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

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It’s another weekend and another opportunity for African soccer stars to showcase their talents to the world as they take to the field for their various European clubsides.

In this edition of Africa to the World, we preview some continent star exports who are expected to feature for their respective clubs around Europe this weekend

In the English Premier League, Liverpool could go top of the league albeit for a few hours with their African contingent which include Mohammed Salah, Sadio Mane, Naby Keita and to some extent, Joel Matip, when they take on Newcastle on Saturday.

Hours later, Manchester City with Riyad Mahrez could take over the top spot when they battle Leeds United in the tea-time fixture.

In Turkey, forgotten Nigerian striker, Anthony Nwakaeme of Trabzonspor has been silently painting the league red with goals and this weekend, he will lead his table-topping side against Antalyaspor and a win will secure them the title as they have an 11 points lead over second place Fenerbahce.

In the Serie A, AC Milan duo of Ismael Bennacer and Franck Kessie will seek to hold on to top spot in the league when they host Fiorentina on Sunday afternoon.

Let’s go…

Anthony Nwakaeme: Trabzonspor

Trabzonspor have been without a Super Lig title in over a generation but that wait could come to an end this weekend when they tackle Antalyaspor with Nwakaeme hoping to fire Trabs to the title.

Nwakaeme missed last week’s 3-1 win over Adana Demirspor due to a slight knock but the attacker id in line to return for gameweek 35’s clash with Antalyaspor.

A staggering 11 points separate the table-topping Black Sea Storm from second-place Fenerbahce, and maximum points on Saturday will guarantee Trabzonspor their first league title since 1984.

Ismaila Sarr: Watford

Watford may be battling a lost caused to remain in the EPL as their diminishing battle for survival takes them to Burnley this weekend where a victory in this relegation six-pointer will see them cut the gap to six points.

Senegal wing wizard cum attacker, Sarr may have ended his two-month run without a goal contribution a fortnight back he has been unable to prevent a four-game losing run for the Hornets.

Another defeat against the Clarets will more or less seal the side’s fate for relegation, but they will have to end a 10-game losing run at Vicarage Road to boost their prospects of avoiding the drop.

Mohammed Salah, Sadio Mane, Naby Keita, Joel Matip: Liverpool

The quartet of Salah, Mane, Matip and Keita could all feature for Liverpool when they travel to in-form Newcastle United in Saturday’s early fixture and a win will take them to the top of the standing as the battle for the title heads to the wire.

Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah celebrates scoring his side’s first goal of the game with Sadio Mane during the UEFA Champions League, Quarter Final at the Etihad Stadium, Manchester. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Tuesday April 10, 2018. See PA story SOCCER Man City. Photo credit should read: Nick Potts/PA Wire

Success for the Reds at St James’ Park will end the Magpies’ six-game winning run on home turf and send them top of the standings before Riyad Mahrez and his Manchester City teammates play Leeds United in the tea-time fixture.

Riyad Mahrez: Man City

It remains to be seen if the Algerian will feature from the off at Elland Road following his midweek miss against Real Madrid in the UEFA Champions League that had Pep Guardiola almost jumping out of his skin.

But the wide attacker could play in some capacity as the Citizens aim to hold off their challengers atop the standings.

Mohamed Elneny: Arsenal

The importance of the Egyptian Elneny for Arsenal in their push for European football in the last fortnight will once again, be on display as he deputises for injured African compatriot Thomas Partey once again.

Unless something drastic happens, the for midfielder is likely to continue in Mikel Arteta’s 11 for the Gunners’ trip to West Ham United on Sunday, looking to hold on to fourth spot in the league.

David Moyes’ line-up at Chelsea suggested the Hammers are putting all their eggs in the Europa League basket, so rotation is expected at the London Stadium.

Success for Elneny and his colleagues will see the North Londoners end another week in the Champions League positions.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang: Barcelona

Aubameyang’s run of two goals in his last seven in all competitions has coincided with Barcelona’s underwhelming run under Xavi with three losses in their last four games threatening to undermine their recent improvement.

If the former Arsenal captain gets a goal this weekend when Barca takes on Mallorca in gameweek 34 , that would be his 10th goal in La Liga since joining in January.

Having won the last eight fixtures between the sides, Xavi will hope his team return to winning ways in front of their fans having lost to Rayo Vallecano last week.

