Ronald Koeman expects to remain in charge at Barcelona for next season as his team launch a final assault on the LaLiga crown.

The Dutchman was brought in on a two-year contract last August to replace Quique Setien, amid high speculation that presidential elections could mean his reign would last only one season.

There has been huge upheaval at Barcelona since, with rising debt, the resignation of a president, a delayed election that was won by Joan Laporta, and recent talk of a breakaway Super League proving unwelcome distractions.

Amid the off-field turbulence, Koeman has stayed admirably calm, and his team could finish the season with a league and cup double, having already won the Copa del Rey.

They came into this weekend trailing leaders Atletico Madrid by five points, but with a game in hand. Real Madrid, perched between Atletico and Barcelona, were in action on Saturday evening. Fourth-placed Sevilla, the outsiders of the four title contenders, play Granada on Sunday.

Barcelona are handily placed, in form and with a home game against Atletico to come, and if Koeman can deliver a title win he would seem unsackable.

He feels Laporta has his back, saying: "The president has shown me his support and trust since the first day, and until he says the opposite, I believe that.

"At the moment, I see myself as a head coach [in Barcelona] for next season. And I also have a contract. If it is not like that, we have to talk."

On Sunday, Barcelona take on a Villarreal side who sit seventh and have a Europa League semi-final first leg against Arsenal coming up on Thursday.

The future of Lionel Messi has also been a season-long talking point, with the club captain due to reach the end of his contract at the end of the campaign.

However, Koeman is not interested in talking about anything other than his team's targets, and made that point when asked about the Super League.

"We have already talked a lot about the Super League, now there are more important things than talking about UEFA, sanctions or threats," he said. "We have to be aware of the calendar that we have left."

Remarkably, Barcelona have taken 43 points from a possible 48 in LaLiga since the turn of the year, soaring into the title picture.

They have a terrific record against Villarreal too, winning 17 and drawing six of their last 23 league meetings against the Valencian side.

Messi has scored 15 goals in his 23 games against Villarreal in LaLiga, more than any other LaLiga player has managed against Barcelona's Sunday opponents.

Former Everton and Netherlands boss Koeman said Ousmane Dembele is a contender to start Sunday's game, and stressed he could not be sure that injured teenage forward Ansu Fati would play again this season.

Dembele was absent through injury for the 5-2 win over Getafe on Thursday, but Koeman said of the French forward: "He is a very important player for us, because he is a different player from the rest playing in attack, a deep player, able to play one-against-one, with dribbles, shooting with both feet.

"He is very important because he gave us many things this season."

Koeman sees Villarreal as a major threat, and suggested the home team will not be distracted by their upcoming assignment in Europe.

"They are a team that play football very well, with top quality people," Koeman said. "They are proving in Europe to be a strong team.

"They have until Thursday to prepare for the next game. They are also fighting for UEFA positions, For them it is an important game and for us, too. It is an interesting game."

Hansi Flick admitted his Bayern Munich team were tired and ripe to be punished after a 2-1 defeat at Mainz delayed title celebrations.

Chasing the win that would have clinched a ninth successive Bundesliga title, Bayern gave a lethargic display and a last-gasp goal from Robert Lewandowski was as much as they deserved.

Mainz seized advantage as the one-time strugglers took their points tally to 28 from 16 games under new head coach Bo Svensson, soaring five points clear of the relegation zone.

Bayern boss Flick said: "We all know that just as the team has often shown its quality, something like that can happen. It's a shame we couldn't take the step today.

"But you have to understand that the team is tired. We were too harmless.

"We want to win every game, that was also the case today. We didn't perform well, you have to accept that.

"The team have many minutes in their legs. We just weren't strong enough."

First-half goals from Jonathan Burkardt and Robin Quaison put Bayern in a tangle, and the stoppage-time reply from Lewandowski, returning from injury, came too late to spark anything more.

Lewandowski now has 36 goals for the season, meaning he trails Gerd Muller's Bundesliga record by four with three rounds of games remaining.

His goal in Saturday's game was a gift rather than the result of any great personal endeavour, with a poor defensive header leaving Lewandowski the task of stroking the ball past cruelly exposed goalkeeper Robin Zentner.

Bayern slipped to a first Bundesliga defeat at Mainz since 2011, having won all eight of their away games against the 05ers since that 3-2 loss a decade ago.

Manuel Neuer was unusually at fault for the third-minute opening goal, getting in the way of the powerful shot from Burkardt but only being able to divert it into the corner of his net.

