Oxford boss Des Buckingham felt the heavy schedule of three games in six days took its toll on his team as they were held 1-1 by Stevenage at the Kassam Stadium.

It means it is effectively no longer in Oxford’s hands to reach the League One play-offs because Lincoln are three points behind them with a game in hand and a superior goal difference.

Buckingham felt the decision not to award the U’s a penalty when Marcus Browne appeared to have been fouled by keeper Craig MacGillivray in the first half was crucial.

They had to come from behind as Stevenage went in front through a Sam Long own goal in the 32nd minute, Cameron Brannagan replying from the penalty spot on 58 minutes when Carl Piergianni fouled Ruben Rodrigues – though that appeared to have been outside the box.

Buckingham said: “To play three games in six days is a big ask.

“We had 26 shots but couldn’t get that second goal we needed.

“There was a clear penalty not given in the first half, and for us that’s the second game in a row that one hasn’t been given when it should have been. It was a huge moment in the game, and very frustrating.

“The referee told me he couldn’t see it, but the linesman was only 15 yards away and had a clear view.

“I’m delighted with the performance but ultimately we’ve got just the four points from these three home games, now we need to make sure we prepare right and get three in the last one at Exeter.

“When we looked to rearrange the Lincoln game we chose this week because it was a free week, then Sky told us they wanted to bring this Stevenage one forward and show it on the Friday night which meant three games in six days.

“There was nothing we could do about it, but had we known they were going to do that, we would have played the Lincoln game another week.

“It’s going to be a tight finish – I wouldn’t rule out Blackpool either, and they’ve got to play Barnsley.”

Stevenage had lost manager Steve Evans in the week, with Evans heading north to become Rotherham boss.

Caretaker boss Alex Revell said: “Steve always had two clubs very much in his heart – this one and Rotherham. Believe me, making the decision was probably the hardest thing he’s had to do, he said.

“I wanted to take today and make the players ready. I really enjoyed it because they gave everything.

“I’m very proud of what the lads did tonight.

“We had a great day yesterday in terms of training and getting ready and trying to get a few bits into them.

“They came to a really tough place and worked so hard for each other.

“In spells we created some half-chances, probably not enough, but it was about showing our togetherness as a club and our spirit.

“I think we showed why we have caused teams problems this season, especially with our energy and our workrate.

“The first penalty shout against us was a penalty and should have been given so we got away with that.

“But it doesn’t mean that something that started outside the box should be a penalty. Two wrongs don’t make a right.”

Pep Guardiola admits Chelsea’s former Manchester City starlet Cole Palmer has been one of the players of the season.

The City manager has also revealed the 21-year-old England midfielder had been trying to leave the Etihad Stadium for two years prior to his £42.5million switch to Stamford Bridge last summer.

Palmer, who was considered one of City’s brightest Academy products, has been Chelsea’s most influential performer since he moved south in search of more first-team opportunities.

Palmer has scored 25 goals this season, 11 of which have come in his last six appearances.

He heads into Saturday’s FA Cup semi-final showdown with former club City at Wembley fresh from a four-goal salvo against Everton on Monday.

Guardiola said: “Cole has been the decisive player, maybe of the season, in many aspects.

“He’s an exceptional player. We knew that when he was here.

“We know how he’s proving (himself), but he has had a lot of minutes. I said many times, I didn’t give him the minutes when maybe he deserved it. He wanted the minutes he now has at Chelsea.

“I understand completely. I’m happy for him because he’s a lovely guy, a shy guy. He has an incredible potential, otherwise he would not have been here.

“He’s playing good. He’s an incredible threat. He’s playing fantastically.”

Palmer was a member of the City squad that won the treble last season and he began the current campaign strongly with goals for Guardiola’s side in the Community Shield and European Super Cup.

Yet despite attempts to persuade the Wythenshawe-born player to stay with his hometown club, his mind to move on before the end of the summer transfer window had long been made up.

Guardiola said: “So what can I say? The decision has been made for many reasons. He was asking for two seasons to leave.

“I said, ‘No, stay’. At the end, (he said), ‘No, I want to leave’. What can we do? I said in pre-season, ‘Stay because Riyad (Mahrez) has gone’. He said, ‘No, I want to leave’.

“After two seasons, what can you say? So go there. Playing at that level is exceptional. Everybody knows it.”

