Liverpool captain Virgil van Dijk takes inspiration from world’s best sportsmen and tries to live by NBA great LeBron James’ ‘strive for greatness’ mantra.

Last week the pair were pictured together in an advertising campaign for the Los Angeles Lakers – and Reds’ minority shareholder – star’s signature clothing collection for the club.

It is the second collaboration from the NBA’s all-time leading points scorer and while Van Dijk has yet to meet or even speak to LeBron, they have exchanged messages and the 32-year-old believes he can learn from someone seven years his senior.

Lebron sent him a video message in which he said: “I know you will lead this club on amazing things. Strive for greatness.”

“We haven’t spoken but we have had messages passed between us. I saw the billboard this week and it is amazing,” said the Netherlands captain.

“That phrase that he uses is perfect and it could be used for a lot of things. For me personally I definitely try and follow that because I want to achieve the most I can in life and get the maximum out of myself, the team and the position we are in. We are in a good place to do that this season – again.

“Funnily enough I look at all the top athletes at the highest level because I feel like they all have a big role, either as a big role model or for their team and community and there are so many things you can learn.

“The way they conduct themselves on the pitch or on court, also what they do in order to be great.

“There is LeBron, (Novak) Djokovic, Roger Federer, Tom Brady – I could name so many. I like to listen to these guys and learn with how they dealt with being at the top and dealing with difficult moments but also good moments.

“We always hear about the negative sides but you also have to deal with the positives.”

Van Dijk’s assertion that Liverpool are in a good place is down, in no small part, to the return of the imperious form which made him the world’s best defender a few years ago before an ACL injury.

He scored the goal which won them the Carabao Cup last month and is the cornerstone of a team which sits second in the table behind Arsenal only on goal difference.

Sunday’s FA Cup quarter-final at Manchester United represents the third leg of a potential quadruple, with Atalanta awaiting in the last eight of the Europa League.

“Every season is always a challenge but this season we are in a special situation,” added the Dutchman.

“There are no guarantees but we feel like it is quite special with the way we have overcome things as a group, situations like the news of the manager (leaving at the end of the season).

“I feel very comfortable this season in every aspect of the game. Obviously confidence is a big driver but in general I think I have made big steps in possession. I think there are a lot of things that just clicked again.

“I feel really good and the responsibility I have has helped that but I feel that I have made steps again in possession, in the way I defend and I really enjoy that, I want to continue enjoying it and see what it leads to.”

After lifting his first trophy as Liverpool captain at Wembley, Van Dijk aimed a barb at his critics by saying ‘They thought I was finished’.

“I shouldn’t have said that. That was part of the emotion coming out of me because there were so many emotions going through my whole body that day,” he explained.

“Last season was disappointing. Not disappointing in a way that I was bad, I didn’t feel like that at all, I was just below my standards and the consistency wasn’t there that I have had and set for myself in every game.

“I fully understand the noise that came with it but I am a human being and not immune to any of that.

“Maybe in one way it was good to say because it gets it out of me – but I don’t like noise around me.”

Erik ten Hag says Manchester United have no intention of selling Marcus Rashford this summer.

After signing a new five-year deal after hitting 30 goals last season, the 26-year-old academy product has scored just seven times in a poor campaign for all connected to the club.

Rashford was this week again linked with a move to Paris St Germain, which could provide United with a huge windfall at a time of Premier League profit and sustainability considerations.

It would represent pure profit on that front as he is a homegrown player but Ten Hag says financial benefits are outweighed by the importance of the forward to the future.

“We didn’t re-sign him last season for (five) years with the intention to sell him, no,” Ten Hag said.

“He should be part of this project, so that is not a subject we talk about.”

Ten Hag was speaking ahead of Sunday’s crunch FA Cup quarter-final against rivals Liverpool – a match that may go some way to deciding whether the manager remains part of the now Ineos-led project.

Injury-hit United have endured a tough season and need to overcome Jurgen Klopp’s side at Old Trafford to keep their last remaining hope of silverware alive.

They sit sixth in the Premier League and face an uphill battle to qualify for the Champions League but Ten Hag hopes Sunday can act as a catalyst to transform their season.

“Actually, we never got to turn around so far,” Ten Hag said. “We had our opportunities, but we missed the opportunities (to turn things around).

