England captain Leah Williamson gave a brutal assessment of the serious knee injury that has ruled her out of the Women's World Cup, saying: "Ultimately, I think it's just my time."

The 26-year-old, who led England to Euro 2022 glory, has become the latest Arsenal player to suffer a ruptured anterior cruciate ligament.

Her misfortune follows that of England striker Beth Mead and Netherlands forward Vivianne Miedema, club-mates of Williamson who are also both set to miss the July-August tournament in Australia and New Zealand.

It is an injury that is far more prevalent in the women's game than among men, and Williamson is struggling to express her sorrow over the crushing blow she has suffered. She may not play again this year.

She issued a statement shortly after Arsenal confirmed the severity of the injury, which was sustained in Arsenal's 1-0 defeat to Manchester United in the Women's Super League on Wednesday, when Williamson caught her studs in the turf at Leigh Sports Village.

Pained by the situation that has been sprung on her, Williamson said: "Until I have the words to express my feelings properly I will struggle to verbalise them. The noise around the situation is loud and I need some quiet to let it all sink in.

"Unfortunately the World Cup and Champions League dream is over for me and everyone will think that's the main focus, but it's the day to day of what I'm about to go through that is the most draining of my thoughts.

"I had my tears and made my peace with it the night it happened and since then I have been following the steps I'm told to, in order to best help myself in the short and long term.

"Ultimately, I think it's just my time. In the past couple of years alone I have watched team-mates beat serious illnesses and adversity with the biggest of smiles on their faces.

"I also hold perspective that globally there are much greater difficulties and therefore my circumstances right now are just that, circumstantial, and I've seen a lot worse."

England team-mates Chloe Kelly, Fran Kirby, Keira Walsh, Ella Toone and Alessia Russo were among those to send messages of support, with Williamson having led the Lionesses to Finalissima glory against Brazil just two weeks ago.

Arsenal have a Champions League semi-final coming up against Wolfsburg, as they bid to become European champions for a second time, and Williamson's blow hurts their hopes there.

Clearly, Williamson has suffered an immense misfortune and her reaction is that of a player in shock, although she gave an insight into the stark reality of a modern footballing life by revealing the stress her body and mind has been under in recent months.

She wrote in an Instagram post: "I haven't had a day since last October when I've walked on to the pitch without a physical or mental question mark over me, and that's professional sports. So now I have to listen to my body, give it what it needs and if everything happens for a reason, then we'll see what road this turn sends me down.

"I have given and will continue to give everything that my body, mind and heart possibly has to the Arsenal and Lionesses, I will still be there through thick and thin for all of my team-mates and their biggest supporter.

"All I ask is for a little bit of time and space to deal with all that is to come."

Gary Smith is hopeful the goals will soon start to flow for Nashville SC as they prepare to face Los Angeles FC this weekend.

Nashville have scored just seven goals through their opening eight games this campaign and have fired blanks in half of those matches.

At the opposite end of the field, Smith's side have the best defensive record in the entire MLS with only four goals conceded thus far.

On the back of a 2-1 loss at New York City FC last time out, Smith wants to see his side turn chances into goals, starting against the reigning MLS Cup champions on Saturday.

"It's always frustrating when you get beat, particularly when you have some difficulties in finding the back of the net and not being a bit more clear-cut with chances," Smith said. 

"I've said before that I have every faith in the guys and I have no doubt they'll come good. It'll be nice to see a game where we hit the back of the net three or four times. 

"That could be the shot in the arm the group need, but there is no cause for concern at this point – there is plenty of other good things going on."

LAFC won the Supporters' Shield last season are unbeaten so far this campaign, winning five and drawing two of their matches to sit second in the Western Conference.

But despite Nashville's scoring issues, LAFC head coach Steve Cherundolo is expecting a difficult contest at Geodis Park.

"They're a team that's tough to beat," he said. "We've seen they're a well-coached team who prides themselves on keeping clean sheets and concedes few chances. 

"On the other side, they don't score a lot. They create chances, are dangerous from set-pieces and on the counter, but they're not scoring a lot at the minute. 

"But especially in Nashville, they're extremely difficult to beat. Points at this stage of the season are points – every team has the same attitude right now."


