Pep Guardiola says the task of trying to stop Paris Saint-Germain star Neymar is enough to keep him awake at night.

Manchester City are away to PSG in the first leg of their Champions League semi-final tie on Wednesday, neither side having won the famous trophy before.

Guardiola had left Barcelona by the time Neymar arrived at Camp Nou in 2013, the forward eventually forming a historic front three with Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez.

Such is the quality of Neymar, the City boss feels his former club would have won many more Champions League crowns had the Brazil talisman not moved to PSG in 2017.

Guardiola feels there is only so much that can be done against world-class opponents like Neymar and Kylian Mbappe and wants City to impose themselves on the game rather than set out just to stop PSG.

"Always unbelievable, the quality of these players they have," Guardiola said. "Defensive strategies [to stop them] don’t work. They are too good.

"I try to sleep well last night and I slept when I was not thinking about their players like that!

"They are incredible players, the quality they have, the way they play. We will try and stop them by defending together as a team and playing well as a team.

"We are going to concede counter-attacks, they have a lot of weapons.

"We will have to adjust something of course when you play against these players like we did against Tottenham, like we will against Wilfried Zaha [of Crystal Palace] in the next game.

"But at the same time, it wouldn't make any sense to not be who we are when we are arriving on this stage for just the second time in our history.

"I am pretty sure we will try to be ourselves and get the result we will need for the second leg. The best balance is to have the ball. If you have the ball all the time, the balance is there.

"We will concede counter-attacks, it's impossible [not to]. If you defend so deep, Neymar, Mbappe, Angel Di Maria, Marco Verratti, Marquinhos, they have a lot of weapons.

"They are used to playing teams who defend 90 minutes and they find a way. That is not the best way to defend against the team who have everything, it's best to impose your game like we have for five years."

Neymar has either scored (three) or assisted (one) in each of his previous three Champions League semi-final appearances.

The forward has also had a direct hand in nine goals in his 12 matches against English sides in the competition (five goals, four assists).

Guardiola was in awe of Neymar from the first time he saw him playing for Santos.

The former Barca and Bayern Munich boss added: "I remember when I showed clips of Santos, I remember I said, 'This is the king of Santos', and the players' mouths were open saying, 'Oh my god, what a player'.

"He's a joy to watch as a spectator, the personality, he has Brazil on his shoulders.

"I'm sure if Neymar had a longer stay in Barcelona they would win two or three Champions Leagues more. Those three were unstoppable, the best three I saw up front in my life.

"He decided to go to Paris, not a bad decision, a nice city and nice club. I want him to have stability, no injuries. I'm a big admirer because he helped to make football better. It's a pleasure to play a semi final against PSG."

Asked about Mbappe, Guardiola replied: "A young player, he will have the world of football ahead of him.

"Already a French champion, World Cup. Quite similar to Erling Haaland in terms of, 'Wow', how many goals, pace.

"Looks like a nice guy. Benjamin Mendy is his friend, says he's a nice guy. We're going to try to beat them, all of them."

Guardiola was visibly enthused on the pitch on Sunday after leading City to a fourth consecutive EFL Cup triumph with a 1-0 win in the final against Tottenham.

"Every time you get older you realise it's difficult to win titles," he explained.

"If you start the next season telling me I have to win one title, it doesn't matter which one, I say it's so difficult to do.

"The Carabao isn't the most important one but it is so nice to win it."

PSG, who were managed by Thomas Tuchel when they lost last year's Champions League final to Bayern Munich, are winless in their previous three matches with City in European competition (D2 L1).

City are playing in only the fourth semi-final in their European history after the Cup Winners' Cup in 1969-70 and 1970-71, and the 2015-16 Champions League.

Ahead of the tie, PSG boss Mauricio Pochettino described City as "one of the greatest teams in the world" and said he believes they are led by the best coach in the game in Guardiola.

