Liverpool legend Kenny Dalglish proclaimed "maybe romance isn't dead" and is dreaming of a famous Reds comeback against Real Madrid in the Champions League quarter-finals.

Los Blancos were a class above Jurgen Klopp's men in Tuesday's first leg in the Spanish capital, Madrid running out 3-1 winners with Vinicius Jr scoring twice and Marco Asensio also on target.

Europe's premier competition is Liverpool's last remaining hope of silverware this term after a faltering defence of their Premier League title.

The odds may be against Liverpool ahead of the second leg at Anfield but with the final being played at the Ataturk Stadium – the venue of their famous comeback from 3-0 at half-time against Milan in the 2005 showpiece – Dalglish believes all is not lost.

"We're 3-1 down in the quarter-finals of the Champions League, playing again on Wednesday against Real Madrid, the final is being played at the Ataturk Stadium which is the stadium where we beat AC Milan on penalties," Dalglish said in quotes published by several British newspapers. 

"So maybe romance is not yet dead and the bad season is going to have a happy ending."

Liverpool are no strangers to memorable European comebacks and overturned a 3-0 first-leg deficit against Barcelona in the semi-finals en route to winning the trophy in 2019.

But Dalglish thinks the circumstances are different against Zinedine Zidane's side.

"I think what will make it harder [than the Barcelona game] is that Real are a better team than Barcelona were," he added. 

"Barcelona won 3-0 at the Nou Camp and they missed a sitter late on with the last kick of the game.

"You thought at the time, 'that's given us a chance now'. Real Madrid have got a better team defensively even though they had to make changes [in the first leg] – [Sergio] Ramos never played and they had to bring a couple of guys in. They're better than Barcelona were."

Last term, Liverpool romped to a first top-flight title since 1990, a team that was managed by Dalglish.

This season, the Reds are in seventh with only eight games to play, some 25 points back of runaway leaders Manchester City and three adrift of West Ham in fourth.

Dalglish feels Liverpool's extensive injuries have played a contributing factor.

"There are no excuses, but there are some reasons. For me, one of the biggest contributory factors was losing four players in the same position, because then that was the back four out of commission or certainly weaker than they were," he added.

"When you look at Van Dijk, you're looking at a colossus and you're thinking, 'how do I get past him?'

"It's the same with [Joel] Matip beside him, Joe Gomez... they had to put the two stalwarts from midfield, Jordan Henderson and Fabinho, back into the back four, so they are now 20 yards deeper than they would normally play.

"You couldn't replace those two in the middle of the pitch. I think it was just unfortunate that that happened. Virgil has been a huge miss, but when you're not winning games, anyone not playing is a huge miss.

"I think the players are as hungry as they were last year, they are trying to replicate what they did. They lost six in a row at Anfield which is unheard of. 

"People might attribute it to no fans being in, and it is detrimental to Liverpool that they have not had the fan support because they have always been a huge part of the success at the football club."

Manchester United's goalkeeper situation remains unclear beyond this season.

David de Gea has been linked with the Old Trafford exit door while Dean Henderson is yet to fully convince some observers he is a worthy number one.

Thus speculation is mounting about a Red Devils move for a new shot-stopper.

 

TOP STORY - UNITED CIRCLE FOR OBLAK

Atletico Madrid goalkeeper Jan Oblak is reportedly wanted by Manchester United who are said to have a long-standing interest in the Slovenian.

Oblak has spent almost seven years in the Spanish capital but is ready to move to England, according to 90min.

The report claims United have doubts about Henderson as number one and subsequently are exploring their options with 28-year-old Oblak.

ROUND-UP

- Juventus and Paulo Dybala will enter negotiations on a new deal in May, reports Tuttosport.

- 90min reports that Liverpool want to utilise their option to sign Ozan Kabak permanently, having acquired the defender on loan from Schalke in February.

- Calciomercato claims that Barcelona are plotting a move for Juventus defender Cristian Romero who is currently on loan at Atalanta.

- Galatasaray have offered Crystal Palace defender Patrick van Aanholt a three-year deal, according to Sky Sports.

- Tottenham are top in the race to sign West Brom goalkeeper Sam Johnstone, claims ESPN.

Manchester City will take an aggregate lead into the second leg of a Champions League quarter-final for the first time when they travel to Borussia Dortmund, but there was another break with tradition in Manchester this week.

An hour and 15 minutes before events got underway at the Etihad Stadium, Pep Guardiola picked a starting XI that did not lead to raised eyebrows and mass consternation.

No midfield diamond, like the one that quickly lost its shine in a 3-0 defeat to Liverpool at Anfield in 2018; no overt caution as in the 1-0 loss at Tottenham that preceded a crazy second leg and an exit on away goals; no unwieldy 5-3-2 within which City froze so badly against Lyon last year.

Much of the runaway Premier League leaders' success this season has been based upon Guardiola harnessing the full depths of a talent-rich squad, mastering the art of pandemic football through shrewd rotation. So, given his line-ups have become increasingly tricky to predict, the prospects of a pre-match bolt from the blue were reduced.

