Aaron Collins scored his first goal for Bolton as they rejuvenated their automatic promotion hopes with a comfortable 2-0 Sky Bet League One win over Cambridge.

Collins had gone seven appearances since making his move from Bristol Rovers without breaking his duck until netting a 66h-minute match-clinching goal from Paris Maghoma’s assist.

The Welshman had another effort kicked off the line by Liam Bennett as Wanderers returned to winning ways after back-to-back losses at Blackpool and Wigan.

But Ian Evatt’s side never looked likely to suffer a third successive defeat.

Josh Dacres-Cogley crashed a Collins cross onto the bar after seven minutes and Jack Stevens saved from Dacres-Cogley and Ricardo Santos.

Midfielder George Thomason’s right-footed, 18-yard low drive and fifth goal of the campaign finally fired Bolton in front after 35 minutes.

Cambridge, beaten 2-1 when the teams met last month, went close to a 59th-minute equaliser as James Brophy fired narrowly over from Sullay Kaikai’s cross.

Instead, Collins doubled Bolton’s lead to keep the Trotters hard on the heels of top two Peterborough and Derby.

Stronger enforcement on time-wasting goalkeepers was the major development to emerge from the annual meeting of football’s lawmakers as plans to extend sin bin trials to higher levels of the sport were quietly dropped.

Fans could be encouraged to join in countdowns on goalkeepers holding on to the ball too long in proposals approved by the International Football Association Board (IFAB) in Scotland on Saturday.

In competitions taking part in the trial, goalkeepers would be able to hold onto the ball for eight seconds instead of six and the sanction for holding on too long would be a corner or a throw-in in line with the penalty spot, rather than an indirect free-kick.

The plan was one of three trials approved for use in domestic competitions below the top two tiers, with the other two focusing on helping improve player behaviour towards match officials.

But the use of sin bins for dissent will remain at grassroots level for the time being.

FIFA president Gianni Infantino had already ruled out the use of blue cards for temporary dismissals on the eve of the meeting on the banks of Loch Lomond, and did not attend the media conference afterwards before the board headed off to watch St Mirren take on Aberdeen.

The PA news agency understands blue cards had been set to be part of a trial of sin bins at higher levels which were close to publication last month.

But they will not now be extended to higher levels – or to punish tactical fouls – any time soon despite FIFA referees committee chairman Pierluigi Collina claiming in November that discussions were under way about using them in “professional or even high professional football”.

The only developments were two refinements to the current grassroots trials, which will see sin bin yellow cards count towards a potential red card, and players having to wait for the next stoppage before their 10-minute period in the sin bin ends.

Scottish Football Association chief executive Ian Maxwell said: “The sin bin proposal definitely hasn’t gone further backwards.

“We’ve updated the protocol so we will assess how that works in that environment before we decide on what the next steps of those trials would be and if we start to take that further up the football pyramid.”

Football Association chief executive Mark Bullingham added: “If the trials at the lower levels work, of course the conversation continues throughout the pyramid.”

Bullingham admitted the news emerging in February had created a challenge as Premier League managers such as Tottenham’s Ange Postecoglou criticised the plans.

“I don’t think that was ever the intention for the trial to start in the Premier League,” he said.

Two trials linked to player behaviour which were approved were the ability for referees to create zones around themselves which only captains can enter, and for referees to order cooling-off periods where both teams would be required to retreat to their penalty areas.

Plans to tackle time-wasting will see a trial to increase the limit that a goalkeeper can hold on to the ball from six to eight seconds – but actually enforce it. It was recognised that referees are reluctant to give indirect free-kicks in the box, so the punishment could be a corner or a throw-in to the opposition instead.

Bullingham said: “The idea is, once the goalkeeper has got the ball under control, and the referee puts up his hand so that the (last) five seconds gets counted down, you’ll see the crowd respond to that and the other players will.”

The FA chief executive envisages some of the trials could take place in the lower levels of the English Football League or the National League.

“What level we will look at is an open discussion, I’m sure we’ll get that discussion with the relevant leagues,” he added.

Other law changes include the option for competitions to introduce additional permanent concussion substitutions – something which has been trialled in the Premier League since the 2020-21 season. But calls from leagues and players’ unions for temporary subs to allow for head injury assessments were not taken up.

There were no discussions on extending the scope of VAR checks and the only nod to improving the communication between match officials and clubs and supporters over decisions was the move to extend FIFA’s trial where the referee publicly announces their decision and potentially their reasons.

