Jose Mourinho was on Wednesday named Mauricio Pochettino's successor at Tottenham.

It's a remarkable return to English football for one of the game's most successful, and controversial, managers.

A quick look at the fixture list shows the Portuguese will have to hit the ground running if he is to turn Spurs' season around - the north London side are 14th heading into the weekend clash at West Ham, 11 points adrift of a Champions League spot.

After the cross-capital clash on Saturday, Mourinho will have to plot a route through a congested fixture list that also sees clashes with some old friends and foes.

A DERBY DATE FOR STARTERS - WEST HAM (A), SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 23

Fittingly, Mourinho opens his Tottenham tenure against a West Ham team managed by someone he has clashed with previously.

Mourinho fired a succession of barbs at Manuel Pellegrini after succeeding him as Real Madrid boss in 2010, repeatedly and deliberately calling him "Pellegrino" before claiming "if they [Real] get rid of me, I will go to a big club in the Premier League or Serie A," when Pellegrini went to Malaga.

Further verbals were traded when the pair were at Chelsea and Manchester City respectively, and there is no doubt Mourinho would relish the opportunity to push his rival closer towards the sack.

West Ham have not won in six Premier League games and suffered a humiliating 4-0 thumping at League One side Oxford United in the EFL Cup in September.

 

AN EARLY GREEK TRAGEDY? - OLYMPIACOS (H), TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 26

Spurs may have struggled domestically this season, but it has been a different story in the Champions League and victory over the Greek side will guarantee them a place in the knock-out stages.

Pochettino guided the club to their first Champions League final last season, where they lost to Liverpool, an amazing feat Mourinho will do well to replicate.

He could not ask for better opponents for his first home game, however. Olympiacos prop up Group B having taken just one point from their four games - against Spurs in Piraeus - while conceding 10 goals in the process.

OLD TRAFFORD RETURN - MANCHESTER UNITED (A), WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 4

It will be fascinating to see what kind of reception Mourinho receives when he takes Tottenham to Manchester United.

While the Portuguese regularly flagged his achievements before arriving at Old Trafford, his two-and-a-half-year spell in Manchester was mixed.

He claimed EFL Cup and Europa League titles, but it was a reign characterised by acrimony with key players in his squad.

His successor Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has also struggled and Mourinho will see this as a wonderful opportunity to make a statement.

 

A PRE-CHRISTMAS CRACKER - CHELSEA (H), SUNDAY, DECEMBER 22

Mourinho faces another of his former clubs when Chelsea visit Tottenham Hotspur Stadium three days before Christmas.

The 56-year-old enjoyed enormous success across two spells at Stamford Bridge but was roundly jeered on his last visit with Manchester United.

In response, Mourinho held up three figures to signify the number of Premier League titles he won with the club, in addition to an FA Cup success.

If the love affair was on the rocks then, Mourinho's move to Chelsea's London rivals means it is now officially over.

HOLA PEP! - MANCHESTER CITY (H), SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 1

Two of the game's most successful managers - and perennial rivals - over the past 10 years, Guardiola and Mourinho continue to slug it out at the highest level.

From undignified rows when at Real Madrid and Barcelona to a more peaceful co-habitation of Manchester, the latest chapter promises to be equally engaging.

By early February, City will likely be in the title race while Spurs' push for a top-four finish could be in full swing.

Either way, this promises to be another intriguing encounter.

Manchester City are going to great lengths to keep Raheem Sterling.

Though contracted until 2023, the England international's exceptional form has led to links with Real Madrid.

But it could earn him a fresh extension to his bumper deal at the Etihad Stadium.

 

TOP STORY – CITY SEEK STERLING INSURANCE

Premier League champions City have opened contract talks with star forward Sterling, according to the Mirror.

The 24-year-old agreed a new three-year extension a mere 12 months ago but City are taking no chances with his future amid rumours of interest from LaLiga giants Madrid.

Sterling has scored 14 goals in 17 club appearances this season.