“Sunday we have another good opportunity to get the momentum. I think the players, the team showed lately from January on we are in a very good series of games with a lot of wins, so they have to believe they can do it. Now we have to take the momentum.

“That is also what I feel when I train with them, during and around the games; that they have that belief, a good confidence, good spirit is there in the team. Go and play and get the turnaround.”

United are underdogs heading into the quarter-final but Ten Hag expects to be boosted by the return to fitness of Rasmus Hojlund, Harry Maguire and Aaron Wan-Bissaka.

The latter is set to return after two months out, with centre-back Maguire and striker Hojlund back after missing three and four games respectively.

“We had a good week,” Ten Hag said. “The players you mention returned on the pitch. Partly at the start of the week and today we had a session and they were all training.

“I think (they are available). We have tomorrow one session. Of course, we have to see how they recover from this but it looks good.”

Ten Hag also provided a positive update on Mason Mount – who has been kept out for four months with a calf issue – and says Tom Heaton is back with fellow goalkeeper Altay Bayindir out.

“Tom Heaton is back as well,” he said. “Also, it was very good Mason Mount trained also (the) whole week with us.

“First part of the week also partly but then also he had some full sessions with us, so it’s looking good.”

Lisandro Martinez, Anthony Martial, Luke Shaw and Tyrell Malacia remain sidelined, while Jonny Evans has been dealing with calf and thigh problems recently.

United said “his game-time has been carefully managed”, which is why he has not been included in Northern Ireland’s squad for their March internationals.

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp hailed the “pure quality” of Mohamed Salah as the forward prepares to face his favoured opposition Manchester United.

The German also praised the way his team coped without their leading scorer for the two months he was absent first at the Africa Cup of Nations and then with a hamstring problem sustained at the tournament.

Salah scored and had three assists in his first 90 minutes since New Year’s Day in the 6-1 Europa League demolition of Sparta Prague but Sunday’s FA Cup trip to Old Trafford will offer a better barometer of whether he is back to his sharpest.

The Egypt international will be relishing the game as he has scored more goals for Liverpool against United – a club-record 12 in 13 appearances – than any other team.

“Super good, you saw it last night. How many goals did he set up first half? He scored and was involved in all the others pretty much. Exceptional,” said Klopp.

“I would have loved to take him off but it was not possible because of Bobby’s situation (midfielder Bobby Clark had a minor problem) and he could manage that pretty well – even then he set up another goal which was offside.

“Mo is pure quality. Ask him what he likes most about Man Utd but the more we talk about it the less likely it will happen again. Exceptional guy, world-class player and how we dealt without him was unbelievable. Unbelievable.

“The boys did really well – but it is better to have him around and on the pitch than just in the dressing room.”

Salah and Darwin Nunez’s nine goals in his last 11 appearances should at least pose a significant threat at Old Trafford.

United are the only team in the last 55 matches to prevent Liverpool scoring, although since that goalless draw at Anfield in December they are on a run of 20 games with a goal.

Klopp said that day was the beginning of phase two of their season, even if ultra-defensive opponents frustrated them.

“I don’t know in the moment if we can play the same game again, it was a really good game,” he added.

“I would call this game the start of when we reached the next level for the season. Until then we were quite OK, we only lost one game, but it was still ‘Ah, sometimes really good, sometimes not so good’.

“It was difficult to judge us: we had so many things to overcome like red cards, being 1-0 down, so it was not clear how good we actually are.

“That game I first saw that was really us in the next gear. The result didn’t show that and I have no clue whether it will be the same game – I don’t expect it, obviously it’s a home game for them.

“But a lot of aspects in our game that day were really good and these aspects we try to bring on the pitch again.

“But the opponent had a full week to prepare, they might do a few things differently and then we have to adapt to that.”

Liverpool are chasing an unprecedented quadruple and Friday’s Europa League draw, a quarter-final versus Atalanta which could be followed by a semi-final against Benfica or Marseille, has made them even stronger favourites for that competition.

“Tricky but Atalanta we played there (in 2020) – not that I watched them since then 500 times, but still the same manager, pretty sure a similar structure so it means uncomfortable to play against, very well organised,” he said.