Nashville - Hany Mukhtar

Mukhtar has scored two and assisted three of Nashville's seven goals this season, including a late consolation strike at New York City last time out.

However, his past three goal contributions have come on the road – never before has he played three straight MLS home matches without scoring or assisting a single goal.

LAFC - Carlos Vela

Vela continues to be a key player for LAFC, with the former Mexico international scoring back-to-back braces in all competitions.

The 34-year-old was involved in all three of his side's goals in their win over LA Galaxy last week – the 10th time he has contributed to three or more goals in an MLS game.



Los Angeles FC's 17 points from their opening seven games is their second-best return at this stage, bettered only in 2019 when collecting 19.

Their unbeaten streak spans 10 matches stretching back into last season, though that run has to come to an end eventually.

LAFC were victorious on their only previous trip to Nashville last year, but Smith's side have not lost multiple home games against a single opponent on home soil.


Nashville - 42.1 per cent
LAFC - 29.6 per cent
Draw - 28.3 per cent

Tottenham's experience from last season will count for nothing when they face Newcastle United on Sunday, according to Cristian Stellini.

Spurs head to St James' Park looking to stay in the chase for Champions League qualification.

Stellini's side are fifth, three points behind Newcastle in the top four, having played a game more and possessing an inferior goal difference.

Defeat to Newcastle would leave Tottenham six points adrift and facing a huge uphill battle, but they can at least recall how the previous season ended.

Spurs chased down Arsenal, aided by a Newcastle win over the Gunners, to finish in the top four.

Meanwhile, Newcastle have not been in contention for a European finish in more than 10 years.

However, Stellini does not see that being a factor, explaining: "No, there's no advantage in this type of game.

"We have to play the game mentally and both teams are going strong. I don't think during the game when you are into the pitch you think about something mentally like an advantage.

"You have to play strong, you have to beat your opponent, win the duels, and this is the power you have to create into the pitch."

"Power" was the word of the day on Friday as Spurs suffered a power outage at their training ground, while Stellini described St James' Park as "one of the worst stadiums to play in for the atmosphere's power".

Newcastle coach Eddie Howe certainly hopes that will be the case this weekend.

"We're pleased to be at home, and hopefully we can feel the force of the crowd," Howe said.

"This week we certainly need everyone united in the game, which I'm sure we will be, and hopefully we can respond to last week's disappointment [at Aston Villa]."


Newcastle United – Callum Wilson

Newcastle will surely make changes after losing 3-0 at Villa last week, so might one of those see Wilson return to the XI? He has six goals and two assists in his past nine league starts, and he opened the scoring both in the reverse fixture and in the corresponding game last season.

Tottenham – Son Heung-min

After netting against both Brighton and Hove Albion and Bournemouth, Son is looking to score in three straight league games for the first time this season. In fact, prior to netting three in just past five outings, the winger had scored only twice all season. Spurs need him firing as they struggle to stay in contention.


Newcastle are looking to complete a double over Spurs for the first time since 2015-16, but that was also the last time they won this fixture at St James' Park.


The Magpies will at least hope to respond to the Villa defeat, with the past two examples of them losing back-to-back matches coming against Liverpool and Manchester City.

A draw would not do a great deal for Tottenham, who are winless in four away from home and last won outside of London in the league in October.


Newcastle – 32.1 per cent

Tottenham – 39.1 per cent

Draw – 28.8 per cent

Thomas Tuchel insisted there was nothing personal about his decision to bench Thomas Muller for both legs of Bayern Munich's Champions League quarter-final against Manchester City.

The 33-year-old was omitted from the starting line-up in Manchester and Munich, and Bayern slipped to a 4-1 aggregate defeat to slide out at the last-eight stage for a third consecutive season.

Muller is the most decorated player in Bayern's history, winning 11 Bundesliga titles and two Champions League crowns during his stellar career with the Bavarians.

He has a chance of another domestic league title this season, but that is all Bayern have left to challenge for after their European exit and defeat to Freiburg in the DFB-Pokal quarters.

It would be a calamity if recently appointed Tuchel fell out with club legend Muller, but the coach denies there is any problem between the pair. Indeed, he said he was "extremely impressed" with how Muller accepted his team selections.

