Raheem Sterling is in high spirits as he heads out for a stroll in St Tropez


Raheem Sterling is in high spirits as he heads out for a stroll in St Tropez ahead of Manchester City’s final match of the season

Raheem Sterling was in high spirits as he enjoyed a stroll by the ocean in St Tropez on Thursday.

The Manchester City player, 25, sported a black and gold printed shirt as he headed out for a walk with his pals as his club prepare to play their final game of the season on Sunday.

During the outing, Raheem bumped into Piers Morgan, who proceeded to poke fun at him following City’s loss to Arsenal in the semi-finals of the FA Cup over the weekend.

Sunny break: Raheem Sterling, 25, was in high spirits as he enjoyed a stroll by the ocean in St Tropez on Thursday

Raheem cut a casual figure in a black, white and yellow printed shirt teamed with grey shorts as he headed out in the sunshine with his pals.

The England ace appeared to be enjoying the French break, amid claims he’ll be rested during City’s final game against Norwich on Sunday.

Raheem’s outing comes after Piers Morgan poked fun at him as his beloved Arsenal knocked City out of the FA Cup.

Off-duty: The Manchester City player sported a black and gold printed shirt as he headed out for a walk with his pals as his club prepare to play their final game of the season on Sunday

Off-duty: The Manchester City player sported a black and gold printed shirt as he headed out for a walk with his pals as his club prepare to play their final game of the season on Sunday

Respite: The England ace appeared to be enjoying the French break as he prepares to play in City's final game against Norwich on Sunday

Respite: The England ace appeared to be enjoying the French break as he prepares to play in City’s final game against Norwich on Sunday

Renowned Arsenal fan Morgan couldn’t resist taunting Sterling and posed for a picture with him with his thumb up before posting it on social media and writing: ‘Thumbs up who’s in the FA Cup final’.

Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal side dumped Sterling and City out of the FA Cup after two Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang goals earned them victory in the semi-final at Wembley last weekend. 

Sterling returned to winning ways on Tuesday by scoring twice as City thumped Watford 4-0 before jetting out to St Tropez to make the most of a short break in the schedule offered to players by manager Pep Guardiola. 

Look who it is! It comes after Raheem ran into Piers Morgan, who proceeded to poke fun at him following City's loss to Arsenal in the semi-final of the FA Cup

Look who it is! It comes after Raheem ran into Piers Morgan, who proceeded to poke fun at him following City’s loss to Arsenal in the semi-final of the FA Cup 

Sterling has headed for warmer climes, and is soaking up the sun on the French Riviera after City players were given Wednesday and Thursday off from training.

England international Sterling was spotted in the crystal clear waters while enjoying some down time.

The 25-year-old then had a stroll down the water front, passing by tourists who have slowly started to flock to the area following the easing of coronavirus lockdown restrictions.

Sterling isn’t the only City star to make the most of a quick break, after defender Benjamin Mendy took to social media to show his 3.1 million followers that he too was kicking back on an idyllic beach. 

Both players are expected to be rested in the season-ending tie with Norwich, given City have already shored up second place in the league. 

Guardiola is understood to have given his players a short break before the concluding weekend of Premier League action, in order to keep intensity at an all-time high thereafter as City bid to finally win the Champions League.

The sky blues are set to power straight on through into the Champions League’s newly created tournament set up in Portugal, before getting stuck into pre-season preparations.

Brief break: Sterling has headed for warmer climbs with his family, and is soaking up the sun on the French Riviera after City players were given Wednesday and Thursday off from training

Brief break: Sterling has headed for warmer climbs with his family, and is soaking up the sun on the French Riviera after City players were given Wednesday and Thursday off from training

Fun: Earlier in the day he was spotted enjoying the ocean during the French break with his family

 Fun: Earlier in the day he was spotted enjoying the ocean during the French break with his family

City currently hold a 2-1 lead over Spanish giants Real Madrid following their first-leg victory at the Bernabeu in late February.

As reported by Sportsmail, City will not rest between the Premier League’s conclusion and their huge European date with Madrid.

Guardiola confirmed that his players will continue training in the two-week period following the conclusion of the league and the Champions League tie, whereas Madrid manager Zinedine Zidane has given his men time off to ‘disconnect a little bit from football’.

‘I’m so excited for preparing for the Real Madrid game and for the next season,’ said Guardiola this week.

‘When I lose this excitement and fire in me after victory and defeat, it will be a problem.’

Plans: Guardiola gave his players two days off as he intends to increase intensity as the season ends, with the Champions League restart just weeks away

Plans: Guardiola gave his players two days off as he intends to increase intensity as the season ends, with the Champions League restart just weeks away

Manchester City WIN appeal against Champions League ban: FFP breach overturned by CAS


Manchester City have won their battle with UEFA and their European ban has been lifted.

The Premier League club were banned from European football for two years in February after UEFA found they had committed ‘serious breaches’ of its Financial Fair Play regulations.

But many of the alleged breaches were more than five years old while City, adamant that they had done nothing wrong, appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), who heard the case last month.

Manchester City’s coaching team, left-right, Manel Estiarte, Txiki Begiristain, Pep Guardiola, Omar Berrada and Ferran Soriano celebrate the news of the club’s ban being overturned

Man City will be able to play in the Champions League next season after ban was overturned

Man City will be able to play in the Champions League next season after ban was overturned 

MANCHESTER CITY STATEMENT

‘Whilst Manchester City and its legal advisors are yet to review the full ruling by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), the club welcomes the implications of today’s ruling as a validation of the club’s position and the body of evidence that it was able to present. The Club wishes to thank the panel members for their diligence and the due process that they administered.’

And this morning, they announced that City did not disguise equity funding but did fail to co-operate with UEFA. The exclusion was lifted while a €30m (£27m) fine was reduced to €10m (£9m).

Failing to co-operate did not warrant a ban.

Sportsmail understands that any challenge of the ruling by UEFA to the Swiss Federal Courts is ‘unlikely’ at this stage. 

CAS released their verdict on Monday morning, and said: ‘Most of the alleged breaches reported by the Adjudicatory Chamber of the CFCB (UEFA’S Club Financial Control Body) were either not established or time-barred. 

‘As the charges with respect to any dishonest concealment of equity funding were clearly more significant violations than obstructing the CFCB’s investigations, it was not appropriate to impose a ban on participating in UEFA’s club competitions for MCFC’s failure to cooperate with the CFCB’s investigations alone.’ 

