Liverpool’s 2022 Carabao Cup final hero Caoimhin Kelleher will be more than happy to stay out of the limelight at Wembley.

The Republic of Ireland international scored what turned out to be the winning spot-kick after a goalless final against Sunday’s opponents Chelsea in an epic shoot-out which finished 11-10 when Kelleher’s opposite number Kepa Arrizabalaga blazed over, the only failure from either side.

It was fitting for the Irishman, who has been Liverpool’s League Cup goalkeeper for the last few seasons, but he would prefer a quieter afternoon this time around.

“To be fair, I was just in the moment. I didn’t even realise it was my go and I looked at the lads and they were pointing at me,” said Kelleher.

“I didn’t have much to think so I just ended up smashing it in.”

Asked whether he had practised his penalties again he added: “I’ve done bits and bobs but I’m hoping we win it in the 90 minutes. I think it’s easier for the fans.

“I have great memories from the cup. I think the clear thing will be the penalty, that is a really nice moment.

“Then after Chelsea missed their penalty, our celebration with the fans and the team was a special moment and one I’ll never forget and hopefully we can recreate something similar on Sunday.

“It was a good experience to look back on but I’m just trying to focus on getting good results.”

Kelleher is set for his longest run in the team as first-choice goalkeeper Alisson Becker, who has already missed the last three matches with a hamstring injury, is sidelined until after next month’s international break.

As back-up the 25-year-old has never played more than three consecutive games for the club but, after a similar run in November and December when Alisson was injured, he now has a chance to play a big part in the quest for silverware as the club continue to fight on four fronts.

“It can only help having a run of games as it gets you in a good rhythm and it fills me with confidence playing week in, week out,” he added.

“It’s good for me as I can get that rhythm and that relationship with the team. It can only help.”

Alisson is one of a significant number of absences, which includes Trent Alexander-Arnold, Diogo Jota and Curtis Jones, with Mohamed Salah, Darwin Nunez and Dominik Szoboszlai facing late fitness tests.

Liverpool’s midweek win over Luton showed how much their resources were stretched, with three defenders and five academy players on the bench, but assistant manager Pep Lijnders said there would be no excuses made.

“I think the good thing we always did in the past is look at what we have,” he said.

“It’s also good in life to just accept what you have and don’t look (at) what you don’t have, so that’s what we are trying to do.

“It brought us success in the past, so we try to keep that up.

“This season is a season where we created already three or four new teams in one season – that didn’t happen a lot in the last years.

“It’s a compliment for our squad, it’s a compliment for the academy.”

Mauricio Pochettino has urged the match officials not to be swayed by the focus on Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool farewell in Sunday’s Carabao Cup final.

Klopp will leave Anfield in the summer after almost nine years in charge and Sunday marks this season’s first chance to add to his seven trophies with the club.

Pochettino insisted his side “want to win because of Chelsea,” rather than being motivated by a desire to spoil Klopp’s farewell.

But he admitted he was unhappy with refereeing decisions in the recent league meeting between the teams, feeling his side should have had penalties for Virgil van Dijk’s challenges on Conor Gallagher in the first half and Christopher Nkunku in the second.

In quotes reported by several national newspapers regarding pressure on the outgoing Reds boss, the Argentinian added: “It is not pressure for him. Maybe it is for the people who want to celebrate with Liverpool.

“We need to be sure we are going to compete and be fair in every decision. At Anfield, I think too many decisions… not one key decision was for us.

“Two penalties were not given. Duels, 50-50s, always for another colour. Always red. I want to be treated in a fair way.

“The first decision after five minutes was a clear penalty. In the second half it was a penalty. The pressure is about not delivering the job for Klopp, the pressure is not to be part of the (hype).

“Of course, we are going to celebrate (Klopp’s reign). I am the first who is going to say that Liverpool is amazing and Klopp is one of the best coaches in the world.

“But I think after my last experience, what I want in Wembley is to not feel the pressure. It is to play a game at the same level and the best team will win. But not to feel the pressure of people around.”

Thomas Tuchel insists he will give everything to Bayern Munich ahead of his departure in the summer and hopes the decision over his future allows the team to play with “freedom”.

Tuchel has been unable to arrest a downturn in form, and speculation over his position came to a head this week when the club announced he would be leaving at the end of the current campaign.

