Chelsea clinch Champions League glory with 1-0 Manchester City win

The Blues clinched their first Champions League title since 2012 as Pep Guardiola’s long wait for a European title with City stretches on.

In truth it was a night of few chances in Porto but it was to be Kai Havertz who made the key difference just before break.

Both sides looked bright early on as Raheem Sterling’s effort was snuffed out by Reece James before Timo Werner could only air kick Havertz’s clever pass.

And it was Werner who carried the Chelsea threat from there but the German’s unlucky streak continued as Ederson reacted smartly to keep him out.

But with the game poised to go in goalless at the break, Havertz raced onto Mason Mount’s pass, and he kept it together to steer home the opener.

Guardiola’s task was made even more difficult after the restart, as Kevin De Bruyne was forced off injured, and the Spanish coach struggled to react.

Sergio Aguero was thrown on for a late fairy tale, but it was to be as some fantastic Chelsea defending kept out Phil Foden, before Riyad Mahrez lashed a last gasp effort over the top.

Full Time from the Estadio de Dragao it’s Chelsea 1 Manchester City 0

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Tottenham keen on Pochettino return

The 49-year-old, who is currently in charge of Paris St Germain, left Spurs in November 2019 after five years in charge and was replaced by Jose Mourinho.

But with Mourinho sacked last month, the PA news agency understands Spurs have spoken to the Argentinian regarding the potential prospect of a second spell in charge.

Pochettino guided PSG to the semi-finals of the Champions League after taking over from Thomas Tuchel in January, beating Barcelona and Bayern Munich on the way, and won the French Super Cup and the Coupe de France.

But they missed out on the Ligue 1 title to Lille and there are mixed messages about his future in Paris.

The French club were not prepared to comment on “rumours” when approached by the PA news agency and responded by putting out an interview of Pochettino, who has 12 months left on his contract, talking about doing “great things in the future”.

Pochettino, who is understood to be back in London, said in an interview conducted on Monday: “I’m happy with the way the players have adapted to the changes.

“There are many things which could not be changed or which could not be developed for lack of time.

“But I still think that with this way of working, and with the desire to be able to develop other types of ideas on the ground, we will do great things in the future.

“And in a club like Paris St Germain, you are forced to think that perfection is accessible and that winning is the only option.

“And for a club like ours, it’s about winning, winning and winning. And come back to win.

“It requires a great expenditure of energy and always having the certainty that the priority is to be professional and that the difficulties or the obstacles are always surmountable. And it’s my challenge, to impose this idea here.”

Ajax boss Erik Ten Hag and Brighton’s Graham Potter are also candidates, with Antonio Conte also possibly in the frame following his exit from Inter Milan on Wednesday.

Belgium boss Roberto Martinez has been linked to the position, but the PA news agency understands there are no plans for talks between the two parties.

Out of all of the candidates, Pochettino would be the most popular appointment among the fans.

Tottenham mounted back-to-back Premier League title challenges under Pochettino before a memorable run to the 2019 Champions League final.

But Spurs, in the midst of building a £1billion stadium, went through two transfer windows without making any signings and that caught up with them at the start of the 2019-20 season.

The nadir was a 7-2 Champions League defeat to Bayern Munich in October 2019, with Pochettino relieved of his duties a month later.

His relationship with the club – and chairman Daniel Levy – remained strong and he spoke about one day returning.

In an interview in April of last year, Pochettino told BT Sport: “It was an amazing journey that finished the way no one wanted it to finish.

“But deep in my heart I am sure our paths will cross again. From the day I left the club, my dream is to be back one day and to try to finish the work we didn’t finish.

“We were so close to winning the Premier League and Champions League.

“Deep inside I want to go back because the fans are so special. Maybe in five years, maybe in 10 years, but before I die I want to manage Tottenham.”

Aston Villa release trio

Villa confirmed on their official website that all three players will leave when their contracts expire this summer.

“The popular trio, who are each out of contract at Villa Park this summer, move on with the very best wishes of everyone at the club,” Villa said.

“Ahmed, Neil and Tom depart the club having been hugely admired, both in the dressing room and among supporters, and have been fantastic servants on and off the pitch.”

