Raheem Sterling has been awarded an MBE for his services to racial equality in sport, with England team-mate Jordan Henderson similarly recognised in the Queen's Birthday Honours.

Manchester City winger has campaigned consistently against racism in football, most notably since a social media post in December 2018 after he was abused during a match at Chelsea.

Sterling highlighted the contrast in certain aspects of media coverage given to black and white footballers and was widely praised for making his feelings public.

He has since leant his weight to initiatives such as the United Nations #FightRacism campaign, along with launching his own charitable foundation.

“Receiving this honour is a fantastic feeling and a proud moment - not just for myself but for my family and friends," the 26-year-old said.

"I am grateful to have been recognised but my priority is to try to help to educate society and myself. If it doesn’t start from within, then there’s no way you can help others. I’m learning every day.

"My motivation for racial equality is to get people to understand the difficulties people from diverse backgrounds face and create an environment where everybody is equal."

The issue of protest in favour of racial equality has dominated the build-up to England's Euro 2020 campaign, with a section of home supporters booing their team for taking a knee in solidarity before kick-off.

Premier League teams have made the gesture - one synonymous with campaigns for racial justice going back to the days of Martin Luther King and, more recently, the Black Lives Matter movement - before all games since last year's coronavirus shutdown, with Sterling a vocal early supporter.

"I feel we are starting to make a step in the right direction, but we still have a lot of work to do. There are still a lot of things we can get better at as a society, such as social media with people taking more accountability," Sterling said.

"I think that is a major factor in achieving the ultimate goal of racial equality. We also need to support young people and give them opportunities to show what they are capable of achieving.

"I’ve launched a foundation for underprivileged kids from deprived backgrounds. It’s something that I’m really excited to work on because I can relate to it and I will give 100 per cent.

"If I can help to change one or two lives then I’ve done a massive thing there. If you want to make change then it has to start from yourself."

Liverpool captain Henderson was given an MBE for his services to football, having followed up 2018-19 Champions League success with the Premier League title in 2019-20, along with his charitable efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Henderson was a leading figure in captains from Premier League clubs establishing the #PlayersTogether initiative to support NHS Charities Together.

"There are many privileges that come from playing professional football, but having a platform to promote a charitable cause such as #PlayersTogether and NHS Charities Together is as big a privilege as any," Henderson said.

"It's important for me to state that although the honour has been issued to me personally, the credit must be shared to a far larger group of people and I accept this in the knowledge I was part of something special, rather than the reason for it.

"The other Premier League captains were the catalyst and the rest of the players, including my own teammates at Liverpool, were a driving force behind the scenes. Huge numbers of football fans, from across the country, also displayed great generosity in donating.

"But the true heroes are the NHS staff; they put themselves in harm’s way to serve and protect us. Therefore I dedicate this to all the nurses, doctors, carers, porters, admin workers, cleaners, security personnel and every single individual who devotes their career and their lives to making the NHS the part of British life we are rightly most proud of as a nation."

Everton continue their search for Carlo Ancelotti's replacement.

One emerging candidate has plenty of familiarity with Liverpool. 

Could the Toffees turn to a former rival? 

 

TOP STORY – BENITEZ IN MERSEYSIDE RETURN?

Former Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez has emerged as a strong contender to replace Carlo Ancelotti at Everton, the Daily Mirror and other outlets report. 

As the Merseyside club's interest in former Wolves boss Nuno Espirito Santo has faded, majority owner Farhad Moshiri apparently plans to speak to the 61-year-old Benitez. 

The Spaniard was Liverpool's manager from 2004-10, winning the Champions League title in 2005. He spent 18 months in charge of Chinese Super League club Dalian Professional before leaving by mutual consent in January. 

Others under consideration include Brighton and Hove Albion head coach Graham Potter, former Lille coach Christophe Galtier and former Toffees boss Roberto Martinez

 

ROUND-UP

- Chelsea have matched Paris Saint-Germain's offer of about €65million (£56.1m) to Inter for Achraf Hakimi, according to Sky Sport Italia, though Inter value the 22-year-old at €81m (£70m).

- Barcelona see Manchester City's Raheem Sterling as a potential replacement for Ousmane Dembele should the France international depart, according to Sport, and Marca says PSG have interest in Dembele. 

- David de Gea seems inclined to extend his stay at Manchester United and expects to be the first-choice goalkeeper ahead of Dean Henderson, The Sun reports. 

