Raheem Sterling rediscovered his scoring touch as he netted both of Chelsea’s goals in a 2-2 draw at Stamford Bridge that could prove vital for relegation-threatened Nottingham Forest.

Home fans had booed their team off at the break, trailing to a Taiwo Awoniyi goal for Steve Cooper’s side and looking no nearer in the first half to finding a solution to the lack of firepower that has derailed their season.

Then, in the space of seven second-half minutes, Sterling transformed the match. First a deflected shot bounced up into the corner after he was set up by Trevoh Chalobah, then he let rip with a brilliant solo goal that evoked the England forward at his electric best.

Yet instead of pressing on, Chelsea folded. Non-existent marking left Awoniyi free to head home and extinguish the lead four minutes later.

It ensured Forest stayed three points clear in their bid to beat the drop, and meant Frank Lampard’s long wait for a victory at this ground on his return as boss will go to the season’s final game.

Forest nearly stunned the hosts inside four minutes. Renan Lodi’s corner was whipped to the near post where Felipe met it with a firm header that flashed wide.

They took the lead soon after and it was Lodi again the provider, though Edouard Mendy – returning in goal for Chelsea – was badly at fault. The ball into the penalty spot did not look unduly threatening, but as the keeper raced from his goal Awoniyi climbed above two defenders to get to it first and head into an unguarded net.

It seemed to shake Chelsea to life, and they went close to levelling immediately when Sterling’s effort was blocked by the recovering Joe Worrall. Noni Madueke, increasingly influential in recent games despite the team’s indifferent form, showed excellent balance and feet on the right whenever he got on the ball, bursting through Forest with speed and skill.

On the other flank, Lewis Hall nominally at left-back showed barrels of attacking intent when Chelsea were in possession. He got forward after 30 minutes and, after making space with a clever shimmy, crossed for Joao Felix to dive into a header that was brilliantly held on the stretch by Keylor Navas.

Moussa Niakhate was an inch away from making it two for Forest in the first moments of the second half, he stretched out a leg to meet a flicked-on corner at the back post but could not make the contact required.

Chelsea did not need another warning. The equaliser arrived on 51 minutes, and Sterling owed his goal to good link-up play between Madueke and Chalobah. The pair worked their way in behind Forest and into a channel down the right, giving Chalobah the time and space to pick out a pass which Sterling swept home first time via a deflection off the stricken Ryan Yates.

Chelsea looked to ride the wave of noise that the goal had drawn from Stamford Bridge. Felix tried to catch out Navas with a driven effort from range that dropped onto the roof of the net, then Sterling took the roof off the stadium with his and Chelsea’s second.

There seemed to be little on when the ball was worked to him 12 yards out on a wide angle, but in a deft movement he took it under control, opened his body and shot perfectly beyond the dive of Navas. It was Sterling at his long-forgotten best.

It should have been a catalyst to drive Chelsea on to a rare home win. Instead, it invited a meekly predictable implosion. Orel Mangala’s cross into the centre of the box for Forest was an inviting one, and no one in blue had gone with Awoniyi who stunned home fans into silence with a firmly planted header.

Chelsea’s frustration started to show. Felix was booked for simulation, and attacks began to break down before the final third. Still Forest carried a threat, Lodi hit a bending drive that swung outwards and fractionally past the post.

Sterling had a chance to complete his hat-trick, racing forward to get on the end of Hakim Ziyech’s searching ball but lifting his header up and over the bar as he arrived.

There were few chances for either side after that, as Forest claimed a point that could prove of incalculable value.

Jacob Ramsey and Douglas Luiz ignited Aston Villa’s Europa League charge after a vital win over rivals Tottenham.

Unai Emery’s side moved level on points with sixth-placed Spurs with two games left in the race for Europe following Saturday’s 2-1 victory.

They were superior in every way, with Emi Buendia hitting the bar, and remain in the hunt for a surprise European spot after recovering from successive defeats following strikes from Ramsey and Luiz – despite Harry Kane’s late penalty.

Wretched Tottenham, aimless and lifeless, looked anything but a side competing for the top six.

Just 13 months ago at Villa Park they ran riot as a Son Heung-min hat-trick inspired a 4-0 win but, despite a brief second-half improvement, it was a performance which underlined their continued regression.

In his programme notes Emery said it was the game Villa had been fighting for and it was worth the wait as the hosts grabbed the lead after eight minutes.

Ramsey spread play wide to Leon Bailey, Villa’s only change from last week’s derby defeat at Wolves, and motored into the box to meet Bailey’s low cross ahead of Pedro Porro and find the corner.

