When you think about the most iconic fixtures in English football, the north London derby is surely right up there.

Arsenal and Tottenham have played out some classic contests down the years, many of which have been goalfests.

But Thursday's clash at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium is arguably among the most important derbies between Spurs and the Gunners in the Premier League era.

With three matches remaining, four points separate the two teams in the table – Arsenal occupy fourth, the final Champions League spot, while Spurs remain set on pushing them all the way.

Of course, Spurs will need Arsenal to drop points in one of their two remaining matches as well to have any hope of usurping them, but victory for Antonio Conte's men on Thursday will at least test the nerve of Mikel Arteta's young and inexperienced squad.

Ahead of that game, Stats Perform looks back on some previous Premier League classics between the two giants.

Tottenham 2-2 Arsenal - April 25, 2004

What could be more perfect than winning the title without losing a game? The answer is simple: winning the title without losing a game while clinching the championship at the home of your bitter rivals.

That is precisely what Arsenal did in 2004 – though the game initially looked as it would be more routine than it proved. Patrick Vieira finished off a fine counter-attack just three minutes in, before another incisive move allowed Robert Pires to make it 2-0. Spurs fought back, with Jamie Redknapp and a late Robbie Keane penalty denying the Gunners the three points, but still Arsene Wenger's men danced away on the White Hart Lane turf at full-time.

Tottenham 4-5 Arsenal - November 13, 2004

The scoreline says it all, really. There have only ever been six Premier League matches with more goals scored than this 2004 classic. Remarkably, only two of the nine goals here were netted in the first half, with Noureddine Naybet's volley cancelled out by Thierry Henry.

Spurs were constantly playing catch-up thereafter, with Jermain Defoe pulling one back after Lauren and Vieira increased the Gunners' lead. Freddie Ljungberg and Pires just about put the game beyond the hosts, though Fredi Kanoute capitalised on a Henry error two minutes from time to force a tense finale.

Arsenal 4-4 Tottenham - October 29, 2008

David Bentley's stunning early opener was a sign of things to come in what ended up being another Premier League classic. Arsenal ultimately found themselves 3-1 up in the second half thanks to goals from Mikael Silvestre, William Gallas and Emmanuel Adebayor, and just a few moments after Darren Bent seemingly got the visitors back in the contest, Robin van Persie smashed in to make it 4-2.

But back came Spurs. Jermaine Jenas' 89th-minute curler breathed life into their fightback and, deep into stoppage time, Aaron Lennon buried a rebound after Luka Modric's effort was deflected onto the post.

Arsenal 2-3 Tottenham - November 20, 2010

This was a momentous day for Spurs, who ended 17 years of frustration and torment by clinching their first win at Arsenal since 1993 – not that an away win always looked plausible.

Arsenal were seemingly on course to go top of the Premier League when Samir Nasri and Marouane Chamakh had them two up, but Gareth Bale's excellent strike halved the deficit and Rafael van der Vaart levelled from the spot following a blatant handball by Cesc Fabregas. Younes Kaboul was the unlikely hero, glancing home a late header from a Van der Vaart free-kick.

Tottenham 3-3 Arsenal - April 20, 2011

That's right, 2010-11 served up two courses of north London derby drama as Spurs dealt Arsenal's dwindling title hopes a near-fatal blow. The Gunners, just as they did at home a few months earlier, squandered a two-goal lead and were left facing the likelihood of another trophyless campaign.

Theo Walcott and then Van der Vaart struck in the first seven minutes, before Nasri and Van Persie ensured Arsenal were 3-1 to the good by the 40th minute, but Tom Huddlestone's typically thumping finish on the stroke of half-time had Spurs back in the hunt. Van der Vaart then sealed Spurs a deserved point from the spot in the second half.

A disappointing season to the season followed for the Gunners as their title aspirations ultimately faded, with fourth the best they could muster.

How times change – it's fair to say they'd have snapped your hand off at the start of the season if offered fourth this term, and Thursday's derby will likely be decisive in determining which of the two clubs takes it.

The Champions League final between Real Madrid and Liverpool will be refereed by Clement Turpin, UEFA has announced.

Liverpool overcame Villarreal in the semi-finals, while Madrid edged past Manchester City in dramatic fashion to reach the showpiece of UEFA's flagship club competition in Paris on May 28.

Turpin, who has been an international referee since 2010, will officiate his first Champions League final.

The Frenchman previously served as fourth official in the 2018 showpiece in Kyiv, where Madrid defeated Liverpool 3-1.

