Islam Slimani brings Monaco back in the game

Monaco’s Algerian forward Islam Slimani reacts after scoring a goal in this file photo, taken on Sept. 24, 2019. (AFP)
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Updated 13 February 2020

Islam Slimani brings Monaco back in the game

  • The Algerian star’s return from wilderness is aiding the troubled club’s Euro charge

PARIS: Monaco are gunning for a return to European football ahead of the visit of high-flying Montpellier, powered in part by wantaway attacker Islam Slimani’s return to the fold.

A troubled club over the past few seasons, Monaco are suddenly looking like genuine contenders for European football next season after two straight wins that have highlighted a new level of togetherness, and Slimani’s comeback has embodied that.

Last week, the Algerian international ended his period on the sidelines following his push for a move away in January and bagged the stoppage time winner at Amiens that shot them up to seventh in Ligue 1, five points away from the European places.

“I’m happy to be back playing. It’s important for the team and important for me to come back,” Slimani said after the dramatic win.

Monaco host Montpellier on Friday buoyed by the return of the 32-year-old, who has scored eight times and provided eight assists this season, helping the Principality club become the second-highest scorers in France behind runaway leaders Paris Saint-Germain.

Slimani is favorite ahead of Stevan Jovetic to be rewarded with a starting place against Montpellier, who sit in fifth and are making their own bid for Champions League football despite a relatively paltry budget of 40 million euros ($43.4 million) a season.

He and Ligue 1 top scorer Wissam Ben Yedder have between them scored 24 of Monaco’s 40 league goals, and their partnership has been a high point in a topsy-turvy season that saw them languish in the bottom three before their surge up the table.

Also battling for a place at Europe’s top table are Marseille, who face off with fellow Champions League chasers Lille at the Stade Pierre Mauroy on Sunday looking to bounce back from Wednesday’s French Cup exit at the hands of Lyon.

Marseille should be able to count on star man Dimitri Payet, who has scored six in his last nine matches but was substituted as a precautionary measure during Wednesday’s 1-0 defeat after feeling a pain in his hamstrings.

His form has been crucial to Andre Villas-Boas’ side taking a firm grip on second place, eight points ahead of Rennes in third.

However, they face an almost impossible task to catch PSG, who are 12 points clear and have the relatively simple task of a trip to relegation-threatened Amiens on Saturday.

Lille, meanwhile, are a further point back and will be hoping Nigeria international Victor Osimhen, scorer of 12 Ligue 1 goals, will recover in time from a thigh injury that led to him being stretchered off during his team’s 2-0 win at Angers last week.

With 16 goals in 22 appearances and top spot in the Ligue 1 scorer’s chart, this season has seen Ben Yedder hit the form of a lifetime in his debut season on the south coast.

The 29-year-old is on track for his best-ever league tally, already just two goals behind the 18 he struck in La Liga for Sevilla last season, and is one of France’s form forward as Euro 2020 hones into view.

Monaco’s fate this season will largely rest in his hands thanks to a leaky defense which has conceded more goals than any team outside the relegation zone.


Manchester City’s European ban quashed on appeal

Updated 13 July 2020

Manchester City’s European ban quashed on appeal

  • Initial fine of $34 million was also reduced to $11.3 million on appeal

LAUSANNE: Manchester City will be free to play Champions League football next season after the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) lifted a two-season ban from European competitions imposed by UEFA on Monday.
An initial fine of $34 million was also reduced to $11.3 million on appeal.
City were accused of deliberately inflating the value of income from sponsors with links to the Abu Dhabi United Group, also owned by City owner Sheikh Mansour, to avoid falling foul of financial fair play (FFP) regulations between 2012 and 2016.
The case against City was reopened when German magazine Der Spiegel published a series of leaked emails in 2018.
However, CAS found that “most of the alleged breaches reported by the Adjudicatory Chamber of the CFCB (UEFA Club Financial Control Body) were either not established or time-barred.”
City welcomed the decision that will have huge ramifications on the club’s finances and potentially the future of manager Pep Guardiola and star players such as Kevin De Bruyne and Raheem Sterling.
“Whilst Manchester City and its legal advisers are yet to review the full ruling by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), the club welcomes the implications of today’s ruling as a validation of the club’s position and the body of evidence that it was able to present,” City said in a statement.
“The club wishes to thank the panel members for their diligence and the due process that they administered.”
Since Sheikh Mansour’s takeover 12 years ago, City’s fortunes have been transformed from perennially living in the shadow of local rivals Manchester United to winning four Premier League titles in the past eight years among 11 major trophies.
On Saturday, they secured qualification for the Champions League for a 10th consecutive season with a 5-0 win at Brighton.
More silverware could come before the end of the season as Guardiola’s side face Arsenal in the FA Cup semifinals on Saturday before restarting their Champions League campaign in August, holding a 2-1 lead over Real Madrid from the first leg of their last 16 tie.
City’s victory in court will raise fresh questions over how effectively UEFA can police FFP.
But European football’s governing body said it remained committed to the system which limits clubs to not losing more than 30 million euros, with exceptions for some costs such as youth development and women’s teams, over a three-year period.
“UEFA notes that the CAS panel found that there was insufficient conclusive evidence to uphold all of the CFCB’s conclusions in this specific case and that many of the alleged breaches were time-barred due to the five-year time period foreseen in the UEFA regulations,” UEFA said in a statement.
“Over the last few years, Financial Fair Play has played a significant role in protecting clubs and helping them become financially sustainable and UEFA and ECA remain committed to its principles.”