"I wasn't blinded by the sun," said Neuer, according to TZ.

"The ball was close to [David] Alaba, I couldn't see it well. I tried to put my arm up, I was unlucky."

Bayern have been hit by a Champions League quarter-final exit, the announcement from Flick that he wants to be released from his contract at the end of the season, and criticism from fans aimed at Hasan Salihamidzic.

That may have been a contributing factor to Saturday's below-par effort, but Neuer pointed to Mainz's qualities.

"We weren't surprised," said the goalkeeper. "It was clear that they went into the game with a high level of motivation. Our body language was bad."

Bayern could still be crowned champions this weekend, but RB Leipzig would need to lose to Stuttgart on Sunday.

"I would have preferred to have got it done ourselves," said Neuer. "The defeat hits us hard after the last few weeks."

Kylian Mbappe scored twice as Paris Saint-Germain claimed a straightforward 3-1 victory at Metz on Saturday to put the pressure back on Lille in the Ligue 1 title race.

By no means were Mauricio Pochettino's side outstanding as a collective at Stade Saint-Symphorien, but Mbappe was, the France striker deadly in front of goal as he took his league tally to 25 for the campaign.

Mbappe's first arrived early on as PSG initially appeared in the mood, though they faded somewhat and failed to build on that goal despite Metz offering precious little themselves.

At least, that was the case until the break. Metz levelled just 49 seconds into the second half thanks to Fabien Centonze as PSG looked in danger of dropping points for the third time in six games, but Mbappe's deflected effort just before the hour restored the Parisians' lead and a late Mauro Icardi penalty ensured there was no collapse from the defending champions, who go two points clear of Lille.

PSG looked bright at the start as they took the lead after just four minutes, Mbappe racing on to Ander Herrera's pass over the Metz defence and volleying in off the post after bringing the ball under control with his chest.

Though that was hardly a prelude to unrelenting PSG pressure as they did not carve out another clear chance for another 22 minutes, with Metz goalkeeper Alexandre Oukidja this time able to deny Mbappe.

The visitors then felt aggrieved not to be awarded a penalty late in the half as the lively Mbappe went down right on the edge of the area, though replays suggested there was minimal contact.

It was 1-1 quickly after the restart, as Centonze turned in Farid Boulaya's cross in what was a rare moment of attacking intent from the home side.

Parity did not remain for long, however, as Mbappe received the ball just outside the Metz area in the 59th minute and his rasping drive took a slight deflection to take it out of Oukidja's reach.

It looked like dominant PSG might not increase their lead in the latter stages, with Mbappe denied a hat-trick by a remarkable goalline clearance from Boulaya and Herrera smashing against the crossbar. 

But Dylan Bronn's clumsy foul on substitute Icardi in the box led to a penalty, which the Argentinian converted with a cheeky 'Panenka' as PSG return to the summit at least until Sunday. 

What does it mean? All eyes on Lille as PSG avoid shock ahead of pivotal week 

Given how often PSG have dropped points this season, few would have claimed this was a foregone conclusion beforehand, even with Metz's shoddy form in recent weeks. 

With that said, PSG's display was professional if not exceptional and it got the job done. Lille go to Lyon on Sunday needing to win to end the weekend as leaders, but an OL side still chasing Champions League qualification will not make it easy. 

PSG can now look forward to their date with Manchester City in the Champions League in midweek having not increased the heat on themselves. 

Neymar provides the spark 

While Mbappe takes the headlines with his brace, Neymar certainly warrants a mention. The Brazilian may not have been particular accurate in front of goal, with none of his four shots accurate, but he made five key passes in his 81 minutes on the pitch.  

A day to forget for Bronn 

Granted, there were few Metz players bar Boulaya who impressed, but Bronn will be particularly frustrated with himself. His foul to concede the penalty was brainless, as he recklessly swung his back leg out and caught Icardi. That killed the game off. 

What's next? 

PSG turn their attention to the Champions League now, with City visiting for the first leg of their semi-final on Wednesday before hosting Lens in Ligue 1 three days later. Metz go to Dijon next Sunday.

Kylian Mbappe scored twice as Paris Saint-Germain claimed a straightforward 3-1 victory at Metz on Saturday to put the pressure back on Lille in the Ligue 1 title race.

By no means were Mauricio Pochettino's side outstanding as a collective at Stade Saint-Symphorien, but Mbappe was, the France striker deadly in front of goal as he took his league tally to 25 for the campaign.