Turpin, who refereed last season's Europa League final in which Villarreal defeated Manchester United on penalties, will be joined by compatriots Nicolas Danos and Cyril Gringore as his assistants.

Continuing with the French theme, Benoit Bastien will be fourth official and Jerome Brisard will lead the VAR team, which also includes Frenchman Willy Delajod and two Italians, Massimiliano Irrati and Filippo Meli.

In the Europa League final between Rangers and Eintracht Frankfurt in Seville on May 18, Slovenian Slavko Vincic will be the man in the middle with compatriots Tomaz Klancnik and Andraz Kovacic on the line.

Meanwhile, Romanian Istvan Kovacs will take charge of his first UEFA club competition final when he officiates the Europa Conference League final, which sees Roma face Feyenoord at Arena Kombtare in Albania on May 25.

Kovacs will be joined by fellow countrymen Vasile Florin Marinescu and Mihai-Ovidiu Artene.

Aleksander Ceferin has defended UEFA's allocation of Champions League final tickets following criticism from Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp.

The Stade de France has a capacity of 75,000, but less than 20,000 tickets apiece will be allocated to Reds and Real Madrid fans for the showdown on May 28.

Liverpool manager Klopp made his feelings about that perfectly clear after his side beat Villarreal at the semi-final stage.

He said: "It is absolutely not right, but it happens everywhere. It doesn't make it better, just in this specific case you are not only paying more than last time for a ticket, but you only get 50 per cent of the tickets and the rest goes to people who pay thousands and thousands for the tickets."

Klopp added: "When you see the ticket prices and all this kind of stuff, the amount of tickets you get only... did I read, is it right that we only get 20,000, they get 20,000, [but] 75,000 in? That makes 35,000, what? Where are these tickets?

"I cannot be more appreciative, more thankful for what [the fans] are doing. Unbelievable... It is the only bad thing about the journey [fans struggling to obtain tickets]. I really hope they all can make it somehow and can create an incredible atmosphere.

"That is what I love about this game, really. The world will be red or white, but everybody will be either or, so that's really cool."

UEFA president Ceferin responded by stating that the system works.

He said: I explained the same thing to one of the coaches of the two teams [Liverpool and Madrid] a couple of days ago and I can do it here. I explained it to him a bit more and took much more time because I went through every single number.

"From the revenues from the finals, UEFA gets 6.5 per cent and 93.5 per cent goes to the clubs. From the other matches 100 per cent of the revenues goes to the clubs.

"Fans of both teams get 20,000 tickets each. If sponsors that pay 100 or more million euros sponsorship – of which 93.5 per cent goes to the same clubs – get some tickets, it's part of a contractual obligation that we have.

"UEFA doesn't get more tickets than the others. Some tickets go to the market, some tickets go to the fans and some go to the partners. It's not UEFA. I'm not giving tickets for free to my friends or selling to my friends.

"It's the system that works, and clubs couldn't function differently. For us, not much will change if all the tickets will be €10, but it will change a lot for the clubs. A lot."

Erling Haaland is a "great player" who is joining a "great club" in Manchester City, but Carlo Ancelotti suggested he is not overly upset at missing out on the much-coveted striker.

City confirmed on Tuesday they have reached an agreement to sign Haaland, who had been linked with an array of clubs across Europe – Ancelotti's Real Madrid among them.

Haaland's 85 goals in 88 games since joining Dortmund in January 2020 is bettered only by Robert Lewandowski (122) and Kylian Mbappe (89) across Europe's top five leagues.

But Madrid already boast a prolific striker of their own in Karim Benzema, whose 57 direct goal involvements in all competitions is unmatched in the continent's major divisions.

While Ancelotti has made no secret that he is a fan of Haaland, he is happy with his current squad, having already wrapped up his first LaLiga title and reached the Champions League final thanks to their sensational comeback against City last week.

"I don't really like to talk about this," Ancelotti said at a news conference on Wednesday when asked about Haaland's imminent switch to the Premier League leaders.

"He's a great player, City's a great club. But I'm sticking with my squad, which has led me to enjoy another Champions League final."

Madrid set up a showdown with Liverpool in Paris by overcoming City in a remarkable semi-final tie that they trailed 5-3 with a minute of normal time remaining.

Los Blancos followed that up with a 1-0 loss to rivals Atletico Madrid last weekend in a game that saw Ancelotti make seven changes to his starting line-up.