Saturday’s game against RB Leipzig will be his first in charge since the news became public, with Bayern looking to end a three-game losing streak following losses to title rivals Bayer Leverkusen, Lazio and Bochum.

And while there is a possibility Tuchel could be seen as a lame duck coach over the coming months, he thinks the removal of uncertainty over his role could spark an upturn.

“I view it professionally and unemotionally. It’s a professional sport at the highest level,” he said of his shortened reign.

“There aren’t guilty individuals. I don’t think I’m the only problem, but I have responsibility. Now we have a new situation, it’s resolved, which hopefully makes it clear and brings freedom.

“This job only works if I give 100 per cent of myself. I have a very high professional expectation of myself and that’s completely dedicated to Bayern Munich until the end of the season. We have aims: we’re going for the maximum in the league and won’t give up until it’s over. In the Champions League we still have a second leg (against Lazio), so we are playing for maximum success.”

Tuchel resisted the temptation to divert blame away from himself and on to his players, but accepted the performance levels on matchday had been falling consistently short of expectations.

“The management know my analysis, which is also very self-critical. But it’s definitely not an analysis for the public,” he said.

“I’m not personally disappointed in the players. We have high standards, that won’t change. I’ve never had the feeling that there’s a big problem but there is a glaring discrepancy between the way we’re training and the way we’re playing. We’ve trained at a good level but that’s no guarantee that we’ll produce a good performance.”

Injuries have upset Bayern’s rhythm this term and they continue to be stretched, with Dayot Upamecano suspended and an injury list that contains Kingsley Coman, Sacha Boey, Noussair Mazraoui, Bouna Sarr, Serge Gnabry and Alphonso Davies.

Leipzig have proved tricky opponents in recent times, taking two draws and two wins from their last four games against Bayern.

Dani Olmo bagged a hat-trick when his side romped to a 3-0 win in the Super Cup final last August, a memory that still burns bright with the Spaniard.

“I would say it was a perfect game from all of us and for me individually to score three goals in Munich, in the Allianz, and to be able to win a trophy,” he said.

“It was for sure one of my best performances but we have to keep going because football never stops and now we have another chance. Bayern is always the opponent that motivates us. It’s always special.”

The Premier League’s auditor Deloitte has been awarded a key contract in helping to set up football’s independent regulator, the PA news agency understands.

Sources have expressed concern over a potential conflict of interest for financial services firm Deloitte, which signed off the Premier League’s most recent set of annual accounts.

The EFL and campaign groups want the regulator to be able to review whether any new deal agreed between the Premier League and the EFL on how television cash is split meets the regulator’s stated aim of ensuring the sport’s financial sustainability.

The involvement of Deloitte has raised some eyebrows, at a time when the regulator’s precise remit is still unclear as the wait goes on for the publication of the Football Governance Bill.

EFL clubs left a meeting with Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer last week concerned that the regulator would not be given powers to correct any  settlement which is agreed, something which football reform group Fair Game has said would be “unacceptable”.

Government sources say the Deloitte contract will involve the firm providing support around the design and implementation of the regulator’s operating model, and insist the firm will not be providing advice on, or developing, regulator policy.

Deloitte will look at how the regulator is structured, staffed, and its systems and infrastructure requirements, the Government source said.

They said any potential conflicts of interest would be managed in the usual way, and were considered as part of the procurement process.

The Government and Deloitte declined to comment.

EFL chairman Rick Parry told MPs last month that his organisation was prepared to do a deal with the Premier League but stressed that the “right solution” on financial distribution and cost controls would only be reached through independent analysis by the regulator, as part of a planned ‘state of the game’ review once it is up and running.

The EFL has declined to comment following last week’s meeting as it continues dialogue with the Government, but Fair Game – which has 13 EFL clubs within its membership – insists the regulator must have the power to intervene.

“The number one stated aim of the regulator is to secure the financial sustainability of the football pyramid,” Fair Game’s director of advocacy Mike Baker said in a statement issued on Friday.

“So it is not about having any regulator, it’s about having the right regulator. The status quo is not acceptable.

“The proposed backstop powers (of the regulator) currently can only be triggered by the Premier League and the EFL authorities, and if a deal is signed now for six years the regulator will have no powers to correct it.

“That is unacceptable. If the regulator is to achieve its core objectives then it must oversee football’s finances and reward well-run clubs. Anything else and we will have a regulator that lacks the teeth to fix football’s ills.”

