Jurgen Klopp has seemingly dented Liverpool fans' hopes of seeing Virgil van Dijk in action again this season after acknowledging he is still "quite a way" from returning to first-team training.

Van Dijk has missed much of the season having suffered an anterior cruciate ligament injury against Everton in October, ruling him out ever since.

His was just one of numerous defensive injury issues Liverpool have had to contend with this season, and it has subsequently wreaked havoc with their season as they go into Sunday's trip to Old Trafford against Manchester United four points adrift of fourth.

Van Dijk's leadership and imperious attributes made him a huge part of the Reds' Premier League title triumph last season, playing all 38 matches.

Only one defender in the league bettered his 191 aerial wins, he attempted – and completed – more passes than any of them and Trent Alexander-Arnold was the sole defensive player to have more than his 3,624 touches of the ball.

His excellence did not only help keep them solid at the back but his influence stretched to their wider philosophy on the ball as well, yet they have been without that for most of 2020-21.

And, despite videos of Van Dijk running emerging on social media on Thursday, Klopp is urging fans not to get over-excited.

"I don't have enough English words to say the same thing that often," Klopp told reporters. "Yes, he is running like Hendo [Jordan Henderson], Joe [Gomez] and Joel [Matip], that's all good. Rehab always starts with straight-line running.

"There's a lot of things to come. You go through a lot of steps until you are finally ready to join team training. They are all quite a way.

"Nobody told me, fasten your seatbelt, the boys will be ready and in team training next week, but they are in a good way."

Sunday's meeting with bitter rivals United comes at a potentially pivotal moment, with the Red Devils still hopeful of pushing Manchester City all the way in the title race and Klopp's men needing a boost to their top-four hopes.

Although United were in action as recently as Thursday, beating Roma 6-2 in their Europa League semi-final first leg, Klopp doubts Liverpool can count on much of an advantage in terms of freshness.

"Whatever situation you are in, when you're a Liverpool player or manager, this is the game," he continued.

"Is it the best place to go after watching them score five in one half? I don't know. A lot of things can happen, we just make sure we are ready for it.

"They looked pretty good last night and we have to be ready but we have trained well this week. We will have the right legs to go and see what we can make of it.

"[Marcus] Rashford, [Mason] Greenwood, [Paul] Pogba played a good game last night. Whoever we play, they cannot and won't make massive changes. It's tough but we've had these types of fixtures in other seasons, so it's just a fight. We have to fight.

"When you play Thursday then Sunday… Man United have got used to it but it doesn't make it better. It's a tough challenge for them.

"Today is recovery, tomorrow second recovery and then they play. No chance to change things but I don't think they want to really at the moment.

"It will be a tough game, intense. We saw last night – they are good! Especially when you let them play.

"They were flying. I am pretty sure United still feel they have a chance [for the title]. Both teams have to win it which is a good recipe for the game."

Five high-profile club executives have resigned from their roles on Premier League sub-committees following the European Super League debacle.

Stats Perform News understands Manchester United executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward and Liverpool chairman Tom Werner have stepped down from the club broadcast advisory group, while Chelsea chairman Bruce Buck has left the audit and remuneration committee.

Arsenal chief executive Vinai Venkatesham and his Manchester City counterpart Ferran Soriano have both resigned from the club strategic advisory group.

The moves came to light just 11 days after these clubs, and Tottenham, declared on April 18 they would be joining a new Super League competition, which faced scorn before it was formally announced after news leaked out in the preceding hours.

It provoked fury, with the 'closed-shop' element of the proposed new competition set to see six of the Premier League's biggest clubs guaranteed riches far beyond those available to their domestic rivals.

Within 48 hours, the project had collapsed as the Premier League clubs withdrew, but by showing they had been willing to join in the new league, and doing so without consulting others that may be affected, domestic rivals were left incensed.

There were calls for points penalties or financial punishments to be imposed, but those now seem unlikely.

By losing their executive representation on the sub-committees, at the apparent behest of the 14 aggrieved clubs, the influence of the 'breakaway' teams is diminished for now.

It was reported by Sky News last week that Premier League chief executive Richard Masters contacted each of the affected executives and asked them to step down.

Tottenham did not have a representative on the sub-committees, ESPN reported.

United's Woodward is due to leave his Old Trafford role at the end of the year, a decision that was announced following the Super League fiasco but was said by sources not to be a consequence of that episode.

