Pep Guardiola has played down the significance of his role in Manchester City’s outstanding season.

Guardiola’s exhilarating side could end the campaign by winning the treble after hitting a hot run of form throughout the spring.

There will be a celebratory feel in the air as the leaders host Chelsea in their final Premier League home game of the season on Sunday while they also have FA Cup and Champions League finals to come.

Guardiola has once again been a huge factor in their success, with little doubt after Wednesday’s ruthless demolition of Real Madrid that he has brought his team to the boil at just the right time.

Yet the inspirational Catalan has no interest in taking all the credit.

The City boss said: “As a manager, I feel part of something but, no confusion, I never think it belongs to me.

“I’m part of it, I don’t deny it, but not without the incredible work and decisions of the sporting director, the board and the players, who are the most important thing.

“I am a part of that and I am really proud but I’m not the only person to achieve the Premier Leagues or Champions League finals and so on. I don’t feel only I am responsible for that.”

Defender Nathan Ake is City’s only fitness doubt for the visit of Chelsea. The Netherlands international has missed the last three games after suffering a recurrence of a hamstring injury.

City are unbeaten in their last 23 games in all competitions since February and have won 19 of them.

They have won 11 Premier League games in a row and have not lost at home since November.

Newcastle boss Eddie Howe would have no qualms over handing “big-game player” Elliot Anderson the chance to make a name for himself with late-season heroics for a second time.

Twelve months ago, the 20-year-old midfielder ended a hugely successful loan spell at Bristol Rovers in style when he scored the crucial last goal in a 7-0 final-day drubbing of relegated Scunthorpe to edge them to automatic promotion from Sky Bet League Two at Northampton’s expense.

On Monday evening, he could find himself playing a key role as the Magpies attempt to seal Champions League qualification against struggling Leicester, with fellow midfielder Joe Willock nursing a hamstring injury and Sean Longstaff working his way back from a foot problem.

Asked about Anderson’s readiness, head coach Howe said: “No qualms at all. He would have played more this season if it hadn’t been for the form of the players around him, there’s no doubt about that for me.

“The midfield has been performing as a unit very, very well this year. You look at each of the players in that midfield and you’d say they’re up there as our best-performing players, so Elliot, we believe in him, it’s just been the strength of the group.

“I think he showed last year in his loan spell – it was a brilliant experience for him – he showed that he’s a big-game player. When they needed him, Bristol Rovers, he stood up and made the difference and yes, it could be a chance for him to do that again.”

Anderson returned to Tyneside after his spell in Bristol and forced his way into the first-team picture, although he has had to remain patient.

Twenty-one of his 25 appearances to date have come from the bench, and his only Premier League start against Liverpool in February ended after just 24 minutes when he was replaced by goalkeeper Martin Dubravka following Nick Pope’s dismissal.

Howe said: “I’d say he would consider himself a first-team player now, as in a fully-integrated member of the first-team squad. He’s trained consistently throughout the season.

“It’s very difficult for those lads that haven’t played regularly when the team wins consistently and has performed as well as it has to wait for their chance.

“Now, he’s a young player that has been desperate to play, he’s controlled his emotions really well. I do believe he’s added elements to his game and improved certain parts of his game that needed to improve.

“I’d say he’s ready. He’s versatile – he proved that against Brighton. He came on on the right side of midfield. He’s predominantly been used by me as a left-side player and he’s very much capable, so we believe in him.”

Boss Dean Smith insists Leicester are united as they fight for survival.

The Foxes go to Newcastle on Monday two points from safety ahead of the weekend’s Premier League games.

If Everton beat Wolves and Nottingham Forest avoid defeat against Arsenal on Saturday, Leicester will need to win at St James’ Park or they will go down.

But Smith has no doubts over the unity in the dressing room as the Foxes battle on.

He said: “I have seen that. From the moment I came in, when I addressed them, their feedback, what they give.

“They’re not all going to be bosom buddies but that’s not been the case at any club I’ve been at, where the players have all been friends.

“But what you have to be is the best team-mate you can. They’re disappointed because of where they are in the league but they’re united.”

Smith has won one of his six games since replacing Brendan Rodgers last month but Monday’s 3-0 defeat at home to Liverpool – two years to the day since they won the FA Cup – left the Foxes on the brink of the drop.