Right-sided player Elmohamady has made 129 appearances for Villa in all competitions since joining from Hull in the summer of 2017, while right-back Taylor featured on 103 occasions after switching from Swansea earlier that year.

Heaton joined Villa following their return to the top flight in August 2019 and started in their first 20 Premier League games before his 2019/20 season was cut short due to a knee ligament injury.

The former Burnley goalkeeper did not appear for Villa this season and has been reported to have agreed a deal to return to Manchester United.

Heaton spent eight years at Old Trafford until 2010 without making a first team appearance for the club.

Burnley release Robbie Brady

The 29-year-old was a club-record £13million signing when he joined from Norwich in January 2017, but after a bright start to his Turf Moor career he has been limited by a series of injuries, making only 21 starts since suffering a serious knee problem in December 2017.

In total he made 87 appearances for the Clarets, but has struggled with a succession of other fitness concerns since missing almost all of 2018.

“I’ve really enjoyed my time here,” Brady said on the club’s website.

“I’ve loved every minute and I’m really going to miss the lads. They have been a massive part of my career and I’ve made friends who I will hold onto for a long, long time. In that respect everything has been great.

“Unfortunately, I picked up a quite significant injury when I felt like I was almost reaching the peak of my game in that season where we finished in the European spots.

“We’d had a really good spell and picked up a lot of points but then I picked up the injury and that was me for almost a year. I found it difficult with the magnitude of the injury getting back.

“It was a long road and a hard road for me, personally, but I managed to get there.”

Brady has not played since suffering an Achilles problem on international duty in March, and will stay at Burnley’s Barnfield training complex to work on his fitness until his next move is finalised.

Brady’s exit is the first confirmed move of the summer for Burnley, with boss Sean Dyche hoping to strengthen a squad which has been stretched by injuries over the past 12 months.

“Robbie has been incredibly unfortunate with injuries,” Dyche said.

“In his strongest spell for us – when he was really flying and helped us qualify for Europe – he got a really serious injury.

“He came back from that and one or two other injuries to play his part in a strong time for the club.

“When he has played, he has been a credit to himself and a good servant to us as a club and we wish him well in the future.”

Manchester United forward Marcus Rashford meets former USA President Barack Obama

Rashford, the Manchester United and England striker, met virtually with the 44th United States president in a Zoom conversation organised by Penguin Books.

Their discussion also focused on the importance of giving back to your local community and the positive impact of reading, as well as other themes from the president’s memoir, A Promised Land.

They also spoke about some of their shared experiences, including being raised by single mothers.

Rashford, 23, last year spearheaded a prominent campaign to tackle child food poverty in the UK during the coronavirus pandemic.

It led to 1.7million vulnerable children being supported by a £520million Government scheme and other projects have helped deliver 130million meals. He has also launched a food education and cooking project for children, ‘Full Time Meals’.

President Obama said: “A lot of the young people I meet — including Marcus — they’re ahead of where I was when I was 23. They’re already making changes and being positive forces in their communities.”

The conversation, which was moderated by broadcaster and author June Sarpong OBE, will be released in full on Penguin UK’s YouTube channel at 2pm on Friday, May 28.

Rashford said: “It’s quite surreal isn’t it? I’m sitting in my kitchen in Manchester, speaking to President Obama. But, immediately, he made me feel at ease.

“It wasn’t long before I realised just how aligned our experiences as children were in shaping the men you see today – adversity, obstacles and all. I genuinely enjoyed every minute of it. When President Obama speaks, all you want to do is listen.”

Liverpool sign Kounate

The Reds said the 22-year-old had agreed a long-term contract, with the deal subject to international clearance.

“I’m really happy to be joining such a massive club like Liverpool,” Konate told his new club’s official website.

“It’s a really exciting moment for me and my family and I am really looking forward to meeting my new team-mates, the staff and getting started on this new chapter.”

Konate is part of France’s under-21 squad at the European Championship, but said: “After this competition I know I will be joining one of the best teams in the world and that gives me a great feeling.

“I have worked very hard for many years to get to this point, but I would like to say a big thank you to everyone at RB Leipzig and all the people I worked with there – the coaches, my team-mates, the staff and especially the fans.