“It is a quarter-final – I didn’t expect any easy opponent. I have a lot of respect for what Atalanta is doing in the last years, very consistent.”

Liverpool captain Virgil van Dijk believes the history with arch-rivals Manchester United means Sunday’s FA Cup quarter-final meeting carries additional expectations.

A week after playing out a Premier League classic in a top-of-the-table 1-1 draw at home to Manchester City, Jurgen Klopp’s side head to Old Trafford on the next leg of their quest for an unprecedented quadruple.

United are starting to gain some form – eight wins and just two defeats in the last 11 games – after an indifferent first half of the season and that makes the weekend’s quarter-final clash more intriguing.

Asked about the rivalry, Van Dijk said: “Intense. Not only the actual game but the whole build-up is a game on its own but I like to be involved in these type of games.

“We always have a difficult games against them and I expect a difficult one on Sunday as well.

“They are finding ways to win but I focus on what we have to do against them. It’s always difficult, it’s always intense.

“The history of the games with the two biggest clubs in England brings extra expectation and pressure but why not just go out there and enjoy it, play our game and hopefully go to the next round?”

Liverpool head into the game on the back of a 6-1 Europa League thrashing of Sparta Prague – a tie which finished 11-2 on aggregate – with their forwards all in form.

Mohamed Salah became the first player in the club’s history to score 20 goals in seven successive seasons, Darwin Nunez has 17 and six in as many games, and Cody Gakpo’s two against the Czech champions took him to 13 for the campaign. Luis Diaz, an unused substitute, is expected to start on Sunday looking to add to his tally of 13, six of which have come in the last 14 games.

United are the only team in the last 55 matches to prevent Liverpool from scoring after an ultra-defensive display in a goalless draw at Anfield in December.

Van Dijk is not sure they can adopt the same approach on Sunday, especially with 9,000 visiting fans inside Old Trafford.

“I think the game here was, I wouldn’t say one-sided but we had a lot of the ball,” he added.

“They created a couple of dangerous moments on the break and we have to be aware of that but if they would do it exactly the same when they play at home, I have no idea.

“We have to focus on our game and make it as difficult as possible, press them as high as we want and play our football and hopefully we can get through.”

Northern Ireland boss Michael O’Neill has not been surprised by the way Conor Bradley has handled the spotlight after breaking into the Liverpool side with a string of impressive performances.

Northern Ireland fans have long been aware of the 20-year-old’s exciting talent as Bradley has earned 13 caps since making his senior debut in May 2021, a figure that would be much higher had he not missed the bulk of the Euro 2024 qualifying campaign through injury last year.

Since returning to fitness, Bradley has broken into Jurgen Klopp’s side and turned in a series of eye-catching displays, helping Liverpool to lift the Carabao Cup last month.

 

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O’Neill welcomed back Bradley to international duty when he named his squad on Thursday for the upcoming friendlies against Romania and Scotland, and said Bradley has moved up a gear since recovering from a back injury.

 

“Conor was a big loss to us in the qualification campaign,” O’Neill told the PA news agency. “But physically he’s come back even stronger than he was prior to the injury.

“Athletically he’s demonstrated that in games – he’s played some extremely intense games, massive games for Liverpool and he’s excelled in those games. He’s not just held his own but in most of the those games people have come away talking about his level of performance.

“That’s something, going forward, we expect and hope he can bring to the international stage.”

Bradley spent last season on loan at League One Bolton, but has made the step up to Premier League and European football look seamless – something O’Neill said comes down to his character.

“The biggest thing for me is Conor’s mentality, to be able to play in those games at such a crucial stage of the season,” he said.

“He’s a very humble lad, he’s not one to get carried away. He takes it in his stride. He’s experienced already some of the ups and downs of football and it’s great to see him play at this level. He’s going to be a very important player for us going forward…

“If you know Conor and his background and his upbringing, how he’s handled it is exactly how I would expect. He’s not one that courts the spotlight, he’s not one I imagine does very much on social media.

“His focus is on his football and his performances. Away from the pitch he prefers a quiet life so he’s got all the traits you need to be a top player in the modern era.”

While Bradley is back in O’Neill’s squad, a number of senior players remain absent, with Jonny Evans sitting out this international window nursing a calf injury.

https://twitter.com/NorthernIreland/status/1768230711352299637/photo/1

As expected, it is still too soon for either Stuart Dallas or Corry Evans, long-term absentees, although O’Neill expects to see both players during next week’s training camp in Manchester.