Defeats to Aston Villa and Bournemouth before Smith arrived damaged their survival hopes in April but the boss feels his players have improved, despite individual errors costing them.

“I don’t think it’s been like the Bournemouth game (a 1-0 defeat). I watched it on TV and it looked like players had lost confidence, lost belief, looked lethargic,” he said.

“I don’t think we’ve had that since I’ve been here. I haven’t seen that. I haven’t seen lethargy in performances. I’ve seen players working hard but probably the thing we haven’t erased as much as we’d like is the individual mistakes.”

Liverpool forward Roberto Firmino was so determined to play at his Anfield farewell he joked he would have been knocking on Jurgen Klopp’s door had the manager not put him in the squad.

The Brazil international will leave the club this summer after eight years, during which time as part of arguably the best forward line in the world at its peak alongside Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane he won the Champions League, Premier League, FA Cup, League Cup and Club World Cup.

Beloved by the Kop not just for his talent but for the joy with which he plays the game, Firmino’s last home appearance was put in jeopardy by an injury which only relented this week to allow him to rejoin training.

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He has done everything to get himself back into contention to face Aston Villa and admitted he would have made himself available even if he was not fit.

“If I’m not 100 per cent I would play anyway,” said the 31-year-old.

“If the boss don’t put me in the squad I will go (to his office)… no (joking).

“It’s a special day for me, my last game at home with the fans, with the club, my team-mates.

“I try to focus on the game because it is an important game for us and after the game I will cry 100 per cent. It will be emotional for me and for my family.”

Firmino is not the only one saying his goodbyes – midfielders James Milner, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Naby Keita have also come to the end of their contracts – but his absence will be most keenly felt.

He has made more appearances under Klopp than any other player, having arrived a few months earlier than the German in the summer of 2015 as one of Brendan Rodgers’ last signings.

Firmino was always selected for the big occasions and nearly always delivered, although his tally of 109 goals in 360 matches far from tells the story of his contribution to the side.

He was the perfect foil for Salah and Mane, who shouldered the greater goalscoring burden but were indebted to the space created and passes made by their team-mate.

“To play alongside these two guys, top players, was an honour and a pleasure for me. I enjoyed it a lot playing alongside them both and the results we earned together,” he added.

“Sometimes I enjoy more the assists than actually scoring a goal myself. It’s important for me. I’m always happy when I give them the ball and help them score.”

But such a significant contribution only came about when he and Klopp decided to introduce the never-before-tried false-nine role.

“In the first week I was here, even I didn’t know where I would be playing,” Firmino said.

“I can play everywhere but me and Brendan Rodgers didn’t understand each other about my position on the pitch.

“When the current manager arrived, we created a position, the false nine. After that I just enjoyed the position.

“Before, the whole time in my career I was a number 10 and then I came here and became a nine, a striker. I tried my best, and thank God it was very good.

“I say we created it together but he’d say it was me. I tell him it was together. I’m very flexible, I can play anywhere in the attack.”

In Monday’s victory at Leicester the travelling support serenaded Firmino with his ‘Si Senor’ song for a full 15 minutes even though the player was not even in the squad and sat in the stands.

He knows there will be plenty of renditions of it on Saturday and even beyond as it is something he even sings himself.

“I sang it in the car with my family two days ago. My children asked if I could put the song on so we could sing together,” he said.

Firmino symbolises everything about the Klopp era: hard-working, talented and humble. When asked how he felt about being considered a ‘legend’ by fans he added: “I’m OK with that. What should I say? It is a privilege. That makes me happy. It is an honour.

“It was the journey we had together, what we achieved together and the trophies we brought to the club all together.

“I worked very hard to be where I am now and this is the result of my hard work every day, and with the club and my team-mates as well.

“I’m very happy to hear they would choose me as their favourite player.”

Famed for always playing with a smile on his face – showing off those perma-white teeth – Firmino knows this is the right time to go, with the forward line undergoing a rejuvenation.

“The cycle here is ended and I understand it is time to go. I am very proud for the beautiful history we made together.”

Thomas Frank said the uncertainty that hung over Ivan Toney and Brentford due to the striker’s FA charge of breaking gambling rules was allowed to run on for too long.

Toney was charged with 262 betting offences in November and December last year, with the 27-year-old admitting to 232 of them in February, but it took until Wednesday for an eight-month ban from football to be handed down.