City were also quick to release a statement of their own, welcoming the news that they will be able to play in the Champions League next season.

Manchester City have won their appeal against UEFA's two year ban from European football

Manchester City have won their appeal against UEFA’s two year ban from European football

Manchester City will line up against the biggest clubs in Europe after their ban was overturned

Manchester City will line up against the biggest clubs in Europe after their ban was overturned

WHY WERE MAN CITY BANNED IN THE FIRST PLACE?

Back in February, Manchester City were slapped with a two-year ban from European competition after being deemed to have committed ‘serious breaches’ of UEFA’s club licensing and Financial Fair Play regulations.

The allegations were first made by German newspaper Der Spiegel, who published leaking documents back in November 2018 that claimed City had inflated the value of a sponsorship deal and misled UEFA.

To be more precise, they claimed that City’s parent company Abu Dhabi United Group channelled extra investment into the club under the guise of sponsorship deals with Abu Dhabi companies, as a way of circumventing FFP regulations.

Der Spiegel alleged that the sponsorship deals were not as big as declared, with owner Sheikh Mansour making up the shortfall with his own cash. 

The club said: ‘Whilst Manchester City and its legal advisors are yet to review the full ruling by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), the club welcomes the implications of today’s ruling as a validation of the club’s position and the body of evidence that it was able to present. The Club wishes to thank the panel members for their diligence and the due process that they administered.’ 

Just minutes after the decision was announced, UEFA released a statement on their own website, too.

It read: ‘UEFA takes note of the decision taken by the Court of Arbitration for Sport to reduce the sanction imposed on Manchester City FC by UEFA’s independent Club Financial Control Body for alleged breaches of the UEFA Club Licensing and Financial Fair Play regulations.

‘UEFA notes that the CAS panel found that there was insufficient conclusive evidence to uphold all of the CFCB’s conclusions in this specific case and that many of the alleged breaches were time-barred due to the 5 year time period foreseen in the UEFA regulations.

‘Over the last few years, Financial Fair Play has played a significant role in protecting clubs and helping them become financially sustainable and UEFA and ECA remain committed to its principles.’ 

UEFA launched a probe following the publication of hacked emails in the German media. On February 14, they announced that City had broken the rules by overstating sponsorship revenue between 2012 and 2016. Along with the ban, City were fined £26.9m.

Pep Guardiola had insisted he hasn't lost any sleep over the outcome of City's appeal to CAS

 Pep Guardiola had insisted he hasn’t lost any sleep over the outcome of City’s appeal to CAS

UEFA’S REACTION

In a statement following the news on Monday morning, UEFA said… 

‘UEFA takes note of the decision taken by the Court of Arbitration for Sport to reduce the sanction imposed on Manchester City FC by UEFA’s independent Club Financial Control Body for alleged breaches of the UEFA Club Licensing and Financial Fair Play regulations.

‘UEFA notes that the CAS panel found that there was insufficient conclusive evidence to uphold all of the CFCB’s conclusions in this specific case and that many of the alleged breaches were time-barred due to the 5 year time period foreseen in the UEFA regulations.

‘Over the last few years, Financial Fair Play has played a significant role in protecting clubs and helping them become financially sustainable and UEFA and ECA remain committed to its principles.

‘UEFA will be making no further comments on the matter.’

Ahead of their appeal, City said they had ‘irrefutable evidence’ to support their case.

Manager Guardiola had insisted he has not lost any sleep over the initial decision, which could have cost City around £170m in lost revenue – based on TV and prize money, plus gate receipts, although the latter is in doubt anyway due to the coronavirus pandemic – if their appeal was rejected.

Perhaps more worrying than the ban and initial £27m fine was the fear of a mass player exodus from the club if the ban was upheld. 

City’s biggest stars – including Kevin De Bruyne, who at the age of 29 is in the final peak years of his career, and Raheem Sterling – could have decided to leave last year’s Premier League champions if the ban were upheld or even reduced to a one-year suspension.

Even more importantly, Guardiola, perhaps the greatest manager in the game today, could also have decided that he could not do without competing among the elite.  

However, Guardiola himself insisted that he hadn’t lost any sleep over the decision and was confident City would be playing in the Champions League next season.

Following City’s thrashing of Brighton on Saturday, Guardiola said: ‘I am going to sleep because I cannot do anything. 

‘I am confident in the club, I know the arguments, the defence they have and in the next season we are going to be in the place where we won on the pitch this season.’ 

Arch rivals Manchester United would have been one of the main beneficiaries of a City ban

Arch rivals Manchester United would have been one of the main beneficiaries of a City ban

Chelsea will now have to finish in the top four if they want to play Champions League football

Chelsea will now have to finish in the top four if they want to play Champions League football

Champions League expulsion for City would have meant a fifth-placed finish was be sufficient to qualify for the competition, as City sit well clear of the rest in second place in the table, behind only champions Liverpool.

Chelsea, Leicester, Manchester United, Sheffield United, Wolves, Tottenham and Arsenal, who are respectively placed third down to ninth in the table, could potentially have benefitted from the ban being upheld due to the shift in requirement for Champions League and Europa League qualification.

UEFA’s club financial control body had originally found that City had committed a ‘serious’ breaches of the organisation’s FFP rules between 2012-16. 

The investigation followed claims in German magazine Der Spiegel, based on leaked documents, that City’s owner Sheikh Mansour was topping up the value of sponsorship agreements, in breach of FFP rules.

City always denied the magazine’s claims and described the investigation as ‘flawed’ due to the leaked documents.

Liverpool’s squad win the Premier League title after Man City lose to Chelsea – and celebrate wildly


Virgil van Dijk led Liverpool’s jubilant celebrations after they finally ended their 30-year league title wait on Thursday night. 

Gathering together at a hotel, Jurgen Klopp’s men watched an outdoor screen as Chelsea’s 2-1 victory over Manchester City at Stamford Bridge confirmed their position as champions in an outstanding campaign which has seen them drop just seven points all season. 

Klopp was clearly emotional as he appeared on television afterwards – while his players were in the mood to party as they mobbed Van Dijk during his interview on BT Sport. Then it was on to a championship celebration with the players’ wives at ‘the home of the champions’. 

Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson was coy when quizzed on where players celebrating, keen to preserve the secret nature of their hideout for fears ‘thousands of fans would turn up’ to join them. 