However, if he has a best XI, the side that eventually prevailed 2-1 against Dortmund were something close to it. A midfield trio anchored by Rodri, ablaze with Kevin De Bruyne's creativity and gilded by Ilkay Gundogan's supreme movement and timely goals. Up front there was, well… no one in particular as Riyad Mahrez and Phil Foden hovered around false nine Bernardo Silva.

And at the back, in front of an unusually erratic Ederson, were City's four best defenders this season. There was Joao Cancelo, the wildcard full-back/midfield hybrid who has given Guardiola's side a new dimension and added control. On the other flank, Kyle Walker – a right-back in the most conventional sense and one of Guardiola's most reliable performers of the past four campaigns.

At centre-back, the reborn John Stones was alongside Ruben Dias. An error on his England return last month stood out so much because Stones has been immense in sky blue this term. City have only conceded seven times with him on the field this season.

Then there is Dias, who joined as a club-record signing from Benfica in the aftermath of a 5-2 defeat to Leicester City. Such humiliation has never looked like being repeated with the Portugal international in harness.

"He’s been so important so far but still we have two months before the end of the season," Guardiola said ahead of Saturday's match with Leeds United, against whom Dias made his debut six months ago.

"He has been so important in the leadership and quality he has."

Despite their impressive individual performances, the Dortmund game was only the fifth time the Walker-Stones-Dias-Cancelo quartet has lined up together.

Given City have two Wembley dates this month and possibly more showpiece encounters to come as they pursue honours on four fronts, their potential status as a go-to defensive line is interesting, mainly because it is a setup in which the influential Dias seems a little uncomfortable.

The reason for this is rooted in the fact that, since City embarked upon their remarkable ongoing run of 27 wins in 28 matches, Guardiola's back four has not really been a back four.

In possession, which is most of the time when you're Manchester City, Cancelo's role is generally to bolster the midfield numbers. When Guardiola highlighted some of City's struggles in central areas against Dortmund, it was Rodri and Cancelo – tellingly not one of the Spain international's teamsheet midfield colleagues – who he namechecked.

That leaves three strung across the backline to start the build-up, a fundamental basis for any strong Guardiola performance. When Cancelo has started nominally from right-back, that three is usually Stones-Dias-Oleksandr Zinchenko. Walker's starts at right-back have often come with the left-footed central defender Aymeric Laporte in the line-up, meaning the back three in possession is Walker-Dias-Laporte.

Dias thrives in this position at the heart of things, with ball players on their natural sides flanking him. The problem when Walker and Cancelo start is Dias ends up on the left of the three, with Stones central.

"You are completely right, good point," Guardiola conceded when it was raised Dias was put slightly out of his comfort zone in midweek.

"We don't have left footer to pass the ball to the wider winger quicker with a natural left foot. That's true.

"But in that game we needed specifically Ruben in that position, with John, and that's why you use it. We won for other aspects in other positions and other situations."

So, Guardiola felt the trade-off was worth it due to benefits elsewhere. Considering how City came on strong down the stretch before Foden's dramatic winner, it is hard to argue too much.

A closer inspection of the games Walker, Stones, Dias and Cancelo have started shows Marco Reus' equaliser for Dortmund was the first goal City have conceded in this configuration. Previously, they drew 0-0 at Manchester United, beat Southampton 1-0 and Aston Villa and Borussia Monchengladbach 2-0, although Walker went off injured before half-time versus Villa and was replaced by Zinchenko.

But what of Dias? When starting with Stones, Walker and Cancelo, he averages 12 fewer passes per 90 minutes (78 down from 90) at a lower accuracy (91.1 from 93.8) than his overall season statistics, suggesting he is not so sure in possession on his unfavoured side of the field.

His duel success rate drops from 62.7 per cent to 50, with aerials falling from 66.1 to 54.5 per cent. His tackles per 90 minutes track upwards slightly from 0.9 to 1.3, although this could indicate the build-up flaws of this back three/four means more last-ditch defensive work.

Another game where Dias was on the left of the three in possession came in February against West Ham, where Walker started and Zinchenko performed the Cancelo role from the left.

Although Dias and Stones were the goalscoring heroes in a 2-1 win, City were ragged and Opta's expected goals (xG) figures for the game saw David Moyes' men 1.9-0.5 to the good at full-time, indicating Guardiola's normally smooth outfit rode their luck.

These are minor drop-offs and it is not as if City have looked useless in the games mentioned above. However, as Guardiola often likes to say, the biggest games can come down to the "small details".

Having the man who turned his defence around performing an uncomfortable task on one of those occasions is a risk he should perhaps avoid.

Jose Mourinho claims Manchester United "big boss" Alex Ferguson would dismiss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's theory that cup trophies can be "an ego thing" for managers.

In almost two and a half years at the Old Trafford helm, Solskjaer has yet to deliver silverware for the club, and he says the team should be judged by their league progress.

United sit second in the Premier League table, which suggests there has been achievement on that front, and they remain in the hunt in the Europa League.

The latter is a tournament that Mourinho won with United, and he also landed an EFL Cup triumph to make it a double in the 2016-17 season.