Ancelotti confirmed the likes of Thibaut Courtois, Karim Benzema and Vinicius Junior will each return for Thursday's visit of Levante, who have lost just one of their last four trips to face Madrid in LaLiga.

Despite the title being secured with four games to spare, Ancelotti insists his side are not yet focusing on their upcoming clash with Liverpool at the Stade de France on May 28.

"The time we have spent together since the Atletico match has been looking only at tomorrow's game," he said. 

"It's important we give minutes to those who didn't play against Atletico, and then we have another game on Sunday. We are not preparing for the final.

"Tomorrow is a game that we have to play well to win. The objective is the same: keep a good rhythm, play well with the ball and win the match.

"If you lose competitiveness, you will not do well. They must rest, but also play in order to reach 100 per cent. 

"All this time it has been said that Ancelotti did not rotate and now that he does, nobody is happy. You have to give minutes to players."

Even with Haaland no longer on the market, Madrid are expected to strengthen in attack, with Mbappe their main target.

But Ancelotti was once again unwilling to discuss any potential targets, with Chelsea's Antonio Rudiger another rumoured to be on Madrid's radar. In fact, reports on Tuesday suggested the deal had been done to bring the Germany defender to Santiago Bernabeu on a free transfer.

"After the final there will be time to talk about this. For now, we are just aiming to finish the season well," he said.

"Talking about the future transfer window is not correct, I don't want to. I want to talk about tomorrow's match. It is the day to talk about this, not about alleged new signings."

Roma will target Champions League qualification next season, Jose Mourinho has insisted.

The capital club are in a tussle with city rivals Lazio for fifth place in Serie A, and have a Europa Conference League final against Feyenoord to look forward to on May 25, with Mourinho becoming the first coach to reach the final of a major European competition with four different clubs.

Success in Europe would mark a brilliant achievement in Mourinho's first season at Roma, who are 10 points adrift of the top four in Italy's top flight.

Regardless of the final outcome of Roma's campaign, Mourinho's goal for the 2022-23 campaign is clear.

"We want to try and get into the Champions League but when you look at the level of investment at Inter, Milan and Juventus, you realise three of these spots should be closed," Mourinho told Sky Sports.

"There is a fourth spot, last season it was Atalanta, this season it's Napoli, can we get there next season? I think we can.

"In this second part of the season, after the January transfer window, we did small [changes] enough to improve the squad. I'm not as lucky as some coaches who can buy what they want.

"We can improve things. Next season after this year of work and evolution at every level I think we have a chance and that's the next target for next season."

Mourinho was also questioned over his future, but he has no plans on leaving Roma any time soon.

"In this moment, everything is very calm because I have two more years of a contract," Mourinho said.

"The club didn't approach me to try to extend so they don't put me in a situation of accept or don't accept. Everything is calm, stable and that is the way it has to be.

"I have to finish the season as best we can and 100 per cent start next season because I am not looking for a change, my people know that. I couldn't leave the club in my second season, I couldn't do that to the club. So next season I am here."

Newcastle United were one of the sides linked to Mourinho before they appointed Eddie Howe, who has since guided them to Premier League safety.

"I learned what Newcastle is and how to like the club very much through Bobby's [Robson] eyes and heart," Mourinho said.

"I'm very happy that they found their stability. Eddie is doing good work, the club gave the tools for a change in the January market and I wish them the best."

Even when Jack Grealish charged into the penalty area in the 87th at the Santiago Bernabeu last week and saw his shot cleared off the line by Ferland Mendy, there seemed no way Manchester City wouldn't be in the Champions League final.

They were already 1-0 up on the night, 5-3 up on aggregate. Real Madrid had three minutes plus stoppage time to turn things around – even for a side that produced some memorable comebacks en route to the semi-finals, turning things around looked impossible.

Yet we all know how the tale unfolded in a matter of minutes, with City's Champions League aspirations dissolving for another season.

Over the course of the two legs, City were comfortably the better team and few would disagree with the idea that they're almost certainly better equipped than Madrid to stop Liverpool in the final.

City's failure served to highlight a key deficiency in their squad. Whether that's fair or not is up for debate, because they look destined to win the Premier League title again and no one would've questioned the legitimacy of them seeing off Madrid, but when the victor is led by the type of figure the loser is lacking, it's an easy conclusion to jump to.

Karim Benzema may not have been at his unplayable best in the second leg last week, but he won and converted the ultimately decisive penalty, and the effectiveness with which he led the line in the first leg ensured Madrid were still in with a shout upon the return to Spain.

