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.”

Nottingham Forest groundsman Ewan Hunter and Brentford’s goalkeeping coach Manu Sotelo have been banned and fined by the Football Association following their pre-match altercation in November.

Hunter and Sotelo had an argument ahead of the 2-2 Premier League draw which centred on the length of time clubs are allowed to use the penalty area during their warm-up.

The member of the groundstaff went on to the pitch to move them on, but disrupted a drill.

Bees boss Thomas Frank claimed after the match that Sotelo was injured while Hunter claimed to have his personal safety threatened.

The FA has sanctioned both men, with Hunter banned from the City Ground for two matches, while Sotelu must serve a one-match touchline ban.

A statement from the governing body read: “Nottingham Forest’s grounds manager and Brentford’s goalkeeping coach have been suspended and fined following an incident that happened before their game on Saturday 5 November 2022 in the Premier League.

“Ewan Hunter denied that his behaviour was improper and/or violent, but an independent Regulatory Commission found the charge against him to be proven, and it imposed a two-match stadium ban and £700 fine.

“Manu Sotelo accepted that his behaviour was improper, and the independent Regulatory Commission imposed a one-match touchline ban and £2,000 fine.”

Roy Hodgson feels Wilfried Zaha is unlikely to play again for Crystal Palace this season because of injury, but hopes he will opt to stay on at the club.

The 30-year-old suffered a hamstring problem during last week’s win over Bournemouth and is expected to miss both the trip to Fulham and the final match of the campaign against Nottingham Forest at Selhurst Park.

The Ivory Coast international is out of contract in the summer, but Palace are keen for their talisman forward to agree a new deal, reported to be worth around £200,000 a week.

“The injury seems to be more serious than we would like it to be, so I fear he is not likely to play again this season – but we can only hope,” said Hodgson, whose own future at Selhurst Park remains uncertain past the end of his current interim spell.

“There are so many different grades (of injury), it is a proper strain and if it doesn’t clear up within two weeks, will take longer than that, but it won’t put his long-term future at risk at all.”

Zaha came through the Palace youth ranks and is in his second spell at the club after returning from a move to Manchester United in 2014.

The likes of Arsenal and Marseille are said to be monitoring the situation, but Hodgson hopes Palace will be able to keep him in south London.

“The club has had conversations with him (over a new contract) and those conversations will continue,” Hodgson said.

“I have no idea what the outcome will be, or how advanced they are in one direction or the other.

“All I can hope for as a Palace fan is you will be able to see him playing for Crystal Palace after this season, but I really couldn’t give you an insight or update.”

Hodgson told a press conference: “It is a good club, we have a good team which is getting stronger.

“The potential is big and they can hope next season to do better than we have been able to do this season, so all of those are very good reasons for wanting to stay.

“He has already left a big legacy, his performances over the years, coming through the ranks.

“It is more of a question of how he sees his future and where he like that future to be.”

Hodgson returned for a second spell at Selhurst Park in March following the departure of Patrick Vieira and has overseen five wins to help secure their Premier League status again.

The 75-year-old former England boss remains open to the next chapter of his lengthy coaching career.

“The future will take care of itself and I am happy to let it do so,” he said.

Midfielder Jeffrey Schlupp will not be involved at Fulham as he deals with a personal matter.

Hodgson is looking forward to returning to another of his former clubs, having helped take Fulham to the 2010 Europa League final before leaving to join Liverpool.

“I have been back (to Craven Cottage) a couple of times and have received some sort of warm welcome,” he said.

“It has always been a pleasure to attend a game there and a lot of people that I have worked with are still there.”

Hodgson added: “I have a lot of respect for (Fulham boss) Marco Silva and the way he has worked this year to produce such a good team.

“We will have to be at our best if we are going to achieve what we want with a result from the game.”

Southampton manager Ruben Selles has said he will only stay at the club if he is appointed the permanent manager.

Selles has been in charge since Nathan Jones’ sacking in February but could not steer the Saints away from relegation from the Premier League.

The Spaniard, who was appointed until the end of the season, is keen to get the role on the permanent basis and lead them in the Championship next term, but does not want to work under a new manager.