The scheme was in place during last year’s Women’s World Cup and FIFA secretary general Mattias Grafstrom confirmed it will be further trialled at the Olympics this summer.

The committee did not discuss the prospect of broadcasting conversations between referees and video assistants live, or releasing audio on a regular basis.

Maxwell said: “VAR has not been in too long in Scotland and we are working through that process with the rest of football to try to increase that engagement and understanding.”

Massimiliano Allegri is not fooled by Napoli’s position in the Serie A table as Juventus look to end their long hoodoo at the Stadio Diego Armando Maradona.

Heading into Sunday’s clash in Naples the reigning champions are only eighth, with visitors Juve 17 points better off and pushing Inter Milan for top spot.

However, the Bianconeri have not taken three points from this away fixture since March 2019 and head coach Allegri knows Francesco Calzona’s men can be very dangerous on home turf.

“Juventus haven’t won in Naples for five years, it won’t be easy,” Allegri said at his Saturday press conference. “It will be a difficult match as they’re a good team and it’s strange to see them in that position in the table.

“We know that there are endless challenges at Napoli; we need to limit their strengths and try to be proactive when we have the ball.

“They’ve just won a tough match against Sassuolo, and with (Victor) Osimhen returning they’ve found their bite again.

“They’ve had their problems this year but the quality of their players has not changed.”

Juve have problems of their own. Their tense win against Frosinone last weekend was a first victory in five attempts and Allegri wants his men to come flying out of the traps in March.

“We’ve been through a difficult period, it wasn’t a good February. We must ensure that March is better than last month.

“Against Frosinone we conceded two avoidable goals and we must do better as a team when defending.

“Now the most beautiful but also more complicated period of the season begins; we must stay focused and know that picking up points becomes more difficult from now.

“Last year we came third, this year if we came second it would be a good result.”

Federico Chiesa and Danilo should be in contention to feature for Juve in Naples while Moise Kean and Mattia Perin will need longer to recover from injuries and Adrien Rabiot and Weston McKennie have outside chances to be involved.

It may not all be doom and gloom for Napoli, for whom Jens Cajuste and Cyril Ngonge are injury doubts, as they ran riot to win 6-1 at Sassuolo last weekend.

Matteo Politano feels the appointment of Calzona as Walter Mazzarri’s replacement on February 19 could be the catalyst for a late-season resurgence.

The Italy midfielder told sscnapoli.it: “He is giving us a lot of motivation but keeping us calm, too.

“Some of us have known him for years, we know how he works and we are totally on board with following his ideas.”

Erol Bulut hailed the impact of Liverpool loanee Nat Phillips after Cardiff completed a Severnside derby double over Bristol City.

Perry Ng’s second-half header gave Cardiff a 1-0 success at Ashton Gate and back-to-back wins for the first time since October.

The Robins’ best moments were snuffed out by centre-back Phillips, who has proved a key player since arriving from Anfield in January.

“Nat is a big add to us, he gives confidence in the defence and organises the defence,” said Cardiff manager Bulut after his side had leapfrogged their opponents in the Championship standings.

“Other players next to him are acting on it and that’s important.

“He has played for Liverpool and Celtic, big teams, and he knows when you get pressure how to stay calm.

“He gives this to the other players too and with (goalkeeper) Ethan (Horvath) there now we can also play better from the back.”

Cardiff’s 66th-minute winner was their 17th goal from a set-piece this season – a Championship high.

Ng rose highest from a David Turnbull corner for his sixth goal of the season and second against Bristol City after scoring in Cardiff’s 2-0 home win over the Robins in October.

Bulut said: “I think the game was 50-50 over the 90 minutes, but congratulations to my players because they worked really hard and the luck was on our side.

“We are one of the best teams in the league from set-pieces.

“We always work on it and, if you analyse my previous clubs, it’s something we did there too.

“We kept our concentration and closing down the spaces, so I am happy.

“We are getting a little confidence back, which is good, and we have to stay together.”

Bristol City have now lost three in a row since winning at Middlesbrough and beating promotion-chasing Southampton at home.

A chorus of boos from home fans greeted the final whistle and boss Liam Manning said he would “take it on the chin”.

Manning said: “I’ve got thick skin. Of course I don’t want to hear it.

“I want the team to perform and succeed, I’ve had to fight and scrap in my career to get where I am.