Mbappe's first arrived early on as PSG initially appeared in the mood, though they faded somewhat and failed to build on that goal despite Metz offering precious little themselves.

At least, that was the case until the break. Metz levelled just 49 seconds into the second half thanks to Fabien Centonze as PSG looked in danger of dropping points for the third time in six games, but Mbappe's deflected effort just before the hour restored the Parisians' lead and a late Mauro Icardi penalty ensured there was no collapse from the defending champions.

PSG looked bright at the start as they took the lead after just four minutes, Mbappe racing on to Ander Herrera's pass over the Metz defence and volleying in off the post after bringing the ball under control with his chest.

Though that was hardly a prelude to unrelenting PSG pressure as they did not carve out another clear chance for another 22 minutes, with Metz goalkeeper Alexandre Oukidja this time able to deny Mbappe.

The visitors then felt aggrieved not to be awarded a penalty late in the half as the lively Mbappe went down right on the edge of the area, though replays suggested there was minimal contact.

It was 1-1 quickly after the restart, as Centonze turned in Farid Boulaya's cross in what was a rare moment of attacking intent from the home side.

Parity did not remain for long, however, as Mbappe received the ball just outside the Metz area in the 59th minute and his rasping drive took a slight deflection to take it out of Oukidja's reach.

It looked like dominant PSG might not increase their lead in the latter stages, with Mbappe denied a hat-trick by a remarkable goalline clearance from Boulaya and Herrera smashing against the crossbar. 

But Dylan Bronn's clumsy foul on substitute Icardi in the box led to a penalty, which the Argentinian converted with a cheeky 'Panenka' as PSG return to the summit at least until Sunday. 

Bayern Munich came looking for a title party and were served with a cold dose of reality as survival scrappers Mainz earned a stunning 2-1 win over the Bundesliga leaders.

First-half goals from Jonathan Burkardt and Robin Quaison put in-form Mainz in charge, and a leggy Bayern side - who would have been crowned champions with a victory - lacked the zip in their game to overturn that deficit.

Manuel Neuer was at fault for the opener, but also produced some big saves to keep Bayern in touch with their impressive hosts, who have been the most-improved team in the league in the second half of the season.

When Quaison headed the second, he showed the aerial threat that was rarely seen from Bayern's fit-again talisman Robert Lewandowski in this game. Lewandowski snatched a last-gasp consolation after a defensive clanger, but it came too late to be significant.

Burkardt stunned Bayern in the third minute when he was left unattended on the edge of the penalty area and fired a thumping shot that Neuer could only help into the left corner.

Bayern had Lewandowski back in their ranks after a knee injury absence, but before the Polish striker could show any threat they were almost two goals behind, Neuer producing a fine save at full stretch to touch a 20-yard header from Danny Latza against the left post.

Lewandowski fired waywardly from his first chance before Neuer again prevented Bayern slipping two goals behind, Quaison turning Jerome Boateng far too easily and hitting the target with a thumping shot that bounced away off the well-placed goalkeeper.

Bo Svensson's Mainz side, having won four and drawn two of their previous six games to surge out of the relegation zone, doubled their lead in the 37th minute when Quaison headed past Neuer after Philipp Mwene's free-kick from the left proved a perfect, teasing delivery.

Hansi Flick's reaction was to bring on three substitutes at the start of the second half, hauling off Leon Goretzka, who was perhaps fortunate to avoid a first-half red card, plus Kingsley Coman and Leroy Sane, and introducing Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting, Jamal Musiala and Tanguy Nianzou.

A stray arm from Lewandowski caught Mainz midfielder Leandro Barreiro in the face, drawing blood, but it appeared accidental. It was nevertheless not the impact Bayern were looking for from their star striker.

Bayern trailed 2-0 in the first meeting of these sides this season but recovered to win 5-2; however, until Lewandowski's stoppage-time strike, their second-half goal threat in this game was limited to half-chances that the likes of Choupo-Moting and Joshua Kimmich could not convert.

Melbourne City and Central Coast Mariners both dropped points on Saturday as the battle at the A-League summit intensified.

City, fresh from a resounding 7-0 win over rivals Melbourne Victory, missed the chance to extend their lead after being held to a 1-1 draw by Macarthur.

That came following a 2-2 draw for second-placed Central Coast Mariners against Sydney.

It means City's advantage at the top is one point, while Macarthur are only three further back in fifth spot.