“The first question of if I want to stay as a coach if I am not the manager…absolutely not,” he said ahead of Sunday’s visit to Brighton.

“If someone has a doubt you can put it there and if they don’t know through me they can read it in the media. I will try to make my career as a manager, here if it is possible and if not here then in another place.

“I don’t think it’s insensitive, it is what it is, if I don’t want people to talk about it I should win more football matches, I know the business, that’s how it is.

“We will talk with the club and make a review after the Liverpool game and that is what I am expecting. Then if the club wants to make any movement with or without me I expect them to communicate with me before being made public.”

The futures of a host of players are in doubt following relegation, with James Ward-Prowse and Kyle Walker-Peters among those most likely to leave in the summer.

Selles says that player departures are inevitable.

“It cannot be avoided that some of the players will be out of the club, especially with the conditions of relegation,” he added.

“You always know that in the transfer market the boys are going to be in and out, it can happen that some of the boys won’t be here next season. Some of those won’t be here, some of them will be, that’s football.”

Saints hope to have striker Che Adams back for the trip along the south coast but defenders Armel Bella-Kotchap (hamstring), Romain Perraud (ankle), Juan
Larios (thigh) and Mohammed Salisu (groin) will not play again this season.

Thomas Frank said Ivan Toney’s future will be at Brentford after the striker was handed an eight-month ban for gambling offences.

The 27-year-old was found by the Football Association to have committed 232 breaches of its betting rules between 2017 and 2021.

It means Brentford’s top scorer will now not play again until January 2024, with the suspension also prohibiting him from working with his team-mates at the club’s training ground until September.

The FA indicated on Thursday it will apply to FIFA to have the ban extended worldwide, thereby ruling out the possibility of Toney being loaned abroad for the duration.

He has scored 20 of Brentford’s 54 Premier League goals this season as well as having made his debut for Gareth Southgate’s England side in what has been a breakthrough year for the former Peterborough forward.

Despite the suspension, Frank indicated that Toney will still have a future at the Gtech Stadium, though the club are awaiting clarification on the finer points of the punishment.

“I’ve been in contact with him. He’s disappointed and sad about the situation,” said Frank. “His future is with Brentford, there’s no doubt about that.

“We are waiting for the information so we know what we can do. What he’s allowed to do, especially for the first four months.

“One thing is for sure, we will do everything to be there for him, support him and be aware of the mental health in it.

“He’s made some mistakes, but we need to be there, and want to be there, for him and help him. We just need to know what we are allowed to do.”

Toney was first charged with 262 betting offences in November and December, with the FA later withdrawing 30 of the charges. He admitted to the remaining 232 in February, but it took a further three months for the punishment to be decided upon.

The charges stretch back to when he was a Newcastle player on loan at Scunthorpe and cover his time at Peterborough and his first years at Brentford.

Frank was asked for his views on the link between football and the gambling industry, particularly since Brentford carry the name of an online gambling site on their shirts.

He said that owing to the length of the ban, it was important that the club consider the mental health implications for the England striker.

“It is a challenge, for me personally, all the advertising for gambling done by clubs (and) individuals in the game, I think that’s an issue,” he said.

“I don’t know the full details of how much support or education the authorities provide. I know the Premier League and FA have a lot of initiatives in place that try to educate people out there.

“Education is the key thing. Across the world, education is the number one thing if you want to change a culture and mindset. That takes a lot of hard work and patience.

“We need to be aware of the mental health in this. Ivan is a footballer but he is also a human being that has family, a partner, young children, a mum and dad, siblings and friends and he has been on the front pages quite a lot.

“We need to do whatever to support him in that aspect.”

Brighton boss Roberto De Zerbi is confident his players will be ready for a first European adventure if they manage to grasp the prize dangling before them.

The Seagulls suffered a setback on Thursday evening when they went down 4-1 at Newcastle in the battle of the Premier League’s top-six gatecrashers.

However, they return to action against relegated Southampton on Sunday knowing wins in two of their last three games – against the Saints, champions elect Manchester City and Aston Villa – will secure a place in the top six and the rewards that would bring.

Reflecting on a bruising evening on Tyneside, De Zerbi said: “We are not used to playing three games in a week and we suffered a lot.