“I’ll take it on the chin, be calm and get ready to go again on Tuesday.”

Asked what the Robins were short on in defeat, Manning replied: “Quality in the final third.

“We need people to step up and take responsibility in high-pressure moments and deliver.

“On the goal, set-pieces are probably Cardiff’s biggest threat – and most of their goals come from first contacts as well – and it’s hugely annoying.

“I didn’t think there was a huge amount of quality from both sides, so you’ve got to make sure you don’t lose and it finishes 0-0.”

Barcelona boss Xavi insists “nothing has changed” regarding his future following rumours he could reverse his decision to depart the club in the summer.

The former Barca and Spain midfielder, who is preparing for Sunday’s LaLiga game at fifth-placed Athletic Bilbao, announced in late January he would leave his role at the end of the season.

Barcelona have picked up form since then, taking 13 points from a possible 15 to boost their faint hopes of overhauling leaders Real Madrid in the title race.

“As of today, nothing has changed,” Xavi told a press conference.

“There is no more story than that. It all remains the same and we focus on the next game.

“It’s true we’ve done well recently; I see the team training great every day and the group of players is less tense than in the past.

“But tomorrow is a whole new story, here at Barcelona you have a challenge every day.

“The moment of the truth this season is coming, and we feel we have been good over the last weeks.”

Third-placed Barcelona thrashed Getafe 4-0 last weekend to build on recent wins over Osasuna, Alaves and Celta Vigo and a 3-3 draw with Granada.

The Catalan club will return to San Mames just over five weeks after suffering a 4-2 extra-time loss to Bilbao in the Copa del Rey quarter-finals.

Xavi is braced for another tough test as his side seek to maintain momentum.

“Athletic is the most intense team in the league,” he said. “And they are confident.

“If we win, it will be a big step forward.

“It’s the perfect game to match them in intensity and rhythm. Against Getafe, we rediscovered our game. Against Athletic, we have to do the same.”

Barcelona remain without injured quartet Marcos Alonso, Alejandro Balde, Gavi and Ferran Torres for the visit to the Basque country.

Xavi also hailed his former team-mate Andres Iniesta during his pre-match press conference.

Iniesta, who scored Spain’s winning goal in the 2010 World Cup final, made the 1,000th senior appearance of his career on Friday, playing for UAE-based side Emirates Club against Ajman.

“Iniesta is the greatest talent I’ve ever seen in Spanish football,” said Xavi. “A thousand games is many.

“I admire him and I love him very much, he is a great friend.”

Two new trials to improve player behaviour and one aimed at reducing time-wasting have been approved by the game’s lawmakers, the International Football Association Board.

Here the PA news agency looks at what we know, with the full detail of the protocols set to be published in the coming days.

All three trials will initially be open to competitions up to and including a country’s third tier, so as high as League One in English football.

CAPTAIN-ONLY ZONES

The referee can create a captain-only zone at any stage, but it is most likely to be used following major decisions and to prevent significant confrontations, and situations where a referee feels intimidated or threatened. Once created, no players other than team captains will be allowed to enter.

Any other player entering the zone should be cautioned for dissent.

COOLING-OFF PERIOD

Referees in competitions which adopt the trial will be able to suspend play in the event of significant confrontations and initiate an official cooling-off period.

Once the referee has called for a cooling-off period, players must go to their respective penalty areas, or another area as indicated by the referee.

THE EIGHT-SECOND RULE

In this trial, goalkeepers will be able to hold onto the ball for eight seconds instead of six. Competitions operating the trial will be able to opt for one of two choices of restart – the opposing team having a corner or a throw-in.

Currently goalkeepers who hold on for longer than six seconds should be penalised with the award of an indirect free-kick in the penalty area to the opposing team. The IFAB has received feedback that the six-second rule is rarely enforced because it is felt that the sanction is too extreme, and over the difficulty of managing an indirect free-kick in the 18-yard box.

Referees will count down the final five seconds on the fingers of one hand to clearly signal to goalkeepers how long they have left.

Daniel Farke refused to lament his lacklustre Leeds side after the chance of a club-record 10 successive league wins was ended with a 1-1 draw in a West Yorkshire derby with 10-man Huddersfield.

The promotion-chasing Whites had enjoyed a perfect league start to 2024, but had to come from behind to rescue a point.

Substitute Michal Helik, the Terriers’ unlikely top scorer, put the hosts ahead before captain Jonathan Hogg was sent off in first-half stoppage time.