The England cap has scored 20 of his team’s 54 Premier League goals this season as Brentford have consolidated in the top half during their second top-flight campaign, but will now not be available to play for the Bees until January 2024.

Frank, whose side begin life without their top scorer away to Tottenham on Saturday lunchtime, feels the processing of Toney’s case could have been handled more quickly.

“Yes (it took too long),” said Frank. “I don’t know how you can do it shorter, I don’t know the processes, how you get through that and how you do it shorter. But as a general principal, uncertainty for everyone in the world is the worst thing.

“If you know, now you go to whatever court, or you get the job or you don’t get the job. That’s the worst thing. I don’t know if it could be done shorter.”

Brentford are yet to receive a full report from the Football Association detailing its verdict, whilst the club said it is waiting for clarification on the finer points of the ban including what presence if any Toney can have at the Bees’ training ground.

The ban extends to training with his team-mates up until September.

Despite the lengthy suspension Frank backed the striker, who broke into Gareth Southgate’s England squad earlier in the season, to return to his best once the punishment has been served.

“I’m convinced that he will come back stronger. All the times he had setbacks or someone didn’t believe in him in his career, he’s overcome that and every single time showed the world that he is a good footballer and he can play to a high level.

“It’s impressive with the career he’s had and the pathway he’s been taking that he’s now scored 20 goals in the Premier League and got his full debut in the England team. I’m convinced with his mentality that he will come back stronger. We will do everything we can to support him to come back.”

The suspension has again raised questions about football’s relationship with the gambling industry, particularly after the Premier League announced in April its intention to ban betting firms from advertising on the fronts of clubs’ shirts.

Brentford are one of eight top-flight clubs currently sponsored by betting companies, and Frank said that in light of Toney’s suspension it poses a problem that football authorities must solve.

“There is an issue that we need to address,” he said. “Where is the perfect balance? Can football just say no, to not have any relationship with any betting companies? I don’t know, that’s not for me to answer.

“I’m trying to win a football match tomorrow. But there is an issue somewhere that we need to address, no doubt about that.”

On Toney’s future at the club, he added: “(Contract discussions) are an ongoing talk we have with all our players, internally first then with key players when they hit that mark around two years left. Do we let the contract run out or do we want to extend it?

“Probably Ivan is in the bracket of players that we would like to extend and keep of course. He’s a top player for us. That’s something we need to consider.”

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has not ruled out signing a defender in the summer if the opportunity arises.

All the focus has been on reinforcing an underperforming midfield which is losing James Milner, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Naby Keita next month but the Reds boss is still looking elsewhere.

“We look in all departments apart from goalkeeper at the moment,” he said.

“Yes, if there is a good one out there, I would not deny it.”

Liverpool will have already done a lot of groundwork under departing sporting director Julian Ward but the club have yet to announce a successor, although former Wolfsburg chief Jorg Schmadtke has emerged as the frontrunner.

“I cannot speak about that but if it happens, it would not be a ‘Jurgen Klopp signing’ because we are both German or both know each other. That would have nothing to do with it,” added the manager.

“I know he is a good guy and a smart guy. Very good at what he did in Germany, definitely, very successful.

“We could talk about (Klopp’s former sporting director at Borussia Dortmund) Michael Zorc: similar age group, similar situation, just a bit longer in retirement I know him much better.

“There are some good sporting directors in Germany you wouldn’t believe.”

Erik ten Hag is confident Manchester United and Marcus Rashford will “find each other” regarding the forward’s contract situation.

Rashford has only one year left on his deal at the club he has played for since the age of seven.

The 25-year-old rubbished reports earlier this year that he was demanding £500,000 per week but the situation continues to drag on.

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Ten Hag is publicly calm, saying: “I know (it is taking time), but I don’t talk about the process.

“This is not important at the moment for me or Rashy. For him, it is to get more goals this season and he is playing a wonderful season and the team is playing a wonderful season.

“We have to get into the Champions League and focus on that. Marcus wants to stay and we want him to stay, so I think we will find each other.”

The uncertainty over United’s takeover process will inevitably lead to concern about their prospects for the summer transfer window.

Ten Hag said: “We do our job in the background and we are working hard but, for now, it is about games, getting into the Champions League and the FA Cup.

“For me, it is about finance and that there is the money available to do the right things.”

