Riyad Mahrez turned in a dazzling display as Manchester City swept aside Barnsley 4-0 in a friendly at the Etihad Campus on Saturday.

Mahrez was City's record signing when he joined from Leicester City in 2018 and Jack Grealish is reportedly close to taking that distinction for himself, with the Premier League champions rumoured to have tabled an offer worth £100million for the Aston Villa star.

Some observers have predicted Grealish could experience the sort of slow start to life under Pep Guardiola that Mahrez endured three years ago, but the Algeria winger showed himself to be in full flight against City's overmatched Championship opponents.

Mahrez charged down the right flank to retrieve Ruben Dias' raking ball and crossed for Samuel Edozie to tap in a 23rd-minute opener – the teenage forward having also netted during the midweek win over Preston North End.

Another youth teamer, Ben Knight, doubled the advantage after Mahrez released an underlapping Joao Cancelo and the right-winger got in on the act himself in the 34th minute when he clipped home a wonderful half-volley from Benjamin Mendy's centre.

It could have been worse for Barnsley before half-time when Cole Palmer wriggled away from Cauley Woodrow to win a penalty, although Bradley Collins guessed correctly to save the young playmaker's spot-kick.

Mahrez was inevitably involved again when Nathan Ake made it 4-0 midway through the second-half, while Ilkay Gundogan and Oleksandr Zinchenko came off the bench to enjoy their first action of pre-season after returning from Euro 2020 duty.

City will face Blackpool on Tuesday in their final friendly before next weekend's Community Shield meeting with Leicester at Wembley.

Harry Wilson has ended a 16-year association with Liverpool to join Championship outfit Fulham ahead of the 2021-22 season. 

Wilson – who has signed a deal that could see him stay at Craven Cottage until 2026 – progressed through the ranks of the Reds after joining at the age of nine. 

The 24-year-old made just two appearances for Jurgen Klopp's first team, however, and has spent much of the past four seasons out on loan. 

Spells at Crewe Alexandra and Hull City were followed by a successful stint at Derby County in the 2018-19 season.

He spent a season in the Premier League with Bournemouth in 2019-20, scoring seven goals as the Cherries were relegated, while last term he was on loan with Championship side Cardiff City. 

Wilson has been capped 29 times by Wales and featured for the Dragons in their Euro 2020 campaign, receiving a red card in the closing stages of their 4-0 last-16 defeat to Denmark. 

Fulham also announced the signing of goalkeeper Paulo Gazzaniga on Saturday after he left Tottenham last month, the 29-year-old Argentine signing a two-year deal.

Norwich City head coach Daniel Farke has signed a new four-year deal that will keep him at the club until 2025.

The German arrived at Carrow Road in 2017 after he departed from Borussia Dortmund and guided the Canaries to the Premier League in his second season.

Relegation followed in 2020, but the 44-year-old led his side to an immediate return at the first time of asking as Norwich collected 97 points on their way to the Championship title last campaign, the second time of being crowned champions under Farke. 

"I'm absolutely over the moon and feel pretty emotional in such a moment. I'm unbelievably grateful for all of the trust and support," Farke told the club's media on Wednesday.

"It is a pleasure to be allowed to continue to work on this level with such a special club and our unbelievable owners, Delia and Michael."

Farke's assistant manager Eddie Riemer, head of performance Chris Domogalla and first-team coach Christopher John all signed new terms for the same period, too.

Despite losing Emiliano Buendia to Aston Villa, Norwich have enjoyed a productive transfer window so far, perhaps courtesy of Farke's close relationship with sporting director Stuart Webber.

Farke has managed to bring in Werder Bremen's Milot Rashica, centre-back Ben Gibson and goalkeeper Angus Gunn, as well as the loan signing of Scotland international Billy Gilmour.

"I must also thank Stuart Webber for his trust and backing, my staff and players, as well as the supporters. We have a pretty special relationship in this club," Farke added.

"Now it's about going the next step, doing everything we can to make sure this club becomes an established Premier League side.

"We're in a much better position, both as a club and as a group, and we want to continue to build something unique and special."

Aston Villa have reached an agreement to sign Emiliano Buendia from Norwich City.