Patrick Bamford, making his first start since February 10, levelled in the second half but Farke’s charges failed to find a winner with Crysencio Summerville hitting the post late on.

“I’m far away from punishing my players for their performance,” stressed Farke, whose side missed the chance to pile the pressure on league leaders Leicester by winning the lunchtime kick-off.

“We have won 28 points out of the last 10 games so I won’t criticise them because they didn’t have their best game. Individually they didn’t have their best day. But you have to expect that sometimes.
“We have to draw a line under that pretty quickly. It’s difficult when a team defends and that’s all they do.

“It was a quick turnaround for us and the pitch was not easy to play. We created chances, we got the equaliser, but it was a bit like a cup game with how scrappy it was.

“We had to rely on the offensive players to put the ball into the net. We should have won, Summerville hit the post. But we have to accept the point.”

The hosts had to play nigh on an hour with 10 men after Hogg’s stray elbow on Junior Firpo saw him booked for a second time.

And Farke felt the Terriers resorted to time wasting as they secured a hard-fought point.

He added: “Someone told me it was the lowest time the ball was in play ever in the Championship. It’s difficult to create because every goal kick takes two minutes.

“It’s difficult when a game’s scruffy like that. We conceded from a set-piece and shouldn’t have given that set-piece away.

“If there’s such a day when you have such a scruffy day, you have to make sure you don’t lose it.

“We had 80 per cent possession. You have to play from side to side when they have nine players in defence.

“We would have preferred to have moved the ball a bit quicker. The pitch was also horrendous.”

The hosts gave themselves a boost in their relegation battle after picking up a decent point in Andre Breitenreiter’s first home game in charge of the club.

He hailed his side’s resilience after going a man down and said: “The boys did a fantastic job today to play over 60 minutes with a player less.

“It’s very hard against Leeds with their quality. They did a really fantastic job. They showed hard work, hard fight and good discipline in defending.

“Until the 45th minute we made it hard for them, we pressed high and went into the lead with a set-piece.

“But the red card was unnecessary. We have to take the right decision so we made a substitution at half-time.

“It’s a derby and we spoke before the game about keeping clear heads, but derbies are full of emotion.

“He knows about his mistake. He apologised. As a leader he’s fantastic, but next time please not again.

“The players were fantastic and can be proud of their performance. We can be happy with this point and thank the players for their performance.”

Promotion-chasing Leeds saw their bid for a club record 10 successive league wins ended as they were held to a 1-1 draw at 10-man Huddersfield.

Defender Michal Helik put the hosts ahead before captain Jonathan Hogg was sent off.

The returning Patrick Bamford levelled, but the visitors saw their perfect league record in 2024 ended as they were forced to settle for a point.

Daniel Farke’s side failed to cut Leicester’s lead at the summit to four points in the early kick-off as Huddersfield went three points clear of the relegation zone as a hard-fought draw.

Leeds made six changes from the side which was narrowly beaten by Chelsea in the FA Cup in midweek.

But there was just a solitary swap from the starting line-up which beat league leaders Leicester last weekend as Bamford made his first start since February 10.

Huddersfield made two changes from the side which came from behind to beat Watford with two-goal Danny Ward recalled to the XI alongside Sorba Thomas, who missed last week’s victory to be at the birth of his first child.

Farke’s title contenders started well and saw Crysencio Summerville’s early effort kept out by Lee Nicholls’ legs.

Leeds stopper Illan Meslier did well to keep out Jack Rudoni’s strike before the Frenchman produced an even better stop to deny to former AFC Wimbledon man at the near post from the resultant corner.

But despite giving up huge possession, Huddersfield were able to contain their local rivals.

And the hosts took the lead as substitute Helik, on for the injured Yuta Nakayama, showed his scoring instincts in the first of nine additional minutes in the first half.

Thomas delivered a quality free-kick from the left-hand side and Meslier did extremely well to keep out Ward’s initial header before top scorer Helik reacted quickest as he poked home his ninth of the campaign.

But Town were reduced to 10 when captain Hogg, who was booked earlier in the half, saw red for a cynical stray elbow on Junior Firpo.

Georginio Rutter went close to levelling with the last kick of the half as his left-footed strike whistled past the post.

An inspired triple substitution sprung the visitors into life as Dan James, Joel Piroe and Connor Roberts were thrown on to get something from the game.