City’s hopes of winning a second successive treble were dashed on Wednesday as they suffered an agonising penalty shoot-out defeat to Real Madrid in the Champions League quarter-finals.

Their focus is now on defending the domestic double, a feat no side has previously achieved, but Guardiola prefers not to view the targets in those terms.

Guardiola said: “We were close again (to the treble) but it didn’t happen.

“So my advice about trebles or doubles or these things is, why are we not focused on Chelsea? It’s enough of a target to think about.

“When you have one or two games left to the end of the Premier League and you are already in the FA Cup final, I can answer you perfectly.

“We’ve felt, two times, how strong Chelsea are. They are really, really difficult.

“So, win that game and see what happens the next three, four, five games in the Premier League and after we will see.”

Mauricio Pochettino warned his Chelsea players not to expect to come up against a vulnerable Manchester City side when the teams meet in Saturday’s FA Cup semi-final.

City go into the game off the back of playing extra time against Real Madrid in the Champions League on Wednesday night before eventually being knocked out on penalties, leaving less than 72 hours recovery time ahead of stepping out at Wembley.

Pep Guardiola has had to deal with fatigue amongst his ranks in recent weeks, with midfielder Rodri admitting to needing a rest earlier this month. He was subsequently left out of the team for last weekend’s win over Luton at the Etihad Stadium but returned to the starting XI for the defeat to Real.

They are still in contention to retain two of the three trophies they won last season, holding a two-point lead over Arsenal and Liverpool in the Premier League title race in addition to Saturday’s meeting with Pochettino’s side as they seek a third FA Cup triumph in six seasons.

Chelsea will return to the scene of their Carabao Cup final loss to Liverpool in February, after which they were heavily criticised for failing to overcome a Reds team decimated by injury.

Jurgen Klopp’s side triumphed in extra time despite finishing the game with four highly inexperienced academy graduates aged 21 or under on the pitch.

And Pochettino insisted there will be no easy ride for his players as City lick their European wounds.

“The good example is Liverpool,” he said. “People were talking about too many injured players, how many young kids they had playing. Look what happened after.

“From our point of view, we are going to compete against Manchester City. If you ask me about their situation, I can give my opinion, but we are not talking about that. We are going to compete against them.

“Today we were preparing, doing meetings, about the Manchester City that played against Real Madrid, that played against us in the Premier League.

“We are not talking about playing one (City line-up) or playing another. For me, the strength of Manchester City is that they keep the same idea and the same philosophy.

“In the last five, six, seven years, even with different players, they play in the same way, they have the structure to dominate and to create chances and to win games and to win trophies.

“I understand the situation is tough for them after playing 120 minutes in the Champions League. Emotionally, you expend a big energy. It’s about how they recover now.

“They are going be competitive and they have an amazing staff that look after the players. They’re going to put 11 players that will play with full energy to try and win the game.”

Pochettino will have Enzo Fernandez available for selection after he missed Monday’s 6-0 demolition of Everton.

The manager said the World Cup winner’s fitness will be carefully managed following reports this week in Argentina that he requires a hernia operation.

“We are not looking for heroes,” said Pochettino.

Juventus fought back from two down to salvage a 2-2 draw at Cagliari but the result did little to dispel speculation over the future of manager Massimiliano Allegri.

Allegri has faced heightened scrutiny over his long-term prospects at the Turin club after a poor run of form.

The Old Lady hit the Serie A summit in January but have struggled for victories in recent months and almost suffered a painful defeat to old boss Claudio Ranieri.

Cagliari raced into a two-goal lead after they were awarded two first-half penalties, which Gianluca Gaetano and Yerry Mina dispatched.

However, Ranieri was denied a victory as Dusan Vlahovic pulled one back before Alberto Dossena put through his own net with three minutes left to leave Juventus in third position with Bologna and Roma breathing down their neck after winning only two of their last 12 league matches.

Allegri made two changes in an attempt to arrest Juve’s stuttering form with Carlos Alcaraz and Timothy Weah handed starting opportunities.

It failed to have the desired impact with Cagliari able to quickly take control of the contest with away stopper Wojciech Szczesny the busier of the two goalkeepers.

After a strong start, the hosts were rewarded with the chance to go ahead on the half an hour mark when Bremer was penalised for handball after a header by Dossena.