The deal under discussion between the Premier League and the EFL is believed to be worth an additional £900million over six years to the EFL’s clubs, but the EFL has strong misgivings over the cost control measures attached to it.

While clubs in the Championship are expected to be capped at spending around 70 per cent of revenue on squad costs, in line with UEFA’s new financial sustainability regulations, those relegated to the second tier are set to be capped at 85 per cent while they are in receipt of parachute payments.

That would mean those clubs being able to spend a greater percentage of a larger amount than non-parachute rivals. Parry believes that puts non-parachute clubs in the “horrendous” position of having to choose between being competitive and sustainable and will widen the cliff edge between the top two divisions.

Top-flight clubs are still to agree on how any extra funding for the EFL is paid for, and on a new financial system for the Premier League to ultimately replace its profitability and sustainability rules (PSR).

Premier League clubs are due to gather for further shareholder meetings on February 29 and March 11, with the latter understood to be the more likely to prove decisive in moving this issue forward.

PA understands a number of EFL clubs, even those who had been inclined to agree to the deal, are now feeling more hostile towards the process following the meeting with Frazer which some described as “a car crash”.

Accrington chairman Andy Holt took to social media to voice his concerns about it and felt Frazer was applying pressure to agree to the deal, even though the ball remains in the Premier League’s court at this stage.

Government sources have said Frazer’s position was misinterpreted and that she was advising clubs to do a deal, as has always been the Government’s position, not necessarily to accept the deal that was on the table.

A publication date for the Football Governance Bill, which has the creation of the regulator at its heart, is still understood to be some weeks away after there had been indications it could be published on Monday next week.

(NB): You can catch the exciting action of the Carabao Cup on Sportsmax.

Virgil van Dijk has warned Chelsea it would not be wise to underestimate a Liverpool team without Mohamed Salah and Darwin Nunez.

Jurgen Klopp’s side proved in midweek, when they came from behind to beat Luton 4-1 with an impressive second-half performance, they are capable of scoring goals without two of their major stars.

Both face late fitness tests ahead of Sunday’s Carabao Cup final after Salah suffered fatigue in his first match back at Brentford last weekend after a month out with a hamstring injury and Nunez was replaced at half-time in the same game as a precaution.

With Diogo Jota, their second-highest scorer this season, already ruled out it leaves Liverpool looking less threatening up front even though Cody Gakpo and Luis Diaz both have reached double figures.

But Van Dijk said that did not mean Chelsea should view it as an easier task as they seek to avenge their League Cup final defeat on penalties of two years ago.

“If they take us lightly then that’s their problem. That fear factor, we don’t have influence on that,” said the Netherlands captain.

“I think the players coming in then have to step up and show they’re wrong. I think that’s the only way to do it.

“I think we have enough quality to read the opponents. Players who come in have to show that.

“Everyone has to step up and the ones that play have to deliver to get results.
“I think if you play for Liverpool, you’re quite a good player already, so go out there and make everyone proud.”

Van Dijk assumed the captaincy in the summer after Jordan Henderson’s departure, so this is the first opportunity for him to lift a trophy having watched his predecessor celebrate with the Premier League, Champions League, League and FA Cup and Club World Cup.

“It’s important, but the most important thing is to try and win the game, and then we’ll see what happens after,” added the Dutchman, who accepts Chelsea are a different prospect from the one beaten 4-1 at Anfield a month ago.

“I visualise myself leading the boys out, but I don’t think about me lifting anything.

“I try to lead out the boys as good as possible, on and off the pitch, be their leader and so far, so good.

“So I’m thinking about a big challenge ahead of us. Hopefully we can make it an amazing afternoon on Sunday.”

In terms of whether victory at Wembley can provide a springboard for more silverware – Liverpool are still fighting on three other fronts – Van Dijk said: “We’ll focus on trying to win the game and then we’ll see.

“You know we can’t think about what’s coming next, we have to think about what’s ahead of us and that’s Chelsea at this stage.

“It’ll be a very difficult game, an interesting game as well. We have to be very good to do that, but let’s go for it.”

Major League Soccer commissioner Don Garber says they will do whatever it takes to compete with the likes of the Premier League and believes an eventual relaxation in their spending rules is inevitable.