“Your support helped me grow up during my time there and become not only a better player, but a better man and I will always be grateful for it.”

Konate represents another acquisition for Liverpool from the Red Bull stable of clubs, having recruited Naby Keita from Leipzig and Takumi Minamino from RB Salzburg.

Konate was with Leipzig for four seasons, having come through the academy system at French club Sochaux.

He adds greater depth to Liverpool’s back line, following a season in which injuries to the likes of Virgil van Dijk wrecked their hopes of defending the Premier League title.

He is regarded as being a defender who is very comfortable in possession who is able to bring the ball forward and launch attacks.

“I’m really pleased we’ve been able to add a player of Ibrahima’s quality to our squad and he is someone I’ve admired for a long time, ever since I first became aware of his potential when he was at Sochaux,” Klopp told Liverpoolfc.com.

“After the problems we had with injuries in the centre-half position last season, there’s no doubt it was clear it was an area of the team we needed to strengthen – but I first have to say that the job Nat (Phillips), Rhys (Williams) and Ozan (Kabak) did was incredible. Unbelievable really.

“In Ibrahima we are signing a player who will add to the quality we already have here. His physical attributes are very impressive; he is quick, he is very strong and he is dominant in the air.

“He comes to us after playing more than 90 times for Leipzig in the Bundesliga and European football. He played for a team in the Champions League in high-pressure matches, who have a similar football vision to ourselves.

“I am confident we are signing a player who can play for us right away, but he is a boy of 22 years of age who has room to improve because of his massive potential.”

UEFA Europa League Final: Manchester United v Villarreal

Victory would represent Solskjaer’s maiden trophy as United boss in what is his first major final as the Red Devils’ manager.

The Norwegian has seen his side fall at the semi-final hurdle on four separate occasions, including in last season’s Europa League where United missed out to eventual winners Sevilla.

Wednesday’s showpiece in the Polish port city of Gdansk is Manchester United’s 8th major European final, with the Premier League club winning 5 of the preceding 7 finals before now.

Interestingly, the two European finals in which United failed to win were both against Spanish opposition, with Barcelona twice the victors against Sir Alex Ferguson’s Old Trafford outfit in 2009 and 2011 respectively.

Furthermore, of the last 9 finals between Premier League and La Liga sides, the Spanish have come out on top, with Liverpool’s victory over Alaves in this competition 20 years ago the last time an English team has taken the prize ahead of their Iberian counterparts.

United’s opponents Villarreal may take some confidence from those statistics, although they’ll no doubt take more spirit from the fact that coach Unai Emery is the most successful manager in the history of the UEFA Europa League.

Emery is a three-time winner of the competition, having lifted the trophy when manager of Sevilla in a remarkable run of consecutive seasons in 2014, 2015 and 2016.

The former Arsenal boss also reached the 2019 final when in charge of the Gunners, although they were convincingly beaten by London rivals Chelsea in Azerbaijan on that night.

Now, Emery is back there once again, this time with a Villarreal side who recently finished 7th in La Liga.

Much like the Premier League, a 7th placed finish in the Spanish top flight is enough for qualification to next season’s inaugural UEFA Europa Conference League.

Although, Villarreal will not only have their eyes on silverware on Wednesday, but also the opportunity to compete in next season’s Champions League should they beat Manchester United in Gdansk.

United have no such European qualification concerns, having finished second in the Premier League and guaranteed to be playing Champions League football next term regardless.

Second spot has been sewn up at Old Trafford for a while now, and as such Solskjaer’s side have seen a dip in form in recent weeks.

Manchester United finished their domestic campaign with a victory over Wolves at Molineux last weekend, which meant that they became just the 4th team in English top flight history to go an entire season unbeaten away from home.

However, they have tasted defeat twice in their last 5 games to Leicester and Liverpool respectively, as well as drawing 1-1 with already-relegated Fulham in that time.

One possible factor for United’s turbulent recent form is the absence of Harry Maguire, who picked up an injury when playing against Aston Villa earlier this month and has missed the last few games.