Neymar, meanwhile, insists he feels "much better" at PSG than he did previously and has hit back at critics who accused him of lacking professionalism.

PSG are looking to become the the ninth side to reach back-to-back finals, but Guardiola has beaten Pochettino in 10 of their previous 18 meetings, with five draws and only three defeats.

Pep Guardiola may be remembered as the greatest manager of all time but will not want to leave Manchester City without winning the Champions League, says Gary Neville.

City defeated Tottenham 1-0 at Wembley Stadium on Sunday to lift the EFL Cup for a fourth successive season under the Spaniard, while a third Premier League title of his reign looks a certainty – they hold a 10-point lead at the summit with just five games remaining.

Guardiola arrived in England following hugely successful spells in charge of Barcelona and Bayern Munich, winning the league on three occasions at each club.

However, according to former Manchester United defender Neville, the impact of the former Spain international goes well beyond just what he has achieved with his own teams.

"You just have to recognise Manchester City's outstanding football, the outstanding achievement of winning this trophy four times on the bounce," Neville said on his podcast for Sky Sports.

"Pep Guardiola has an outstanding record in cup competitions, it's 14 victories and one defeat in 15 finals, it's absolutely out of this world. The football they play is magnificent, it really is.

"I think Manchester City may have the greatest manager of all time and we'll look back in 10, 15, 20 years' time… just the way he has infiltrated countries, dominated football but also influenced others, I don't think I've ever seen it.

"You look at how he's won in three different countries, he's now dominating in this country – he's going to win the league title in the next few weeks, that's three in five years and these are massive achievements."

Yet while Guardiola has dominated domestically with City, Champions League glory has eluded him, as it did with Bayern.

He won the competition twice with Barca – in 2009 and then again in 2011 – but has never made it beyond the last eight with City prior to this season, with Paris Saint-Germain standing in their way of a place in the final for the first time in the club's history.

"The big one is the Champions League and it's a huge couple of weeks coming up against Paris Saint-Germain because if they were to win that, then they would have a great chance," Neville said.

"That would be the cherry on the icing on the top of the cake of Guardiola's reign because I don't think he can leave without winning it. It would feel incomplete if he left this country without winning the Champions League.

"I know it happened in Germany but here, Man City will give him the time to do it and it almost feels like he has to so he can say that the job is done."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Aymeric Laporte felt Sunday's EFL Cup triumph gave Manchester City a timely confidence boost as they enter a decisive period of their season.

Centre-back Laporte was the unlikely matchwinner against Tottenham at Wembley on Sunday, heading home the only goal from Kevin De Bruyne's 82nd-minute free-kick.

City were back at England's national stadium eight days on from a sapping 1-0 reverse against Chelsea in the FA Cup semi-finals.

Now they will turn their attentions towards a Champions League last-four clash against Paris Saint-Germain, with Manchester United's 0-0 draw at Leeds United earlier on Sunday also meaning Pep Guardiola's men are just two wins away from claiming Premier League glory.

"We are so happy to win this title again," Laporte told Sky Sports after City lifted the trophy for a record-equalling fourth season in a row.

"It's very special because we lost in the FA Cup so it is something good for us to get confidence and keep playing like we have done the past few months.

"We have done so, so good and we have to keep this rhythm this way to win more titles."

Laporte's moment to savour came against an opponent who he has often struggled to find his best form against.

A pair of mistakes leading to Son Heung-min strikes led to City going out of the 2018-19 Champions League on away goals, while a shaky display at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium earlier this term preceded John Stones replacing him as Guardiola's first-choice partner for Ruben Dias.

The trend threatened to continue when Laporte was booked for a cynical first-half foul on Lucas Moura, having been incredibly fortunate to escape punishment for an earlier challenge on the same player.

"It's hard. I was thinking a lot about that. We know that a little mistake can cost you a lot," Laporte said.

"I've been careful in the second half and tried not to commit fouls."