Managers including City's Pep Guardiola and Liverpool's Jurgen Klopp spoke out against the Super League concept, along with many players, fan groups, major football bodies, politicians and even royalty.

The Premier League has made no official comment on the resignations of the executives.

Will Lionel Messi commit to Barcelona or move on? 

The Argentine is out of contract in June and suitors are swirling. 

Paris Saint-Germain appear poised to make a bid. 

 

TOP STORY – PSG LINE UP MESSI BID

PSG are prepared to offer Messi an "unbeatable" contract to make a sensational move from Barca, according to a report from TNT Sports. 

The report claims the Ligue 1 outfit will offer Messi a two-year deal with an option for a third year. 

The club will attempt to convince Messi that joining PSG will give him more chances to win titles. 

 

ROUND-UP 

- Jurgen Klopp could turn to his former club for a boost if Mohamed Salah leaves Liverpool, as Bild reports a bid for Borussia Dortmund's Jadon Sancho a possibility for the Reds. Manchester United also are eyeing Sancho after a failed move for him last year.

- United also remain interested in reuniting Erling Haaland with Ole Gunner Solskjaer, according to the Telegraph. Haaland, now with Dortmund, played for Solskjaer as a teenager at Molde. 

- Tottenham are looking at a pair of options in the shape of Celtic midfielder Ismaila Soro and Fulham centre-back Joachim Andersen, according to the Daily Mail. 

- Juventus centre back Mathhijs de Ligt could be headed to Barcelona, reports Sport, which also says Villarreal goalkeeper Marc Vidal is a possibility for the Camp Nou club. 

Will Cristiano Ronaldo still be at Juventus next season?

Ronaldo's future appears to depend on Juve's Champions League participation.

Manchester United and Paris Saint-Germain loom large for the Portuguese superstar.

 

TOP STORY – MAN UTD OR PSG FOR RONALDO?

Cristiano Ronaldo is weighing up whether to return to Manchester United or join Paris Saint-Germain if Juventus fail to qualify for the Champions League next season, according to Tuttosport.

Ronaldo's future has dominated headlines amid speculation the five-time Ballon d'Or winner is set to leave Serie A giants Juve at the end of the current campaign.

Initially linked with Real Madrid, Ronaldo is reportedly eyeing either United or PSG in order to play in the Champions League.

 

ROUND-UP

- Fabrizio Romano reports RB Leipzig head coach Julian Nagelsmann is set to replace Hansi Flick at Bayern Munich. Despite interest from Tottenham and other clubs, Nagelsmann has agreed a five-year contract with the Bundesliga champions, who must negotiate a fee with Leipzig.

Raphael Varane wants to leave Madrid amid links with Chelsea, United and PSG, claims Diario AS. The France international defender is contracted to the Santiago Bernabeu until next season but Madrid are believed to be willing to cash in on Varane as they look to fund moves for PSG's Kylian Mbappe and Borussia Dortmund sensation Erling Haaland, who has also been linked with Liverpool, United, Manchester City, Juve, Bayern and Barcelona.

- Manchester Evening News says United are interested in Slavia Prague's 21-year-old forward Abdallah Sima.

- The Sun reports England centre-back John Stones is in advanced talks with Premier League leaders City over a new five-year contract.

- Antonio Conte is dreaming of prising Udinese star Rodrigo De Paul to Inter, says Calciomercato. The Argentina international has also been linked with Napoli and Leeds United.

A week on from the drama, controversy and anger surrounding the European Super League, it felt like football – rather than its potential ruin – was at the front of the agenda this weekend.

However, the spectre of the Super League continued to loom over much of the action, with many of the so-called "big six" seeing it used as a stick to beat them with as they largely stuttered to underwhelming results.

Of those in league action over the weekend (Manchester City beat Tottenham in the EFL Cup final), only Chelsea emerged victorious, as Manchester United and Liverpool were held, while Arsenal lost at home to Everton.

Using Opta data, we look at some of the quirky facts from the latest Premier League matches…

Liverpool 1-1 Newcastle United: Reds to join exclusive list?

It was another underwhelming weekend for defending champions Liverpool, as their 1-1 draw at home to struggling Newcastle United saw them lose further ground in the fight for Champions League places.

Jurgen Klopp's men are four points adrift of Chelsea in fourth, after the Blues beat top-four rivals West Ham 1-0 at the London Stadium.