There was little or no reaction from Tottenham. The away fans’ focus was on continued chanting for the exit of chairman Daniel Levy while their side remained passive, even with the ball.

With the lead, Villa were the more cohesive unit with Spurs’ only chance ending with a much-delayed offside flag when Son hit the post after running clear.

Tottenham drifted through the half, almost in a daze, and needed Fraser Forster to stop them falling further behind after 32 minutes.

Porro’s error was seized on and Ollie Watkins darted into the area to centre for Bailey, only for the goalkeeper’s fine save to keep him out.

It felt like a second would seal the game for the hosts and they almost doubled their lead five minutes before the break when a diving Watkins just missed Alex Moreno’s teasing cross.

A non-existent Tottenham midfield was being cut through by Villa and the bullish Buendia hit the bar having collected a return pass from Ramsey after breezing through the centre.

Normal service continued in the second half, John McGinn slicing wide from distance and Forster denying Buendia, as Spurs floundered.

Yet they were presented with a glorious chance to level out of the blue when Oliver Skipp robbed Luiz and the ball rolled to Kane.

The England captain had time and space but shot too close to Emi Martinez from just inside the box.

It was a let-off for Villa and sparked an improvement in the visitors as their hosts retreated and began to invite pressure, with Dejan Kulusevski curling wide.

But any comeback hopes were snuffed out by Luiz with 18 minutes left.

Cristian Romero clattered Watkins 25 yards out and all Forster – with his positioning in question – could do was help Luiz’s free-kick into the top corner.

There was still time for Kane to score a 90th-minute penalty after he was fouled by Martinez – following a lengthy VAR check – but it was too late.

Alejandro Garnacho returned from injury with a bang as the Manchester United teenager wrapped up a victory against Wolves that gets their Champions League qualification quest back on track.

Back-to-back defeats at Brighton and West Ham allowed rivals Liverpool to move within a point of the Red Devils in fourth, as Erik ten Hag’s side risked allowing a positive season to end badly.

United alleviated the pressure somewhat by returning to winning ways thanks to Anthony Martial’s close-range finish and substitute Garnacho’s stoppage-time goal in Saturday’s 2-0 victory against Wolves.

Antony’s intelligent pass set up the France international to score the opening goal – just his fifth in the Premier League this term – in front of former manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

Southampton suffered Premier League relegation after Aleksandar Mitrovic returned from his eight-match ban with a bang to help Fulham secure a 2-0 win at St Mary’s.

Second-half finishes from Carlos Vinicius and substitute Mitrovic inflicted a club-record 24th defeat of the season on the division’s bottom club to leave them eight points from safety with just two fixtures remaining.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak – a Saints fan – was among those in attendance on the south coast as the hosts’ 11-season stay in the top flight ended in tame fashion.

He witnessed a team lacking confidence, ideas and urgency produce another feeble performance of a miserable campaign featuring three managers and just two home league wins.

Vinicius broke the deadlock in the 48th minute, before Mitrovic, who was handed the lengthy suspension for grabbing referee Chris Kavanagh in his side’s FA Cup loss at Manchester United on March 19, condemned Saints to the Sky Bet Championship by heading home his 13th goal of the season.

Boos and chants of “you’re not fit to wear the shirt” from home supporters greeted the full-time whistle.

Southampton began the day in the perilous position of needing to win each of their final three fixtures to stand any chance of survival following Monday’s damaging 4-3 loss at fellow strugglers Nottingham Forest.

Pockets of empty red seats suggested plenty of Saints fans were already resigned to the club’s fate, albeit the reduced crowd was boosted slightly by the presence of Southampton-born politician Sunak.

Unchanged Fulham dominated possession from the first whistle but created little in a forgettable opening period of few chances.

Brazilian forward Vinicius saw a close-range effort blocked for the away side, moments after recalled Saints striker Paul Onuachi fired tamely at Bernd Leno from range following a mistake from Issa Diop.

Fulham then had passionate penalty appeals waved away after Harry Wilson’s inswinging cross struck the arm of Southampton defender Lyanco, prompting visiting players to surround referee Thomas Bramall at the next break in play.

Willian came closest to a first-half breakthrough when his 41st-minute volley was headed off the line by Lyanco following fine work from Wilson and Harrison Reed’s ball across the box.

A dismal contest desperately requiring a goal burst into life immediately after the restart.

Carlos Alcaraz momentarily thought he had fired Southampton ahead, only for his confident, slotted finish to be flagged offside, before Fulham quickly compounded that disappointment to suck the life out of home supporters.

Vinicius claimed the simple opener, tapping home unmarked from close range after the industrious Reed diverted the ball across goal with a crunching, sliding challenge on Lyanco.