- Atletico Madrid rejected United's £10m bid for England right-back Kieran Trippier, according to Football Insider. 

- Roma are close to completing their long-rumoured signing of Arsenal's Granit Xhaka, Corriere dello Sport claims. 

- West Ham would like to sign Manchester United midfielder Jesse Lingard on a permanent deal, The Sun reports. 

- Tottenham have had discussions with Borussia Monchengladbach winger Marcus Thuram, RMC Sport reports, and The Athletic says Spurs could also be eyeing RB Leipzig's Marcel Sabitzer

- Former Roma coach Paulo Fonseca has emerged as Spurs' preferred option to replace Jose Mourinho and the sides have discussed a three-year contract, the Guardian reports. 

- Former Chelsea boss Frank Lampard could be in the mix for the Crystal Palace opening, the Daily Mirror reports. 

Manchester City's ambitions are showing no end after missing out on the Champions League title.

City have been linked with star England pair Harry Kane and Jack Grealish to further bolster the Premier League champions.

But the price tags on the duo from Tottenham and Aston Villa may be their stumbling blocks.

 

TOP STORY – CITY SALE TO FUND KANE AND GREALISH MOVES

Manchester City will offload several fringe players to raise £70million in order to fund their moves for Tottenham star Harry Kane and Aston Villa captain Jack Grealish, claims the Daily Mail.

With Sergio Aguero departed, City manager Pep Guardiola wants a frontline striker and those surplus to requirements will reportedly be let go.

First-team players Raheem Sterling, Gabriel Jesus, Ilkay Gundogan, Bernardo Silva and Riyad Mahrez all have admirers and could move on.

But also fringe talent like Yangel Herrera, Ivan Ilic, Jack Harrison, Pedro Porro and Lukas Nmecha, who have had loan spells elsewhere, could be cashed in.

Bernardo Silva has been linked with a move to Atletico Madrid in exchange for Saul Niguez, while Juventus are reportedly eyeing Gundogan.

 

ROUND-UP

Chelsea and Paris Saint-Germain are both keen on Inter's Achraf Hakimi and have lodged €60m (£52m) offers, reports Gianluca Di Marzio. Inter's asking price may be higher, while Chelsea may utilise Emerson Palmieri or Andreas Christensen as part of a swap deal.

- Bild says Borussia Dortmund will sell Jadon Sancho to United if they receive a suitable offer by the end of July. Sancho has long been tipped to swap Dortmund for United.

- Arsenal full-back Hector Bellerin is being linked with LaLiga champions Atletico and Real Betis by CBS Sport, while Sport have also claimed Juve are interested in the Spaniard, utilising Aaron Ramsey in a swap deal.

Liverpool are looking to replace Georginio Wijnaldum, lining up Roma skipper Lorenzo Pellegrini, according to Corriere dello Sport.

- The Sun claims West Ham are ready this month to step up their bid to sign Jesse Lingard permanently from Manchester United after his excellent loan spell.

- Fabrizio Romano reports Arsenal are set to finalise the details on a new contract for young talent Emile Smith Rowe.

Crystal Palace are closed to appointing former Wolves boss Nuno Espirito Santo as their new manager to replace Roy Hodgson, claims The Telegraph.

Speculation has swirled for months about the future of Lionel Messi following a season of change at Barcelona.

Barca have been busy already this off-season, signing Sergio Aguero and Eric Garcia.

Compatriot Aguero had implored Messi to extend his Barcelona stay, which dates back to 2000, and it seems the striker may get his wish.

 

TOP STORY - MESSI RE-COMMITS TO CATALANS

Six-time Ballon d'Or winner Lionel Messi is set to pen a new two-year contract with Barcelona, according to AS.

The Argentina forward has practically agreed to the deal, with only "structural details" to complete.

Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain have both shown interest in Messi but he looks set to commit until 2023.

 

ROUND-UP

- Everton are in the market for a new manager after Carlo Ancelotti's sudden departure and The Athletic reports they will consider Rangers boss and Liverpool legend Steven Gerrard. TalkSPORT claims ex-Wolves boss Nuno Espirito Santo is also on their radar.

- COPE claims that new Real Madrid boss Ancelotti will not push to recruit James Rodriguez from the Italian's former club Everton.

- The Sun reports that Arsenal are in pole position in the race to sign Raheem Sterling from Manchester City. 

- The Sun also claims any potential Sterling move to Arsenal may scupper Manchester City's plans to sign Tottenham's Harry Kane , as they want to use the winger in a swap deal given Spurs hefty asking price.

