Liverpool midfielder Fabinho resumed training on Wednesday in a boost for Jurgen Klopp ahead of the Champions League final.

The Premier League side take on Real Madrid in Paris on Saturday for the biggest prize in European club football, but it was feared Klopp could be without two of his key midfielders.

Thiago Alcantara remained absent from the AXA Training Centre after suffering an Achilles injury in Sunday's win over Wolves, but Fabinho – who has not played since sustaining a muscle strain at Aston Villa two weeks ago – was in attendance and appeared to take part in full training.

Klopp had previously expressed confidence that the Brazil international will be fit for the final.

Liverpool have had a slightly better win percentage this season in all competitions with Fabinho in the side (74.5 per cent with, 73.3 per cent without) and have conceded marginally fewer goals on average (0.7 per game with, 0.9 per game without).

Joe Gomez, who came off injured with an ankle issue in the win at Villa, was also back in training but is unlikely to feature from the off at the Stade de France having made just 11 starts for the Reds in all competitions this season.

Erik ten Hag will not be targeting a Premier League title challenge in his first season as Manchester United manager, instead aiming for a return to the Champions League.

Ten Hag was confirmed as the club's next permanent manager in April, with the Dutchman set to pick up from interim boss Ralf Rangnick.

After guiding Ajax to a third Eredivisie title in four full seasons at the helm, Ten Hag ended his contract in Amsterdam early in order to start work with United ahead of schedule.

The 52-year-old and his two assistants, Mitchell van der Gaag and Steve McClaren, were present on Sunday as United lost their final match of the season 1-0 to Crystal Palace.

Ten Hag was in Manchester the following day to be introduced to the media for the first time, with playing philosophy, recruitment and squad personnel among the key topics discussed at his news conference.

Talk of seasonal targets was surprisingly absent, but in a separate interview with the club's media channels, Ten Hag provided some insight.

"I said this is the project, to bring Man United back on top, but also we have to accept the current situation we are in," he said.

"First of all, Man United belong in the Champions League, so that will be the first target."

United did appear to be in contention – even if generally regarded as an outside bet – for the top four during much of the 2021-22 season.

But their form suffered badly during the final stages of the season after they were knocked out of the Champions League by Atletico Madrid in March.

Since losing 1-0 to Atletico at home on March 15, United won just twice in the Premier League and lost five times – among those defeats were 4-0 reverses at the hands of Liverpool and Brighton and Hove Albion.

Their form over the past two months has laid bare the size of the task facing Ten Hag. While Rangnick did initially stabilise United slightly at the back after his appointment, in recent times they became leaky again and this was exacerbated by a lack of attacking ruthlessness.

The choice of Ten Hag was said to have been influenced by the brand of football his teams play, with fans appearing to react more positively towards him than Mauricio Pochettino when it was reported the pair were the frontrunners.

And he seems convinced success will follow if he can get his ideas across to the players.

Asked about any wisdom he can take away from Ajax, he added: "There are similarities but also contradictions.

"I have to learn and I have to adjust but I also have to stay myself. I'm convinced that we can bring in the structures and the way of play that we want.

"If we get that done, we get that communicated to the players, then we will get that success.

"Like I want to win. Winning is the most important, but also I have the intention to do that in a certain way and in an attacking way. 

"If we cannot do it like that, we still have to win. That is what we have to put in our team."

The ball used for Saturday's Champions League final will carry a message of peace, and will be auctioned off following the match.

The final will be held in Paris, with 13-time champions Real Madrid taking on Liverpool in a repeat of the 2018 showdown.

That match four years ago was held in Kyiv, the capital of Ukraine, which has been under attack from Russia since the end of February.

Sport has united in its condemnation of Russia's actions, with football no different.

This year's Champions League showpiece was meant to be held in St Petersburg, but UEFA swiftly moved the match to Paris following Russia's invasion.

Russian clubs, meanwhile, will be unable to compete in UEFA competitions, while Russia's national team were removed from their World Cup qualifying play-off by FIFA.

Adidas, the manufacturers of this season's Champions League ball, have now revealed the match ball for the final.