United have a big fortnight ahead, with their final three Premier League matches determining whether they will qualify for the Champions League before a first FA Cup final showdown with Manchester City.

Up first is a trip to Bournemouth on Saturday, where United, who could be without the unwell Rashford, will look to put their away struggles behind them.

Eight of the Red Devils’ nine league defeats this season have come on the road, with their last three trips away from Old Trafford yielding just one point between them.

Ten Hag said: “I think there are some reasons. For instance, one thing is clear and that is from the back we have to be better on the ball.

“But we have one opportunity tomorrow to show that we can improve and we definitely have to improve for next season.”

Manchester City are moving ever close to matching United’s achievement of winning the treble, adding an extra edge to the FA Cup final on June 3.

Asked if he is relishing the opportunity to stop City, Ten Hag said: “When we have three games and (the Premier League) is gone, yes, I will enjoy it. Before that, it is not important at all.

“I think we have to keep doing what we have all season, improve every day and improve every game and not look too far ahead. Focusing on the next game is the most important.”

Tottenham acting head coach Ryan Mason has challenged Richarlison to finish the campaign strongly and give supporters a glimpse of what could be in store next season.

The Brazil international has endured a difficult first year at Spurs, scoring only three goals in 33 appearances following a £60million move from Everton last July.

Richarlison himself described his season as ‘s***’ in March and even when he got off the mark for Tottenham in the Premier League at Anfield last month his celebrations were cut short after Diogo Jota netted a stoppage-time winner.

It saw West Ham forward Michail Antonio and Newcastle striker Callum Wilson make fun of Richarlison on The Footballer’s Football podcast after previous occasions where he took his top off only to be denied by the offside flag.

Interim boss Mason made his feelings known on the behaviour of Antonio and Wilson while backing his player to shine ahead of Saturday’s last home game of the season against Brentford

“As a coach, I wouldn’t do it and as a player, I’ve never done it as well,” former Tottenham and Hull midfielder Mason insisted.

“I don’t really like that type of thing. We’re all trying to do our best, we’re all professionals, we’re working hard.

“We dedicate our lives to get to this level and to compete at this level, so I don’t really like that type of thing personally.

“Richy, I don’t think he’s thinking about other players. I think it is his own pride and his own determination that will probably drive that most of all.

“Maybe he’s heard it, maybe seen it? Maybe. Maybe it might give him a little bit more (motivation). I’m not sure.

“He’s a fighter, who works hard, trains hard and I’ve never seen someone that’s shirked responsibility.

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“Yes, of course, we would have wanted more goals and he would have wanted more goals from himself, but that’s not happened.

“Hopefully now he can influence the last two games and score goals to help us.

“And then I’m sure come pre-season, he’ll come back full of energy to really show us what he’s really all about.”

Goals for Richarlison will help ensure Spurs bid farewell to their campaign at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on a positive note.

It has been a difficult campaign on and off the pitch, with the club searching for a new head coach and managing director of football while chairman Daniel Levy continues to feel the ire of the fanbase at home and away fixtures.

Mason wants to give the supporters on Saturday plenty to shout about, he added: “It’s part of our job, it’s our duty to go there and show the energy.

“You naturally understand the frustration because it’s been an up-and-down season and we’ve been quite inconsistent.

“So, it’s normal that fans feel that, but ultimately the fans are coming to the stadium, they work hard, they pay their money and they’re coming to support us.

“That’s the first thought in their mind and as a group of players representing the club, we want to show our appreciation and show the energy to try and get a positive result.”

While Richarlison is the future of Tottenham, Lucas Moura will soon be the past, with Saturday set to be his final home outing ahead of his summer departure.

Another forward that Spurs have big hopes for is teenager Dane Scarlett, who is out in Argentina with England for the Under-20 World Cup.

Scarlett recently returned to Hotspur Way after a challenging loan spell at Portsmouth where he scored six goals in 40 appearances.

But Mason said: “I have seen Dane in the last week or so since he came back and he looks different from a physical point of view.

“You can feel that he has played men’s football so from that point of view I am sure he is in a better place than he was 12 months ago.

“But at the same time going into an Under-20 World Cup, it is a great opportunity for him and probably a different style and different type of football he will come up against.

“I am sure he will go into that challenge full of confidence.”