City will now hope they have such a goalscoring talisman in Erling Haaland.

The club confirmed on Tuesday that Haaland will join at the end of the season, with City apparently set to pay £51.3million (€60m) to Borussia Dortmund for his transfer. Even when you consider the apparently significant agents' fees et cetera, it's difficult to see this as anything other than a bargain for City.

Of course, while the timing of the signing might frame it as a reaction to Champions League elimination, it's clearly not. Reports have suggested for weeks that the deal was virtually done and Haaland was going to follow in his father's footsteps by signing for City.

However, it's hard not to look at the deal through the prism of Champions League failure because of what will now be expected – rather than hoped for – with a player like Haaland in the team.

When trying to understand what has specifically gone wrong for City in the Champions League since Guardiola was hired, most people seem to have different opinions. Some might point to an apparent lack of on-field leaders, others highlight wastefulness at crucial moments, and of course there are many who have bemoaned Pep's dreaded "overthinking".

The idea of there being a lack of on-field leaders has always seemed wide of the mark, while no one can accuse Guardiola of overcomplicating his selections against Madrid – even if they did try to claim that, City were on course for the final until the 90th minute of the second leg.

Similarly, wastefulness is something most clubs can be accused of at one time or another and, in fact, across all the Champions League ties from which City have been eliminated under Guardiola, they have scored 17 times from 16.99 expected goals (xG). Granted, there were occasions where they didn't score as often as they should have, but over time it evens itself out.

Yet perhaps this is where Haaland can make the difference. Sure, City's xG has evened out over the unsuccessful ties in question, but with a striker as freakishly deadly as the Norwegian, there becomes a greater opportunity to finish chances that maybe you wouldn't generally expect to.

Haaland is a pure finisher unlike any other player in the world. Since his Bundesliga debut on January 18, 2020, he has scored 85 times from 69.7 xG across all competitions. Similarly, when excluding penalties he remains almost as potent, with 75 goals from 60.2 np-xG.

In both instances he has scored roughly 15 more goals than he should have based on the quality of his chances – among players with 30 or more goals over the same period, only Son Heung-min (16.1 and 16.5) can boast better xG differential figures. Again, ordinarily you'd expect this to even out over time, with such form usually unsustainable – but when you make the implausible look routine, this is the output you can produce.

One thing you cannot accuse City of is being ineffective when it comes to controlling football matches and creating chances – they wouldn't be about to claim a third Premier League title in four years if they were.

But in knockout ties when there is such a limited amount of time to respond to setbacks or make amends for certain mistakes, whether that's defensive or in front of goal, the value of the greatest strikers can shine through even more: Benzema showed that against City.

While there are likely to be stylistic compatibility questions to be asked regarding City and Haaland, particularly given the Premier League champions-elect haven't really played with an out-and-out striker for a couple of years now, they suddenly have arguably the finest finisher of his generation in their arsenal.

If Haaland isn't the final piece of the puzzle in City's quest for a maiden Champions League crown, Guardiola might as well give up.

UEFA has approved changes to the Champions League format from the 2024-25 season, including an increase to eight group-stage matches.

European football's governing body had already announced in April that the competition would expand from 32 teams to 36 in two seasons' time.

And following talks in Vienna on Tuesday, the UEFA Executive Committee confirmed the number of rounds in the group stage will increase from six to eight.

All group and knockout-stage games up until the final will continue to be staged on midweek days, as it currently the case.

Two of the four additional places in the expanded format will be awarded on the basis of the highest-performing countries from the past season across UEFA club competitions.

If that had been the case this season, an additional team from the Premier League and Eredivisie would have qualified for next season's tournament.

It had previously been reported that those two places would go to clubs on the basis of their historic performance in European competition, but that is no longer the case.

Of the other two spots, an extra team will qualify from the fifth-ranked country in Europe, while another will go to one of the domestic champions who do not qualify automatically.

Commenting on the changes, UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin, said: "UEFA has clearly shown today that we are fully committed to respecting the fundamental values of sport and to defending the key principle of open competitions, with qualification based on sporting merit, fully in line with the values and solidarity-based European sports model.

"Today's decisions conclude an extensive consultation process during which we listened to the ideas of fans, players, coaches, national associations, clubs and leagues to name but a few, with the aim to find the best solution for the development and success of European football, both domestically and on the international club stage."

Under the new format, the initial phase will contain a single league consisting of all 36 teams, with each side playing four home games and four away games against eight different opponents.