The Liverpool midfielder clenched his bicep in celebration with players watching the Man City match together at a hotel in Merseyside

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain recorded the moments at the final whistle when Liverpool’s first league title in 30 years was confirmed as players watched together at a Merseyside hotel

Mohamed Salah (middle, front) shared a group photo with Dejan Lovren (left), Roberto Firmino, Alisson Becker and Fabinho (right) as the players partied into the early hours of Friday morning

Mohamed Salah (middle, front) shared a group photo with Dejan Lovren (left), Roberto Firmino, Alisson Becker and Fabinho (right) as the players partied into the early hours of Friday morning

Salah shared a very short video on his Instagram story as he bopped along to some music

The Egyptian was alongside Lovren as the defender enjoyed a beer while sat at a table to toast the title

Salah shared a very short video on his Instagram story as he bopped along to some music

Virgil van Dijk was giving an interview once the title was confirmed but he was soon mobbed

Virgil van Dijk was giving an interview once the title was confirmed but he was soon mobbed

Players chanted 'champeones' as the Dutchman was piled on by team-mates in celebration

Players chanted ‘champeones’ as the Dutchman was piled on by team-mates in celebration

Van Dijk (right) marked the moment of the title celebrations with a selfie alongside captain Jordan Henderson (far left) and fellow centre back partner Joe Gomez (middle)

Van Dijk (right) marked the moment of the title celebrations with a selfie alongside captain Jordan Henderson (far left) and fellow centre back partner Joe Gomez (middle) 

Jurgen Klopp could barely hide the tears as he reflected on what is an historic season

Jurgen Klopp could barely hide the tears as he reflected on what is an historic season

Divock Origi gave a nod to the celebrations by showing off the drinks available to players

Divock Origi gave a nod to the celebrations by showing off the drinks available to players

Players did a drum-roll for the final seconds of the match at Stamford Bridge as they sat together as a group in an outdoor seating area at the hotel.

Defender Andy Robertson, goalkeeper Alisson and playmaker Roberto Firmino were among those bursting into song in club colours as the squad shared their joy.

Robertson revealed that the players were hoping boss Jurgen Klopp would give them a rest after the party, telling the BBC: ‘We’re still trying to convince the boss downstairs to give us a few days off!

‘Give him a couple more beers and I think we’ll get two days off.’

Tearful manager Klopp had to cut an interview short as he admitted: ‘I have no real words. I never would have thought I would feel like this.  

‘It is easy for me to motivate the team because of our great history. This is for you [fans] out there. I hope you stay at home. Celebrate at the front of your house.’ 

An emotional Klopp admitted he is 'completely overwhelmed' after Liverpool's title win

An emotional Klopp admitted he is ‘completely overwhelmed’ after Liverpool’s title win

Klopp was speaking to Sir Kenny Dalglish (right), who secured Liverpool's last league title

Klopp was speaking to Sir Kenny Dalglish (right), who secured Liverpool’s last league title

Liverpool fans celebrate after seeing their side win the Premier League on Thursday night

Liverpool fans celebrate after seeing their side win the Premier League on Thursday night

‘I have no words. It’s unbelievable. Becoming champions with this club is incredible.’

Captain Jordan Henderson praised Klopp for revolutionising the club, saying: ‘It wouldn’t be possible to do it without the manager. 

‘From day one he changed everything. We all followed him.

‘What you see is what you get, with his press conferences and on the sidelines.

‘Obviously he has got more of a personal side with the players, but he has got a balance of having a relationship with the players and being a friend but also being a bit ruthless when he needs to be.

Anfield was submerged by red smoke as fans marked a momentous day for the city and club

Anfield was submerged by red smoke as fans marked a momentous day for the city and club

Liverpool have won 28 of their 31 matches this season and have not lost at Anfield since 2017

Liverpool have won 28 of their 31 matches this season and have not lost at Anfield since 2017

Rafael Benitez, who won the Champions League as Reds boss in 2005, added congratulations

Rafael Benitez, who won the Champions League as Reds boss in 2005, added congratulations

‘He is a great leader and a great human being and we all believe in him. To be honest, I’m lost for words. 

‘You never really think of this moment. When this moment comes I can’t really describe it. It’s another moment in our lives that we’ll never forget.

‘It feels amazing. I’m so happy for all the boys. The club, the whole city. I am so proud of what we achieved.’

Before his triumphant team-mates pounced on him, Van Dijk told BT Sport: ‘It’s incredible to be part of this group of players.

Van Dijk said the victory had taken the club to a different level after a near-flawless term

Van Dijk said the victory had taken the club to a different level after a near-flawless term

‘Last season we won the Champions League and this year, especially in the Premier League, we have taken it to a different level. We have been so consistent and doing so well.

‘It’s a fantastic feeling. From the moment I’ve joined it’s one team, everyone is part of it, from the people that work at Melwood, in the stadium and the players of course. 

‘We all want the same thing. Off the pitch we have a bond which is outstanding as well.’

Liverpool’s last top-flight triumph came in 1990 but they won the title at a canter this time, completing the job with a 23-point lead over Manchester City and seven matches to spare. 

Dalglish, who was their manager when they lifted the First Division trophy, watched the players start the party and said: ‘I’m very pleased for everybody connected with the football club. Jurgen has done a fantastic job.

‘The highlight has been the camaraderie within the team and the way everyone has helped the team.

Van Dijk (right) spoke glowingly of the outstanding bond between the players and Klopp

Van Dijk (right) spoke glowingly of the outstanding bond between the players and Klopp

Klopp took over as coach in 2015 and led the club to the Champions League title last season

Klopp took over as coach in 2015 and led the club to the Champions League title last season

‘We have many more happy days to look forward to as long as Jurgen is here. Liverpool from top to bottom in the football club have been fantastically supportive. You know how much it means. Jurgen Klopp epitomises everything that this football club is about. Onwards and upwards.’

Klopp dedicated the title to Dalglish and club legend Steven Gerrard, who praised his former boss and club owners Fenway Sports Group on Instagram.

The former Reds captain wrote: ‘Congratulations to all on winning the premier league.

Liverpool won the title without kicking a ball after Manchester City were beaten 2-1 at Chelsea

Liverpool won the title without kicking a ball after Manchester City were beaten 2-1 at Chelsea

Ex-Liverpool winger Ryan Babel was among the club's former players delighted at the news

Ex-Liverpool winger Ryan Babel was among the club’s former players delighted at the news

‘Incredible achievement from a fantastic squad of top players, led by a world-class manager and coaching team.

