Manchester United great Roy Keane hailed Cristiano Ronaldo's superb display after the 37-year-old's hat-trick downed Tottenham at Old Trafford.

United were twice pegged back by their rivals for the top four during an absorbing contest, but Ronaldo's 81st-minute header sealed just his second treble in United colours and a crucial 3-2 win for the hosts.

The Portugal legend has now scored in each of his past seven appearances against Tottenham in all competitions, and his 14 goals against Spurs represent his highest tally against any English club.

Speaking on Sky Sports after the match, former United captain Keane labelled the striker a "genius" and said Ralf Rangnick's team needed to keep their talisman beyond the end of this season.

"Ronaldo looked angry today, he played with a lot of aggression," Keane said. "He's obviously upset with whatever happened last week [missing United's 4-1 loss to Manchester City], but he showed today what we have seen over the years. 

"The guy's a genius, his three goals were fantastic. He brings so much to the team, why people think he cannot bring goals or value...

"For as great as he is, the next challenge for Ronaldo is to make this United team compete again for league titles. 

"Ronaldo is a huge part of the rebuilding of the club. When he's producing like that, you need Ronaldo in your team. 

"Ronaldo has been doing this throughout his career, he's been doing it for years. I think he can do it for another season."

One-time Old Trafford team-mate Gary Neville called Ronaldo's performance "magical", but he did not hold back in his criticism of United's "awful" defensive performance, having now conceded 40 times in the Premier League this season.

"Manchester United are not very good, I have to say," Neville said. "But there are moments in the game that are magical.

"The fans are buzzing because they've seen Ronaldo, they feel like they've seen something special.

"But in terms of the performance, if Spurs get a late winner, United fans are going home and saying how bad we are today. It wasn't a great performance.

"Manchester United's biggest problem is not Cristiano Ronaldo. Their defending is awful. Every team that comes here creates bags of chances."

Cristiano Ronaldo sank Tottenham with the first hat-trick of his second Old Trafford spell as Manchester United won 3-2 to boost hopes of a top-four finish.

At 37 years and 35 days, Ronaldo became the second-oldest player to score a Premier League treble, with only Teddy Sheringham having managed the feat later in life.

After missing the Manchester derby last week, Ronaldo was back and in the mood for this one, opening the scoring with a stunning long-range finish before giddily restoring United's lead after Harry Kane levelled from the spot.

A twist arrived with 18 minutes remaining when United captain Maguire turned the ball into his own net, but a thumping Ronaldo header spared his skipper any post-match apologies.

Cristiano Ronaldo was back in the Manchester United team to face Tottenham on Saturday after missing the derby drubbing, but there was no Bruno Fernandes.

The absence of Ronaldo for last Sunday's 4-1 defeat to Manchester City sparked a fresh wave of speculation about the 37-year-old's United future.

It was put down to a hip problem by interim manager Ralf Rangnick, but former United captain Roy Keane was among those who questioned whether that told the full story.

Ronaldo's Manchester derby absence came after a run of one goal and zero assists in 10 games for United in all competitions this calendar year. That compares to 12 goals and three assists in his opening 19 games upon returning to United from Juventus at the end of August.

He was restored for the visit of Spurs, but Portuguese compatriot Fernandes was surprisingly not involved, three days before United tackle Atletico Madrid in the second leg of their last-16 Champions League tie.

Rangnick said: "Bruno is ill, unfortunately. He couldn't train yesterday and is therefore not available for the game. Hopefully, he will be back for Tuesday but, today, he is out."

NFL legend Tom Brady, a friend of Tottenham striker Harry Kane, was at Old Trafford for the game.

There was a United start for Marcus Rashford, whose own future has been cast into doubt by reports suggesting he could seek a move at the end of the season. He replaced Anthony Elanga, while Edinson Cavani was named on the bench after recent fitness worries.

Goalkeeper David De Gea featured for the home side after a COVID-19 false positive, while Raphael Varane was back from a coronavirus absence to start alongside Harry Maguire in central defence.

Rangnick told MUTV: "We had a false positive test on David De Gea last night. We then decided to have a second test that was negative and then a PCR test that was negative again, and that's why we can play him after all."

Kylian Mbappe looks set to end one of the biggest transfer sagas of recent seasons by penning his deal with Real Madrid next week.