The 29th season of the United States and Canada’s top division got under way on Wednesday, with Lionel Messi shining in Inter Miami’s 2-0 home win against Real Salt Lake.

MLS sent ripples around the world last summer by signing the now eight-time Ballon d’Or winner, kicking off an exciting new chapter in the ever-evolving competition’s history.

 

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Major League Soccer (@mls)

 

The loosening of rules and restrictions around spending would help accelerate that progress, but Garber believes patience is key to maximising developments without risking instability.

“(From some there is) this pressure and this energy to spend more money and just accelerate what has been a very strategic and careful growth plan for the league,” the long-serving MLS commissioner said.

“And at some point that’s going to come. The market is going to dictate that.

“But we’re still in a world where we’re managing player engagement and player involvement on a global basis, managing our economics here.”

MLS clubs must currently adhere to a strict salary cap, with three Designated Players allowed outside of that budget to help attract the world’s best.

“We are living through a world where MLS is still a growth opportunity,” Garber said. “Now we’re seeing unique revenue here, so the Messi effect has been dramatic.

“I saw some article about their forecasted revenue. If we thought every team could deliver that by signing players, I could assure you that MLS would adapt its rules to be able to deliver that.

“Somebody wrote an article about how we’re thinking about how to evolve over the next number of years, are thinking in terms of strategic player spending.

“We will do whatever we need to do to grow our fan base, to build the competitiveness of our league, and to grow our revenues, and ultimately the credibility and viability of MLS on a global stage.

“Nothing is going to stop us from doing that. But we just want to be thoughtful about it.”

Messi’s arrival in Miami underlined MLS’ ambitious growth plans and the 2026 World Cup in the US, Canada and Mexico offers the chance to take a further giant stride.

Whether the 36-year-old is still playing by then remains to be seen, but the Argentina skipper’s swashbuckling display in Wednesday’s curtain-raiser suggests he has plenty left in the tank.

“Getting him signed was a statement about Major League Soccer – that we can compete, deliver a great experience for a player, a competitive environment,” Garber said. “One where they can further their career.

“There’s going to be another Lionel Messi at some point, and I hope that MLS is in a position to be able to sign that player. Who that player is today, I don’t know.

 

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Inter Miami CF (@intermiamicf)

 

“But it was a very, very competitive dynamic. I don’t think any of you thought that Messi was going to get signed by Miami when those discussions were going on with Barcelona and in Saudi Arabia.

“So, there’ll be another player that will come in that maybe will be part of the chapter book of our league, but there’s only one Leo.”

Mauricio Pochettino believes Chelsea are “awake” after recent results that have altered the course of their season ahead of Sunday’s Carabao Cup final.

The meeting with Liverpool at Wembley will be the club’s first final since co-owner Todd Boehly took charge and embarked on a radical overhaul that has so far not brought success.

It comes after wins away at Aston Villa in the FA Cup and Crystal Palace in the Premier League, which were followed by a fine draw against champions Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium a week ago.

Those three performances have significantly changed the perception of Pochettino’s rebuilding of the team, after the last home game – a 4-2 defeat to Wolves at Stamford Bridge early in February – saw Chelsea booed off the pitch by sections of their own support.

Days earlier they were soundly beaten 4-1 at Anfield by Sunday’s opponents, a disjointed performance in which the team looked to be in disarray and well short of expectations set by the more than £1billion spent by Boehly on recruitment.

Now the the Argentinian is confident that the last three weeks have brought a significant change in his players’ ability to compete at Wembley with title-chasing Liverpool.

“We will need to manage some moments during the game,” he said. “But I think in the last few weeks we’ve learned a lot, we’ve stepped up from (the defeat at Anfield). We arrive with very good momentum.

“After competing against Villa, Palace and Manchester City, it’s provided the team with the confidence and the trust.

“The team is awake to the competition. There was a click to change in the way we compete, that we were missing in the first half of the season.

“The circumstances are completely different (now), for us and for (Liverpool).”

Since the game at Anfield, Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp has lost a number of key players to injury including Trent Alexander-Arnold, Alisson Becker, Diogo Jota and Curtis Jones.

Pochettino has selection worries of his own, with Thiago Silva to be assessed having missed the last three games.

Goalkeeper Robert Sanchez is available after injury but Djordje Petrovic, who has impressed since coming into the side early in December, could keep his place.

Klopp has stated he believes his team are not favourites at Wembley, an idea the Chelsea manager rejects.

