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Ten Hag hopes ‘common sense’ prevails over future, Everton drop appeal: football news – as it happened



Key events

Right then, that’s enough from my end. Enjoy your weekend – there’s plenty to keep an eye on.

News as big as this deserves an entry on the football blog. Forgive me, please.

Bournemouth manager Andoni Iraola has been busy being awfully gracious about his nomination for the Premier League manager of the season award. The other men on the five-man shortlist are Jürgen Klopp, Pep Guardiola, Unai Emery and Mikel Arteta. Quotes courtesy of PA:

“People think that we have done a very good season and it’s good to see yourself with this kind of recognition,” said Iraola. “But I think the other nominees are on another level, I would say. They are the top four teams in the league. It’s good that a club like us receives this kind of recognition but in the same way it could go for Sean Dyche or Gary O’Neil, they are also doing very good jobs.

“I think our results have been quite logical. We haven’t taken results against the top teams, we have taken better results against the teams around us and been very good against the teams that finished at the back of the standings. But there are a lot of teams better than us in the Premier League, that’s what I feel. I think we still have a lot of room to grow and we have to continue improving because, at the end, the Premier League is very demanding. If you stop improving, you will finish lower.”

A big clash awaits for Fulham, as they face Manchester City in the early kick-off tomorrow. But, um, Marco Silva has been asked about … kites. Yes, a clip of his players flying kites in training is apparently something that needs to be discussed in his presser.

“You are asking me something even I don’t know the story about,” he said. “To be questioned about a situation that started on social media is a little strange for me when you have so important game and so many good things to talk about, about football, about players, about tactical, about the opposition side, about the season of Fulham and you come to me to ask about it?”


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Afternoon everyone, how are we? Wolves fans, I have some good news and bad news for you, Gary O’Neil isn’t expecting a spending spree on players this summer, but nor do they need to get a raft of players off their books to sort their finances. Here are the PA quotes from his presser:

“I don’t think there will be money available to us if nobody leaves,” said O’Neil. “If we decided not to sell a big player there may be some bits and pieces we can do. We have some players out on loan that have value and we might be able to do some bits.

“The club is expected – in the foreseeable future, maybe not long-term future – to be able to fund itself so we need to be able to work with that. Of course these things can change so I’m not committing either way, but I wouldn’t expect it to be a summer where we spend millions of the club’s own money on players.

“I think it won’t be the same as last year where we have to sell loads and make a huge profit, but I wouldn’t expect it to be a spending spree.”

That’s all from me for today. I will leave you in the hands of the ever so capable Taha Hashim to take you through the late afternoon. Happy Friday!

Crystal Palace: Oliver Glasner wants calm heads after his side’s 4-0 win over Manchester United.

The Eagles head to Wolves on Saturday and Glasner expects a fully focused display to maintain their momentum.

“I already forgot the Man United game because it is not important for tomorrow,” Glasner said. “Of course we enjoyed the night and we enjoyed the win, but on Tuesday we were still critical of us because we could do some things better, especially in the first half.

“We had very good moments, we scored nice goals, but it is always about knowing what is necessary to be that good.

“We know Wolves is a very good team, playing a similar system, a 3-4-3 with a lot of pace in offence, with good players in the pockets, with a lot of power.

“It is important to take the positive things from Man United – but not now say, ‘wow, we are the best in the world because we beat them’. That is how we worked this week.”

Crystal Palace are not the best team in the world because of their win against Manchester United, says Oliver Glasner. Maybe second-best? Photograph: Justin Setterfield/Getty Images

More on Geopolitics at Vitesse and how ‘Chelsea B’ were swallowed by Abramovich associates

The fans of the Eredivisie club hoped takeovers would transform their fortunes, but instead they face an existential threat to their future.

Erling Haaland has claimed that no one mentions how many touches he has made if he scores, with the Norwegian stating that even if he netted nine goals in a game, 10 would be his target.

Despite a record 52 goals last season and leading the Premier League chart with 25 this term, Haaland has come under scrutiny for a low touch-count during matches.