The Paris Saint-Germain striker will reportedly move to Santiago Bernabeu on a free transfer at the end of the season.

It will mark the end of a lengthy pursuit by Los Blancos, despite the Ligue 1 club's efforts to keep their star man.

 

TOP STORY - MADRID CLOSING IN ON MBAPPE

Mbappe will confirm his future in a matter of days by putting pen to paper on a contract with Real Madrid, claims Marca.

The France international was pursued by Los Blancos last year, but instead remained with Paris Saint-Germain to see out the rest of his contract.

That expires at the end of this campaign, and despite PSG's resistance, the forward will confirm his future at Santiago Bernabeu with a free move before the month is up.

ROUND-UP

- Manchester City have locked a deal in place for the capture of Borussia Dortmund star Erling Haaland, according to the Daily Mail. City look to have beaten off several European rivals for the Leeds-born Norway international, and are now set to discuss personal terms.

- Scotland international Kieran Tierney is set to be the subject of a move from Madrid, claims 90min. The Arsenal star has helped form the bedrock of a Gunners revival this term and his performances have not gone under-the-radar when it comes to Los Blancos and their interest.

- Antonio Conte is willing to consider an extension at Tottenham, providing the club can show that they have "vision", says the Guardian. The Italian has endured a topsy-turvy tenure so far in north London, but remains one of the most respected coaches in the game.

- Crystal Palace star Conor Gallagher is unsure where his future lies following his success on loan at Selhurst Park this season, according to ESPN. The Chelsea man is with the Eagles on a year-long deal, and has picked up England honours during his tenure.

- Atletico Madrid are thinking about a move for Barcelona's Sergi Roberto. According to Fichajes, the midfielder is frustrated at his lack of consistent game-time and LaLiga's champions could swoop for him.

Manchester United forward Marcus Rashford could decide to leave at the end of the season but has told Ralf Rangnick he is "still happy" at Old Trafford, the interim boss said.

Rangnick says he is working to get the best out of the 24-year-old England international, although reports have suggested Rashford may seek a move away from the club he has represented throughout his senior career.

He was reportedly unhappy after being left out of the starting XI for United's 4-1 defeat to Manchester City last weekend.

After hitting double figures for goals in three consecutive Premier League campaigns, Rashford has scored just four league goals in 18 appearances this campaign, and has seen just 867 minutes of game time in the English top flight.

Speaking ahead of United's Saturday clash with fellow top-four hopefuls Tottenham, Rangnick, who earlier called for the attacker to carry his training performances into games, insisted Rashford has not said anything about wanting a move.

"I spoke with him yesterday [Thursday] and the day before yesterday," the 63-year-old said, according to several UK newspapers. "I don't know anything about that.

"He didn't say anything to me, he said to me that he is still happy and that he wants to perform on a high level for the club. There was no mention of him not being happy here.

"The window is closed right now. Even suppose he and his agents or his family at one stage of the summer think about maybe going to another club, well, then he can do that, but in the summer.

"Now the window is closed. It's got nothing to do with tomorrow's game or the game on Tuesday [against Atletico Madrid in the Champions League]."

Despite leaving Rashford out of the line-up for last Sunday's defeat, even in the absence of both Edinson Cavani and Cristiano Ronaldo, Rangnick insists he rates the one-time teenage prodigy highly and wishes to help him to grow.

"I like Marcus as a player," he said. "I've had a few in the past in former clubs where they had problems at one stage, but it's our job to help him, to get the best Marcus Rashford that he can be.

"This is my job right now, and I'm putting all my energy and time into that to achieve that."

Ahead of their clash with Spurs, United are winless in their last three games in all competitions, recording two wins and a draw. They have not gone longer without a win since a run of six winless games in September and October 2019.

Edinson Cavani says he has struggled "mentally" with missing so much football due to injury problems this season.

The Uruguayan has made only 19 appearances for Manchester United in his second campaign at the club, with his regular absences becoming a source of frustration among fans.

Interim manager Ralf Rangnick suggested last week that Cavani ruled himself out of the Manchester derby, which was not the first time the German alluded to such a situation.

Rangnick also said last month that Cavani "said he's just not available" for the Premier League game with Southampton after noticing a groin problem in training.

Certain sections of the United support and media have accused the club of pandering to the Uruguayan, with Cavani allowed to miss the start of the season and then granted permission to return late from international duty in early February.

