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Africa to the World: Stars to watch this weekend in Europe’s top leagues

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The stage is once again set this weekend for African soccer stars to strut their talents for their various European teams.

The past weekend was a mixed bag of some sort for them but with many of the players living up to expectation, better things should come from the continent’s stars expected to feature for their respective clubs.

In a rare start for Arsenal after almost four months, Egypt midfielder Mohamed Elneny gave a decent account of himself in Arsenal’s 4-2 thrashing of Chelsea at the Stamford Bridge on Wednesday and is in line for another shift as the Gunners welcome Manchester United to the Emirates Stadium on Saturday lunchtime showpiece.

In the French Ligue 1, Achraf Hakimi and Idrissa Gueye are poised to claim the French top-flight title by picking up just a point this weekend when they square up against Lens.

Let’s have a roundup of what to expect from African stars this weekend.

Mohamed Elneny – Arsenal

Playing in only his first start since December, Elneny had a decent showing in Arsenal’s 4-2 success at Chelsea, as he helped shore up Arsenal’s midfield in the absence of fellow African, Ghanaian Thomas Partey who is out injured.

Elneny’s previous start came in the 3-2 loss at Manchester United and he could be set to make another start against the same opponents at the Emirates Stadium this weekend.

With a top-four spot still up for grabs, the Gunners know the importance of successive victories against sides they are potentially doing battle with for those positions and Mikel Arteta’s side are fired up to pick all three points to move clear of their opponents.

Achraf Hakimi, Idrissa Gueye – Paris Saint-Germain

Achraf Hakimi and Idrissa Gueye both featured for Paris Saint-Germain in Wednesday’s 3-0 success over Angers which puts them on the verge of reclaiming the Ligue 1 title with just a point against Lens this weekend.

Hakimi set up Kylian Mbappe’s 28th-minute strike and the dependable defender is expected to start against Lens.

Gueye was a second-half substitute at Stade Raymond Kopa but the battling midfielder could start his 18th league game as PSG look for the point that will guarantee them the title.

Ismaila Sarr, Emmanuel Dennis -Watford

Second from bottom Watford have lost four of their last five in the Premier League and they face a daunting trip to league leaders Manchester City looking to pull off one of the season’s shock results, with Sarr and Dennis expected to start.

Sarr missed the reverse fixture at Vicarage Road but should be in line to feature at the Etihad Stadium as the Citizens aim for three points to end the gameweek atop the standings.

Dennis ended his goal drought in last week’s 2-1 defeat by Brentford and he looks to score in back to back games against Manchester City.

Alex Iwobi – Everton

The Super Eagle midfielder completed five Premier League games in succession under Frank Lampard last weekend and is expected to continue in midfield when Everton travel to Liverpool for the 240th Merseyside Derby, hoping to avoid their rivals doing the double over them.

Following Burnley’s win over Southampton on Thursday, Lampard’s men are a point ahead of the Clarets and could drop into the bottom three this weekend if they lose at Anfield and the 18th-placed outfit win defeat Wolverhampton Wanderers.

Taiwo Awoniyi – Union Berlin

Awoniyi scored his 13th Bundesliga goal last weekend and is now Union Berlin’s record scorer in the top flight.

With eight game-opening goals, the striker sits joint-top alongside Anthony Modeste and Robert Lewandowski.

Union Berlin travel to in-form RB Leipzig looking to end the nine-match unbeaten run of the Saxony outfit and if Awoniyi comes to the party, they could come out with at least a point.

The Berlin outfit have won the last three in the Bundesliga and could make it four on the trot against the Europa League semi-finalists.

Yoane Wissa – Brentford

Wissa has started Brentford’s last two league games since scoring at Chelsea and the forward could be in the starting line up for a third match running when the Bees host top four hopefuls, Tottenham Hotspur.

It could be the attacker’s 10th start for Thomas Frank this season and he would take his tally for the season to six with his next strike.

Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah – Liverpool

The 240th meeting between Liverpool and Everton takes place at Anfield this weekend with the Reds resounding favourites to secure maximum points.

Salah halted his three-game run without a league goal by putting two past Manchester United and while Mane also helped himself with a goal and a sublime assist for one of Salah’s two goals in the 4-0 routing of their opponents.

The pair are likely to feature when they take on the Toffees with the added incentive of securing a first double over their eternal rivals since the 2016/17 season.

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Female Kenyan world marathon champion banned for five years over doping

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A female Kenyan marathon world champion, Betty Wilson Lempus, has been handed a five year ban after she was found to have violated the World Athletics anti-doping rules on two occasions.

Lempus, 31, who came to international limelight after she smashed the Paris Women’s ’s half-marathon record in 2021, was initially placed under observation after she tested positive for the banned metabolite, Triamcinolone Acetonide.

She was to later falsify medical documents to explain the presence of the metabolite in her system, the Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU), said in a report.

As a result, she has been disqualified from the Paris half-marathon and all races since the discovery, the AIU said.

Lempus’ punishment covers two years for the doping violation and four for the attempt to cover it up, but a year was subtracted from the ban owing to her admitting to both offenses.

The AIU, in its report, said Lempus had claimed that she had been injected with Triamcinolone Acetonide at a Kenyan hospital 16 days before the Paris race.

“But in June 2022, the Medical Superintendent from the hospital in question stated that though Lempus had been present that day, she had not received an intramuscular injection of Triamcinolone Acetonide at the hospital on this date,” the anti-doping body said.

“The official also cited other discrepancies, including false hospital documents, including address and phone number, and that the doctor, whom Lempus claimed attended to her, is not employed at the hospital.

“Confronted by the AIU with this evidence in October 2022, Lempus admitted to Tampering.”

“We are pleased to conclude this case, especially because this athlete almost got away with her attempt to dupe the authorities and to cheat other runners out of their rightful rewards,” said AIU Head Brett Clothier.

“This is the right and fair outcome, and it’s a signal to all that the AIU takes its mission extremely seriously and will pursue every angle in seeking to reach the truth,” he added.

The anti-doping agency of Kenya which worked alongside the AIU to conclude the case, said it was happy with the outcome about battles to stamp out doping in the eastern African country’s athletics.

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Wigan Athletic sack Ivorian coach, Kolo Toure, two months after appointment

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Former Ivory Coast defender turned coach, Kolo Toure, has been sacked by Wigan Athletic football club two months after his appointment after he failed to win any of his nine games in charge.

The former Arsenal and Manchester City defender made history as the first black manager to be appointed by the club after the sacking of previous manager, Leam Richardson, in November 2022.

However, his appointment did not change the fortunes of the club as he was only able to garner just two points from his seven Championship matches, with the club bottom of the Sky Bet Championship on 25 points, table, just four points from relegation.

Kolo Toure was signed by Wigan on a three-and-a-half-year deal in late November, but a run of nine games without a victory in all competitions has brought an abrupt end to his spell as manager at the DW Stadium – after just 59 days.

The Wigan board, in a statement on Friday by chief executive, Malachy Brannigan, said:

“Firstly, I’d like to thank Kolo, along with Kevin and Ash, for their efforts during their time at the football club.

“Unfortunately, the results on the field have not been as we would have liked and as tough a decision as this was, the board felt it necessary to give us the best possible chance of remaining a Championship club next season.

“We know that this time of year is a key period for any football club, ourselves included.

“Therefore, we will now work swiftly and effectively to ensure the right person is appointed as the next permanent manager of Wigan Athletic, with the immediate objective of remaining in the second tier for next season.”

The 41-year-old Ivorian, had worked as first-team coach at Leicester since February 2019, but his first move into management has not proven to be a success.

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