The special edition ball will not be available for retail, and instead will be auctioned to help fund humanitarian efforts. It will also be inscribed with the words 'мир | PEACE'.

An Adidas statement read: "Using one of sport's biggest stages as an opportunity to unite the world in a global message of peace... the match ball will be auctioned after the game with the proceeds going to UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, to help protect people forced to flee their homes because of conflict and persecution."

"Placed on the ball in bold lettering as a statement from UEFA, 'мир' in Cyrillic script can be translated as 'peace', which sits above the word in English – PEACE.

"The ball is designed to carry a simple message of peace, belonging, and hope that will be passed from player to player with every kick of the ball and beyond the Stade de France to the furthest corners of the world. The broader design of the ball is noticeably devoid of colour, featuring pure white panels to symbolise truce and unity."

Carlo Ancelotti said he would "respect" Kylian Mbappe's decision to stay at Paris Saint-Germain and turn down Real Madrid, as the coach attempted to move on from the saga.

Mbappe was widely expected to leave the French league behind and move to Madrid on a free transfer at the end of this season, with the red carpet ready to be rolled out for the World Cup winner's arrival.

Yet the 23-year-old was eventually persuaded to sign a lucrative three-year contract in Paris, a jolt to the system for Madrid and LaLiga, with league president Javier Tebas left seething and questioning how PSG's finances could allow for such a deal.

Ancelotti has a Champions League final coming up on Saturday as Madrid face Liverpool, and a news conference on Tuesday gave him an opportunity to answer Mbappe questions before game-day comes closer.

His responses were predictably curt, and the Italian said: "We haven't talked about players who don't form part of this club.

"We respect the player and his decision, and we've got to work hard and of course we've got something big coming up which is the final."

Asked again about Mbappe, Ancelotti said: "I don't talk about players who aren't here, who aren't Real Madrid footballers."

Mbappe had said it was a dream of his to pull on the famous white shirt of Madrid, but his snub to Los Blancos may mean that never happens.

In an interview with Marca, published on Tuesday, Mbappe said: "I think it's disrespectful to say that my dream is to play for Real Madrid after signing my contract just a few days ago.

"The dream is fine, but today I am only focused on my new contract, in the present. You never know what can happen... I have a three-year contract, but for the moment I have to focus on my year at PSG."

PSG were eliminated by Madrid in the last-16 stage of the Champions League, and the French club have never won the Champions League.

By contrast, Madrid will be chasing a 14th such title when they tackle Liverpool, in a match that by a quirk of fate takes place in Paris.

Mbappe insisted his decision to commit to the Ligue 1 champions was not a question of money.

"People can talk about what they want, but everyone knows me. I have spoken with everyone at Real Madrid, I have spoken with PSG, and they know that I have never discussed money with the president, with Florentino Perez, or with Nasser Al-Khelaifi," Mbappe said.

"My lawyer talked a little about money, as did my mother, but I didn't. I talk about sport because I talk on the pitch. 

"My money goes to my account, I look at it a bit, but I don't care. I am here to win titles, to show that I am the best and to be happy. I think right now I'm happy."

Olivier Giroud has revelled in being able to celebrate Milan's "special, unique" Serie A success with two of the great Rossoneri strikers.

Giroud scored two goals on Sunday's final day of the season to help clinch a 3-0 win at Sassuolo and the Scudetto.

The triumph ended an 11-year wait for a title for Milan and a 10-year wait for Giroud, whose sole previous domestic championship came with Montpellier.

"This Scudetto with Milan has a special, unique flavour," the forward told la Repubblica.

"I won the only national title in my career 10 years ago in Ligue 1, at Montpellier. I was young. This is the triumph of maturity.

"I was talking about it with my brother. Thinking about it, I still have goosebumps, especially since I won with the Milan shirt."

Giroud's love for all things Milan made one post-title message particularly precious, as former Ballon d'Or winner Andriy Shevchenko reached out.

"We felt the emotion of the fans, who have been waiting for this joy for 11 years," Giroud added. "This club is back in its place, I'm proud of us.

"As a kid, my idol was Shevchenko – he sent me a message of compliments; he made me too happy."