‘And lastly and most importantly, the fans who have waited 30 years.’ 



Liverpool’s squad win the Premier League title after Man City lose to Chelsea – and celebrate wildly


Virgil van Dijk led Liverpool’s jubilant celebrations after they finally ended their 30-year league title wait on Thursday night. 

Gathering together at a hotel, Jurgen Klopp’s men watched an outdoor screen as Chelsea’s 2-1 victory over Manchester City at Stamford Bridge confirmed their position as champions in an outstanding campaign which has seen them drop just seven points all season. 

Klopp was clearly emotional as he appeared on television afterwards – while his players were in the mood to party as they mobbed Van Dijk during his interview on BT Sport. Then it was on to a championship celebration with the players’ wives at ‘the home of the champions’. 

Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson was coy when quizzed on where players celebrating, keen to preserve the secret nature of their hideout for fears ‘thousands of fans would turn up’ to join them. 

The Liverpool midfielder clenched his bicep in celebration with players watching the Man City match together at a hotel in Merseyside

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain recorded the moments at the final whistle when Liverpool’s first league title in 30 years was confirmed as players watched together at a Merseyside hotel

Virgil van Dijk was giving an interview once the title was confirmed but he was soon mobbed

Virgil van Dijk was giving an interview once the title was confirmed but he was soon mobbed

Players chanted 'champeones' as the Dutchman was piled on by team-mates in celebration

Players chanted ‘champeones’ as the Dutchman was piled on by team-mates in celebration

Van Dijk (right) marked the moment of the title celebrations with a selfie alongside captain Jordan Henderson (far left) and fellow centre back partner Joe Gomez (middle)

Van Dijk (right) marked the moment of the title celebrations with a selfie alongside captain Jordan Henderson (far left) and fellow centre back partner Joe Gomez (middle) 

Jurgen Klopp could barely hide the tears as he reflected on what is an historic season

Jurgen Klopp could barely hide the tears as he reflected on what is an historic season

Divock Origi gave a nod to the celebrations by showing off the drinks available to players

Divock Origi gave a nod to the celebrations by showing off the drinks available to players

Players did a drum-roll for the final seconds of the match at Stamford Bridge as they sat together as a group in an outdoor seating area at the hotel.

Defender Andy Robertson, goalkeeper Alisson and playmaker Roberto Firmino were among those bursting into song in club colours as the squad shared their joy.

Robertson revealed that the players were hoping boss Jurgen Klopp would give them a rest after the party, telling the BBC: ‘We’re still trying to convince the boss downstairs to give us a few days off!

‘Give him a couple more beers and I think we’ll get two days off.’

Tearful manager Klopp had to cut an interview short as he admitted: ‘I have no real words. I never would have thought I would feel like this.  

‘It is easy for me to motivate the team because of our great history. This is for you [fans] out there. I hope you stay at home. Celebrate at the front of your house.’ 

An emotional Klopp admitted he is 'completely overwhelmed' after Liverpool's title win

An emotional Klopp admitted he is ‘completely overwhelmed’ after Liverpool’s title win

Klopp was speaking to Sir Kenny Dalglish (right), who secured Liverpool's last league title

Klopp was speaking to Sir Kenny Dalglish (right), who secured Liverpool’s last league title

Liverpool fans celebrate after seeing their side win the Premier League on Thursday night

Liverpool fans celebrate after seeing their side win the Premier League on Thursday night

‘I have no words. It’s unbelievable. Becoming champions with this club is incredible.’

Captain Jordan Henderson praised Klopp for revolutionising the club, saying: ‘It wouldn’t be possible to do it without the manager. 

‘From day one he changed everything. We all followed him.

‘What you see is what you get, with his press conferences and on the sidelines.

‘Obviously he has got more of a personal side with the players, but he has got a balance of having a relationship with the players and being a friend but also being a bit ruthless when he needs to be.

Anfield was submerged by red smoke as fans marked a momentous day for the city and club

Anfield was submerged by red smoke as fans marked a momentous day for the city and club

Liverpool have won 28 of their 31 matches this season and have not lost at Anfield since 2017

Liverpool have won 28 of their 31 matches this season and have not lost at Anfield since 2017

Rafael Benitez, who won the Champions League as Reds boss in 2005, added congratulations

Rafael Benitez, who won the Champions League as Reds boss in 2005, added congratulations

‘He is a great leader and a great human being and we all believe in him. To be honest, I’m lost for words. 

‘You never really think of this moment. When this moment comes I can’t really describe it. It’s another moment in our lives that we’ll never forget.

‘It feels amazing. I’m so happy for all the boys. The club, the whole city. I am so proud of what we achieved.’

Before his triumphant team-mates pounced on him, Van Dijk told BT Sport: ‘It’s incredible to be part of this group of players.

Van Dijk said the victory had taken the club to a different level after a near-flawless term

Van Dijk said the victory had taken the club to a different level after a near-flawless term

‘Last season we won the Champions League and this year, especially in the Premier League, we have taken it to a different level. We have been so consistent and doing so well.

‘It’s a fantastic feeling. From the moment I’ve joined it’s one team, everyone is part of it, from the people that work at Melwood, in the stadium and the players of course. 

‘We all want the same thing. Off the pitch we have a bond which is outstanding as well.’

Liverpool’s last top-flight triumph came in 1990 but they won the title at a canter this time, completing the job with a 23-point lead over Manchester City and seven matches to spare. 

Dalglish, who was their manager when they lifted the First Division trophy, watched the players start the party and said: ‘I’m very pleased for everybody connected with the football club. Jurgen has done a fantastic job.

‘The highlight has been the camaraderie within the team and the way everyone has helped the team.

Van Dijk (right) spoke glowingly of the outstanding bond between the players and Klopp

Van Dijk (right) spoke glowingly of the outstanding bond between the players and Klopp

Klopp took over as coach in 2015 and led the club to the Champions League title last season

Klopp took over as coach in 2015 and led the club to the Champions League title last season

‘We have many more happy days to look forward to as long as Jurgen is here. Liverpool from top to bottom in the football club have been fantastically supportive. You know how much it means. Jurgen Klopp epitomises everything that this football club is about. Onwards and upwards.’

