Ivory Coast’s ‘golden generation’ will be seeking a last hurrah at the World Cup in Brazil when they take on old rivals Senegal in a game shown live on BT Sport and with Didier Drogba expected to start up-front Sabri Lamouchi’s side are warm favourites at 21/50 to take a first leg lead in this final round qualifier.
Chelsea’s Demba Ba is out-of-favour with Elephants boss Alain Giresse, but Newcastle’s Papiss Cisse is expected to start up front for Senegal, who are 27/4 to take control of the tie with a win and the draw is 31/10.
There is a distinctly Premier League feel to the match at the Felix Houphouet Boigny Stadium, with eight players likely to feature who currently or have in the past plied their trade in the English top flight and recent meetings between these teams suggest a high-scoring encounter is in the offing.
Ivory Coast put six goals past Senegal in two games last year.
Drogba’s former Chelsea teammate Salomon Kalou and ex-Arsenal winger Gervinho joined their captain on the scoresheet the last time Senegal visited and Max Gradel – once of Leeds and Bournemouth – rounded off the scoring in a 4-2 win.
All four are set to start this game, making the 12/5 about there being over 3.5 goals in the match an enticing bet.
Man City goal-machine Yaya Toure will support Drogba from midfield.
The 6ft 2in former Barcelona star’s presence in the starting line-up improves his country’s chances of racking up their strike tally greatly as the midfielder has plundered six goals already this term in all competitions for City.
Toure also makes things happen for the players around him and has laid-on nine chances in the top flight so far this season, with one of them converted into a goal.
African Group J winners Senegal have looked vulnerable in defence at times this year.
Despite topping a group that contained Uganda, Angola and Liberia the Elephants have been unimpressive in qualifying so far and only booked their place with a 1-0 home win against Uganda in the last round of fixtures.
Their defensive frailties were laid bare in their 4-0 home loss against Libya in March and with striker Cisse out of form for the Magpies this season, Drogba and co can make their superiority count by making the second leg academic with a convincing win in Abidjan.