Meanwhile, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, a member of Milan's previous title-winning team and now back aged 40, has also had a big role to play.

Giroud, himself a veteran at 35, said: "Zlatan is the alpha male. When he speaks, everyone pays attention.

"On the bus, he grabbed the microphone and had a personalised gift for everyone, from us players to every member of the staff. Before the games, he made videos and messages.

"He is a leader, I hope he can continue. I told him I'm proud to have played with him. For me, he is like a big brother."

The season's only real lowlight was a group-stage exit in the Champions League, meaning the target now is to kick on in Europe.

"That's the next step: to go as far as possible in Europe," the World Cup winner said.

"The group is certainly growing and if it remains the same, it can continue a winning cycle. I can't wait to go back to Milanello, [after] just a little vacation."

But Giroud also has aims again in Serie A: "[I want] to win again. I came here for the Scudetto, and it has arrived. A sportsman lives his career for moments like this.

"In the midst of such a young team, it's like I'm 20. I am living my second youth."

Spain boss Luis Enrique gave Liverpool fans hope for the Champions League final by describing Thiago Alcantara's injury as "not serious", while it was confirmed Ansu Fait and Marco Asensio have been recalled to the national team.

Thiago was injured in the Reds' Premier League season-finale 3-1 win over Wolves on Sunday, with Liverpool unable to pip Manchester City to the title despite taking the three points.

Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp said Thiago was limping and it was not the "best sign" ahead of Saturday's European showpiece against Real Madrid in Paris.

But Luis Enrique offered some encouragement to the club's supporters, who are hoping to see their team add to the EFL Cup and FA Cup trophies they have already won this term.

"We have spoken with the player and it is not serious. He is having a great season. We are going to wait," he told a news conference on Monday.

"If he does not reach the final he will have to join us so that our doctors can see him."

Luis Enrique also confirmed the return of Barca star Fati to the national team, with a succession of injuries meaning the exciting forward has not represented La Roja since October 2020.

The head coach said he would not take any undue risks with Fati's fitness in upcoming Nations League matches with Portugal, Czech Republic (twice), and Switzerland.

"I have a special plan, we are not going to take any risks, we are going to see him train, he is not going to play much of the minutes," he said.

"It is more than anything a return to competition and to the parameters of the national team. It is more of a prize than wanting to charge it with minutes."

Asensio last featured for his country back in November 2020, although he was part of Spain's Olympics team last year, and his recall was met with some question marks given his limited game time for Madrid.

"I have seen what I have always seen. It is true that in his team he is not playing too much but what they do here with us is more important," Luis Enrique said of the attacking midfielder's inclusion.

"He may be the first surprised. Let's not kid ourselves, there are casualties in his position, but that doesn't mean he won't come back. Opportunities are there to be seized."

There is still no return for Manchester United goalkeeper David de Gea, but Luis Enrique insists he can still work his way back into the fold.

"I spoke to him at the time and from then on I don't call them [to say] why I make my decisions. He can return to the national team," he said.


Spain squad in full: Unai Simon, Robert Sanchez, David Raya; Inigo Martinez, Pau Torres, Dani Carvajal, Jordi Alba, Eric Garcia, Aymeric Laporte, Cesar Azpilicueta, Marcos Alonso; Sergio Busquets, Gavi, Koke, Marcos Llorente, Rodri, Thiago Alcantara, Carlos Soler; Alvaro Morata, Marco Asensio, Raul de Tomas, Dani Olmo, Pablo Sarabia, Ansu Fati, Ferran Torres.

Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta knew his side needed a miraculous turnaround in fortunes to make the Champions League, but that does not stop the failure hurting him.

The Gunners defeated Everton 5-1 at Emirates Stadium on Sunday, yet the result merely capped off what will ultimately prove a frustrating season.

Arsenal lost their opening three Premier League matches of the season but enjoyed a resurgence, with the emergence of young talents such as Emile Smith Rowe and Eddie Nketiah helping them push on for a top-four place.

Arteta's team were firmly in the driving seat before taking on Tottenham in the north London derby on May 12, yet a heavy defeat to their rivals, followed by a 2-0 reverse at Newcastle United on Monday, left Arsenal needing Spurs to slip up against already relegated Norwich City on the final day of the season.