Speaking to the Men in Blazers podcast, Haaland said: “There has always been this discussion on how many times I should touch the ball. When I score nobody talks about this but when I don’t people start to mention my touches.

“This is a part of my life, how people will speak and I can’t control what people say about me.”

Read more of Haaland’s comments below.

Exclusive: Abramovich loans fund owner of Dutch football club

The owner of a leading Dutch football club has funded it with loans from Roman Abramovich, leaked documents suggest, fuelling questions about the continued influence the Russian oligarch, under sanctions from the EU and UK, still has on football.

Details of the arrangement involving Valery Oyf, who took over ownership of Vitesse Arnhem in 2018, have been uncovered by the Guardian and the Bureau of Investigative Journalism (TBIJ).

Read more in the exclusive from Jacob Steinberg and Simon Lock below.

West Ham: David Moyes has made peace with his departure from the London club.

Earlier this week, the club confirmed that Moyes would leave his post as manager when his contract expires at the end of the season.

“I’m really comfortable with the situation. I’ve talked about it with my family, and I think it’s the right decision for all parties,” he said. “We’ll go our separate ways after a really successful period.

“First, I’ll have a break. Last year there wasn’t much of a break after the UEFA Europa Conference League final. I strive to work my hardest, and I’ve done that here, so I’m going to have a break.

“I’m going to work during the Euros and I’ll continue to look forward to working in football.”

Moyes was also asked about how he looks back on his time at West Ham, and he said: “Stopping the club getting relegated the second time was difficult, and the progress we’ve made since then has been brilliant. I think we’ve done a really good job, we’ve built the club, and there’s stability there now.”

The manager confirmed that Lucas Paquetá has trained for most of the week but that Konstantinos Mavropanos and Nayef Aguerd will not be fit for Luton.

Have a crack at our sport’s quiz of the week.

Norwich: David Wagner has called for calm heads as his squad prepare to tackle Leeds in the Championship play-off semi-finals.

The Canaries finished sixth and host their former head coach Daniel Farke at Carrow Road on Sunday for the first leg.

“Some get excited three days before the game, some get excited when we go for our pre-match meal. We need to keep everyone calm and focused, then the excitement will start,” Wagner said. “One of our first targets was top six, fighting for promotion. That first step is done but it is only the first step.

“Everyone should embrace this situation. We had some exciting games already this season where the players delivered, the derbies, other big must-win games where they were fully on it. That gives us trust and belief that we can deliver again.”

Wagner confirmed that Christian Fassnacht has resumed full training but Ashley Barnes remains sidelined by a calf problem.

Manchester United: Ten Hag was asked about Declan Rice and how he could have fit in his side.

🗣 “Very good player. and would absolutely fit here – but I’m very happy with Mason”

Was it a missed opportunity for Erik ten Hag to not have pursued Declan Rice during the summer transfer window? 💭

— Sky Sports News (@SkySportsNews) May 10, 2024

Arsenal: The Gunners have won just one of their last 16 trips to Old Trafford but Mikel Arteta stresses that each game has its own context.

Every game has a different context. We know our history [at Old Trafford] how we have done over there, so we are going to have to be at our best to win the game. We know what we need to do, but first we have to perform at a high level to deserve to win the match. That is where the focus is.”

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scored the sole goal in Arsenal’s last win at Old Trafford, back in 2020. Photograph: Paul Ellis/Reuters

Arsenal sit top of the Premier League table but Manchester City have a game in hand, meaning Arteta’s side need to win all their games and hope the defending champions drop points between now and the end of the season. “It leaves us in a very clear situation,” said Arteta. “We have to focus and do what have to do to be in the best possible situation. That’s what we are doing. We have to think that it is going to work and we can be better than our opponent and beat them. The final outcome might be something else, but that is not in our control.”

Arteta also confirmed that there are fitness doubts over Bukayo Saka and Takehiro Tomiyasu. The pair will be assessed before the trip to Manchester.