Klopp dedicated the title to Dalglish and club legend Steven Gerrard, who praised his former boss and club owners Fenway Sports Group on Instagram.

The former Reds captain wrote: ‘Congratulations to all on winning the premier league.

Liverpool won the title without kicking a ball after Manchester City were beaten 2-1 at Chelsea

Liverpool won the title without kicking a ball after Manchester City were beaten 2-1 at Chelsea

Ex-Liverpool winger Ryan Babel was among the club's former players delighted at the news

Ex-Liverpool winger Ryan Babel was among the club’s former players delighted at the news

‘Incredible achievement from a fantastic squad of top players, led by a world-class manager and coaching team.

‘And lastly and most importantly, the fans who have waited 30 years.’ 



Pep Guardiola’s mother dies from coronavirus at the age of 82, Manchester City confirm


2020 OLYMPIC GAMES  

The 2020 Olympic Games has been postponed until 2021 on March 24 – becoming one of the last major sporting events this summer to fall victim to the coronavirus.

Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe held a crucial conference call with Olympics chief Thomas Bach on Tuesday to formally decide a plan and they have chosen to postpone for 12 months.

The decision also means the Tokyo Paralympic Games will be subject to a one-year delay.

Despite the delay, the name of the delayed Games will still be Tokyo 2020, the city’s governor Yuriko Koike revealed.

A joint statement from the IOC and Tokyo 2020 organising committee read: ‘In the present circumstances and based on the information provided by the WHO today, the IOC President and the Prime Minister of Japan have concluded that the Games of the XXXII Olympiad in Tokyo must be rescheduled to a date beyond 2020 but not later than summer 2021, to safeguard the health of the athletes, everybody involved in the Olympic Games and the international community.

‘The leaders agreed that the Olympic Games in Tokyo could stand as a beacon of hope to the world during these troubled times and that the Olympic flame could become the light at the end of the tunnel in which the world finds itself at present. 

‘Therefore, it was agreed that the Olympic flame will stay in Japan. It was also agreed that the Games will keep the name Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020.’ 

There was plenty of scepticism whether the Olympics would pull through and continue as scheduled while events linked to the games were called off. The Olympic torch relay in Greece was cancelled on Friday March 13 – just a day after the flame was lit in Olympia.

Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games have been postponed by one year due to the coronavirus

Large crowds mobbed Hollywood actor Gerard Butler as he lit the cauldron in the Greek city of Sparta despite repeated warnings for spectators not to attend because of coronavirus.

That forced the decision by the Greek Olympic Committee to halt the torch relay on Greek soil on just the second day of its scheduled eight-day journey. It is the only the third time that a relay to Athens for the summer Games has not been completed.

The Olympic flame will still be handed over to the Tokyo 2020 organising committee at the Panathenaic Stadium in Athens on Thursday March 19, but without fans present. 

Athletes were told to keep training but many struggled considering the government lock-down measures put in place. 

On Friday March 13 US president Donald Trump’s suggestion to postpone the Tokyo Olympics for a year because of the coronavirus was immediately shot down by Japan’s Olympic minister.

‘The IOC and the organising committee are not considering cancellation or a postponement – absolutely not at all,’ Seiko Hashimoto, an Olympic bronze medalist, told a news conference in Tokyo.

On Tuesday March 17, Kozo Tashima, one of the Japanese Olympic Committee’s vice presidents and president of the Japanese Football Association, tested positive for coronavirus.  

The International Olympic Committee and Tokyo organisers have stayed on message since the viral outbreak in China three months ago spread across Asia and then the globe: The games will open as scheduled on July 24. 

Tokyo 2020 organisers received the Olympic flame in a scaled-down handover ceremony in the Greek capital on March 19. 

ATHLETICS 

The World Athletics Indoor Championships, which was due to be held from March 13-15 in Nanjing, is postponed until March 2021.

The World Athletics Indoor Championships in Nanjing, China, has been postponed due to concerns over the danger of the coronavirus and its ability to spread

The World Athletics Indoor Championships in Nanjing, China, has been postponed due to concerns over the danger of the coronavirus and its ability to spread

North Korea cancelled the Pyongyang Marathon scheduled for April after imposing a border lockdown due to the level of outbreak in South Korea, where the Seoul Marathon is cancelled in a bid to protect runners.

The Paris half-marathon is cancelled and the French government also decided to ban all public gatherings of more than 100 people, before ordering people to stay at home from March 15 for at least 15 days. The race involving some 44,000 competitors was scheduled for Sunday March 1. Organisers said the race will be postponed to a date yet to be determined.

The London Marathon, which had been scheduled to take place on April 26, has been postponed until October 4. Over 40,000 runners were due to take part. 

The Barcelona marathon scheduled for March 15 has been postponed until October.

BOXING 

Olympic boxing qualifiers to be staged in Wuhan were cancelled by the International Olympic Committee, but went ahead in Amman from March 3-11.

The IBF title fight between Daniele Scardina and Andrew Francillette in Milan on February 28 was postponed by Matchroom due to restrictions in Italy following the outbreak.

The Japanese boxing commission cancelled all fight cards scheduled for March on government advice to suspend all pending sporting fixtures. They will not be rescheduled.

Daniel Dubois and Joe Joyce's Battle of Britain has been pushed back from April to July

Daniel Dubois and Joe Joyce’s Battle of Britain has been pushed back from April to July

The British Boxing Board of Control announced on Tuesday March 17 that all boxing events under their jurisdiction for March will be postponed due to the coronavirus.

That decision has lead to the heavyweight clash between Daniel Dubois and Joe Joyce being postponed. That fight, which had been penciled in for April 11, has been rescheduled for July 11 at the O2 Arena. 

Anthony Yarde, who was due to fight Lyndon Arthur on the undercard of the all-British clash, announced on March 29 that his father had died as a result of contracting the coronavirus. 

He revealed in an Instagram post that he had no underlying health issues and urged everyone to stay at home.  

Matchroom Boxing has also postponed all events scheduled for March and April, including Josh Kelly’s European title fight against Russia’s David Avanesyan (scheduled for March 28). 

The European Olympic boxing qualification tournament in London has been suspended. It was due to secure qualification for Tokyo 2020 for 77 male and female boxers, with 322 taking part. 

Matchroom Boxing chief Eddie Hearn has said Anthony Joshua’s heavyweight title defence against Kubrat Pulev, which is scheduled for June 20, could be rearranged for July. All Matchroom promoted fights in March and April have been postponed. 