“(Klopp) is clever enough,” said Pochettino. “He knows that when you play a final, anything can happen. If they’re not the favourite, then we are not the favourite.

“For me Liverpool is the favourite. After eight years they have the experience to compete like a team, and be involved in different finals.

“For our players, it’s new. For some of them it’s maybe their first final. That’s why they are favourites, in my opinion. But he is clever enough to say it’s 50-50.”

Pochettino added that his team may ultimately be stronger for their chastening night on Merseyside in January.

“In this type of process, you need that these type of things happen,” he said. “You need to really wake up about the situation.

“The team needs to learn from the good and the not-so-good experiences. It was positive.

“After Liverpool, that result was completely unfair. But maybe that was good for us, to feel the pain, the negative situation, to be stronger now, and to find the way to compete better.”

Celtic goalkeeper Joe Hart has revealed he wanted to end his playing career on his own terms and could not imagine finishing it at any other club.

The 75-times capped England international this week announced his decision to retire at the end of the season, when he will be 37.

The former Manchester City player rejuvenated his career after moving from Tottenham in the summer of 2021, adding a clean sweep of Scottish domestic trophies to his full collection of English major honours.

And he wants the focus on his future to quickly switch to his attempts to continue that success as Celtic bid to rise to a strong title challenge from Rangers after losing top spot in the cinch Premiership last weekend.

Hart said: “I have loved every moment of being here, myself and my family, it’s been everything and more than I wanted it to be, and I will be forever proud that I represented this club.

“The most pleasing thing for me is a lot of the people here respect that I come and I give my all. Whether it’s good, bad or indifferent.

“I’m sure there’s a lot of times when people wanted me in, wanted me out, but that’s the life of a goalkeeper. But ultimately you are respected as a person, and welcomed into a really special club.

“I will be 37 at the end of this season. What direction the club wants to go, whether I fitted into that, I wasn’t too sure. We didn’t even have that conversation.

“I certainly wasn’t interested in going and trying to play anywhere else.

“So I felt, right, I wanted to be strong and fit and ultimately happy. If there is such a thing, I feel I am in that place, and I feel like it’s the right time.”

Hart, who made his first-team debut for Shrewsbury 20 years ago, added: “I looked at what age I’m going to be, I’m aware of all the stresses I have put myself through body-wise all through my career.

“I didn’t really want to wait and be told. And with the cycle of the three years I have managed to do here, I wasn’t interested in playing anywhere else. It just felt right.

“I felt like I know and I wanted the club to know because I have a lot of love and respect for this club and I want the club to move forward to bigger and better things.

“No-one needs the speculation of whether a regular starter is going to be offered a contract, sign a contract, whether he is looking elsewhere. That’s a needless narrative when all of us are on the same page so I thought it was important to address it.

“There will be a couple of days of noise but after that no-one will care. ‘Oh right, Joe is retiring at the end of the season, Celtic need a goalkeeper, but right now he is there and he is going to be head down and fully fighting for this special club’.”

Hart’s decision gives manager Brendan Rodgers one less big call to make as he plans for what appears to be a crucial summer transfer window.

“I think we are very clear on what we need to improve on within the team and the squad,” said Rodgers, who welcomes Alistair Johnston and Cameron Carter-Vickers back from injury for Sunday’s trip to Motherwell.

“But certainly with Joe going, that really quickens that up in terms of needing to bring in someone for next year.”

New Crystal Palace boss Oliver Glasner warned he was “no magician” as he prepares for his first game in charge of the relegation-threatened side.

While there will no doubt be changes coming at Selhurst Park, the Austrian’s message in his first press conference at times echoed his predecessor Roy Hodgson who, in the weeks leading up to his departure last Thursday, liked to remind critics that he did not have a “magic wand.”

Glasner, who led Eintracht Frankfurt to Europa League glory in 2022, takes over a Palace side five points clear of the relegation zone and 12 ahead of Saturday’s opponents Burnley, still missing a trio of their most influential players, and in recent weeks playing in front of an increasingly disillusioned fanbase.

The 49-year-old, who took charge of his first training session on Wednesday, referenced the famous American illusionist as he said: “I’m no magician. I’m not David Copperfield.