Reports over the weekend suggested Villa had a £33million offer, which could reach a total value of £40m, accepted by promoted side Norwich.

Arsenal had also pursued Buendia, but it is Villa who have confirmed they are poised to sign the Championship's Player of the Year in a deal that is a club-record signing for them and the highest ever sale for Norwich.

Villa's statement on Monday read: "Aston Villa and Norwich City have reached an agreement for the transfer of Emiliano Buendia.

"As Emiliano is currently in the Argentina national team's biosecure bubble, preparing for a World Cup qualifying match with Colombia on Tuesday evening, he will undergo a medical and complete the transfer after the game."

Playmaker Buendia, 24, played a major role in Norwich's return to the Premier League, racking up 15 goals and 16 assists in the Championship and recently earned his first Argentina call-up.

He provided seven assists the year before in a productive top-flight season, even though Norwich were ultimately relegated.

Norwich have also confirmed the transfer will go through pending a successful medical for Buendia.

Their statement read: "Norwich City can confirm that a club-record deal has been agreed with Aston Villa for the transfer of Emi Buendia.

"Buendia will complete his final medical checks following the conclusion of Argentina's World Cup qualifying fixture against Colombia on Tuesday evening.

"Final confirmation of the transfer will follow upon completion of the player's medical."

Fantastic figures

Buendia created 55 shooting opportunities in open play in the 2019-20 Premier League season, a figure that only Kevin De Bruyne, potential new team-mate Jack Grealish and Sadio Mane could better.

He was level with Mohamed Salah and ahead of Roberto Firmino, Riyad Mahrez and Bernardo Silva, among others.

His seven assists, only one of which came from a set-piece situation, was another notable feat, and his 6.2 expected assists (xA) figure suggests he wasn't benefiting from astonishing luck throughout the season either. 

 

Buendia added to his game in the Championship. In the Premier League he averaged just 1.46 shots per game, but he more than doubled that frequency to three every 90 minutes in the second tier, likely a consequence of the fact he has spent more time in the central areas of the pitch and closer to the penalty area.

As a result, his goals haul shot up from one to 15 and his xG (expected goals) of 11.8 shows that, while he may have scored more than the quality of his chances warranted, he would still have expected to reach double figures. 

Buendia had 16 assists, above his overall xA of 12.4, which was still at least four more than any other player in the Championship in 2020-21. 

Similarly, his 93 key passes in open play was – remarkably – 31 more than anyone else in the division.

 

Brentford captain Pontus Jansson heaped praise on Leeds United manager Marcelo Bielsa after the Bees were promoted to the Premier League for the first time.

Ivan Toney's penalty, swiftly followed by a fierce first-time strike from Emiliano Marcondes, secured a 2-0 win for Brentford in the Championship play-off final against Swansea City.

Brentford lost to Fulham at the same stage last year, Jansson's first with the club after leaving Bielsa's Leeds, who were promoted as champions and have this term enjoyed a spectacular return to the Premier League, finishing ninth.

But, speaking to Sky Sports, Jansson explained how what he learned from Bielsa played a pivotal role in Brentford ending a 74-year absence from the top flight.

"Last year a lot of Leeds fans was against me, this year so many Leeds fans have been with me and with Brentford, probably because they are already there and they wanted me to come and join them," Jansson said.

"I love Leeds, Brentford fans know I love Leeds, Leeds is one of the favourite clubs I have, of course I love Brentford as much, I'm so proud, I'm so happy, I could go home to Sweden and retire because this is what I've dreamt of for such a long time since I came to England, finally of course I will not go home, I will stay here and hopefully play Premier League football.

"I'm so thankful to Bielsa for what he gave me at Leeds, he gave me so much knowledge that I actually brought to Brentford and Brentford was so willing to listen to me and my ideas that I took from Bielsa.

 

"I thank him a lot because he's one of the best coaches in the world. People think mine and his relationship is not the best but it is, I'm so thankful to him."

Brentford scored 79 goals in the 46-game Championship season, the most in the division, increasing the tally for the campaign to 84 with their efforts in the play-offs.

