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Champions League spots give Manchester United and Chelsea launchpad

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But while Leicester have slipped out of those top-four places – finally dropping to fifth on Wednesday after spending 30 matchdays in the Champions League spots – Manchester United’s relentless rise in 2020 took them all the way up to third place.

Champions League qualification felt like a distant prospect for United in January, when a 2-0 loss at home to Burnley left them six points behind fourth-placed Chelsea and put Ole Gunnar Solskjaer under pressure.

But the turnaround is complete. Since that miserable evening at Old Trafford, Manchester United have gone 14 Premier League games unbeaten, taking 32 points from a possible 42 and changing the complexion of their season. They finish best of the rest behind Liverpool and Manchester City, ahead of Chelsea on goal difference.

However in contrast to Leicester and Manchester United, the story of Chelsea’s league position has not been one of slide or rise but of a consistent run in those crucial top-four positions – even if ‘consistent’ is not a word to describe their actual performances on the pitch.

There have been slip-ups and big defeats which have underlined the major work required to transform Chelsea back into title contenders. Wayward form and repeated errors in defence have highlighted the need for players from outside of the club to be added to what they already have.

Now, with Timo Werner and Hakim Ziyech signed and their Champions League status set to make acquisitions of the required defensive personnel easier, Chelsea have a strong platform to kick on again. The same goes for Manchester United. With Lampard, Solskjaer and their squads another season older, wiser and developed there will be less sympathy if mistakes are repeated and more scrutiny on their progress back to the top.

But by making the cut and ensuring they are competing in Europe’s elite club competition this season they have a launchpad to kick on again.

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Wazito fc Boss to pay sacked players over Sh6 million

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The Fifa Dispute Resolution Chamber has ordered Football Kenya Federation Premier League (FKFPL) side Wazito FC to pay five players it sacked over six million shillings cumulative within 45 days.

Ugandan midfielder Mansoor Safi Agu, DR Congo international Piscas Muhindo, Ghanaian Paul Acquah, Liberian Augustine Otu and Togolese defender Issofou Bourhana, through their lawyer Felix Majani, stated the club to the world football governing body seeking compensation for unfair dismissal. Of the five, only Mansoor Safi was dismissed by the club at the beginning of the year while the rest were victims of the recent massive restructuring in the team.

Their cases were presented directly to the Fifa Dispute Resolution Chamber in mid-August and the department has now expedited the matter.

In a previous interview, Wazito CEO Dennis Gicheru admitted he had received demand letters for compensation from some of the sacked players and their representatives as well communication on the same issue from Fifa. He, however, unapologetically said he was not keen on responding to the demand letters.

If Wazito fails to pay the monies within 45 days, the club will face a transfer ban over three windows. The ban will only be lifted after the amounts are paid in full.

The ruling by Fifa could set precedence as far as the speed at which cases regarding the termination of contracts, unfair dismissal of players and the ramifications of the same in the top league in Kenya are concerned.

Earlier this year, the worldwide representative organization of professional footballers, FIFPRO publicly expressed dissatisfaction with how the Football Kenya Federation (FKF) was handling such cases, with a lot of such claims remaining unsettled since 2017.

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Harambee Stars exclude four top-tier players

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Harambee Stars will miss the services of the  influential quartet of Victor Wanyama, Arnold Origi, Ayub Timbe and Michael Olunga when they face Zambia in the Africa Cup of Nations build-up match against Zambia on Friday.

The four were omitted yesterday when Football Kenya Federation released a final squad for the match set to be staged at the Moi Stadium, Kasarani behind closed doors. “The four will not be available for the match,” said FKF’S communications chief Ken Okaka.

The experienced players were part of the 34-man provisional squad released last week by coach Francis Kimanzi who will use the match to gauge his readiness for the November qualifier double against Comoros.

Origi, who plies his trade with Finland side HIFK Fotboll, was supposed to make his comeback to the team after five years in the cold. In the absence of the revered custodian, Kimanzi will pick the starter from the Zambian based Ian Otieno and national U-23  and Ulinzi Stars  goalkeeper Timothy Odhiambo.

With Wanyama unavailable, all eyes will be on Kimanzi’s choice for the captaincy. Prior to his lengthy hiatus from the team, the former Maritzburg centre back Brian Mandela who made it to the team despite being unattached served as Wanyama’s deputy alongside Musa Mohammed.

Former Gor Mahia defender Joash Onyango skippered the team during last year’s Cecafa Senior Challenge in Uganda. Having established himself as Stars preferred centre forward, the unavailability of the red-hot Olunga will leave Kimanzi with no options other than to try a new formation upfront.

Algerian-based Masud Juma is likely to fill in Olunga shoes with reigning Cecafa top scorer Oscar Wamalwa, AFC Leopards striker Elvis Rupia and Zambia-based Timothy Otieno offering options.

Meanwhile Kimanzi recalled Bandari’s wing-wizard Abdallah Hassan to replace Timbe Hassan  was part of the Stars team which scooped bronze in the past Cecafa championship.

Yesterday, eleven local-based players reported to camp and were screened for Covid-19  in line with the protocols sanctioned by the Ministry  of Sports. Foreign-based players were expected to start checking into camp  last night.

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Why did Kipchoge loose the London Marathon

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When race commentator Steve Cram announced “this is not normal” midway through Sunday’s London Marathon it was something of an understatement as Eliud Kipchoge, the most dominant performer the distance has ever seen, was finally looking mortal.

An hour later, Kipchoge trailed home eighth in a time six minutes slower than his own world record and over a minute adrift of Ethiopia’s Shura Kitata, who won the race after a spectacular sprint finish in two hours, 05.41 minutes.

The Kenyan had finally cracked just under three miles from the end, later saying he was suffering from a blocked ear that affected his breathing and cramp in his hip, but refusing to blame the cold, wet conditions for his poor run.

It was no surprise that he looked slightly bemused as he tried to articulate what had happened, having never previously experienced what almost every other marathon runner at every level has a bad day at the office.

His record over the distance almost defies belief. He posted in his Twitter account that one of his ears blocked, and it could not open anymore.

The Ineos Challenge record holder has however promised to fight for the title another day.

“But this is how the sport is, we should accept defeat and focus for the winning next time. Thanks for the support,” Kipchoge said. He added “If you want to enjoy sport then you have to accept the results. I congratulate the top finishers, and that is how to enjoy the sport.”

He has appreciated Kenyans and his fans for the tremendous support, saying that he is taking the defeat in a positive way.

The race was won by Ethiopian Shura Kitata in a thrilling sprint finish to claim an unexpected victory ahead of Kenyan Vincent Kipchumba.

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