Laporte was not penalised for another foul after the Lucas booking and made no tackles or interceptions during the game – statistics that speak of both City's dominance and his necessarily more reserved approach in the second half.

Long-serving City midfielder Fernandinho claimed a sixth winners' medal in the EFL Cup, having also won two under Manuel Pellegrini.

It was the first time the veteran Brazilian lifted the trophy as captain, however, and it was unquestionably a proud moment.

"My first time lifting a trophy at City as captain is an amazing sensation," he told Sky Sports.

"I think we deserved to win that game because we went from the first minute trying to score goals and created chances.

"At the end the game has been decided by a set piece.

"I am happy for myself, my team-mates, the staff, all the group. We have to enjoy this."

Fernandinho added: "I'm really proud. To win six trophies in this competition is an amazing feeling. I'm grateful for this club and the fans – I was so happy to see them back in the stadium. Congratulations to everyone."

Riyad Mahrez admitted he was "scared" Manchester City would be hit by a Tottenham sucker-punch before Aymeric Laporte's header secured EFL Cup final glory at Wembley.

A dynamic City performance lacked just one thing as the trophy match entered its last 10 minutes: a goal.

Then Laporte leapt to head Kevin De Bruyne's free-kick past the busy Hugo Lloris and all was well in City's world, a fourth successive EFL Cup triumph and the first part of a possible treble secured.

City had 21 goal attempts to earn a 1-0 win while Tottenham had only two, both from outside the penalty area. The return of Harry Kane meant Spurs could cling to the presence of their talisman, but they could not provide him with service in the penalty area.

With 62.2 per cent of possession, it felt inevitable City's pressure would pay off, and eventually that proved to be the case.

Mahrez told Sky Sports: "It was a tough game. We knew it was going to be tough. We stayed focused, we kept dominating, we kept passing the ball and then we scored and I think we deserved to win."

The prospect of Tottenham making City pay for their wasted chances was in the back of the mind though, as Mahrez admitted.

"Obviously you're always scared because it's a good team, but we were very confident again," he said. "It's a very good win. We get the trophy again and we're very happy.

"Just like the manager said, we focus on every competition we play. It was the final and in a final you have to win, whether you play good or not. I think we played good and we won."

City are now level with Liverpool as the most successful team in this competition's history, with eight triumphs.

They look bankers for the Premier League title and have the first leg of their Champions League semi-final against Paris Saint-Germain coming up on Wednesday. That is the title City want most of all.

Mahrez said having supporters at Wembley made a "massive difference" to Sunday's occasion. Only 8,000 were allowed into the stadium that can seat 90,000, as English football begins its slow crawl back to normality, with the COVID-19 pandemic having led to empty stands.

"It was so good to have the fans back," Mahrez said. "The atmosphere, even with 8,000, was amazing and we're looking forward to having more fans there."

Raheem Sterling grew up in the shadow of the Wembley arch and has a tattoo of his younger self staring up at England's national stadium on his arm.

Two years ago, as Manchester City completed an unprecedented domestic treble, he left his mark all over one of football's most famous stages.

He scored twice in a 6-0 FA Cup final demolition of Watford, having netted a maiden England hat-trick against the Czech Republic.

Then there was the 2019 EFL Cup final, where Sterling strode up to nonchalantly place the decisive penalty kick into the top corner to sink Chelsea in a shoot-out.

Pep Guardiola had been too nervous to watch. Asking Sterling what happened afterwards, the forward cheekily replied: "Top bins".

Heading into Sunday's final, where City were forced to bide their time before securing a 1-0 victory over Totenham and a record-equalling fourth-straight triumph in this competition, the 26-year-old's form has not been so much top bins as a smouldering dumpster fire.

Sterling was without a goal in nine City appearances since netting decisively at Arsenal back in February.  After tallies of 25 goals in 2018-19, when he was named FWA Footballer of the Year, and 31 last term, he returned to Wembley stuck on an increasingly unlucky 13.