Liverpool have five matches to close the gap otherwise they face the prospect of an ignominious achievement.

Only five times before have the reigning Premier League champions failed to qualify for the Champions League the season after winning the title.

Manchester United were the first in 1994-95, also doing so in 2013-14. The other teams do this were Blackburn Rovers (1995-96), Chelsea (2015-16) and Leicester City (2016-17).

Wolves 0-4 Burnley: Wood and New Zealand join the United Nations of hat-tricks

Chris Wood enjoyed a weekend to remember as he netted his first Premier League hat-trick in Burnley's 4-0 win over Wolves.

In doing so, he became the first New Zealand national to score a treble in the competition, meaning there have been hat-tricks scored by 46 countries in the Premier League.

New Zealand has joined Gabon, South Korea, Venezuela, DR Congo, Japan, Israel, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Paraguay, Iceland, Sweden, Costa Rica and Serbia on one.

England, unsurprisingly, leads the way with 154 hat-tricks from 69 individuals. Joint second with 18 each are Netherlands and Argentina, while France (17) and Spain (11) are the only other countries into double figures.

Leeds United 0-0 Manchester United: 'Boring, boring Man United'

Fans expecting a repeat of Manchester United's 6-2 thrashing of Leeds United will have been sorely disappointed, not just with the 0-0 draw, but also given it was a fairly drab encounter.

Sure, United have excited on occasion this season, that previous win over Leeds and the 9-0 demolition of Southampton immediately coming to mind.

But Sunday's stalemate was United's seventh 0-0 draw of the season, more than any other team in the Premier League.

On top of that, 2020-21 has now seen United play out more goalless draws than any other Premier League season.

They previously played out six in 2004-05 and 2016-17, but 2020-21 now leads the way.

West Ham 0-1 Chelsea: Tuchel's at home on the road

Thomas Tuchel has made a fine impression at Chelsea since replacing Frank Lampard in January. The achievements seem to be piling up.

Chelsea's latest win saw them leave London rivals West Ham with a 1-0 win that moved them back into the top four at the expense of David Moyes' boys.

As such, he became the first Chelsea manager to avoid defeat in his first 10 away games across all competitions.

The previous club record was set by William Lewis over 100 years ago in 1906-07, when they went nine unbeaten on the road.

Tuchel also matched the record set by Luiz Felipe Scolari for the number of clean sheets (10) in his first 14 Premier League matches.

What's even more impressive about that is it's a league record, rather than just relevant to Chelsea.

Zinedine Zidane says the idea of Real Madrid being banned from the Champions League for their part in the attempted European Super League breakaway is "absurd".

Madrid were among the 12 founding clubs of the competition that was announced earlier this month, with club president Florentino Perez installed as the Super League's chairman.

But last week, within 48 hours of the plans being confirmed, the six English clubs involved all withdrew, and they were soon followed by Atletico Madrid, Inter and Milan. Juventus remain supportive of the Super League but did acknowledge the collapse of the initial proposal.

Madrid and Barcelona have been defiant since, however, adamant their plans still have merit and are not completely dead.

UEFA is threatening to punish all of the 12, but the English clubs withdrawing early could earn them some leniency, though Zidane is not worried about the idea of Madrid being barred from the Champions League next term.

Speaking ahead of Tuesday's semi-final first leg with Chelsea, Zidane said: "You have already asked me about all this and I have already answered.

"It is absurd to think that we will not be in the Champions League. There is a lot of talk from outside. There is going to be a lot of talk, but we don't control it, I just focus on the game.

"But my opinion is that we all want to see Madrid in the Champions League."

It was also put to Zidane that UEFA's stance could potentially be reflected by the officials being harsh on Madrid against Chelsea.

"The referee is going to do his job and we are going to play football," he replied. "We just have to think about that.

"If we start to think that what is being said is going to harm us, we are screwed. We are going to compete from minute one to 90. The rest, we don't get involved in."

The Champions League fixture follows a tricky LaLiga title tussle for Madrid, whose 0-0 draw with Real Betis on Saturday seeing them miss out on going top of the table.

With leaders Atletico losing to Athletic Bilbao on Sunday and Sevilla beating Granada, just three points separate top from fourth in what is shaping up to be the most thrilling title race in years, but Zidane insists Madrid will not be giving one competition priority over the other.

"We are not going to choose. We are alive in both competitions," he added. "We have had a lot of difficulties this year, but we have always been able to lift ourselves.