Canelo Alvarez vs Billy Joe Saunders, earmarked for May in Las Vegas, was postponed before even being announced, however the Mexican is reportedly still planning to make the bout happen in June. 

CRICKET 

England’s tour of Sri Lanka was postponed on March 13, with the England and Wales Cricket Board citing ‘completely unprecedented times’.

The decision was confirmed while Joe Root’s side were in the field at Colombo’s P Sara Oval, contesting a warm-up game for a two-Test series.

On March 18, the West Indies offered to host England’s upcoming home Tests against them in the Caribbean instead of in the UK – should the coronavirus outbreak not have improved by then. England are due to face the Windies in a a three-Test series, which is due to start at the Oval on June 4 but could be delayed until September. If playing the series in England proves unworkable, CWI have offered to step in for this series, and also for England’s three Tests against Pakistan, due to start on July 30. Although there are Covid-19 cases in the Caribbean, its impact there has been limited so far. 

The start of the Indian Premier League season has also been delayed until April 15. The 2020 campaign had been set to start on March 29. The IPL franchises are also ready to quarantine their foreign players for a period of 14 days, if travel restrictions are lifted to allow them to arrive.

On March 13, India’s ongoing one-day international series against South Africa was postponed, while Australia’s one-day internationals against New Zealand will be played behind closed doors.

Scotland’s one-day series against the United States and UAE have been postponed. The games were scheduled to be played in Florida in April. 

England’s cricketers would not play any rescheduled Test series against West Indies in the Caribbean until December at the earliest, it emerged on March 19.

CYCLING 

Cycling’s Giro d’Italia has been called off, with the race scheduled to start in Hungary in May. 

The final two stages of the UAE Tour were cancelled after two members of staff on the race were suspected of having the disease. 

Danish cyclist Michael Morkov was tested for coronavirus after being put in isolation

Danish cyclist Michael Morkov was tested for coronavirus after being put in isolation

The Tour de France is under threat of cancellation, with the scheduled start in Nice taking place in just over three months, on June 27. With British and French governments anticipating that the pandemic will last until the summer, race organizers are studying alternative scheduling. 

The Paris-Roubaix cycling race, another major event on the French sports calendar, was postponed due to the pandemic, while the April 5 Tour of Flanders, only previously cancelled during World War I, was also postponed in a further sign that Le Tour is under grave threat.

FOOTBALL 

This summer’s Euro 2020 tournament has been moved to next summer (2021) following a UEFA conference held on March 17. The postponement provides a chance for European club competitions to be completed.

All football in England is suspended until at least April 30 – but the 2019-20 season should eventually be completed after the FA bend their own rules to extend the campaign INDEFINITELY after holding crisis talks on March 19.

The decisions to suspend follows players and staff becoming affected by the virus, or individuals self-isolating as a precaution after reporting symptoms consistent with Covid-19.

The Premier League has moved to cancel games following the global outbreak of coronavius

The Premier League has moved to cancel games following the global outbreak of coronavius

The Premier League clash between Manchester City and Arsenal, scheduled for March 11, had already been postponed as a ‘precautionary measure’ after Olympiacos and Nottingham Forest owner Evangelos Marinakis tested positive for coronavirus weeks after watching his Greek team play at the Emirates Stadium. 

On March 13, UEFA announced all Champions League and Europa League fixtures scheduled are postponed, as well as the quarter-final draws for both competitions. UEFA hope to conclude the competitions in the summer but no dates are yet set. 

Birmingham City become the first Championship side to see players take temporary 50 per cent wage cuts to ease financial pressure.  Leeds United soon followed in a bid to keep paying all of their non-football staff. 

All Chinese domestic fixtures at all levels were postponed and the season pushed back, the first football to be affected by the outbreak in the country of its origin. However, reports suggest that the league could resume on April 18 as China gets to grip with the virus.

Asian Champions League matches involving Guangzhou Evergrande, Shanghai Shenhua and Shanghai SIPG are postponed until April.

The start of the Korean K-League season is postponed. The four teams in the AFC Champions League are playing their matches behind closed doors.

Japan’s J-League postponed all domestic games until the middle of March, but further delays are inevitable. 

Ludogorets players were taking no chances after the coronavirus outbreak in Italy

Ludogorets players were taking no chances after the coronavirus outbreak in Italy

Italy, the country worst hit by the virus outside China, suffered a spate of cancellations before the government put the population on lockdown. All sport, including Serie A games, were suspended until at least April 3 to contain the virus.

In France, it was announced on Friday 13 March that there will be no top-flight football in France for the immediate future after their governing body postponed all matches.  

In Spain, April 18’s Copa del Rey final between between Athletic Bilbao and Real Sociedad has been postponed. LaLiga is also postponed until the end of March at least.

Germany’s Bundesliga, the other major European league, is also suspended until April 3 at least. 

The Dutch Eredivisie and Portugal’s Primeira Liga are also suspended.

The Football Association of Ireland announced that all football under its jurisdiction will cease until March 29. 

Major League Soccer has been suspended for 30 days until mid-April with David Beckham’s first Inter Miami home game delayed.  

The South American Football Confederation postponed this year’s Copa America, due to take place from 12 June to 12 July, until 2021.

FIFA said that the newly-expanded Club World Cup, originally scheduled to take place in China in June 2021, will be postponed and a new date announced when ‘there is more clarity on the situation’.

On March 13, the FA announced that all of England’s games scheduled for the month would be postponed, including those of development teams. It means that England’s friendlies with Italy and Denmark have been called off.    

Euro 2020 play-off matches due to be held on March 26, including Scotland v Israel have been put off until June. 

Olympiakos' owner Evangelos Marinakis has tested positive for the coronavirus

Olympiakos’ owner Evangelos Marinakis has tested positive for the coronavirus

Manchester United clash at Austrian side Lask was behind closed doors, with United handing out £350 to each fan to help with travel and accommodation after they sold 900 tickets for the Europa League game. 

Newcastle United banned their players from shaking hands with each other amid coronavirus fears. 

Cristiano Ronaldo went into isolation in Madeira after it emerged that his Juventus team-mate, Daniele Rugani, has coronavirus. Squad members Blaise Matuidi and Paolo Dybala also tested positive. 