“There are many players – for example Moises Caicedo, Pervis [Estupinan] in the first half – they didn’t play well, but I love them. They have to learn to play two games in four days.

“Next year we will be better, we will be ready to play every day.”

The defeat at St James’ Park came in Brighton’s fourth game in 15 days, a run which includes famous victories over Manchester United and Arsenal, but also a 5-1 home drubbing by Everton.

De Zerbi felt he had no option but to leave on-loan Chelsea defender Levi Colwill out of the matchday squad in the north east with Alexis Mac Allister, Julio Enciso and Evan Ferguson starting on the bench.

With injuries biting deep into his squad – he was also without Solly March, Adam Lallana, Adam Webster, Joel Veltman, Jakub Moder, Jeremy Sarmiento, Enock Mwepu and Tariq Lamptey – the Italian admitted he had been presented with a selection headache.

However, he added: “Yes, but we have to be strong in a difficult period, a tough period. I don’t like making any excuses, but we have eight, nine, I don’t know, I don’t remember how many injuries we have now.

“We are playing four games in 12 days. The first XI today, Colwill wasn’t available to play, Mac Allister can’t play 90 minutes today and 90 minutes on Sunday, Welbeck, Buonanotte, Gilmour and Undav the same.”

De Zerbi expects to have 20-year-old Colwill, who was rested at Newcastle as a result of fatigue, back in the fold for Sunday’s game.

Leeds boss Sam Allardyce has urged Patrick Bamford to respond to threats made on social media by scoring the winner at West Ham on Sunday.

Allardyce also wants “the police to do a lot more” after Bamford’s penalty miss in last week’s home draw against Newcastle prompted online abuse directed at both the striker and his family.

Leeds issued a statement this week condemning the threats posted on Twitter and Allardyce said: “He’s been OK, he’s obviously extremely upset about the situation. It’s something which leaves a very, very bad taste indeed.

“I would like the police to do a lot more, but it appears when it’s social media, they rule and run the world and can say and do what they want unfortunately, which is why the world is in such a big mess, isn’t it?

“He’s handled it pretty well, I think the club gave him as much support as he needed, particularly security-wise.

“It wasn’t just about him, it was about his family. The best way to respond is to go out on the pitch on Sunday, perform to his highest level, try and score.

“And it would be even greater if he scored the winner. Hopefully it won’t affect his performance.”

Leeds are desperate for all three points at West Ham in their bid to climb out of the relegation zone and cling on to their top-flight status.

They sit third from bottom, one point from safety, with Sunday’s trip to the London Stadium followed by a home game against Tottenham on the final day.

West Ham reached the Europa Conference League final with victory over AZ Alkmaar on Thursday and Allardyce hopes his former club’s success could play to Leeds’ advantage.

He said: “They’ve got a final to think about, haven’t they? Subconsciously, you’ll never know whether that may affect the players in terms of when they go out and play.

“They’ll go out and play and try their best, (but) subconsciously, they won’t want to get injured.

“So they might be a little more tentative, who knows? But my job is about my team playing to the best they possibly can play.”

Leeds will be without suspended defender Junior Firpo on Sunday, but skipper Liam Cooper has returned to training and could be included in the squad.

Tyler Adams (hamstring), Luis Sinisterra (ankle) and Stuart Dallas (fractured femur) remain long-term absentees.

Eddie Howe has admitted Newcastle will need two XIs of equal quality to cope with the rigours of European football next season.

The Magpies secured a Europa League campaign at worst with Thursday night’s 4-1 Premier League victory over Brighton, and will play in the Champions League if they win one of their two remaining games of the current campaign, which continues with struggling Leicester’s trip to St James’ Park on Monday.

Asked what that would mean for the summer transfer window, Howe, who has been allowed to spend in excess of £250million to date, replied: “It’s a good question. We need to figure that out.

“If you have a strong squad, rotation will be important. Rotation is going to be important, utilising the whole squad is going to be important.

“We haven’t felt the necessity to necessarily do that on a consistent basis because we’ve been in one competition – of course, we had the cup run. We have rotated to a degree, but maybe not in the numbers that we might need to next year.

“If you’re going to do that, then the squad needs to be strong enough, so if you put out two XIs, they’re of equal strength.”