"I am a big Thomas Muller fan myself. He has a world-class indefinability," Tuchel said in Friday's pre-match press conference.

"The Manchester games haven't suited him perfectly. Otherwise, he probably would have played. Many games are Muller games.

"Everything is OK at the moment. I was pleased with his reaction on the training ground yesterday. I was extremely impressed. He handled it in an exemplary manner. He just stepped on the gas and pulled the team along.

"But I have to make my decisions, sometimes they are hard. There is no personal note in it. Everyone has to accept it in a competitive situation."

Muller, who made brief substitute appearances in both City games, is likely to start on Saturday when Tuchel goes up against Mainz, one of the Bayern coach's former clubs.

Tuchel has called on Bayern to show more swagger in their remaining games, saying the team have lacked "a dash of determination and a dash of egoism".

"It's important how the team handles the situation. A lot has happened this season," said Tuchel. "The team has experienced a lot."

Bayern lead the Bundesliga by two points from Borussia Dortmund with six rounds of games remaining, and Tuchel stressed the domestic league must not be seen as a consolation prize for a team who craved European glory.

"I experienced it myself in Paris [when coaching Paris Saint-Germain], how sad it is that the championship is taken for granted," Tuchel said.

"It must not be taken for granted. Sure, we won't be celebrated as if an underdog became champion. We will not artificially downplay our claim to become champions.

"A championship is less prone to failure because you have time over a longer period of time. We fight for the title. We shouldn't be ashamed of that."

Jurgen Klopp told Liverpool's forwards counter-pressing will always be the "ticket" into his starting lineup, as Roberto Firmino was ruled out of Saturday's game against Nottingham Forest.

Liverpool ended a five-match winless run by thrashing Leeds United 6-1 last time out, with attacking quartet Cody Gakpo, Mohamed Salah, Diogo Jota and Darwin Nunez all on target.

Liverpool are looking to move within six points of the Premier League's top four when they host Forest, before Champions League contenders Newcastle United and Tottenham face off on Sunday.

The Reds will be without Firmino for their next game after he sustained a muscle injury, which could also force him to sit out meetings with West Ham and Tottenham next week.

"Unfortunately Bobby picked up a muscle issue, we'll see how long that takes," Klopp said.

"It's not too serious, but he's definitely out for tomorrow and next week we have two more games. I'd say those are impossible as well, we will see. We have to take it day by day."

With Luis Diaz's return from injury adding to Liverpool's options in attack, Klopp was asked how he selects a three-man frontline from the six elite forwards in his squad.

"The ticket into this team will definitely be counter-pressing," he said. "That's where everything started, I wouldn't say that we lost it a little bit… but we had so many games where I didn't like that.

"That's a pretty strict thing. All five available right now – six with Bobby – can do it pretty well. But if you do it in the games you play, you have the chance to start again.

"Everybody's super important and everyone will play, but again, the ticket will be the desire to win the ball back as soon as we lose it, because we had so many times where that made a difference."

The fierce competition for places in Liverpool's attack has seen Nunez start their last two games on the bench, and Klopp says the Uruguayan is still adapting amid a difficult debut season.

"Darwin is a player with a different skillset to all our other players. He's a real handful and he already scored a decent number of goals," Klopp said.

"Of course, he's still adapting, his English is still not great if it exists at all – we are working on that. 

"It's not helpful to go through a difficult debut season for the whole team. How can a striker shine when the whole team is struggling? 

"It's no problem at all, this is a long-term project. I understand that he wants to play from the beginning, but we have to find a way of playing that works for us, then fit in the players." 

England captain Leah Williamson will miss the World Cup after it was confirmed she has ruptured her anterior cruciate ligament.

Williamson suffered the injury during Arsenal's 1-0 defeat to Manchester United in the Women's Super League on Wednesday after catching her studs in the turf at Leigh Sports Village.

With the World Cup starting on July 20, Lionesses head coach Sarina Wiegman will need to consider her other options at centre-back without Williamson, who helped lead her country to European Championships glory on home soil last year.

