Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp admits his side “were around when miracles happened”, but accepts their destiny is not in their hands this time when it comes to Champions League qualification.

A month ago the club were in eighth, 10 points adrift of fourth-placed Manchester United, but six successive victories have propelled them to fifth and only a point behind their rivals, who have a match in hand.

It was suggested to Klopp his squad have performed remarkable comebacks before, not least when overturning a 3-0 first-leg deficit to beat Barcelona in the semi-finals of the Champions League they won in 2019.

They also came from a seemingly impossible position in the Premier League in 2021 when they they made a late run into the top four, registering eight wins and two draws in their final 10 matches – which included goalkeeper Alisson Becker scoring a 90th-minute winner at West Brom – having been completely out of the running in March.

“It is not that we mention it but everyone who was involved in these moments will never forget it in our entire lives,” said Klopp.

“That means it is part of us and, you are right, we were around when miracles happened, that is true, but it was then still in our hands.

“We had to score against West Brom and we had to win against Barcelona. Now we have to win but that does not mean anything changes because the other teams could win all their games.

“I knew weeks ago it was completely out of sight, I couldn’t see it at all, but that did not mean we would not try to get closer. That’s the only thing we did, we got closer.”

Klopp recalls Liverpool being in the position of the team being chased in his second full season in 2017-18, and he knows it is not easy for the clubs in possession of the qualification places.

However, he does not believe their recent run, coupled with recent defeats for third-placed Newcastle and United, has been able to exert that much pressure on their top-four rivals.

“I am pretty sure we were in a situation like that years ago. I think Chelsea was winning all the time behind us so we had to win all the games,” he said.

“It’s not comfortable but in the end we made it anyway. Newcastle and United would be happy if we would not be there any more, but still it is more likely they will do it.

“I respect that. If they finish the season above us, they deserve it and that’s how I see it.”

Forward Roberto Firmino is set to return to training next week ahead of what could be his final Anfield appearance.

The Brazil international is leaving when his contract expires at the end of the season but has missed the last five matches with a muscle problem.

With Liverpool having only one more home game, against Aston Villa next Saturday, there was a chance the 31-year-old would not get to say his goodbyes on the pitch.

But Klopp raised hopes Firmino could be in his squad for an emotional send-off.

“I saw Bobby in training yesterday and it looks like pretty much he is nearly there, but I don’t think he will be in for the weekend,” said the Reds manager.

“If I go out of here and he will be in the session, I would be surprised.

“I assume that we start with him team training-wise after the Leicester game.”

Eddie Howe is confident his Newcastle players will not be daunted by the challenge of securing Champions League qualification as the season draws to a close.

The Magpies have four games in which to cement a top-four Premier League finish as they, Manchester United, Liverpool, Brighton and outsiders Tottenham jockey for position behind top two Manchester City and Arsenal.

A 2-0 home defeat by the Gunners last weekend may have dented their charge and prompted hopes among the chasing pack of a late-season wobble, but head coach Howe was having none of it.

Asked if the air around the training ground was a little heavier as a result of what is at stake in Saturday’s trip to relegation-threatened Leeds, he said: “The air should be lighter, not heavier.

“We’re excited, that has to be our emotion. We’re looking forward to the challenges ahead, we’re not in any way, I don’t feel, daunted by it.

“In sport, sometimes the more you think the more you damage yourselves, so play the game. These players have played all their lives and played because they enjoy it, so let’s strip away everything and let’s just perform well in our next game.”

Newcastle head into the latest round of fixtures sitting in third place and knowing two more wins would almost certainly secure a place in European club football’s biggest competition next season – which would represent a significant upgrade on their target when they set out in August.

Howe admitted: “The aim was to not be in another relegation battle, try to stay clear of that and then build a lot of aspects of the team and play to be successful and sustain that success long-term.

“Things have snowballed, now we sit where we do and we’ve done incredibly well.”