At times, it has felt like the famed work rate that made him such a Guardiola favourite was smothering attempts to regain top gear. The harder Sterling tried, the worse he looked.

A combination of Phil Foden and Riyad Mahrez's dazzling form, the aforementioned drought and a reported row with Guardiola that both men denied has seen Sterling out in the cold when it comes to City's biggest games. His first action in the Champions League quarter-final against Borussia Dortmund came after 88 minutes of the second leg.

Gareth Southgate has also viewed the ex-Liverpool man as a go-to starter, but his experiences under Guardiola show such statuses are never set in stone and England are very well-stocked when it comes to livewire wide attackers.

Faced with a tentative Tottenham, Sterling tore into his work on Sunday like a man with a point to prove. An early hesitation saw him mugged by Serge Aurier inside the box but he skinned the former Paris Saint-Germain full-back and drilled in a cross with just too much heat for Foden to convert.

There was a clash of heads with Toby Alderweireld when he nodded a Mahrez cross wide, but Sterling bounced back up and was soon haring past a befuddled Sergio Reguilon. The end product was not there, as has so often and maddeningly been the case recently, but Guardiola extravagantly showed his approval from the sidelines.

Eric Dier, another England international with doubters to placate, made a stunning last-ditch block from a Sterling shot that was destined for the bottom corner. A combination of Alderweireld and the post denied Foden even more improbably and Spurs emerged from a first-half shellacking with the deadlock still intact.

City's fluency waned during the second half and Sterling lifting a speculative 20-yarder way over spoke of a team straining for the breakthrough, no longer so swaggeringly sure of their superiority. His five attempts were more than any other player in blue.

Ilkay Gundogan, one of Guardiola's most reliable finishers this season, released Sterling and volleyed his return delivery wide.

Then, just when frustration and anxiety were reaching dangerous levels for a team in a cup final with both centre-backs and a defensive midfielder on yellow cards – an impressively haphazard subplot City managed to weave into their general dominance – the Sterling trait that has done so much to highlight his struggles became a virtue. He just kept going and going.

Aurier put in an overall display to belie his reputation for an uneasy relationship with basic discipline, but City's left winger coaxed a foul out of his marker in the 81st minute. Kevin De Bruyne curled in the free-kick and defender Aymeric Laporte popped up with a towering close-range header, sealing the deal with a most un-Guardiola goal.

Sterling was standing in the six-yard box and clenched both fists before turning away from the mob engulfing Laporte to congratulate De Bruyne, a man on top of his game.

The same cannot be said for Sterling right now, but this felt like a step in the right direction.

Aymeric Laporte headed Manchester City to a 1-0 win over Tottenham in the EFL Cup final as Pep Guardiola's men landed their first trophy of what could be a treble-winning season.

City's attacking players rained attempts on the Tottenham goal in a one-sided Wembley clash, but it was defender Laporte who came up with the clinical finish in the 82nd minute, nodding Kevin De Bruyne's free-kick past Hugo Lloris.

The Spurs goalkeeper had been magnificent until then, but the quality of the delivery and the precision of Laporte's header gave the French goalkeeper little chance.

Top of the Premier League and chasing Champions League glory, a fourth consecutive triumph in the EFL Cup seems unlikely to be the pinnacle of City's achievements this term.

Harry Kane will start the EFL Cup final for Tottenham against Manchester City, with Kevin De Bruyne back for the holders at Wembley.

England captain Kane suffered an ankle injury during last Friday's 2-2 draw at Everton, after scoring both Spurs' goals in a match that proved to be Jose Mourinho's last at the helm.

The 27-year-old was yet to resume training on Friday but interim boss Ryan Mason has selected Kane alongside Son Heung-min and Lucas Moura in a three-pronged attack.