The party mood among the away end was heightened by the long-awaited return of Mitrovic 25 minutes from time, with a host of Serbia flags unfurled on the terraces.

And the Cottagers’ top scorer wasted little time in reintroducing himself.

The lively Wilson was once again Southampton’s tormentor-in-chief, producing a pinpoint cross from the right for Mitrovic to stoop and nod beyond goalkeeper Alex McCarthy.

Victory for Fulham was a club-record 15th of a Premier League campaign and a first away to Southampton since 1935 to lift them to ninth place.

Beleaguered Saints, meanwhile, are left to contemplate a first season in the second tier since 2011-12 and, following games against Brighton and Liverpool, an uncertain summer of transition.

Newcastle boss Eddie Howe says his confrontation with a Leeds fan in the 2-2 draw at Elland Road should act as a wake-up call for those responsible for the safety of players and staff.

An angry home supporter climbed out of the stands and entered the technical area to confront Howe before being quickly whisked away.

Howe says he is fine after the incident, which came in injury-time of a pulsating game, but that the safety of those involved should not be “violated”.

“I actually can’t remember whether he pushed me or not, I’ve got no idea, it’s such a strange thing because you’re concentrating on the game and you don’t expect it to happen,” Howe said.

“He confronted me, said something that I can’t repeat and was then led away.

“I’m OK, moments like that do make you think about the safety of staff and players is paramount for me at any matches in the Premier League and Football League. We need to be mindful, security is so important.

“I don’t know if I had time to be fearful because it was over in a flash but it certainly makes you think ‘what if’ and I think it is moments like this that should make people look and analyse how we can improve safety for staff and players.

“No one should have to face that, playing a sport we love and trying to entertain the country, no one should feel like their own personal safety is violated. It is something for us to reflect on.”

Howe was more disappointed that his side could not win at Elland Road as they looked to strengthen their grip on Champions League qualification.

Luke Ayling put Leeds ahead early on but a pair of Callum Wilson penalties gave Newcastle the lead only for Rasmus Kristensen’s deflected effort to deny them three points.

Howe added: “It was a strange game, lots happened, a lot of different feelings from it. At 1-0 down and a penalty down you are fearing the worst but we managed to get ourselves in front and are ultimately disappointed not to win.”

Leeds stay in the bottom three, but it was a positive afternoon for new boss Sam Allardyce on his first match in charge at Elland Road, though he needed to calm down after the enthralling nature of the match, where Patrick Bamford missed a first-half penalty and Junior Firpo was sent off at the death.

“I needed two valium when we came off to calm me down,” he joked. “I enjoyed it actually, I did. I was nervous before the game because we were playing at home and I wanted to give the fans something.

“But what the lads did for me and the rest of the staff, the fans and themselves gave me some hope going forward because they tried their very best and I can’t ask for any more than that.

“Two-two in the end is satisfying. I hope it goes to the wire, when we play Tottenham I hope there is somehting in it for us.

“We have to keep our fingers crossed that the others don’t win. It’s not in our hands so all we can to do is what we did today and do it better.”

Rasmus Kristensen’s late equaliser rescued Leeds a point in a 2-2 home draw against Newcastle but it was not enough to lift them out of the bottom three.

Kristensen’s deflected strike from outside the penalty area spared Leeds from a seventh defeat in nine matches, but their Premier League status was left hanging in the balance with two games to play.

Skipper Luke Ayling had given Leeds an early lead and after Patrick Bamford’s first-half penalty was saved, Callum Wilson converted twice from the spot to edge Newcastle in front.

Leeds made a blistering start in search of the opening goal Sam Allardyce had spoken about earlier in the week and his side delivered in the seventh minute.

After Jack Harrison’s trickery set Bamford free down the left, the latter’s cross was met by Rodrigo’s header and although Nick Pope got down well to save, Ayling converted the rebound.

Allardyce started with defender Robin Koch and Sam Greenwood in a new-look midfield and there was an energy and balance about Leeds that had been missing for several weeks.

But having missed a golden chance to double their lead in the 27th minute they were made to pay.

Bamford’s penalty was saved by Pope after Joelinton had hauled down Junior Firpo and four minutes later Newcastle equalised with a penalty of their own.

Referee Simon Hooper pointed straight to the spot after Max Wober’s reckless challenge on Alexander Isak and Wilson duly converted his 16th league goal of the season.

The plug had been pulled on the positive electricity generated by the home fans up to Bamford’s squandered penalty and all of a sudden Leeds looked ragged.

