3 Key Battles To Watch Out For As Hearts Travel To Kumasi As Guests Of Kotoko Featured
07 Sep

3 Key Battles To Watch Out For As Hearts Travel To Kumasi As Guests Of Kotoko

The big names such as Joseph Esso and Justice Blay may draw all of the attention in this weekend’s clash but there is an underlying crop talents coming through at both clubs.

As we witnessed last campaign, Kim Grant is comfortable with putting his faith in young Auroras products such as Manaf Umar and Michelle Sarpong and this can only be a good thing for the club which is known for producing exceptional talents.
Michelle Sarpong has taken his chance and finally found his role in the side as a right/left winger. He played enjoyed game time last term till before his injury. He looks replenished after his recovery and has been in fantastic form for the Phobians in preseason scoring and providing assists.
Manaf Umar is another young player who started every game so last season under Grant, in an attacking midfield role. With a few options in that spot, it is a testament to his ability that his manager has put faith in him and this can only be a good thing for his development. The same can be said of Larry Sumaila Ibrahim, the versatile player who now looks likely to be an impact player off the bench.
The Porcupine Warriors recorded a victory over their rivals in the semi-finals of the NC Special Competition and eventually won the competition last term. 
Though a friendly, both clubs would still go in with their best arsenals to ensure they emerge victors and own the bragging rights at least for a week.
So, Sunday’s clash in Kumasi has all the makings of a humdinger, with both sides desperate for a win
Here Kickgh.com looks at the 3 Key Battles that are likely to take place on Sunday afternoon at Baba Yara.
Joseph Esso v Habib Mohammed
A defender and a striker couldn’t be so far apart in terms of the way they are portrayed by football fans and the media.
Habib who joined the Porcupine Warriors last season from Ashantigold has been a revelation with his mature play and leadership quality at the heart of the Kotoko defence, but is expected to have a much tougher assignment on Sunday as he is likely to have to mark Joseph Esso, who has been the reason behind Grant and Hearts’ recent upsurge.
His work-rate and ability on the ball have never been in question but add to that regular goals, and you are dealing with one of the best in the business. 
Habib is known for switching off at times, so if Esso can improve his sharpness this weekend then he can certainly unlock the Kotoko defence, and it would be no surprise to see the former Dwarfs forward net a goal against their sworn rivals and win the day for Hearts and win the private battle against Habib.
Justice Blay v Benjamin Afutu
This fixture is certainly Afutu’s toughest, thus far. The former Karela midfielder was a standout performer last term and has since recorded consistent impressive performances for the club.
An energetic presence, the defensive midfielder shields the ball with aplomb and showcases a pleasing desire to carry the ball forward when he did win it back. Add that to a varied range of passing, and it’s easy to see Afutu developing into the complete midfield package but how will he fare against the resilient Justice Blay? 
Blay, a mainstay in the current Kotoko setup thanks to a spellbindly displays. It is just his first season with the club but it felt like he’s been around forever. Blay never stops. Game after game, "Mr. Reliable" never lets his manager down. He operates in an environment where his ball work is combined with grit. 
He is strong, quick, good in the air and is adept to using his body to shield the ball away from danger and his speed ensures he can make powerful recovery tackles when required and also a good passer of the ball. Well, the pair are set to do battle at the weekend, and many will fancy Blay to emerge victorious in their personal war.
Michelle Sarpong v Empem Dacosta/ Patrick Yeboah 
When Sarpong is focused and confident, there isn’t much out there to stop him. His performances are there for all to see. Not only does he score, but he provides a constant outlet between the lines for the Phobians, refusing to stand still and always playing with his head up. 
 Possessing searing pace, sublime dribbling abilities and strength, he’s is a hugely proposition for any defender to handle in a 1v1 situation.
 Indeed, being so adept in this regard has positive ramifications for his teammates too, for he regularly gets double or triple teamed, which importantly creates space for teammates to utilise. 
 His movement is another highlight of his, using this to surge in behind with superbly timed runs, find space or be instrumental in creating overloads.  He can operate on both the left and right flank and would thus be a threat to Kotoko’s lateral defence with Empem Dacosta on the right and Patrick Yeboah on the left.  Sarpong is a class act with the ball at his feet, and his showdown with Dacosta and Yeboah on the wings will be a fascinating one.
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