“But what I always tell the players is the same for me. You can grow with your challenges, and it’s a challenge for me, it’s a challenge for all of us, but I’ve had a warm welcome from all the players, from the whole organisation, also from the British weather the last few days.

“It made it really easy to start the players listening. The players have great character. We’ve had more meetings than training sessions on the pitch, but I really think we all did well together.

“Now it’s up to us to get the confidence back. It was a short week but the players are listening, are willing, are open-minded and this is what I like.

“I don’t expect that there will be something totally different tomorrow because that is not possible – sorry, no David Copperfield here – but I feel this is a great team with great character fighting for each other, fighting for a win.

“What I can promise is that it is always our basic (philosophy), the only thing I expect from my players in every game is that we give 100 per cent to win this game.”

Glasner, who spent almost his entire playing career as a defender for Austrian side SV Ried, had spells leading Ried and LASK before moving to the Bundesliga where he led Wolfsburg to Champions League qualification and then joined Frankfurt.

He was in talks to take over from Hodgson when the 76-year-old’s contract expired at the end of this season but was instead announced ahead of schedule, replacing a man already under pressure and rumoured to be on his way out before he was hospitalised after falling ill during a training session on Thursday.

Glasner sees himself as a glass-half-full character when it comes to the relegation battle and, in a meeting with league officials, checked to see where his naturally expressive nature on the touchline could get him into trouble.

He added: “I was used to sprinting down the sidelines and celebrating with my players. I try to be calm but sometimes I’m not calm.

“I don’t know what you will see tomorrow but everything you will see, this is Oliver Glasner.

“I cannot change in two days and I don’t want to change. If I feel the emotion, I want to show it.”

Pep Guardiola has bluntly responded to Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s aim to knock Manchester City “off their perch” by pointing out he speaks “the truth”.

Ratcliffe completed his purchase of a 27.7 per cent in Manchester United this week and immediately set out his ambitions to restore the club to the top of the English and European game.

He did this by reprising the language of Sir Alex Ferguson, who similarly pledged to rein in Liverpool in his early days as manager at Old Trafford.

United have won just one trophy compared to City’s 14 in the past six seasons and Guardiola feels Ratcliffe’s acceptance of the Blues’ current pre-eminent status is the Red Devils’ first step towards a fightback.

The City manager said: “It’s the truth! As (soon) as the teams admit it, they will be closer to us.

“If they want to deny it for things that are not the reality then it’s their problem. It’s not our problem.

“When I’ve been below teams I’ve always admired them and thought about what we need to do to be close, to challenge them.

“If they want to be judged on things they are comfortable with for one day they will not arrive where we are now.

“When we were below and United were winning, we were watching them, admiring them. We wanted to learn from them.

“The period of Sir Alex Ferguson – the generation with Roy Keane, David Beckham, Gary Neville – and all those big, big players, Rio Ferdinand – I’m pretty sure City admired and thought ‘we want to be there’. Now we are there.

“That’s why, for these type of comments, that I have the feeling that they will be back.”

While Guardiola now expects United to improve under the guidance of Ratcliffe, who has taken control of footballing operations at Old Trafford, he insisted it was not something that concerned him.

The Spaniard said: “It’s not about (being) worried. I’m pretty sure with Sir Jim Ratcliffe and the other people that United are going to take a step forwards.

“I feel that they know exactly what they have to do, appoint the people they need to appoint with their experience in the business world to make projects better.

“But that is normal. It’s not just United. All the teams want it. We want to be there and as long as I’m here, we will try to be there again.

“What I want is Man City, my team, being there. The rest, I don’t care.”

Second-placed City travel to Bournemouth in the Premier League on Saturday with a chance to cut the gap to leaders Liverpool to one point in what is their game in hand.

Playmaker Kevin De Bruyne was not risked in the midweek win over Brentford due to what Guardiola described as “niggles”.

He would not confirm if he would return this weekend but said he was “pretty sure he will travel”.

Guardiola said: “He’s good. He’s not injured. He’s better but I don’t know if he’s 100 per cent. I think we took a good decision not to take a risk.”

Real Madrid striker Joselu is facing a spell on the sidelines after tests revealed an ankle problem.

The 33-year-old Spain international, who has scored 14 goals for Madrid this season after joining on loan from Espanyol, has been diagnosed with a bone oedema in his right ankle, the Spanish giants have announced.

Madrid have not said how long Joselu is likely to be out for but reports in Spain suggest he could be absent for around three weeks.