 

ROUND-UP

- Corriere dello Sport says Juventus are preparing a €100million offer for Valencia winger Ferran Torres, who has also been linked to Liverpool.

- Bayern Munich are interested in Tottenham teenager Troy Parrott and Manchester United goalkeeper Dean Henderson, reports the Daily Mail. Parrott, 17, has caught the eye, while Henderson is on loan at Sheffield United.

- Napoli have offered Fabian Ruiz a contract extension through to 2025, claims Mundo Deportivo. Barcelona and Madrid are rumoured to want the Spain international midfielder.

- According to reports in Spain, Athletic Bilbao want to re-sign Javi Martinez from Bayern Munich. Martinez left the Basque club for Bayern in 2012.

Manchester City posted record revenues of £535.2million in 2018-19, according the Premier League champions' latest annual report.

Pep Guardiola's side won an unprecedented domestic treble in English football last season, alongside the Community Shield, while City's women's team collected the League Cup and FA Cup.

Revenue scaling £500m for a second consecutive year helped City to return a profit of £10.1m – a fifth consecutive year in the black for the club.

"This level of sustained success is possible for many reasons, but in particular because of our people and, critically, because of our ability to plan," said City chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak.

"As intended by His Highness Sheikh Mansour, our organisation is now at a level of maturity that enables us to plan on multi-year cycles both in terms of our management of squads and more widely across the business.

"This strategic planning has allowed us to create an environment in which continued on-pitch success is both possible and likely, and financial sustainability is a reality.

"2018-19 saw an 11th consecutive year of revenue growth, and that is in part a product of our ongoing investment in football expertise, not just in Manchester but around the world. That investment will remain fundamental to our approach."

The spike in revenue was almost entirely accounted for by broadcast revenue paid out under the first season of UEFA's latest three-year rights agreement for the Champions League – with an incoming sum of £85.7m compared to £54.6m for the previous 12 months.

This season, City began a lucrative 10-year kit manufacturing deal with Puma, which is reported to be worth in the region of £65m per season. The financial impact of this agreement will be shown from next year's results.

City's wages were up £55.6m to £315.3m, with their wage/revenue ratio rising to "a healthy" 59 per cent from 52 per cent.

A close-season transfer window that saw the arrival of club-record signing Rodri, Joao Cancelo and Angelino, while the likes of Fabian Delph, Danilo and Douglas Luiz moved on, amounted to a net spend of approximately £109m.

City have been the subject of a number of investigations since revelations alleging financial impropriety were published by Der Spiegel last year, drawing upon documents purportedly obtained by the whistleblower Football Leaks.

FIFA issued a fine for breaches of rules related to the recruitment of youth players, although City avoided a transfer ban, and the Football Association also found no evidence of an illegal payment to the agent of their former winger Jadon Sancho.

Investigations from the Premier League and UEFA remain ongoing, although The Athletic reported last week that City will not be hit with a Champions League ban by European football's governing body following claims they failed to comply with Financial Fair Play regulations.

In addressing the UEFA investigation in the annual report, City said: "The directors welcomed the opening of a formal UEFA investigation as an opportunity to bring to an end the speculation resulting from the illegal hacking and out of context publication of club emails.

"The directors are entirely confident of a positive outcome when the matter is considered by an independent judicial body."

Paul Pogba has decided where he wants his next move to be, while Mauricio Pochettino is nearing a Tottenham exit.

Pogba, 26, was linked with a Manchester United departure during the close season but ended up staying at Old Trafford.

However, the France midfielder's future remains a talking point.

 

TOP STORY – POGBA PREFERS JUVENTUS RETURN OVER MADRID MOVE

Pogba would prefer to return to Juventus but would not say no to Real Madrid, according to Tuttosport.

The Serie A champions and LaLiga giants were the two clubs most heavily linked with a move for Pogba – who is contracted until 2021 – during the close season.

A potential Juve deal for Pogba could see Mario Mandzukic head to Manchester United, the report says.