City playmaker De Bruyne, whose 24 goal involvements this season are more than any of this team-mates, suffered a similar complaint to Kane as the Premier League leaders went down 1-0 to Chelsea in last weekend's FA Cup semi-final.

He sat out a 2-1 midweek win at Aston Villa but is back as Pep Guardiola's side chase a fourth consecutive success in this competition.

Despite having a Champions League semi-final against Paris Saint-Germain coming up on Wednesday, Guardiola has not made the wholesale changes that partly explained a poor City showing against Chelsea.

Kyle Walker, Ruben Dias, Ilkay Gundogan, Phil Foden and Riyad Mahrez are all retained in the starting XI, with Raheem Sterling completing the forward line.

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.

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."

Kevin De Bruyne and Sergio Aguero are back in training ahead of Manchester City's EFL Cup final showdown with Tottenham on Sunday.

Pep Guardiola's side are aiming to win the trophy for a fourth consecutive season, returning to Wembley eight days after a 1-0 defeat to Chelsea in the FA Cup semi-finals.

The pain of that defeat was compounded by star midfielder De Bruyne hobbling off with an ankle injury, although the problem is not as bad as first feared.

De Bruyne sat out Wednesday's 2-1 win at Aston Villa but resumed work with Guardiola's first-team squad alongside Aguero.

City's all-time record goalscorer has endured a final campaign at the Etihad Stadium beset by knee and hamstring issues after meniscus surgery last June, while he also suffered the effects of coronavirus.

"Both [De Bruyne and Aguero] they are training today," Guardiola said, meaning each man appears to have better prospects than Harry Kane, who was unable to take part in Tottenham's Friday session.

"Today was the first training session after the last two weeks [for Aguero]. Tomorrow he will have the last training session and we are going to decide."

Final successes in the past three campaigns over Arsenal, Chelsea and Villa mean City can become the second team in history after Liverpool between 1981 and 1984 to lift the cup for a fourth season in a row.

However, as was the case in the Chelsea reverse, Guardiola hinted there might be wholesale changes as he casts an eye towards Wednesday's Champions League semi-final first leg against Paris Saint-Germain.

"We've said many times. every game must be taken seriously. But the Premier League is the most important competition this season. After that it is the Champions League, the FA Cup and after the Carabao Cup," he said.

"When you play this competition at the beginning of the season when every player is fit, it is perfect to rotate and everybody can be involved.

"We have to play right now in the middle of the decisive part of the season. I would say the Premier League is the first title of the season and the second to qualify for the Champions League – ask all the teams who are fighting to qualify for next season.

"Once we are there and arrive in this position, normally the Carabao Cup is over, but now we are going to play [the final] in the middle part of the important part of the Premier League season. And three days before, like a dream come true at the end [of the season], we play the semi-final of the Champions League."

Guardiola added: "That’s why we have a mix of contradiction; that it's a final we have to win, but we have one eye on the Champions League and one eye on Crystal Palace [in the Premier League next weekend].

"Carabao Cup is nice - we want the four, we will play to win the fourth. But PSG and Palace are there and PSG [in the second leg] is there. We'll see what happens on Sunday."

Kevin De Bruyne could return to action for Manchester City in Sunday's EFL Cup final against Tottenham after his ankle injury proved not to be as serious as first feared.

De Bruyne limped off early in the second half of last weekend's 1-0 FA Cup semi-final defeat to Chelsea, with City manager Pep Guardiola saying the damage "doesn't look good".

The Belgium international was absent as his team-mates came from a goal down and endured a red card for John Stones to beat Aston Villa 2-1 and go 11 points clear at the top of the Premier League.

Appearing visibly relieved before the match in the aftermath of the European Super League collapse, Guardiola reported further good news afterwards when De Bruyne's fitness was raised.

"It [the injury] was less than we expected, yesterday he felt much, much better," he said.

"Today I didn't speak to him but we'll see tomorrow in training."

After attempting to win a fourth consecutive EFL Cup on Sunday, City turn their attentions towards the first leg of a Champions League semi-final against Paris Saint-Germain.