Elsewhere in Italy, Fiorentina striker Patrick Cutrone, who is on loan from Wolverhampton Wanderers, tested positive for coronavirus.

In Spain, 35% of Valencia’s squad staff tested positive for coronavirus, with all cases being asymptomatic. 

Real Madrid’s first-team squad were in quarantine after a member of the basketball team tested positive for Covid-19. The two teams share the same training facility.   

Liverpool have announced a charity match between a Reds Legends side and Barcelona Legends, due to be played at Anfield on March 28, has been postponed.

FIFA says it will postpone South American World Cup qualifying matches due to take place in March. 

Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta tested positive for coronavirus on March 12 with the entire first-team squad being put into isolation. The Gunners’ game against Brighton, scheduled for Saturday March 14, has been postponed.

In the early hours of Friday, March 13, Chelsea announced that winger Callum Hudson-Odoi had been diagnosed with the illness.

The club’s first team went into self-isolation, while two buildings at their training ground in Cobham were closed. 

Premier League clubs, including Manchester United and Manchester City, have sent players home to train alone following the British government’s increasing crackdown on mass gatherings and unnecessary social contact.   

West Ham chief Karren Brady called for the season to be null and void while Aston Villa believe no team should be relegated. In this situation Liverpool, the runaway league leaders, could face the horror of being denied the title despite being on the brink of securing their first league trophy in nearly 30 years.

Reports suggest football bodies across England and the rest of Europe are bracing themselves for a reported total shutdown of every league until September.

Top-level English and Scottish football was initially suspended until April 3 at the earliest. The Football Association, the Premier League, the English Football League, FA Women’s Super League and FA Women’s Championship all agreed to call a halt to competitive action with immediate effect. 

All levels of English football below the National League North and South have been called off and voided with no promotion and relegation due to the calendar being decimated by the coronavirus outbreak.  

FORMULA ONE 

The season-opening Australian Grand Prix was called off after a McLaren team member came down with Covid-19, leading to the British team pulling out prior to a decision being made on whether the race would still go ahead. 

The announcement came hours after Lewis Hamilton said it was ‘shocking’ that the race was going ahead. 

The Chinese Grand Prix in Shanghai on April 19 was the first race to be postponed, with no decision over whether it will be reinserted into the 2020 calendar for later in the season. 

The Bahrain Grand Prix, scheduled for March 20-22, is also called off, as is the inaugural Vietnam Grand Prix, which was scheduled to take place in Hanoi on April 5. 

It was hoped that the Dutch Grand Prix on May 3 would be the first race of the new season but that has also been postponed due to Covid-19. 

The iconic Monaco Grand Prix on May 24 was cancelled for the first time in 66 years before Formula One announced their race in Azerbaijan had been postponed. 

The Chinese GP was first to be cancelled and other races could yet follow that lead

The Chinese GP was first to be cancelled and other races could yet follow that lead

GOLF 

On March 13, the Masters was postponed. In a statement released online, Fred Ridley, Chairman of Augusta National Golf Club, emphasised that the decision makers hope to hold the championship ‘at some later date’. The first men’s major of the year was due to begin on April 9.

The US PGA Championship, the second major of the year, has now joined the  Masters in being postponed. It had been due to take place at TPC Harding Park in San Francisco from May 11-17, but has been rescheduled for later this summer.

After deciding to play with no spectators from the second round of the Players Championship onwards, the PGA Tour cancelled the event entirely after the first round on March 12. 

They also scrapped the following three events leading up to the Masters, but after that was cancelled four further events in April and May – the RBC Heritage, the Zurich Classic of New Orleans, the Wells Fargo Championship and the AT&T Byron Nelson – also bit the dust. It is hoped that the season can be resumed in late May.

The European Tour have cancelled all tournaments until the popular Made in Denmark event on May 21. Many of them were due to be held in China or east Asia in countries badly hit by the outbreak.

The women’s game has also been hit by postponements and cancellations, with the year’s first major, the ANA Inspiration, the highest profile casualty.

The Masters has been postponed for the first time since the Second World War

The Masters has been postponed for the first time since the Second World War

Lorenzo Gagli and Edoardo Molinari were withdrawn from the Oman Open on medical grounds after Gagli showed symptoms of the virus. He shared a hotel room with Molinari and he was told to self-isolate. They were later reinstated to the tournament after testing negative for the virus. 

HORSE RACING 

The Grand National was called off following new British government restrictions to fight the spread of coronavirus made it impossible to stage the Aintree showpiece on April 4. The Cheltenham Festival went ahead amid some criticism before the social distancing measures were tightened. 

The Japan Racing Association revealed that ‘government-sanctioned races’ will go ahead behind closed doors.  

Racing in Ireland attempted to take place behind closed doors starting on March 29 – but that decision was changed after government cancelled all sporting events.  

The Dubai World Cup meeting will go ahead on March 28 ‘without paid hospitality spectators’. 

Racing Post forced to temporarily suspend publication of the flagship daily racing newspaper for the first time since their inception in 1986 due to all action in UK and Ireland being suspended.  

The Cheltenham Festival went ahead despite travel disruption caused by the virus

The Cheltenham Festival went ahead despite travel disruption caused by the virus

RUGBY 

This year’s Six Nations will have to wait for its conclusion with all remaining games postponed.

England’s game with Italy and Ireland’s trip to France had already been called off with Wales and Scotland leaving it until the day before before calling off their game. 

Saturday, 31 October is a possible date for the final weekend of matches. 

The Women’s Six Nations has also been hit by postponements.

Ireland's Six Nations encounter with Italy on March 7 has been postponed

Ireland’s Six Nations encounter with Italy on March 7 has been postponed

The RFU has suspended all levels of rugby in England until April 14, with the announcement coming shortly after the Premiership was halted for five weeks. 

The quarter-finals of the European Champions Cup and Challenge Cup have also been postponed. Those games were scheduled for April 3, 4 and 5.   

The RFL and rugby league’s Super League have now followed suit and postponed all fixtures for at least three weeks. Eight Leeds Rhinos players had been confirmed to be self-isolating.  

TENNIS

Wimbledon has been cancelled for the first time since World War II as All England Club chiefs called the tournament off at an emergency meeting.

It was considered impossible for the tournament to be moved back to later in the year, or to be played without fans, and so chiefs have pulled the plug entirely.