ROUND-UP

- Pochettino has held "crisis talks" with Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy as he nears an exit, according to The Telegraph. Spurs have struggled this season and sit 14th in the Premier League table through 12 games.

- While Mandzukic is wanted by United, Borussia Dortmund are ready to compete for the striker, according to Kicker. Mandzukic starred during two seasons with Bayern Munich before leaving the Bundesliga in 2014.

- Spain have offered Luis Enrique a chance to lead the nation at Euro 2020, according to AS. The Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) have called a news conference for Tuesday, with Luis Enrique reportedly set to replace Robert Moreno at the helm.

- Manchester United are preparing to try to sign both Borussia Dortmund's Jadon Sancho and RB Salzburg's Erling Haaland in January, according to Goal. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is set to try and strengthen his squad with United nine points adrift of the top four in the Premier League.

- Chelsea attacker Willian and Napoli midfielder Fabian Ruiz have slowed contract talks with their respective clubs amid interest from Barcelona, according to Mundo Deportivo. Willian is out of contract at season's end, while Fabian's deal runs until 2023.

- Manchester City are considering making a move for RB Leipzig defender Dayot Upamecano, according to the Mirror. The Premier League champions lost Aymeric Laporte to a knee injury in September and may look to strengthen, although the Frenchman is expected to be back in early 2020.

With Barcelona and Real Madrid keen to strengthen their defences, one Inter star is attracting interest.

Milan Skriniar is reportedly wanted by LaLiga champions Barca and Spanish rivals Madrid.

Will Inter be able to retain the centre-back?

 

TOP STORY – SKRINIAR WANTED BY LALIGA GIANTS

Barcelona and Real Madrid have set their sights on Inter defender Skriniar, according to Corriere dello Sport.

Skriniar – contracted to Inter until June 2023 – has established himself as one of the world's best defenders since moving to Milan from Sampdoria in 2017.

The likes of Manchester City and Manchester United have also been linked to the 24-year-old Slovakia international.

 

ROUND-UP

Manchester United are desperate to strengthen their squad and ESPN claims the Premier League side have an eight-man shortlist, which includes Leicester City's James Maddison, Borussia Dortmund sensation Jadon Sancho, Salzburg's goalscoring machine Erling Haaland, West Ham midfielder Declan Rice, Bournemouth's Callum Wilson, Lyon forward Moussa Dembele, as well as Aston Villa pair Jack Grealish and John McGinn.

- Staying at Old Trafford and The Mirror says United are monitoring Sporting CP's Matheus Pereira, who is on loan at Championship outfit West Brom. It comes as The Sun reports the Red Devils could sign Gareth Bale and send Paul Pogba to Real Madrid.

- Bild says Borussia Monchengladbach have no plans to sell midfielder Denis Zakaria in January. Zakaria has reportedly attracted interest from United, Bayern Munich, Dortmund and others.

Manchester City are circling Inter midfielder Stefano Sensi, according to Calciomercato. Sensi moved to Inter on loan from Serie A side Sassuolo and the 24-year-old has starred at San Siro.

- Calciomercato claims Juventus are looking at Paris Saint-Germain's Thomas Meunier and Chelsea full-back Emerson Palmieri amid their injury crisis in Turin.

- Brescia sensation and Italy international Sandro Tonali is being chased by Serie A champions Juve and LaLiga side Atletico Madrid, reports Corriere di Torino.

Could Jose Mourinho find a new home at a third Premier League club?

According to one report, the ex-Chelsea and Manchester United manager is keeping a close eye on Tottenham and the uncertainty that lingers over Mauricio Pochettino's future.

The potential of a job opening in north London might even lead to him turning down a big-name former employer.

 

TOP STORY – MOURINHO SETS SIGHTS ON SPURS

Jose Mourinho has told friends he is "confident" of being offered a return to Real Madrid but may hold out for the Tottenham job, according to The Sun.