- Manchester United are keen on Sevilla defender Jules Kounde but Barcelona have joined the pursuit for his signature, claims Mundo Deportivo.

Rumours that Pep Guardiola had gone and done a thing were whipping around Estadio do Dragao's press box long before the news was confirmed an hour and 15 minutes ahead of kick-off.

He had indeed done a thing.

In 59 of City's 60 matches in all competitions this season, at least one of Rodri or Fernandinho had started in holding midfield. It seems unlikely that a 3-0 Champions League group-stage win over Olympiacos was the tactical template for Saturday's insipid 1-0 final defeat against Chelsea.

But there it was in black and white. City's top scorer Ilkay Gundogan would start at the base of the midfield, with a slew of attacking talent to do his bidding further up the field. It was a bold strategy but one that robbed the Premier League champions of their rhythm and did nothing to dissuade the threat coming the other way.

Of course, Guardiola has previous in this regard in the decade since he last lifted the big trophy with Barcelona in 2011. Most recently, he deployed a disjointed 3-5-2 to be dumped out by Lyon in last season's quarter-final, although this probably had as much in common with the cavalier approach that saw Real Madrid dismantle his Bayern Munich side at the Allianz Arena back in 2014. 

There was none of the control he craves, the control that lay at the root of City's magnificent revival from 12 points out of their first eight games to lift a third English title in four seasons. Their best chances in the first half came from an Ederson punt down field and Kyle Walker running terrifyingly fast from right-back. Playmaker Bernardo Silva was the most notable performer in a talent-stacked City midfield for a succession of slide tackles.

What was more, this felt like the season when Guardiola had normalised his cerebral approach. City won the title without a conventional striker for the bulk of the season as false nines become the undisputed truth, he switched between a back three and a back four in-game during the side's most purple patch as Joao Cancelo – now off form and more understandably benched – roved.

In tough knockout encounters with Borussia Dortmund and Paris Saint-Germain he didn't blink and prevailed. It was the season where the concept of Guardiola "overthink" died until it was resurrected in Porto.

For all that Guardiola said City's two defeats to Chelsea recently, in the FA Cup semi-final and the Premier League with heavily rotated line-ups, counted for "zero" they were evidence of the problems Thomas Tuchel's rigorously well-drilled 3-4-2-1 could cause.

Heading into the game, since the start of the 2019-20, City's win rate against teams playing three or five at the back (P46 W32) was 69.6 per cent, down on 76.7 per cent against those using a back four – not insignificant for a club that does an awful lot of winning.

Additionally, Guardiola's respect for Tuchel is very well documented and that high esteem meant he was perhaps loathe to give his opponent something predictable.

Hard as it was to discern the plan as the men in sky blue engaged in chaosball, it was maybe designed to suffocate Chelsea's back three and Jorginho and N'Golo Kante – again, naturally, imperious on the grandest stage – and not let Tuchel's team out.

But City's disorganisation allowed Chelsea to make merry in the Fernandinho-Rodri shaped hole behind the forwards, exploiting it plenty of times before Mason Mount's delicious throughball allowed Kai Havertz to round Ederson for the decisive goal.

Fernandinho's introduction for Silva in the 64th minute meant the plan had failed. Even with Kevin De Bruyne off injured, it prompted City's most convincing spell of the match – admittedly a painfully low bar – and that should gnaw at Guardiola.

Sergio Aguero came on for Rahem Sterling, whose run of one club goal since February rarely threatened to improve, but one last act of injury-time heroism was beyond City's all-time top scorer, for whom the tears flowed after the final whistle.

Having declared himself "the happiest man in the world" on the eve of the match, Guardiola has ended a season that threatened to be remembered as his masterpiece on a note of bitter disappointment, his 10-year wait for a third European title going on and complicit in his own misery.

Pep Guardiola sprung a team news surprise for Manchester City's Champions League final against Chelsea, leaving both club captain Fernandinho and fellow holding midfielder Rodri on the bench.

Saturday's clash at Porto's Estadio do Dragao is City's 61st game of the campaign. At least one of Rodri or Fernandinho has started each of the previous 60.

Despite taking a knock to the thigh in training on Friday, Ilkay Gundogan – City's top scorer this term with 17 in all competitions - looks like he will start at the base of the midfield.

England winger Raheem Sterling is recalled to the forward line, aiming to build on a return of one club goal since February, with Riyad Mahrez, Phil Foden, Kevin De Bruyne and Bernardo Silva providing ample attacking support.

