AS Kumasi Asante Kotoko brace up for a showdown with Algerian giants JS Kabylie on Saturday, questions are being asked whether skipper Emmanuel Osei Kuffour has lost his place in the first team.
The experienced forward has not seen playing time since he completed serving his two-match ban following a red card he received in Kotoko’s game against Al-Ittihad in Tripoli.
All manner of meanings are being read into his absence, and it remains to be seen whether coach Bashir Hayford will turn to his skipper as Kotoko move to lift themselves from the bottom placing of their group in the CAF Confederation Cup.
North African sides have become a monster for Asante Kotoko on their home grounds in the same way as Kotoko have proved remorseless against their opponents from the North in Kumasi. Therefore when they encounter Algerian giants, JS Kabylie, at the Baba Yara Stadium in a CAF Confederation group game, the Porcupine Warriors are expected to step up gear to maintain the status quo.
Even though all four teams in the group are tied up at three points, Asante Kotoko find themselves at the bottom of the ladder due to inferior goals, and they can only go all out for a good win to lift them from the bottom placing.
With all teams winning their home matches and losing away, it appears home teams will be out to gain the maximum points in the coming round of matches.
Significantly for Kotoko, they have not lost ambition, believing that they have a team whose ability to deliver is unquestionable.
While Kotoko will be moving to maintain their untainted home run, the Algerian side will be out seeking their first away win on Ghanaian soil.
Kotoko, who went through a terrible experience at the hands of El-Merrikh before winning 1-0 in Kumasi in the last group game, may have learnt their lessons very well and can hardly take things for granted as the competition progresses.
JS Kabylie are not new to Ghanaian soil. Five times they had done battles in Ghana against Kotoko, Hearts of Oak, and Ashanti Gold, securing only one draw against Ashanti Gold at Obuasi and losing the rest of the matches.
The visiting Algerian team cannot be taken lightly. They play the typical intricate passing deadly game when let loose.
They will be moving very hard to attempt at least a point in Kumasi to boost their campaign.
The intensity of the match will therefore be higher, but tactical discipline will be a deciding factor.
Supporters of the Ghanaian champions are thirsty for continental glory after 25 long years of drought, and the players who will line up for the showdown on Saturday have a duty to bring hope to the massive following of the club.
But the supporters' propensity to shout at the players when the going gets tough could be counter productive and should be discouraged. Kwabena Yaro has been a victim of the supporters' behaviour and it looks like the player's confidence is dwindling by the day.
With a wealth of talents to choose from, coach Bashir Hayford has the opportunity to pick a team that can scale the hurdle.
Once again all eyes will be on Eric Bekoe who remains the arrowhead of the team.
Goals are so crucial in this championship and Kotoko cannot afford to throw away begging chances as it happened in the game against El-Merrikh.
The recruitment of former Heart of Lions defender, Ofosu Appiah, has brought some steel into the Kotoko rear. He commands so much influence at the back where he plays in the middle.
However. some work needs to be done with the defence to prevent their opponents from getting any goals.