Koch blocked Miguel Almiron’s cross at the near post, goalkeeper Joel Robles raced off his line to thwart Wilson after Joelinton’s through-ball and Almiron then curled a left-footed shot inches wide just before half-time.

Wilson threatened again soon after the restart when his volley was deflected for a corner and Fabian Schar’s header was cleared off the goal-line by Rodrigo.

Leeds also had their moments as the game opened up. Weston McKennie lashed a shot over the crossbar, but they were dealt a bitter blow in the 69th minute when Wilson converted his second penalty.

VAR referred referee Hooper to the pitch-side monitor after Firpo’s handball from Willock’s deep cross and after pointing to the spot for the third time in the match, Wilson drove his penalty high down the middle.

But with their top-flight status on the line, Leeds refused to surrender.

Newcastle only half-cleared substitute Willy Gnonto’s corner and Kristensen crashed home a 25-yard shot via a deflection off Kieran Trippier to haul the home side level.

With nerves fraying on and off the pitch in the closing stages, Firpo was sent off after his challenge on substitute Anthony Gordon earned him a second yellow card.

And before the subsequent free-kick was taken a Leeds fan leapt from the crowd to confront Newcastle boss Eddie Howe before being dragged clear by match stewards.

Said Benrahma heads back to Brentford on Sunday with some rare praise from David Moyes ringing in his ears.

West Ham boss Moyes has never been entirely convinced by Benrahma since signing the Algerian winger for £20million from the Bees two years ago.

The Scot regularly downplays Benrahma’s displays, insisting he needs to improve on his decision making in the final third and track back more defensively.

But Benrahma took his goal tally for the season to 11 with a penalty against AZ Alkmaar in the Europa Conference League on Thursday night, while he has also contributed five assists.

And tellingly, he was also joint top in the rankings for making interceptions against the Dutch side in a performance which suggested the penny may have finally dropped.

“He played really well on Thursday night. He missed a big chance for us, but he played really well,” said Moyes, again being careful to keep the 27-year-old’s feet on the ground.

“What he is doing is good. He has had periods of ups and downs, but in the main he has started to show a bit more consistency.

“He is more conscientious about his job and how he has to do the job for the team.

“There are a lot of things he has done really well, but we want him to add more goals and assists to his game more than anything.”

Benrahma is likely to start against his old club at the Gtech Community Stadium, but Moyes will make changes with West Ham virtually safe from relegation and facing a semi-final second leg with AZ in the Netherlands on Thursday.

Declan Rice, Jarrod Bowen and Michail Antonio are set to have an afternoon off with Flynn Downes, Maxwel Cornet and Danny Ings coming in.

Brentford manager Thomas Frank has praised the “fantastic” job David Moyes has done at West Ham as the two teams prepare to meet in the Premier League on Sunday.

The 15th-placed Hammers have endured a season of struggle domestically but are one game away from a European final.

Moyes’ men lead AZ Alkmaar 2-1 after the first leg of their Europa Conference League semi-final, 12 months after reaching the last four of the Europa League.

“I think it is fantastic what David Moyes and his staff have done in the last year at West Ham,” Frank said.

“They came in, turned things around and they were sixth or seventh and last year (reached the) semi-final in the Europa League and now they’re (in the) semi-final in the Conference League and hopefully going to the final.

“I know they have struggled a little bit, but they are in the semi-final of the Conference League and maybe they are going to lift their first trophy in many years, which will be a fantastic achievement.”

The pressure on Moyes increased in the wake of last month’s 5-1 home defeat to Newcastle as calls from supporters for him to go grew, but West Ham have since moved clear of the relegation fight, helped by last weekend’s 1-0 win over Manchester United.

Frank said: “I think they (fans who want Moyes sacked) are wrong.

“I think it’s incredibly difficult to be consistent in the Premier League and then you finish top 10, top six and then you want more, but I think it is about having consistency and adding layers every single season.

“What they have built is a strong squad that can compete in the Premier League and in Europe and that is fantastic.

“A European semi-final two years in a row is an unbelievable achievement no matter what, and maybe they don’t finish in the top 10 this season, but that can happen.”

Brentford are on course for a top-half finish and Frank wants his side to end the season strongly.

“I’m a big believer that if we continue momentum into the end of the season then you can carry it into next season,” he said.

“I think for us, every point is very important that we just try to carry on and develop the team by doing different tweaks, but the main focus is to win the next game

“I think this group of players are remarkable in terms of their effort and focus.”

Pep Guardiola is wary of an Everton side he feels should not be in a relegation battle.

Guardiola takes treble-chasing Manchester City to Goodison Park on Sunday for a match crucial at both ends of the Premier League table.