The Mariners failed to put maximum pressure on the leaders as they surrendered a two-goal lead on home soil.

Alen Stajcic's men appeared to be coasting after first-half strikes from Marco Urena and Matty Simon, but Milos Ninkovic cut the deficit before the break.

And the comeback was completed seven minutes from time when Trent Buhagiar capitalised on a mistake at the back to seal a point for Sydney.

Presented with a chance to move three points clear at the top, City faltered.

Connor Metcalfe's volley put Patrick Kisnorbo's men ahead with a fine volley, but Macarthur earned a share of the spoils courtesy of Michael Ruhs following some questionable defending.

Is Ibrahima Konate bound for Anfield?

The 21-year-old defender has caught the eye of both Liverpool and Manchester United.

But, the Merseyside club appear set to win the race for his signature.

 

TOP STORY – KONATE HEADING TO ANFIELD

Liverpool have agreed a deal to sign Ibrahima Konate from RB Leipzig, according to the Guardian.

Konate had also been linked with Premier League rivals Manchester United, who are eyeing a new centre-back at Old Trafford.

But Liverpool have reportedly agreed a five-year contract with Konate, who has a €35million (£30.5m) release clause.

 

ROUND-UP

- The front page of Saturday's Mundo Deportivo reports Barcelona want to offer a new and improved contract to teenage sensation Ansu Fati, which would keep him at Camp Nou until 2026. The 18-year-old, previously linked to United, until at least 2022, with the option to extend it by a further two years.

- What does the future hold for Milan goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma? The 22-year-old Italy star's contract is set to expire at the end of the season and he is yet to re-sign at San Siro amid links with United, Chelsea, Paris Saint-Germain, Juventus and Real Madrid. While Milan remain hopeful of keeping Donnarumma, Calciomercato says they have begun conversations with Lille's Mike Maignan.

Milan, Inter and Roma are eyeing Torino captain and star forward Andrea Belotti, claims Calciomercato.

- Fabrizio Romano reports Manchester City are set to sign Metinho in the same deal with Fluminense team-mate Kayky.

Madrid remain optimistic about the possibility of signing Kylian Mbappe from PSG, according to Le Parisien. Mbappe has been tipped to join Los Blancos, who have also been linked with Borussia Dortmund's Erling Haaland.

Chatter rippled quickly across the Wembley press room, a buzz of excitement quickly following. It was the first thing most people looking at hot-off-the-press team sheets mentioned.

"Foden's starting."

Since describing the playmaker as "a gift" in the aftermath of his maiden senior outing for Manchester City against Manchester United in the 2017 International Champions Cup, Pep Guardiola persistently had his use of Foden questioned.

The teenager wasn't playing enough, then he wasn't starting enough, then he wasn't starting enough meaningful games. Guardiola maintained he had a plan and it absolutely did not include Foden going out on loan.

But there he was in the first XI for a major cup final. He responded by turning in a man-of-the-match display as City beat Aston Villa 2-1 to win a third consecutive EFL Cup.

They will look to make it four in a row against Tottenham at Wembley on Sunday and, in the interim period, Foden has scarcely looked back.

A serious player

His outing in the 2020 final was Foden's 61st appearance for City, going back to a competitive debut from the bench against Feyenoord in the Champions League in November 2017.

Those initial steps of his career saw him make 24 starts and play 2,439 minutes. His knockdown for Sergio Aguero to open the scoring against Villa was a 10th assist to sit alongside 10 goals.

In a little over a year since, Foden has almost doubled his appearances with 56 and 38 starts contribute to a major leap of 3,598 minutes played.

The returns those appearances have yielded do much to explain his status as a one of Guardiola's go-to men, to the extent it is possible he will be afforded the luxury of a rest against Spurs, given City have a Champions League semi-final against Paris Saint-Germain on the horizon and a Premier League title to wrap up.

That might not be the most advisable course of action, given City's record of won 26, drawn three, lost one when Foden starts this season. The sole defeat came in the second Premier League game of the season against Leicester City in September.

That win percentage of 86.7 per cent drops to 68.2 (W15 D3 L4) when Guardiola opts to take Foden out of the firing line.

"His influence in our game is massive right now," the City manager told Sky Sports after another man-of-the-match showing at Villa's expense in midweek, where Foden netted a first-half equaliser in a 2-1 win before his twinkling feet mercilessly goaded opposition right-back Matty Cash into a red card.