But the thigh injury Cavani has suffered with in recent weeks has also seemingly been frustrating for the striker, who Rangnick confirmed on Friday is in contention to face Tottenham this Saturday.

Speaking to United's official website, Cavani said: "Yes, I've been unfortunate to be out through injury, and for a longer period than I'm used to.

"I've never been used to spending this length of time on the sidelines. It's something that I'm finding very difficult, something which is very tough.

"Mentally, it's not easy either, because when you're not used to it, it really is extremely hard to take on board what is happening and seeing your team-mates each game going out on to the pitch, either for training or to play in a match, and you can't be joining them out there.

"It's hard to take, and it's really frustrating that you're feeling like that, and it makes you a bit anxious and really keen to be wanting to be fit and ready as quickly as possible."

Cavani last played for United on February 8 in the 1-1 draw at Burnley. He has scored just two goals this season.

Antonio Conte is looking for Tottenham to continue improving when they travel to Manchester United as the two teams battle for a Champions League place.

After hammering Everton 5-0 on Monday, Tottenham sit just two points behind the fifth-placed United with two games in hand and are looking to strike a huge blow in the top-four race on Saturday.

Conte has won four of his six meetings with United in all competitions, most recently winning the FA Cup final 1-0 against them as Chelsea coach in May 2018. However, the Italian has lost on both of his visits to Old Trafford.

Ahead of the crucial clash, Conte spoke about the improvements made by his team recently and suggested that the Red Devils' struggles had offered hope for his team in the battle for the top four.

"I think we've improved, and we are improving through our work every day," he said. "We're ready to understand what our level is now.

"They [United] lost the derby [4-1 at Manchester City last week], and you know very well the importance of this type of game. But, we have to try to give continuity, to think of ourselves, not of others. We want to show our progress. 

"It's an important game on Saturday, [against] a team that is fighting this season for a place in the Champions League. Normally they stay regularly in this position, but this season they're struggling a lot.

"For this reason, we have to try to give our best to stay very close to the top of the table. Then, at the end of the season, we'll see what happens."

Conte's arrival at Spurs has brought dramatic improvements in their attacking play. In their last two outings, Spurs registered 4-0 and 5-0 wins over Leeds United and Everton, and are looking to net at least four goals in three consecutive league games for the first time since February 2004.

Meanwhile, Conte was again asked about the situation facing his former club Chelsea, whose owner Roman Abramovich was sanctioned by the British government in response to Russia's war on Ukraine.

The Italian, however, suggested that players and coaches cannot be held responsible for the actions of their owners, only for their own performances.

"In every situation, you have to take responsibility," the 52-year-old said. "When you work you have to take responsibility.

"I think this is a type of problem. The job is a player and for me my job is a coach. This question could be also for other sports, not only for football. 

"The moment the club decides to put you in charge, me as a coach or as a player, the most important thing is to take responsibility to give your best for the club."

Conte, who lifted the Premier League and the FA Cup during his two-year spell at Stamford Bridge, was also keen to stress that the publicity surrounding Chelsea's ownership should not detract from their past successes.

He added: "We are talking about four or five years ago. We're talking about a fantastic club, with an owner that made this club big.

"Don't forget that in the period he was the owner, Chelsea won everything, but it was for Chelsea. 

"I think also we have seen other Russian owners in other teams. Not only in football but in many sports."

Cristiano Ronaldo is available for Saturday's Premier League meeting with Tottenham, but Ralf Rangnick is unsure if the forward is happy at Manchester United.

The Portugal international was left out of United's squad for last weekend's 4-1 defeat to rivals Manchester City after sustaining a hip injury in training.

However, United great Roy Keane questioned if that was really the reason why Ronaldo was absent at the Etihad Stadium amid reports he had been dropped by Ralf Rangnick.

Ronaldo flew to Portugal to work on his fitness and Rangnick confirmed on Friday that the 37-year-old is now back in training and is expected to play a part against Spurs.

"He resumed for training yesterday," Rangnick said at his pre-match news conference. "He trained the whole training session and I expect him to train today as well. 

"He trained well, like the rest of the group. I would've thought he was available tomorrow.

Ronaldo's Manchester derby absence came on the back of a run of one goal and zero assists in 10 games for United in all competitions this calendar year.

That compares to 12 goals and three assists in his opening 19 games upon returning to United from Juventus at the end of August.