Leaders City need points to retain their advantage over title rivals Arsenal while the Toffees are battling for survival.

Everton have endured a miserable campaign but they dramatically boosted their hopes of beating the drop by claiming a stunning 5-1 win at European hopefuls Brighton on Monday.

“They have the history and the quality of team to not be in this position,” said City manager Guardiola.

“Brighton is one of the toughest places to go and the result had a real impact, I am sure, not just in the table but in their mood.

“Brighton have had incredible results against Wolves and Man United but immediately they were surprised by two early goals.

“The defensive structure, the physicality Everton have, is really good and anything can happen in a football game.”

The importance of the fixture means City cannot afford to ease up ahead of the second leg of their Champions League semi-final against Real Madrid next Wednesday.

The champions played out a 1-1 draw with the Spanish giants at the Bernabeu Stadium on Tuesday.

The challenge facing them at Goodison will be completely different and Guardiola recognises it requires a change of mindset.

“The way they play is special, we have to adapt as quickly as possible,” he said.

“There are four games left in the Premier League and it is really important for us to be there, to keep our destiny – or what you play for – in our hands and we have to prepare as best as possible.

“When we play for all competitions, you have to switch and adapt.”

Guardiola admits his side’s current schedule is draining but, with the team still firing on three fronts, he expects their determination and winning mentality to carry them through.

He said: “Winning helps to be better. It you win the previous game your mental recovery is better.

“The human being has incredible resources to move forward, keep going. If you desire mentally, the human being can have incredible energy that you don’t believe you have.”

City will check on the fitness of defender Nathan Ake, who missed the game in Spain through injury.

Roberto De Zerbi expects Brighton to lose key players in the summer but does not feel Moises Caicedo has added incentive to impress during Sunday’s Premier League clash with Arsenal.

Influential midfielder Caicedo expressed his desire to leave Albion amid January bids from the title-chasing Gunners but subsequently signed a new contract at the Amex Stadium after the offers were rejected.

The 21-year-old Ecuador international and Argentina’s World Cup winner Alexis Mac Allister, 24, continue to be heavily linked with rival clubs ahead of the transfer window opening next month.

Seagulls head coach De Zerbi has already begun planning for next season, having last week clinched the signing of Brazilian forward Joao Pedro from Watford for a reported fee of almost £30million.

The Italian is braced for some big-name departures in the coming months but wants his squad fully focused on a tricky weekend trip to Emirates Stadium and the ongoing push for Europe.

“I don’t know what will happen next season but I think if you want to improve your team, you have to decide (make plans) before the next season,” he said.

“I think we will lose some important players and we have to be ready to restart stronger than this season.”

Asked if Caicedo has extra motivation to perform in north London, De Zerbi replied “No, I think no.

“He’s playing for Brighton now and only Brighton. I have no doubts but I want only players focused in our team and our club.

“He’s playing very well. He always is one of the best players on the pitch.”

Pedro’s imminent arrival in a club-record deal was confirmed before Brighton’s Europa League quest was damaged by a 5-1 thrashing at the hands of relegation-threatened Everton.

De Zerbi believes the transfer is a statement of intent as Albion bid to build on the best league campaign in the club’s 122-year history.

“Joao Pedro is a very important signal,” he said.

“I spoke with him last month and I am really pleased to work next year with him. I think Joao Pedro can be a top player for us.

“He’s a young player and he’s a right player for us. It’s a good deal for Brighton.”

Brighton have injury concerns ahead of the trip to the capital, with Solly March and Adam Webster joining Tariq Lamptey, Adam Lallana, Jakub Moder and Jeremy Sarmiento on the sidelines, while Joel Veltman is a doubt.

Webster’s absence should result in a recall for on-loan Chelsea defender Levi Colwill.

Although England Under-21 international Colwill is expected to remain at Stamford Bridge next term, De Zerbi hopes to keep hold of him.

“I would like to work with him another two, three, four years because it’s difficult to find another left centre-back with his quality,” he said.

“He’s a good guy. This year his improvement has been fantastic and I hope he can stay with us.”

Seventh-placed Brighton will bid to dent Arsenal’s title pursuit by bouncing back from Monday’s embarrassing heavy loss to the lowly Toffees.

While De Zerbi is a big admirer of Mikel Arteta’s men, he is optimistic about registering a second away win of the season against the Gunners following November’s 3-1 Carabao Cup success.

“Arsenal are one of the best teams in the Premier League,” he said.

“They play in a clear way. I like them in terms of style of play, I love this style.

“But we are playing well and we have the quality to reach the result.

“We are fighting for the Europa League. If you are fighting for a dream, every game is tough.”