"I think if he's not ready for the final, maybe he will be ready for the semi-final of the Champions League," Guardiola said.

Before Wednesday's game, an email attributed to City chief executive Ferran Soriano was sent to club members to apologise for signing up to the swiftly aborted Super League.

Guardiola lambasted the plans as "not sport" before anyone from his club had gone on the record, although he insisted his relationship with Soriano – which goes back to the pair's time together at Barcelona – is not in need of repair.

"I know the guys [on the board] and they don't need to apologise," he said.

"My chairman [Khaldoon Al-Mubarak] and CEO, I know who they are, this is most important. I understand the statement but it's a closed chapter, it's over."

The same might now be said for the Premier League title race, even if John McGinn's goal after 20 seconds threatened to let second-place Manchester Untied back into the hunt.

"It would have been dangeorus if we'd lost, Manchester United are in top form, but we deserve it for what we've done this season," Guardiola added, with man of the match Phil Foden equalising before Rodri headed the decisive goal.

"How incredible they were in the locker room, committed after two defeats. We knew how important it was as preparation for the final and the Champions League.

"It's close in the most difficult season of our lives. We have to finish this chapter, three games and we are champions."

Harry Kane faces a race to be fit for Tottenham's clash with Manchester City in the EFL Cup final after missing training on Tuesday.

The striker looks certain not to be involved in Wednesday's Premier League home match against Southampton after suffering an ankle injury in last Friday's 2-2 draw with Everton.

Caretaker head coach Ryan Mason, who took over from the sacked Jose Mourinho on Monday, could offer no guarantee the England captain would be ready for Sunday's Wembley trip.

Mason said in a news conference: "I'm not sure currently. He didn't train today. It's one of those cases of taking it day by day. We're still not sure about the weekend just yet.

"What we do now is Harry's working extremely hard to get over this injury."

Kane has scored 31 goals and had 16 assists across all competitions this season, making him the only player from Europe's 'top five' leagues to score 30 or more times and add at least 15 assists.

Handed the job until the end of the season, rookie coach Mason is a former Tottenham player who had to retire three years ago due to a head injury sustained while at Hull City.

The 29-year-old said he was "very proud" to be chosen to lead the team, and rallied the players by declaring: "I want us to be brave and aggressive and play like Tottenham Hotspur."

Chairman Daniel Levy proposed Mason should succeed Mourinho as interim boss after dismissing the former Chelsea and Manchester United manager.

"We had a very long conversation," Mason said. "I took training, we had another conversation and he asked me if I wanted it."

Former Charlton Athletic and England defender Chris Powell and ex-Watford man Nigel Gibbs will be assistants to Mason.

Mason said he and former Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino had "exchanged a few messages" since the dramatic upheaval. He also said he had not spoken to Mourinho.

Mason was in the line-up the last time Saints won at Spurs in the Premier League, a 2-1 victory in May 2016, but Tottenham have typically had Southampton's number in north London, winning eight of their past nine at home in this fixture.

Tottenham's impressive record in home Premier League games on Wednesday is another positive omen as Mason seeks a winning start. Since a 1-0 loss to Leicester City in January 2016, they have won 10 of their 11 such matches (D1), scoring 25 goals and conceding just four.

Son Heung-min scored four goals in Tottenham’s 5-2 win against Southampton in the reverse fixture earlier this season, with all four assisted by Kane. That remains the only occasion in Premier League history when a player has scored four goals in a match with each of them assisted by the same player.

Mason will have plenty to think about as he prepares to boss a team in a Premier League game for the first time, a situation he had not seen coming and described as "crazy".

The man who joined Tottenham's academy as an eight-year-old, going on to reach first-team level and England selection, is determined to take the change of circumstances in his stride.

"It's football," he said. "Anything can happen. You just have to be ready for what football can throw at you at times."

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