As the Premier League season draws to a close, we give a run down what’s at stake for African stars up and down the division.
Victor Moses appears primed to become the first Nigerian since his compatriot John Obi Mikel in 2015 to win the Premier League title, with Chelsea four points clear of Tottenham Hotspur with four matches to play.
It’s not a done deal — particularly considering Spurs’ relentless form — but despite a romping London derby victory over Arsenal last weekend, Tottenham are outsiders.
Should Chelsea get over the line, Moses would become the third Nigerian to claim a Premier League winner’s medal after the aforementioned Mikel and Super Eagles legend Nwankwo Kanu, who became the first player from the West African nation to clinch the title.
For Spurs, Victor Wanyama was outstanding against the Gunners, thoroughly dominating the midfield, and will surely still harbour hopes of becoming the first Kenyan to win the EPL.
In terms of continental qualification, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United and Arsenal are all facing a four-way battle for two spots in next year’s Champions League.
The Reds are limping towards the finish line, where an injury to Sadio Mane has reduced their offensive options, and while Eric Bailly’s injury isn’t as bad as first feared, United have their work cut out to make the top four.
Indeed, progression to the UCL via the Europa League looks to be the best bet for the Red Devils, particularly following their semifinal first leg triumph over Celta Vigo yesterday and Jose Mourinho’s admission that he would consider resting players during the league run-in.
Yaya Toure appears set to bring his City career to an end and will be desperate to finish the campaign with a spot in the top four, while Mohammed El Neny and Alex Iwobi’s Arsenal are in sixth, six points behind Pep Guardiola’s side having played a game less.
As we close in on the season’s denouement, it certainly appears likely that one of Iwobi and his compatriot Kelechi Iheanacho — another City player apparently nearing the exit door — will miss out on a return to Europe’s top table.
At the bottom of the league, it’s also a two-horse race, assuming that Middlesbrough and their African trio of Rudy Gestede, Adama Traore and Adlene Guedioura have left themselves with too much to do.
Like Gestede and Traore, Jordan Ayew was relegated with Swansea City last season, and he appears destined to suffer the same fate this term as the Welsh side remain two points from safety.
The Ghana international was one of the few players who suffered relegation with Aston Villa last season but kept his reputation intact, although having not scored since mid-October, he’s staring the Championship in the face yet again.
Hull City, currently occupying 17th place, will be counting on their magnificent home record under Marco Silva to see them over the line, even if they are hosting Spurs on the last day of the season.
Dieumerci Mbokani has struggled to assert himself all season, although Senegal’s Oumar Niasse has contributed four goals in the top flight since moving on loan from Everton in January. Also keep an eye out for Ahmed Elmohamady and Alfred N’Diaye, another mid-season Senegalese arrival who’s contributed to the Tigers’ upturn in fortunes.