The top eight sides in the league will qualify automatically for the knockout stage, while the teams finishing in ninth to 24th place will compete in a two-legged play-off to secure their path to the last 16.

Ceferin added: "We are convinced that the format chosen strikes the right balance and that it will improve the competitive balance and generate solid revenues that can be distributed to clubs, leagues and into grassroots football across our continent while increasing the appeal and popularity of our club competitions.
 
"I am really pleased that it was a unanimous decision of the UEFA Executive Committee, with the European Club Association, European Leagues and National Associations all agreeing with the proposal made. Another proof that European football is more united than ever.

"Qualification will thus remain purely based on sporting performance and the dream to participate will remain for all clubs."

Similar format changes will also be applied to the Europa League and Europa Conference League, with both also including 36 teams in the initial league phase.

Marco Verratti declared Paris Saint-Germain are "left feeling p***** off" they have nothing to play for after Champions League disappointment and winning Ligue 1.

PSG cruised to a record-equalling 10th French top-flight title – only Saint-Etienne can boast as many – in April, while no player in Ligue 1 history has won as many championships as Verratti (eight).

However, Mauricio Pochettino's side remain in search of an elusive Champions League crown, having been dumped out at the last-16 stage by a remarkable Karim Benzema-inspired Real Madrid turnaround.

Kylian Mbappe scored in either leg to hand PSG a 2-0 lead, before Benzema delivered a second-half hat-trick at the Santiago Bernabeu to stun the visitors and reopen fresh Champions League wounds.

Meanwhile, since securing the title, PSG have thrown away two-goal leads in consecutive games, allowing Strasbourg and Troyes to share the spoils on both occasions.

Verratti vented his frustrations after the stalemate with Troyes as he acknowledged finding motivation is difficult with the league already in their hands.

"There is a bit of frustration. I think these are matches where you have to have fun, it's about winning and playing well as a team," the Italy international told Amazon Prime Video.

"We are in one of the quietest moments of the season because there is no pressure. We just have to have fun. When you are free in your head, you can enjoy it even more.

"I'm a little frustrated about that. We're coming to the end of the season and we always come out of games feeling p****** off. It's not the thing you dream of at the end of the season, especially when you are already champions.

"I honestly think that we could do much better with the team we have. In difficult times, we could be better. When we are good as a team, we manage to take more pleasure from those matches.

"It was a tough season. Even if we are champions, at the start of the season it was tough, we won a lot of matches late on.

"That means we have great character, because we're still there two minutes from the end to score a goal, but I think we could be better as a team.

"It's true that we changed the team a lot with several rookies. It is not an excuse, but it's the truth. It's difficult to create a big group when you change a lot. You have to take the good things of this season and try to build on it for next season."

Whether Pochettino stays in charge for the next campaign remains to be seen, with reports in France suggesting Zinedine Zidane as a potential target if he is not waiting until after the 2022 World Cup to take DIdier Deschamps' job with France.

Whoever is at the PSG helm, Verratti knows it will take another sizeable effort next year to reset and attempt to banish the Champions League demons.

"We fought hard against Madrid and did 150 minutes very well," he added.

"We won the championship, that's good and I think there's not much missing. Everyone has to give more so at the end we can say: 'OK, we have no regrets, we gave everything, they were stronger'.

"We do have this little regret. We had a dream in the Champions League. If you reach the semi-final then you can find yourself in the final having played two games well. Madrid hit us hard."

Xavi is not ready to welcome the end of Barcelona's season despite the relief of clinching Champions League qualification on Saturday.

The Blaugrana beat Real Betis 2-1 in Seville to ensure the fifth-placed side can no longer catch them in second.

Ansu Fati's scuffed shot broke the deadlock, before ex-Barca defender Marc Bartra responded with a similarly untidy header.

It fell to Jordi Alba to win the match and secure Barca's top-four place with a sublime 94th-minute volley.

Coach Xavi saluted his side for the effort they put in to recover from a poor start to the season, having won every match they have played against top-10 opposition in 2022.

But he still has his sights set on tying up second place.

"We've taken a weight off our shoulders," Xavi said. "It could have been a more complicated and difficult season.

"The team has competed a lot. We have not played excellently in many games; in others, yes, but we have a winning soul and competitive character.

"We beat the top 10 in this second round of the season. It's evidence that we have to play better. It has to be analysed, but we have made a titanic effort from November to here.

"We will be in the Champions League, the competition we deserve. Now we want to be second."

However, Xavi added this achievement was the "minimum required" at Camp Nou, saying: "I want to compete for titles. We can't miss another year not being competitive."