"There is a month left and we are going to compete until the end. There is no other thought in my head.

"What we want to do is give everything on the field, without thinking that winning will not be possible."

Does a Premier League switch beckon for Raphael Varane?

Varane has starred for Real Madrid, winning LaLiga and Champions League titles.

But Varane could be sacrificed in the Spanish capital, with Chelsea reportedly interested.

 

TOP STORY – CHELSEA FRONTRUNNERS FOR VARANE

Chelsea are ahead of Manchester United and Paris Saint-Germain in the race to sign Real Madrid defender Raphael Varane, according to Mundo Deportivo.

Varane has been linked with a move away from Madrid, who are looking to raise funds as they target PSG star Kylian Mbappe and Borussia Dortmund sensation Erling Haaland.

United have reportedly emerged as strong suitors but Chelsea are believed to be at the front of the queue to land the France international.

 

ROUND-UP

- Goal, Sport1 and other outlets report Bayern Munich have opened talks with RB Leipzig to hire head coach Julian Nagelsmann. With Hansi Flick set to depart at season's end, Nagelsmann is wanted in Munich.

Jose Mourinho is ready to return to Inter should Nerazzurri boss Antonio Conte exit, claims Calciomercato. Conte is poised to lead Inter to their first Scudetto since 2009-10, when Mourinho oversaw a treble, but the former Italy coach's future is far from certain. Mourinho is available after he was sacked by Tottenham.

- According to Gol Digital, Atletico Madrid are considering a move for Chelsea defender Cesar Azpilicueta.

Roma are targeting Maurizio Sarri as their next head coach, says Corriere dello Sport. Paulo Fonseca is currently at the helm but he is under pressure in the Italian capital. Roma have reportedly already met with ex-Chelsea, Juventus and Napoli coach Sarri to discuss finer details.

Milan have given star goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma one month to decide on a contract extension, reports Tuttosport. Donnarumma is set to become a free agent at the end of the season and the Italy international is yet to re-sign. The likes of United, Chelsea, Juventus, PSG and Madrid have been linked. Milan are reportedly eyeing Lille's Mike Maignan as a possible replacement.

- Bild claims Arsenal are lining up a move for Dortmund's Julian Brandt as a replacement for loanee Martin Odegaard, who is attracting interest from elsewhere. Brandt could be one of many Dortmund players to leave in the off-season as clubs circle Haaland, including Manchester City, Liverpool, Barcelona, United, Chelsea, PSG and Bayern.

Leeds United CEO Angus Kinnear has heavily criticised the "self-proclaimed big six" in the Premier League for their involvement in a breakaway European competition, branding the "deeply cynical" plan a betrayal of every true football supporter.

Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United and Tottenham were all part of a 12-club group that launched the Super League last Sunday.

The proposal included the agreement that the six English clubs, as well as fellow founding members Atletico Madrid, Barcelona, Inter, Juventus, Milan and Real Madrid, would qualify each year for the competition, regardless of performances in their domestic leagues.

However, a widespread backlash led to the collapse of the competition inside 48 hours of the initial announcement. The Premier League contingent all withdrew on Tuesday, though UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin has made clear there will still be consequences for getting involved.

Ahead of hosting Manchester United at Elland Road on Sunday, Kinnear lambasted Leeds' domestic rivals in his programme notes.

"The fact that the whole Leeds fan-base has been united by the brilliantly impassioned words of Gary Neville illustrates how desperate the plight of European football became this week," Kinnear wrote.

"A fortnight ago we left the Etihad with an instinct that Manchester City didn't take well to being humbled by lowly Leeds United, but we could never have predicted that it would be the catalyst for them creating their own league where they would never have to be inconvenienced with the spectre of on-pitch failure again.

"The audacity of a resurgent Leeds United, an ambitious Aston Villa, a brilliantly managed Leicester City, a Champions League-bound West Ham United and an Everton with bold stadium plans have clearly overwhelmed the self-proclaimed 'big six'.

"The timing of their plan combined with the turmoil of a global pandemic was not coincidental, it was deeply cynical, and the clandestine plotting of fellow Premier League shareholders made it all the more seditious.

"Whether the collective intent was a genuine move to breakaway or the act of playground bullies seeking negotiating leverage at European and domestic level by threatening to take their ball home is irrelevant. The result was a betrayal of every true football supporter. However, this astonishing ingordigiousness has been the unexpected catalyst of creating a furious unity across nations, leagues, players, owners and fans.