That would rule him out of Sunday’s LaLiga visit of Sevilla and several other matches, including the Champions League last-16 second leg against RB Leipzig on March 6.

A club statement read: “Following tests carried out on Joselu by the Real Madrid Medical Services, the player has been diagnosed with a bone oedema in his right ankle. His progress will be monitored.”

Carlo Ancelotti’s Madrid are six points clear at the top of LaLiga with 13 games remaining.

David Moyes has revealed West Ham have offered him a new contract, but he has yet to decide whether to stay at the club.

The Hammers manager’s current deal ends this summer and there was some doubt he would be offered a new one given their struggles since the turn of the year.

However, it seems Moyes is in charge of his own destiny in east London, and he could even opt to follow Jurgen Klopp’s lead at Liverpool and walk away at the end of the season.

Moyes, who is more than four years into his second spell at West Ham, said: “There’s a contract there for me.

“I’m the one deciding I want to wait until the end of the season, to make sure everything is correct, to concentrate on this season.

“I’ve really enjoyed my four years. I’ll see my contract out.

“There are plenty of reasons. I’ve got to make sure it’s the right thing for the club, for me and my family. I’ve spoken to the board. I’ve had a fabulous four years. We’ll sort it out but I’m happy to wait.”

Moyes guided West Ham to their first trophy in 43 years in last season’s Europa Conference League final, but some supporters have turned on him again after a run of eight matches without a win.

They have lost their last three in the Premier League, conceding 11 goals and scoring none, and were dumped out of the FA Cup by Bristol City.

However, much like last season, Europe is Moyes’ saving grace and the Hammers have got a favourable draw against Freiburg in the last 16 of the Europa League.

West Ham have already beaten the Bundesliga side twice this season after meeting them in the group stages, although their fans were banned from the away fixture due to the trouble at the Conference League final.

“We’re looking forward to going back and playing them again,” said Moyes.

“They were the toughest team in the group. We have to go back again and see if we can win for a second time.

“I don’t think that makes it any easier. The group was tight, the games were close. There’s no big difference.

“There are some big teams in this competition, the leaders in Germany, the leaders in this country. You’re trying to avoid them as much as you can.

“But it’s a tough game. They’ve just beaten Lens, who were in Arsenal’s Champions League group, giving you an idea they are a good team.

“The good thing about it is we knew we’d have European football after Christmas for the third year in a row, we’re really pleased.

“Once you get this far you want to see if we can get to the next round. We’ve had a few brilliant years in Europe.”

Philippe Clement declared Rangers as underdogs for the first time since he became manager after the Light Blues were drawn against Benfica in the last 16 of the Europa League.

The cinch Premiership leaders are scheduled to travel to Portugal for the first leg on March 7 before the return game at Ibrox a week later.

Benfica sit joint-top of the Portuguese Primeira Liga table with rivals Sporting Lisbon, having played a game more.

Clement, who took over the Ibrox hot seat from Michael Beale and who has dragged Rangers from seven points behind Celtic to two points clear of the Hoops at the top of the cinch Premiership ahead of the visit of third-placed Hearts on Saturday, surveyed a difficult but winnable European tie.

“It is a really exciting challenge because it is a very good team,” said the Belgian boss, who confirmed midfielder Todd Cantwell will be out for three to four weeks with a hamstring injury while striker Kemar Roofe returns to the squad after another lengthy spell out with injury.

“I think it will be the first game since I have been here that we have been underdogs in a game. That is the reality.

“I don’t see us as underdogs against Celtic. I see us as two teams at a similar level competing and so that is different to Benfica.

“I saw them last season against my old team Club Brugge and they were very impressive (won 7-1 on aggregate). But it doesn’t mean that we cannot qualify.

“We believe in our qualities and with the mentality that is in this group now, we can beat everybody but we have to be at our top form and we also need to have luck in key moments in the game.

“Of course European nights are important for the club and the stature of the club but you need to be realistic.

“You have to look at your budget, what you spent, the value of your squad and compare that.

“So in that way Benfica are in front of us but there is a really special story developing here and there is a lot of motivation, hunger and desire and with that we can do really amazing things so that is what we are going to try to do in those two games.”

Manchester United striker Rasmus Hojlund is due to miss next weekend’s derby against Manchester City after suffering a muscle injury in a significant blow for manager Erik ten Hag.

