Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger has been named Premier League Manager of the Month for March and Olivier Giroud has made it a double for the Gunners by winning the Player of the Month award. Arsenal were knocked out of the Champions League by Monaco in March but won all four for their Premier League matches against Everton, QPR, West Ham and Newcastle. Giroud bounced back from being substituted just an hour into Arsenal’s Champions League first-leg defeat against Monaco by scoring six goals in all competitions, averaging a goal every 78 minutes from 17 shots.
Manchester United midfielder Marouane Fellaini is in such good form that he cannot be dropped, says manager Louis van Gaal. The 27-year-old, a £27.5m signing from Everton in 2013, was jeered by some United fans during pre-season. He has started the last four games, and scored three goals in two matches for Belgium during the recent international break. “When he is playing like he is now, I cannot change him,” said Van Gaal. Fellaini did not score in 21 matches in an injury-interrupted first season at Old Trafford and said he felt like a scapegoat for the club’s struggles under then manager David Moyes. Since Van Gaal took charge, Fellaini has scored five goals in 23 games for United in all competitions this term and was given a standing ovation after the 3-0 victory over Tottenham in March. “From the first training session, he did what I asked of him,” said Van Gaal, who said he is “not surprised” by Fellaini’s form. “I said, ‘you have to do this, or do this differently’ and he was open and wanted to perform that. “He’s had an unlucky season because he was injured and ill a lot of times, but when he’s been fit he’s always played for me, more or less. “I was looking for balance in the team and he can bring that.”
All four Nigerian and South African contenders are in danger of being eliminated from the African Champions League this weekend at the last-32 stage. Nigerians Enyimba defend a precarious 1-0 lead over Egyptians Smouha on Sunday in Mediterranean city Alexandria. And Kano Pillars must stage a miraculous comeback in northern Nigeria on Saturday to survive having crumbled 4-0 away to Moroccans Moghreb Tetouan. South Africans Mamelodi Sundowns are in a similar position to Enyimba after establishing only a 1-0 lead over Democratic Republic of Congo visitors TP Mazembe. Soweto side Kaizer Chiefs are much worse off as careless defending at a free-kick led to a 1-0 home defeat by Moroccans Raja Casablanca three weeks ago. Sundowns play on Sunday afternoon in mining hub Lubumbashi and Chiefs go into action five hours later in the Moroccan commercial capital. Nigeria and South Africa are the economic giants of Africa and boast two of the most competitive domestic leagues on the continent. But both nations have struggled to make their mark in the premier Confederation of African Football club competition with back-to-back victories by Enyimba a decade ago the only Nigerian triumphs. South Africa have been even less successful with a lone Champions League – then called the African Champions Cup – triumph coming through Orlando Pirates 20 years ago. While Enyimba, Pillars, Sundowns and Chiefs face tasks of varying difficulty, the quartet were speaking optimistically this week. Kadiri Ikhana, who coached Enyimba to 2003 Champions League glory, said he had a plan to combat the cold evening weather expected in Alexandria. “Our preparations will include lots of running and I do not envisage the cold having a negative effect on us,” he said.
The Confederation of African Football has refused to confirm whether Morocco will play in the qualifiers for the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations. On Thursday the Court of Arbitration for Sport overturned CAF’s ban on Morocco from the 2017 and 2019 events. But on Friday CAF’s director of communications Junior Binyam told BBC Sport: “There are many meetings to be held before the way forward is known. “Let’s see what will happen. The draw is supposed to take place on 8 April.” CAF is set to hold its annual general congress next week in Cairo and Binyam said the matter will be discussed there by its executive committee. Morocco were suspended from the next two editions of the Nations Cup after they did not host the 2015 event because of their fears over the outbreak of Ebola on the continent. The Royal Federation of Moroccan Football (FRMF) asked for the finals to be postponed but CAF refused. The tournament was relocated to Equatorial Guinea, only two months before it began, and Morocco were excluded. In addition Morocco were fined US$1m (£675,000) and ordered to pay 8m euros (US$8.7m, £5.85m) in compensation. CAS reduced the fine to US$50,000 (£34,000) and said the separate claim for damages “may be examined by another jurisdiction”. When asked about the decision by CAS relating to the financial penalties, Binyam insisted Morocco “still have to pay the compensation”.