Zinedine Zidane is in his second stint in charge of Madrid, while Mauricio Pochettino has spent more than five years at the Spurs helm.

The report suggests it is the latter position that Mourinho covets more, meaning he "would not necessarily accept" another spell in the Spanish capital.

 

ROUND-UP

- Manchester United could launch a January move for Gareth Bale, reports The Sun. According to the newspaper, Real Madrid know of United's interest in Wales winger Bale and would be happy to let him leave the Santiago Bernabeu, providing they can do a deal that involves Paul Pogba moving in the other direction.

- Spanish outlet ElDesmarque reports news that could complicate any Bale-Pogba exchange, stating that although Madrid are indeed keen on France playmaker Pogba, so too are the player's former club Juventus, with Cristiano Ronaldo said to be supportive.

Paris Saint-Germain are rumoured to be United's strongest rivals for Jadon Sancho and the Ligue 1 side could make a surprise play for another England international. The Mirror claims PSG are interested in poaching Liverpool midfielder Adam Lallana on a free transfer. His contract is due to expire in 2020.

- Premier League champions Manchester City will look to sign Kingsley Coman from Bayern Munich if Leroy Sane agrees on a move to the Bundesliga giants, according to Sky Sports. Coman, 23, joined Bayern from Juve in 2015, initially on loan.

- Mainz are seeking a new head coach and the Bundesliga club are reported to be targeting former Cologne boss Achim Beierlorzer. Kicker reports Mainz want a new face in charge by early next week, and Beierlorzer is said to be in the frame. The club sit in the relegation zone after eight defeats in 11 games this term. Beierlorzer would be making a rapid return to bench duty if he lands the job, having left Cologne on November 9.

Bayern Munich's new president has praised Pep Guardiola and vowed the club will target the best possible candidate for the vacant head coach position.

Herbert Hainer formally succeeded Uli Hoeness as president at Friday's AGM, assuming the role amid the search for a full-time replacement for Niko Kovac.

Hansi Flick will continue in a caretaker capacity for at least the rest of 2019 while the Bundesliga champions weigh up their options.

Guardiola - along with Erik ten Hag and Thomas Tuchel - is one of three men being considered, according to Sport Bild, and Hainer has great respect for the Catalan, whose contract with Manchester City runs until 2021.

"The board of directors will try to get the best coach for Bayern Munich," Hainer said, as quoted by Sport1.

"When I say the best, it means, on one hand, a coach who we want to have and, on the other, one who is available.

"Pep Guardiola is a great coach but he has a contract with Manchester City.

"For now I would say, let's wait until the board comes to us. Then we will deal with the options. But in principle, we want to have the best coach at Bayern Munich."

Guardiola spent three seasons in charge of Bayern before leaving for Premier League side City in 2016.

The Bavarians won three Bundesliga titles and lifted the DFB-Pokal twice during his time at the helm.

Gareth Southgate has classed Phil Foden among the "talented players" who can count themselves unlucky to be on the outer for England.

Considered one of the top prospects of his generation, the Manchester City midfielder has been made to wait for a maiden senior call-up as he seeks regular minutes at club level.

Foden, 19, scored for England's Under-21s in a 3-0 win over Albania the day after Southgate's side hammered Montenegro 7-0 at Wembley.

More of the same for City, for whom he has made four substitute appearances in the Premier League this season, could yet catapult the highly rated teenager into selection contention for Euro 2020.

"You know, we're still looking at Foden and thinking that it's a case of when, rather than if, unless something goes wildly off-track for him," Southgate said when assessing his options.

"So, there are some very good players, talented players that weren't in this squad. Obviously, guys that have been with us before like Dele [Alli] as well.

"We have got incredible competition for places, particularly in those attacking five positions."

The sheer number of players blocking Foden's path poses a similar problem to the one he faces at the Etihad Stadium.