"He is becoming a serious player for us," Guardiola added.

Pep's most prolific youngster

Last season's EFL Cup final was played out in front of a capacity Wembley crowd, for whom the Super League was a rugby league competition. It truly was a different world.

Whatever this disorientating reality is, Foden is making it his own.

In the period since he has scored 19 and laid on a further 11 in all competitions, with his minutes-per-goal figure down from 244 to 189 and shot conversion up from 13 to 16.5 per cent.

Such sharp shooting saw him score the winner in both legs of City's Champions League quarter-final win over Borussia Dortmund, the latter rasping strike leading to a cathartic and emotional embrace with Guardiola.

Unsurprisingly, Foden is far outstripping his expected goals (xG) figure of 11.8 since the 2020 EFL Cup final, while an xG 9.8 aligned almost exactly with his 10 goals beforehand.

This higher output is because, much to the profound discomfort of Cash and others, Foden has evolved from the scheming midfielder of his youth to an explosive and versatile wide attacker.

Only Kevin De Bruyne with 24 has been directly involved in more City goals than Foden's 23 this season, thanks to his 14 goals and nine assists.

Looking further back across a career where Guardiola has worked with some of the finest young talent in the game, Foden's overall 29 goals and 21 assists give him 50 goal involvements – more than any other player before turning 21 under the former Barcelona Bayern Munich boss.

The England international's 29 goals are also unmatched among that age group, with Bojan Krkic also scoring the same number for Guardiola's Barcelona.

This weekend is unlikely to be the last time Foden graces Wembley this year, as a starring role with England at Euro 2020 surely awaits – the 20-year-old having taken to international football effortlessly.

From boy to main man

"He was a boy when I arrived, at 17 years old he trained every day with these guys and played more minutes," Guardiola said on Friday.

"Now he is stronger with his physicality, but it is normal. He is still at an age to get stronger, play more minutes and have more experience.

"He has the ability to play in different positions. That's why he is a better player but still, like every player, he can be better. It depends on him."

In this week of all weeks, as he hauled his boyhood team to a vital win, there was something delightful about watching Foden's star continue its unchecked and rapid ascent since that surprise cup final call.

When the modern City began stacking up trophies almost a decade ago, he cheered them on from pitchside as a ballboy. Now, he plays a pivotal role in everything they achieve.

Given his employers' involvement in the tawdry Super League debacle, it will be an incredibly long time until any vaguely romantic notions can be pinned to Manchester City as an organisation.

But Foden's story, that of a young man living out his childhood fantasy every week, playing the football from all of our wildest dreams, is one any fan can cherish. Its appeal is something the suited goons and hedge fund cretins will never understand.

When Foden plays, in those moments of velvet first touches, darting dribbles and thumping finishes, all the nonsense melts away in the face of pure footballing talent. Guardiola was right, he really is a gift.

Nani scored a 79th-minute equaliser as Orlando City salvaged a 1-1 draw at Sporting Kansas City in MLS action on Friday.

Orlando, who opened their 2021 season with a goalless draw against Atlanta United, had not gone two consecutive games without scoring since August 2019 and they avoided doing so thanks to former Manchester United star Nani.

Gianluca Busio put Sporting KC ahead on the stroke of half-time – Orlando goalkeeper Pedro Gallese's pass picked off by Daniel Salloi, who teed up his team-mate.

Sporting KC won their final three regular-season home games in 2020 – the last visiting side to take a regular-season point in Kansas City were Orlando on September 23.

A cheeky backheel from Nani rescued a point for visiting Orlando with 11 minutes remaining at Children's Mercy Park, where the goal had initially been ruled offside before a video review.

Both teams had goals ruled out for offside in the first half – Nicolas Isimat-Mirin's rebound and Benji Michel's effort.

Milan star Zlatan Ibrahimovic said he has silenced his doubters after proving age is just a number following his contract renewal.

Ibrahimovic has starred since re-joining Milan on a free transfer from LA Galaxy in December 2019, the veteran striker scoring 15 goals in 17 Serie A matches this season.

The 39-year-old – now contracted to the Rossoneri until the end of 2021-22 – has netted 17 goals across all competitions in an injury-hit 2020-21 campaign, while the evergreen Swede has 28 goals in 45 appearances in his second spell with Milan.

"I think it will be positive. Even if someone had doubts before I arrived," Ibrahimovic told MilanTV. "I have shown that age doesn't matter.

"It's all about mentality. I always want to improve and do the best I can.