Asked about reports that Ronaldo travelled to Portugal without informing the club, having grown frustrated at Old Trafford, Rangnick attempted to draw a line under the matter.

"It doesn't make sense to look back on what happened the last six or seven days," Rangnick said. "For me what is important is what happens today and tomorrow. 

"I haven't asked him if he's happy at Manchester or at this club. For me it's important he's fit again.

"He resumed training yesterday and we shall see which formation and which will line-up we will play with tomorrow."

Ronaldo has been involved in seven goals in his last five league games against Tottenham, both scoring and assisting against them in three different matches in this run.

As well as having the five-time Ballon d'Or available, Rangnick confirmed Edinson Cavani is back from injury and Raphael Varane has recovered from coronavirus.

However, full-back Luke Shaw will miss out after again testing positive for COVID-19 on Thursday, while central midfielder Scott McTominay is doubtful due to a calf injury.

United have won just two of their last six league games, seeing them drop out of the top four at the expense of Arsenal, who are one point better off with three games in hand.

They will be aiming to get back on track as they seek a third straight league win against Spurs for the first time since a run of four between April 2009 and October 2010.

"We are fully aware about the importance of tomorrow's game and the game on Tuesday against Atletico Madrid," Rangnick said. 

"The most important game is the game tomorrow against Tottenham – we have to win that game. 

"We've had a good week of training and the players are fully aware about the importance of the game. The focus has been there, as well as the togetherness in training."

There really isn't much to split Manchester United and Tottenham right now.

Ahead of Saturday's game at Old Trafford, the Red Devils are two points better off in the Premier League table but having played two matches more. Just a single goal separates them in the goal difference column, too.

They have each won three of their past seven league games, they are heavily reliant on two players scoring the vast majority of their goals, and even their managers, although on very different contracts, are facing uncertain futures. If you stood between the dressing rooms prior to kick-off, you wouldn't be surprised to hear "Lads, it's Tottenham" and "Lads, it's United" bellowed simultaneously behind the closed doors.

Of course, this could be a hugely important fixture beyond deciding which team is playing slightly less mediocre stuff. The top-four race in the Premier League looks likely to run into the deciding matchdays in May, and a win this weekend for either side would give them a huge boost.

It could also offer some clues as to which of Ralf Rangnick and Antonio Conte has so far done a better job, because that, too, is a very difficult question to answer.

Since Rangnick replaced Ole Gunnar Solskjaer as interim manager in late November, United have played 14 in the Premier League, won seven, drawn five and lost two, giving them an average of 1.86 points per game. They have scored 21 goals and conceded 14.

Their victories have come against Brentford, Brighton and Hove Albion, Burnley, Crystal Palace, Leeds United, Norwich City and West Ham. Just two of these teams are currently in the top 10 in the table.

Roughly a month earlier, Conte stepped in for the sacked Nuno Espirito Santo, who lost his job after Spurs were beaten 3-1 at home to United. 

In 16 games under the Italian, Spurs have won nine, drawn three and lost four, averaging 1.88 points per game. They have scored 31 times and conceded 16.

Their wins have come against Leeds United, Brentford, Palace, Everton, Leicester City, Manchester City, Norwich and Watford. Just two of these teams are currently in the top 10 in the table.

We told you it was difficult.

Such distinctly average form has not helped to paint a clear picture of either manager's efforts. Spurs will go into this game in a better mood, of course, given they just thrashed an awful Everton side 5-0, while United were humiliated in a 4-1 loss to Manchester City. Still, it's only been a couple of weeks since Conte suggested he might have to resign as he just couldn't handle the thought of more defeats, while United had just scored six across consecutive wins over Brighton and Leeds. Inconsistency is the only constant where United and Spurs are concerned.

There have been definite improvements, though. For one thing, despite Raphael Varane's injury troubles and the overbearing scrutiny on Harry Maguire every time he draws breath, United's defence has got better since the shambolic final weeks under Solskjaer.

In their opening 14 league games this season, United conceded 22 goals – the fifth-most in the division – and kept only two clean sheets. Under Rangnick, they have let in 16 goals – four of those coming at City last weekend – and kept five clean sheets (we are excluding own goals here). They are facing a similar number of shots, roughly 13 per game, but their expected goals against figure has improved from 21.43 to 18.35, suggesting that, under Rangnick, they have limited opponents to more speculative attempts. They have also cut down a deeply worrying number of mistakes: before Rangnick, they committed a league-high 12 errors leading to shots, which has fallen to just three since the German took charge.