A statement from Arsenal on Friday confirmed the diagnosis, saying: "We can confirm that Leah Williamson suffered a ruptured anterior cruciate ligament in our Barclays Women's Super League match against Manchester United on Wednesday night.

"Leah was substituted in the first half of the game at Leigh Sports Village and underwent further assessment on Thursday to determine the extent of the injury.

"Leah will now begin a period of rehabilitation and is set for an extended spell on the sidelines. She will undergo surgery in due course.

"Everyone at Arsenal will be supporting Leah closely throughout the journey ahead and we would ask that her privacy is respected at this time."

It is the same injury sustained by Williamson's club and country team-mate Beth Mead in November, with Mead in a race against time to make it back in time for the World Cup in Australia and New Zealand.

Reacting at a press conference, boss of Arsenal's WSL title rivals Manchester City, Gareth Taylor, said: "It's obviously not good for Leah or for Arsenal or for England as well."

Taylor backed Williamson to come back strongly, saying: "She's young, she's capable enough of recovering," and pointed out the injury was "very similar to what happened with Chloe [Kelly] two seasons ago", with the striker able to return to action and hit England's winner in the European Championship final against Germany last July.

Jurgen Klopp has no interest in looking beyond Saturday's Premier League game against Nottingham Forest, knowing Liverpool must realistically win every match to have a hope of qualifying for the Champions League.

The Reds are nine points behind fourth-placed Newcastle United with only eight games to play.

Although they have a favourable schedule, time is running out for a team who have been wildly inconsistent.

Klopp acknowledged that inconsistency on Friday as he described Liverpool's "average season" that has included "a couple of the highest results in this club's history".

Ahead of the first of five remaining home matches, Klopp's full focus was on Forest.

"When you are in a super moment in a season, the only game you have to worry about is the next one," he said. "If you are not in a super moment, you also only have to worry about the next one.

"I could not care less about where we are playing after tomorrow, to be honest. 

"Whatever we can do this season, the only thing that gives us any chance is to win our games. All our focus is on Nottingham."

Forest are on a 10-match winless run but won the reverse fixture, even if Steve Cooper recognises this is a very different task.

"Playing Liverpool at Anfield is different and we know everything that comes with that, but the moment we stop believing we can win games that's when it becomes really difficult," Cooper said.

"It's a big challenge but a great challenge as well and one we're really tackling."


Liverpool – Trent Alexander-Arnold

Alexander-Arnold is thriving in a new hybrid midfield role, tallying three assists across his past two games, including the 50th of his Premier League career against Leeds United on Monday. He is the third-youngest player to hit that mark and is coming back into form at a key stage of the season.

Nottingham Forest – Taiwo Awoniyi

Awoniyi returned to the line-up against Manchester United last time out, making just his 10th start of the league season three months on from his ninth. He has been restricted to just four goals, but three of those have come in 1-0 wins, including against Liverpool. Now would be a good time to come up with another.



Both the form book and the history books are quite clear on this one. Liverpool have lost only one of their past 37 home league games, while they are unbeaten in 23 home league games against Forest.

That last Forest league win at Anfield was back in 1969, and to end that barren run would mean becoming only the third promoted team to do the double over Liverpool in the Premier League era.

Including in the reverse match at the City Ground, Forest have only won this season when keeping a clean sheet, yet they have now conceded in 10 consecutive games, hence their winless run.


Liverpool – 76.7 per cent

Forest – 7.1 per cent

Draw – 16.2 per cent

Trent Alexander-Arnold's ability to step into midfield was never in doubt, says Jurgen Klopp, but the Liverpool boss has warned his new hybrid role cannot solve all the Reds' problems.

Alexander-Arnold produced an impressive display in Monday's 6-1 rout of Leeds United at Elland Road, drifting infield from his right-back position to register two assists.

By teeing up goals for Cody Gakpo and Darwin Nunez, Alexander-Arnold reached 50 Premier League assists – only Kevin De Bruyne (84), Andrew Robertson (53) and Mohamed Salah (53) have managed more in the competition since his December 2016 debut.

Alexander-Arnold's position has been the subject of much debate this term, with his defensive shortcomings being criticised amid a poor campaign for Liverpool.  

Asked whether Alexander-Arnold would remain in his new role for the long term, Klopp said: "We will see that. 