The former Barca midfielder will hope Fati can have a big role to play in an improved 2022-23 campaign, having been limited to 12 appearances – in which he has still scored six goals – due to injuries this term.

Xavi hailed Fati as his "difference-maker", scoring 75 seconds after his introduction from the bench, and said: "It's a very good feeling to have him back."

Joey Barton had cited Real Madrid's remarkable Champions League fightback against Manchester City as an example to Bristol Rovers before Saturday's promotion decider, but even he might have struggled to imagine the "footballing miracle" that unfolded.

Former City and Newcastle United midfielder Barton led Rovers into their final match of the League Two season outside the automatic promotion places on goal difference and so needing to better Northampton Town's result by five goals.

Still, boss Barton's focus was on what Rovers could achieve against already-relegated Scunthorpe United, rather than worrying about Northampton's result at Barrow.

"If we win 10-0, we're up, aren't we? It is in our hands in that way," he said, adding: "It's very rare you do someone by 10, but who knows?"

As it was, seven would do – tying a club record.

At half-time, Rovers were 2-0 up, but Northampton also led by two, 3-1 in front and coasting towards League One.

Having scored four in the second half of the previous week's sensational 4-3 win at Rochdale, Barton's side this time needed five in the same period.

But the one-time England international was not daunted by the challenge, having pointed to Madrid's turnaround that secured a Champions League final place.

"Madrid thought they were out of the Champions League, then they scored two goals in stoppage time," he had said. "It only takes a second to score a goal."

Rovers certainly did not lack ambition in pursuit of their unlikely aim, attempting 34 shots – the second-most by a team in a single League Two game this season.

Elliot Anderson, the Newcastle loanee dubbed 'the Geordie Maradona' following a comparison from Barton to the late Argentina legend, contributed to 15 of those efforts, taking eight shots himself and creating seven chances.

Following his signing, winger Anderson – who only ended up at Rovers after a Championship loan collapsed – led League Two in shot involvements (133) and ranked second for goal involvements (13).

It was no surprise then that the teenager, having supplied two assists, scored the decisive seventh goal in a 7-0 win while Northampton failed to add to their lead. Even Madrid would surely have been impressed.

"Incredible," Rovers owner Wael al-Qadi told BBC Sport. "It was fantastic to have experienced such a moment.

"The plan was to go for it. I never doubted this bunch of players. They went for it and look what happened. It's a footballing miracle."

Both the owner and Barton had taken to the pitch to plead with Rovers fans to return to the stands and allow the match to finish after Anderson's header.

"I can't describe it," Barton added. "It's probably something when I'm in my rocking chair, and the fact I've headed a lot of balls out at the near post area has caught up with me, I'll remember this favourably with Weetabix running down my chin.

"I'll be thinking of the scenes at the Mem on this day."

Mauricio Pochettino declared it difficult to rate Paris Saint-Germain's season after a record-equalling Ligue 1 title followed Champions League disappointment.

PSG held a slender 1-0 advantage heading to Real Madrid in the Champions League last-16 second leg before doubling their advantage in the return fixture, but a Karim Benzema-inspired second-half turnaround dumped Pochettino's side out the competition.

Questions circulated and still remain over the future of Pochettino at PSG, who replaced Thomas Tuchel at the helm in January 2021.

Former Tottenham boss Pochettino may have somewhat eased the pressure by clinching PSG's 10th league title, but the Argentine admitted it is hard to judge the success of the season.

"It's very difficult to rate the season," he told reporters at a pre-match news conference on Saturday before facing Troyes. 

"When I arrived a year and a half ago, the main objective was to win the Champions League. From the moment we haven't achieved it, it's difficult.

"Despite everything, there is this satisfaction of having obtained this 10th title in the history of the club. It's always something to win a national title."

Pochettino did not make the five-man shortlist for the Ligue 1 coach award by the French players' union, UNFP, despite winning the title.

The list was instead made up of Christophe Galtier (Nice), Bruno Genesio (Rennes), Antoine Kombouare (Nantes), Jorge Sampaoli (Marseille) and Julien Stephan (Strasbourg).

However, Pochettino insists he has no problem with the lack of personal recognition.

"I have no opinion to give," he said when asked about the award. "I didn't have any either when I was one of the England nominees alongside Jurgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola. 

"It's a fact, I don't have much to say."

PSG will turn their focus to ending the season in strong fashion, next hosting Troyes on Sunday, though the Ligue 1 champions may be without star forward Lionel Messi.