Defensive improvement has not been quite as clear under Conte. Although they have conceded as many goals (16) in Conte's 16 matches in charge as they did in 10 under Nuno, Spurs' xGA figure has increased from 15.48 to 19.01, indicating that their seven clean sheets have owed something to Hugo Lloris and a little luck (again, that figure ignores own goals). And while United's error count has dropped, Spurs have committed 11 leading to shots, the second-worst figure in the Premier League since Conte's return. It would be enough to make the former Chelsea boss tear his hair out, if... no, we won't go there.

What about at the other end? A much-discussed issue under Rangnick, and the reason behind all those draws, has been United's inability to take chances. Cristiano Ronaldo, for instance, has only scored one goal in 2022. The numbers highlight an obvious problem: in the league under Solskjaer, United exceeded their expected total this season by just over four (excluding own goals); under Rangnick, they have underperformed by 4.4.

Yet their problems in attack are not for the want of opportunities. Since Rangnick's arrival, only Man City and Liverpool have created more chances and attempted more shots in the Premier League, and only Man City and Spurs have generated more 'big' chances. The problem is that only 68 of United's 208 most recent shots have been on target, and only Liverpool have attempted more from outside the box in that time. When the going gets tough, the shooting gets desperate.

Over the same period, they are fourth for xG and expected goals on target, which measures the quality of an attempt itself. However, the difference between the two is nearly 4.0, and 3.03 if you exclude penalties. Only relegation battlers Burnley (3.53) have had a worse such difference during Rangnick's time in England, which tells you a lot about the standard of United's recent finishing even before you take the opposition goalkeeper's performance into account. They can at least make the argument that, should they keep creating chances at this rate, their luck should begin to turn... eventually.

Spurs' attacking fortunes have felt a bit mixed under Conte. In their past five matches, they have scored three at Man City, four at Leeds and five at home to Everton but drawn blanks away to Burnley and Middlesbrough.

Excluding own goals, they have scored 28 times in the league under Conte from 30.4 xG, giving them pretty similar figures to those under Nuno (eight goals from 10 xG). The average xG value of their shots has increased a touch, though, so they can argue their attacking play is sharpening up.

That's a good sign given Spurs are chasing a couple of milestones at Old Trafford: they could score at least four goals for the third league game in a row for the first time since February 2004, while Harry Kane needs only one away goal to match Wayne Rooney's competition record of 94.

It would be quite the result if Spurs could beat both Manchester clubs away in the same season, and it would give their Champions League hopes a significant shot in the arm. As for which side is showing the best progress... well, perhaps we should let this top-four chase run its course first.

It's time for gameweek 29 in the Premier League, and for some it is a double, which will no doubt lead to panicked stockpiling of players from those teams involved.

Do not be fooled into transferring out your star player for a cheaper alternative who has twice as many games on the horizon, though. You get more points for a goal in one game than not scoring in two, after all.

As ever, there are some obvious picks, but also some less obvious ones should you be a fan of the odd differential to gain an upper hand in your mini-leagues.

So let Stats Perform lead you by the hand with Opta data as we pick four players who might just give you those precious extra points in the latest Premier League gameweek.

ALISSON (Brighton and Hove Albion v Liverpool, Arsenal v Liverpool)

Alisson is unquestionably one of the best goalkeepers in the world, and has played as big a role as anyone in Liverpool clawing their way back into the title race.

Since the turn of the year, no Premier League goalkeeper with a minimum of 180 minutes played has kept more clean sheets (five), conceded fewer goals (two) or has a higher save percentage (89.47).

The Reds suffered the unfamiliar feeling of defeat against Inter on Tuesday, albeit still defeating the Italian giants in the Champions League round of 16 on aggregate, but it still took a world-class strike from Lautaro Martinez to beat Alisson.

The big Brazilian comes up against a Brighton team that always manages to make scoring goals look more complicated than quantum mechanics and an Arsenal side that has failed to score against Liverpool in their last five meetings in all competitions.

KYLE WALKER-PETERS (Southampton v Watford)

Southampton may have lost to Aston Villa and Newcastle United in the last week, but before then they were going great guns, winning six of their previous seven in all competitions (D1).