Mason Mount, James Maddison, Ross Barkley and Ruben Loftus-Cheek are among those vying for spots in Southgate's preferred 4-3-3 system.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is another in contention to claim a starting berth alongside Jordan Henderson and Harry Winks, who appears to have edged ahead of Declan Rice in the holding role.

Liverpool midfielder Oxlade-Chamberlain continued his fine form by scoring the opener against Montenegro on Thursday, having battled back from a serious knee injury suffered two months before the World Cup.

"In that time there have been a lot of other boys who have come through," Oxlade-Chamberlain said.

"There are different players and new dynamics, so it is nice to slot back in and push myself to keep improving and try to find something different to help this team move forward.

"I've made steps forward for sure with where I was before. I've got that feeling back of attacking and getting into areas and a few goals help that and help my confidence and for others to say I have found my form."

Manchester City's appeal against UEFA's investigation into alleged breaches of Financial Fair Play (FFP) regulations has been ruled "inadmissible" by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).

The Premier League champions lodged proceedings with CAS in June after UEFA's Club Financial Control Body (CFCB) referred their case to its adjudicatory chamber.

The CFCB's investigatory chamber opened a probe into City in March following allegations the club broke rules relating to FFP, third-party ownership and youth player recruitment in articles by German publication Der Spiegel, which drew upon documents purportedly obtained by whistleblowers Football Leaks.

When UEFA referred their case in May, City said in a statement: "The accusation of financial irregularities remains entirely false and the CFCB IC referral ignores a comprehensive body of irrefutable evidence provided by Manchester City FC." 

In a media release on Thursday, CAS explained City's appeal was not admissible because UEFA has not reached a final decision in the case.

The statement read: "The CAS Panel determined that MCFC’s appeal was inadmissible, considering that 'An appeal against the decision of a federation, association or sports-related body may be filed with CAS… if the Appellant has exhausted the legal remedies available to it prior to the appeal, in accordance with the statutes or regulations of that body.'(Article R47 of the CAS Rules).

"In the present case, the decision rendered by the CFCB IC to refer a case to the CFCB AC is not final and can therefore not be appealed to CAS directly, because the AC is competent to take any of the decisions listed in Article 27 CFCB Procedural Rules, that are described as being final."

City must now await a decision from the adjudicatory chamber, which could in theory extend to a Champions League ban. However, a report by The Athletic on Wednesday claimed UEFA will only issue the club with a fine and not suspend them from taking part in its competitions.

In August, FIFA fined City CHF 370,000 (£314,725) for breaching rules in relation to signing youth players but did not impose a transfer ban.

The Football Association found no evidence to support Der Spiegel's claim City made an illegal payment to the agent of their former winger Jadon Sancho and closed an investigation earlier this month, while the Premier League's own probe into the claims emanating from Football Leaks remains ongoing.

Inter have a fight on their hands to retain the services of star forward Lautaro Martinez.

Martinez has been heavily linked to LaLiga champions Barcelona as they search for Luis Suarez's long-term replacement.

But Manchester City and United are both reportedly interested in the Argentina international.

 

TOP STORY – CITY & UNITED TARGET MARTINEZ

Manchester City and Premier League neighbours United want to sign Inter star Martinez, according to The Mirror.

Martinez – who is only in his second season in Milan after joining from Racing Club in 2018 – has flourished this term with eight goals across all competitions for Antonio Conte's Inter.

LaLiga champions Barcelona have been linked, while the two Manchester clubs are also reportedly targeting the 22-year-old forward.

 

ROUND-UP

- Unhappy at Barcelona, Ivan Rakitic could remain in LaLiga. The Croatia international has attracted interest from the likes of Inter, United and Paris Saint-Germain in his pursuit of more game time. However, Movistar+ claims Atletico Madrid are willing to meet Barca's €40million valuation of Rakitic. Marca adds that Atletico do not plan to replace Diego Costa due to salary constraints.