The Argentina captain returned to individual training after feeling pain in his ribs, but another review will be conducted on Sunday morning to see if the former Barcelona star is fit to feature.

Pochettino, though, has been satisfied with PSG's preparations.

"Yesterday we had a great time together as a squad," he continued. "Everyone was there, we are a real family and it's important to spend time together like that.

"We have prepared well for tomorrow's match. We need to remain professional until the end of the season and we are ready for this penultimate home match.

"It's important to finish our work in the right way. We need to continue to work because we also need to prepare the players for the international matches that are coming soon."

Real Madrid talisman Karim Benzema is "one of the most underrated players in history" according to UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin.

Benzema has produced several incredible displays to fire Real Madrid to their 17th European Cup/Champions League final, scoring hat-tricks in last-16 and quarter-final ties with Paris Saint-Germain and Chelsea, before netting three goals across a 6-5 aggregate win over Manchester City in the semi-finals.

The 34-year-old has been touted for the Ballon d'Or after scoring 43 goals and providing 14 assists in all competitions for Los Blancos this term, with Carlo Ancelotti's team also wrapping up the LaLiga title last week.

The France international has scored 10 goals in the Champions League knockout stages, the joint-most recorded by a player in a single campaign, along with Cristiano Ronaldo in 2016-17, also for Madrid.

Speaking to AS, Ceferin rejected suggestions Madrid had been fortunate in the competition this season, hailing the contributions of Benzema and midfielder Luka Modric and labelling the former "awesome".

"For me, one of the most underrated players in history is Benzema. He is an amazing player. And they have Luka Modric, who the older he gets, the better he plays," Ceferin said.

"Now [Benzema] is becoming more and more recognized. He has always been in someone's shadow. 

"It's amazing how this footballer can score goals. He finds a way, even when it seems impossible to score. He is an awesome player.

"We will have to ask them [Madrid] how it is possible. They are an experienced team. You could say that they have been a bit lucky in some matches, but you can only be lucky in one, not all."

After scoring an extra-time penalty to send Los Blancos to the May 28 final at City's expense, Benzema has scored seven Champions League goals against English teams this season, the most by a player in a single campaign in the competition's history.

He will have the opportunity to build on that record when Ancelotti's men face Liverpool in the final in Paris, and Ceferin believes the removal of the away goals rule has contributed to this Champions League season being one of the most exhilarating in recent history.

"That's the Champions League. The biggest football promotion and the best sports competition in the world," he added. "And when you watch these games… it's amazing. 

"I am happy that we have changed the away goals rule. When I told some of my team-mates that, they told me that there would be more penalty shoot-outs. 

"But it is not true and that is how it has been seen. The matches, in my opinion, are more interesting.

"The clubs in the Champions League are the best and playing away is almost the same as playing at home. I'm looking forward to the final."

UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin says the remaining Super League clubs Barcelona, Real Madrid and Juventus could yet face sanctions, also insisting they are free to form their own competition if they give up their places in the Champions League.

Madrid, Barcelona, and Juventus were the only three founding clubs not to renounce their backing for the widely derided Super League after the breakaway project's collapse in April 2021.

Last month, a Madrid court lifted precautionary measures preventing UEFA from punishing the trio, who have continued to voice their backing for a new competition – to be governed by its founding clubs – despite the withdrawals of the other nine founding members.

Speaking to AS, Ceferin hinted sanctions against the trio could be on the horizon and hit out at the "incredible arrogance" of the clubs.

Ceferin, who assumed his post in 2016 after succeeding Michel Platini, also said the clubs were free to do whatever they liked, but would not be allowed to participate in UEFA competitions if the venture was revived.  

"Of course it's possible [to sanction the clubs] but let's see what happens," he said. "The only 'hello' UEFA got from them came from the courts, as they tried to challenge us everywhere. 

"We never said that they couldn't play their own competition, because they can if they want. But it's funny that these were the clubs that first registered in the Champions League. 

"If they play other tournaments, they cannot play in our competitions. That is not a monopoly. They can create their own UEFA and do what they think is right. 

"I showed them a lot of respect in the past. I don't want to talk about the president of Juventus [Andrea Agnelli], but my relationship with him was very open and honest. 

"I never said this before, but I invited the president of Madrid, Florentino Perez, to Nyon before it all happened to talk about future competitions. He called off the meeting with a text message just 24 hours earlier because of 'a basketball-related event'. With [former Barca president Josep Maria] Bartomeu I never spoke.