One player in particular who has stood out has been Walker-Peters, who has been getting forward to great effect from right back.

No Premier League defender has had more chance creating ending carriers this season than Walker-Peters (12), while his three goal involvements (one goal, two assists) equals his best tally in a single league campaign (three assists for Tottenham in 2018-19).

DEJAN KULUSEVSKI (Manchester United v Tottenham, Brighton v Tottenham)

Tottenham have gone a bit 'Jekyll and Hyde' lately under Antonio Conte, often following up an impressive win with an insipid defeat. Unfortunately for Spurs fans, they're coming off a 5-0 win against Everton.

While Harry Kane and Son Heung-min have rightly been getting their usual plaudits for recent form (every other game at least), Kulusevski has taken to the Premier League like a duck to water since arriving from Juventus in January.

Since making his debut in England, only Kane (six) has been involved in more Premier League goals than the Swedish winger (five - two goals, three assists).

RAUL JIMENEZ (Everton v Wolves)

It may seem counter-intuitive to look to a Wolves attacker for points given only Brighton (26), Burnley (22) and Norwich City (17) have scored fewer than their 28 goals in the Premier League this season.

They did bag four against Watford on Thursday though, including a goal for Jimenez, who has a tremendous record against Everton and is about to come up against possibly the worst iteration of the Toffees he ever has on Sunday.

The Mexican striker has scored in all five of his league appearances against the Merseyside club, netting five goals in total. In the competition's history, only Liverpool's Mohamed Salah has a better 100 per cent record of scoring against an opponent (six goals in six games against Bournemouth).

Manchester United's search for a new permanent manager continues.

The Red Devils parted ways with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer last year after an underwhelming campaign despite the return of Cristiano Ronaldo.

Ralf Rangnick has taken over on an interim basis, buying United time to get the right man for the job.

TOP STORY - MAN UTD 'SOUND OUT' TEN HAG

Manchester United have "sounded out" Ajax boss Erik Ten Hag through intermediaries with no formal approach yet, claims Sky Sports.

Ten Hag along with current Paris Saint-Germain head coach Mauricio Pochettino are believed to be the two lead candidates for the top job at Old Trafford.

The report claims the Dutchman would be keen to speak to United if they make a formal approach.

 

ROUND-UP

- Italian champions Inter are ready to allow Alexis Sanchez to exit the club in mid-year reports Calciomercato. The 33-year-old's contract at San Siro runs until 2023 but Inter are keen to get his hefty wages off their books.

- England international Joe Gomez will seek a move away from Liverpool at the end of this season, claims 90min, as he seeks more regular game-time, having been a bit-part player this term. Leicester City, Tottenham, Newcastle United and West Ham are all interested.

- Brighton and Hove Albion are leading the race to sign Chile international Ben Brereton Diaz from promotion hopefuls Blackburn Rovers, claims TEAMtalk. Crystal Palace, Everton, Leeds United and West Ham are also interested.

- Mundo Deportivo reports that West Ham are interested in signing former Barcelona, Milan and Everton winger Gerard Deulofeu from Udinese.

- Fichajes claims Wolves are in talks with Shakhtar Donetsk's Pedrinho about a move to England, with players from Ukrainian clubs able to seek free transfers.

Antonio Conte has expressed sympathy over the situation at his former club Chelsea after owner Roman Abramovich was sanctioned by the UK government.

Abramovich, who has previously been photographed with Russian president Vladimir Putin, had his assets frozen on Thursday, with the decision made in the wake of Russia's ongoing invasion of Ukraine.

Chelsea have been granted a special sporting licence to be able to continue trading as a football club, but measures have been placed upon them, including a ban on selling tickets, with only season-ticket holders permitted to attend matches.

Tottenham manager Conte spent two seasons at Stamford Bridge between 2016 and 2018, winning the Premier League in his first year and the FA Cup in his second term, before being sacked at the end of the 2017-18 campaign.

Speaking at a media conference ahead of Spurs' trip to Manchester United at the weekend, the Italian said the situation is a "pity" for the players, the manager and the fans.

"Honestly, I have just listened to this situation," he said. "It's not easy. It's not easy.

"It's a pity also because I was coach in this club, in Chelsea. I enjoyed two seasons [there]. Also, I won two titles. It's a pity to listen to this situation. 