Frank Lampard called on his Chelsea players to draw inspiration from the work that has gone into building Manchester City’s treble challenge when the teams meet at the Etihad on Sunday.

City will retain the Premier League title and land the first of the three trophies they are chasing this season with victory over Lampard’s side, and could already be champions by the time they kick-off depending on Arsenal’s result on Saturday.

It will be the fifth time in six seasons that Pep Guardiola has guided his team to the title, with a second Champions League final in three years to come against Inter Milan plus the FA Cup final against Manchester United as they seek an historic finale to the campaign.

City’s scintillating form was encapsulated by their 4-0 demolition of European champions Real Madrid on Wednesday, a 17th win in their last 19 games.

Chelsea by contrast are adrift in 11th place in the league, are long since out of all three cup competitions and are all but guaranteed to record their first bottom-half finish since 1996.

They have fallen woefully short of expectations following co-owner Todd Boehly’s whirlwind £600million transfer spend over the last 12 months, and if as expected Mauricio Pochettino is appointed permanent manager in the coming days he will have a mammoth task next season to turn the club’s fortunes around.

Lampard said it is City’s hard work and not their lifting of the Premier League trophy that should galvanise Chelsea’s players to bounce back next season.

“You should definitely be respectful on the day of the game,” said Lampard. “But the only inspiration the young players should need is what it’s taken Man City to get where they’ve got.

“It’s not the moment of lifting the cup, it’s Kevin De Bruyne’s journey, and (Erling) Haaland’s journey, and (Ilkay) Gundogan’s journey, and John Stones’ journey.

“A player has to understand that the cup-lifting moments are because of all the work done over the years against the odds, whatever it is, how hard they work. That team clearly works hard and then when one has to stop working hard the next one steps in and works hard. That’s what the players have to understand.

“I think the trophy lift is one to be respectful of but understanding why they’re lifting trophies is the real thing the players need to see.”

Lampard said that he had watched the documentary series The Last Dance, about NBA side Chicago Bulls’ success in the 1990s, in preparation for Chelsea’s final games of the season.

The interim manager, who will stand down following the team’s final game of the season against Newcastle on May 28, hopes to transmit the series’ message to his players that hard work and moments of failure are a necessary precursor to success.

“They have to take it (the importance of work behind the scenes) on board, and I have been drumming it in,” said Lampard.

“It depends on if the players want to listen to it. Because the reality is, in the corridors (of Cobham) it’s the team lifting trophies over the last 20 years and before that.

“Any group that lifts trophies has to understand what standards are and how you push and what you do, and that the weekend is a culmination of everything you do through the week, from how you prepare, how you train, that you train at a level that then transfers onto the pitch.

“To get that collectively right is why there are so many pictures of trophies on the wall.

“The main thing now, the tactics and the finer details are not relevant to that first bit. The first bit has to be there is a group pushing each other in training every day and doing all these things. Then the next bit is the tactics and the details on top of that.

“There’s a lot of failure on the way to success. I think that’s the thing that a player in the modern day has to listen to, not casually but to actually listen to it and act upon it.”

Frank Lampard has revealed he tried to sign Erling Haaland for Chelsea during his first spell as the manager at Stamford Bridge.

The Manchester City striker came up against Lampard’s team in a pre-season friendly in 2019 while he was playing for RB Salzburg in Austria.

He scored 28 goals in 22 matches that season before signing for Borussia Dortmund the following summer, but Lampard said he attempted to bring him to west London instead during his 18-month spell in charge between 2019 and 2021.

Ultimately competition for the Norway international’s signature, together with the fact not everybody at Chelsea was convinced that a bid for Haaland would have been the right move, meant that Lampard was left frustrated.

His 36 Premier League goals for title-chasing City this season mean he has scored as many times in the league as the entire Chelsea squad have, with the two teams meeting at the Etihad on Sunday as City look for the victory they need to seal the title.

Chelsea by contrast remain in the bottom half of the table, with their struggles in front of goal this season having shown no sign of easing in recent weeks.

“I’ve got huge respect for him as a player, he’s a player I tried to bring to Chelsea the first time I was here,” said Lampard. “I was really keen to get him here but obviously that couldn’t happen. His level at that point was very clear, we played against him in a pre-season game for Salzburg.