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp is delighted his players have finally been able to show some of their best form before the end of the season.

An inconsistent campaign has left the Reds with only an outside chance of qualifying for the Champions League and only a run of six successive victories – their best sequence in over a year – has put them in that position.

“We play a really bad season, I think everyone in this room agrees, and now we have 62 points. It is strange,” said Klopp ahead of Monday’s trip to Leicester.

“There is still quality in the boys. I am really happy we could show up a little bit. Where it will end up it’s really not about that.

“I know everyone wants to go to Champions League, I understand that 100 per cent as that’s what I want, it is just not really likely, that is the situation we created.

“But to show up and show again we are able to do special things I am really happy about.

“Winning six games in a row is special and if it was easy we would have done it much more often, other teams would have done it much more often.

“Adding the seventh is even more difficult but eight and nine really difficult because it is football and other teams prepare well for the games and they have their own targets but this part of the season gave us a clear sign we are still there.

“Not everything is bad about us and around us. We had a bad season but let’s see what we can make of it.”

Part of Liverpool’s problem has been their woeful away record, which is only the ninth-best heading into the weekend.

It has been boosted by recent wins at Leeds and West Ham which has given Klopp’s side the opportunity to win a third in a row away from home for the first time this season at Leicester.

“Our away record is still not brilliant. This season I think we are third or fourth (they are second before this weekend) in the home table and ‘somewhere’ in the away table so it is still not great,” added Klopp.

“But we had that discussion years ago, early when I came here, that at home we created something like a fortress but away we were not a top-six or top-four team at that time and we realised it is not that difficult, the difference is not as big as we might think.

“But there is a difference and we have to make sure we are ready for that. We just were not consistent enough, we needed too much help from the outside in moments this season and didn’t use it then always. That’s why we are in the position we are in.”

While the lack of Champions League football will be financially damaging next season Klopp is confident it will not impact his transfer plans.

“It is not about that. When I talk to a player – if I am allowed, which is rarely the case – but you realise in his eye that he has already clarified (the situation),” he said.

“We can’t tell anyone in the moment that we will definitely be in the Champions League next year so if we are talking to him then he already knows.

“It is obvious that we have to fight for being part of the Champions League and trophies and if you want to be part of that you are more than welcome.

“There is only one thing we can’t guarantee this year and that is Champions League football but all the rest is still the same, it is a fantastic football club.

“It is still Liverpool, we are really attractive for a lot of players and we should not forget that and that’s why I’m not concerned about that factor.

“Everything is more difficult without the Champions League, that is how it is especially in the long term, so we should not do these kind of things more often but apart from that it is absolutely OK the situation we are in.”

Everton manager Sean Dyche believes his side have got their “edge” back at just the right time.

A surprise 5-1 win at Brighton on Monday has raised hopes of escaping relegation and he knows that ability to find something extra will be crucial as they host Premier League leaders and treble-chasers Manchester City.

Dyche took over a side at the end of January that had lost eight of nine matches but after the initial bounce a new manager occasionally brings, beating Arsenal and Leeds in his first three games, results tailed off again.

The team had registered just one win in 11 before victory over the Seagulls but Dyche thinks that result – after encouraging signs in their previous outing in a 2-2 draw at Leicester – shows that much sought-after X-factor is returning.

“I looked at some of the performances, the body language, intent and meaning behind the performance and in some way, I thought some things were lacking,” he said.

“We’ve adjusted that side of it, the purposefulness of the side, some of the quality moments, some of the defensive side but the actual feel of the performance and mentality of the performance has grown.

“Watching the intent, body language and desire of a team, it’s hard to explain, but I know it when I see it, I’ve been in the game all my life.

“You get stats – our team and their team – and it can look like there’s nothing in it, but there’s a big difference in body language intent and desire from those stats.

“Compared to some of the performances since I got here, that kind of edge has improved.”

Everton’s win over Brighton was a huge morale boost but facing City, even at Goodison Park, is a daunting task for a side who probably require at least one more win from their remaining three games to extend their top-flight status into a 70th successive season.

And while time is running out to save themselves, as they did on the penultimate game of last season, Dyche is keen to change the view on the significance which has been placed on coming good when it is needed at the end of a campaign.

“The thing I’m trying to get to here is that every single game should matter. Every single game should be the most important one. We are trying to build that momentum,” he added.

“I’ve never believed in ‘the business end of the season’. The first game should be the business end of the season because that might be the one that wins you a title, gets you promoted or keeps you in a division.

“If you take big games along the way then fantastic – it’s great for you, great for the team, great for the prowess of the club and the badge, great for everything.