"Everyone had a chance to speak, and we've never been pushy or arrogant. The announcement of that project was an act of incredible arrogance on their part, and that's probably why they don't want to communicate with UEFA. 

"But that has never influenced how we treat them in our tournaments. You can see it in their successes: Real Madrid will play in the Champions League final and Barca will play in the Women's Champions League. That is a clear sign that our competitions are healthy, fair and correct.

"Football must remain open to all, and we will not back down one millimetre to defend the European sporting model. What they want is theirs, and they are free to get together and do what they want."

Amid their refusal to back down on their support for the Super League, Real Madrid will appear in their 17th European Cup/Champions League final later this month after a remarkable 6-5 aggregate triumph over Manchester City in the semi-finals.

Meanwhile, although UEFA has faced criticism for proposed Champions League reforms which could allow two qualification places to be awarded based on historical performances, Ceferin said the demise of the Super League made clear that continental football must remain open to all.

"I was glad it happened because it was always up in the air," he added. "When it finally came out, we ended once and for all with this nonsense that football can be bought, that football is only for the elite, only for the rich. 

"That will never happen. People warned me that the same people killed basketball, but I told them, 'Basketball is not football. It will never be football.' Football is part of our history. It is part of our traditions."

Real Madrid's dramatic Champions League turnaround against Manchester City showed Carlos Sainz he has plenty of time to get his Formula One season back on track. 

Riyad Mahrez looked to have done enough to deny Madrid a place in the final of Europe's premier club competition on Tuesday but two last-gasp goals from Rodrygo forced extra time at the Santiago Bernabeu. 

Karim Benzema's penalty then gave the Spanish giants a 6-5 aggregate semi-final victory to book their place in the showpiece match against Liverpool. 

Madrid fan Sainz is finding himself under pressure to turn things around at Ferrari, having been forced to retire in the opening stages of the previous two races. 

Ahead of this weekend's maiden Miami Grand Prix, Sainz joked that anything is still possible for him this season given the feat Madrid managed to pull off. 

"Missing the 600 kilometres [of the past two races] hurts me more than the zero points, because the kilometres are what make you learn about the car and the new regulations," he told AS. 

"I did a test in Imola in which I also had a problem, but we are recovering as best we can. It's part of the athlete's life. There are always better and worse moments. 

"The last two races have not been ideal – far from it – but we have also had a bit of bad luck. Now we want a clean weekend to try to recover. 

"Madrid had it worse. I have 19 races left. Madrid had five minutes left!" 

However, Sainz revealed that promotional duties meant he missed Rodrygo's late double. 

"It was amazing. I missed the last few minutes of chaos because I was in the middle of an event with Shell. It shows that nothing is decided until the last minute," he added. 

Inter's unlikely 2009-10 Champions League success under Jose Mourinho could inspire Cameroon to a shock World Cup triumph in Qatar, according to the former Nerazzurri and Indomitable Lions striker Samuel Eto'o.

The Cameroon great was part of the Inter side that completed a stunning treble in 2009-10, winning a fifth consecutive Scudetto, the Coppa Italia and their first Champions League or European Cup title in 45 years.

Diego Milito's brace was enough to down Bayern Munich in the final of UEFA's elite club competition, with Eto'o assisting the Argentina international for his second goal to wrap up victory.

Inter overcame Chelsea and Barcelona either side of defeating of CSKA Moscow en route to the final, and Eto'o – who is now president of the Cameroonian Football Federation – optimistically believes his country can follow the Nerazzurri's example at Qatar 2022.

"I don't see why he can't win it," he told reporters in Milan, where the 41-year-old has returned to announce a charity friendly game in San Siro on May 23 that will include the likes of Francesco Totti and Lionel Messi.

"I believe that in order to win the World Cup you don't need to be monsters or aliens, you need good preparation, a strong mentality and a pinch of madness.

"I won a bit in my career and to do it I gave everything. 

"I always take Inter as an example: no one at the beginning of the 2009-10 season thought we could win [the Champions League] and instead Mourinho did something crazy, with a group of men and warriors.

"I would like something like that for Cameroon too."

Cameroon's best performance at a World Cup saw them famously reach the 1990 quarter-finals, but they did not make it out of the group in any of their other six participations, failing to even register a point at either South Africa 2010 or Brazil 2014.

Having missed out on Russia 2018, Cameroon will have to overcome the world's number-one ranked side Brazil, Serbia and Switzerland in Group G later this year.

© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.