“Credit to him, I love seeing players of that level, I love seeing players of that personality and hunger to play and be the best which he’s proved himself to be. In terms of having to deal with him you have to have obviously a plan and an idea, but players of that level can make anything happen at any moment.

“I think he’s special, I thought he’d adapt straight away just (because of) his level. I think with the level of players and his record of scoring, firstly in Austria then for his country and in the Bundesliga – which is not an easy league – to come into a really good unit already.

“The rest is just credit to himself and the team around him. I did expect that, it’s not just an easy hindsight answer, I’ve got real respect for the player.

“I don’t know whether he would have decided to come here anyway but I was a big fan. There are some of those that happen that people don’t know about that could have been this way, people talk a lot about mistakes and the things that could have been in football.

“Whether he would have come I don’t know, but I was pushing big, and for a couple of other players as well. But he was the outstanding one.

“From our point I was pushing it, I’m not sure what the appetite everywhere else in the club was to do it. The competition was big to take him because he was an outstanding player. I think there was a buyout clause at the time which I think was relatively reasonable given the player (he joined Dortmund for around £17million). I don’t have enough detail to say how close it was.”

Lampard has two matches left of his interim spell in charge, with Manchester United at Old Trafford and Newcastle at Stamford Bridge to come after City.

He has won only once during his eight games in the job, a 3-1 victory at Bournemouth earlier in May, with six defeats having come in that time including a Champions League exit to Real Madrid.

Mauricio Pochettino is expected to be confirmed as the permanent successor to Graham Potter, who was sacked on April 2, in the coming days, and he will have a huge rebuild on his hands after a disastrous season for the club.

Despite the poor form, Lampard said he has no regrets about agreeing to take over in the short-term from Potter.

“I have enjoyed it, I get asked it a lot,” he said. “You want to always get results but you have to be realistic in football.  When I came into this, the Champions League dream that everyone talked to me about, (saying) it’s been done before, can we do it again?

“The realistic answer was we were where we were in the league for a reason. Our view was to try and beat Real Madrid then possible City to get to a final. In terms of the rest of the job, it’s been how many small wins can I try and impact behind the scenes. You can’t always impact results.

“Generally there’s a lot of work to do here. I can have a certain impact with certain individuals within the group because I have a big feeling for the club.”

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has paid tribute to the departing quartet of James Milner, Roberto Firmino, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Naby Keita.

All four will leave when their contracts expire next month and are guaranteed an emotional send-off at Anfield against Aston Villa.

All leave as Champions League and Premier League winners and while Firmino and Milner, who arrived in the summer of 2015 a few months before Klopp replaced Brendan Rodgers, have played a greater role, the manager insisted all four had made significant contributions.

“We spoke already with the boys earlier this week about it,” said Klopp.

“It is super-important for us and kind of super-emotional as well for different reasons because we say goodbye to, from my point of view, four Liverpool legends.

“Two of them were here when I arrived – Millie (Milner) and Bobby (Firmino) – and nothing of all the good things which happened in the last few years would have happened without them.

“Bobby, my God, how much I love the guy. It is 100 per cent deserved.

“Millie played an incredible number of games, I think I am the manager he played the most games for in his career, and probably the same for Bobby.

“My English is not good enough to really express my respect for them but that’s the same for Ox (Oxlade-Chamberlain) and Naby, for different reasons.

“Ox was unlucky in moments with bad injuries in absolutely the wrong moment. I remember the (2018 Champions League game) against Roma when he got badly injured and I had no clue how to sort that situation as he was that good and pretty much irreplaceable in that moment.

“Everyone knows we spent a lot of money on Naby and there were a lot of expectations and because of injuries in the wrong moments he couldn’t fulfil all of them but go back and look at the football he could play in his good moments.”

Milner has been heavily linked with a move to Brighton, but the futures of the other three are less clear, although they will not be short of offers.

Klopp added: “I wish them all well and hope they find a place where they are as much respected and needed as here and they find their luck again because they had a lot in the last few years.

“All four won pretty much each available trophy and we love them but it is professional football and nothing is forever.

“There is always a moment and it’s a good moment because it means one chapter will be closed and we can start writing a new one, which is good as well for them and for us.

“I will be forever thankful to them because without them nothing would’ve happened. They were super-important in all they did and that’s the farewell they deserve.”

Pep Guardiola has no plans to celebrate if Manchester City win the title without playing on Saturday and compared closing out the Premier League season to a tennis player serving for Wimbledon glory.

