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WEEKEND PREVIEW: The BIG 7

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BBC AFOTY 2018

This Saturday, BBC will announce the nominees of the African Footballer of The Year 2018. The five shortlisted players will be unveiled in a special BBC African Footballer of the Year programme from Lagos and London.

Not like any of this matters, as during that time, key AFCON 2019 qualifying games will be on, add to that the rather predictable nature of this year’s event.

African football hasn’t had an array of stars to look out for this year but for Liverpool duo Mohammed Salah and Sadio Mane – incidentally, both were equally nominated last year and the Egyptian deservedly won the award – and while Gabon’s Pierre Emerick Aubameyang may be having an unspectacular year but expect the forward to stroll into the final man shortlist – the Gabonese made the final three shortlist in each of the past four years, winning it once.

Other names that may make the five-man shortlist, by virtue of their breathtaking performances during the year in review include Lille’s Nicolas Pepe, Leicester and Nigeria midfielder Wilfred Ndidi.

Without getting ahead of myself, I will only wait to see who makes the final five-man shortlist then I’ll have a lot to say on Monday. I won’t be watching this event though, there is enough action on the pitch to keep me occupied.

AWCON 2018

The thirteenth edition of the Africa Women’s Cup of Nations will kick off this weekend, or maybe not.

CAF may have displayed the highest level of cluelessness with their handling of the  Kenya and Equatorial Guinea – both teams have had a topsy-turvy time preparing for this tournament with unending expulsion and reinstatements.

Although, CAF is yet to confirm which of both sides will be rightly in Ghana, at least they have saved themselves the embarrassment of leaving both sides on the official website, taking the number of proposed participating teams to nine instead of eight.  For now, it’s Kenya before the opening game it may well be Equatorial Guinea again.

AFCON 2019 Qualifiers

As we enter the penultimate round of the men’s Africa Cup of Nations 2019 qualifying, more teams will join Tunisia, Madagascar, Egypt, and Senegal who have already booked a place alongside hosts Cameroon.

Nigeria and Zimbabwe can book a place at next year’s event if they avoid defeat this weekend in South Africa and Liberia respectively, while Ghana will keep their hopes of making it to their eighth consecutive AFCON if they win.

Both Nigeria and Zimbabwe boast of an unbeaten run away from home during this AFCON qualifying, Nigeria, in particular, having not lost an away game on the pitch (saw their 1-1 draw in Algeria rescinded and recorded as a 3-0 loss for fielding an ineligible player in the final FIFA world cup qualifying game) since Gernot Rohr took over two years ago, confidence will be sky high.

ATP Tour Finals

Roger Federer has recovered from his opening day defeat to Japan’s Kei Nishikori to advance to the semifinals of the season-ending ATP Tour Finals, extending his record appearance in the semis to 15 of the last 16 editions.

In keeping his hope of winning a seventh tour title, Federer beat South Africa’s Kevin Anderson in straight sets to advance. But without getting too excited, Novak Djokovic is already through to the semis also, and what is left is positions seeing as Alexander Zverev, Marin Cilic, and John Isner are still all in with a shout of joining the world No 1 in the last four. It is unlikely that Djokovic won’t finish top of his group, which might leave us with a mouthwatering clash between Novak and Federer on Sunday.

Should that be the case, the Serbian will be backed to win his sixth, as he has effortlessly defeated Federer in each of the previous three finals they have met.

Michael van Gerwen’s fourth defence of 2018 Grand Slam is on

Consistency describes Michael van Gerwen having won six majors over the past two years, and currently defending his crown at the 2018 Grand slam of darts in Wolverhampton, no one can bet against the Dutch.

Scratch that. Michael van Gerwen, 29, hasn’t lost his crown at the Grand Slam since he first won it in 2015, winning every edition since then. The Dutchman will be gunning for a fourth consecutive Grand Slam win, and you cannot look beyond the World number 1.

UEFA Nations League

Spain began the UEFA Nations League like a side that was bent to prove that the World Cup ouster was a mistake, born out of a complete lack of confidence and an occasional inability to break down a resolute Russian defence, or so we thought, then the same complacency that has bedevilled La Roja returned.

From sitting comfortably at the top of the log, they threw away a chance to qualify in Zagreb on Thursday evening with a last-minute defeat to Croatia.

Spain now find themselves in a rather unusual position, relying on the outcome of this weekend’s clash between England and Croatia to determine if they have done enough to progress. Only a draw between the World Cup semi-finalists will see the Spaniards through, a win for either side hugely jeopardises any hope of qualification. A huge price to pay for complacency.

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