The strength of Howe’s current squad could be put to the test on Monday evening with his midfield resources stretched severely in the aftermath of an energy-sapping clash with the Seagulls.

Joe Willock was helped from the pitch in some discomfort with a hamstring injury which the Magpies fear will end his season with two games to go, while Bruno Guimaraes has been nursing a persistent ankle problem in recent months.

Howe said as he conducted his pre-match press conference: “Today I’ll be going straight to the physio room, to be honest, after this to see how everybody is. We’ve got a few concerns.

“The lads gave so much yesterday to the game, they’ve given a lot to the season physically and I just hope there’s no serious effects.

“It looks like Joe Willock may be in trouble with his hamstring – we might lose him for the season, but that’s unclear as I sit here now. Fingers crossed our team will still be strong.”

Even redoubtable Brazilian Joelinton is feeling the effects of a gruelling campaign after running himself into the ground in the club’s cause.

Howe, who is not anticipating having either Sean Longstaff or Jacob Murphy back available to face the Foxes, said: “He’s a machine. He’d literally – it’s a well-used phrase in football – run through a brick wall for the team, the club and I think he does every game.

“He succumbed to that brick wall last night, it seemed to hurt him, but we hope he’s okay. He’s just been incredible for us this year.”

Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta has insisted discussions over the future of Granit Xhaka will wait until the end of the season.

Xhaka has been central to the Gunners’ title bid this campaign but is approaching the final 12 months of his deal at the Emirates Stadium.

Bayer Leverkusen are interested in taking the Switzerland international back to Germany, where the midfielder played for four years with Borussia Monchengladbach before he moved to England in 2016.

It has been a rollercoaster journey for Xhaka at Arsenal but his manager is eager to finish strongly in the final two games before he switches his attention to a number of contract scenarios.

Arteta said: “The clarity is there. He is a player that has played I think every minute since I have been the manager.

“He is an incredibly respected figure at the club. He has a great story around him with what he has achieved at the club in going through very tough moments and he is a key and very important part of us.

“Whatever happens is something we will discuss, certainly not now.”

Second-placed Arsenal have faced some criticism this week after their 3-0 defeat at home to Brighton left Manchester City on the brink of a fifth Premier League victory in six years.

Pep Guardiola’s side can defend their crown this weekend if the Gunners lose at Nottingham Forest on Saturday or if City can beat Chelsea at the Etihad Stadium a day later.

Arteta, in a thinly-veiled dig at their detractors, stated they have been up against one of the best teams ever.

“We have shown this season,” Arteta replied when asked if Arsenal can be title contenders again next season.

“We’re still there, with two games to go we can still be champions against probably the best team in Premier League history.

“For 10 months we’re still there. There’s two games still to go and we’re not going to bottle that for sure.

“What happens next season will depend on what we do, how we evolve and how we start. That prediction is very difficult to do today.”

Quizzed on the level of the squad, with Champions League football to come next term, Arteta conceded improvements will need to be made before Arsenal return to Europe’s top competition.

“At the level that we want? No. We didn’t have the capacity to do that as well with the Europa League so it’s part of that evolution,” he explained.

“We have made a lot of good steps and strong steps in that journey and we have to continue. That never ends.

“We want to be better and the rest will be better, then the margins will be higher and we have to start to live with those standards and improve and be smarter.”

Arsenal received positive news on Thursday when Aaron Ramsdale agreed a new long-term deal with the club.

It will keep Ramsdale contracted to the Gunners until the summer of 2026, the PA news agency understands.

Arteta is confident the likes of Bukayo Saka, Martin Odegaard and William Saliba will follow.

He added: “Delighted with the news for Aaron. He fully deserves that new contract, that extension and we want to keep our talent at the club and we want to build on that.

“There are a few more who are very relevant for us to continue with that relationship. We’re working on that.

“We are trying (with Saliba). We are having conversations and we are trying to maintain the talent we have at the club as I said before, but things take time.

“You have to agree it. There are different parties involved. I think everybody’s intention is the same and hopefully we’ll find the right solution.”

Meanwhile, Oleksandr Zinchenko (calf) and Gabriel Martinelli (ankle) will not feature again this season.