City are on the brink of a fifth top-flight crown in six seasons and it will be confirmed before they next play if challengers Arsenal lose to Nottingham Forest on Saturday.

Guardiola insists he is not thinking about that prospect, however, and is focusing only on beating Chelsea at the Etihad Stadium to win it on the field themselves on Sunday.

The City manager said: “I don’t think (we’ll be celebrating) because we have a game the day after and Chelsea deserve it.

“In my mind, I’d like to feel we have to win to be champions. This is what we have to think.

“We cannot control Nottingham and it doesn’t matter what happens in Nottingham. We have to do our job and win our game.

“If we can win we can celebrate in the stadium with our people and that would be the best.”

Wrapping up the title this weekend would cap a memorable week in which treble-chasing City reached the Champions League final with a stunning victory over Real Madrid on Wednesday.

Guardiola says there has been little time to celebrate that achievement as he now tries to ensure City, who trailed Arsenal by eight points last month, see out the job in the Premier League.

He said: “Of course we are satisfied to be able to play the Champions League final but it’s non-stop.

“Now is coming the most difficult thing. Tennis players say to serve to win Wimbledon is the most difficult one.

“On Sunday, the game is in our hands to win the most important competition. We’re lucky to have the chance to finish at home with our people. We have to take it.”

Guardiola knows how difficult it can be to cross the line. In April 2018 they had to put celebrations on hold after surrendering a 2-0 lead to lose to Manchester United and last season they risked losing the title to Liverpool on the final day after falling behind to Aston Villa.

Guardiola said: “I have a good memory. When we played against United to win the Premier League, 2-0 up at half-time and we lost the game.

“Against Aston Villa we were 20 minutes away from losing the Premier League at home. So the last one is the most difficult one because there are a lot of emotions and many things.

“You have to control it and be focused. We cannot be distracted right now. We will not forgive ourselves if we are distracted in something.”

Despite those reservations, recent form suggests Guardiola has brought his players to the boil at just the right stage of the season.

Such is their intensity that Guardiola and key player Kevin De Bruyne shouted at each other during the victory over Real Madrid, and the manager says he has no problems with that.

He said: “The action with Kevin, I love it. We shout at each other. I like it. I like this step from Kevin.

“Sometimes, in some games, it’s a little bit flat and I like this energy. This is what we need from him. After that he becomes the best.

“It is not absolutely personal. These things must happen to be competitive and be a good team.”

Bournemouth manager Gary O’Neil has challenged his side to continue pushing for points ahead of Saturday’s clash with Manchester United.

Despite being in the mix for relegation for most of the season, the Cherries secured Premier League survival last weekend and they now sit 14th in the table with 39 points.

Their survival bid saw them pick up some vital wins, including memorable victories against Tottenham and Liverpool.

They now face a tricky test against a United side pushing for Champions League football, but O’Neil believes the game offers a perfect opportunity for his team to respond to last weekend’s 2-0 defeat by Crystal Palace.

He told a pre-match press conference: “We’ve lost our last two games so 39 points is a good tally, but it was better two weeks ago so we’ve been stuck on it for a couple of weeks.

“We set ourselves a goal and we’ve achieved it, but does that mean that we’re just happy to just stop, park up and finish on 39 points? Definitely not.

“Last weekend was a good reminder that if you drop your level a little bit, it can look like a lot at this level; the Premier League is ruthless.

“We’re looking for a response from last weekend and Manchester United at home is a great fixture for the boys to go and show what they can do.

“We’ve got full focus on Manchester United, we’ve managed to get some good work done on preparing for what is going to be a very tough game against a good side that are still pushing hard to make sure they qualify for the Champions League.

“It’ll be a good test for us tomorrow.”

Jefferson Lerma could be involved on Saturday and is expected to wear protection after breaking his nose against Crystal Palace, while Hamed Traore is still ruled out.

O’Neil also confirmed that Antoine Semenyo has undergone surgery to a shin injury and is hoping for a “speedy recovery” ahead of pre-season.

“Antoine has had surgery so he will be out until next season,” O’Neil said.

“We’re hopeful he gets back and can have a decent little spell with the team before the season starts but it will depend on how quickly he recovers.

“Everything went well and we’re hoping he has a speedy recovery because he can be a big help again for us next season.”