"I was proud to see Leeds United and Liverpool supporters stand shoulder to shoulder in protest before a game which once again showed we are already in a Super League and making it all the more bizarre that, in the world envisioned by Liverpool's ownership, the same fixture would have been a meaningless dead rubber."

Fans protested outside Elland Road on Monday ahead of Leeds' home fixture with Liverpool – a game that finished 1-1 after Diego Llorente dented the visitors' top-four hopes with a late equaliser.

The hosts had warmed up prior to the game wearing shirts that read "Earn it" – in reference to the Reds' bid to qualify for the Champions League – and "Football is for the fans". There was also a sign saying the same stationed behind one of the goals inside the stadium.

UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin has made clear the 12 European Super League clubs must face the consequences for their involvement in the planned breakaway competition.

Less than 48 hours after the official announcement of the tournament, and following a huge public backlash to the plan, the 'big six' from the Premier League – Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United and Tottenham – all ended their involvement.

Ceferin has praised the English clubs for a willingness to admit they made a mistake, but that will not mean they avoid punishment – albeit it is unclear yet what action the governing body will take.

In an interview with the Mail on Sunday, the UEFA chief revealed how he has placed the teams in different tiers while comparing Barcelona, Juventus and Real Madrid to those who believe Earth is flat, with that trio still remaining aligned to the initial proposal.

"Everyone has to take consequences for what they did and we cannot pretend nothing happened," Ceferin told the newspaper.

"You cannot do something like that and just say: 'I've been punished because everybody hates me'. They don't have problems because of anyone else but themselves. It's not okay what they did and we will see in next few days what we have to do.

"But for me it's a clear difference between the English clubs and the other six. They pulled out first, they admitted they made a mistake. You have to have some greatness to say: 'I was wrong'.

"For me there are three groups of this 12 — the English six, who went out first, then the other three [Atletico Madrid, Inter and Milan] after them and then the ones who feel that Earth is flat and they think the Super League still exists. And there is a big difference between those.

"But everyone will be held responsible. In what way, we will see. I don't want to say disciplinary process but it has to be clear that everyone has to be held responsible in a different way.

"Is it disciplinary? Is it the decision of the executive committee? We will see. It's too early to say."

There was widespread condemnation of the Super League from fans, governing bodies and former players alike, leading to financial backers JP Morgan to admit they "misjudged how the deal would be viewed by the wider football community".

UEFA announced changes to the Champions League format on Monday, including an increase from 32 to 36 clubs as the current group stage system is to be shelved in favour of a single league.

Clubs will get to play four extra matches per season, with the top eight in the final table advancing through to the last 16. Those placed between ninth and 24th will enter a play-off round to decide who else will qualify for the knockout stages, while those 25th and lower are eliminated and do not enter the Europa League.

The radical reforms to the competition are scheduled to come into place for the 2024-25 season.

Jurgen Klopp issued a warning to his Liverpool players after their Premier League top-four hopes were hit by the concession of an injury-time equaliser against Newcastle United, declaring: "We learn, or we don't play Champions League."

The Reds headed into stoppage time having found the back of the net with just one of their 22 shots on the visitors' goal across a one-sided game at Anfield - Mohamed Salah's well-taken third-minute strike.

The hosts were given a huge let-off by VAR in the 92nd minute when a Callum Wilson equaliser was - somewhat harshly but correctly - ruled out for handball after he had bundled home from close range.

But Klopp's men failed to heed that warning, and surrendered two points with almost the final kick of the game as Joe Willock powered the ball home after finding space.

Reflecting on the performance, Liverpool's manager told BT Sport: "I don't think you can create much more chances, better chances than we did and not finish the game. 

"Obviously we scored a wonderful goal, didn't finish the game off, and didn't play enough. With a few passes, we came always through, you just have to do it again and again. 

"That they have from time to time a counterattack, that can happen, you just have to keep playing and keep the ball and let them run. 

"We kept them alive and in the end they deserve the goal because they scored two minutes before another one which is - with the new rules - unlucky handball. 

"Then we don't even take this present! It didn't happen a lot that we were lucky with VAR this season but we were and then we give another chance away, it makes no sense. It's really tough to take."

Klopp went on to suggest that his players were guilty of letting their heads drop too easily after missing chances to add to their lead.