It is not the first time Guardiola's selection for a key game has led to raised eyebrows. The decision to deploy a back three in last season's Champions League quarter-final against Lyon backfired horribly as the Ligue 1 side ran out 3-1 winners.

What does the future hold for Achraf Hakimi?

In his first season with Inter, the Morocco international claimed the Scudetto.

However, his time in Milan could already be coming to an end.

 

TOP STORY – HAKIMI TO PSG?

Paris Saint-Germain want to sign star Inter full-back Achraf Hakimi, according to Fabrizio Romano.

Inter won the Serie A in 2020-21 but find themselves in a tough financial situation due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, with head coach Antonio Conte already opting to depart.

Hakimi, Romelu Lukaku, Lautaro Martinez and Alessandro Bastoni could reportedly be sold to ease some of the economic pressure at San Siro.

PSG are believed to be interested, though Inter are demanding more than €60million for the 22-year-old, who only joined from Real Madrid at the start of the season.

Madrid have the right of first refusal and can match any offer for their former defender, while Bayern Munich and Chelsea have also been linked.

 

ROUND-UP

- The Daily Mail claims Arsenal are plotting a shock bid for Manchester City star Raheem Sterling. The England international found himself out of Pep Guardiola's starting XI at times in 2020-21. Madrid and Barca have been previously linked.

Paul Pogba remains a dream signing for Juventus, reports Calciomercato. Sassuolo's Manuel Locatelli and Atletico Madrid midfielder Saul Niguez have emerged as targets for Juve, though the Bianconeri are still keen on Manchester United star Pogba, though Udinese's Rodrigo De Paul is an alternative.

- Romano says Barca are open to selling Philippe Coutinho, though Arsenal are not interested in the former Liverpool attacker.

Lionel Messi's contract extension is a priority for Barca before any new signings are made, according to the front page of Saturday's Mundo Deportivo. Barca have been tipped to bring in Lyon captain Memphis Depay, Liverpool midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum and Manchester City pair Sergio Aguero and Eric Garcia on free transfers. Gianluigi Donnarumma – another free agent option as his Milan contract expires – is also a possible recruit.

- According to Romano and widespread reports in Italy, Luciano Spalletti has agreed to replace Gennaro Gattuso as Napoli head coach.

Manchester City star Raheem Sterling is confident of Champions League success, insisting "the only thing that can stop us are ourselves".

Premier League champions City and rivals Chelsea will meet in an all-English final in Porto, Portugal on Saturday.

City will contest their first Champions League final, while it is 51 years since the club's last major European decider, having won the 1970 Cup Winners' Cup – breaking the record for the longest gap between finals for a team, eclipsing Sporting CP's 41-year drought.

Pep Guardiola's City have won 11 Champions League matches this season and victory over Chelsea would see them equal the all-time record of 12 by Real Madrid in 2001-02, although the Spanish giants played 17 matches that campaign, compared to City's 13 this season.

"It is now about focusing on winning that trophy," Sterling said. "The only thing that can stop us are ourselves, if I am honest.

"We have played them [Chelsea] twice [under head coach Thomas Tuchel] and lost twice, but this is a Champions League final.

"On the day, things are a lot different. You go into it with a clean mindset. Those games that happened against them in recent times go out the window.

"It is a game where I expect a difficult test, but at the same time I expect us to pull through.

"I expect a physically demanding game. Chelsea is a strong a team who have a lot of physically strong players."

City are the ninth different English team to reach a European Cup/Champions League final, at least three more than any other nation (Germany and Italy, six).

However, only one of the last 10 teams competing in their maiden final have won, with Borussia Dortmund 3-1 victors against Juventus in 1997. The last English outfit to win their first final was Aston Villa in 1982 against Bayern Munich.

Since Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed al Nahyan's takeover in 2008, City have claimed five Premier League titles, including three of the past four in England.

However, City's hierarchy have long craved European glory.

"It is a club that, since I have come here, the way they want us to go is to win the Premier League and Champions League," England international Sterling said.

"It is a massive achievement to get there, but I know that the club won't just be happy to get there. Hopefully we can do it, we can win at the weekend and make history at this club.

"I think the camp is pretty relaxed. Being in finals before with this football club, that only gives you that experience of going into a final.

"Of course, it is the Champions League final, but at the same time we are footballers and we have to not let the occasion get to us and play our football."