In the process, the Magpies have found themselves thrust into the limelight with opposition managers having taken aim at both their game-management and physicality.

Asked if he felt they had people rattled, Howe said: “We hope to be a nuisance for all teams. We don’t want to be nice to play against.”

Howe’s players will need to bring all that to bear at Elland Road, where Leeds are engaged in a desperate fight for top-flight survival with former Newcastle boss Sam Allardyce having been parachuted in to engineer a rescue mission.

He and Howe were touted for the vacant England manager’s job back in 2016 before Allardyce got the nod for what proved to be the briefest of reigns.

“Without remembering, I’d probably say I felt I shouldn’t maybe have been in that frame at that stage of my career,” Howe said. “I felt I had so much to achieve and experience before being elevated to that position.

“But it’s always a compliment and you always take it in the right way, that it must mean you’re doing something right in your job to be elevated to those levels.”

A bullish Allardyce ventured on his appointment at Leeds that he was as good a manager as Pep Guardiola, Jurgen Klopp and Mikel Arteta, but Howe says he was not disappointed to be left off the list.

“I wouldn’t be arrogant enough to push my name into that list,” he said.

Nottingham Forest boss Steve Cooper insists there is no problem with Jonjo Shelvey despite his recent omission from matchday squads.

Shelvey was left out of the win over Brighton at the end of April as a result of his tantrum at also being left out of the previous match at Liverpool, but he has not returned to the squad since for games against Brentford and Southampton.

The midfielder had been carrying a knock but is back in training, with Cooper saying there is not room for everyone in his squad.

“Jonjo is training. We have got players and squads to pick, which is what we want, but always outside of that there are players who fall on the wrong side,” Cooper said.

“That is the life of a manager trying to make the right choices, sometimes we get it right, sometimes we don’t. There’s no problem, we’re all good.”

Shelvey’s omission may be a result of the impressive recent form of Orel Mangala, who is showing his quality in a deep-lying role.

Big things were expected of Mangala following his summer move from Stuttgart but he took time to find his feet.

“We’ve always believed in him,” Cooper said. “It’s really difficult to play really well every single game, as we’ve seen with most of the lads – and there’s no shame in that, because that’s how football is.

“For sure, he’s in a good place and is showing good determination. It’s not just what you see on the pitch, there’s a lot of good stuff off the pitch as well, in terms of his preparation and the analysis he likes to do.

“Like everyone else, we are going to need him. We are going to need everybody. Everybody is playing their part.

“He is showing good confidence at the moment. With the position he plays and the type of player he is, if he’s feeling confident then I think that’s really good because then it allows him to do the things he’s good at well. Let’s hope that’s the case.

Leeds boss Sam Allardyce hopes the fear-factor can help kick-start his side’s Premier League survival bid on Saturday against Newcastle.

Allardyce answered Leeds’ SOS last week after they sacked Javi Gracia with four games remaining and has three left to save them from relegation after the 2-1 defeat at Manchester City.

Leeds ended their 16-year Premier League exile under Marcelo Bielsa three seasons ago, but slipped back into the bottom three on Monday and are two points from safety.

Allardyce said: “The fear needs to drive them on, the fear of relegation, the fear of losing their Premier League status should make them hopefully fight and fight hard for their status, their position at Leeds United.”

Leeds conceded 23 goals in April, a Premier League record for a calendar month, and former England boss Allardyce feels they must score first against Champions League hopefuls Newcastle.

“That’s very important for us on Saturday,” the 68-year-old said. “Getting the first goal would be a big lift.

“It would help us win the game. I’m not saying we would win the game, but going a goal down would be a very difficult job I think mentally for the players to come back from.

“If that’s the case then they’ll have to try and do it. What they won’t have to do is go daft like they have done before, leave the back door open and concede two, three and four again.”

Allardyce is relishing his first game in charge of the club at Elland Road and revealed a meeting with Leeds great Eddie Gray this week invoked memories of Don Revie’s side of the 1960s and 70s.

