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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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Kenya’s Peres Jepchirchir fulfils promise of breaking world record at London Marathon

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Kenyan Olympic champion, Peres Jepchirchir, on Sunday, lived up to her promise of breaking compatriot Mary Keitany’s women’s-only world record to win the London Marathon.

Athletics World reports that Jepchirchir ran a tactical race, showed great composure, and had a good final kick to shake off her competitors to claim victory in a new women’s-only record of 2:16:16, breaking Keitany’s mark of 2:17:01 set in 2017.

“In what was a fast race, all the top four women ran faster than Keitany’s record with world record holder Tigst Asefa of Ethiopia clocking 2:16:23 for second place after pipping Kenya’s Joyiciline Jepkosgei who managed 2:16:24 to complete the podium,” WA said in a report after the race.

“The favourites for the race were clear past the halfway mark of the race with Assefa, Jepchirchir, Jepkosgei and Magertu Alemu running close to each other.

Jepchirchir and Assefa would exchange leads periodically as the other two stayed close until the final stretch.

“Jepkosgei then surged ahead in the final five minutes, remaining with Keitany’s women’s-only world record win sight.

“Jepchirchir then waited until the final metres before storming to the finish line, leaving her rivals trailing, after showing great pace and power to win in a new mark.

“With the strong field, Jepchirchir had predicted a new world record on Thursday and the race delivered just that.

“The Olympic champion can now look forward to defending her title in Paris as she set to join Boston Marathon champion Hellen Obiri in Kenya’s final three although Athletics Kenya will have a hard time selecting the third athlete to join them.”

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Nigerian Chess master Tunde Onakoya sets 58-hour new chess-a-thon record, pushes for 60 hours

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Nigerian chess master, Tunde Onakoya, on Saturday, achieved his dream of setting a new Guinness World Record for the longest chess marathon after clocking the 58 hours target he set out to achieve.

Onakoya achieved the feat when he broke the record set in 2018 by Norwegian chess masters, Hallvard Haug Flatebø and Sjur Ferkingstad, who played for 56 hours, 9 minutes.

After reaching the 58-hour mark, Onakoya announced that he was pushing to get to 60 hours.

Onakoya is also using the chess-a-thon challenge which is taking place at New York City’s iconic Times Square to raise $1 million for his charity, “Gift of Chess and Chess in Slums Africa,” an organisation he has used to uplift children from impoverished backgrounds in Africa.

The new GWR holder confirmed the great feat in a post on his official X account where he wrote:

“We have done it. We’re pushing to 60 hours guys. We’re not stopping yet. Let’s keep going.

“We have a fundraising goal to meet for the education of African children around the world. This is our why – the reason we are doing this.

“Let’s demonstrate to the world the incredible power of love. Together, we can make this happen”.

A statement by his foundation, “Chess in Slums Africa”, said Onakoya would be joined by his US counterpart, Shawn Martinez.

“This record attempt requires a team of two players. Tunde Onakoya (NG) will be facing off against Shawn Martinez (US) for the challenge. Both players hold the title of National Masters.

“Shawn Martinez, a US National Master, renowned New York City chess legend, and chess coach, poses as a formidable adversary. Both Tunde Onakoya and Shawn Martinez will hold the record title.

“This record is for the longest time to continuously play chess. This record is to be mentioned in hours, minutes, and seconds. This record is to be attempted by a team of two players,” the statement added.

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