Islam Slimani brings Monaco back in the game

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

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.


Australia says ‘no’ to tennis stars’ calls for COVID-19 quarantine change

Australia says ‘no’ to tennis stars’ calls for COVID-19 quarantine change
Updated 19 January 2021

Australia says ‘no’ to tennis stars’ calls for COVID-19 quarantine change

Australia says ‘no’ to tennis stars’ calls for COVID-19 quarantine change
  • ‘People are free to ask for things, but the answer is no’
  • ‘They knew what they were traveling into and we are not cutting corners or making special arrangements’

SYDNEY: Australian authorities said mandatory hotel quarantine for people arriving for the Australian Open tennis tournament was essential to stop COVID-19, as the country recorded another day with no new locally acquired cases on Tuesday.
Some of the world’s top tennis players including world No. 1 Novak Djokovic have questioned the country’s enforced 14-day hotel quarantine, suggesting they should be allowed to complete the process in accommodation with tennis courts before the tournament which starts in Victoria state on Feb. 8.
But Victorian premier Daniel Andrews said he would not make changes.
“People are free to ask for things, but the answer is no,” Andrews told reporters in a televised news conference.
“They knew what they were traveling into and we are not cutting corners or making special arrangements.”
More than 70 players and their entourage are confined to their hotel rooms after passengers on three charter flights returned positive tests for the coronavirus. Victoria recorded four new cases in hotel quarantine on Tuesday, but these are not counted as community transmissions.
Andrews came under substantial pressure in 2020 after putting the country’s second-most populous state into a months-long lockdown to fight a second wave of infections of the new coronavirus.
In neighboring New South Wales state, Hollywood actor Matt Damon was granted an exemption from hotel quarantine after arriving to film a “Thor” sequel in Sydney.
Damon flew in on a private jet, will stay in a rented house under security and pay for hospital-grade cleaning for his 14-day quarantine, a doctor involved in his quarantine was quoted saying in local media.
As Australia’s hard-line border controls keep daily numbers of new coronavirus cases at zero or low single digits, tourism operators have called for additional subsidies after health authorities suggested the country would not fully reopen its borders in 2021.
If the industry did not receive an extension of federal wage subsidies that are due to end in March, “we’ll be lucky to have a tourism industry in 12 or 18 months’ time,” Tourism and Transport Forum CEO Margy Osmond told the Australian Broadcasting Corp.
But Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly said the country would be unlikely to fully reopen its border soon, even though it hopes to start a vaccination program next month.
“There will be a process through 2021 of returning to some sort of normal,” Kelly told reporters.
“Unfortunately, international borders changes will be one of the last things to change, rather than the first.”