The Bees scored 73 non-penalty goals across 49 matches, underperforming their xG of 74.4 but playing an expansive style of football reflective of what Jansson experienced at Leeds.

 

Toney was the talisman behind their promotion, his spot-kick taking him to 33 goals in a remarkable campaign. Twenty-two of those goals came from 135 non-penalty shots with an xG of 20.7.

Asked about what he could do in front of goal in the top tier, Toney replied: "I don't know, who knows what's to come.

"I'm a Premier League striker now and I can't wait to score goals in the Prem."

Brentford secured promotion to the Premier League for the first time in their history with a 2-0 victory over Swansea City in the Championship play-off final.

The Bees lost at this stage last season to London rivals Fulham but were in no mood to be denied this time around and were 2-0 up inside 20 minutes.

Ivan Toney's 10th-minute penalty, his 33rd goal of an amazing campaign, opened the scoring and Brentford's lead was doubled by Emiliano Marcondes just under 10 minutes later.

Swansea were much improved in the second half, but Jay Fulton's red card effectively sealed victory for Brentford as they clinched a first promotion to the top flight since 1935, ending their 74-year absence from the highest domestic level having been relegated back in 1947.

Toney had scored all 10 of his previous penalties this season and never looked likely to err after goalkeeper Freddie Woodman felled Bryan Mbeumo when he was played in by Sergi Canos' superb reverse pass.

He duly made it 11 from 11 by calmly slotting beyond former Newcastle United team-mate Woodman and into the bottom-left corner, with Toney's record from the spot the best of any player in England's top four tiers in all competitions.

Swansea struggled to respond to that early setback and they were soon given a mountain to climb when Mads Rasmussen expertly picked out Marcondes at the end of a counter-attack and the Dane rifled a fine finish into the bottom-right corner.

And the Bees were almost out of sight as Toney cracked a spectacular volley against the underside of the crossbar, with Woodman grateful to see the ball bounce on the line and out.

Swansea did stem the tide thereafter and went close in the final minute of normal time in the first half as Andre Ayew sent a header off the top of the bar before starting the second half by skewing a diving header wide from Connor Roberts' cross.

Jamal Lowe crafted some promising openings for the Swans but Fulton was shown a straight red card for a reckless challenge on Mathias Jensen, giving Brentford fans cause to start the celebrations early on a landmark day for the club.

What does it mean? Brentford make it a half-century of Premier League clubs

Swansea were looking to end a three-season stay in the second tier following Premier League relegation in 2018, but Brentford will instead make their debut in the division, becoming the 50th different club to grace the league since its inception in 1992.

Their 86 years between promotions to the top flight is the second-longest gap behind Bradford City, who ended a wait of 91 years in 1999.

Ivan sets the tone

The composure Toney displayed in converting from the spot showed him to be a player ready for the magnitude of the occasion and only the woodwork prevented him from magnificently ending the game as a contest in the first half.

Just one player, Cambridge United's Paul Mullin (34), has scored more goals in all competitions than Toney this season. Brentford will hope his prolific form translates to the Premier League as they bid to stay up next season.

Woodman gets it wrong

Woodman had to be sure he was going to get the ball when he came off his line to challenge Mbeumo. His misjudgement swiftly swung the game in Brentford's favour. Though he could do little about the second goal, this was a day to forget for a goalkeeper likely to be in demand in the transfer window.

What's next?

Brentford could start the season against the European champions, with games against Manchester City and Chelsea on the horizon. For Swansea, it's another term in the Championship, with the likes of Peterborough United and Luton Town lying in wait.

Sam Allardyce will leave his role as West Brom's head coach at the end of the Premier League campaign, the Championship-bound Baggies have confirmed.

Allardyce took over from Slaven Bilic in December, but despite a mini-revival which included a 5-2 win at Chelsea, he was unable to guide West Brom to safety and their relegation was confirmed with a defeat at Arsenal earlier this month.

It is the first time Allardyce has suffered relegation from the Premier League during his managerial career, and the former England boss will not be at the helm next season.

Allardyce's assistant Sammy Lee and first-team coach Robbie Stockdale will also leave The Hawthorns.