The England defender is a major doubt for the final, although he has been included in the squad – Maguire had played every minute of every Premier League game this season before he was forced off at Villa Park.

That leaves Ole Gunnar Solskjaer with an interesting decision to make regarding his preferred centre back partnership, with Victor Lindelof, Axel Tuanzebe and Eric Bailly – who faces his former club – the contenders for a starting spot.

Teammates Phil Jones and Anthony Martial have also been missing for a number of weeks now and both won’t play in the final.

Villarreal’s last outing was a 2-1 loss to Real Madrid, who needed to win and hope for a slip up from cross-city rivals Atletico as the La Liga title race went down to the final day.

Plenty of the positives from a Yellow Submarines perspective have come from the boot of Gerard Moreno, with the striker having scored 29 goals in all competitions this season.

Winger Samuel Chukwueze has also been a bright spark, but he faces an uphill battle to overcome a hamstring complaint which may keep him out of contention for Wednesday’s final.

Premier League fans will notice several familiar faces in the Villarreal ranks, including former Watford midfielder Etienne Capoue, ex-Arsenal man Francis Coquelin and one-time Everton defender Ramiro Funes Mori.

Tottenham’s Juan Foyth is also on loan at Villarreal, but he is doubtful for the game in Gdansk due to a muscle strain.

The UEFA Europa League final between Manchester United and Villarreal in Gdansk kicks off at 8pm on Wednesday 26th May.

Everton forward Moise Kean eager to turn PSG loan permanent

The 21-year-old Italian scored 13 goals in 26 Ligue 1 appearances this season, although the Parisians were unable to win the league title under coach Mauricio Pochettino.

Underdogs Lille were the eventual champions, breaking PSG’s iron grip on the French top flight.

Pochettino was brought in to the Parc des Princes to replace now-Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel, and it was under the German where Kean found his best form this term.

The Everton forward has enjoyed his temporary stay in the French capital so much he is said to be house-hunting in Paris as he bids to make his loan permanent.

Everton paid close to €30m for Kean in the summer of 2019 and have arguably not yet seen a return on their investment at Goodison Park.

From a Toffees perspective, they’d like any sale of the Italy international to be for a figure north of what they paid Juventus for his services – but L’Equipe claim that talks are ongoing regarding a deal worth €25-€30m – almost exactly what Everton paid for Kean in the first place.

Roberto Martinez not in contention for vacant Tottenham job

The Spaniard, who has managed Wigan and Everton in the Premier League, was reportedly on the club’s shortlist to replace Jose Mourinho.

However, the PA news agency report that there are no plans for talks between the two parties and he is not currently considered a candidate.

The 47-year-old is preparing to lead to the Red Devils into the European Championship, aiming to win silverware with a generational squad of players.

Belgium are top of the world rankings but have yet to produce on the biggest stage having been knocked out in the quarter-finals at Euro 2016 before finishing third at the 2018 World Cup.

Martinez is thought to be keen on a return to club management after this summer’s tournament, but that will not be at Spurs.

The north London club are understood to be approaching the endgame of their search for Mourinho’s successor, with interim boss Ryan Mason returning to his role in the academy after taking charge of the final seven games of the season.

Mason won four of those to ensure Spurs finished in seventh and qualified for the inaugural Europa Conference League.

Ajax boss Erik Ten Hag, Brighton’s Graham Potter and Leicester manager Brendan Rodgers have all been linked with the position.

Whoever is appointed will have a huge job on his hands to rebuild a club that has fallen significantly since reaching the Champions League final in 2019.

Star man Harry Kane is reported to have told the club he wants to leave, while several other players will need shipping out.

Crystal Palace may face wait of ‘up to two years’ for Ebere Eze to regain full fitness

The attacker was ruled out of the Eagles’ final two games of the season following a training ground injury which is set to sideline him for the rest of 2021.

Eze, who scored four times and provided six assists during his debut campaign in the top flight, faces a long road to recovery after surgery on the tendon, but has been backed to hit his previous heights.

Sports scientist Dr Rajpal Brar told the PA news agency: “Typically from what I have seen in my experience and more so the research for elite footballers, you are looking at Eze returning to play, being back with the team and playing on the pitch in seven to nine months.