Ismael Bennacer, Franck Kessie; AC Milan

Inter Milan’s 2-1 defeat by Bologna on Wednesday means AC Milan are slight favourites to win Serie A with four games remaining.

The pair of Bennacer and Kessie could feature for Stefano Pioli’s men when they host Fiorentina at San Siro looking to consolidate their place.

Vincenzo Italiano’s team may have defeated Napoli in early April, but two losses on the trot leave them just outside the European slots, making them underdogs for the trip to Milan.

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Simbine wades in on Omanyala, Tebogo “Africa Sprints King’ debate

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South African sprint sensation, Akani Simbine, has weighed in on the “African Sprint King” debate between Africa’s fastest man and Commonwealth Games champion, Ferdinand Omanyala of Kenya, and Letsile Tebogo of Botswana on who should rightfully hold the title.

Simbine who defeated Omanyala in the 100m at the Atlanta City Games on Sunday, shared his thoughts in an interview with Track and Field network on whom between him, Omanyala and Tebogo is the best sprinter in Africa.

Simbine who is regarded as one of Africa’s and world’s best sprinters in history, while reacting to Omanyala’s recent declaration of himself as the king of sprints on the continent pointing to his African record and title as well as his Commonwealth gold medal, said he was waiting for the Paris Olympics to know whom among them should wear the crown.

The claim by Omanyala had put him on a collision course with Tebogo, the world 100m silver and 200m bronze medallist.

Tebogo, in an earlier interview, had said Omanyala is yet to prove his claims where it matters following his semi-final exit at the Tokyo Olympics and seventh place finish at the 2023 World Championships where the 20-year-old won two medals.

“To me, it does not make sense if you are the African champion, but where it mattered the most, he could not step in,” Tebogo had fired at Omanyala.

To prove his point, Simbine dusted Omanyala to take the track in the 100m at the Atlanta Games in a world leading time of 9.90 while the Kenyan was second in 10.00.

In the interview, Simbine simply said:

“I am waiting for that conversation, I never left. We will see,” suggesting he should be among those being discussed, especially with the Paris Olympics on the horizon.

Simbine, a former African champion and record holder, had had those two titles were taken away from him by Omanyala who set a new mark of 9.77 in 2021 while he is also the 100m African champion.

But based on current form, Simbine trumps both Omanyala and Tebogo in 100m given he is the first to dip under 10 seconds this year.

His 9.90 came after he had managed 10.01 on two occasions, both recorded in April when he finished first, while Omanyala ran 10.03 at the Kip Keino Classic where he finished a disappointing fifth, before improving it to 10.00 in Atlanta.

Tebogo meanwhile managed 10.13 in his first 100m of the season at the Los Angeles Grand Prix last weekend.

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Moroccan steeplechase star El Bakkali aims for gold at Paris Olympics

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Morocco’s steeplechase champion, Soufiane El Bakkali, says he is aiming for the gold medal at the upcoming Paris Olympics after clinching victory in the 3000m at the 15th Mohammed VI International Athletics Meeting on Sunday with a season’s best time of 8:09.40.

At the meeting which was part of the Diamond League series, El Bakkali narrowly edged out his fiercest rival, Ethiopian Wale Getnet, who clocked a time of 8:09.78, and Kenyan Amos Serem, who completed the race in 8:10.82.

“Despite my long absence due to injury, I always kept hope. I trained intensely to win this victory, which was not easy,” El Bakkali stated after the race.

He added that he adopted a different race strategy for this event as anticipation builds for the upcoming Olympic Games in Paris.

El Bakkali who said he is acutely aware of the high expectations from Moroccan supporters, called on fans to continue their support as he aims to secure the gold medal.

The fourth stage of the Diamond League brings together athletes from all over the world, including Olympic champions and world champions.

El Bakkali’s victory in Marrakech marks a significant milestone in his preparation for the 2024 Paris Olympics, where he aims to defend his Olympic title in the steeplechase.

The Mohammed VI Meeting in Marrakech is one of Africa’s premier track and field events, attracting many of the world’s top athletes and El Bakkali’s victory was a testament to his strong form as he gears up for the Olympics where he will face formidable competition from athletes like Getnet and Serem, who pushed him hard in Marrakech.

With the Olympics just under 67 days away, the Moroccan said the victory boosts his confidence, confirming that his training is on track.

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