He also lamented a failure to keep possession away from Newcastle in the final moments of the game.

He continued: "Why it happened, I don't know. How it looked, I saw. We just have to keep the ball. 

"In the specific way, we don't fight enough. When we make a mistake, we fight and try to get it back and stuff like this, but [you need] to keep yourself in a position to dominate the game which was possible. 

"We had 70% of the ball and we should have 80. There are still moments when Newcastle, they are not bothered about that and they have a counterattack in these moments and you have a goalie and you have to defend it, that's all fine. 

"We created a lot of chances, didn't score with them, we have to create more and use them. In our situation, when you score with the first but not with the second or the third it has this kind of impact that you see that it drops there a little bit, here a little bit. 

"Instead of just going and who cares? Missed chances are just information, nothing else. But we don't do that well in the moment, I have to say, that's why I say in the end it's deserved. 

"People can look at the stats and think how can that happen? But it happened, we saw it, they fought for it and got it and we got nothing pretty much. Well, a point, but it feels like a defeat."

Liverpool would have moved up into the fourth and final Champions League spot with victory over Newcastle, but now sit in sixth ahead of many of their rivals playing.

On the prospect of qualifying for Europe's top competition, the German added: "If you deserve it, you deserve it. I didn't see today that we deserve to play Champions League next year. 

"We have another five games, we will see what we can do until then, we have a few days until we play Manchester United so it will be a tough one again. But we learn, or we don't play Champions League."

Newcastle United scored an injury-time equaliser as they took a crucial step toward Premier League safety by drawing 1-1 with Liverpool.

In a game characterised by wasteful finishing from Jurgen Klopp's men, Mohamed Salah's third-minute strike looked enough to move them back into the fourth and final Champions League qualification spot.

But, after seeing a Callum Wilson equaliser harshly ruled out for handball by VAR at the death, the Magpies finally got their goal as Joe Willock thrashed home late on.

Newcastle now sit nine points clear of the relegation zone as a result of a recent recovery that looks certain to preserve their top-flight status.

 

Florentino Perez says the clubs who claimed this week to have abandoned the European Super League remain contractually tied to the project.

The Real Madrid president, who has been a driving force and staunch defender of the controversial breakaway, says those that signed up "can't leave", even if they say they have quit the league.

Twelve teams declared last Sunday that they had committed to the Super League, but on Tuesday all six Premier League clubs announced they had quit. Inter and Atletico Madrid soon followed, Milan may also withdraw, while Juventus remain advocates of the league but have acknowledged its collapse.

Real Madrid and Barcelona very much remain, but for all the merits of Clasico clashes, they need other clubs to firmly commit.

Perez was asked in an interview with Spanish newspaper AS whether it was true that clubs would have to buy themselves out of binding contracts.

He said: "I'm not going to take my time to explain what a binding contract is here. But the fact is, the clubs can't leave.

"Some, because of the pressure, have had to say they'll leave. But this project, or something very similar, will happen, and I hope it's in the near future."

Supporters, players, coaches, politicians and even royalty have come out in opposition of the plans, with the 'closed-shop' nature of the Super League, whereby the 12 founding clubs would be guaranteed continuing membership, being criticised as an anti-competitive concept.

UEFA and FIFA, the long-time governing bodies of the European and world game, have been scathing and pointed to the possibility of punishments being imposed on the clubs involved.

Perez vowed the Super League has not yet been killed off and is merely a sleeping project, poised to be resurrected.

"The entity exists and the members who make up the Super League are there too," he said.

"What we've done is given ourselves a few weeks to reflect on the hostility with which certain people who don't want to lose their privileges have manipulated the project."

He said financial backers JP Morgan remain involved, despite the investment banking firm stating it "clearly misjudged" the depth of feeling that would be stirred in the football community by the league.

"They've taken time to reflect, like the 12 clubs," Perez said. "If something needs to be changed, it'll be changed, but the Super League is the best project we've thought can be carried out."

Perez said he was baffled by UEFA's Champions League expansion plans, announced on Monday, which will see 36 teams rather than the current 32 compete from the 2024-25 season, each guaranteed at least 10 games per season, and he said the start date was too far away.

Madrid, Barcelona and all major European clubs have been hit heavily financially by the COVID-19 crisis, with major revenue streams such as matchday income cut off.

Perez said there was a danger that "all the clubs go bankrupt" unless there is immediate action.