Leverkusen offer free tattoos to ‘eternalise’ winning season

The treble-chasing Bayer Leverkusen are offering their fans free club tattoos to commemorate their Bundesliga-title winning season and record unbeaten run, the champions said on Friday.

Xabi Alonso’s team, undefeated across all competitions this season, reached the Europa League final after a 2-2 comeback draw against Roma on Thursday for a 4-2 aggregate win.

They stretched their unbeaten run this season to 49 matches across all competitions, surpassing Benfica’s longstanding European record set from 1963 to 1965.

“A special action at the end of a special season. Bayer 04 are offering fans … until the end of the season the opportunity to choose one of the many Bayer 04 tattoos for free,” the club said in a statement.

“Book your appointment now to eternalise this unique season on your skin.”

After sealing their first ever Bundesliga title, Leverkusen are also through to the German Cup final where they will face Kaiserslautern in what could be a treble-winning season for the club.

Manchester City: Pep Guardiola is not concerned with Arsenal, their league title rivals, and is only focused on his side’s performance ahead of the weekend.

When asked if he will be supporting Manchester United when they take on Mikel Arteta’s side, he simply said: “I am a Man City fan and I will try to beat Fulham. That is my only concern.”

Guardiola diplomatically answers a question about Erling Haaland’s anger when substituted: “He loves to score goals and play like any other striker. His contributions when he arrived have been magnificent.”

And on Rodri not being named in the Premier League team of the year: “The nominees deserve it. The winner of the trophy deserves it. The list is huge so everyone is important. Rodri should not be worrying about that.”

No issues here. Photograph: Darren Staples/AFP/Getty Images

Manchester United: Some more from Marc Skinner on their FA Cup final this weekend. The manager has said it is an “equal playing field” and that his side will not underestimate their task at Wembley.

The Tottenham manager, Robert Vilahamn, said United were favourites against the first-time finalists but Skinner said: “Tottenham deserve to be in the final not having the underdog status – if you get to a final, you deserve to be in a final.

“You’d be a fool to go in super, super confident that you’re going to walk this final, because Tottenham are a very, very good team. On their day can beat anyone in this league.”

Skinner was also asked about Nikita Parris after reports that the forward, whose current deal runs to the summer, turned down a move to the NWSL’s North Carolina Courage.

“I’ve read the reports. What I can promise you is Nikita has always been and always will remain a focused, fantastic player.

“There are lots of speculative information everywhere you look if you want to read them. For me, the way she supports and plays for this team, you can tell she is 100% committed to what’s going on at Manchester United. Having players like Nikita is hugely important for our success going forward.”

Ten Hag confident of ‘common sense’ over future

Manchester United: Ten Hag was asked if he was worried about his future at the club given Louis van Gaal was sacked after winning the FA Cup final.

“No, I think they have common sense …

“[The board] have seen 32 different back lines, when you lose eight centre-backs, when we see we don’t have a left-back, they know that will have a negative impact.

“We are still fighting, and it’s a huge final. We are still there. It can be a highlight of the season, but we know why we are under-performing. I am a realistic person, I see this, I analyse, and no team will perform with these injuries.”


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Fifa defends Club World Cup scheduling

Paul MacInnes

Fifa have hit back in the growing row over fixture congestion by insisting they are “fully within our rights” to roll out a 32 team Club World Cup (CWC), despite concerns over burn-out for players.

On Thursday it was revealed that the international players union, Fifpro, and the organisation World Leagues were considering taking legal action over the scheduling of the CWC, with the union claiming a lack of consultation. In a written response, which has been seen by the Guardian, Fifa claims it fully consulted on changes to the match calendar and received approval for those changes before it acted to introduce the new tournament, which is scheduled to take place in the United States this summer.

In the letter, Fifa’s interim secretary general, Mattias Grafström, says that any suggestion of a lack of consultation “is simply not supported by the facts”. He says there are chains of correspondence to substantiate that claim and argues that the eventual result of the consultation led to fewer changes being made than had originally been proposed.