“But that should be the mentality on day one, not just because you’re playing Man City and it’s near the end of a season.

“We are trying to adjust that, it is a longer-term thing, but that is my belief. Of course it is a fantastic occasion to take on one of the biggest teams in terms of winning trophies, but that doesn’t make it easier.”

Marco Silva said he will seek assurance that Fulham share his ambition before entering into talks over a new contract, with his current deal set to expire at the end of next season.

The Cottagers remain on track for a highest-ever top-flight points tally this campaign, with two wins needed from their final three games to make it a record-breaking year.

Silva’s stock has risen greatly since taking over at Craven Cottage following the team’s relegation to the Sky Bet Championship in 2021, returning them to the Premier League at the first attempt and ensuring a comfortable mid-table finish.

They had briefly looked like challenging for Europe after a 1-0 win at Brighton in February took them sixth, but have dipped after winning only three times in the league since, a run that has in part coincided with the loss of top-scorer Aleksandar Mitrovic to an eight-game ban.

Mitrovic will return for Saturday’s trip to bottom side Southampton as Fulham seek to cap an historic season.

But with a gulf in resources an obstacle to breaking into the top seven, Silva was asked whether he would need to leave the club in order to fulfil his potential, or fight to try and break the league’s glass ceiling.

“Myself as a manager, always if you do something in one season, you should aim to do better the next season, it’s always like that,” said Silva. “I know that sometimes the high expectation plays against you as well, that is clear.

“My way to be in football is always to try to do something different, try to improve in all aspects of the game, to try to perform better. Of course if you perform better you start to achieve different results and try to improve the results as well.

“We have to be realistic, but at the same time we have to be really ambitious as a football club because the competition will be harder, will be more difficult and we have to prepare ourselves as best as we can.

“We want to improve all aspects of our game and as a club.

“Definitely (ambition will play a part in contract talks). It’s been like that from the first season I joined the club. First season, I knew what in that moment I was going to face, it was a club that was relegated, the situation in the Championship is to try to settle the team and get the best out if the squad that you have.

“The season after we did well in the market, not spending the same amount of money as other clubs but I think we did it really well. Next season we have to do the same, try to improve in all the areas of the squad, and of course match the ambitions of myself and the owner of this club like we did the last two seasons.”

Top-scorer Mitrovic will be available for the first time since being banned for grabbing the referee during Fulham’s FA Cup exit to Manchester United in March.

The striker has been training with the club throughout his suspension and Silva insisted he will be ready to play a part in his side’s final three games.

“I didn’t feel that I really needed to give him a week out of the club to be with the family or to relax a little bit,” said the manager. “He didn’t need it.

“What I saw from him always is him ready to work, it’s a very good sign, a sign that he knew what he is going to face during this long period, but at the same time he knew that he had to work really hard, and he did.

“Now it’s important for us to forget the last eight weeks and all the things that happened. If you compare with everything that happened this season, it’s unbelievable that number of games, but that was the decision and you have to respect it.”

Ryan Mason again reiterated he was ready to become Tottenham head coach on a dramatic day in the search for Antonio Conte’s successor after Julian Nagelsmann was ruled out of the running.

Nagelsmann has been heavily linked with the post since his shock departure from Bayern Munich at the end of March.

The 35-year-old was in the mix for the Spurs job in 2021 before Bayern swooped in at the time.

When Conte left Tottenham soon after Nagelsmann’s dramatic exit from the Bundesliga champions, it was anticipated the German coach would again be in the running for the vacancy at the Premier League club.

Speculation has rumbled on since but, while Tottenham have great respect for Nagelsmann, they will not be meeting or interviewing him for the role and he is not a contender, the PA news agency understands.

Mason remains the current man in post on an acting head coach basis and earlier on Friday listed Eddie Howe as an inspiration after he took the Bournemouth job at the same age of 31.

“I’ve always said I’m ready,” Mason insisted ahead of Saturday’s trip to Aston Villa.

“I’m ready for this moment. I feel like I can help the club. That’s my general feeling and I’ll stay true to that. That’s been my feeling ever since the club trusted me to take on this responsibility.

“Obviously, you mentioned Eddie Howe and he is an incredible manager. He’s an inspiration.

“I think one, probably not spoken about a great deal as well, is Gary O’Neil. The job that he’s done (at Bournemouth) has gone under the radar a little bit but a young English manager and his first job.”

Last weekend’s 1-0 victory over Crystal Palace earned Mason a first win during his second stint as Tottenham’s interim boss.

During his first spell in 2021, where he won four of his six Premier League games, the former Spurs midfielder was accused by a section of supporters’ of favouritism towards his old team-mates.