Former Manchester United man James and Burnley loanee Roberts combined down the right as the latter fizzed a ball across the face of goal to be turned home by a sliding Bamford in the 67th minute.

Leeds’ best chance for a late winner came in the 85th minute when Summerville hit the post after cutting onto his right foot.

Cardiff completed a Severnside derby double over Bristol City by winning 1-0 at Ashton Gate.

Perry Ng’s 66th-minute header gave Cardiff back-to-back victories after going four without a win and took them above Bristol City in the Championship table.

Both teams kicked off knowing they were in need of a strong late-season flourish to force their way into the play-off picture.

There was little to choose between them over 90 minutes when clear-cut openings were rare.

But Cardiff lived up to the title of Championship set-piece kings by scoring a league-leading 17th goal from such a situation this season.

Bristol City had some good moments but they were often repelled by the head of Nat Phillips as the Liverpool central defender showed what an outstanding acquisition he has been since arriving on loan in January.

Cardiff’s 2-0 derby home win in October had signalled the end of Nigel Pearson’s Ashton Gate tenure and the eventual arrival of Liam Manning in the Robins’ hot seat.

On that occasion Rubin Colwill had lit up the Welsh capital with a stunning strike, but the Wales forward was kept on a tight leash this time.

A sedate opening sparked into life with the hosts having three penalty appeals rejected by referee Sam Allison.

Nahki Wells tumbled in the box after 11 minutes and handball claims after shots from Andy King and Taylor Gardner-Hickman were blocked in the same attack were waved away.

Mark Sykes tested Ethan Horvath for the first time after 20 minutes, with the ball striking the Cardiff goalkeeper squarely in the chest before the Bluebirds cleared.

Cardiff’s tactic appeared one of containment and counter and David Turnbull sent a tame effort wide after slick approach play from Josh Bowler.

Ng let fly from 25 yards to warm the hands of Robins’ goalkeeper Max O’Leary, with the Cardiff full-back soon in more familiar territory to snuff out Sykes.

Bowler was off-target after combining well with Turnbull, and the latter’s free-kick at the start of the second period provided comfortable catching practice for O’Leary.

Yakou Meite replaced the injured Kion Etete in the Cardiff attack and Ryan Wintle took over the captaincy from Joe Ralls.

The changes had a positive effect as Ollie Tanner, another substitute, won a corner and Ng rose highest for his sixth goal of the season and second against Bristol City.

Horvath protected Cardiff’s victory by producing a superb reflex stop to deny Rob Dickie with Tommy Conway’s follow-up effort ruled out for offside.

Manchester City defeated Everton 2-1 to climb to the top of the Women’s Super League table.

City picked up where they left off in their first match since defeating Chelsea last month, with goals from Khadija Shaw (15th) and Lauren Hemp (55th) taking them three points clear of Emma Hayes’ side, who play Leicester on Sunday.

It is now 12 victories in a row in all competitions for Gareth Taylor’s City, who were pegged back by a fine strike from Hanna Bennison in the 60th minute but deserved the three points.

City, who have won all 16 of their league games against the Merseyside team, were behind Chelsea only on goals scored at the top of the table heading into the clash at the Joie Stadium. They were well fired up for this game and dominated from beginning to end against Brian Sorensen's team.

City enjoyed the majority of early possession but had a hard time getting time and space in dangerous areas. After a few tame efforts, Everton made it easy for the home team when Justine Vanhaevermaet crumbled under pressure and played a short pass inside the box that went directly to Shaw, who suddenly had an abundance of time and space to smash in the opener.

The goal gave the in-form hosts a massive boost as they looked even more dangerous from then on, with Chloe Kelly and Lauren Hemp sending dangerous balls into the box that Shaw was unable to connect with. By half-time, 1-0 seemed a low score considering City had 13 shots throughout the first 45 minutes.

Everton, meanwhile, were gifted one chance late in the half when goalkeeper Khiara Keating played the ball straight to Rikke Madsen, but her weak shot was straight back at the youngster.

After Shaw missed a great opportunity by heading over the bar, it was Hemp who doubled City's lead, combining with Coombs in the middle of the pitch before driving forward and sending a long-range effort rolling into the bottom corner.

Everton were not down and out, though, as City suddenly looked flustered at the back and gave the ball away, resulting in Hanna Bennison smashing in a beauty of a goal from outside the box. Both teams pushed on for another goal, but neither could find a way past their opponents' goalkeeper.