Gaetano fired into the bottom corner from 12yards but not long after the celebrations had finished at Stadio Unipol Domus the hosts were awarded a second spot-kick.

Szczesny was the guilty party on this occasion after he brought down Zito Luvumbo and received a caution for his foul. Former Everton defender Mina stepped up and sent Szczesny the wrong way to spark jubilant celebrations in Sardinia.

Juventus did have the ball in the net before half-time, but Vlahovic’s tap-in was ruled out for offside and the deficit remained at two.

Kenan Yildiz was sent on by Allegri for the second half and the visitors did pull one back in the 61st minute.

Federico Chiesa and Vlahovic stood over a free-kick and the latter curled a delivery around the wall for his 17th goal of the season.

It provided hope for Juve and the next roll of the dice by Allegri was the introduce Weston McKennie and Arkadiusz Milik.

Juve upped the ante during the final exchanges but when Vlahovic volleyed over from close range, it looked like time might run out.

However, Allegri’s side found an equaliser with three minutes left when Dossena put the ball into his own net after a dangerous cross by Yildiz.

Yildiz almost produced a stoppage-time winner too but fired straight at Simone Scuffer late on as the points were shared.

Leeds twice blew a double-figure lead as Huddersfield hit back to claim a spectacular 30-24 Betfred Super League win at Headingley.

Adam Clune burst across the halfway line in the dying stages to put the seal on a dramatic win that piles the pressure on Leeds head coach Rohan Smith after the Rhinos’ fourth home loss in a row.

The hosts led 12-2 after a forgettable first half but spectacularly combusted after the break and handed the Giants the chance to build on last week’s brilliant Challenge Cup quarter-final win at Catalans Dragons.

Tries from Paul Momirovski and the returning David Fusitu’a had given the Rhinos a sizeable lead after a relatively serene first period in which Jake Connor kicked the Giants’ only points, and which offered no indication of the drama to follow.

It was a different story early in the second half as Leeds lost then duly retrieved their double-figure lead before the hour-mark.

Out of nowhere, Esan Marsters shrugged off three feeble challenges on the Leeds left to grab Huddersfield’s opener, then three minutes later, Adam Swift pummelled the same flank to set up a diving effort in the corner from Elliot Wallis to improbably haul Huddersfield level.

Only a poor night with the boot by Jake Connor – who would nail just one of his six conversions – prevented Huddersfield gaining a stranglehold and the Rhinos were quick to respond, Momirovski crossing for his second of night then Jarrod O’Connor charging through a flat-footed Giants rearguard to put them back in control.

Rhyse Martin’s fourth straight kick look Leeds 12 points clear but home hopes that they had learned their lesson were spectacularly disproved as more shocking defence allowed Swift to squirm over from dummy-half and keep his side in with a shout, eight adrift with 15 minutes remaining.

Incredibly within three minutes Huddersfield did it again as Swift was again allowed to make inroads before feeding Harvey Livett for his side’s fourth, cutting the Leeds lead to four.

Huddersfield were level in the 70th minute, Clune’s ball to the right was brilliantly touched on by Connor for Kevin Naiqama to surge over, but Connor’s problems with the boot continued as another missed kick left the game all-square at 24-24.

As Leeds collapsed, Miller was pushed almost 10 metres over his own try-line and his subsequent drop-out failed to go 10 metres, giving Connor the simplest of chances to send Huddersfield two points clear from in front of the posts.

Clune put the seal on a remarkable evening when Naiqama intercepted a pass from Cameron Smith and survived shouts for a knock-on as he juggled the ball out to his team-mate to finish the job.

Oxford squandered a great opportunity to strengthen their bid to reach the play-offs when they could only manage a 1-1 draw at home to Stevenage.

It leaves them in sixth place in Sky Bet League One, three points ahead of Lincoln, who have a game in hand and superior goal difference.

Stevenage, who lost manager Steve Evans to Rotherham this week, held out for a point despite not having a shot on target – they scored through an own goal – and being under constant pressure.

Stevenage took the lead against the run of play in the 32nd minute when defender Sam Long, pressured by Kane Hemmings behind him, turned Nick Freeman’s left-wing cross into his own net.

The U’s felt they should have had a penalty when Ruben Rodrigues threaded a pass through to Marcus Browne, who looked to be fouled by goalkeeper Craig MacGillivray in a race to reach the ball.