United lost only five times in the Premier League in that campaign but a league-high 15 draws meant they could only finish sixth, yet in the following campaign they were runners-up to Manchester City.

Mourinho's United career began to unravel, but he left knowing he had helped to replenish the trophy cabinet, and he disagrees with Solskjaer that such moments can be ego-stroking moments for managers and clubs.

"It's his opinion. I'm pretty sure that his big boss Sir Alex has a different opinion about it," Mourinho said, speaking ahead of his Tottenham side's clash with United on Sunday.

"But I respect what Solskjaer thinks. I think different. Freedom of thinking, freedom of ideas, and if that's the way he thinks that's fine for me.

"It's not being disrespectful for anyone. But I believe his big boss and the biggest of Premier League history has a different view in relation to that."

Ferguson's first United trophy was the FA Cup in 1990, which led to a European Cup Winners' Cup the following year, and in 1991-92 his team added a League Cup success.

It was the beginning of an era where United harvested trophies season by season, moving on to the Premier League and peaking at the end of the decade with their most famous Champions League triumph, Solskjaer famously scoring a stoppage-time winner against Bayern Munich.

It was an empire that was built on a foundation of cup success, with that essentially being United's entry level to the most dominant period in their history.

Mourinho and Tottenham had their tails up in October as the visitors rampaged to a 6-1 win at Old Trafford, but they have since slid from title contention to their current sixth place.

They have an EFL Cup final against Pep Guardiola's Manchester City coming up on April 25, however, which could see Spurs secure their first major trophy since 2008, when they won the same competition.

Needing a strong run-in to barge into the top four, it would be hugely helpful to Spurs this weekend if they could end United's 22-match unbeaten away record (W14 D8) in the Premier League and complete a first league double over the Red Devils since the 1989-90 season.

Should they achieve that feat, Mourinho would be the first former United manager since Dave Sexton in 1981-82 with Coventry City to manage such a double.

United will inevitably be wary of the threat posed by Tottenham's Harry Kane, who scored a double in the Old Trafford game and is one goal short of hitting 20 in a Premier League season for the fifth time.

Kane would be just the fourth player in the Premier League era to achieve this feat after Alan Shearer (7 times), Sergio Aguero (6) and Thierry Henry (5).

If anyone gives Tottenham value for money, it must be Kane.

Mourinho spoke about the financial muscle of Manchester City, who rewarded Kevin De Bruyne with a bumper new contract this week, reportedly worth over £16million per season.

The Spurs boss has no problem with De Bruyne doing so well out of his City career, and only wishes he could pay Tottenham's biggest stars such money.

"Good for him. He deserves it, he's a fantastic player," Mourinho said.

"If Pep [Guardiola] or any coach of the top teams has X millions to spend, good for them. No problem. I enjoy to work in my club, I enjoy to do what I'm doing, and I'm not jealous of the ones that can do other things. I would love my players to get the same contract as David de Gea or Kevin De Bruyne."

Pep Guardiola insists Raheem Sterling is only out of the Manchester City side due to the "incredible, incredible, incredible top form" of Riyad Mahrez and Phil Foden.

Sterling has been a key performer throughout the Guardiola era at the Etihad Stadium but a scoreless outing in last month's 2-0 FA Cup quarter-final win at Everton stands as his only start in City's past six matches across all competitions.

He was in the first XI for all three of England's World Cup qualifiers during the recent international break, scoring against San Marino.

The 26-year-old was back to a substitute's role when the Premier League leaders took on Leicester City last weekend before failing to feature in the 2-1 Champions League quarter-final win over Borussia Dortmund.

Sterling might have the chance to press his claims once again when City host Leeds United on Saturday, with Guardiola expected to ring the changes.

Both men denied a reported bust-up in the aftermath of last month's Manchester derby defeat and the City manager insists the form of midweek matchwinner Foden and Mahrez – who was named PFA Premier League Player of the Month for March on Friday – is what has forced his hand.

"Raheem has been so important in our period here since we arrived, nothing would have been possible without him," he said.

"Right now, I decided because I see Riyad and Phil in incredible, incredible, incredible top form. This is the only reason why, there is not another one.

"Phil, you see the last 30 minutes he played against Dortmund, he created all the chances that we had [after] 1-0, he scored the last goal with an incredible control and assist from Gundo [Ilkay Gundogan].

"And Riyad, the last month always has been so decisive, so this is the only reason why.

"He's important for the team and the club, there's no doubt about that. That was the reason for the selection."

Mahrez and Foden more creative

Since the turn of the year, during which time City have won 24 of 25 games across all competitions, Sterling has started 15 matches compared to 16 apiece for Mahrez and Foden.

Foden leads the way with 1,480 minutes, to 1,312 for his England counterpart and 1,462 for the Algeria international.

Despite missing a couple of gilt-edged chances before his winner, Foden's eye for goal has been a notable feature of City's campaign, and his seven goals for 2021 is more than Mahrez (five), who is outscored by Sterling (six) over the period in question.

However, operating nominally as wide forwards, Foden (38) and Mahrez (34) have created considerably more chances than Sterling (19) this calendar year and are second only to Kevin De Bruyne (44) in the City squad. That output has yielded six assists for Mahrez, five for Foden – level with De Bruyne - and three for Sterling.