And while Arsenal did their bit against a much-changed Everton side – Frank Lampard's team had secured safety with a draining 3-2 comeback win against Crystal Palace on Thursday – Spurs romped to a 5-0 victory at Carrow Road, ensuring they would be the ones to take the final Champions League spot.

Arsenal must settle for fifth and a place in the Europa League, a fact that leaves Arteta hugely frustrated.

He told a news conference "We did what we had to do. We needed a miracle, it didn't occur. That's it.

"At the end of the season the table doesn't lie. It's true, last season Chelsea were in the Champions League with 67 points. We have 69 and we are out of it. But that's the level and the demands that this league has now.

"I cannot assess the season, I'm still in a lot of pain after what happened on Monday and I would like to have a fair assessment on what we've done.

"What I can guarantee you is we have tried to squeeze the lemon, to every single bit of juice that would come, and we have reached the point where we have reached.

"You see what we have on the pitch, we know where we have to go. We have generated the expectations that I wanted for this football club. In the end we came short and that feeling of guilt is painful."

Arsenal had gone unbeaten in their final league game in each of the last 16 seasons and that record never looked in danger of not being extended against Everton, who have lost their final league game in five of the last six campaigns.

Gabriel Martinelli's penalty and Eddie Nketiah's header put Arsenal 2-0 up inside 31 minutes, with second-half strikes from Cedric Soares, Gabriel Magalhaes and Martin Odegaard rendering Donny van de Beek's goal a consolation. 

Nketiah, who has scored five league goals this season, is one of three players soon to be out of contract at Arsenal, and he was replaced by Alexandre Lacazette midway through the second half – the Frenchman's deal is also up at the end of June.

Mohamed Elneny played the full 90 minutes on what could also be his final Gunners appearance, and Arteta revealed the decisions have been made on the trio's future, though it was unclear whether any of them would be staying on.

"It's been decided, but it's very difficult to communicate it," he said.

"What they deserve is to have a little bit of what they had today, but to do it earlier with three situations like that is very awkward and could effect the team.

"Those players know their situation, when it is going to be communicated and those players will know face to face, which is what they deserve."

Only in 1993-94 (22) have Everton lost more games in a Premier League season than the 21 defeats they have suffered in the competition this term, but having achieved his goal of keeping them up, Lampard is now eager to look to the future.

He told reporters: "We want to improve in a lot of ways. The way we played in the past month has been fantastic. 

"You can never stand still and relax in this game. The reasons why we were in a relegation fight was very real and we need to improve."

Speculation over Kylian Mbappe's future is finally over as he will be staying at Paris Saint-Germain.

The 23-year-old had widely been expected to join Real Madrid as a free agent, but it was confirmed on Saturday that the France forward has signed a new three-year contract with PSG.

Mbappe joined the Ligue 1 champions from Monaco, initially on loan, in 2017 and has become the capital club's leading light, despite playing alongside Neymar and, as of the 2021-22 season, Lionel Messi.

PSG were desperate to keep hold of the World Cup winner and have now got their wish.

Here, Stats Perform breaks down the key numbers and records behind Mbappe's PSG career to date.

The headline numbers

217 - As he featured in PSG's starting XI against Metz, he has now made 217 appearances so far, more than any other player in the period since he joined the club. Of those appearances, 190 have been starts.

168 - Before the Metz game, the forward had scored an incredible 168 goals for PSG, 72 more than Neymar, who was second on the list since Mbappe made his PSG bow.

77 - Prior to the Metz game, he was also the leading assister since he joined PSG, creating 77 goals. 

775 - As expected, he also topped the PSG squad for shots, having had 775, with 398 of those hitting the target. Magnifique.

42 - No player had contributed to more goals across Europe's top five leagues this season heading into Saturday's match than Mbappe, who has been involved in 42.

The records

15 - This season, Mbappe became the first player to score at least 15 goals and provide at least 15 assists in a single Ligue 1 campaign since Eden Hazard did so for Lille in the 2011-12 campaign.