On the subject of the CWC, however, Grafström writes “we are, like any other competition organiser around the world, fully within our rights to set the parameters of our competition while respecting the regulatory framework in place”. He goes on to observe that members of the World Leagues have also been setting up their own summer “international tours” presumably a reference to, among other things, the Premier League Summer Series which saw six English clubs compete in various US cities last summer.

In concluding his letter, Grafström invites FifPro and World Leagues for further talks at a time “convenient” to them. “As Fifa has no senior competition over the course of the next weeks, we would suggest that we set a date between the conclusion of the various domestic and continental competitions taking place soon and the preseason activities that will follow thereafter”, he writes.

Manchester United: Erik Ten Hag confirms that Bruno Fernandes, Scott McTominay and Marcus Rashford have all trained before Sunday’s game after their respective spells on the sidelines. Lisandro Martínez has also returned to training but Ten Hag said while the centre-back asked to play this weekend, he won’t be risked just yet.

Mason Mount will not be fit for Arsenal as he has suffered another injury. Ten Hag calls the situation “very unlucky”.

Thanks Barry and hello all! Before we get to Ten Hag, Here is more from Klopp, who believes Liverpool are firmly out of the Premier League race.

‘We cannot win the Premier League’: Jürgen Klopp admits defeat in title race – video

Manchester United: With Erik Ten Hag about to undergo his weekly inquisition at the hands of the press, I’ll hand you over to Yara El-Shaboury to keep you posted on what could be another excruciating exercise in soul-searching for the Dutchman ahead of his team’s match against Arsenal on Sunday.

Burnley: Anything less than a win away at Tottenham tomorrow afternoon will result in Burnley’s relegation and even victory will not be enough to keep their survival hopes alive if Nottingham Forest beat Chelsea later in the day. But despite having spent all season in the bottom three of the table, Vincent Kompany says he has genuinely enjoyed his first taste of life as a Premier League manager.

“You really can [enjoy it],” he said. “You enjoy it more when you’ve won at the end of the week but I didn’t sign up as a manager [thinking] I can only have success and if I don’t have success the job is rubbish. I signed up for the full package. I knew this was a part of it and you learn as you go through it and I’ve learned from this team, this experience with this club.

“Even in the most difficult times I love the job, I love working with these players, I love trying to help the club reach its objectives. That’s something that really lives and it doesn’t matter if you’ve lost one game or 15 games, that’s stayed. But I want to win of course.”

Klopp vows to be on his best behaviour

Liverpool: Jurgen Klopp has said he will try “absolutely everything” to avoid the yellow card that would banish him to the stands for his final home game as Liverpool manager when his team visit Aston Villa on Monday. Andy Hunter reports …

Pochettino: ‘I’m not saying I’m not happy’

Chelsea: With his squad of young players finally showing some signs that they might be able to function as a half-decent team towards the end of a fairly torrid season, Mauricio Pochettino has addressed speculation regarding his own future – or potential lack therof – at Stamford Bridge.

“Look, it’s not important,” he told reporters. “The most important thing is to keep going, working if we are all happy; not only the owners happy with us, or us, with all the organisation the club is building here because of them we are all under assessment.

“If we are happy, perfect. But it is not only if the owners are happy or the sporting directors are happy. If we are happy, you need to ask us, also, because maybe say ‘we are not happy’ and we accept the situation and we need to split.

“It is not going to be the first time the coaching staff at the end of the season decide to not keep going. But at this end, it is always the opposite way, it is always the owners or the sporting directors.

“They can say tomorrow, maybe I can say ‘I want to leave’. It is two parties to make a decision. Because Chelsea is not happy, the owners are not happy or the sporting directors. Maybe we are not happy because we arrive here with a job to do and in the end it has not happened how we expect. I am not saying I am not happy, but it is always one side and maybe [we need to look at the] other side.”

Mauricio Pochettino has told reporters that any decisions over his future as Chelsea manager are out of his hands. Or something. Photograph: Zac Goodwin/PA

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Everton drop two-point penalty appeal

Andy Hunter

Andy Hunter

Everton have dropped their appeal over a two-point deduction for breaching Premier League profitability and sustainability rules after judging their prospects of success remote.