“I loved playing here as the away team,” Allardyce said. “I love the atmosphere. I came as a manager and it was the same.

“The historical nature of the game and yes, it might be an old stadium, but it’s Elland Road and what it stands for.”

Allardyce joked he almost asked former winger Gray, who had two spells as Leeds manager and is now club ambassador, if he wanted to play.

“The old days when I was growing up watching that (Revie) team, I was speaking to Eddie today at great length,” Allardyce added.

“He’s looking really fit, I was wondering if he could put his boots on and play. He’s the fittest 75-year-old I’ve seen in a long time. He’s still around the club, he still comes in he loves it that much. It’s a great football club.”

Allardyce, who has focused on shoring up Leeds’ leaky defence in his short time at the club, bemoaned the criticism he has received throughout his career for extoling the need for keeping clean sheets.

He added: “If you don’t listen to me, listen to Eddie Gray. If you don’t listen to him either listen to Pep (Guardiola) or Alex Ferguson. They all win the league with the best clean sheet record.”

Captain Jordan Henderson believes Liverpool have to use the variety of goalscoring options they have available to their advantage next season.

The return to fitness of Luis Diaz in recent weeks means manager Jurgen Klopp can now choose between five of his six first-choice forwards (the departing Roberto Firmino is injured).

That has contributed to an upturn in form which has brought six successive victories and pushed them into unlikely contention for the top-four, sitting just a point behind Manchester United having played one match more.

If that quintet – Mohamed Salah, Darwin Nunez, Diogo Jota, Cody Gakpo and Diaz – can remain fit Henderson expects Liverpool to be vastly improved next season.

“Things evolve all the time and we’ve had new players come into that forward line and they are very exciting players,” the midfielder told Sky Sports.

“There are a lot of different things we can use and different personnel that can do different things really.

“We have a lot of quality players that can go up front and all of them can score goals, so we need to use that to our advantage next season.

“It’s been a bit of a roller coaster for us this season to be honest. We’ve probably struggled to find consistency for the majority of it.

“The good thing is we look a lot more like ourselves and I think there is still a long way to go in terms of improvement for us but the signs are good.

“Hopefully we can finish these three games off strongly and take that into next season.”

Captain Jordan Henderson believes Liverpool have to use the variety of goalscoring options they have available to their advantage next season.

The return to fitness of Luis Diaz in recent weeks means manager Jurgen Klopp can now choose between five of his six first-choice forwards (the departing Roberto Firmino is injured).

That has contributed to an upturn in form which has brought six successive victories and pushed them into unlikely contention for the top-four, sitting just a point behind Manchester United having played one match more.

If that quintet – Mohamed Salah, Darwin Nunez, Diogo Jota, Cody Gakpo and Diaz – can remain fit Henderson expects Liverpool to be vastly improved next season.

“Things evolve all the time and we’ve had new players come into that forward line and they are very exciting players,” the midfielder told Sky Sports.

“There are a lot of different things we can use and different personnel that can do different things really.

“We have a lot of quality players that can go up front and all of them can score goals, so we need to use that to our advantage next season.

“It’s been a bit of a roller coaster for us this season to be honest. We’ve probably struggled to find consistency for the majority of it.

“The good thing is we look a lot more like ourselves and I think there is still a long way to go in terms of improvement for us but the signs are good.

“Hopefully we can finish these three games off strongly and take that into next season.”

Marco Silva is happy to welcome back Aleksandar Mitrovic from his eight-match ban this weekend.

Fulham have been without their top goalscorer since he grabbed referee Chris Kavanagh during the FA Cup loss to Manchester United in March.

Mitrovic, who has trained every day with the team since his ban started, has scored 11 times in 21 Premier League games on Fulham’s return to the top division, following his record-breaking haul of 43 in last season’s Championship.

“Mitrovic is back and it’s always good to have him back,” said Silva, whose side travel to bottom-club Southampton on Saturday.