However, having dropped virtual ever-present Eric Dier last Saturday, Mason shut down those claims.

He added: “That’s an absolute myth. I’ve never heard that, but if you’re saying that, it’s not true.

“My job is to pick a team that I feel is best capable of winning a football match. It’s not a case of having friends. That was clear two years ago and that’s clear now.

“I’m in a position where I need to do a job to the best of our abilities with my coaching team.

“We’re professionals so every decision we make is in the best interests of the team and the football club.”

Meanwhile, Tottenham talisman Harry Kane has spent some of the past week discussing the club’s current plight during various interviews and regularly referenced how key values had been lost in recent years.

Kane mentioned how the culture and environment created by old boss Mauricio Pochettino had to be restored in a hint that his future could lie with Spurs despite continuously being linked with a move away.

“I’m happy that I saw him speak out the other day on things that he wants to be in place going forward for this football club because it’s important that our best players drive and push for certain things,” Mason said.

“It’s good. I back him. I think what he said is right.”

Spurs have endured a difficult campaign with Conte and Cristian Stellini leaving, while Fabio Paratici departed his role as managing director of football after being given a worldwide ban for his role in allegations of false accounting at Juventus.

On the pitch, Tottenham failed to go beyond the quarter-final stage in the Champions League, FA Cup or Carabao Cup and can only hope for a sixth-place finish now.

But Mason stated: “We’re a big football club with big players, top players.

“We have a lot to be successful and a lot to be excited about, so I’m not doom and gloom. Definitely not.

“I’m optimistic about this club. I believe in the group. I believe in the club. I believe that there’s many people here that want to make it right and want to put it right and be good.

“Obviously, it’s been a difficult season for us, it has been quite up and down. I think some of it’s probably been self conflict. It’s come from within at times, which probably shouldn’t happen.

“But we’re not in as bad a position as some people might think, we’re in a good position. And hopefully we can kick on and be successful.”

Erik ten Hag believes Manchester United will be an easier sell to prospective signings this summer despite the ongoing uncertainty over the club’s ownership.

Ten Hag admitted it was sometimes difficult to convince players to join United in his first transfer window at the club, even as Casemiro was persuaded to swap Real Madrid for Old Trafford, with Christian Eriksen, Antony, Lisandro Martinez and Tyrell Malacia the other key signings.

United know they will need to be active again in the coming months, with a goalscorer to take the pressure off Marcus Rashford – an injury doubt to face Wolves on Saturday – a priority along with a midfielder, right-back and goalkeeper.

With the Glazer family still to name a preferred bidder among those hoping to complete a takeover at Old Trafford, a deal which could lead to significant changes in the club’s leadership at board level, there are many questions to be answered but Ten Hag believes he has a clear vision to sell to players.

Champions League football is yet to be secured but with the League Cup in the trophy cabinet and the FA Cup final to come, Ten Hag insisted players will want to come to United regardless.

“I see a big difference in comparison with last year,” he said. “There were a lot of reservations last year when I spoke with players and now many players see the project, what’s going on, the dynamic and the ambition in this project, the quality especially. They are really keen to come, I’ve noticed that.

“It looks like there were a lot of reservations last year, a lot of doubts when we approached players. This year, many quality players really want to come.”

Such conversations will only get even easier if United can lock down fourth place or better. Liverpool’s six-game winning streak, coupled with back-to-back defeats for Ten Hag’s men, has put the pressure on but United’s fate remains in their own hands.

How they handle that pressure will be a test of the progress they have made under the Dutchman in his first season.

“I think in football, particularly top football, it is always a test,” he said. “We can take confidence and take belief because we have proven we’ve beaten the best teams in the world.

“But yes, it’s a test of courage if we can do it because we are in the right position and now we have to finish it. It’s a high demand, so it needs high standards so definitely it needs courage. The players and me need to take responsibility for it, clearly.”

Ten Hag insisted he had given no consideration to dropping David De Gea after the goalkeeper’s error proved decisive in the 1-0 defeat by West Ham last time out.

The incident has led to further speculation that the goalkeeper United look to recruit this summer will not be competition for the Spaniard, but a replacement.

De Gea remains in talks over a new deal at Old Trafford, but may need to accept reduced status as well as wages. However, Ten Hag does not believe the uncertainty has contributed to his loss of form.

“As a top football player you have such circumstances and you have to deal with it,” he said. “Every top football player there’s a high demand. You have to accept it, deal with it and the demand is you have to perform.

“Is that a reason? No I don’t think that’s a reason because David is so experienced. That is not a reason. I can think about a thousand and one reasons but I don’t think that’s the reason.”

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