But referee Tom Nield ignored Oxford’s appeals for a spot-kick.

They were awarded one in the 58th minute, though, when Carl Piergianni brought down Rodrigues on the edge of the box after the Portuguese forward got goalside of him. Cameron Brannagan converted.

The home side dominated the first half, with MacGillivray saving Rodrigues’s fierce drive, Long glancing a header just wide at a corner, and Mark Harris nodding wide from a good position.

The second half saw much of the same, MacGillivray saving from Finn Stevens and from Josh Murphy when he raced through.

Stevenage nearly won it late on as Long cleared off the line and then a shot was deflected off a defender and against a post.

England trio Zak Crawley, Joe Root and Harry Brook were all out for single-figure scores as bowlers across the Vitality County Championship had more success following the return of the Dukes ball.

The trial of the Kookaburra ball, which has a flatter seam than its Dukes counterpart and tends to go softer earlier, in the opening two rounds has proved divisive and led to much higher scores than expected in the early season.

Warwickshire captain Alex Davies’ fantastic 149 underpinned his side’s 340 for four in their Division One clash against Hampshire at the Utilita Bowl – but the opener was the only batter in the country to reach three figures on Friday.

Crawley edged to third slip for five in his first appearance of the season for Kent, who ended a rain-affected opening day on 111 for three after 39 overs against defending champions Surrey at Canterbury.

Daniel Bell-Drummond registered 70 before he was trapped in front by Tom Lawes and Daniel Worrall accounted for Crawley and fellow opener Ben Compton.

Four wickets for Shane Snater and three for England hopeful Sam Cook helped Essex skittle Lancashire for 146 at Chelmsford, where the hosts went to stumps on 68 for one with just 54 overs possible.

England off-spinner Shoaib Bashir snared the in-form Joe Clarke as Nottinghamshire were all out for 193 against Somerset at Taunton.

Craig Overton was the pick of the attack with three for 57 before a classy 70 not out from Sean Dickson led Somerset to 116 for one at the close.

Durham’s Ollie Robinson thrashed six fours and three sixes in a belligerent 55 off 43 balls but his side were all out for 244 against Worcestershire in a clash between the two promoted sides at Kidderminster.

Former West Indies captain Jason Holder took three wickets for Worcestershire, who reached 78 for four in reply.

In Division Two, Yorkshire were dismissed for 159 by Middlesex at Lord’s, where Root steered to gully for five while Brook made just three before nicking to second slip.

Middlesex slipped to 37 for two in reply but Mark Stoneman’s unbeaten 38 and Leus du Plooy’s 23 not out led the hosts to 84 without further loss, with 55.4 overs bowled in the day.

Half-centuries for Ben Charlesworth (62), Miles Hammond (56) and James Bracey (69) ushered Gloucestershire to 319 for eight against Sussex at Hove. Danny Lamb took three for 49 for the hosts.

Colin Ingram’s 69 not out rescued Glamorgan from 27 for four against Northamptonshire at Wantage Road. Ben Sanderson’s third wicket left the Welsh side on 96 for five but Ingram’s efforts and 50 from Dan Douthwaite helped them close on 203 for seven after 56.1 overs.

Leicestershire opener Marcus Harris’ unbeaten 77 got his side to 168 for two after 46 overs against Derbyshire at Derby.

Jamaica Lawn Bowls has unveiled its two-member team set to compete in the prestigious 2024 World Bowls Indoor Championships, hosted by Guernsey IBA on the Channel Islands from April 21 to 27. The team will feature Robert Simpson and Maureen Caesar, who will compete across multiple disciplines including Men’s Singles, Women’s Singles, and Mixed Pairs.

 The announcement of the team selection coincides with Jamaica Lawn Bowls' ongoing partnership with Kukri, a leading sports apparel brand. Kukri will provide the team's apparel for the championship, emphasizing a unique and vibrant design that represents Jamaica's iconic colors.

 Jamie Williams, Sales Director of Kukri Sports North America, expressed enthusiasm about the collaboration, stating, "Our design team was incredibly excited to work with the instantly recognizable colors of Jamaica, and we are confident that we will be able to create a unique identity for the players and supporters that they can be proud of. We are committed to growing our footprint within the Caribbean and are looking forward to showcasing our product at both local and international events."