“It’s been tough, I won’t hide it from you. His behaviour has been really good all this period, with support from ourselves. He knew from the first day it was going to be different from a normal ban or normal injury.

“He was always working with the team. It was a tough period for him, of course. It will be good to have him back.

“It was a strong feeling for us, it’s clear it was an exaggerated thing. We admitted as a club that you cannot react in that situation. It’s clear, he did it, he admitted the mistake but the number of games, if you compare with other situations, is completely different. We as a club keep strong and we keep supporting him.”

Silva has rotated who he has used in the central attacking position in the Serbia striker’s absence, with Carlos Vinicius taking on the role during Monday’s 5-3 win against Leicester and scoring his fourth of the season.

Daniel James and Bobby Decordova Reid have also been deployed as strikers as the Cottagers maintained the push to break their record top-flight points tally of 53, which was set by Roy Hodgson’s side in 2009.

Silva was especially impressed with Vinicius’ performance in the rout of Leicester.

“It’s what any manager wants really,” Silva added. “It was the reason why we signed Carlos. Of course with more game time, and making good things, bad things, mistakes, make the players grow of course with some important goals.

“It’s given (him) the confidence he needs. It’s nice to see him performing better and better the last few games.

“It’s important to have a player like Mitro, a player like Vini, and I have to say even we won two games with Daniel James as a striker and Bobby as a striker. Different profile and we were able to win that game against Everton and Leeds at home.

“That shows that everyone knows his role, everyone is fighting for the club and can pop up in certain moments of the season.”

Silva declined to comment on whether negotiations had begun with the club over a new contract, with his current deal expiring at the end of next season.

“Nothing new,” he said. “It’s a moment of the season when everyone is going to talk about managers, about players, about everything. There are rumours around everything.

“When you do a good season of course, it’s a consequence of the performance, the way the team is playing. It’s a normal situation. If there’s something new, we’re going to announce it.”

Leeds boss Sam Allardyce believes his side can take a giant leap towards Premier League safety with victory against Newcastle in Saturday’s lunchtime kick-off.

Allardyce, appointed by Leeds eight days ago in a last-ditch bid to retain top-flight status, takes charge of his first match at Elland Road for the club, who sit second bottom and two points from safety with three games to go.

The former England manager said: “The biggest thing that can happen is not lose. If we got three points I’d be 40 or 50 per cent thinking we could stay safe.

“We still have to win some games. We won’t stay up on 30 points. If we get nine points we’ll stay up, if we get six we might stay up. I want to be still in it when we play Tottenham (on the final day).”

Allardyce was sacked by Newcastle in early 2008 after just eight months in charge, but insisted that would not give him extra motivation to deal their top-four hopes a blow.

“It’s a long time ago,” the 68-year-old said. “Was I disappointed? Yes. What did it do to my career? Massive knock-back.

“But I always recover and move on. It was an opportunity, but in the end I couldn’t avoid a change of ownership that was unexpected.”

Mike Ashley had taken control of Newcastle from Freddy Shepherd six months earlier and Allardyce added: “It was a blow to my career at that time because I wanted to take Newcastle as far as I could, like they’re doing now.”

Newcastle lost 2-0 to Arsenal last week, but have won eight of their last 10 league games to stay on course for Champions League football next season.

Allardyce said the Magpies’ transformation this term under manager Eddie Howe was not just down to the mega-riches provided by current Saudi owners, the Public Investment Fund.

“If it doesn’t all come together, your relationship with the owners and the recruitment and the whole building of a football club is imperative to your success,” Allardyce said.

“If you get the right players, as they have done…I think what they have done is they’ve not got sucked into the usual hell-for-leather spend, spend, spend like Chelsea.

“The way they have spent, slowly but surely, position by position, not over-extending the price that they pay and refusing to pay the inflated price that everybody thinks they’re going to get because they’ve got a mega-rich owner, they’ve resisted all that and now they’ve had the benefit.”