"I just want to feel good physically and be able to do the things I know how to do."

Ibrahimovic, who won the 2011 Scudetto during his first spell with Milan, has helped the Italian giants up to second position this season – 10 points adrift of city rivals and leaders Inter, though they are only a point clear of Atalanta and Juventus.

"I try to help everyone, it's a motivation," former Manchester United, Paris Saint-Germain and Barcelona star Ibrahimovic said.

"It gives me adrenaline to see these young people and their growth, from the first day I arrived until today, I have seen growth from each of them.

"All are willing to do their best, then in my opinion they understood the sacrifice that must be made to be where we are today."

Ryan Mason insists Tottenham are not simply "the Harry Kane team" as he waits for news of the striker's fitness before the EFL Cup final.

Kane is a doubt for Sunday's game against Manchester City having sustained an ankle injury last week and failed to train since.

If the England captain is able to feature, though, he would come up against a side managed by Pep Guardiola, who famously referred to Spurs as "the Harry Kane team" in 2017.

Kane has been involved in 47 goals in 43 games for Tottenham in all competitions this season and would be sorely missed this weekend, but discussion of Guardiola's comments prompted interim head coach Mason to highlight the team's "combined effort".

"I think when you've got one of the best players in the world, I think you can say that," Mason said. "I think of Barcelona with Messi, Real Madrid with Ronaldo.

"When guys are posting up crazy numbers and scoring and creating moments, big moments in big games, it's normal that your mind thinks they're the most important players, of course.

"But we're a team, a squad, a group of players. Whoever's out on that football pitch needs to come together, needs to work, to fight together, to compete to get a positive result.

"Of course, if you have one of the best number nines in the world, people will talk, but, no, it's a combined effort of everyone involved, that's for sure."

While Mason is assessing Kane "hour by hour" and will undoubtedly pick the striker if he is fit, Spurs have actually fared better - numbers-wise - when their talisman has been out this season.

Tottenham have won 53.5 per cent of the 43 matches Kane has played this season, scoring 2.0 goals per game.

When he has not been involved - including in Mason's debut win against Southampton - Tottenham have six wins from nine (66.7 per cent) and have scored 2.8 goals per game.

Mason also has other attacking stars to turn to, with Son Heung-min matching Kane's 16 assists and posting 36 goal involvements.

Lucas Moura (17), Gareth Bale (14) and Carlos Vinicius (13) are next on that list of goal involvements and could each have a part to play if Kane cannot make it.

But the 27-year-old Kane, who has attempted 168 shots and created 52 chances this season, will be determined to make the Spurs team as he waits for his first piece of silverware at senior level.

Indeed, as long as Tottenham's drought - since 2008 - continues, there will be fears Kane could move on in pursuit of glory elsewhere.

"He will want to win trophies, no doubt about it," ex-Spurs man Brad Friedel told Stats Perform News this week.

"He's a very ambitious player, obviously one of the best, and everyone can see his goals tally and watch him play to say that."

Mason - appointed this week - becomes the latest man to try to end that wait. He will be the first coach to take charge of a major cup final in England as early as his second game in charge since Luton Town's Syd Owen made his bow in the 1959 FA Cup final.

"I think every club wants to win trophies. That's normal," Mason said. "It's very difficult in this country, probably the most difficult country in the world to win trophies. We've seen that.

"We've been close to that over the past few years, but unfortunately we haven't been able to get over the line."

Harry Kane was shocked to see Jose Mourinho sacked ahead of the EFL Cup final against Manchester City and only found out about the decision five or 10 minutes before the official announcement.

While Kane had previously seen Mauricio Pochettino axed and acknowledged that Mourinho knew the risks of taking charge at Tottenham, he was not expecting the move which came just six days before the final.

The England captain, though, praised interim manager Ryan Mason and is "buzzing" to see his friend get the opportunity lead Spurs to silverware on Sunday, having won his first match 2-1 against Southampton in the Premier League.

Kane is a fitness doubt for the EFL Cup final after he suffered an ankle injury in last week's draw at Everton.

Mason says the club will take no risks with their talisman, who has still not returned to training, but they are monitoring his situation hour by hour.

"I was surprised - I'll be totally honest," Kane said to Sky Sports about the sacking of Mourinho. 

"I came in that morning and probably found out five to 10 minutes before it was announced.

"A lot of the focus was on the Carabao Cup final and preparing for that. But, look, it's football. I've been here now where a couple of managers have been sacked.