Mahrez's 47 crosses from open play are more than any other City player in 2021, with Foden's 28 coming in behind De Bruyne (34) and Joao Cancelo (33). Sterling is back on 13, with one completed.

The former Liverpool man's dribbling prowess remains to the fore, with the most attempted (79) and completed (38) among his team-mates during this period. Mahrez boasts an impressive dribble success rate of 55 per cent thanks to 33 out of 60, while Foden has completed 26 of 53 after tormenting Dortmund at times.

Looking after the ball

This season, Guardiola's City have often seemed to play in a more controlled fashion and the manager underlined the importance of retaining possession in all areas of the field.

"There are players who are incredible to make movements in behind, runs in behind and there are others who have the quality to not lose the ball in any circumstances," he said.

"They are good at keeping the ball and sometimes, in some games, we need this more than the other situations.

"Some players suit better the way we have to play than the other ones, just for the skills, not being on bad form or whatever."

While acknowledging Sterling, Foden and Mahrez are each very well-rounded attackers, Sterling's forte lies more with the piercing runs in behind that Guardiola identifies.

Mahrez and Foden – as you might expect for a player who came through City's ranks as a central midfielder – tend to be a little more reliable in possession and this could further explain Guardiola's recent thinking.

Creative attacking players generally rack up more instances of possession lost due to the kind of passes and dribbles they attempt, so a good measure of how well they use the ball is to calculate their giveaways as a percentage of their overall touches.

In 2021, 1,067 touches and 202 instances of giving away possession amounts to 18.9 per cent for Mahrez, making him the most judicious of the trio.

Foden has lost possession 221 times from 1,008 touches (21.9 per cent) but Sterling's percentage is a little higher at 22.3 despite only 883 touches (possession lost 197 times).

This aspect might not be to the fore if Saturday's showdown with Leeds is similarly chaotic to October's 1-1 draw at Elland Road, but it is perhaps the desire for elusive Champions League glory that has persuaded Guardiola to seek greater control, leaving Foden and Mahrez as his go-to men and Sterling with unfamiliar work to do.

Pep Guardiola would have no qualms over Sergio Aguero joining another Premier League club when he leaves Manchester City at the end of this season.

It was announced last week that Aguero will conclude a decade-long association with City when his contract expires in June.

The 32-year-old is his club's all-time leading goalscorer with 257, having surpassed Eric Brook's previous best mark of 177 in November 2017.

Aguero is also the highest scoring overseas player in Premier League history and Chelsea, Tottenham, Arsenal, West Ham and City's weekend opponents Leeds United have been among the clubs rumoured to hold an interest in the Argentina striker.

After his years of service to City, Guardiola insisted he was not in a position to pick and choose where he might want Aguero – who has also been mentioned in dispatches with Barcelona, Inter, Paris Saint-Germain and Benfica – to fulfil his wish to "continue competing at the highest level".

"The best for him, we wish, all of us. Find the best for Sergio for the last years in his career, for sure," the City manager told reporters.

"We'll be delighted with the decision he takes, the best for him and his family and his career.

"My preference is his preference. His preference is my preference. The best for him is the best for us."

Asked whether he expects to see one final burst of peak Aguero in City colours as the club chase honours on four fronts, Guardiola offered no guarantees.

Indeed, he revealed the forward "felt something in his leg" before being substituted after an hour of last weekend's 2-0 win at Leicester City.

Aguero was an unused substitute for Tuesday's 2-1 Champions League quarter-final first leg win over Borussia Dortmund, with a hamstring injury and a bout of coronavirus having compromised his return to full fitness following meniscus surgery last June.

"Everything can happen. I'm sorry, I'm not a person who can see far away more than one week. In football I learned from my period as a player and a manager that everything can change quickly in a positive way or not positive way," Guardiola said.

"Everyone must be ready and hopefully Sergio can be ready quick.

"Sergio is a lovely person with specific qualities and skills. I understand him, I know him, and I understand he needs time to get in best condition.

"In the Leicester game, which was so difficult because they defend so deep and so tight, he moved well and helped us. He felt something in his leg he was substituted. He is doing better."

David Moyes has urged West Ham to attack their dream of finishing in the Premier League top four, an achievement he feels would be his best as a manager.

West Ham are fourth in the Premier League ahead of hosting third-place Leicester City in a huge encounter on Sunday.

According to reports, Michail Antonio could miss the rest of the season and Moyes has confirmed the forward has a hamstring strain.

Declan Rice is also ruled out for West Ham, who face massive stakes in their eight-game run-in, which starts with the key clash against the Foxes.

Leicester were the last non 'big six' team to finish in the top four in 2016, ending an 11-year wait after Moyes was in charge of the previous team do it (Everton in 2005).

But Moyes thinks reaching the top four with West Ham would top that.

"I think it would be [even greater]," he said to Sky Sports.

"I'd been at Everton for three years by then so that would mean it would be a bigger achievement given we're already competing. 