West Brom suffered a 3-1 home defeat to West Ham on Wednesday, after which the club confirmed that, despite hoping to keep Allardyce in charge, the 66-year-old will be leaving after Sunday's match at Leeds United.

"Sam, Ken (chief executive, Xu Ke) and I have discussed at length our plans for the future and we very much hoped to have Sam in charge for next season and beyond," said sporting and technical director Luke Dowling.

"Sam and his coaching staff have been excellent to work with and I would like to thank them all for their efforts.

"Sam has given his reasons for leaving and we respect his decision. He has been brilliant to work with and I wish him, Sammy and Robbie all the very best in the future."

Allardyce said: "West Brom made me a generous offer to stay at The Hawthorns that shows the commitment of an ambitious club. After serious consideration I have decided not to accept that offer.

"If I were to stay and achieve promotion next season the expectation would be for me to continue for at least another season and, sadly, that is not a commitment I feel able to make at this stage of my career.

"I believe the club now needs stability and continuity and this would, in my opinion, best be provided by a young and ambitious manager who can get us back to where we should be as an established Premier League football club."

Fulham became the third and final team to be relegated from the Premier League when they were beaten 2-0 by Burnley on Monday.

Scott Parker's side got that sinking feeling at Craven Cottage, where first-half goals from Ashley Westwood and the in-form Chris Wood – his 50th for the club – consigned them to an immediate return to the Championship.

It is the first time in Premier League history that all relegation slots have been confirmed with as many as three matches remaining.

Matej Vydra set Westwood up for the opener after 35 minutes and Wood clinically fired home his eighth goal in as many games to leave Fulham shellshocked just before the break.

The Cottagers have picked up only one point from seven games since a surprise 1-0 victory at Liverpool in March.

The London club's fate was confirmed with three games to play, as they are 10 points behind Southampton and Brighton and Hove Albion.

Burnley were able to celebrate retaining their top-flight status after marking Sean Dyche's 350th league game in charge of the club by securing three precious points.

Fulham go down along with rock bottom Sheffield United and West Brom, who were sent down with a 3-1 loss at Arsenal on Sunday.

The Cottagers, who have won just five matches, are the 17th club to go straight back down having won the Championship play-offs the season before.

Gareth Bale's future is uncertain as his loan spell at Tottenham from Real Madrid draws to an end.

Bale has said he intends to return to Madrid for the final year of his contract.

Spurs' interest in keeping the Wales star beyond this season is not clear as they are in the market for a new head coach after Jose Mourinho's dismissal.

 

TOP STORY – NEW SPURS BOSS TO DECIDE ON BALE

The Daily Mail reports that Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy will let the club's new head coach decide whether or not to re-sign Bale.

The option remains for a second loan deal for the Welshman to re-join Spurs from Madrid next season.

Spurs have first option on a second loan but they would require Bale's agreement, although he appears out of favour in Madrid.

Triggering the clause will cost Tottenham £12million.

 

ROUND-UP

- Borussia Dortmund's asking price for Jadon Sancho is down to £87m (€100m) according to ESPN, which may interest Manchester United and Liverpool. Dortmund previously demanded more than £100m (€115m) for the England midfielder.

- Arsenal are interested in signing Rangers midfielder Glen Kamara, with a five-year deal on the table, according to Football Insider.

- The Athletic claims Brentford striker Ivan Toney is drawing interest from Leicester City and Everton as well as a "host of clubs" preparing bids for his services.

- Newcastle United are considering a move for Vitesse defender Danilho Doekhi, reports De Telegraaf.

- Bayer Leverkusen are in the mix to sign Santos' teenage forward Kaio Jorge, claims Kicker.

Manchester United have exposed the stark levels of abuse aimed at their players ahead of a four-day social media boycott.

Football clubs and players all over England will be joined in the action, which runs from 1500 BST on Friday until 2359 BST on Monday, by UEFA and major bodies across cricket, rugby union, tennis, rugby league and other sports.

The move follows an increase in online abuse aimed at sportspeople, with United's research offering a glimpse at how bad the problem is.

United revealed a 350 per cent increase in abuse directed towards their players since September 2019, with 86 per cent of 3,300 abusive posts categorised as being racist in nature.