"It's not simple for the players, it's not simple for [head coach] Thomas Tuchel, for the fans, for the whole environment.

"Honestly, I hope that in general that this situation between Russia and Ukraine is going to finish and to find peace, because it's much too important.

"Other situations that are coming from this conflict, I think that it's not right. I hope for the best, for this club, because I worked in this club, I enjoyed the two seasons.

"For sure, I love the team, the club that I worked in the past. Every team that I worked in the past, I hope for the best for them."

The Premier League confirmed on Thursday that Chelsea's game against Norwich City on Thursday evening would go ahead as planned, while the club pledged to work with the UK government to ensure business as usual where possible.

Much has changed in European football in the past five years – and few clubs illustrate that greater than fallen giants Barcelona.

On this day in 2017, Barca were thrashing Paris Saint-Germain 6-1 in the most remarkable Champions League turnaround ever, becoming the only side in the competition's history to overturn a four-goal first-leg deficit.

Now, Neymar and Lionel Messi – the two stars of that Blaugrana side – are preparing to play Real Madrid as PSG players.

Meanwhile, Barca are not even in the Champions League knockout stages, instead facing Galatasaray in the Europa League last 16 while battling to return to UEFA's flagship competition next season.

Indeed, Barca's recent European past has found them on the wrong end of epic Champions League comebacks, but that PSG classic still ranks among the tournament's greatest two-legged recoveries – remembered by Stats Perform here...

2019: Liverpool 4-0 Barcelona (4-3 on aggregate)

One of a couple of examples Barca fans will not remember so fondly, Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool had been well beaten at Camp Nou, with the 3-0 scoreline flattering the Catalans but making them clear favourites to complete their semi-final task at Anfield.

Liverpool were without injured forwards Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino for the second leg, yet two goals each from Divock Origi and Georginio Wijnaldum saw the hosts defy the odds in sensational style.

Origi had the final word thanks to Trent Alexander-Arnold's quick thinking from a 79th-minute corner.

It meant a Barca side boasting Messi and former Liverpool stars Philippe Coutinho and Luis Suarez were left devastated, while Klopp's men celebrated reaching the final, where they would win a sixth title.

2019: Ajax 2-3 Tottenham (3-3 agg)

The night after Liverpool's win, Ajax looked certain to join the Reds in the final when they extended their 1-0 first-leg lead to 3-0 in Amsterdam with first-half goals from Matthijs de Ligt and Ziyech.

Mauricio Pochettino's Tottenham took inspiration from Liverpool's stunning fightback 24 hours earlier, though, and Lucas Moura stepped up to emerge as their hero.

The Brazilian forward scored an improbable hat-trick in the second half, the vital third goal coming deep into stoppage time, as Spurs won on away goals.

2018: Roma 3-0 Barcelona (4-4 agg)

Barcelona were stunned in the Italian capital as Roma completed one of the most unlikely quarter-final turnarounds – another that benefited from an away goals rule that has since been scrapped.

Eusebio Di Francesco's side came back from a 4-1 first-leg deficit to progress to the last four after a thrilling 3-0 win in front of their home fans.

Edin Dzeko, Daniele De Rossi and Kostas Manolas secured the 4-4 aggregate draw and sent the Stadio Olimpico into raptures, as Barca fell to pieces.

2017: Barcelona 6-1 Paris Saint-Germain (6-5 agg)

Those humblings at the hands of Roma and Liverpool make for painful memories for those of a Blaugrana persuasion, but this remains the ultimate 'Remontada'.

Trailing 4-0 from the first leg of their last-16 tie with PSG, Suarez and Messi scored either side of a Layvin Kurzawa own goal, only for Edinson Cavani to grab what was expected to be the decisive away goal for the visitors.

However, two quickfire Neymar goals – the second a highly controversial penalty after an apparent Suarez dive – brought it back to 5-5, meaning Barca needed just one more.

Then, in the fifth minute of stoppage time, Sergi Roberto struck from Neymar's cross to create Champions League history.

2004: Deportivo La Coruna 4-0 Milan (5-4 agg)

Deportivo were among Spain's major forces just after the turn of the century and one of their finest moments in Europe came in April 2004 when, despite being 4-1 down from the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final with Milan, they stunned the Rossoneri at the Riazor.