100 - When he scored against Lyon in March 2021, Mbappe became the youngest player to rack up 100 goals in Ligue 1, at the age of 22 years and 91 days. He is also the youngest player to net a century of goals in the top five European Leagues in the 21st century.

2 - Mbappe is already the second-highest Ligue 1 scorer since the turn of the century, having scored 132 times in the competition before Saturday's game. Only PSG great Edinson Cavani, with 138, has netted more.

1 - He is hoping to become the first player to finish as the highest goalscorer and the leading assist provider in the same Ligue 1 season since Opta began collecting such data in 2008.

8 - Ever consistent, Mbappe had scored at least one goal and delivered at least one assist in eight different Ligue 1 games this season, the highest tally of his career in the same top-flight campaign, prior to the final match of the 2021-22 campaign.

3 - Mbappe is aiming to be the third player to finish as the highest goalscorer in four consecutive Ligue 1 seasons, after Carlos Bianchi (four in a row with Reims and PSG) and Jean-Pierre Papin (five in a row with Marseille). 

50 - It is not just domestically that Mbappe has thrived. Since Opta collected such data, starting in the 2003-04 season, he is the fastest and youngest player to have reached 50 goal involvements in the Champions League, doing so in 51 matches, by the age of 22 years and 352 days.

32 - As of kick-off against Metz, Mbappe was 32 goals shy of matching Cavani's club record of 200 for PSG.

Jose Mourinho declared the Europa Conference League as Roma's Champions League ahead of the final against Feyenoord, while he cannot visualise retiring.

Roma face Eredivisie side Feyenoord in the inaugural Europa Conference League showpiece in Tirana on Wednesday..

The Eternal City giants are already guaranteed to play Europa League football next season, having secured a top-six finish in Serie A with one game to play.

Mourinho has Champions League titles to his name from his time at Porto and Inter, alongside a Europa League crown with Manchester United.

The Portuguese coach is determined to get on his hands on another European trophy. 

"I am a coach with a certain history and Roma are a big club," he told UEFA's Italian website. "I did feel a little bit of responsibility to make this a big competition.

"We slowly realised our ambition to go as far as possible. With pride, we saw the semi-finals played in packed stadiums with a total 170,000 fans present.

"The Conference League is our Champions League. This is the level we are at, the competition we are playing for. The club has not reached a game like this for a very long time."

Roma have not lifted a trophy since the 2007-08 season, when they won the Coppa Italia and Supercoppa Italiana, and Mourinho expects his side to rise to the occasion as they strive to end the drought.

"We must forget that. In my view, you need to treat the final as a one-off match that brings pressure, tension and a sense of responsibility," he continued.

"We must only focus on the final and the opponent we are up against, forget the history of Roma right now. Obviously, it'd be marvellous to win for the city, the club and all of us.

"If I do win four European trophies with four different clubs, I will never forget the first, the Cup Winners' Cup in 1996-97 as assistant to Bobby Robson at Barcelona. Every time I sat next to him on the bench, I felt very proud."

"Every new target means more than the one before. Winning the first means you could just be in the right place at the right time. Winning a second is tougher, winning a third is even more difficult than the second.

"It is one thing to win, quite another to achieve success and win continually for your entire career."

Regardless of the outcome of the final, Mourinho insists he has no intentions to call time on his managerial career in the near future.

"Before Manchester United versus Real Madrid in 2013, [Alex] Ferguson invited me to his office, which then later became my office. I asked him: 'How's it going, boss? Does it change over the years?'," he added.

"He replied: 'Don't be daft, nothing changes. It remains the same to the final day.' This is why I keep saying I can't believe I am 59 years old. I can't believe I have a career of 21, 22 years as a coach behind me.

"I cannot tell you when I will retire, because I simply can't visualise it. The passion does not change."

Carlo Ancelotti revealed David Alaba will "100 per cent" feature for Real Madrid in the Champions League final next weekend. 

Alaba has been dealing with a hamstring injury sustained in the semi-final first leg against Manchester City last month and did not feature in Madrid's last LaLiga game of the season against Real Betis on Friday. 