A further eight per cent were deemed homophobic or transphobic.

"It must be said that while these numbers are shocking, they do only represent a 0.01 per cent of conversations that take place on social media about the club and the players," said group managing director Richard Arnold.

"By taking part in this boycott this weekend, we, alongside the rest of English football, want to shine a light on the issue. It will generate debate and discussion and will raise awareness of the levels of abuse our players and our fans receive."

An announcement of the boycott came jointly last Saturday from numerous organisations in football, including the Premier League, the English Football League, the Football Association, the Professional Footballers' Association, the Women’s Super League and the Women’s Championship.

"While some progress has been made, we reiterate those requests today in an effort to stem the relentless flow of discriminatory messages and ensure that there are real-life consequences for purveyors of online abuse across all platforms," the groups said in a release.

"Boycott action from football in isolation will, of course, not eradicate the scourge of online discriminatory abuse, but it will demonstrate that the game is willing to take voluntary and proactive steps in this continued fight."

Since that statement was released, other bodies have declared they will join the boycott from across various sports, with cycling, horseracing and hockey also on board.

Football's European governing body, UEFA, also pledged its support in a strongly worded statement from president Aleksander Ceferin on Thursday.

"We've had enough of these cowards who hide behind their anonymity to spew out their noxious ideologies," he said.

The move instigated by England's footballing bodies follows them sending a letter to social media companies in February, urging them to take numerous steps to take down online abuse, including quick removal of offensive posts and an improved verification process.

Some within the game have already taken individual action to protest, with Thierry Henry withdrawing from all social media platforms until the issue is appropriately addressed.

Henry's stance came after a spate of incidents of vile abuse being aimed at sportspeople online.

Chelsea put out a statement in January after Reece James was targeted, saying: "Something needs to change and it needs to change now."

Manchester United duo Anthony Martial and Axel Tuanzebe were also racially abused online after the side's loss to Sheffield United, with manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer calling for stronger intervention from social media platforms.

Football clubs and players across England will go silent on social media next weekend in response to "ongoing and sustained abuse" players and others connected with the game are subjected to online. 

Teams from the top men's and women's leagues in England will not post to their social media accounts from the afternoon of April 30 through the end of May 3, London time, and players are expected to follow suit. 

An announcement of the boycott came jointly on Saturday from numerous organisations involved in the game, including the Professional Footballers' Association, the Premier League, the Football League, The FA, the Women’s Super League and the Women’s Championship. 

The move follows a February letter to social media companies urging them to take numerous steps to take down online abuse, including quick removal of offensive posts and an improved verification process. 

"While some progress has been made, we reiterate those requests today in an effort to stem the relentless flow of discriminatory messages and ensure that there are real-life consequences for purveyors of online abuse across all platforms," the groups said in a release.

"Boycott action from football in isolation will, of course, not eradicate the scourge of online discriminatory abuse, but it will demonstrate that the game is willing to take voluntary and proactive steps in this continued fight."

The boycott comes on the heels of the popular uprising that led to the collapse of the European Super League earlier this week, and players speaking after Saturday's Premier League games said a move to curb online harassment is overdue.

"The players, we get a lot of abuses online, and it is not normal, we need to fight it, and I think that is a good way to do it," Brighton's Neal Maupay told Sky Sports. 

"It's definitely getting worse. People are crossing the line too many times now, too often, so we need to carry on fighting it and at one point we will get rid of it."

 

Watford joined Norwich City in sealing an instant return to the Premier League after beating Millwall 1-0 on Saturday.

Ismaila Sarr scored a penalty in the 11th minute to ensure the Hornets will be playing top-flight football again next season.

Xisco's side could still overhaul Championship leaders Norwich, with a five-point gap between the teams heading into the final two games. 

It comes at the end of a week in which the Canaries also exorcised the demons of relegation, leaving open the possibility that the three demoted teams will all regain promotion back to the Premier League at the first attempt for the first time.

Bournemouth must first negotiate the play-offs, with Jonathan Woodgate's men sitting fourth despite a 1-0 loss to fellow promotion hopefuls Brentford. 

Sheffield United's relegation from the Premier League was confirmed following a 1-0 defeat to Wolves on Saturday.