“Gabi’s is a pretty nasty injury, we need to assess in the next week how long he’ll be out for,” Arteta said.

Phil Jones will look back fondly on 12 years at Manchester United despite admitting to “difficult days” in his battle with injuries after it was announced he will be leaving the club in the summer.

The 31-year-old will depart Old Trafford at the end of his contract, having been blighted by injuries for much of his stay.

The defender, who joined from Blackburn in 2011, played 229 times, scoring six goals for United and helping them win one Premier League title, an FA Cup and the Europa League.

Jones, who is yet to decide whether he will carry on playing, said in an open letter on Twitter: “It’s always tough to leave a club. I did so already with Blackburn Rovers, all those years ago aged only 19, but I could never imagine what was to follow.

“My time at United has been nothing short of incredible.

“It’s not a time to be sad. It’s a time to look back, for me and my family, and be happy that I managed to live a dream at United.

“I can always say to my family and friends that not many people get to play for this club, to always be in its history and to be able to look back with such happy memories.

“I wish Erik (ten Hag) and his staff, and all the players, the best of luck for the future. He’s building something here and I’ll be watching, supporting, and hoping, more than anyone, that he can continue the progress we can all see already.

“I want to say thank you to everyone who has helped me at Manchester United, where I’ve made friends for life.

“But, most of all, my family, who stuck by me through everything. The biggest one to my wife and two beautiful girls. I cannot put into words the support you’ve given me. We’ve stuck together and I can’t wait to see what the future holds.”

Jones has not played in over a year and managed only 13 appearances since the start of the 2019/20 season and has revealed the turmoil injuries played on him.

“I wish I could have played more. I wish I could have given more to the many squads I played alongside,” he added.

 

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“I will say, from the bottom of my heart, I did everything I could. I did everything the medical team asked of me.

“I never left a stone unturned in the pursuit of living my dream and having the opportunity to represent Manchester United on the pitch. I spent some difficult days away from my family, rehabilitating and recovering away from everyone, recuperating away from the training pitch, which I was desperate to get back to.

“I’ve said before that I found it hard to even speak to my team-mates because I was hurt that I couldn’t help them. I was hurt that my family couldn’t see me on matchdays, and you feel like you’re letting people down.

“Sometimes, in life, things happen that we don’t like, but we have to learn to accept it and be at peace in our minds that we did everything we could to overcome the challenges. In your career, and life, that’s all we can really do.

“I lived a dream at the biggest club in the world. I played for England in major tournaments. At United, I won trophies, most notably the Premier League under Sir Alex, in his final season.”

Everton manager Sean Dyche insists he puts no significance on being outside the bottom three in the relegation battle until the final day of the season.

Rivals’ results meant even after a 3-0 defeat to Manchester City last weekend the team did not drop into the relegation zone.

A Saturday 3pm kick-off at Wolves means Dyche’s side have the chance to crank up the pressure on Leeds and Leicester, in 18th and 19th place, who play on Sunday and Monday respectively.

Only a third away victory of the season would take the Toffees five points clear and ensure they kept their destiny in their own hands.

It would also leave the Foxes needing to win their final two games while Leeds would require at least four points to survive.

But Dyche is not interested in doing the maths even at this late stage.

“I don’t stare at the league. I stare at the performances, I stare at the group, I stare at the prep, I stare at the strategy, I stare at all these things, the tactics, these are the things I’m obsessing with,” he said.

“It’s not about the league table at this stage. I’ve said it for weeks, the one at the end of the season is the most important.

“Of course we all debate it and look at it during a season, of course we do, but the one at the end of the season, that’s the most important, the one we’re looking to be above the line on.

“I think we’ve just stayed very clear-minded, trying to take away the layers of noise around our group to make sure we’re focused on the game.

“That’s all we look to do, others can do however they wish.”

The Everton manager also tried to play down the significance of playing ahead of their rivals on the penultimate weekend of the season.

“You can look at it either way, I’ve been on either side of it,” he said.

“Last club, this club, whether you feel the game is on the right day or wrong day, that’s just the way it goes. The schedule is what it is, you have to deal with it.