- The Mirror says Arsenal scouted Leicester City defender Caglar Soyuncu during Turkey's Euro 2020 qualifier against Iceland on Thursday. Soyuncu moved to Leicester from Freiburg in 2018 and the 23-year-old has stepped up to fill the void left by Harry Maguire, who joined United in a world-record deal.

- Zlatan Ibrahimovic out and Edinson Cavani in for LA Galaxy? According to Gianluca Di Marzio, MLS side the Galaxy are targeting Paris Saint-Germain's Cavani following Ibrahimovic's exit. The Uruguay forward is out of contract at the end of the season and has been linked to David Beckham's Inter Miami franchise, who will open their inaugural season against the Galaxy next year.

Inter will need to fork out €30m if they want to sign Udinese's Rodrigo de Paul in January, reports Calciomercato. The Express also reports that Inter are ready to offer out-of-favour Chelsea striker Olivier Giroud an 18-month contract. Conte is determined to add depth up front, with Martinez and Romelu Lukaku leading the way in the absence of injured loanee Alexis Sanchez.

- Corriere dello Sport claims Roma have joined the chase for Everton forward Moise Kean. The 19-year-old has struggled since moving to the Premier League from Juventus, and the likes of Sampdoria and AC Milan are lining up to bring the teenager back to Serie A on loan.

Joshua Kimmich says he would not be against the return of Pep Guardiola to Bayern Munich.

The Manchester City manager is being linked with a possible return to the Allianz Arena at the end of the 2019-20 season.

Guardiola, who was a rumoured target for Juventus before they appointed Maurizio Sarri, is said to be one of Bayern's top candidates as a permanent successor to Niko Kovac, who left in the wake of the 5-1 Bundesliga defeat to Eintracht Frankfurt.

Although Hansi Flick appears likely to stay on as interim boss for the time being, and perhaps until the end of the season, Kimmich would not be averse to Guardiola's return next year.

Speaking at a news conference while on Germany duty, the Bayern full-back said: "Regarding Pep Guardiola. I have no idea what Bayern's plan is with Hansi Flick.

"At first you thought that we would get a new coach after the international break. Now, we won both games with Flick and it sounds like he will stay until winter or even the entire season. What happens then is the business of the club – we players have nothing to do with it.

"But of course, I know [Guardiola] and have a lot to thank him for. He took me from the second division and let me play in the Bundesliga. We won the double together and after that season I became a player for Germany. So, of course, I won't be against him coming back."

Kimmich joined from RB Leipzig ahead of 2015-16, Guardiola's final season in charge of Bayern, and won the domestic double.

In total, Guardiola guided Bayern to three Bundesliga titles, two DFB-Pokals, the UEFA Super Cup and the Club World Cup in his three years in charge.

He could not deliver the Champions League, though, losing to Real Madrid, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid at the semi-final stage in each of his three seasons in Germany.

Jadon Sancho could be about to spark a bidding war.

The England international is reportedly ready to leave Borussia Dortmund, a development that will have his numerous European suitors on red alert.

Manchester United have long been linked to Sancho, but could face stiff Premier League competition for his signature.


TOP STORY – SANCHO SEEKING DORTMUND DEPARTURE

Jadon Sancho has become unsettled at Borussia Dortmund and wants to leave, according to the Daily Mail.

The exciting teenage winger is said to have grown dissatisfied with life at Signal Iduna Park after being dropped for a Bundesliga fixture last month for disciplinary reasons.

Head coach Lucien Favre further tested their relationship when he withdrew the Manchester City product before half-time of the heavy Der Klassiker loss to Bayern Munich.

News of Sancho's decision to depart will be noted at Old Trafford, but the report claims Manchester United's bitter Premier League rivals Liverpool are also showing strong interest. 

LaLiga giants Real Madrid appear to be another potential destination for one of the continent's most coveted young stars.

 

ROUND-UP

- Sancho could be heading in the opposite direction to Leroy Sane. The Daily Mirror says Bayern Munich have reignited their interest in the Germany international, who has been sidelined since the start of the season due to a knee injury.