Allardyce, who has three games left to keep Leeds in the top flight for a fourth season, was pleased with their “fight and determination” in his first match in charge, which ended in a 2-1 defeat at Manchester City.

After Newcastle’s visit they play West Ham away and then host Tottenham in their last match.

Allardyce added: “It won’t be over if we lose (on Saturday), but to give ourselves the best chance we have to try and at least get a point on the board.”

Allardyce, still without injured skipper Liam Cooper, does not expect USA captain Tyler Adams to feature again this season after he had hamstring surgery in March.

Aston Villa boss Unai Emery has told Tottenham that qualifying for the Champions League is far tougher than it was before.

Villa host Spurs on Saturday with the two sides still in the hunt for European football next season, but with hopes of claiming a top-four Premier League place all but over for both.

Tottenham – Champions League finalists in 2019 who reached the round of 16 this season – are sixth, six points behind fourth-placed Manchester United having played a game more.

Eighth-placed Villa’s late bid to break into the top four was ended by successive 1-0 away defeats to United and Wolves over the last fortnight.

“Their expectation in the beginning was to be in the top four,” ex-Arsenal boss Emery said of his former North London neighbours.

“It’s now more difficult than it was five to 10 years ago. There are now seven teams trying to be in the top four.

“Maybe Aston Villa now as well. It’s more difficult.”

Tottenham’s search for a first trophy since League Cup success in 2008 has seen them turn to Jose Mourinho and Antonio Conte since Mauricio Pochettino’s departure in November 2019.

Neither Mourinho nor Conte, both perennial winners, could sprinkle their stardust on Spurs and caretaker boss Ryan Mason now has the task of trying to secure European football next season.

Mason’s three matches in charge so far have produced a win, a draw and a defeat, with the latest game being a 1-0 home victory over Crystal Palace.

Emery said: “Tottenham have had some problems in the last month but they have very good players.

“The last match they played against Palace they kept good balance tactically and they have very powerful players in the transition, being strong defensively.

“They have very good players who can make different tactical decisions.

“The last matches against them at home here, (Villa) have struggled and it’s now a challenge to get a good performance at home.

“We have to believe in our players, in our tactical way we are progressing. That is the match on Saturday.

“To play a great match, spirit and playing and trying to get at them. They have a three-goal difference with us but our mind is to be very competitive and to get better.”

Villa quartet Boubacar Kamara, Leon Bailey, Matty Cash and Philippe Coutinho are all available.

“It’s the first time in the last month we have everybody ready to be in the squad for Saturday,” Emery said.

“Only Jed Steer is out but Cash, Kamara, Bailey, Coutinho – in the last match they were in the squad but not ready 100 per cent to play.

“Some players are still not ready to play 90 minutes, but they’re ready to be in the squad and ready to play.”

Julen Lopetegui insists Wolves need to spend to avoid another relegation dogfight.

The former Real Madrid manager has guided Wolves to safety with three games left, despite being bottom of the table at Christmas.

He is due to meet chairman Jeff Shi before the end of the season to thrash out the club’s plans for the summer and beyond now their Premier League status is assured.

Those talks will include discussions over his transfer kitty at Molineux after a season of struggle.

“We have to be together in the same way, we want to improve. In football you have to want to increase your performance and squad. This is about investment too,” said Lopetegui ahead of Saturday’s trip to Manchester United.

“I am going to have a long meeting with our chairman to hear him and hear what his ideas are for next year. This is going to be key for me.

“That’s why I have to hear him and know first hand what his ideas are. After I will have more information to take a decision.

“We have to improve and have to take advantage of the summer. If not we know the level of the Premier League; the first step is to hear him.

“Afterwards we will take our decision about a lot of players. In the right moment I’m going to talk, first with the club and afterwards with the players about what is going to be our idea.

“We want to improve, we need to improve. We have had a very hard year. We have to be ready to improve and be able to compete better in the next year.

