mandi is set to play a key role when Spanish football returns this evening with its first match in more than three months.

Mandi will feature for Real Betis when they face Sevilla at the Estadio Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan for the Seville derby (Derbi Sevillano), also known as the Great Derby (El Gran Derbi).

This will not only be a cracker of a match, but signal the resumption of the current La Liga season, which was suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic back in March. Like all others in Spain and the rest of Europe going forward, the match will be played behind closed doors and with strict hygiene protocols in place.

The two teams are experiencing very different fortunes, as while Los Nervionenses are looking to secure a top-four finish and a place in the UEFA Champions League next season, Mandi’s Los Verdiblancos are trying to push themselves up to mid-table and remain clear of the relegation battle below them.

Mandi will be a key man for the visitors, with his defensive nous strongly present through the current season. He has made 22 appearances and averages 1.2 tackles per game, while his excellent passing completion rate (89.6 percent) demonstrates how important he is to building attacks from deep positions.

The French-born former Reims player will look to bring his international experience – which includes 55 caps for Algeria’s Fennec Foxes and the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations title – to bear as both Betis and Sevilla will be looking to find their feet after three months away from competitive action.

Mandi will also aim to use the remainder of the 2019-20 season as a chance to showcase his skills, with the 28-year-old being strongly linked with a move to Premier League clubs such as Newcastle United and Liverpool.

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