Dallas, 32, has been out since suffering a broken femur in April 2022, having been frustrated by a number of setbacks in his recovery, while Corry Evans, 33, suffered a serious knee injury in January 2023.

“Both lads are coming to see us in Manchester so we’ll probably get a clearer picture then,” O’Neill said when asked about possible return dates.

“Their focus is to get back playing, to get back fit, and then they’ve both got contract situations to deal with as well, so international football is not at the forefront of their minds at this time.”

What the papers say

Liverpool midfielder Luis Diaz has become a summer transfer target for Paris St Germain, according to the Daily Mail, as the club looks to replace French star Kylian Mbappe, who will leave for Real Madrid. Diaz joined Liverpool from Forto and has excelled at Anfield, scoring six goals with three assists in 27 Premier League games.

Chelsea are interested in Lille defender Leny Yoro as they look to replace 39-year-old Brazilian centre-back Thiago Silva, the Standard says.

The Telegraph says Newcastle are hoping to accelerate sporting manager Dan Ashworth’s exit to Manchester United. Monaco’s Paul Mitchell is apparently at the top of the pile to replace him.

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Marcus Rashford: The Manchester United striker is not expected to move to Paris St Germain this summer despite being touted as the replacement for Mbappe, according to Sky Sports.

Douglas Luiz: Aston Vila are confident they will keep the 25-year-old despite Arsenal setting their sights on the Brazilian midfielder, 90min reports.

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp believes Mohamed Salah’s relentless drive to score goals will never end.

The Egypt international scored in the 6-1 Europa League demolition of Sparta Prague to bring up his 20th goal of the season, becoming the first player in the club’s history to reach that mark in seven successive campaigns.

“In seven years together with him, the one problem we never had was consistency,” said Klopp after the Egypt international’s first start since New Year’s Day after a hamstring injury.

“Mo is just delivering and delivering and delivering, his desire doesn’t stop, his quality is there and his desire to score doesn’t stop.

“He has improved in so many aspects since he started here. That’s how it is, he will not stop.

“I’m less surprised than maybe some others, I thought it had already happened to be honest, but he was injured for a while, otherwise he would have done it in January or February.

“But great, very good, and great to have him back.”

Salah also provided two assists for Bobby Clark and Cody Gakpo, who scored twice, with Darwin Nunez and Dominik Szoboszlai also on target.

He completed his first 90 minutes in two months but Klopp admitted he had wanted to rest him earlier.

“It was not the plan he plays 90 minutes, the plan was to take him off when we brought on Mateusz (Musialowski) but Bobby Clark said (he felt something) and Mo is experienced enough that he recovers during the game.

“I told him not to defend any more – I never told a player that before.”

Liverpool progressed to the quarter-finals 11-2 on aggregate after an early blitz ruled out any remote hopes of a comeback from the Czech champions.

“The boys started the game incredibly well and 4-0 up in 14 minutes is really strange. From then on it became a strange game because how can you now stay greedy?” said Klopp.

Sparta boss Brian Priske accepted his side had been totally outclassed.

“Big respect to Liverpool how they played these two legs, the level from Sparta to Liverpool is massive. It is a completely different level,” he said.

“We never faced something like this. Liverpool is a Champions League team and they should be playing in the Champions League.”

Mohamed Salah warmed up for Sunday’s FA Cup quarter-final against Manchester United with a record-breaking goal in Liverpool’s 6-1 Europa League demolition of Sparta Prague at Anfield.

Jurgen Klopp’s side were already virtually guaranteed a quarter-final place after their 5-1 first-leg victory but four goals in the opening 13-and-a-half minutes started the rout.

They were only the second team in major UEFA competition history to score four inside the first 14 minutes, after Chelsea against Jeunesse Hautcharage in the Cup Winners’ Cup in 1971-72, but Salah is one for setting standards not matching them.

The Egypt international, playing his first 90 minutes since New Year’s Day – due to the African Nations Cup and the hamstring injury he sustained playing in the tournament – scored the third goal for his 20th of the campaign.