Jamaica-born Manchester City forward Raheem Sterling has signed a multi-year boot deal with New Balance that includes support for disadvantaged children in the country of his birth and other communities in the United Kingdom.

Manchester City will have to wait to get their hands on a third Premier League title in four years after they fell to a 2-1 home defeat against Chelsea on Saturday.

Sergio Aguero in particular will want to forget the game in a hurry after a failed Panenka attempt, which he later apologised for on social media.

Liverpool kept their first home clean sheet in nine top-flight games as they overcame Southampton 2-0, while Leeds United cruised past Tottenham 3-1 at Elland Road.

Elsewhere in Yorkshire, Crystal Palace inflicted yet more misery on Sheffield United, running out 2-0 winners at Bramall Lane.

Stats Perform News uses Opta data to take a look at the best facts from the four games.


Manchester City 1-2 Chelsea: Aguer-woe for leaders as Blues hit back

City suffered more penalty woe as they missed the chance to be crowned Premier League champions.

It had started well for the hosts, however, with Raheem Sterling giving them the lead with his 10th Premier League goal of the campaign. The England international has now reached that total in four successive seasons, with only Aguero (nine) hitting double figures more regularly in the competition for City.

Aguero should have doubled their advantage before the interval, but his woeful Panenka attempt from the spot was comfortably gathered by Edouard Mendy. City have now failed to score more penalties (four) than any other side in the Premier League this season, while they are the first to miss at least four spot-kicks in consecutive top-flight seasons since Tottenham in 1993-94 and 1994-95.

Hakim Ziyech made the most of that reprieve, levelling with his first Premier League goal in 18 appearances since scoring against Burnley in October.

There was worse to come for Pep Guardiola, who has now lost four home league games this season – twice as many as he had lost in any other campaign in his managerial career.

At 91 minutes and 54 seconds, Marcos Alonso's scuffed finish was the latest winning goal scored by the visitors in a Premier League game at City since Paul Scholes for Manchester United in April 2010 (92:41).

Liverpool 2-0 Southampton: Mane helps sink former employers

Liverpool kept their hopes of qualifying for the Champions League alive with victory at Anfield in the late kick-off.

Sadio Mane opened the scoring in the first half with his second goal in three Premier League games, having found the net just once in his previous 14 outings in the competition before that.

He was teed up by Mohamed Salah, marking the first time the pair have combined for a top-flight goal this season.

Thiago Alcantara added a second in the 90th minute to become the 140th player to score a Premier League goal for Liverpool, though the first to get off the mark for the Reds from outside the box since Divock Origi in December 2015.

Southampton, meanwhile, have now earned just 11 points from their 18 Premier League games in 2021, fewer than any other side this calendar year.

Leeds United 3-1 Tottenham: VAR bars Kane as Spurs suffer

Leeds' superb record against the Premier League's 'big six' continued.

Marcelo Bielsa's side became the first to remain unbeaten at home in the top flight against each of Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United and Spurs in a season since West Ham in 2015-16, and only the third newly promoted team to do so, after Ipswich Town in 2000-01 and Birmingham City in 2009-10.

Stuart Dallas broke the deadlock to become the first Northern Ireland player to score as many as eight Premier League goals in a season since Chris Brunt in 2008-09.

Son Heung-min equalised for the visitors, but Patrick Bamford restored Leeds' advantage to move onto 22 Premier League goal involvements this term (15 goals, seven assists). Harry Kane is the only Englishman to have been involved in more (34).

Rodrigo then added a third late on as Spurs suffered a fifth defeat in 10 top-flight away games in 2021 – more than they experienced in the entirety of 2020.

Sheffield United 0-2 Crystal Palace: Benteke helps Eagles deal with blunt Blades

After a run of three consecutive defeats, Palace could not have wished for more accommodating opponents than the already relegated Blades.

Christian Benteke opened the scoring after just 66 seconds, registering the club’s earliest Premier League goal since James McArthur's strike against Everton in November 2017 (51 seconds).

Benteke has now scored more goals this season (seven in 27 appearances) than he managed in his previous three Premier League campaigns combined (six in 71).

Eberechi Eze continued his impressive season with a second late on. Only Wilfried Zaha (12) has been directly involved in more Premier League goals for Palace this season than Eze (four goals, five assists), while no Eagles player has laid on more goals than the former Queens Park Rangers man.

The result meant United have failed to score in 20 matches within a single league season for the first time in their history, while in terms of the Premier League, only Derby County in 2007-08 (22), Leeds United in 1996-97 (21) and Huddersfield Town in 2017-18 (21) have failed to score in more games in a single campaign.