 Horane Brown, President and Director of the Jamaica Lawn Bowling Association Ltd, emphasized the significance of the partnership with Kukri Sports. "This is a significant commercial deal for the Jamaica Lawn Bowling Association to partner with Kukri Sports," said Brown. "As we move forward in developing the sport of Lawn Bowls, this puts us on the perfect path for growth, showcasing brand Jamaica designs."

 The World Bowls Indoor Championships represent a prestigious opportunity for Jamaica's lawn bowlers to compete on the international stage, demonstrating their skills and passion for the sport. With a focus on development and representation, Jamaica looks forward to making a mark at this esteemed championship and beyond.

Emma Raducanu’s progress in the Stuttgart Open was halted in straight sets by world number one Iga Swiatek.

The Polish four-time grand slam champion, in her 100th week on top of the ATP world rankings, prevailed 7-6 (2) 6-3 to set up a semi-final showdown with Kazakhstan’s Elena Rybakina.

It was, however, an encouraging quarter-final performance from Raducanu, who has slipped to 303 in the world rankings after a torrid 2023.

Raducanu came in to the contest on a high after winning four matches in a row for the first time since her US Open title in 2021 and raised confidence levels were reflected in the opening exchanges.

Several booming returns from the 21-year-old Briton turned a 0-40 deficit into an immediate break of serve, but Swiatek levelled after edging a second game that featured seven deuces.

That see-saw battle set the tone for a marathon 70-minute opening set which produced plenty of high-quality ground strokes from both sides of the net.

The match went with serve from that point, with Raducanu superbly holding her nerve at 5-4 and 6-5 down to force the first set to a tie-break.

Swiatek completely dominated the tie-break though, winning the first four points before closing it out 7-2.

Raducanu was quickly in trouble again in the second set, falling 2-0 behind and covered in clay after losing her footing on the baseline.

She continued to fight and fended off break points in her next two service games to stay in the match.

But Swiatek kept up the pressure to finally end Raducanu’s resistance to move in to the last four.

Jason Wilcox has left Southampton to become Manchester United’s new technical director with immediate effect.

The 53-year-old becomes a key appointment at Old Trafford as part of United’s off-field overhaul following Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s arrival at the club.

Wilcox joined Championship side Southampton last summer as their director of football, making the switch from Manchester City where he developed a reputation for nurturing excellent young talent as well as recruiting some of the best prospects in the game.

A United statement read: “Jason Wilcox has joined Manchester United as technical director with immediate effect.

“He will work with all technical areas of the football department to achieve the highest standards of performance.

“Jason was previously director of football at Southampton and before that academy director at Manchester City.

“As a player he won the Premier League with Blackburn Rovers in 1995.”

A Saints statement read: “Southampton Football Club can today confirm that it has reluctantly agreed to allow director of football Jason Wilcox to join Manchester United, having reached an agreement with the Premier League side on an acceptable compensation fee.

“Whilst the club is naturally disappointed that Jason’s stay at Southampton has only lasted nine months, it wishes him well for the future.”

John Murtough stepped down as football director at Old Trafford last week.

United are looking to add Newcastle sporting director Dan Ashworth to their staff as Ratcliffe continues his off-field rebuild after taking a 27.7 per cent stake in the club.

Wilcox will report to the sporting director, who will have overall responsibility for football performance, recruitment and operations.

The PA news agency understands Darren Fletcher will continue to play a key role in the football leadership team working across the men’s first team and academy.

Dan Skelton edged back to the top of the table for the British jumps trainers’ championship after a crucial treble at Ayr.

The Alcester trainer was a little shy of £31,000 adrift of Irish champion Willie Mullins on the leaderboard ahead of the meeting, the first day of the valuable Coral Scottish Grand National fixture which could prove so pivotal in the destination of the title, in which Paul Nicholls will also have a big say.

Shakeyatailfeather finished second in the Abbott Risk Consulting Mares’ Maiden Hurdle and Catch Him Derry landed the Get Home Safe With Thistle Cabs Handicap Hurdle as the 5-6 favourite to kick off Skelton’s afternoon, after which Punta Del Este outran odds of 25-1 to take the feature Coral “We’re Here For It” Handicap Hurdle, which was worth £16,338 to the winner.

Theformismighty finished fourth in the same race to add another £1,884 to the total, with Presenting Nelly duly providing another victory at 5-1 in division two of the GS Group ‘Hands & Heels’ Handicap Hurdle that brought the day to a close.