The in-form 21-year-old, who had scored seven goals in his last six appearances for United, will sit out Saturday’s Premier League match against Fulham and Wednesday’s FA Cup fifth-round tie at Nottingham Forest.

United said the Denmark international is expected to miss two to three weeks, a timeframe that would also rule him out of the trip to the Etihad Stadium a week on Sunday.

“It’s a small injury, two to three weeks,” Ten Hag said in Friday’s press conference. “That’s what happened, that is the risk playing high intensity, training. It’s not a big injury but he has to wait now for two, three weeks.”

Hojlund’s injury – which comes in the same week that Luke Shaw was ruled out for several months – leaves Ten Hag short of options in attack with Anthony Martial already sidelined until April following a groin operation and it is likely that Marcus Rashford will be asked to play in a central role.

Ten Hag was speaking for the first time since Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s purchase of a minority stake in the club was ratified and after the billionaire gave a wide-ranging interview in midweek in which he laid out ambitious plans to knock the likes of Manchester City and Liverpool “off their perch”.

Ten Hag said he and Ratcliffe, whose Ineos group have taken control of footballing operations following the deal, are on the same page.

“We speak a lot, we have many conversations with him and with Dave Brailsford (Ineos director of sport) about this club, about the team about the structures,” he said. “We are very aligned. Their ambitions fit with the ambitions I have, with the ambitions I had when I came in.

“We are in that project now. For me, I’m 18, 19 months in and I see (things) go in the right direction. We had setbacks in the second season but you see the team coming, you see the squad progressing and developing.”

And the Dutchman denied that he would find himself under increased pressure given the expectations that Ratcliffe will have for the club. United have won four in a row in the league but remain five points adrift of the top four.

“No more pressure because we have the same ambition, we have the same targets,” Ten Hag said. “I see the process and I see this team is developing, it’s progressing.

“I see we have now also the right age across the squad, we can make that even stronger and they will grow and we will do everything in our power. There is strong competition and there are reasons behind it.

“We still have to catch up in the moment where every game is a final for us because we have to be in the Champions League. The players want this, the team want this but we have to believe.”

Injuries, however, could be the thing that derails United’s bid to break into the top four.

Hojlund and Shaw have joined an injury list that already includes Martial, Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Lisandro Martinez, Mason Mount and Tyrell Malacia.

“Of course that is an issue but other clubs have this and we have to deal with this,” Ten Hag said. “I feel we can deal with it better but still it’s an issue with the depth of the squad, and the squad have to prove it.”

Xavi is not expecting Getafe to sit back at Camp Nou when they face his Barcelona side on Saturday.

Nothing else but three points will do for Barca if they are to keep their flagging La Liga title hopes alive, as they trail their bitter rivals Real Madrid by eight points with 13 games to go.

Xavi, who will leave his position as head coach at the end of the season after a difficult campaign, does not think a win will be easily achieved by his team against a Getafe side who occupy 10th spot.

“Getafe are not a defensive team, they are a brave team,” he said at his pre-match press conference on Friday.

“They press very high up the pitch and they have picked up points at some tricky away grounds. They always compete and (coach Jose) Bordalas always gets the most out of his players, and that is worthy of praise.

“The points are very important for the battle for the league title. As long as we are mathematically involved, we will fight for it. Each week is a different story. We can’t drop points, less so at home.

“We would go to be in second place in the table (above Girona) and that will put more pressure on Girona and Real Madrid, who play later. We are not throwing in the towel, even though we know that it will be tough.”

Barcelona come into the match after a 1-1 draw away to Napoli in the first leg of their Champions League last 16 tie on Wednesday.

“We will see how we come into the game, but it is the moment for the best players,” Xavi added.

“We will make some changes but not many, because it is a vital match. It would have been better to play on Sunday or Monday but that is no excuse.”

Barcelona are without Alejandro Balde (hamstring), who is sidelined for the rest of the season, while Marcos Alonso remains unavailable due to lower back pain, which has meant Joao Cancelo being forced to play at left-back.

“He is playing very well both on the left and on the right, his contribution is fantastic,” Xavi said about Cancelo.

“The instructions I give him are because sometimes he plays too high or too low. Also because he is closer to the bench for me (to communicate with). But he is a leader too, we are very happy with him.”

Page 5 of 1391
© 2023 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.