A sin bin trial featuring blue cards was conspicuous by its absence as football’s lawmakers set out plans to improve player behaviour on Saturday.

The PA news agency understands blue cards were set to be part of a trial of sin bins at higher levels of the sport, with details of the trial having been close to publication by the International Football Association Board (IFAB) last month.

Media reports about blue cards published on February 8 drew a negative response on social media and from the likes of Tottenham boss Ange Postecoglou, and plans to publish the trial details were delayed pending further talks at Saturday’s annual general meeting.

FIFA president Gianni Infantino said on Friday night he “wasn’t aware” blue cards were intended to be used in the trial and said his organisation was “completely opposed” to the idea, and an IFAB press release issued on Saturday mentioned two other protocols designed to help referees regulate player behaviour had been approved – giving referees the option to create captain-only zones and cooling-off areas in the event of mass confrontations.

But there was no mention of the sin bin trial or blue cards, only that “current guidelines to temporary dismissals in youth and grassroots football” had been “improved”.

“Any potential wider application will only be considered once the impact of these changes have been reviewed,” the release said.

Erik ten Hag admits he must solve a defensive “puzzle” for Sunday’s Manchester derby.

Harry Maguire has joined Luke Shaw, Lisandro Martinez, Tyrell Malacia and Aaron Wan-Bissaka on the sidelines through injury and Manchester United boss Ten Hag is expected to pick from the same squad that edged past Nottingham Forest in the FA Cup in midweek.

Sofyan Amrabat returned to the United side on Wednesday on the left, with Diogo Dalot on the right.

Ten Hag said on manutd.com: “We have to lay the puzzle because we are still missing full-backs. We are still missing centre-halves.

“So we have to be creative but I think we can. On Wednesday, we showed we can, if we have the right plan.

“But, more important than that, if we have that passion, and that ambition, and desire and determination to win the game, then we are able to do it.”

United’s best run of the season was halted last weekend by a 2-1 defeat against Fulham, dealing a major blow to their hopes of qualifying for the Champions League.

A trip to the Etihad Stadium, where United have conceded a combined 10 goals in their last two visits, presents a formidable challenge, but Ten Hag believes they can put the Fulham disappointment behind them.

“Of course, it’s annoying,” he said. “It still annoys me, that game against Fulham. But it happened and, also, we can’t forget what happened before that.

“From January on, we are in very good form, on a very good run. We bounced back (at Forest) and we have to keep this process going. We’re looking forward, great games are coming up – big games and good challenges.

“So the team is really excited about that. I’m excited about going into this game, and also the coming games, but Sunday is very important.”

Eric Dier will remain at Bayern Munich for another season after a pre-agreed clause was met, the Bundesliga giants have said.

The 30-year-old joined Bayern on loan from Tottenham in January and has made seven appearances.

With Dier’s Spurs contract set to expire on June 30, an option to make his transfer permanent if he played a certain number of games was included in the deal.

Dier’s stay at Bayern will now run until at least June 30, 2025, and he said on fcbayern.com: “I’m happy in Munich. Now my future is sorted and I can focus on playing well for the club and trying to help the club to win games, win competitions, even though it’s been a difficult period for us.”

Dier had made only four appearances for Spurs this season, three of them off the bench, before following former team-mate Harry Kane to Germany.

The news officially brings to an end Dier’s time at Tottenham, where he made 365 appearances during a nine-and-a-half-year spell.

Max Eberl, FC Bayern board member for sport, said: “He’s a valuable support in our defence with all his character.”

Pep Guardiola feels having four clear days ahead of a Manchester derby is a “dream” at this stage of the season.

Guardiola’s Manchester City host arch-rivals United at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday in what could be a key match in their bid to win a fourth successive Premier League crown.

It is a crucial month for City with games against title rivals Liverpool and Arsenal to come, as well as the second leg of their Champions League last-16 tie and an FA Cup quarter-final.

City were last in action on Tuesday when they thrashed Luton 6-2 in the cup fifth round and Guardiola believes the derby preparations since have been ideal.

“Tuesday to Sunday is enough (time), it is a dream,” he said. “We will recover well.

“The problem is Saturday to Tuesday with trips, that is less recovery, but the players were extraordinary against Luton.

“We had two days off with rest, not seeing each other, and then two days to prepare for United.”

Yet despite opportunities for rest being minimal as last season’s treble winners again pursue glory on three fronts, Guardiola admits this time of year – with all its intensity – is what he relishes most.