"In all the positions he played for us, Trent has always been a super important player. This slightly advanced role, at the moment, suits him really well. It's good.

"It's a challenge for everybody else to cover the spaces when we lose the ball, theoretically, but with him there we didn't lose many balls [against Leeds], which was helpful. 

"It's not written in stone or whatever. He can play in different ways, and how he played in the last two games was really, really good. That's true."


Having only registered two assists in his first 27 Premier League appearances this season, Alexander-Arnold has three in his last two ahead of Saturday's meeting with Nottingham Forest at Anfield.

Liverpool approach that game nine points adrift of the Premier League's top four, and while Klopp has been delighted with Alexander-Arnold's impact in his new role, he knows the 24-year-old cannot solve all the team's problems.

"It's not the first time we played it like that. It's slightly different, but not as different," Klopp continued. "Trent's a smart player, but it's more about how we set up around Trent. 

"Whether he could play the position was never in doubt, but you have to set up around him, because there are moments when we lose the ball and have a different formation.

"How do we get him on the ball? Obviously that's important. Maybe we'll do it like this tomorrow – we will see – but maybe Trent shows up there and gets a man-marker.

"It's not the solution to all the problems we had this year. He has the potential to play that position, that was always clear. We will see where it leads to."

Pep Guardiola will not entertain talk of a Manchester City treble until after they have won both the Premier League and the FA Cup, having been bemused by the suggestion they are "just 11 games" away.

City are through the semi-finals of both the FA Cup, playing Sheffield United on Saturday, and the Champions League, having eliminated Bayern Munich in the last eight this week.

As the league champions close on Arsenal at the top of the table, too, there is the potential for City to emulate rivals Manchester United's feat of 1999.

But Guardiola's side face a gruelling schedule, with the manager already complaining of fatigue following the Bayern game even before reaching a two-legged semi against Real Madrid.

For that reason, he sought to shut down the topic of the treble ahead of travelling to Wembley this weekend.

"I'm so happy you spent 10 questions before the first question about the treble," Guardiola said eight minutes into Friday's media briefing. "It was so nice.

"We will start to talk about the treble when we've won the Premier League and after we've won the FA Cup, before the final of the Champions League.

"Look how far away it is to start to talk about that."

The reporter asking the question replied: "But it's just 11 games, it's not long."

To that, a smirking Guardiola countered: "Oh, 'just', yes, 'just' 11 games. We are far away.

"I've said many times: how many times in this amazing country are trebles done? How many years? How many times? It's one. Our neighbours did it [once] in how many centuries?"

Asked if he was excited, Guardiola responded: "About the treble? Not at all."

City play Arsenal next in the Premier League on Wednesday, but their manager insisted he would not pick his team for Saturday with that game in mind.

Instead, he would be reflecting on the energy that was used in Munich, where Nathan Ake succumbed to an injury that will keep him out of this tie.

Even then, Guardiola is wary of a repeat of previous seasons, having exited the FA Cup at the semi-final stage in three straight years. In the past two, those defeats followed immediately after coming through a Champions League quarter-final.

"For Arsenal, we have four days; we have one more day than we have now," he said. "I would have loved to have played on Sunday, but I understand. United played yesterday, so that's why they have to play on Sunday.

"In the past, when I rotated the team, it was not because the next game was the FA Cup semi-final; it was just for the fatigue we had, with Atletico Madrid last season or Dortmund two seasons ago.

"It was away, after a demanding, demanding game, and that was the reason why. I have to evaluate with my backroom staff who is the best."

Carlo Ancelotti accused football's authorities of punishing players by packing the calendar with too many games as the Real Madrid boss faces a hectic finish to the season.

Victims of their own success, Madrid have a Copa del Rey final against Osasuna coming up in May, plus two legs of a Champions League semi-final against Manchester City, while also vying to finish as high as possible in LaLiga.

They will play on every weekend and in every midweek through to the start of June, which leaves Ancelotti with a tough task to keep his players fit and healthy.

He is eager not to suggest any weakness in his ranks, stressing Madrid would be able to recover between games, but it is far from a satisfactory situation for the veteran Italian coach.