For that win she pocketed £5,281, putting Skelton back in front by just under £5,000 heading into Saturday, where he has 10 entries across Ayr and Bangor and when Mullins will play his hand with three horses in the Scottish Champion Hurdle and six in the Scottish Grand National.

Speaking to Racing TV after Punta Del Este’s win, Skelton said: “I’m sure all the mathematicians will be calculating it all, but tomorrow’s the important day for the championship.

“The three of us are in the Scottish Grand National and in all the races really, tomorrow will be a big day.

“It’s a privilege to have the owners come up here and be looked after Ayr, the track is always in as good condition as it can be and given the winter we’ve had I think they’ve done a great job with that.

“Every course has its unique atmosphere and the Scottish Grand National is unique indeed.

“L’Eau Du Sud is the obvious one for the Scottish Champion Hurdle, he’s the favourite for the race after a very good run at Cheltenham.

Nicholls, meanwhile, claimed his share of the prize-money on offer to keep himself competitive ahead of the two big weekends to come, with the season drawing to a close at Sandown in a week’s time.

Nicholls was in fact the first trainer to strike a blow at Ayr as Outlaw Peter won the Hillhouse Quarry Handicap Chase under Harry Cobden as the 7-2 joint-favourite.

Nicholls also took home some of place money on offer, with Beau Balko finishing third in the Seko Logistics Scotland Novices’ Limited Handicap Chase and Don’t Tell Su the runner-up of the GS Group “Hands & Heels” Handicap Hurdle.

Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr believes there is a "lot of value" in the team keeping their core of Stephen Curry, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson together, as the latter of the trio prepares to hit free agency.

The Warriors' season came to an abrupt end on Tuesday as they were dumped out of the Play-In Tournament by the Sacramento Kings, falling to a 118-94 defeat to their upstate rivals. 

It is the third time in the last five seasons that Golden State – who have won four NBA championships under Kerr – have missed out on a playoff berth. 

That has led to questions being asked about the team's future, and they have a decision to make over Thompson as the 34-year-old prepares to become an unrestricted free agent.

While the Warriors have outlined their desire to keep Thompson, he has been linked with the Orlando Magic and Dallas Mavericks and says his priority is playing for a championship contender. 

Speaking at his exit interview on Thursday, Kerr spoke of the difficulties of breaking up great teams and said he was keen to continue working with the Warriors' 'big three'. 

"It's rarely a storybook," Kerr said. "Even the '96 or '98 Bulls, the team was broken up and we won the championship in our last year but there was a documentary about what a disaster the whole thing was. It's impossible for this stuff to end perfectly.

"I do think there is a lot of value to having our three guys being Warriors for life. I think there's a lot of value in ending with dignity.

"For those three, I really want to see all of them finish their careers here, but also finish out their careers with a sense of pride and dignity in what they're doing."

Much of the Warriors' season was overshadowed by discussions regarding Green's ill-discipline, with the forward being ejected four times in 2023-24.

Green also missed 16 games after receiving an indefinite suspension for striking Phoenix Suns center Jusuf Nurkic in the face in December, an incident that Kerr described as "unforgivable".

However, Kerr still believes Green is worth the trouble, saying: "Yet I forgave him. He's one of the most competitive, one of the smartest players I've ever been around. 

"Yet he makes these decisions that hurt the team, that aren't smart. So how do you reconcile all that? It's really difficult. 

"The number one thing I would say is, if we decided he wasn't worth it then we would have moved off of him years ago. 

"But he's worth it and he's worth it not only because of the banners that are hanging out there but because he really is a wonderful human being."

Mauricio Pochettino believes Cole Palmer will go into Chelsea’s FA Cup semi-final with Manchester City on Saturday with nothing to prove to his former employers, insisting he is the right manager to help the 21-year-old continue his stunning ascendancy.

Palmer, who left Chelsea’s Wembley opponents in a £42.5million deal in the summer, is joint top scorer in the Premier League after his four goals in Monday’s 6-0 demolition of Everton moved him level with City’s Erling Haaland on 20 for the season.

He has netted an incredible seven times in the team’s last two home games, including a hat-trick in the breathless 4-3 win over Manchester United when two of his goals came in the 10th and 11th minutes of stoppage time.

