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

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Another footballing weekend is here and presents an opportunity for African soccer stars to strut their stuff in their different club sides in Europe.

As the European football season gradually draws to an end, there are lots of African players who are either in line to win their various leagues while some are doing everything possible to help their teams avoid the drop.

We bring you a preview of the continent’s stars who are expected to feature for their respective clubs around the world this weekend.

Edouard Mendy, Hakim Ziyech: Chelsea

Senegal’s Chelsea shot stopper, Edouard Mendy, may have had really tough few weeks but Chelsea coach Thomas Tuchel still trusts him enough to retain him as the club’s number one and will once again be in goal for the clash against Wolverhampton Wanderers at the Stamford Bridge on Saturday hoping to keep a rare clean sheet.

 

Last weekend’s defeat by Everton meamt the Afcon winner has kept only one clean sheet in his last four Premier League games, a situation he hopes to change against  Wolves who have not found the back of the net in their last three games.

The match is a must win for Tuchel and his boys if they are to put a daylight between them and Arsenal breathing down their neck for the third spot in the league table.

The other African at Chelsea, Moroccan Hakim Ziyech may likely play a bit part role in the match as he he likely to come off the bench at some point.

Ismaila Sarr, Emmanuel Dennis: Watford

Watford’s relegation from the top flight could well be confirmed this weekend but their African contingent of Ismaila Sarr and Emmanuel Dennis and their colleagues could yet stave off the evil day when they face Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park.

The Hornets are facing a losing battle with 10 points separating them from 18th-placed Everton who have a game outstanding but they can as well to end with some respectability.

Last weekend, Palace’s Wilfried Zaha netted the winner in their 2-1 come from behind victory against Southampton which took the team up to the 12th position. The goal was also the Ivory Coast international’s 13th of the season.

Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane, and Joel Matip: Liverpool

Liverpool could go top of the league if they beat Tottenham Hotspur on Saturday night which will heap pressure on Riyad Mahrez and his Manchester City teammates who host Newcastle United on Sunday.

The indefatigable trio of Salah, Mane, and Matip are likely to play from the off against Antonio Conte’s men who need a victory to stay within touching distance of Arsenal in fourth.

For Mahrez, it remains to be seen how  Pep Guardiola deploys his men to react to Wednesday’s last gasp defeat by Real Madrid in the UEFA Champions League semi final.

Geoffrey Kondogbia: Atlético de Madrid

Geoffrey Kondogbia returned from suspension for Atletico Madrid’s 2-0 defeat by Athletic Club last weekend and is in line for a run out in the all important clash against league winners Real Madrid in the Madrid derby.

Diego Simeone’s troops are three points ahead of fifth-placed Real Betis and need a result of any kind against their fierce rivals to hold on to fourth spot.

With Real Madrid’s La Liga title already confirmed, Los Colchoneros will hope to catch Carlo Ancelotti’s men on a rare bad day.

Ismael Bennacer, Franck Kessie: AC Milan

AC Milan need a response if they hope to usurp Inter Milan who have now jumped to the top of the league table after a 4-2 comeback victory over Empoli on Friday night.

Bennacer and Kessie are important players in Stefano Pioli’s team and they should be part of the party against Hellas Verona as the Rossoneri aims to win a first Scudetto since 2011.

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South African club admits they can’t keep Nwabali

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Chairman of South African club side, Chippa United, Siviwe ‘Chippa’ Mpengesi, has given up on retaining the services of Super Eagles goalkeeper, Stanley Nwabali, who is now the subject of transfer speculations among top European and Asian clubs.

Mpengesi, in an interview with Idiski Times, admits the club has given up hopes of keeping their safe hands with the transfer talks gaining momentum.

He stated that the SA club is currently in talks with a few clubs abroad and will not hold Nwabali back should a good offer arrive.

“We are talking to a few clubs abroad. We also believe that he needs something better, especially after the performance that he showed at the Afcon,” the club chairman said.

“If the opportunity comes especially from abroad, of course even if it comes locally and the offer is for him, it’s not even for us. If the offer for him is better then we are not going to hold on to him.”

Mpengesi further underlined the club’s commitment to facilitating the player’s progression, whether it be through opportunities abroad or within the local Premier Soccer League.

There have been reports of interest in the Nigerian keeper from clubs in Europe following his sterling performances with Nigeria at the 2023 Africa Cup Of Nations in Ivory Coast where he led the Eagles to the silver medal.

After the Afcon tournament where he emerged as the second best keeper, there have been interest in his services from English side Queens Park Rangers and Saudi Pro League outfit Al-Ettifaq, and Mpengesi affirms Chippa United’s willingness to engage with both local and international suitors vying for Nwabali’s services.

Apart from clubs from abroad, there are also interest from local clubs including Kaizer Chiefs and Sundowns and the chairman has conceded that Chippa will not stand in Nwabali’s path should the right offer comes.

Nwabali, a former Katsina United shot stopper in the Nigerian Premier League, is also being touted as a possible replacement for South African international keeper, Itumeleng Khune, whose future at Kaizer Chiefs looks uncertain.

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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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