He said: "The schedule doesn't make sense. It's too tight, with too many games. You have to evaluate a little the health of the players, who are the most important part of football.

"Here everyone thinks about themselves: LaLiga, the federation, UEFA, FIFA. The players don't count for anything for them and this is not correct. Something has to be changed, there are too many games.

"I have also heard that we have given too many days off. I looked at the calendar and I told myself I was wrong but no. In four months, since December 30, we have had eight days off, not taking into account the national team break. There have been only eight."

The former Milan and Chelsea boss added: "Right now, the rotation depends only on giving rest to the players that I see as the most tired, and to have more players in good physical condition.

"I have to give minutes to keep the players physically fit in the final stretch of the season."

He spoke of the need to carefully manage the likes of veteran captain Karim Benzema, who was substituted late in the game as Madrid completed their European quarter-final win at Chelsea on Tuesday.

"I took him off in London because when I think the game is over I want to preserve the players and give them a bit more rest," Ancelotti said.

The coach said Benzema is now "fine" and in contention to start the LaLiga home clash with Celta Vigo on Saturday.

On the horizon are the clashes with Pep Guardiola's City, a repeat of last season's Champions League semi-final that Madrid won with an extraordinary late comeback in the second leg.

Ancelotti took pride from hearing former Barcelona boss Guardiola say Madrid remain the team to beat in the competition.

"Yes, Madrid are highly respected and that's a good thing," Ancelotti said. "And that a coach like Guardiola says it, it's even better."

He expects a tremendous battle against a City side who last season typically played with a 'false nine' striker but now have the most predatory goal-getter in Europe in Erling Haaland.

"We are teams that can play differently," Ancelotti said. "I don't think they have completely changed their style, just that they have such a strong striker that the way of attacking changes a bit compared to last year. City can play a transition or possession game without problems."

As for whether City are favourites this time, Ancelotti added: "I don't know. It is not a subject that is in my head. We have to know that we are very close to a final, that they are a very strong rival in a very even tie. Let's see what happens."

Madrid trail leaders Barcelona by 11 points in LaLiga, so their hopes of a successful title defence look bleak at this stage.

City rivals Atletico Madrid could help out Los Blancos by winning at Camp Nou on Sunday; however, third-placed Atletico are just two points behind Madrid, so what may appear to be a favour, should a surprise result occur, could also spell trouble for Ancelotti.

"They are going to fight until the last moment for second place, which is important," Ancelotti said of Atletico. "They are on an important run and playing very well."

Madrid will not take Celta lightly, particularly with the likes of Spain striker Iago Aspas and much-coveted midfielder Gabri Veiga in their ranks.

"Yes I like him," Ancelotti said, when asked about Veiga. "They have quality players, like Iago Aspas, who are doing very well."

Thomas Tuchel slammed speculation about the Bayern Munich future of Oliver Kahn and Hasan Salihamidzic by stating the off-field leaders "shaped the club".

This has been a tough week for Bayern, with Champions League elimination coming at the quarter-final stage for a third successive season after a 1-1 draw with Manchester City meant a 4-1 aggregate defeat.

Tuchel allowed himself a joke in Friday's pre-match conference, ahead of the clash with Mainz, when he reacted to the arrival of set-piece mastermind Anthony Barry from Chelsea by saying: "Finally there is a good coach."

Most focus has fallen on the possibility of departures, however, with reports casting some doubt on whether Bayern will continue to back CEO Kahn and sporting director Salihamidzic.

"I read absolutely nothing," said head coach Tuchel. "I come here in the morning and I feel a good energy here. I try to influence what I can influence.

"I don't want to comment on the rumours. My cooperation with the club management is goal- and solution-oriented. Oliver Kahn and Hasan Salihamidzic shaped the club."

He added: "I don't rule out that some unrest affects the players. But it will never be completely calm. We focus on the things that we can influence ourselves. I don't know any other way."

Tuchel's team must reset and train their focus on the Bundesliga, their last remaining trophy target. Bayern head into this weekend's games with a two-point lead over second-placed Borussia Dortmund after both drew their last league matches.

According to Tuchel, Bayern are not themselves at the moment. "I rather sense an insecurity, an unrest that paralyses us a bit," he said.