It was the seventh-successive season he has reached the milestone and the first time any Liverpool player in their 132-year history had achieved such a feat.

If he needed any tuning up before the trip to Old Trafford then the Czech champions provided it as he also claimed two assists in that early blitz, with 19-year-old Bobby Clark benefiting to score his first goal for the club and Cody Gakpo turning home his cross from close range.

Darwin Nunez opened the scoring with a clinical strike from 16 yards – just seven minutes earlier – with the best of the quartet but that was forgotten in the blur of goals which followed as Sparta’s players were left chasing shadows and questioning their own abilities.

When the fourth goal went in, captain Ladislav Krejci, whose mistake had led to the second, called a crisis meeting in the middle of the pitch.

It all seemed a bit futile as even though their task at kick-off was an improbable one, their defending was so naive it bordered on the embarrassing.

Midfielder Dominik Szoboszlai, who added the fifth two minutes into the second half, crossed for Nunez to clip home a shot in the seventh minute for his 17th of the season and his sixth in as many games.

But instead of keeping it tight, the visitors continued to play out from the back and when Salah charged down Krejci, the rebound fell kindly for Clark to slot under goalkeeper Peter Vindahl.

The favour was returned when Clark muscled Jaroslav Zleny off the ball 25 yards out to tee up Salah to curl home his milestone goal, Gakpo then turning home the Egyptian’s cross from close range after more sloppy defending.

Nunez ballooned over Liverpool’s easiest chance from six yards from another Salah cross before Conor Bradley’s fierce drive was parried by the goalkeeper.

Veljko Birmancevic held off the backtracking Wataru Endo to poke a shot past Caoimhin Kelleher just before the break but it was a brief respite as, after Nunez, Endo and Joe Gomez were replaced during the interval, Szoboszlai’s near-post drive took a deflection on the way in.

When Vindahl’s punch at a corner only reached the edge of the area Harvey Elliott fired in a low shot which Gakpo touched in with a cheeky backheel.

The Netherlands international wasted a glorious chance for his hat-trick, blazing over with only the goalkeeper to beat and despite taking his tally to 13 for the season, he is unlikely to start at the weekend.

Klopp’s preferred front three of Salah, Nunez and Luis Diaz will have 48 goals between them and the team as a whole have 117 goals in 45 games.

They will fancy their chances against a United side who have kept just four clean sheets – three of which came against mid-tabled League One opponents Wigan and Premier League strugglers Nottingham Forest and Everton – since they became the only club in the last 55 matches to prevent Liverpool scoring in a goalless draw in December.

Kevin De Bruyne will miss Manchester City’s FA Cup quarter-final against Newcastle on Saturday with a minor groin injury.

The news emerged after the City playmaker was not included in Belgium’s squad for their international friendlies against the Republic of Ireland and England later this month.

The PA news agency understands the problem is not considered too serious by City and the club are hopeful he will be fit for their crucial Premier League clash with Arsenal on March 31.

It is nevertheless another setback for De Bruyne after missing most of the first half of the campaign following hamstring surgery.

It is unclear when the 32-year-old suffered the injury. He looked frustrated to be substituted after 69 minutes of last Sunday’s 1-1 draw at title rivals Liverpool but there was no suggestion at the time he was injured.

It is City’s second fitness blow in the space of a few days after goalkeeper Ederson was ruled out for up to four weeks with a thigh injury.

The Brazilian was hurt in a collision with Liverpool’s Darwin Nunez – in which he conceded a penalty – at Anfield and was replaced by number two Stefan Ortega.

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp insists the return of Michael Edwards as Fenway Sports Group’s chief executive of football has not made him change his mind about leaving at the end of the season.

The German has spoken to Edwards, with whom he had a very successful relationship as the club’s sporting director until he left in 2022, after his appointment was confirmed on Tuesday, but there will be no dramatic U-turn.

Edwards spent over a decade at Anfield, initially as performance director, and owners FSG targeted him for a new role to oversee the huge transition which will take place this summer when Klopp leaves as the club also need a new sporting director – expected to be Bournemouth’s Richard Hughes – as well as a manager.

Asked whether Edwards has asked him about reversing his decision, Klopp said: “No, because – and it’s very important in his job – he’s not dumb.