- Granit Xhaka is not the only Arsenal midfielder on AC Milan's radar. According to Calciomercato, the Rossoneri are even more eager to land Lucas Torreira, and will make a move in June after failing to prise him away from north London at the end of last season.

- Chelsea are set for another fight to keep in-form winger Willian as Juventus and Barcelona circle the 31-year-old, the Daily Mirror reports. Frank Lampard wants to keep the Brazilian at Stamford Bridge but Willian's contract is up at the end of the campaign.

- Manchester City captain David Silva could follow in the footsteps of Andres Iniesta, Fernando Torres and David Villa by seeing out his career in Japan. Spanish television programme El Chiringuito says the 33-year-old is in talks to join Vissel Kobe following the completion of his 10-season spell at the Etihad Stadium.

- Leicester City and Aston Villa have been linked to Alfredo Morelos but Rangers are in no rush to sell. That is the assurance of the Scottish side's new sporting director Ross Wilson, who "categorically" stated that an annual loss of £11.3million would not impact the club's determination to keep their Colombian striker.

Gareth Southgate can understand if Raheem Sterling is not "hugely enthusiastic" about him after dropping the Manchester City star for his part in an altercation with Joe Gomez, but is hopeful time heals any ill-feeling.  

England confirmed on Monday Sterling would not to be considered for selection when Montenegro visit this Thursday following a bust-up with Gomez.

The pair clashed during Sunday's Premier League match between Manchester City and Liverpool and were involved in an incident in a private area of England's St George's Park training base.

Details appeared in the media before England released a statement to confirm a row had taken place and that Sterling had been dropped as a consequence. 

Some former players have suggested Southgate had been too heavy-handed in his approach and the manager accepts Sterling may not be keen on him for the time being.

"Well, I wouldn’t imagine that he's hugely enthusiastic [about Southgate], but I can understand that," he told reporters on Wednesday.

"In the end, he's with the group, that's the most important thing. He's a massive part of what we do – has been, will be.

"He's with us for the game, he's back with the team on the training pitch enjoying his football. [He] trained superbly well, as he always does. So, for me, the thing is finished.

"I know, as a player, my relationship with my managers and how I felt about them changed day to day, and there were many occasions when I had the hump with them, usually when I wasn’t in the team.

"So, I understand that, I hope that time takes its course on those things. As a manager, you hope that you bring lots of good moments for players.

"There are those occasions where you give them their debut, you give them the chance to play, but there are inevitably occasions when you don't start them, where you have to take them off, and that will always be the landscape.

"I hope that all of my players know that, first and foremost, I care about them, that I want to be fair with them, that I want to do what's right for all of them, and that they can lean on me when they need me.

"And I also accept that, at times, they're not going to be bouncing with joy when they see my face walking through the meal room.

"So, that is part and parcel of being a manager, and if you're not up for that challenge, then [it's] better to go and do something else."

The Sterling and Gomez controversy comes just before a vital couple of matches, with England still to secure their place at Euro 2020.

Despite the poor timing of such a situation, Southgate insists life is rarely simple with England.

When asked if the past week had been the trickiest as England boss, Southgate said: "Most of them are pretty difficult weeks.

"I don't remember many… I don't know what a normal week with England would be, frankly. So, the key is always to go and win the football matches and that's where my focus has been for the last 48 hours and for the three weeks before that.

"So, any manager of any big club or big nation knows that all of those situations are difficult. We're under huge scrutiny for performance and everything else, so I haven't viewed this as any more or less difficult than anything else."

Harry Maguire insists there are "definitely no cliques" in the England squad despite the altercation between Raheem Sterling and Joe Gomez this week.

Sterling has been dropped for Thursday's Euro 2020 qualifier against Montenegro at Wembley after confronting England team-mate Gomez on Monday.

The two players had clashed the previous day, as Sterling's Manchester City were beaten 3-1 by Gomez and Liverpool, the Premier League leaders and the winger's former club.