He said the team should look to "turn dissatisfaction into energy", and Tuchel, appointed on March 25, has seen plenty of cause for dissatisfaction.

Bayern exited the DFB-Pokal to Freiburg under his watch in early April and have not gone beyond the quarter-finals of that competition in the last three seasons.

But Tuchel said: "This is not a crisis. We must not question everything. There is always a sense of reality involved. Many big clubs didn't make it to the [Champions League] quarter-finals. But we remain ambitious and we always want more. We're still first in the Bundesliga."

The arrival of coach Barry is a timely boost, with a deal agreed to take him from Chelsea, where he and Tuchel previously collaborated.

"He just arrived," Tuchel said. "Finally there is a good coach. I am very happy. We really wanted to have him with us. The whole package is right for him: his personality, the love of the game, the love of his job, his passion and his quality. He brings a lot of energy. His work with set-pieces at Chelsea was on a whole new level for me."

A star-studded panel of Europe-based legends will be urged to "protect the game of football" by giving expert insight into hot topics including VAR and handball at a UEFA summit on Monday.

Coaches including Jose Mourinho, Fabio Capello, Zinedine Zidane, Carlo Ancelotti, Gareth Southgate and Fabio Capello have joined the 24-man UEFA football board, along with superstar former players Paolo Maldini, Luis Figo, Gareth Bale, Rio Ferdinand, Michael Laudrup, Philipp Lahm and Robbie Keane.

There is one non-European on the board, with Inter's Argentine vice-president Javier Zanetti joining a throng that also includes former Germany team-mates Rudi Voller and Jurgen Klinsmann, plus Netherlands boss Ronald Koeman, Rafael Benitez, Patrick Vieira and Eric Abidal.

The noticeably all-male board will hold its first meeting at UEFA's European House of Football headquarters on Monday.

European football's governing body said the group will "give an institutional yet independent voice of experience and expertise on fundamental football-related topics".

UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin said: "UEFA is delighted to see that the very ones who have shaped the game's history with their talents and philosophy through decades are gathered again around our common goal – to protect the game of football and its essential values. As we always say: football first!"

Ceferin is campaigning for clarity on football's handball rules, having recently described the law as "really obscure".

"No one understands it any more," Ceferin said. "So we really need a conversation here, finding solutions and clarifying some issues."

He said that would be an issue for the football board to look at, and it was confirmed on Thursday as being on the agenda for the meeting, along with discussions about the video assistant referee system, player behaviour and medical issues.

UEFA said its technical director and chief of football Zvonimir Boban would chair Monday's meeting, although he is not a member of the new board.

UEFA football board members: Jose Mourinho (Portugal), Carlo Ancelotti (Italy), Zinedine Zidane (France), Paolo Maldini (Italy), Fabio Capello (Italy), Javier Zanetti (Argentina), Luis Figo (Portugal), Philipp Lahm (Germany), Ronald Koeman (Netherlands), Gareth Southgate (England), Rio Ferdinand (England), Michael Laudrup (Denmark), Rafael Benitez (Spain), Roberto Martinez (Spain)
Predrag Mijatovic (Montenegro), Jurgen Klinsmann (Germany), Rudi Voller (Germany), Petr Cech (Czech Republic), Juan Mata (Spain), Robbie Keane (Republic of Ireland), Patrick Vieira (France), Henrik Larsson (Sweden), Eric Abidal (France), Gareth Bale (Wales).

Atletico Madrid will welcome Joao Felix back with open arms if Chelsea decide against pursuing a permanent move for the forward, says club president Enrique Cerezo.

Joao Felix joined Chelsea on loan in January as part of a flurry of mid-season transfer activity at Stamford Bridge.

However, the Portugal international has managed just two goals in 11 Premier League appearances to date, and Frank Lampard has named him on the bench for Chelsea's last two games. 

While Joao Felix endured a strained relationship with Atletico boss Diego Simeone before departing on loan, Los Colchoneros will find a place for him if he returns to the club next season.

Asked about the forward's future, Cerezo told Cadena SER: "You can't anticipate things, everything is yet to be seen. Chelsea are a big team that can count on him. 