He previously scored from the penalty spot in the fifth minute of added time to snatch a point in a 4-4 draw when City visited west London in November.

Palmer has previously stated his decision to leave the champions – for whom he scored twice in August in the Community Shield and UEFA Super Cup – was based on the belief he would get more first-team game time at Chelsea.

That decision has been thoroughly vindicated, with his performances for Mauricio Pochettino’s frustratingly inconsistent side placing him in the reckoning for the PFA Player of the Year award.

His odds on winning the award have been slashed by as much as half with some bookmakers since his Everton haul.

But his manager said there was no possibility the England international would face City with an axe to grind.

“It’s his first consistent season playing, we need to be careful because he’s still young, he’s growing,” said Pochettino.

“He’s already played twice (against City) in the Premier League. He’s very grateful for Manchester City, with Pep Guardiola. He always talks very highly of them.

“He’s not the type of player that has something inside (to prove). He understood perfectly that for different reasons he wanted to prove himself in another club.

“He’s not the type of person to wants to prove something against his former club.”

Prior to joining Chelsea, Palmer had played only 19 senior league games spread over three seasons, and had not scored in the Premier League.

Yet he is now a genuine contender to deprive his former team-mate Haaland of the Golden Boot won by the Norwegian last season.

There is also the growing prospect of his being selected in Gareth Southgate’s squad for Euro 2024 in Germany this summer.

“He has to absorb the pressure to play in the Premier League consistently,” said Pochettino, who previously enjoyed success at Tottenham stewarding young talents though their early years, including England captain Harry Kane.

“It’s about the demands in his private life. He is top scorer. He maybe needs to pay attention to different things than before. That’s going to have an influence on how he is going to prepare himself, how he’s going to rest and going to sleep, how he spends his energy.

“We need to be careful. We have the experience to manage this type of thing, when a young kid becomes a big star. Why is he not performing in a few months? Because his life has changed. He needs to learn from this experience that is completely different to the past.”

Jack Grealish believes Saturday’s FA Cup semi-final against Chelsea gives Manchester City the perfect opportunity to put their Champions League agony behind them.

City’s hopes of successfully defending their European crown – and winning a second successive treble – were shattered on Wednesday as they were beaten by Real Madrid on penalties.

The defeat was particularly galling given that City had dominated the second leg of the quarter-final tie at the Etihad Stadium, but they have little time to dwell on their misfortune.

Attention has immediately shifted to Wembley and a key clash in City’s bid to retain one of the other two trophies they won in glorious fashion last season.

Midfielder Grealish said: “We’ve not been used to losing, especially in the last couple of years. We always knew it was going to be a tough game against one of the best teams in the world.

“It went down to penalties and it’s never nice to go out on penalties. Luckily enough for us we’ve got another game within three days where we can go and put it right.

“Sometimes it’s better when it’s like that. It’s better when you can put it right straight away rather than waiting and dwelling on it for a couple of weeks.

“It’s the perfect game for us to put it right.”

As well as being favourites for the FA Cup, City have put themselves in a strong position to win the Premier League for a fourth year in succession and a sixth time in seven years.

Grealish said: “This year, if we win the Premier League and the FA Cup it would be a hugely successful season. Hopefully we can go on and do that and that’s our aim.”

It has been a frustrating campaign in a personal sense for Grealish, although he has regained form and his place in the side in recent games.

The 28-year-old England international, who excelled in the treble-winning season, struggled to find consistency after an injury in the autumn and was then hindered by further fitness issues.

“It’s been difficult,” he said. “Especially on the back of last year, I had such a good season.

“At the moment, I feel good and I feel confident. At the start of the season, I don’t know, I just didn’t feel like I was playing well really. I didn’t really feel that fit if I’m honest.

“But I feel good now. I feel fit and I feel like I’m playing with good confidence. Hopefully I can bring that into the end of the season.

“We’ve still got a lot to play for. The season is nowhere near over yet. I still feel like I’ve got a big part to play.”

Grealish spoke recently about his determination to repay manager Pep Guardiola for guiding him through his difficult spell and he remains keen to deliver for the City boss.

He said: “I’ve got a really good relationship with him. I’ve said before that he’s the best manager in the world, in my opinion.

“I’ve had my own problems, even off the pitch, and he’s always spoken to me and been there for me.

“Hopefully, I can help him and he can help me towards the end of the season.”

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