Ndiaye says fitness is key for Senegal's World Cup hopes

Papa Alioune Ndiaye
Senegal midfielder Papa Alioune Ndiaye (left) with Tunisia's Mohamed Amin Ben Amor at the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations

Stoke City's Senegalese midfielder Papa Alioune Ndiaye says it is vital his fellow international team-mates stay injury-free ahead of the World Cup.

Senegal have been drawn in Group H in Russia, alongside Poland, Columbia and Japan, and Ndiaye says the fitness of players will be key.

"We are not there yet, we have to focus on our clubs first but I hope no one gets injured so that we all go to represent our country and play our best," Ndiaye told BBC Sport.

Russia will mark Senegal's return to the World Cup for the first time since 2002.

At their last appearance, Senegal reached the quarter-finals beating France along the way, and Ndiaye admitted that the Senegalese players have started discussing Russia 2018.

"We are talking about it (World Cup) and it's a great opportunity for our generation to play at the World Cup.

"We just have to be focused. If you think too much about it then injury will happen. We just have to play our game not to think so much about getting injured.

"With the help of God everything will be ok," said the midfielder adding that being fit is "not only about the World Cup but as a professional you always have to look after yourself."

Also known as Badou Ndiaye, the 27-year-old joined Premier League side Stoke City in January from Turkish giants Galatasaray.

A graduate of Senegal's famous Diambars football academy, he has been capped eight times by the Teranga Lions and was part of their Nations Cup squad in Gabon last year.

He has become a regular in a Senegal side that boasts other Premier League stars including his Stoke City team-mate Mame Biram Diouf, Liverpool's Sadio Mane, Everton's Idrissa Gana Gueye and West Ham and Senegal captain Cheikhou Kouyate.

Meanwhile, Ndiaye says he is settling in well at his new English club and hopes Stoke can survive relegation.

Stoke City lie second from bottom in the English Premier League with ten games to go.

"We have a quality team with good players and we are working hard in training.

"We just have to keep working like this to take more points and I am positive that we will be safe," said Ndiaye.

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