Raheem Sterling does not plan to watch Manchester United's game against Aston Villa after Manchester City failed to clinch the Premier League title on the pitch.

Defeat for United on Sunday would confirm City as champions for the third time in four seasons, but they could have completed the job themselves against Chelsea on Saturday.

Sterling scored the opener after 44 minutes and the leaders should have added to their advantage moments later when Sergio Aguero's awful Panenka penalty was saved.

Chelsea improved after the break and hit back through Hakim Ziyech and Marcos Alonso to win 2-1 and turn the spotlight on Villa Park, although City still have three league matches remaining.

"I don't think I'll personally want to watch that game," Sterling told Sky Sports.

"I'll have some family time and look at the results and check up on the latest scoreline. To watch the game is a difficult one, so I'll try to chill."

Alonso scored the latest winner from a visiting team at the Etihad Stadium since Paul Scholes' derby day header for United in April 2010.

It was the second consecutive home league game City have lost in the 90th minute or later following Stuart Dallas' strike for Leeds United last month.

Their previous two such last-gasp defeats at the Etihad Stadium had come over the course of 235 matches.

"It's a difficult one to take, especially when we had chances to finish the game off and we didn't finish it off," Sterling added. "We got punished, simple as that."

City had 16 shots, worth a combined 1.8 expected goals, but only four hit the target.

"It was good to get on the scoresheet," said the side's stand-in captain, scoring for the first time for his club since February.

"I thought it was going to be the day we got over the line. We didn't finish our chances, and against a team like Chelsea, with the players they have, they'll punish you."

Sterling was further frustrated by a second City penalty appeal that was unsuccessful shortly before Alonso's scuffed strike.

The City number seven went down under pressure from Kurt Zouma.

"For me, I couldn't get a shot off because he's put his knee in the back of my hamstring," Sterling said.

"I don't know how it's not a penalty, I don't know how it's not been reviewed properly. The ref said it's been reviewed but, at the end of the day, personally I knew it was a penalty.

"I thought the VAR was here to help, but it wasn't meant to be.

"He said to me it's been checked and it's been cleared and it's not a penalty. For me, it was a sure penalty."

Three years ago, Harry Kane said he wanted to win trophies at Tottenham otherwise he may have to leave.

Spurs have not won any silverware since, however, prompting speculation the England striker may have move on to fulfil his ambition elsewhere.

Kane is contracted to the Premier League club until 2024 but they are set to miss out on Champions League football again.


TOP STORY - RED DEVILS PLOT STUNNING KANE BID

The Sun reports that Manchester United are set to table a £90million bid for Kane after approval from the Glazers to appease their recent fan fury.

The move would be a stunning development, but Kane is understood to be interested in joining the Red Devils.

Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy does not want to sell Kane to a rival, although he may be backed into a corner financially in order to re-build the squad.


ROUND-UP

- With West Brom doomed for relegation, goalkeeper Sam Johnstone is hot property with Manchester United joining the race for his signature, alongside Tottenham and West Ham, according to ESPN. The Telegraph claims West Brom have slapped a £20m price tag on him.

- Chelsea have entered the pursuit for Jadon Sancho, joining Manchester United and Liverpool after Borussia Dortmund lowered their asking price, says Bild.

- Real Madrid are monitoring the status of out-of-favour Manchester City winger Raheem Sterling, according to Football Insider.

- Everton head coach Carlo Ancelotti is keen to lure on-loan Tottenham forward Gareth Bale to the club as the Welshman's future at Real Madrid remains uncertain, claims El Chiringuito.

- Dutch winger Noa Lang is being tracked by Leeds United, reports The Telegraph.

Erling Haaland is hot property right now with a long list of suitors keen on the Norwegian forward.

Financially powerful clubs Real Madrid, Manchester City and Chelsea are among those jostling for the Borussia Dortmund man but Barcelona are in contention too.

Haaland and his agent Mino Raiola visited Barcelona along with Madrid in April as talks commenced.

 

TOP STORY - MESSI PAY CUT TO FUND HAALAND DEAL

Six-time Ballon d'Or winner Lionel Messi is willing to take a pay cut in order to help Barcelona land Erling Haaland according to Eurosport.

Messi wants to renew with Barca under the assumption the club is ambitious and contending for top honours.

Contract talks have commenced between Messi and the Catalans, with reports that they will offer Messi a new 10-year contract.