“We have to be ready. This year has been a very hard year for all, maybe it can serve as a lesson for all of us.”

Lopetegui has no new injury worries for the trip to Old Trafford with Wolves 13th and 10 points clear of the drop zone.

“United are a very good team, with top players, a good coach with a very clear idea in the way they want to play,” he added.

“They are fighting to be in a good position to be in next season’s Champions League. This is a very difficult achievement.”

Chelsea have announced they are freezing general admission season-ticket prices for the 2023/24 season.

The Blues have decided not to increase season-ticket prices for a 12th successive year despite rising costs, with the club saying it is acutely aware of the cost-of-living crisis facing supporters.

The west London club also recognised the ongoing commitment of their fans during a turbulent season, which has seen the team fail to challenge for silverware and facing a fight just to finish in the top half of the Premier League table despite a huge outlay on players since last summer’s takeover.

Chelsea Supporters’ Trust welcomed the decision and thanked Todd Boehly’s Clearlake Capital consortium for their positive response to requests over season ticket prices.

Dom Rosso, CST vice-chair said: “The Trust would like to place on record its thanks to Mr Boehly and his board for putting supporters first.

“We have campaigned vehemently that prices should be frozen to reflect the impact of the cost-of-living crisis and the Trust is delighted that the club has responded positively to our representations on season ticket prices.”

Chelsea, who have been heavily linked with Mauricio Pochettino as they search for a permanent managerial successor to Graham Potter, host Nottingham Forest on Saturday as they look to build on their win over Bournemouth.

Everton manager Sean Dyche insists it would be wrong to think “everything is solved” following their resounding win over Brighton.

A 5-1 victory, only the club’s second away win in the Premier League this season, lifted the relegation-threatened Toffees out of the bottom three and two points clear of the drop zone.

However, despite the morale-boosting result prompting many pundits to now favour Everton escaping a first top-flight relegation since 1951, Dyche has cautioned against complacency – especially with treble-chasing Manchester City next up at Goodison Park.

“When I walked in here the thing that hit me instantly was a big result, big everything; tough result, low everything. That needed to change in-house,” he told the club’s website.

“The in-house feel here, the environment we work in, and the flow had to get more level and more consistent in our daily work and thinking.

“We’ve spoken to the players and staff about it. It’s important to handle good times in terms of not thinking everything is solved and right and proper.

“When I talk about seeing through the noise, that maybe implies when things aren’t going right but it very much applies to when things are going right as well.”

Alfie Haaland, father of Manchester City striker Erling, has played down the incident which led to him being escorted from his seat at the Bernabeu on Tuesday evening as “good banter”.

Video on social media showed Haaland, 50, involved in an exchange with Real Madrid supporters as he celebrated Kevin De Bruyne’s equaliser for City in the Champions League semi-final first leg.

Former Leeds and Manchester City midfielder Haaland cupped his ears in response to taunts from supporters near the executive box before he was guided away from the area by security staff.

Reports in Spain suggested Haaland had thrown food in the direction of home fans, which he denied, saying he had been asked to move to another location close by.

“RM was not happy we were celebrating KDB goal. Other than than that we had to move because RM fans not happy with 1-1,” the Norwegian wrote on Twitter.

In response to a report he had thrown peanuts at Real Madrid fans, Haaland said: “I did not. Not true.

“We had some good banter with Madrid fans. They were not happy when City scored. Typical. Then we had to move 50 meters away. Nothing more. All happy. Well nearly.”

Erling Haaland has enjoyed a standout first season with City, scoring 51 goals in all competitions.

Dani Carvajal insists Real Madrid have nothing to fear heading to the Etihad Stadium for the second leg of their Champions League semi-final next week.

The tie is delicately poised at 1-1 after a pulsating draw in the first meeting between the sides at the Bernabeu on Tuesday.

Vinicius Junior fired holders Real into the lead with a stunning strike in the first half but Kevin De Bruyne levelled with an equally brilliant effort in the second period.