"As a player now, I don't think you ever expect the boss to be sacked but it's part of the game, you have to deal with it.

"I had a great relationship with Jose, I wish him all the best for whatever his next job is, but he knows as we know football can be cut-throat and we just have to look forward.

"We have a big final to prepare for now and we're looking forward to that. Ryan's been great. It's obviously been strange for him, a bit of a rollercoaster coming in late notice and taking on the job.

"I thought he's done incredibly well; how he's handled the whole situation, handled the boys and obviously getting his first win against Southampton was a massive moment.

"Me and Ryan are good mates, we've known each other a long time, on and off the field we are really close.

"I'm buzzing for him to have this opportunity and to have the experience to manage one of the best clubs in the world. Hopefully we can try and win on Sunday and experience a truly special moment together."

The build-up to the final – and even the sacking of Mourinho – was overshadowed by Spurs' planned involvement in the European Super League.

It was not a prospect Kane was keen on and he was glad to see the project fall apart within 48 hours.

Kane added: "I liked the outcome of it. I didn't quite like the idea of it if I'm honest. I can totally understand the fans' point of view.

"From a lot of people's point of view, it wasn't quite right. It's obviously been ended for now. I'm proud of the fans for sticking up for what they believe in. 

"For football in general it's good the way it is. The competitiveness is an important part of football and that's the reason we play."

Kane has previously acknowledged he faces a big decision over his club future at the end of the season.

Spurs look unlikely to reach the Champions League and the City clash provides Kane with a shot at what would be his first major honour.

City boss Pep Guardiola is looking to deny him and become the first manager to win the EFL Cup in four consecutive seasons.

Guardiola's side have not lost any of their last 19 ties in the competition since being eliminated by Manchester United in October 2016.

No player has scored more club goals at Wembley than Kane, who has 31 in 44 games at the national stadium for Spurs. It was Tottenham's temporary home during the construction of their new stadium.

He has netted eight times in his last 10 club games at Wembley, though there have only been two English scorers in the last seven EFL Cup finals – John Terry in 2015 and Jesse Lingard in 2017.

As for Mason, the last manager to take charge of an English club in a major final as early as his second game at the helm was Luton Town's Syd Owen in the 1959 FA Cup final.

Tottenham are still waiting to decide if Harry Kane will feature in Sunday's EFL Cup final, but Ryan Mason says the club will take no risks with their talisman.

Kane suffered an ankle injury in last week's draw at Everton, putting his involvement in the Wembley meeting with Manchester City in doubt.

The England captain has still not returned to training.

No player has scored more club goals at Wembley than Kane, who has 31 in 44 games at the national stadium for Spurs, but Mason is staying patient.

"We're not sure yet," the interim head coach said of Kane's status. "He didn't train with the team today but we'll have more of an idea tomorrow to see if we can get him back on the pitch.

"I'm not really sure. It's a case of taking it hour by hour now. The days are obviously running out.

"It's a case of seeing how he feels in the next four hours, the next six hours, and taking it from there."

Kane has played in each of Tottenham's three games en route to the final, scoring in the quarter-final against Stoke City.

Mason trusts the striker will contribute to making the right call on his fitness this week.

"Harry is a top professional," he said. "We're taking it hour by hour and we'll see how he feels.

"What we're not going to do - and what Harry's not going to do - is put his body on the line if he doesn't feel like it's suitable. We're never going to put Harry in that position, absolutely not.

"But we'll see what happens, see how he feels tomorrow, and then we'll start making a decision from there.

"It's a combined effort. How does the player feel? What do the medics feel? What's the advice? What are the chances of something happening?

"Harry's a mature man, a mature professional footballer. He's had to deal with certain situations and I think, ultimately, we'll speak to him, with no pressure.

"How d'you feel? What are you feeling? We'll go from there."

Mason does not feel the situation is comparable to Spurs' previous final appearance in the Champions League in 2018-19 when Kane returned from injury ahead of schedule and mustered only a single shot in a 2-0 defeat to Liverpool.

"I think it was completely different because Harry had a very long time out injured for the Champions League final," Mason said.

"I don't know if Harry's going to be available for training tomorrow, let alone the game on Sunday, but if he is then it's a quick turnaround.

"A week without training is not a problem for someone in Harry's condition.

"We're going to have to probably assess it later tonight, early in the morning and see if we can get him on the pitch."