 

ROUND-UP

- Marca reports that Real Madrid are looking to extend Lucas Vazquez's contract with a new and improved offer.

- Raheem Sterling could be offloaded by Manchester City this off-season, in order to fund moves for Erling Haaland and Jack Grealish, claims Football Insider.

- Chelsea are in the race for Juventus' French midfielder Adrien Rabiot, along with Barcelona, reports Calciomercato.

- Gazzetta dello Sport claims that Napoli have made a €10 million offer to Club Brugge for 20-year-old Belgium international Charles De Ketelaere.

- Gazzetta dello Sport also reports that Juventus wants to lure Massimiliano Allegri back to the club to replace head coach Andrea Pirlo.

The Premier League elite are playing for prizes, along with Champions League and Europa League places, and at the foot of the table there may still be dreams of a great escape.

Reality brings its rewards and regrets, and managers across England, from Pep Guardiola to Big Sam Allardyce are hoping to end the season on a high note.

For fantasy football managers, the same applies. This is the run-in and the time when marginal gains could count for so much in your own rivalries and leagues come the season's end. One masterstroke signing could make a world of difference and earn those bragging rights.

With that in mind, here is a look at some potentially shrewd picks for the weekend ahead, powered by Opta data.

EDOUARD MENDY

Chelsea goalkeeper Mendy has a long way to go before he can be defined as a Premier League great, but the September arrival from Rennes is making a terrific impact in his debut season. Heading into Saturday's derby with Fulham, Mendy has managed 15 clean sheets from his 27 Premier League games so far, with only Manchester City's Ederson keeping more (17 from 32 games).

Of all goalkeepers to have started at least 25 games in Premier League history, Mendy is the only one to keep a clean sheet in more than half of them (56 per cent). Looking down the list, Ederson has an impressive 49 per cent from 141 games, while former Chelsea and Arsenal shot-stopper Petr Cech had a nifty 46 per cent clean sheet record from 443 appearances.

LUKE SHAW

Tough love did not particularly work for Luke Shaw during Jose Mourinho's reign, but Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has found a way to unlock the brilliance within Manchester United's left-back, who was a £30million buy as an 18-year-old almost seven years ago.

Shaw, who looks likely to face Liverpool at Old Trafford on Sunday, has been directly involved in six goals (1 goal, 5 assists) in the Premier League this season. That is as many as he managed between the start of the 2016-17 season and the end of the 2019-20 campaign (also 1 goal, 5 assists). He is impressing going forward as well as when defending, so could bring valuable points to your team.

RUBEN DIAS

No Premier League defender has more clean sheets than Ruben Dias this season. With 14 so far, he is level with Aston Villa's Matt Targett. Manchester City stifled Paris Saint-Germain's Neymar and Kylian Mbappe on Wednesday, but can they keep Crystal Palace's forwards at bay on Saturday?

The Premier League title is almost within City's grasp, and Dias could be a great signing this weekend, but do bear in mind that Guardiola could shuffle his team given the second leg with PSG is coming up on Tuesday.

City have a strong Premier League record against Palace, having won 13 of their last 17 matches (D2 L2) against the Eagles in the competition, earning 10 clean sheets across that run of games.

MATHEUS PEREIRA

Going down with the Baggies? Even if West Brom are relegated, which seems likely, there will surely be top-flight teams eyeing Matheus Pereira.

The Brazilian has been involved in six goals in his last four Premier League games (4 goals, 2 assists), and he enhanced his hero status among supporters when he scored twice - both penalties - in the derby against Wolves earlier this season.

West Brom won that one 3-2 and the teams meet again on Monday. Pereira is a player to keep an eye on in that game.

RAHEEM STERLING

Guardiola rhapsodised about Sterling after Manchester City's win against Tottenham in the EFL Cup final, despite erratic finishing meaning the winger again finished without a goal. He has not scored for City since February, but one could spark a flood, such is his established talent.

Facing Palace could be the ideal game for Sterling, should he be selected this weekend.

The England international has been involved in seven goals in his last seven starts against Palace in the Premier League (6 goals, 1 assist).

AYOZE PEREZ

Kelechi Iheanacho is the striker in form at Leicester City, but in horses for courses terms, Perez might be the man for Friday's clash with Southampton.

Perez has scored more Premier League goals against Southampton than he has against any other side in the competition (7). This includes two hat-tricks against Saints, including one in Leicester’s 9-0 win in this fixture last season.