Walter Pandiani, Juan Carlos Valeron and Albert Luque had Depor ahead on away goals before half-time, with veteran Fran Gonzalez scoring the fourth to make sure of their passage.

Depor were eliminated by eventual winners Porto in the semi-finals, but this comeback stood as arguably the very best in Champions League history until Barca went one better.

2000: Barcelona 5-1 Chelsea (aet, 6-4 agg)

Barca already had a history of Champions League fightbacks.

A 3-1 first-leg loss at Stamford Bridge – having trailed 3-0 – had the Blaugrana in danger of being on the wrong end of a major Champions League upset prior to Chelsea's Roman Abramovich era, but in the return match the Catalan giants showed their true class.

Tore Andre Flo's 60th-minute goal was sending Chelsea through despite Rivaldo and Luis Figo scoring before the break, but Dani Garcia headed home seven minutes from the end of regulation to force extra time.

Rivaldo atoned for an earlier missed penalty by converting from the spot after Celestine Babayaro was sent off, and Patrick Kluivert finished the game off, crushing Chelsea's dreams.

Tottenham manager Antonio Conte says qualifying for the Champions League would be like winning the Premier League title for Spurs.

The former Chelsea and Inter boss took over at Spurs in November but has been forthright in his scathing assessment of the club's situation which he said surprised him.

Conte became the first Spurs manager to go unbeaten in his first eight games in charge but progress has stalled after an underwhelming January transfer window.

The Italian had previously remarked that Tottenham had a "one per cent possibility to finish fourth" but Monday's 5-0 win over Everton saw Spurs draw level on 45 points with sixth-placed West Ham United and sit three points behind fourth-placed Arsenal.

"You know I don't like to speak about ambition and reaching a place in the Champions League because I like to play to win the league and win trophies, but in this situation this could be our Champions League, our Premier League title if we are able to reach fourth place," Conte said at the post-game news conference.

He added: "Now we have 12 games to play until the end of the season,' he said. 'I listen and you ask me in every press conference about the top-four race.

"I said to my players that it's right to take responsibility about this because I think that from when I arrived to now we are stronger.

"In January two players made us more complete. I think that we can fight. We can fight for this target. It's important to have this ambition and it's not right to hide our ambition and we'll see what happens.

"We'll try to do everything and at the end we'll see what happens. Now we have only 12 games to play, not a trophy to play for. For this reason it's right to take the responsibility, me, myself, I have to be the first."

Conte's side have won three of their past four Premier League games, including winning 3-2 at leaders and champions Manchester City. The Italian told Sky Sports after the game his expectations have elevated.

Everton boss Frank Lampard took few positives from the humiliating defeat at Tottenham, but stressed he is ready for the challenge of a relegation battle.

Harry Kane scored twice as Spurs ran riot in north London, winning 5-0 to condemn Everton to their 14th defeat in their last 18 Premier League games.

Everton sit 17th on 22 points with 13 games remaining. It is their lowest points tally at this stage of a top-flight season in the club's history.

While Lampard was not able to take anything upbeat from his team's display on Monday, he emphasised the importance of staying united and positive heading into crucial home games against Wolves and Newcastle United. Indeed, Everton need to make the most of their home matches, considering they are now winless in 11 successive away games in the league.

"We have to think of the bigger picture, [there are] 13 games to go, for us, eight of those at home," Lampard told Sky Sports. "Teams around us are having difficulties but that's where we're at. 

"Before I came in there were issues and they are becoming clearer, but it's important the positivity stays, but not stupid positivity, there's nothing positive about tonight apart from maybe Anthony Gordon. 

"I have no problem with the challenge, I knew what it was, the general feeling has been very good and we can't lose that because people will throw things at us for one bad game.

"I had 20 years as a player. I had 50, 100 periods like this. Everything is relative. It is important you stick together and work hard.

"I am confident, [but] that doesn't mean anything. I didn't walk into the building with a magic wand. 

"The feeling at this club when I came here was we could be going down, it was clear around the club and city, it was up to me to change that and I thought we had changed that, but this is a test of that.

"I can't wait for the next two games at Goodison. I will be ready for them, the players will be ready for them, they have to be ready for them."

Everton's main issues came in defence, with Michael Keane and Seamus Coleman particularly poor. However, they failed to create a meaningful chance or have a shot on target, finishing the match with an expected goals (xG) of 0.26.

© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.