Tottenham acting head coach Ryan Mason is refusing to look beyond Saturday’s visit of Brentford despite uncertainty over his own future.

Spurs remain without a permanent manager and doubts remain over where Mason will be around next season after spending the last 18 months as first-team coach at the club.

Mason, 31, has made clear of his desire to take the top job at Tottenham and signalled his intention that he is ready to be a manager, but that looks unlikely to be with the Premier League outfit after they produced another stuttering display in defeat at Aston Villa last weekend.

It means the former Spurs midfielder could move on in the summer with Feyenoord boss Arne Slot the new bookmakers’ favourite to replace Antonio Conte, but the current acting head coach is fully focused on the club’s last home match of the season against Brentford.

Mason insisted: “I’m really not thinking about next season. If my attention goes to six or seven weeks’ time, I’d be very stupid to take my eye off the ball now.

“I’m aware of the situation now. I know me and my team are doing the best we can, we’re doing good. Whatever happens in the summer or next season, there is definitely decisions to be made but at this moment in time we don’t know what they’ll be.

“I believe in the way I work, me and my team. I have more belief now than I’ve ever had in my life that what we’re doing, for this football club, the environment, the feeling we’re trying to create here.

“I believe in it so much. That’s probably where it (my positivity) is coming from.”

There is less optimism among the Spurs fanbase, who saw Julian Nagelsmann ruled out of the managerial running last week.

That development saw the away support at Aston Villa last Saturday chant for chairman Daniel Levy to leave the club during the opening minute of a 2-1 loss.

A poor result against Brentford could result in more chants against Levy this Saturday and Mason is eager to give the supporters plenty to shout about.

“I mean it is important they see and feel a team that is trying to transfer energy to them,” Mason admitted.

“That is probably one of the most important messages we’ve been trying to give to the players this week. We want energy, we want to feel that energy inside the stadium because our fans have been fantastic this season.

“They’ve stuck with us and have been with us the whole time. Yeah, we want to give them something to feel good about.”

Mason was more forthcoming about Clement Lenglet’s future; the Frenchman is on loan from Barcelona.

He added: “Right now it’s not on my mind but I would say about Clem is that he is the type of character we want around the training ground, he is professional, he does it right.

“He’s vocal and the more people we can keep hold of and get in the more beneficial it is.”

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp does not believe his touchline ban will have a detrimental effect on his in-form side.

The German received a two-match suspension, one of which will not come into effect unless he has another transgression before the end of next season, on Thursday and was fined £75,000 for comments questioning the integrity of referee Paul Tierney.

It means Klopp will sit out the club’s final home game of the Premier League season against Aston Villa.

“I expected a punishment with all the things we know, and all the things we could hear and stuff like this,” he said.

“People around me were pretty negative, they thought it would be longer. So, one game is OK.

“I would like to know, as always, where the (fine) money goes. If it’s for a good cause then I’m more than happy to pay it; if not, (and) the FA keeps it then we have to talk again and I think it’s a bit harsh.”

But having already served a touchline ban earlier in the campaign when he watched his side beat Southampton 3-1 in November from the stand Klopp does not believe it will be much of an issue, especially with his team currently flying on a run of seven successive victories.

“From a watching point of view it is (a) much better position to see the game, it was with the Southampton game and it was super-helpful to see the game from there,” added Klopp, who will still be able to join the team for a post-match lap of honour for their final home game.

“Nobody will shout like me at them if they don’t track back but I will tell the boys if they don’t want me to do that in the future they just have to do that now without me shouting.

“I am really in contact with Vitor (Matos, one of the coaching staff) so we can speak about everything, substitutions, and apart from that Pep (Klopp’s assistant Lijnders), is an incredible coach and he will be out there.

“I’m not sure how many per cent of the things I shout are because the boys, Pete (Krawietz) and Pep, saw it on the iPad and said ‘We have to sort this, we have to sort that’.

“They can do it directly because I am the only one who cannot watch it back during a game – now I can do that from the stands.”

Forward Darwin Nunez is unavailable for the game after he missed Monday’s win at Leicester – their seventh in a row – with a toe injury.

“Darwin will not be available. It’s an inflammation of a tendon at the toe – very painful obviously,” added Klopp.

“He didn’t train yet this week, so he will not be available for tomorrow.”

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