Los Blancos came through the match unscathed with a 0-0 draw at the Santiago Bernabeu and Ancelotti confirmed afterwards that the Austria defender will play against Liverpool at the Stade de France on Saturday week. 

"Alaba is going to play the final but it wasn't necessary to take risks," Ancelotti told Movistar+. 

"He's going to play, 100 per cent. He hasn't played since April 26, it's true, but not only physical condition is taken into account for the match. Skill and experience are too." 

The Italian coach expects to have Gareth Bale available for one more time before his contract expires at the end of the season. 

Bale missed out on a place in the squad to face Betis having only recently stepped up his recovery from a back issue. 

"He wanted to say goodbye and play if he was able. Bale has one last chance because he will be fine for the final," Ancelotti added. 

Marcelo was sent on as a second-half substitute for what is anticipated to be his final outing at the Bernabeu, but Ancelotti hinted that the Brazilian could yet extend his stay. 

"He hasn't said goodbye yet, he's still our captain and will be in Paris. If he does say goodbye in the end, of the best full-backs in the world will leave. I think he's talking to the club, I don't know," said the Madrid boss. 

Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti insisted the ongoing Kylian Mbappe transfer saga is not on his mind as he focuses on the Champions League final against Liverpool.

Mbappe's contract with Paris Saint-Germain is due to expire at the end of the season as reports persist that the World Cup winner will move to the Spanish capital.

The France international has stated he will announce his decision before joining up with Les Bleus for international duty in June, with PSG still hopeful of keeping their talisman at the Parc des Princes.

Mbappe's 57 goal contributions in all competitions this season can only be bettered by Madrid forward and international team-mate Karim Benzema (59) among players in the top five European leagues.

Ancelotti could have the pair to call upon in his attack alongside Vinicius Junior next term, but the Italian insists he is concentrating on the European showpiece with Liverpool on May 28 in Paris.

"I spend my time in Valdebebas [Madrid's training ground], in the car at home or in a restaurant," Ancelotti said ahead of Friday's LaLiga game against Real Betis.

"Nobody asks me about Mbappe because everyone is thinking about the Champions League final.

"I don't consider the Mbappe issue; the only thing I have in mind is the Champions League final, and that leaves me very calm."

Ancelotti will continue to rotate his side against Betis on Friday with the LaLiga title already secured as Madrid eye their 14th European crown.

Meanwhile, Liverpool remain in the hunt for an unprecedented quadruple, having lifted the FA Cup last Saturday against Chelsea and then beaten Southampton on Tuesday to sit one point behind Premier League leaders Manchester City with a game to go.

However, Ancelotti does not believe the contrasting schedules will make a difference when the two teams meet at the Stade de France in UEFA's premier club competition.

"Liverpool in this period have had more difficulties than us, because they have important games," he added.

"They have won the FA Cup. We have had the opportunity to think more about this game, but it will not affect the team. We will think about the game from Monday."

Ancelotti also called on Madrid to enjoy the occasion of the final.

"We must not forget the happiness of playing this game," he continued. "It is normal to have anxiety and worry about facing a strong team. I am happy to have time to prepare it.

"We are where many want to be – it is the most important game of the world football. Now we are enjoying it. After the match, there may be more happiness or a bit of sadness."

Quadruple-chasing Liverpool have confirmed plans for an end-of-season victory parade the day after the Champions League final.

Jurgen Klopp's Reds do not yet know how many trophies they will finish the campaign with, but they have already secured the EFL Cup and FA Cup.

The Premier League could yet be added to that haul if Manchester City slip up on the final day of the season, while European glory is the target when Liverpool take on Real Madrid in a Paris final.

That showpiece match takes place on May 28, with Liverpool now intending to return home in time to celebrate their potentially historic season on May 29.

Liverpool Women will also be involved in the parade, having won the FA Women's Championship.

City mayor Joanne Anderson said: "We're delighted that we can now confirm the club will definitely parade around the city on May 29 – and I'm pleased we will be celebrating the achievements of both the men and women’s teams.

"A huge amount of work goes on behind the scenes in preparation for an event of this size and scale, so it's fantastic that the city is now going to be able to experience this.