Yet Manchester United defender Maguire is confident issues between players from rival clubs will not continue to dog England as they reportedly have in the past.

Asked at a pre-match news conference if there were any club cliques in the squad, Maguire replied: "No, everybody mixes.

"I think you've seen how good the unity in the squad is over the last couple of years. It's been a good two years and the group has grown together. We continue to keep on growing and that's really important.

"No, definitely no cliques. We all share tables and share jokes and laughs together."

England need just a point against Montenegro to qualify for the finals, where they would play a number of matches at their own Wembley home.

Maguire is hopeful, should the Three Lions' secure their progress, the home crowd can be a big factor next year.

"It would be really special to play in a major tournament and walking out at Wembley would be something that you dream of," he said. "People say it would give us a little advantage as well.

"We know that the crowd get right behind us at Wembley and the support over the last few years – especially since I've been playing – has been unbelievable.

"It's a big game [against Montenegro] and one that we're all looking forward to and we feel prepared for."

England's hopes at the Euros would also depend on improved defensive showings, though, with a number of individual mistakes hampering their qualification campaign so far.

Maguire added: "Obviously, we're coming off the back of a clean sheet [in a 6-0 win in Bulgaria], but we've conceded a few sloppy goals recently. I'm not proud of it and we're working hard on the training pitch to make that better.

"We know the firepower we have in our squad. We've got to a stage now where we're scoring near enough in every game, and we're creating problems for other people's defences.

"So my job and I'm sure all the rest of the defenders and the keepers as a group, we'll try to shut the shop up and start keeping clean sheets a lot more regularly."

Rodri believes Pep Guardiola is pushing his game to new heights at Manchester City.

Spain midfielder Rodri became City's record signing when he joined from Atletico Madrid for £62.8million in July.

The 23-year-old has operated predominantly at the base of Guardiola's midfield – a key position in City's system and the role the coach himself occupied during his playing days at Barcelona.

Rodri has produced some eye-catching performances but also started each of City's three Premier League defeats this term, including his return from a hamstring strain for Sunday's 3-1 loss at Liverpool that leaves the reigning champions nine points shy of the runaway leaders.

Speaking at a news conference ahead of his country's concluding Euro 2020 qualifiers against Malta and Romania, Rodri conceded he is enduring a fairly steep learning curve.

"I haven't been there much time, but since the beginning of the season I have added a lot of new knowledge," he said.

"[Guardiola] is how he shows himself in front of the cameras. He has a competitive edge, this desire to put pressure on the rivals, to study and analyse how to harm them. He is a workaholic, he dedicates the 24 hours of the day to his players, to himself and to find the way to win matches.

"At an individual level, it has helped me a lot that he played in the same position than me. He gives me lots of advice on how he sees football. I am growing a lot, not only tactically, but individually in many aspects I wasn't aware that a central midfielder should have, like driving the ball – something that is demanded in the Premier League.

"Obviously there are more factors than the coach that have an influence, but we have the best coach in that sense."

Injuries to the specialists in Guardiola's squad also saw Rodri pressed into action as an emergency centre-back for consecutive games against Crystal Palace and Atalanta last month.

"I am discovering myself also as a player. Guardiola asked me how I see myself there [as central defender] and I decided to try because the team needed me," he explained.

"Obviously there is always a time of adaptation, but because of my physical and technical characteristics, I also think that there is something in common with my normal position, apart from certain new aspects.

"It is true that the new position is a bit more delicate, but with time I think I could perfectly adapt myself.

"My virtues make me shine more as central midfielder, but with time I could also do well as central defender."

For now, Rodri is ready to continue the challenge of establishing himself as an influential midfield presence in a league noted for its frenetic pace.

"The Premier League is, along with LaLiga, the most competitive league," he added.

"This football is more vertical and makes you learn because you are not used to it. I am a more complete player.

"There are great teams in England that make you compete at the maximum level, the same as here in Spain. I feel I have a big room for improvement."

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