The European Super League saga reached a positive end for Jurgen Klopp, but the Liverpool boss bemoaned a lack of consultation with players and managers as more games are set to be added to a revamped Champions League.

Liverpool were one of six Premier League clubs to sign up for the proposed breakaway league, plans for which are now in tatters after the widespread condemnation of the closed-shop competition led to hasty withdrawals from the majority of teams.

Klopp's side found themselves in the midst of the furore on Monday as they were met with protests outside Elland Road ahead of their 1-1 draw with Leeds United.

The German had made no secret of his negative views of a potential Super League in which teams kept their place regardless of domestic results, and Liverpool's players spoke out en masse against the plans via social media on Wednesday.

Though the Super League now looks dead in the water, Liverpool may have to deal with expanded European commitment in future after changes to the Champions League coming into place from the 2024-25 season were confirmed.

The 32-team group stage with eight pools of four will be scrapped in favour of a 36-team league in which each team plays 10 games, with the top eight going automatically into the last 16 with teams between ninth and 24th entering a play-off round.

Asked if there were any positives from the Super League episode, Klopp was quick to direct his ire at UEFA over the revamped Champions League.

He told a media conference ahead of Saturday's Premier League game with Newcastle United: "Positives? The most positive thing is that it didn't happen but I'm now not involved anymore because I start focusing again on preparing the team.

"From what I've heard it's not over yet, and I don't mean that the Super League could still happen, obviously now there are a lot of discussions about other things as well and could we speak a lot about these kind of things. I'm just not here to do that.

"Everyone knows my view on more games. You cannot introduce always new competitions. Yes, the new Super League is off the table, good, very, good but the new Champions League is now not. They showed it to me, they called me, one hour to UEFA they showed it to me the whole idea, I said I don't like it because there are 10 games instead of six.

"I have no idea where we shall put them in. Then you shall see what happens then, maybe UEFA will ask for the cup competition gets cancelled in England, or that we have 18 teams in the league and stuff like this, you tell the Premier League and they say 'no way', you tell that to the EFL and they say 'no way'.

"The only people that never get asked are the coaches, the players and the supporters. All the coaches think the same. If they all think the same, there must be something in it, that it could be a little too much.

"UEFA didn't ask us, the Super League inventors didn't ask us, it's always 'just play more games' and we said before, that's not possible in this structure. You cannot have 20 teams in a league, two cup competitions, playing 10 international games before Christmas, these things are not possible but we don't get asked we just have to deliver."

On whether he would like an explanation from Fenway Sports Group and principal owner John W. Henry over the decision to join the Super League, Klopp added: "I have time to speak to them and they probably will tell me what they thought but is that really important now?

"If they would have spoken to me before, I would have said it is not a good idea.

"I decide a lot of things, but never did before on these kind of things, none of us [managers] is doing it. Was not involved in it, that is a completely normal thing, there are different levels in a club, they made a decision for some reasons, I don't know them. It's now not about that I get an explanation. I'm happy that it didn't happen and I have so much things to talk about with them, this will not be a part.

"We have to plan our future and not talk about what happened last week. It's great that it didn't happen, absolutely great, it would have been really bad. Now it didn't happen, I have a job to do.

"The situation shows it will not happen again. There was a proper try obviously and they couldn't get it through. It's now a long, long, long, long time that something like this will not happen, but other things will happen.

"We spoke about these things before and nobody listens to the players or managers. The football structure in this moment is not prepared for more games. I don't know, and some others on a really high level, do not know how you shall deal with even more games. Where is the drop-off?

"And we have to make sure the quality of football gets higher, not by buying, no, by training. Even the best players cannot get as good as they could be without training that's just not possible but we cut off training time constantly.

"Nobody cuts off games, they just continue, more games, more games. These are my concerns, not the things that didn't happen, no, the things that happened and we still have to deal with."

Mikel Arteta believes Arsenal fans are the soul of the club as the Premier League side seek to rebuild relationships in the aftermath of the European Super League debacle.

Arsenal were one of six English top-flight teams to sign up to the doomed breakaway project, hastily withdrawing alongside all their Premier League counterparts on Tuesday amid a backlash from fans, players, football authorities and even national governments.

Chief executive Vinai Venkatesham and director Josh Kroenke received a severe grilling when attempting to apologise to an Arsenal fans forum this week and protests outside Emirates Stadium are expected to precede Friday's game against Everton.