"[European football] would not be something new for the club, but it would be new in the modern era of West Ham.

"I still feel the Premier League has an established order - there's a lot of teams knocking at the door to see if they can get in.

"A few of the big teams are worried about it because we see that in other situations and developments with talk of a new [breakaway] league.

"We are having a really good season at the moment, we are trying to stick with it and we are not hiding from the fact we believe we are outsiders. 

"But we also believe we have got a great opportunity so why do not we try to attack it full on?

"This time last year, we had to win games in order to stay in the Premier League so we're actually all feeling very light and not heavy.

"We'll try to take a few risks, try to go for it and see if we can win them. The aim is to try to finish around the top end.

"I think most people will not expect us to make Champions League, so I hope we can try to do something very similar to what Leicester did when they went on to win the league. 

"Nobody thought they could win it."

West Ham are winless in five home matches with Leicester (D2 L3), losing 2-1 last season.

Ahead of the game, Leicester boss Brendan Rodgers backed striker Jamie Vardy to emerge from a goalscoring slump that has seen him score just once in 17 matches.

"The team has still been winning," Rodgers said. "What's most important for Jamie is you have to continue to work, make runs and sometimes you just need that bit of luck.

"He has created a number of opportunities for us. We know his threat and he can score any time.

"Jamie has just been very unfortunate, between keepers making saves and blocks on the line and some chances that, maybe, he would have put away.

"He is always going to be there. He is such a threat, his sharpness and speed, he is such an important player for us."

West Ham are looking to record their first Premier League double over Leicester since the 1999-00 season under Harry Redknapp.

The Hammers have the second-best home record in the Premier League (28 points), while Leicester have the second-best away record so far this term (34 points). 

League leaders Manchester City are the team at the top in both categories.

Jose Mourinho and Gary Lineker led tributes from the football world to Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, after his death at the age of 99 was announced.

Tottenham boss Mourinho broke off from answering football questions in a pre-match news conference, saying the loss of the husband of Queen Elizabeth II would be felt far beyond British shores.

The Portuguese head coach said: "I’m sorry, I will answer your question. I just read some sad news about Prince Philip. I would like to express my condolences to the Royal Family and to be very honest, and say I have deep, deep, deep, the utmost respect for the Royal Family.

"I believe that it is not just this country that is going to be sharing these feelings, because I'm not English and I know that many like myself will have the utmost respect."

Mourinho, who has spent much of his coaching career in England, added: "I feel sad for the departure of Prince Philip on a personal basis, because I have only positive feelings for the meaning of the family. I feel very sorry. But unfortunately his life ends and we have to keep going."

Former England striker Lineker, now a renowned broadcaster, wrote on Twitter: "Sorry to hear that Prince Philip has passed away. Served this country over many, many decades. Sincerest condolences to Her Majesty, The Queen and The Royal Family. RIP Prince Philip."

The Premier League said it was "deeply saddened" by the news, adding: "As a mark of respect, players will wear black armbands and there will be a minute's silence before kick-off at all Premier League matches played tonight and across the weekend."

The Football Association, which the duke served as president from 1955 to 1957, said it felt "Immense sadness".

The FA asked royal and government authorities whether football should be allowed to continue this weekend and was given the green light.

"Following the sad passing of His Royal Highness The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, the FA has sought guidance from the Royal Household and Her Majesty's Government," the FA said. "We can confirm all football fixtures this evening and over the weekend (10-11 April) can continue at the discretion of competition organisers.

"The FA will be recommending that black armbands are worn and a minute's silence is observed before matches are played, including tonight's England women's international fixture in France. As a mark of respect, all flags at Wembley Stadium and St George's Park will fly at half-mast and the Wembley arch will also be lit."

Organisers of Saturday's Grand National said the race would go ahead at Aintree, preceded by a two-minute silence on the course, with "jockeys invited to wear black armbands".

Wimbledon, London's tennis grand slam, said it wished to "convey our deepest sympathy to Her Majesty The Queen and The Royal Family".

Imran Khan, the prime minister of Pakistan and former captain of his country's cricket team, wrote on Twitter: "My condolences on the demise of HRH Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. Britain has lost a wise elder who was imbued with a unique spirit of public service. His role in promoting Pakistan-UK relations will always be remembered."

Prince Philip was a two-time former president of the MCC and a noted cricket enthusiast, playing what was described as an "instrumental" role in introducing trophies for winners of the County Championship.

Ian Watmore, chair of the England and Wales Cricket Board, said: "I'm sure I speak for the entire cricket family when I say how sad I am to hear of the passing of the Duke of Edinburgh.

"His passion for the game we all love was well known and the trophies presented to the men's and women's county champions are a tribute to his dedication to our sport. We owe him a great debt for his support and passion over many decades."

Pep Guardiola thinks Kevin De Bruyne can achieve whatever he wants at Manchester City after committing his long-term future to the Premier League leaders.

De Bruyne penned a two-year extension this week until June 2025 that will take him up to a decade with the club if he sees out the terms.

Since signing for City from Wolfsburg in 2015, the Belgium playmaker has scored 41 goals and supplied 76 assists in 176 Premier League matches.