Real right-back Carvajal said: “They have world-class players, they move the ball very well, they’re tactically very well worked – but I don’t think we saw a City side that are superior to Madrid.

“The team goes home knowing that we played well and that if we get things right, if we take our chances in Manchester, we have a chance of going through.

“We go there with nothing to fear. We have to go there to win, to play our game, and the team believes in it.”

City dominated early on at the Bernabeu but it was Real that took the lead against the run of play when Vinicius lashed home from 25 yards on 36 minutes.

From then on the hosts did their best to disrupt City’s flow by employing some rough tactics.

Carvajal particularly pushed things to the limit and was involved in a running battle with Jack Grealish. At one point he barged the England midfielder into the advertising hoardings and then fell to the ground theatrically when Grealish reacted angrily.

“It’s a semi-final, everyone is playing to the limit, every challenge is a war,” the Spain international said.

City drew level on 67 minutes, during a period when Real had been dominating, when De Bruyne connected with a fierce drive from a similar range to Vinicius.

The draw was the least the Premier League leaders deserved but Real did have a gripe over the equaliser, with suggestions the ball may have gone out of play in the build-up.

Real manager Carlo Ancelotti was booked for his protestations as De Bruyne celebrated.

Carvajal said: “In general I think the referee (Portugal’s Artur Dias) was good, he controlled it pretty well. It’s complicated to referee a Champions League semi-final.

“We have to congratulate him for that but if the ball did go out then that’s an error that could cost us the tie.”

Jack Grealish feels like Kevin De Bruyne was made for the Champions League after the Belgian’s vital semi-final strike for Manchester City at Real Madrid.

De Bruyne netted a stunning equaliser as the Premier League leaders claimed a 1-1 draw in the first leg of their last-four tie against the holders at the Bernabeu on Tuesday night.

Despite dominating a lot of the early play, City were trailing to an equally brilliant Vinicius Junior goal when De Bruyne rifled home from distance after 67 minutes.

His screamer left the tie delicately poised ahead of next Wednesday’s return leg at the Etihad Stadium.

Grealish said: “We all know what a guy Kevin is and what a brilliant player he has been for this football club. Nights like this are just made for him and sum him up really.

“City fans can’t count how many times he’s scored important goals, got important assists.

“It must have meant a lot to him and obviously I’m buzzing for him.”

City outplayed Real, who are bidding to win the European Cup for a record-extending 15th time, as they dominated possession in the opening half-hour but they were caught out by Vinicius’ wonder strike after 36 minutes.

The Brazilian let fly from from 25 yards after good work by Eduardo Camavinga and City needed to retain their composure in a difficult atmosphere to get back into the game.

They were rewarded when De Bruyne replicated Vinicius’ heroics but Real also had their moments of dominance in a hard-fought second half.

With both goalkeepers making good saves, the outcome remains very much in the balance.

“Everyone knows what the Champions League is like,” Grealish said. “It’s a brilliant competition – brilliant players, brilliant stadiums and brilliant teams.

“That was their first attempt, when they scored the goal. It was a great strike, there probably wasn’t much we could do about it, but we hung in there.

“It was great mental strength from everyone to carry on playing, carry on trying and in the end Kev came up with an absolute worldie.

“We came here to win the game, that’s what we wanted to do, but in the end I think the draw was probably was a fair result.”

Treble-chasing City can ill-afford to ease up ahead of the return encounter, with a testing trip to relegation-threatened Everton at the weekend.

With the Toffees fighting for survival, it is likely to be a different type of encounter and the Premier League leaders will be determined to pick up points to hold off Arsenal in the title race.

It is a challenge Grealish is relishing.

“I feel unstoppable at the moment,” the 27-year-old said: “You’re looking around, playing with these guys that are unbelievable.

“And the fans are brilliant, every home and away game. I’m sure we’ll need them at Goodison Park at the weekend and, of course, the Etihad next Wednesday, which we’re all buzzing for already.”

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