“That was not a subject to talk about. Can you imagine if I changed my mind now? Can you? Of course not.

“It would be like when I said I’d never (move to) another club in England and next year I signed for our neighbours or a club who needs a coach.

“I don’t say these things without thinking about them before. It would mean I realise only now how great this club is – I have known about it all the time.

“For me it is the best club in the world and I am still leaving anyway. That’s what I’ve been trying to explain.

“I just want this club to do as well as somehow possible, and I’m really sure (that can happen) if we create a good basis with the right people in charge, and Michael is a top choice.

“I think it is a top solution, honestly, and our conversation was obviously great.”

What the papers say

Liverpool have expressed their faith in Colombian winger Luis Diaz after telling Spanish giants Barcelona that the 27-year-old is not for sale and is a part of their long-term plans, the Daily Mirror reports. Diaz has scored six goals and created three more in 27 games in the Premier League for the club this season.

The Mirror says Manchester United have set a price tag of £43million on striker Mason Greenwood with an unnamed Saudi Pro League interested in the 22-year-old’s signature. The forward has spent the season in La Liga at Spanish club Getafe on loan where he has scored six goals and assisted five more in 23 matches.

The Daily Mail reports Chelsea could be looking to offload several stars this summer including Raheem Sterling, Romelu Lukaku, Trevoh Chalobah and Marc Cucurella.

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Viktor Gyokeres: Arsenal have made the Swedish forward their number one target this summer with the Sporting Lisbon player having a £85million release clause in his contract, according to Football Transfers.

Willian Pacho: Liverpool and Arsenal are interested in the 22-year-old Ecuadorian defender at Eintracht Frankfurt, 90min says.

Jurgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola's honesty has been hugely refreshing for the Premier League, so says David James.

In what is set to be the final Premier League meeting between the great managerial rivals, Liverpool and Manchester City served up a thrilling 1-1 draw at Anfield on Sunday.

For the second time in the last three seasons, Liverpool and City have drawn both of their meetings in a Premier League campaign (2021-22 and 2023-24). Four of the last six meetings between the two in the top flight have ended level, as many as in the previous 17 combined (four).

Guardiola, meanwhile, is the manager to have beaten Klopp the most in the German's career, with 10 wins. But it is the same the other way around, with Klopp having overcome Guardiola's sides on 11 occasions.

With Klopp leaving Liverpool at the end of the season, the only way he and Guardiola can go head-to-head again in English football will be if the Reds and City were to meet in the FA Cup, should they progress beyond their respective quarter-final ties, and former England goalkeeper James believes the honesty that both men have provided during their stints in the top tier has been hugely impressive.

"There's one thing about these two and I think it's their honesty," he told Stats Perform.

"Right from the get go when Pep turned up [in 2016], the way that he talked about his football. I think you can see in how his teams are playing games.

"After matches, win, lose or draw, he would tell people how he thought the performance went. I think that was refreshing because a lot of managers still avoid the hard questions when people talk about performances, whether it was good or bad.

"Pep honestly responded. I think with Jurgen, [it's] the honesty just in general. In terms of him announcing that he's going to step down as Liverpool manager. I think that the way he comes over, you just believe everything he says.

"That is not to suggest he isn't telling the truth, but that's what I love about it. I think what they've done is move the benchmark for other managers coming in.

"In regards to a rivalry, I think they love each other and hate each other at the same time. They're so good and they've kept this league so honest, it's been amazing."

Asked for his thoughts on how Liverpool go about replacing Klopp, who has been in post since 2015, James added: "Obviously with Jurgen having to be replaced for next season, it'll be interesting what type of manager Liverpool get.

"Because football-wise you can get a manager that has more influence on the pitch that Jurgen has but off the field it will be difficult to replace him."

Liverpool have been heavily linked with Xabi Alonso, though Bayern Munich are also in the hunt for the Bayer Leverkusen coach.

UEFA is bracing itself for the “extremely challenging” possibility of a Rangers v Liverpool Europa League final in Dublin.

European football’s governing body has reserved the 82,000-capacity Croke Park stadium as a potential fan zone, but is concerned even that might not be enough to accommodate everyone who may come to Dublin without a ticket to soak up the atmosphere for the match on Wednesday, May 22.