"Lifting the FA Cup, the Carabao Cup and the FA Women's Championship trophy is an incredible achievement that deserves to be acknowledged, and we have everything crossed that they won't be the only trophies they are lifting on the day!

"Whatever the outcome of the end of the season and the Champions League final, Liverpool FC and Liverpool FC Women have already done us proud, and we will give both teams the homecoming celebration they deserve."

With the parade set for 4pm local time, a Liverpool statement added the club would spend the morning of May 29 paying tribute to the 39 supporters who lost their lives in the Heysel Stadium disaster, of which it is the 37th anniversary.

Real Madrid have been likened to a cat with nine lives by UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin after their dramatic run to the Champions League final.

The Spanish LaLiga winners came from 2-0 behind on aggregate with a stunning comeback against Paris Saint-Germain at the last-16 stage, then resisted a Chelsea fightback in the quarter-finals.

They topped those victories, however, with their recovery against Manchester City in the semi-finals, with Ceferin admitting he thought the Spanish giants' hopes were finally dead and buried.

An all-English final in Paris was looming when City led 5-3 on aggregate going into the 90th minute at the Santiago Bernabeu on May 4, only for a Rodrygo double and Benzema's penalty in extra time to sensationally turn the tie around.

The May 28 showpiece will now feature Madrid against Liverpool, both long-time titans of the competition, with Ceferin describing that match-up as "insanely interesting".

"Already in the semi-finals I doubted that Real could eliminate Manchester City," Ceferin said, "especially after the defeat in the first game."

City won 4-3 in Manchester and led 1-0 in Madrid through Riyad Mahrez's goal, before the late flurry from the hosts.

"They obviously have nine lives like cats," Ceferin said, in an interview with Slovenian news website 24ur.com.

The UEFA boss noted the experience in the Madrid ranks, yet he questioned the strength of Carlo Ancelotti's defence, describing it as "weak".

"But they have the miraculous Karim Benzema, for whom I have said many times that in my opinion he is one of the most underrated players in the history of football," Ceferin added.

"Luka Modric, the older he is, the better he is."

 

Benzema has scored a competition-high 15 goals for Madrid in the Champions League this season, in just 11 games. Those goals have come at a rate of one every 67.7 minutes. He is an obvious threat to Liverpool's hopes of winning a third cup competition this season, having already won the FA Cup and EFL Cup.

Ceferin believes both sides have their merits, with Madrid's experience punching against the relative youth of Liverpool.

"I wouldn't dare to predict the winner, as a rule I misjudge. It's impossible to predict," he said. "This will be an insanely interesting final."

Off the field, Ceferin says he has had no recent contact with Madrid senior officials, after the club were key players behind the failed push for a European Super League.

"The time will come when these things will be cleared up, but they will certainly not be on the pitch," Ceferin said.

Bukayo Saka says he could not believe how badly Arsenal played in a 2-0 defeat at Newcastle United that will surely cost them a Champions League place next season.

A win at St James' Park on Monday would have moved the Gunners back above fierce rivals Tottenham into fourth place heading into the final day of the Premier League season.

Mikel Arteta's side failed to rise to the occasion on Tyneside, though, as a Ben White own goal and a late Bruno Guimaraes strike left them shell-shocked.

Spurs will realistically only need a point against already relegated Norwich City on Sunday to qualify for the Champions League due to a far superior goal difference to Arsenal, who are host Everton on the last day of the campaign.

The Gunners only had one shot on target as Newcastle dominated and are seemingly destined for the Europa League again next season.

England winger Saka says they only have themselves to blame.

"Overall there is huge disappointment and frustration," he said. "I just can't believe how we performed.

"We lost all our duels. We lost all the second balls. We didn't play out well. Just overall disappointment in every aspect."

Saka says the loss was hard to take, but Arsenal must regroup before facing the relegation-threatened Toffees.

"I think it’s going to hurt a lot of us," Saka added.

"You know, all of us, the fans – all of our families. But come Sunday against Everton at the Emirates we're going to be there to win, and hopefully things go our way. That's all you can do from now.

"Technically it's not over, we can still do it, but we've missed out on two big opportunities to put ourselves in a good position. So it's just a shame."

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