Everton lodged the appeal after suffering a second points deduction of the season on 8 April for a £16.6m overspend up to 2023. Sean Dyche’s team were previously docked 10 points, reduced to six on appeal, for a £19.5m breach up to 2022.

An independent commission was due to begin hearing Everton’s appeal on Monday but, having reviewed the reasons for rejecting Nottingham Forest’s attempt to overturn a four-point deduction, club lawyers have decided not to proceed. Everton have also secured their Premier League status this season thanks to a stirring finish by Dyche’s team.

Everton still face another hearing into their 2023 PSR breach and the prospect of a third points deduction after the last commission was unable to rule on a dispute between the club and the Premier League over stadium interest payments. The Premier League alleges that Everton were not entitled to capitalise a total of £23.46m in stadium interest payments in its accounts, an argument the club rejects.


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Crystal Palace: Ending the season on a high after four wins in their past five games under their Austrian manager Oliver Glasner, Crystal Palace have announced that Will Hughes, Jeffrey Schlupp and Joel Ward have all extended their contracts with the club. The trio – who have made a combined 672 Palace appearances between them (Hughes 82, Schlupp 230 and Ward 360) – have all extended their deals with the club until the summer of 2025.

“As well as playing a pivotal role on the pitch, Will, Jeff and Joel are natural leaders in the dressing room who embody the Crystal Palace DNA and who help set a culture of the highest standards at the training ground,” said the club CEO Steve Parish. “We are delighted that they will be with us next season to help further our exciting early progress under Oliver Glasner.”

Palace are also in discussions with Nathaniel Clyne and Remi Matthews about extending their stays at the club but have revealed that James Tomkins and Jairo Riedewald will leave when their contracts expire at the end of the season.

Women’s FA Cup final: Manchester United, the heavy favourites, are hoping to win the trophy for the first time on Sunday afternoon and on a personal level, their manager Marc Skinner is hoping it will be a case of third time lucky after two defeats in the final as manager of Birmingham City and in his current role.

“Naturally the experience is something nobody wants to, on a national stage, feel,” he said of his previous final experiences. “It’s part of competitive sport. You grow up and mature but it never gets easier. It is part and parcel of the game though so you learn to deal with the pressures of it.

“There was an interview with Gary Neville and Eddie Howe and they talk about how managers have to be bullet-proof but we’re also human. I think it would be unnatural for me not to feel, and to not be devastated by a loss. But I’ve always known that losses make you stronger and the strength you need to succeed on the long-run is understanding how to deal with failure.

“That first final [with Birmingham City] I never watched back because it hurt at that moment. You learn to deal with your emotions when you feel that. And that’s important because I’m human.”

Aston Villa: Following Aston Villa’s exit from the Europa Conference League last night, their Scottish midfielder reflected on his side’s emphatic defeat at the hands of Olympiakos over two legs of the semi-final. Injuries have hit the Villa squad hard over a long season and Youri Tielemans, Morgan Rogers, Alex Moreno, Jacob Ramsey, Nicolo Zaniolo, Emiliano Buendia, Tyrone Mings and Boubacar Kamara were all unavailable for last night’s game.

“It possibly has [caught up with us],” he said after the game. “The manager drills into us that is a no-excuse environment but listen, you want everyone available, you want your best players there. When you are in the trenches, [you want] someone you can turn to in order to change the game or do something different.

“We went into this competition as favourites and we handled that throughout the competition. I think it has been a big learning curve for us. It’s not been a smooth journey, we got to the semi-final and were down to the bare bones a wee bit. However, those of us that were out there across the two legs lost to the better team and the scoreline shows that.”

