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Tanzanian star Samatta has sights set on Liverpool as Salah fights for fitness


Genk (Belgium) (AFP) – While Liverpool hope to have Mohamed Salah back alongside Sadio Mane in attack in time for Wednesday’s Champions League meeting with Genk in Belgium, their opponents have their own African forward who is a superstar in his home country.

Mbwana Ally Samatta’s 23 league goals last season helped fire the unfashionable club from an old mining hub in the Dutch-speaking north of Belgium to the league title and a return to Europe’s leading club competition.

The 26-year-old then became the first Tanzanian to play in the Champions League and marked the occasion by scoring on an otherwise miserable night for Genk as they lost 6-2 in Salzburg in their Group E opener.

Since then they have held Napoli to a 0-0 draw at home, a result which gives an unfancied side hope they can spring a surprise against the reigning European champions.

“Some people thought it might be very difficult for us against Napoli but we could have won that game so we will see. We will give everything at home,” said Genk coach Felice Mazzu at the weekend.

Just as Genk have brought through and sold on the likes of Thibaut Courtois, Kevin De Bruyne, Kalidou Koulibaly, Christian Benteke and Wilfred Ndidi in recent years — Divock Origi also spent time here as a youngster — so key members of last season’s title-winning side were allowed to leave.

However, Samatta stayed despite interest from around Europe, including a reported 10 million-euro ($11.2m) offer from Dynamo Moscow.

“He is a complete forward, good with both feet, technical, skilful,” said Mazzu in an interview with French magazine So Foot.

– In footsteps of Lukaku, Kompany –

The former Simba and TP Mazembe star took the Ebony Shoe prize for the best player of African origin in Belgium last season, succeeding the likes of Romelu Lukaku, Vincent Kompany and Marouane Fellaini. He described winning the league as “maybe the best night of my life so far”.

Since then, though, the player nicknamed “Samagoal” featured, and scored once, for Tanzania at the Africa Cup of Nations in Egypt, a campaign that ended with a group-stage elimination for the Taifa Stars.

As well as that one strike in the Champions League, Samatta has five league goals this season, albeit none since late August.

He will hope to start afresh, then, on his return after using the recent international break to get married, an event documented on his Instagram account which has 1.2 million followers.

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