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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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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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