Both clubs have big followings in Ireland and remain in contention to reach the finale at the Aviva Stadium, with Rangers level with Benfica heading into the second leg at Ibrox on Thursday and Liverpool 5-1 up against Sparta Prague with the return at Anfield to come.

There are other permutations too which may also prove a headache for UEFA, whose general secretary Theodore Theodoridis said on Tuesday: “One of the biggest challenges for us this year could be the Europa League final.

“Under certain conditions, because of the potential teams that could qualify, this might end up being the most challenging for us.

“We know they will bring a number of supporters without tickets and then there is the issue of potential public viewing venues.

There are a couple of pairings – I won’t speculate on the names but you are clever enough to work it out – that would be extremely challenging to find ways to accommodate everybody that will be present for that game

 

“We have already reserved Croke Park as a potential public viewing venue, but that could not be enough.

“There are a couple of pairings – I won’t speculate on the names but you are clever enough to work it out – that would be extremely challenging to find ways to accommodate everybody that will be present for that game.

“We are working on this already, together with the local authorities and also Football Supporters Europe.

“If we do get to one of those scenarios, we will also go to the supporters of the clubs involved to find the best solution.

“The biggest problem we have now is whether Croke Park would be big enough – because we think we would need more alternatives for public viewing for the people who will be in Dublin.

“It’s not an easy operation and it is just for a couple of scenarios which would make it extremely complicated – especially with clubs who already have a large fanbase on the island of Ireland.

“But we are working on it and will involve the fanbases as well. We have to see who gets to the semis and then we will start to work with them as well.”

Former sporting director Michael Edwards is returning to Liverpool and will spearhead the club’s transition to a post Jurgen Klopp era.

Edwards spent over a decade at Anfield as performance director and sporting director before leaving in 2022 but has agreed to take up a role as chief executive of football for the club’s owners Fenway Sports Group.

Discussions began following the shock news in January of manager Klopp’s departure at the end of the season, with further talks held in Boston earlier this month.

Edwards will take over from FSG president Mike Gordon as the day-to-day decision maker on football matters.

Top of Edwards’ to-do list will be appointing a new sporting director, who will then be responsible for recruiting Klopp’s successor.

Edwards declined several offers to return to football following his Anfield exit, holding talks with Chelsea and Manchester United, and the 44-year-old said: “I am very grateful to Mike, John (Henry), Tom (Werner) and the ownership group for offering me the opportunity to take on this new leadership role within FSG.

“I was humbled by the desire and persistence they showed in wanting to work with me again. This is definitely not something that I take for granted given their track record across sport and business.

“It was vital for me that, if I did return, it had to be with renewed vigour and energy. In practice, this means having fresh challenges and opportunities. As such, one of the biggest factors in my decision is the commitment to acquire and oversee an additional club, growing this area of their organisation.

“In assuming this role, I fully understand that it comes with great expectations, and I therefore intend to identify, hire, and subsequently empower leaders who meet and embody the club’s values and ambitions.

“Having served the club previously I need no reminder of how much emotional investment is made by supporters in the city itself, as well as across the UK and the world. I am looking forward to getting started.”

Edwards will leave his current role with sports management business Ludonautics on June 1.

Gordon hailed his return, saying: “Michael is one of the most formidable executive talents in world football and John, Tom, and I are absolutely thrilled to have secured his services for our business.”

Manchester United midfielder Mason Mount has returned to training after four months on the sidelines.

The 25-year-old has endured a difficult first season at Old Trafford, managing just 12 appearances in all competitions since joining from Chelsea over the summer.

Mount has not played since coming off the bench in United’s 1-0 win against Luton in November, but a return from a calf complaint is finally in sight.

 

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The Premier League club confirmed on Tuesday that the England international is back in training, just days after Erik ten Hag offered a promising update on him.

“Mason Mount, I think he is in a good spell now and he will return shortly,” the Dutchman said on Friday. “I think after the international break.”

Mount’s presence will be a welcome boost to a United side looking to push for Champions League qualification.

Ten Hag expects Harry Maguire, Rasmus Hojlund and Aaron Wan-Bissaka to be back for Sunday’s FA Cup quarter-final against Liverpool, but Lisandro Martinez, Anthony Martial, Luke Shaw and Tyrell Malacia remain sidelined.

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