Aston Villa’s Scottish skipper John McGinn applauds travelling fans after his side’s defeat in the Europa Conference League final last night. Photograph: James Marsh/Shutterstock

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Howe hopeful of keeping Guimaraes and Isak

Newcastle United: With uncertainty surrounding the Newcastle future of both Bruno Guimaraes and Alexander Isak, Eddie Howe has said he expects both players to be at St James’ Park next season. The Brazilian midfielder, Guimaraes, has repeatedly been linked with a move to PSG, while the Swedish striker, Isak, has been touted as a potenital summer target for Arsenal and Spurs, among other clubs.

“Yes, I do, I’m planning for them to be here,” said Howe, when he was asked if he expected both players to stay in the north-east. “Yes, all my planning is with them in the squad.”

On Isak: “We signed him knowing that he was young and we wanted to develop his talents and give him an opportunity to showcase what he could do and for me, that was a long-term thing that we started with him, a long-term journey, hopefully, and I’ve just seen him flourish this year. I think he’s enjoyed the environment, he’s enjoyed the team that he’s played in and I hope he does that for many years to come.”

Addressing concerns aired by club chief excutive Darren Eales that Newcastle may have to sell players to comply with Premier League profit and sustainability rules, Howe said: “We’re looking to build a squad and a really successful team and to do that, we don’t want to sell our best players. That is hugely important for us. It would knock us back some considerable distance because we would have to start again. There is no weakness in the club to say we are going to sell anyone but of course, financial fair play is there and we’ll have to comply like everyone else.”

Eddie Howe has said he expects both Bruno Guimaraes (left) and Alexander Isak to be at Newcastle next season despite speculation surrounding the future of both players. Photograph: Richard Lee/REX/Shutterstock

Liverpool: Jurgen Klopp takes his troops to Villa Park on Monday night and has been bigging up the efforts of his opposite number the day after Aston Villa were knocked out of the Europa Conference League, while simultaneously taking what sounded suspiciously like a little pop at Arsenal. Or Paris Saint-Germain. Or perhaps Spartak Moscow.

“Incredible job,” he said. “Unai Emery is one of the best we have in the business, 100 percent. Wherever he is, success. Sometimes the clubs were not ready to wait for it, maybe. If you look back maybe these clubs would have made different decisions.

“I’ve known him for so long. I think when I met him for the first time he was managing in Moscow, if I’m right. That’s really long ago. He always had a clear idea. It was really tricky for us when we faced him with Villarreal. Always organised the team extremely well.

“The job he is doing is absolutely exceptional and we know how important it is for a club to qualify for the Champions League and how difficult it is for a club to qualify for the Champions League. He probably, very likely, will do that – it’s absolutely exceptional.”


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Marinakis has ‘big dreams’ for Nottingham Forest

Nottingham Forest: The club’s Greek owner Evangelos Marinakis has stated he is “confident” they will stay in the Premier League and says he has “big dreams” for his club.

“It’s a great team, it inspires us and we want to do more and you will see in the years to come that we have big dreams for Forest,” said the 56-year-old Greek in an interview with the BBC. In March, Forest were docked four points for breaches of the Premier League’s profitability and sustainability rules and lost their appeal against the punishment earlier this week.

The club has alsoo been charged with misconduct by the Football Association over a social media post that questioned the integrity of Stuart Attwell, the video assistant referee appointed for their match against Everton, which Forest lost 2-0 despite having three different penalty claims turned down. The PGMOL have since admitted that one of the three contentious decisions was incorrect.

“It is stressful because of what has been happening since the beginning of the year with some decisions and points deduction,” said Marinakis. “It’s not fair what has happened so far. Referee decisions have cost us points and this is something that has been repeated and repeated and what we expect for the Premier League and referees is to correct these mistakes. It’s a pity as we have a great appetite for the club and I never give up.”

Nottingham Forest host Chelsea at the City Ground tomorrow and a draw could be enough to guarantee their safety with one game to go if results earlier in the day go their way. Marinakis’s other football club, Olympiakos, qualified for the Europa Conference League final at the expense of Aston Villa last night.