“But there is a difference between being fit and being where you were pre-injury and that can take, it’s decreasing, but you are looking at 18 to 24 months to be back at that level.

“You have seen it with other young guys for example Callum Hudson-Odoi, who tore his Achilles. I don’t know if he has reached his potential but it can take a long time to get back to that pre-injury level both physically and more so mentally.”

Chelsea ace Hudson-Odoi sustained his injury in April of 2019 and revealed in November he was still not back at full strength, but has made 37 appearances this season and could feature in Saturday’s Champions League Final.

Meanwhile, Eze, following a £20million move from QPR last summer, was one of Palace’s leading lights in the Premier League this term and Brar pointed out that his age and positive injury history should cut down the recovery time.

The Los Angeles-based doctor said of the 22-year-old: “It is helpful always when you are on the younger side because there is less wear and tear on your body and typically you may have had less injuries in general which is helpful.

“Teams will also be more patient on you with your return rather than trying to quickly get you back on the pitch.”

Eze has four years to run on his contract and will be joined on the treatment table by defender Nathan Ferguson, who also sustained a serious Achilles injury in training last week, PA understands.

The former West Brom player moved to Palace last summer, but an initial long-term knee problem and then repeated thigh issues have stopped the 20-year-old from making his Eagles debut.

Brar, who runs 3cb Performance rehab centres in Los Angeles and Valencia, feels Ferguson could get his career back on track but highlighted the mental challenge ahead with his last competitive outing at the start of 2020.

“It is a long and tough hill to climb but I would hate to rule a player out,” the sports scientist added.

“The biggest thing is the mental part, the fear of reinjure or movement and the term is called kinesiophobia; phobia being fear and kinesio being movement.”

Palace were able to celebrate better news on Monday when their under-23s triumphed 5-3 on penalties in a play-off final with Sunderland to win promotion to the Premier League 2.

After 120 minutes without a goal in front of a buoyant crowd of 2,759 at Selhurst Park, spot-kicks were required and when Ellis Brown fired over, David Omilabu made no mistake to seal victory for the young Eagles.

Goalkeeper Ollie Webber made a string of fine saves in wet conditions and said: “It sounded like a full house, it was incredible.”

The Northern Ireland Under-21 international has worked with Palace great Julian Speroni this season and admitted: “It’s been amazing to work with him.

“He has come in once a week, taken sessions and it has been great just to talk to him about his experiences and to learn and have him around for advice because he is such a legend.

“For me next year, I think I want to get out on loan and get some more senior games and football under my belt. Obviously if that can’t happen, I’d love to train with the first team.”

Palace announced the signing of American midfielder Jacob Montes on Tuesday on a 12-month deal.

The 22-year-old joins from college team Georgetown University and has past experience with Portland Timbers’ academy while he has represented the United States at under-19 level.

Wolves in talks with former Benfica boss over vacant managers job

Former Benfica boss Lage has met with the club but is not the only candidate, the PA news agency are reporting.

45-year-old Lage left Benfica last summer having taken the club to the Primeira Liga title in 2019.

He also worked as assistant to Carlos Carvalhal at Sheffield Wednesday and Swansea.

Wolves are looking for Nuno’s successor after he left the club at the end of the Premier League season.

While it was by mutual consent, owners Fosun were the driving force behind the decision.

Nuno only signed a three-year contract extension in September, with the news of his exit coming as a surprise.

He held talks with the club last week over his future and, despite a disappointing season which saw Wolves finish 13th in the Premier League, the decision was not based on results this term.

Fosun had been considering a change in regards to the club’s wider progress, with the owners wanting to make a proactive and decisive choice.

West Ham sign Reading teenager

The 19-year-old will complete the move, for an undisclosed fee, on June 9 when the summer transfer window opens.

Nevers had not made a first-team appearance for Reading but scored nine goals in 25 games for their under-23 side.

He will initially link up with West Ham’s under-23s at their Chadwell Heath base.

Nevers told the club website: “I’m very excited to join West Ham United.

“This move is probably the biggest step in my career so far. I feel very excited to see what the future holds – there’s a lot of opportunity here.”