HARRY KANE

Did Kane look off the pace in the EFL Cup final after his recent ankle knock? It was so hard to tell, given it felt he was constantly having to come looking for the ball, the service to him so inadequate.

If caretaker boss Ryan Mason considered him fit for that one, then it seems safe to expect the Tottenham talisman to face Sheffield United on Sunday, and surely he will find more opportunities against the blunted Blades than he enjoyed against City.

Kane has been involved in 34 goals in 30 Premier League games for Tottenham this season (21 goals, 13 assists), only registering more goal involvements in a single campaign in 2016-17 (36 – 29G 7A). The England striker has been involved in nine goals in his last six league games (7 goals, 2 assists), netting three braces in that run.

Pep Guardiola hailed an "incredible performance" from Raheem Sterling, despite the forward's goal drought continuing in Manchester City's EFL Cup final triumph.

City won the EFL Cup for a fourth consecutive season and record-equalling eighth time overall, matching Liverpool's haul, with defender Aymeric Laporte the unlikely goal hero.

Sterling had five goal attempts – the most of any City player – but did not hit the target with any of those, and he has not scored for the club since netting in the 1-0 win against Arsenal in February.

However, the England winger was certainly lively, troubling Serge Aurier with his pace and trickery from early in the contest, when he teed up Phil Foden for a chance that went begging.

That was to become a theme, with City creating but missing a host of chances before Laporte met Kevin De Bruyne's free-kick and powered a header past Hugo Lloris in the 82nd minute.

In terms of xG – Opta's expected goals metric – City had a score of 3.63 while Tottenham's total was just 0.06, reflecting the stark difference between the sides.

Asked about Sterling, Guardiola said the former Liverpool player had been "amazing".

"He showed the opponent we came here to win the game in the first actions. He was incredibly aggressive," said the City boss. "Aurier is a fast defender and they are incredibly good at defending the shot and the blocks. Lloris made some incredible saves but he was brilliant."

Guardiola is sure Sterling will soon start scoring regularly, saying: "We have no doubts of that, the mentality is great, he trained well and he made an incredible performance. He deserves it, he created a lot of chances and made a couple of assists for Ilkay [Gundogan]. All the players were brilliant."

Having become the first manager to win the competition in four consecutive years, Guardiola said City's success was "more than well deserved". There was no denying that, with Tottenham a blunt force going forward despite Harry Kane being passed fit to start after his recent ankle scare.

Now, though, City have more targets in their sights, with the first leg of their Champions League semi-final against Paris Saint-Germain coming up on Wednesday. Guardiola admitted that "one eye is always on the Champions League".

And, as the Spaniard pointed out, they need just two more wins from five games to wrap up the Premier League title following Manchester United's 0-0 draw at Leeds United earlier on Sunday.

"Now we just rest and prepare for the semi-final, the first leg against PSG," Guardiola said. "And after we are two games away to try to win the most important title of the season.

"The Premier League is the nicest one and the one I am proud of the most. We are so close. Marcelo Bielsa's team made a good draw against United so we are 10 points clear and need two victories.

"Between the crazy schedule, between games against PSG, we're going to try to win the first one against Crystal Palace."

Guardiola also praised those members of his squad who played no part against Tottenham, including Eric Garcia, the 20-year-old defender who is expected to join Barcelona at the end of the season.

"I would say he is one of my favourite players," former Barcelona head coach Guardiola said. "I'd love to have 15 Eric Garcias, for the way he conducts himself, his behaviour.

"He helps the manager and the backroom staff all the time. When people say the people are unsatisfied if [they] dont play, I think of Eric.

"Most of the time he's not on the bench because he's going to move to Barcelona, I hope so, but I think of them. It's tough, but it is what it is."

Tottenham's Ryan Mason became the youngest manager to take charge of a side in an EFL Cup final at 29 years and 316 days, with the caretaker boss surpassing Gianluca Vialli, who was 33 when he guided Chelsea in the 1998 final.

It was not to be for Mason, who has taken over from the sacked Jose Mourinho and said it was "tough" to see the chance of a trophy slip by.

"The players believed and gave absolutely everything," Mason said. "I thought we rode our luck at times in the first half but defended well, blocked well, but we knew at times we'd have to ride our luck and they'd have long spells of possession.

"It was disappointing to concede from a set-play, but I can't fault the players. They've had a change of manager, a game in midweek, two or three days to prepare for this and work in a completely different way. I've so much pride in those players. They believed and gave everything."

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