Evangelos Marinakis salutes Olympiakos fans following his side’s Europa Conference League semi-final win over Aston Villa in Athens last night. Photograph: Rui Vieira/AP

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Chelsea: Reece James has not played for Chelsea since mid-December but is back in full training five months after undergoing surgery for a serious hamstring injury. The defender could feature in Chelsea’s final three games of the season and may be harbouring hopes of making it into Gareth Southgate’s squad for the Euros despite having played just eight times in the Premier League this season.

“The most important thing is Reece is going to be there for us,” said Mauricio POchettino ahead of Chelsea’s trip to Nottingham Forest tomorrow. “Then because we have an amazing relationship and of course he is an amazing player. It is not easy when you come back from a long-term injury. The most important thing is he can be available and be part of the squad. It is important to finish [the season] with good feelings.”

Despite a nightmarish season, Chelsea are hoping to end their campaign on a high and go into tomorrow’s game on the back of successive wins over Tottenham and West Ham. The irony of having James and several other players returning to full fitness just as the season concludes has not been lost on Pochettino.

“I’m disappointed, as I think to increase the level and improve everyday we need to asses why we need to do better and improve. I think it’s a good challenge for next season. We need to increase the availability of the players. This is the last week of the season and nearly all the players will be fit and available – it’s a good time. It’s good to see the future and be more optimistic.”

Reece James (right) is ready to return to action after a five-month spell on the sidelines. Photograph: Javier García/REX/Shutterstock

Liverpool: With his team five points off the pace with just two games to go and entirely reliant on both Arsenal and Manchester City doing a Devon Loch on the run-in too keep their title hopes alive, Jurgen Klopp is asked if he thinks Liverpool are definitely out of the race to win the Premier League.

“It’s not now number one every morning on the priority list to tell the boys ‘By the way we still have a chance’,” he says. “We can see the table, we can all read the situation. Do we expect [Manchester City] to lose three games? City have to lose three games – difficult to see that. But you never know. Arsenal have to lose two games – difficult. Both play before us, if they both lose let’s talk about it. We have the chance to go above 80 points again. Like everything in life you should never take things like this for granted.”


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Newcastle United: Eddie Howe’s side are very much in the hunt for a place in Europe next season and given Tottenham’s recent run of awful results, may well feel a top five finish is within their grasp. They host Brighton tomorrow and Eddie Howe has been speaking ahead of the game.

“They’re a good team,” he said of tomorrow’s visitors to St James’ Park. “Roberto [de Zerbi] has done a great job, also Graham [Potter] before him. Roberto has his way of working, it’s detailed and thorough. They stick to their method and they’ve become very strong at it. We didn’t get it quite right at the Amex. We hope for a better delivery tomorrow.”

Kieran Trippier has been out for over two months with injury but could feature tomorrow, but the game against Brighton has come too soon for Joelinton and Miguel Almiron, who have also spent time on the sidelines but are back in full training.

“Kieran is getting closer, he has trained this week,” said Howe. “It was the first time with the group. He trained well, it has been a good week for him. I will make a decision today whether he will be involved tomorrow. [Joelinton and Almiron] have trained well. We have been able to get some good work into their bodies. They are still building their robustness if you like. You need the load behind you to stay fit. They are doing well.”

Not for the first time in recent weeks, Bayer Leverkusen left it exceptionally late to keep their astonishing unbeaten run of this season going. Xabi Alonso’s newly crowned Bundesliga champions have not lost a single game in any competition since putting eight without reply past FC Teutonia 05 Ottensen in the German Cup in August, but were on the verge of defeat in their Europa League semi-final second leg against Roma last night. Luckily for them, Josip Stanisic popped up with an with an equaliser in the seventh minute of added time to make it 2-2 on the night and 4-2 to the German side on aggregate.

Leverkusen have now played 49 games without losing and have broken a record previously held by Benfica, who went unbeaten between December 1963 and February 1965. Alonso’s side have four games left this season – two in the Bundesliga, the Europa League final against Atalanta and the German DFB Cup final against second tier side Kaiserslautern on 25 May.

