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Despite big-name recalls, Partey remains Ghana's key man

The build-up to Ghana's Africa Cup of Nations qualifier against Ethiopia has been less than ideal for coach Kwesi Appiah.

Kwadwo Asamoah, one of the Black Stars' most impressive players in Europe this season, has withdrawn following a knee injury.

However, the circumstances of his absence prompted assistant coach Maxwell Konadu to deny suggestions that the Internazionale man had pulled out due to a rift with the Ayew brothers, thereby giving oxygen to the rumours.

Appiah will be hoping the focus shifts back to football as quickly as possible, and in Thomas Partey, he has just the man to unite the side and secure Ghana reach their eighth consecutive AFCON finals.

While the returning Ayew brothers and captain Asamoah Gyan - who has made the squad despite his lack of minutes in the Super Lig - are attracting the headlines, Partey is the most likely to be the match-winner.

He's certainly in fine form, having scored one and contributed another assist as Atletico Madrid beat Athletic Bilbao 3-2 in La Liga at the weekend.

That performance came on the back of a fine showing against Borussia Dortmund, in which he set up another goal in a 2-0 home victory.

For Ghana, he has fast become indispensable, having scored seven goals in his last seven matches for the Black Stars. This season, his two league goals is a greater return than the four strikers Ghana are taking to Ethiopia combined.

Despite nominally being a defensive midfielder, Partey is arguably the Stars' chief attacking threat.

"He can [anchor] a team well and, of late, his scoring ability is fantastic," Appiah told KweseESPN in November 2017. "For me, he is an all-round player.

"He leads simply by what he does."

Only time will tell whether Appiah's decision to turn back to some of the nation's more established - but underperforming - players is a wise move.

Either way, it looks likely that Partey represents Ghana's best hope of keeping their run of consecutive AFCON appearances alive.

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