He said: “Absolutely, (these periods) are the best. How nice. I prefer that than the opposite.

“It is so nice to have this fixture against United, to have the chance to qualify for the quarter-finals of the Champions League, then we have Anfield and then before the international break we have the chance against Newcastle to reach the semi-final of the FA Cup.

“We worked so hard since we arrived here to live these kind of moments.”

United’s form throughout most of the season has been unconvincing and they face a tall order to finish in the top four.

Manager Erik ten Hag’s future has been the subject of recurring speculation but Guardiola refused to offer an opinion on the reasons for United’s failures to sustain momentum.

The Spaniard said: “I expect the best from United but I don’t talk a word about what they do because I respect them too much and I don’t want my words to be misunderstood.

“When I make comments people always say, ‘Pep jibe’ and it’s never my intention. That’s why it is better I don’t say anything.

“I have a lot of respect for the institution, United, and the players and Erik, and when I see what we have to do my players will know it.”

FIFA president Gianni Infantino has emphatically ruled out the prospect of blue cards playing any part in a future sin bin trial.

The cards were set to be the signal which would be used by referees to show that a player had been temporarily dismissed in sin bin trial protocols which were due for publication on February 9, and had been signed off at a board meeting of the game’s lawmaking body, the International Football Association Board, earlier that week.

However, when reports about blue cards circulated on February 8 they received a largely negative reaction, and the IFAB pulled the plug on the day scheduled for publication, citing the need for further talks at the organisation’s annual general meeting this weekend.

On the eve of Saturday’s meeting in Loch Lomond, Infantino said: “There will not be any blue cards used at elite level. This is a topic that is non-existent for us.

“FIFA is completely opposed to blue cards. I was not aware of this topic. I’m the president of FIFA, and I think FIFA has a say in the IFAB. So, I don’t know if you want the title, ‘It’s red card to the blue card’!

“Every proposal and every idea has to be treated with respect, of course. But, once you look at it, you also have to protect the game, the essence of the game, the tradition of the game, and there is no blue card.”

The introduction of a blue card at the level initially envisaged in the trial would have been the biggest single change in the management of player discipline since the introduction of red and yellow cards at the 1970 World Cup.

It is understood the trial itself will continue to be developed, but it is expected it will now take place at a much lower footballing level than was anticipated by the original February 9 protocol, which was set to encourage applications from all but the very top-level competitions.

The Football Association, one of the five bodies which makes up the IFAB, had been understood to have been interested in running a trial in the men’s and women’s FA Cups in the future, before the furore around blue cards.

The trial will also require a new signal to be used instead of the blue card. In grassroots football, referees show a yellow card and point to the touchline.

There are also set to be further talks on Saturday about whether any sin bin trial should include tactical fouls, as well as dissent. Also under the original protocol, all players on the pitch, including goalkeepers, could be temporarily dismissed.

Sin bin trials were one of four protocols set for publication last month before the blue card story broke.

The IFAB is also seeking to trial allowing referees the option of creating a ‘captain-only zone’ around them when they feel threatened or intimidated, and a trial where referees can send teams to their respective penalty areas to cool off in the event of mass confrontations.

All of these, including the sin bin protocols, are ultimately intended to improve player behaviour at higher levels, something Infantino has said is essential to set the right example to young players and ensure people still feel safe, and encouraged, to be referees.

Another trial that had been set for publication on February 9 concerned how long goalkeepers can handle the ball, and how play should restart when they hold on too long.

Currently keepers can hold on for six seconds and anything over that is supposed to be penalised with an indirect free-kick, but lawmakers are concerned this is not being properly enforced which is why a trial has been developed.

The management of head injuries is also on the AGM agenda.

The World Leagues Forum and world players’ union FIFPRO have again written to the IFAB asking for permission to trial temporary concussion substitutes, something which was again rejected at last year’s AGM in London.

The player union and domestic league in Scotland, this year’s host nation for the AGM, are among those seeking the right to conduct such a trial.

“From our perspective, we have a responsibility to those former players who are sadly living with dementia,” PFA Scotland chief executive Fraser Wishart said.

“But we also have to take responsibility as a game – whether it’s the unions, leagues, the government bodies – for current players and future players, to minimise the chances, as much as we possibly can, of players getting dementia. We’re involved in this initiative because we do feel that temporary concussion subs are the next step forward.”

Trials of permanent concussion substitutes were first approved by the IFAB in December 2020.

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