Mason - already the most junior Premier League coach of all time - will become the youngest ever EFL Cup final manager (29y 316d). Gianluca Vialli had been the youngest until now (33y 263d) as he guided Chelsea to victory in 1998.

"It means a hell of a lot," he said. "I've not really thought about it a great deal, because I've been preparing for the game, but this isn't really about me.

"It's about the football club, it's about Tottenham Hotspur being involved in these big matches, our fans getting to see us in these big matches.

"My focus is fully on the match. Maybe once the season's done and I get some time to think, I'll look back on it and be very proud."

Tottenham are without silverware since the 2008 final victory over Chelsea, while opponents City are bidding for a record-equalling eighth triumph and fourth in a row.

"I think there was a two or three-year period where Tottenham had chances and maybe should have [won something], but football doesn't always work out like that," Mason said.

"What they did do is develop a great team and the club went in a direction that we wanted - that's how Tottenham should go about things.

"Listen, unfortunately, we didn't get over the line, but if we don't get over the line on Sunday, we still have our identity and our DNA as a football club. That's the most important thing."

UEFA has announced that Euro 2020 matches originally scheduled to be held in Bilbao and Dublin will be moved to new venues.

While Munich was ratified as a host venue for the tournament after confirming it would be able to permit 14,500 spectators for its games, Bilbao and Dublin could make no such guarantees.

Following discussions with the Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF), the three Group E games and a round-of-16 match due to take place in Bilbao will instead be staged at Estadio La Cartuja in Seville with the intention of allowing 30 per cent capacity.

Meanwhile, Dublin's three Group E matches have been reallocated to St Petersburg, which is already hosting three Group B games and a quarter-final, while the round-of-16 contest that was set take place in the Irish capital will now be held at Wembley.

UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin said: "We have been working diligently with the host associations and local authorities to ensure a safe and festive environment at the games and I am really pleased that we are able to welcome spectators at all matches for a celebration of national team football across the continent.

"UEFA wishes to express its appreciation and gratitude to the cities of Bilbao and Dublin – both of which are considered as good venues to host future UEFA events – the national and regional governments of Spain and the Republic of Ireland, and all local stakeholders for their dedication, professionalism and efforts over the past years.

"UEFA would also like to thank the Football Association of Ireland and its dedicated staff for their excellent collaboration and hard work, and is looking forward to continuing to work with the remaining eleven host associations in delivering UEFA EURO 2020 matches."

Hansi Flick has spoken out in support of Hasan Salihamidzic after the Bayern Munich sporting director's family were targets for online abuse, with the outgoing head coach making clear the issues between the pair were never personal.

Both Salihamidzic's wife and son, who plays for the Bundesliga club's under-19 side, posted Instagram messages calling for the personal attacks to stop being sent to family members.

Flick made clear such actions are unacceptable during his media conference on Friday, insisting there are more important things in life than football.

The Bayern boss stated that while the pair have had differing opinions on certain topics, Salihamidzic has still played a crucial role in a hugely successful spell working together.

Victory at Mainz on Saturday would secure a ninth successive league title, making it seven major trophies since Flick's appointment.

"What we are experiencing is a no-go situation. There are lines, borders, that are being over-stepped," Flick said of the online comments sent to members of the Salihamidzic family.

"The history between me and Hasan was never personal. If you look at the press conferences, it was always about the path we were on together. I like working more on being successful than the success at the end.

"In two years we can now win a seventh title – I don't think a lot of people have achieved that. He contributed to that greatly, of course. Not many people in the history of Bayern can say they have won seven titles in two years – and in future that is not going to happen every other year either.

"It's important to focus on the path we went down together. We have a different approach, a different attitude. There are certain topics we have different opinions about, but that doesn't mean we don't appreciate each other personally.

"Each one of us here would want to protect our family. It's a no-go situation [to involve them] and I empathise with him. We have to be really, really careful these things don't become normal.

"This is about football. Of course football is important, but it's not the most important thing in life. Family is more important than football. Health is more important than football.

"These things should never be part of the game. With everything that has gone in with Hasan and me, this is something that I find awful. It's totally unacceptable."

Bayern president Herbert Hainer had condemned the attacks towards Salihamidzic and his family in a statement released by the club on Wednesday.

"FC Bayern stands united and emphatically against hostility towards Hasan Salihamidzic," Hainer said.

"Objective criticism is, of course, always permissible. However, we condemn personal attacks and agitation in the strongest possible terms. There is no place in the slightest for that at FC Bayern."

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