“You have to play regardless of what the challenge is. I’ve always looked at it that way so therefore I can’t change the goalposts from someone else’s point of view.

“From my point of view, whenever the game is, it’s about taking it on.”

Striker Dominic Calvert-Lewin has returned to training after a groin problem forced him off against City and is in contention for Saturday’s squad.

The penultimate weekend of the Premier League season could see a number of issues decided at the top and bottom of the table.

Here the PA news agency looks at some of the potentially key moments.

Champagne on ice for City

Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City have two chances to clinch a fifth title in six seasons. Should Arsenal fail to beat Nottingham Forest, who are still not safe from relegation, then the party will start at the Etihad. Defeat for the Gunners on Saturday evening would confirm the first leg of City’s potential treble and even a draw for Mikel Arteta’s side, who have a vastly inferior (-20) goal difference, would essentially be enough. But City can make sure regardless by beating Chelsea at home on Sunday.

Relegation battle

Forest head into the weekend three points clear of the drop zone and signing off at the City Ground with a victory would put them on 37 points and virtually, if not mathematically, safe. Everton head to Wolves, who are safe, knowing victory keeps them out of the bottom three heading into the final weekend and ramps up the pressure on Leeds, who head to Europa Conference League finalists West Ham on Sunday.

Anfield farewells

It will be an emotional afternoon as Champions League-chasing Liverpool wave goodbye to two of their greats at Anfield. Roberto Firmino and James Milner, two major figures in their recent success, will say their farewells to home fans. If Monday’s game at Leicester, where travelling supporters sang the name of the much-loved Brazilian for 15 minutes even though he was not even in the squad is anything to go by, then it promises to be a Firmino-inspired carnival – providing they win. Midfielders Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Naby Keita will also bid goodbye with their contracts expiring next month.

Newcastle on verge of return to the big time

Monday’s game at the King Power is straightforward for both sides. Leicester, depending on results at the weekend, could be relegated if they do not win. In contrast, Newcastle will have a chance to secure a return to the Champions League after a 20-year absence with a victory of their own, although if Liverpool lose to Aston Villa on Saturday then their place will already be guaranteed.

Kane eyes another record

The Golden Boot may have gone to City’s Erling Haaland a long time ago in a remarkable debut season but Harry Kane’s consistency looks set to be rewarded in other ways. If he scores against Brentford in Saturday’s early kick-off he will become the first player to score in 25 matches in a 38-game Premier League season.

Wolves boss Julen Lopetegui admitted that a lot has changed since the last time his side played against Everton.

They host the relegation-threatened Toffees at Molineux, with Sean Dyche’s team lingering above the drop zone in 17th.

Saturday’s clash is the reverse fixture of Lopetegui’s first game in charge of Wolves where they edged to victory on Boxing Day after substitute Rayan Ait-Nouri scored in stoppage time.

The goal handed Wolves a vital win to lift them off the foot of the table and Lopetegui believes a lot has changed since then.

“It seems a lot of years ago now, but it was only months,” he told a pre-match press conference.

“It was my first match in the Premier League and it was important. Being honest, we didn’t deserve to win this match, but in the end, we got what was important for us, which was to believe more.

“It was very difficult moment (at the start of his tenure) and we achieved three important points at that moment. It was a tough match and it’s going to be the same this Saturday, for sure.

“It was difficult to imagine we would be in the situation we are in now when we last played Everton, but it was our aim.

“We tried to achieve points and change things, knowing the difficulty and the quality of the level of the Premier League.

“Fortunately, we manged to achieve our aim and we are happy for this.

“But when you go and accept one new challenge, you are not thinking about the end of the challenge, you are only thinking of the next step, the next match and that’s the only way to build a new reality, and that’s what we tried to do.”

Wolves are currently 13th in the table with two games to go, starting with Everton before finishing the season at the Emirates against Arsenal.

They secured Premier League safety earlier in the month and Lopetegui knew the team would be safe when faced with their responses after defeats.

“Maybe after each defeat and with the answer of the players in the next day after a defeat. For me, they were very key moments and very important moments,” he added.

“To see them to come here into work [after a defeat] with big commitment and with a big belief, that was important. How we would manage and drive out of those bad moments were key for our achievement.”

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