Willian Jose turned home Adama Traore's delivery in the 59th minute at Molineux to condemn the Blades to a return to the Championship with six games remaining this season.

No side has been relegated from the Premier League with more matches left to play – Ipswich Town (1994-95), Derby County (2007-08) and Huddersfield Town (2018-19) also went down with six games outstanding.

In March the Blades sacked Chris Wilder, who led them from League One to a ninth-placed finish last season, and interim boss Paul Heckingbottom was unable to guide them to safety.

The defeat to Wolves was their 26th of the campaign – they have only lost as many in a single league season twice before.

"It's about results isn't it," Heckingbottom told Sky Sports after the defeat to Wolves left them with just 14 points from 32 games.

"The only thing we can control is the performance. We have to go out with our head held high. I think we should have certainly got something from the game. It probably typifies our season.

"You only have to look at the physical data from the Premier League this season. It's not through a lack of effort. They will give everything and you saw it again tonight.

"It was that one moment. We gave Wolves their best chances. We got into too many good positions not to score. We were on top. Everyone could see that in the second half.

"We created our best moment then 20 seconds later the ball was in the back of the net. This season has got away from the team and that is why we have suffered. It's those moments. The little bit of quality that needs to be there to win games.

"At the other end, being a little too open and being able to shut those chances out. Those are the moments Sheffield United have been really strong [in the past].

"But if you pick a game to typify this season, it was that. We were on top, missed chances and this league won't give you a second chance."

Norwich City will be back in the Premier League next season as Daniel Farke and his team were assured of promotion before they took to the field on Saturday.

Draws for Swansea City and Brentford, who sat third and fourth in the EFL Championship, meant leaders Norwich cannot be denied a top-two finish.

Swansea were held 2-2 at home by Wycombe Wanderers, while Brentford battled out a goalless stalemate with Millwall.

A 1-0 defeat for second-placed Watford at Luton meant that Norwich, with 90 points from 41 games, headed into their Saturday evening game against Bournemouth with a chance to go 11 points clear of the Hornets.

Only four rounds of games remain after this weekend's fixtures, with the Canaries increasingly likely to follow promotion by being crowned champions.

Head coach Farke's team were relegated from the top flight last term, finishing bottom of the table with just 21 points, but this campaign has been a very different story.

Norwich had the chance to finish the season with 105 points should they beat Bournemouth and then string four more wins together in their remaining games.

They would fall just short of a Football League points record, however, with Reading having tallied 106 points when winning the Championship in the 2005-06 campaign.

Swansea City have announced a seven-day suspension of all social media activities as the Championship club take a "strong stance" against online abuse and discrimination.

The break in activity involves not just Swansea's official accounts on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, YouTube, TikTok and Snapchat, but also the first-team players and staff.

Academy players in the under-23 and under-18 squads have also agreed to the week-long boycott, which will start from 17:00 BST on Thursday.

Swansea revealed the move had been decided upon following conversations involving senior club staff, as well as the players and management.

"As a football club, we have seen several of our players subjected to abhorrent abuse in the past seven weeks alone, and we feel it is right to take a stand against behaviour that is a blight on our sport, and society at large," a statement from the club read.

"We will always be unwavering in our support of our players, staff, supporters and the community that we proudly represent, and we are united as a club on this issue.

"We also want to stand with players from other clubs who have had to endure vile discrimination on social media platforms.

"As a club we are also acutely aware of how social media can impact on the mental health of players and staff, and we hope our strong stance will highlight the wider effects of abuse."

Swansea also revealed chief executive Julian Winter had written to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg to push for stronger punishment for those guilty of "appalling and cowardly abuse" on their respective platforms.

Swans player Yan Dhanda was abused online following the FA Cup tie against Manchester City on February 10, with the player writing on Twitter in response: "How can this STILL be happening in 2021? I'm so proud of who I am and representing Asians. More has to be done."

Club colleague Ben Cabango was also targeted while away on duty with Wales, along with international team-mate Rabbi Matondo.

The suspension of the club's accounts will cover the away game against Millwall on Saturday, as well as the trip to Sheffield Wednesday on April 13.

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