In terms of creativity, that puts him far above his peers, with ex-Tottenham midfielder Christian Eriksen (51) the only other player to have laid on more than 50 goals during the same period, with former and current team-mates David Silva (44) and Riyad Mahrez (41) up next.

De Bruyne's 535 chances created since his goalscoring City debut against West Ham in September 2015 displays an even bigger gulf, with Eriksen (413) and Mesut Ozil (400) the only other men to reach 400.

Such returns lead Guardiola to believe anything is possible for a 29-year-old who will hope to inspire City to elusive Champions League glory this term, having opened the scoring in Tuesday's 2-1 quarter-final first leg win over Borussia Dortmund.

"We will see from Kevin what he wants to be. His type of player, what he wants will be possible. It depends on him," Guardiola said ahead of Saturday's Premier League home game versus Leeds United.

"I never involved in signing contracts for the players. That belongs to Txiki [Begiristain, City's director of football] and the club, but my personal opinion is I’m more than delighted for the time we've spent together in the past and hopefully, in these two months we still have ahead, we can do a good step forward and in the future.

"If the club and Kevin are satisfied, then if a third person is satisfied, it's me. Congratulations to Kevin, his family and Manchester City."

Such longevity will give De Bruyne the chance to enshrine his place alongside modern City greats such as Silva, former captain Vincent Kompany and outgoing club record goalscorer Sergio Aguero.

Guardiola concedes players spending such a long time with one team is unusual in the modern era, having himself committed to the longest tenure of his coaching career.

"Yes, it's not normal but some players are not normal," he said. "We are delighted with these players.

"Hopefully they can join more players in this position. I can talk for myself. I’m here five years and I will be two more, in principle, if the situation is going well.

"The club helps us and I'm glad important players like Kevin, who has all the world in his hands and all the clubs would be delighted to have him, decide to stay with us. I think it's a big compliment for all Manchester City."

As usual before facing his old mentor, there were big compliments from Guardiola for Leeds boss Marcelo Bielsa, who said the ex-Barcelona and Bayern Munich coach imbues his teams with a "magical quality" this week.

"I'm overwhelmed, I feel weird. He’s a huge competitor," Guardiola said of the praise.

"He's the most honest person, when I was able to speak with him, I'm pretty sure what he says is what he believes. He doesn't say anything for the media for himself. That's why I'm overwhelmed, everyone knows the admiration and respect – the way he helped me in my beginnings.

"Always he'll be there in my heart and that's why I am always 'wow'. I always feel I don't deserve it."

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has suggested players should cut out social media use to minimise the impact of would-be online abusers.

Trent Alexander-Arnold, Sadio Mane and Naby Keita were all sent racist comments after Liverpool were beaten 3-1 by Real Madrid in the first leg of the Champions League quarter-final.

The club condemned the abuse as "abhorrent" and "utterly unacceptable" and called on platforms to introduce "the strongest possible preventative measures".

Rangers, managed by former Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard, joined Swansea City and Birmingham City this week in boycotting social media as part of a challenge to companies to do more to prevent abuse.

Klopp is not active on social media but believes the best way to deprive abusers of the "forum" they crave is to "cut them off".

He told reporters: "With social media in general, we obviously have the problem that people can hide behind whatever account and say what they want to say. That's a problem that really has to get sorted on this planet as quick as possible.

"I got criticised quite a lot in my life, and not only recently. And the advice I would give is that people you don't know, people who are not really interested in you, people who don't want to help you with criticism, don't listen [to them]. Don't listen. 

"They need a forum. They need people to read it and take these kinds of things seriously. That's how bullying works, that's how blaming works, that's how shouting works, how harsh criticism works. If you cut that side off, then it's already helped a lot and it cannot harm you.

"That's my advice to the players. The rest, I don't really understand enough the need for social media. I know there are some good things for sure, but a lot of things are just not important, and for you, as a person, if you can cut them off then it's already a step in the right direction."

Liverpool face Aston Villa on Saturday looking to avenge their remarkable 7-2 defeat last October while also putting pressure on the teams in the Premier League top four.

Klopp sees the Villa clash and the second leg against Madrid as a chance to show they deserve to be in the Champions League, both this season and next.

"There is no opportunity without pressure," he said. "We are at the highest level of professional football, we want to fight for the Champions League, both qualifying for next year and being a part of it still for this year.

"A week ago we, spoke about a wonderful game we played against Arsenal, a great game of football. A few days later we played pretty much the opposite of a great game against Real Madrid, but this game shouldn't have any influence on the Aston Villa game."

Klopp admitted it was difficult to move on from their thrashing by Villa in the previous meeting, in which the champions conceded seven goals for the first time since April 1963.

"You cannot put a game like this one aside immediately," he said. "We had to work with it. A lot of problems showed up in that game. Some of the problems we had before, some we never had before.

"You work with results. The higher or more strange a result is, it doesn't mean it gets more necessary to work with it, but for sure we spoke about it quite frequently. 

"It differs, how long it takes me to get over a game. Usually, especially after a win, my mind is immediately at the next game, but we still have to reflect on the last game. I watch these games, and then I know better what happened in the game. I just try to understand why things happen."