Josip Stanisic celebrates after scoring the late, late, late equaliser against Roma that kept Bayer Leverkusen’s season-long unbeaten run in all competitions alive. Photograph: Action Press/REX/Shutterstock

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Women’s FA Cup final: Manchester United manager Marc Skinner has been speaking ahead of Sunday’s decider against Tottenham Hotspur and took time to reflect on last year’s final, in which his side were beaten by Chelsea.

“Experience in a final is good,” he said. “It’s new when you haven’t done it before. I know Tottenham have players that have experienced finals so they won’t be overawed but it can be something that absorbed you and it can affect the way you want to play.

“We have to make sure that we play the way we want to because we’ve been there and done it. It has to be a business for us. We need to make it business-like but enjoy the moment. We’ve got to Wembley. We’re playing against a team that will be buoyed by that. You get an energy when it’s your first final. But I think there are ways that you can counter-act that and we have to try to do that.

“This is an equal playing field going into it but we cannot and we will not underestimate them. Whatever tag people add to it, we know the job we have got to do.”

Marc Skinner passes on instructions from the sideline at last season’s FA Cup final, which his Manchester United team lost against Chelsea. Photograph: Action Foto Sport/NurPhoto/Shutterstock

Everton: While the club’s future ownership remains shrouded in uncertainty Sean Dyche’s side will play their final home game of the season tomorrow, safe in the knowledge that they will be playing top flight football next season. Having survived no end of tribulations in the current campaign, the highlight of which was a win over Liverpool that ended the title hopes of their Merseyside rivals, the club’s players are likely to get a warm reception before, during and particularly after their game against Sheffield United, when they will do a lap of appreciation in front of the Goodison Park faithful.

“We want to reward all of us really: the players, the staff and the fans for what ends up being a positive season, after some very tricky times,” said Sean Dyche. “We want to give a performance; we want to win. You just have to focus on the players and remind them of the pride and consistency we have in our values as a group to go and perform.

“Afterwards, it’ll be the first time in a number of years we can have a walk around in a fashion that is rewarding for the players and the fans. I think that’s a nice sign-off. It’s been a really strange season for many reasons, yet we end up with a positive feel to it. Certainly I do but I think the players do and I think the fans do.”


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Aston Villa: Speaking after his side’s defeat in Athens last night, Unai EMery outlined his short and longterm plans for his team, who will book their place in next season’s Champions League if they beat Liverpool on Monday night.

“Firstly get back to Birmingham,” he said. “Then rest and focus on the match against Liverpool. We are motivated and excited for it. We are disappointed but only one team can win, so for us to continue with the frustration doesn’t make sense.

“And we have to try and finish the season doing an amazing season, particularly if we manage to achieve the last objective. Even without [Champions League] football we are in Europe in the Europa League.

“We will go over what we have done in the last two legs against Olympiakos and try to learn and take positives from it, take the information from it. Take the experience. Recover, reset and move on.”


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Europa Conference League: Ayoub El Kaabi scored his fourth and fifth goals of the tie to earn Olympiakos a 6-2 aggregate win and end Aston Villa’s hopes of winning European silverware since 1982. Ben Fisher reports from the Karaiskakis Stadium in Athens …


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Friday football blog

With its end now in sight and no longer a speck in the distance, the Premier League rumbles on this weekend with Manchester City in second place but still firm favourites to win their sixth title in seven years due to the game in hand they have over Arsenal. Pep Guardiola’s side travel to Fulham tomorrow, while Mikel Arteta face Manchester United at Old Trafford on Sunday.

At the other end of the table, a home win for Nottingham Forest over Chelsea at the City Ground tomorrow will all but consign Luton and Burnley to the drop along with Sheffield United, and even a point should be enough for Nuno Espirito Santo’s side if their fellow strugglers fail to win their games against West Ham and Tottenham Hotspur respectively.

Tottenham’s women will play in their first ever FA Cup final this weekend at Wembley, where they’ll play Manchester United in front of a sell-out crowd. We’ll bring you news from both managers ahead of this showpiece event in which both teams are hoping to get their name on the trophy for the very first time.


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