"If he comes back, he will be well received, if he returns. Nothing can ever be ruled out in football, you can't take anything for granted."

Atletico are two points behind second-placed Real Madrid in LaLiga after winning six successive league games, but Cerezo does not believe their improved form can be attributed to Joao Felix's exit.

"The circumstances of each team are different," he said. "Joao was under a lot of pressure, he's a star, but here he hasn't had the luck to show it. 

"He's going to be a great player, and not in the very distant future."

Brighton and Hove Albion's Moises Caicedo is confident he will have further chances to join one of the Premier League's elite clubs, though he admits his failed January move to Arsenal was "tough".

Arsenal reportedly saw bids of up to £70million rejected by Brighton in the most recent transfer window, with the 21-year-old publicly expressing his desire to join the league leaders.

Caicedo ultimately stayed put, however, and he even agreed a new long-term contract with the Seagulls in March.

Arsenal were initially expected to make another approach for Caicedo at the end of the season, while Liverpool have also been linked with a move as they look to rebuild their midfield.

While Caicedo struggled amid Arsenal's overtures, he does not believe he has missed his chance to play at the top level.

"I'm sure I'm going to have many more opportunities," Caicedo told The Telegraph. "That's why I continue to do things well. 

"I'd seen a lot of Arsenal before knowing that there was a possibility of me signing for them. I watched them and I liked them because they have very young, talented players and some stars, but they always have that mindset of wanting more.

"It was tough. When I didn't end up going, lots of people would make fun of me on Instagram. I didn't check my social media because it would hurt me to see things."

Roberto De Zerbi has led Brighton to seventh in the Premier League table and into an FA Cup semi-final against Manchester United, and Caicedo says the Italian's intervention was key to him staying at The Amex Stadium.

"He approached me, we spoke and he told me to be calm, that it wouldn't be the last club that would come in for me, I'd have more opportunities," Caicedo recalled.

"He told me to keep on doing what I was doing and that I'll see in the future I wouldn't be sorry about staying.

"I just want to have a really good season with Brighton now, and then we'll see what happens next season."

Manchester City are reportedly keeping a close eye on Chelsea midfielder Mateo Kovacic as a potential replacement for Ilkay Gundogan.

Kovacic, 28, has been a regular starter since arriving from Real Madrid in a £40million transfer back in 2019, but significant upheaval has seen him fighting for his spot in Chelsea's best XI.

With nine substitute appearances among his 23 Premier League outings this season, Kovacic's future at Stamford Bridge is up in the air as he prepares to enter the final year of his current contract.

While City are said to be serious about their pursuit of Borussia Dortmund star Jude Bellingham, it may not stop them making a move for Kovacic, who they purportedly believe could slide in seamlessly in Gundogan's place.



According to GiveMeSport, City are closely monitoring Kovacic's contract situation, and if no extension arrives he could be a prime candidate for Chelsea to ship off.

Further reporting from the Evening Standard adds that Chelsea are planning a "major overhaul" of their squad before June 30 in a race to comply with financial fair play rules.

That newspaper does not mention Kovacic as one of the likely departures, instead naming Christian Pulisic, Hakim Ziyech, Kalidou Koulibaly, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Conor Gallagher, Romelu Lukaku, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Mason Mount.

City are reportedly not dissuaded by Dortmund's asking price of around £125m for English super-prospect Bellingham, but there has been no indication the teenager would sign off on the move among interest from the world's biggest clubs.


– Calciomercato is reporting Napoli have marked 21-year-old Atlanta United winger and World Cup winner with Argentina Thiago Almada as their top transfer priority.

– According to Sport, Barcelona and Inter are in favour of a potential swap deal that would send 26-year-old midfielder Franck Kessie to Italy in return for 30-year-old Marcelo Brozovic.

David de Gea is on the verge of signing a contract extension with Manchester United, per Forbes.

– Gazzetta dello Sport is reporting Chelsea, United and Paris Saint-Germain target Victor Osimhen will require a €150m (£132m) bid to pry away from Napoli.

– According to TalkSPORT, Aston Villa have renewed their interest in 22-year-old Arsenal talent Emile Smith Rowe after having a £30m bid turned down in 2021.

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