Jose Mourinho is confident his Tottenham side are ready for the challenge as they attempt to inflict a second major blow of the season on his former club Manchester United.

After a stunning 6-1 win at Old Trafford in October, Mourinho's Tottenham will bid to end United's 22-match unbeaten away run in the Premier League on Sunday.

United sit second in the table, with Spurs down in sixth, but five successive home wins in all competitions may give the hosts an edge ahead of the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium clash.

Mourinho, sacked as United boss in December 2018, expects a game that is a world away from their earlier meeting this season.

"I think that 6-1 doesn't reflect the reality," he said. "It can happen sometimes between two big clubs, these crazy results, but they happen in an isolated way. I go much more in the direction of the other two previous matches between us and United.

"We lost 2-1 at Old Trafford with a penalty and we drew 1-1 at home last season also with a penalty.

"For me, this is more the reality. We are not far from each other. I think it's going to be a difficult match for both."

United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has said he expects his team to use their savaging at Spurs' hands as motivational fuel for the trip to north London.

Mourinho said: "If it was the opposite, my team losing 6-1 against them, I would say to my guys that it happened once but it's not going to happen twice, the game is going to be tight and we can win. But I don't know. Maybe Solskjaer thinks in a different way."

Tottenham were knocked out of the Europa League by Dinamo Zagreb last month, and Mourinho, though regretful of that result, says there has at least been the positive knock-on effect of being able to work extensively on the training pitch this week.

"I go with confidence because I believe in us, I believe in the work we are doing this week to try to prepare the match the best we can," he said.

"I don't want to go to the match with other things in mind other than we are ready.

"We are working well during this week, for the wrong reasons, which is that we were knocked out of the Europa League. For the wrong reasons, we were able to have a week to work - we didn't have many during the season.

"Now, we had it. And that makes me positive. I enjoyed the work this week and I'm positive."

United have had penalties against Tottenham in their past three Premier League meetings, but Mourinho brushed off that factor.

"I cannot go to a football match concerned, I don't think it's the right frame of mind," he said.

The Portuguese admires United's away form in the league but does not consider the visitors unbeatable this weekend, as Tottenham chase a first league double over United since the 1989-90 season, when Terry Venables was Spurs manager.

United have won just one of their past eight away Premier League matches against Spurs (D4 L3), a 1-0 win at Wembley in January 2019.

"I'm not going to comment on the record, apart from to say many congratulations," Mourinho said.

"I know that is very, very difficult for different reasons, but that record is not going to stop us to think and feel we can win, and it is not going to stop us to fight to win.

"At the end of the match, maybe the result is different and their record becomes even better. But it's not the record that is going to stop us thinking we can win."

United have not conceded more than seven goals - achieved by four clubs - against any opponent over their two meetings in the Premier League era, a record that could be broken on Sunday.

The last team to score more than seven against United in a top-flight season were Spurs, who netted eight against the Red Devils in 1962-63.

Thomas Tuchel says Chelsea retain "faith and trust" in struggling forwards Timo Werner and Kai Havertz.

Both players were substituted with 25 minutes left in the 2-0 Champions League win over Porto in Seville on Wednesday.

Tuchel said after the quarter-final first leg that the two players had not given him what he was looking for.

But ahead of the short trip to play Crystal Palace in the Premier League on Saturday, he insisted both players remain a key part of his plans and that his substitutions were specific only to that match.

Tuchel accepts Werner is lacking in confidence but does not have any concerns over Havertz.

Werner has been directly involved in more Premier League goals this season than any other Chelsea player (11, with five goals and six assists). 

However, the Germany striker has scored with just one of his last 42 shots in the competition, a strike against Newcastle United in February.

"Look at the games Porto played in the Champions League," said Tuchel in defence of Werner and Havertz.

"If you can show me any nice, fluid and pretty games of any opponent we can talk again. I did not find it. 

"They make your life very tough, especially for offensive players. They went through the group with 13 points. You can ask in the group how easy it was to play against them. 

"They did not have the easiest task up front. They had a big impact defensively and they worked hard for us, both Kai and Timo. 

"It was difficult for them to find spaces and create something, so we changed after 65 minutes but we will not lose faith and trust. 

"We accept sometimes it's hard sometimes to have a big impact. Maybe Timo misses a bit of confidence in his finishing but Kai, I feel, is very self-confident. 

"There are no bigger concerns. It was just in this game we tried to change the momentum."

Chelsea are yet to lose on the road under Tuchel in the Premier League (W3 D2).

The Palace clash comes after a dramatic week for the Blues, with the Porto win following up a shock 5-2 home reverse against West Brom.

Tuchel is keen to ensure his players do not get too up or down based on one result.

He added: "It's my job to learn every day and from every game, from every situation we have to face. 

"I don't have a big conclusion after the two games with the down and up we had in terms of results. 

"It's important to share experiences and make my experiences with the team. It's the first time we lost, a big loss, an unexpected loss in a weird game. 

"We have a lot of positives together so we needed to adapt and react to it. 