Arteta, a popular figure during his playing days with the Gunners, insists the fans have the respect of himself and his players after making their voices heard during a tumultuous episode.

"We want to listen to them, we totally respect them. They've been loud and clear and they've been heard," he said.

"They're going to be heard all the time because they are the soul of this football club and the soul of this industry.

"We're going to try to do the best we can to make them proud all the time and make their lives better by playing the way we want to play, winning football matches and trophies.

"That's our responsibility. If they can help in any way it is by giving support to the team because that is going to have an immense effect. It is so powerful and they have to realise that."

If anything, the spectacle of fans congregating outside stadia makes Arteta pine for a return to pre-pandemic normality, describing football behind closed doors as a "different sport".

"I want fans, I want to have that feeling that we are competing and have feeling behind us," he added.

"If not, it is a different sport. Let's get back to where we were before the pandemic and enjoy football in a different way."

You could be forgiven for thinking the lines between reality and fantasy had blurred into one this week with the seemingly doomed experiment of the European Super League.

But fans of actual fantasy football can rest assured we have still scoured the best prospects to help you in your quest to top your private leagues and earn bragging rights among your pals.

With Premier League leaders Manchester City not in action due to playing the EFL Cup final against Tottenham this weekend, there are sure to be a few transfers needed in several teams.

That being said, take a look at our hand-selected picks, powered as always by Opta data…

ROBERT SANCHEZ

Brighton and Hove Albion have a poor record against teams in the Premier League's bottom three, winning only four of 24 such games – the 17 per cent win rate representing the lowest return of any team in the competition to have played a minimum of 10 such games.

However, Sheffield United are the lowest scorers in the division this season (17) and have failed to score in 18 different games, a league worst.

Moreover, Brighton's Robert Sanchez has eight Premier League clean sheets to his name in 2021. Only Ederson (10) has managed more.

VLADIMIR COUFAL

West Ham have won three of their last five home league encounters against Chelsea and another victory would significantly boost their chances of a top-four finish.

Hammers full-back Vladimir Coufal could well be a valuable source of fantasy points this weekend.

Coufal has four home assists in the Premier League this season, which represents the best in the division among defenders.

TRENT ALEXANDER-ARNOLD

Dropped by England manager Gareth Southgate for the latest round of international fixtures, Trent Alexander-Arnold has responded in impressive fashion.

The dangerous full-back has been involved in three goals in Liverpool's last three fixtures (two assists, one goal) – as many as he managed in his previous 24 games in the competition.

With Liverpool unbeaten in 24 home matches against Newcastle United, Alexander-Arnold is sure to feature heavily in many fantasy sides this weekend.

JESSE LINGARD

Another player for Chelsea to be extremely wary of this weekend, Jesse Lingard has been in the form of his life since moving to West Ham on loan from Manchester United in January.

The attacking midfielder has been involved in 12 West Ham goals so far in the Premier League (nine goals, three assists) to become a key component in their battle to qualify for the Champions League.

Only Mick Quinn (Coventry City), Les Ferdinand (Newcastle United) and Bruno Fernandes (Manchester United) have had more goal involvements in their first 10 appearances for a club in the competition (all 13).

MASON GREENWOOD

Mason Greenwood has found form at an ideal time as he aims to be a part of Southgate's England squad for the rescheduled Euro 2020.

And fantasy football fans perhaps should be looking to make room for a player who has scored four goals across his most recent three top-flight appearances for Manchester United.

Not since Francis Jeffers in the year 2000 has a teenager managed to score in four consecutive Premier League games. Can Leeds United stop the Red Devils' own fox in the box?

WILFRIED ZAHA

Crystal Palace have beaten Leicester City eight times in the Premier League, earning more wins than they have achieved against any other side, while their four away victories against the Foxes is also a joint-high for them in the competition (also four at Everton).

Leicester are also a side who Eagles dangerman Wilfried Zaha has traditionally flourished against, so a trip to the King Power Stadium could be up his street on Monday.

The tricky forward has been involved in six goals in his last six appearances against Leicester (five goals, one assist). Palace won three of those games with Zaha scoring in each.

JAMIE VARDY

On the flip side, Leicester have their own reasons to be optimistic against Roy Hodgson's men.

Jamie Vardy's record against Palace is very favourable, with the experienced striker involved in six goals in his previous nine versus the Eagles (five goals, one assist).

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