"I'm very happy we bounced back immediately. We were unlucky in some situations in the game. It's important for us now that we went through this. 

"Hopefully we can start a winning streak again."

Palace have kept five clean sheets in the Premier League at Selhurst Park since the turn of the year, two more than in the entirety of 2020.

But manager Roy Hodgson has lost six consecutive Premier League matches against Chelsea. 

The only opponent he has lost seven consecutive games against as a manager in the competition is Tottenham in a run that lasted between 2011 and 2019.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is "pretty, pretty sure" his Manchester United players will be looking to prove a point when they visit Tottenham on Sunday.

United lost the reverse fixture 6-1 at Old Trafford, their joint-heaviest Premier League defeat and worst since another home humbling in the 2011 Manchester derby.

Spurs looked like title contenders while United were marooned in the bottom half of the table, their hapless display - in which Anthony Martial was sent off - described by former captain Gary Neville as "spineless" and "absolutely pathetic".

But United have recovered to sit second in the table, albeit 14 points behind Manchester City, while Tottenham are sixth.

Jose Mourinho's men are desperate for points but will face motivated opponents at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, Solskjaer suggested.

"I think the players will remember that game with a lot of pain," Solskjaer said. "Their pride has been hurt, their professional pride. The manner we lost is not ourselves and our team-worthy. We know that.

"We gave ourselves a difficult game by having 10 men, pre-season was short and we were not up to the standard required, but we were so poor.

"I'm pretty, pretty sure we'll see some players wanting to prove we're better than that."

United took the lead in that match through a second-minute Bruno Fernandes penalty, but that was one of just five shots while Spurs attempted 22.

Solskjaer felt his side's early-season fitness issues were a key contributing factor in that October defeat.

"The biggest thing that we've improved on is our fitness levels," he said. "We were way short of what [Tottenham] were at.

"It was our third game, was it? And we didn't look anything like [ready]."

While that is no longer an issue, there are concerns about the status of Marcus Rashford, who played through a persistent ankle problem at Granada on Thursday and scored a vital goal.

Across Europe's 'top five' leagues, no player has made more appearances in all competitions this season than Rashford (47 - tied with Fernandes).

Indeed, the three most-used players all represent United, with captain Harry Maguire third (46 appearances). Aaron Wan-Bissaka is in a tie for fourth (44).

With 3,466 minutes in the tank despite an injury issue that kept him out of the recent international break, Solskjaer was asked if England should be worried about Rashford ahead of the European Championship.

"I don't think you need to be concerned about his fitness, no - of course, barring any injury," Solskjaer said.

"His fitness is really good, he's an athletic boy, a fit boy, a strong boy. When he goes into headers and challenges, he can look after himself.

"But at one point, of course, you hope to get to a position where he doesn't have to play every game, every minute.

"At the moment, we have to take him off because he's a little bit sore. Hopefully that will improve as the season goes on."

Rashford has been relied on so heavily in part due to Edinson Cavani's limited involvement.

Widely linked with a move to Boca Juniors, Cavani has started only 14 games this term, playing 1,474 minutes, although his tally of seven goals is a match for Martial and outperforms Mason Greenwood (six).

"I've kept in touch with Edi, of course," Solksjaer said. "We keep an open dialogue. He's still unsure what he wants to do next season, which I find fine.

"It's not been an easy year either for him or the rest of the world, so he still wants time to make his mind up.

"I'm very sure that we'll get a good version of Edinson for the rest of the season. Hopefully we can keep him fit the next six, seven weeks."

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has doubled down on his claims Jose Mourinho should not have been content with guiding Manchester United to second place during his Old Trafford reign.

Solskjaer and United again go head-to-head with Mourinho on Sunday as the Red Devils visit Tottenham looking to avenge their 6-1 home defeat earlier this season.

Mourinho is looking to become the first former United manager since Dave Sexton in 1981-82, then Coventry City boss, to complete a league double over the club following his departure.

The Portuguese won the EFL Cup and Europa League at Old Trafford but his best league finish was second in 2017-18.

Mourinho claimed that performance, behind record-breaking rivals Manchester City, as one of his "greatest achievements".

But Solskjaer, at the time in his previous role as Molde coach, responded: "I don't think any of the Man United supporters, ex-players or players are happy with second place."

Solskjaer subsequently took charge of United in late 2018 and has only now guided them back to second, again behind City.

Given the opportunity to backtrack and hail both his own and Mourinho's achievement ahead of the Spurs match, Solskjaer refused.

While United have shown signs of progress this season, their manager wants more.

"We should never settle for second place at Man United," he said. "We'll never settle for second place.

"That's the point here - we have seen the heights and know what this club is capable of.

"For me, I've been here now a little while myself and it's taken time for us to be in this position. Hopefully we can be better next season, because this is below our ambitions."

Tottenham could become the first team to record a Premier League double over Solskjaer's United. The ex-Molde coach was last beaten twice by the same side in a league season by Ranheim in the 2018 Norwegian Eliteserien.

In fact, Spurs have never claimed a Premier League double over United, last doing so in the league in the 1989-90 campaign under Terry Venables.

Page 1 of 434
© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.