This is the first time that Wimbledon will not be staged since 1945. Only one Grand Slam has missed a year since the war, the 1986 Australian Open, and that was for the technical reason of the date shifting forward from December into January. 

The French Open, one of the four Grand Slam tournaments, is postponed until September amid a wide lockdown in France.

The clay-court major was scheduled for May 24 to June 7, but that has shifted to September 20 to October 4, after the US Open, which was due to be the final major of the year. 

Players have been quick to criticise the move, which has created a conflict with the Laver Cup men’s team event spearheaded by Roger Federer, and a women’s tournament in China.

All events on the ATP Tour have been suspended for six weeks. 

The BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells in California, set to start on March 9, was postponed at the eleventh hour.  It came after a confirmed case of the coronavirus in the nearby Coachella Valley.

The final of an ATP Challenger event in Bergamo, Italy, between Enzo Couacaud and Illya Marchenko of Ukraine was cancelled. Both players received ranking points and prize money for getting to the final. They were denied the opportunity to play behind closed doors.

China forfeited a Davis Cup tie because the men’s team were unable to travel to Romania for the March 6-7 play-off.

WTA events have also been cancelled. The WTA announced they are assessing their schedule with a number of events set for China in the second half of the season.

The International Tennis Federation has announced that the Fed Cup finals have been postponed. The event was due to be held in Budapest in April and the competition’s play-offs, which were set to take place in eight different locations, have also been placed on hold.

The WTA also announced no tournaments will be staged for at least five weeks.   

Wimbledon has been cancelled for the first time since World War II

Wimbledon has been cancelled for the first time since World War II

OTHER SPORTS 

The NBA has been suspended indefinitely after two Utah Jazz players contracted the virus. On March 17 Brooklyn Nets star Kevin Durant confirmed he had tested positive for the virus alongside three unnamed team-mates.

In an aid to decrease risks of exposure to the virus, the NBA had told players to avoid taking items such as pens, markers, balls and jerseys from autograph seekers. 

The NHL has announced it has paused the 2019-20 season with no date confirmed for when it will resume. 

The UFC has cancelled its next three events, although president Dana White is still pushing ahead for the highly-anticipated lightweight title fight between Khabib Nurmagomedov and Tony Ferguson. 

MotoGP have cancelled their first two races of the season in Qatar and Thailand. 

South Korea’s baseball league cancelled all 50 pre-season game which were slated to take place from March 14-24. It is the first time since the leagues inception in 1982 that an entire set of exhibition matches are off. 

The first-stage draw for the Table Tennis World Championships, scheduled for South Korea from March 22-29, is postponed.

A beach volleyball tournament, due to be held in Yangzhou from April 22-26, is postponed until after the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

World Short track speed skating championship in Seoul is cancelled.

The World Triathlon Series event in Abu Dhabi was postponed as a precautionary measure.  

The Women’s World Ice Hockey Championships in Canada have been cancelled.   

All 72 pre-season baseball games in Japan are to take place behind closed doors

All 72 pre-season baseball games in Japan are to take place behind closed doors

In badminton, the German Open (March 3-8), Vietnam Open (March 24-29) and Polish Open (March 26-29), all Olympic qualifying events, are cancelled due to ‘strict health protection’. 

The Japanese professional baseball league made the decision to play their 72 pre-season games behind closed doors until March 15. Baseball is among the most popular sports in Japan.  

Doubts remain as the Asian weightlifting championships, scheduled for March, are relocated from Kazakhstan to neighbouring Uzbekistan. They could still be postponed. 

Pep Guardiola’s mother dies from coronavirus at the age of 82, Manchester City confirm


Pep Guardiola’s mother, 82, dies from coronavirus just weeks after the Manchester City manager donated £920,000 to fight the virus in his native Catalonia

  • Pep Guardiola’s mother Dolors Sala Carrio has died from coronavirus
  • Man City confirmed the sad news on Monday before paying tribute to Guardiola
  • It comes weeks after Guardiola donated £920,000 to help fight the coronavirus 

Pep Guardiola’s mother has passed away from coronavirus, Manchester City have confirmed.

The Premier League champions confirmed the sad news on Monday that Dolors Sala Carrio had passed at the age of 82.

City paid tribute to their manager on social media, saying: ‘Everyone associated with the club sends their most heartfelt sympathy at this most distressing time to Pep, his family and all their friends.’

Pep Guardiola’s mother, Dolors Sala Carrio, has passed away from coronavirus at the age of 82

The Premier League champions confirmed the news on Twitter on Monday afternoon

The Premier League champions confirmed the news on Twitter on Monday afternoon

Tottenham and Brighton sent their condolences to Guardiola for his loss following the sad news.

‘Everyone at Spurs sends their deepest condolences. Our thoughts are with Pep and his family at this time,’ Spurs tweeted

The tragic news comes weeks after Guardiola himself made a generous donation of £920,000 (€1million) to help fight the coronavirus in Spain.

Guardiola earmarked the money, sent to the Angel Soler Daniel Foundation, to be spent on purchasing medical equipment.

The fund is named after a doctor from Santpedor – the town Guardiola hails from – who passed away in the 1970s.

It comes weeks after Guardiola donated £920,000 to help fight the coronavirus in Spain

It comes weeks after Guardiola donated £920,000 to help fight the coronavirus in Spain

Tottenham and Brighton paid tribute to the Spaniard on Twitter following the announcement

Tottenham and Brighton paid tribute to the Spaniard on Twitter following the announcement

The Barcelona medical college said that equipment is in short supply across Catalonia and Guardiola’s generosity will go a long way to easing the strain on health centres. Catalonia is reported to have the most concentrated number of cases in Spain.

Guardiola is currently back at home in Barcelona following the outbreak, where he has been urging football fans to stay at home to reduce the spread of the deadly virus.

‘We miss football,’ he said. ‘We miss the life that we had a few days ago but now is the time to listen, to follow our scientists, doctors and nurses.

‘You are my football family and we are going to do everything possible to make you feel better. We’ll come back from this stronger, better, kinder… and a little bit fatter. Stay inside, stay safe.’ 

More to follow 



Manchester City manager Guardiola donates €1m to help fight coronavirus in Barcelona


Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola donates €1MILLION of his own money to fight coronavirus in Barcelona, after urgent appeal raised just €33,000 in a week

  • The Spaniard has earmarked the money for the Angel Soler Daniel Foundation
  • The fund is named after a doctor from Santpedor, the town Guardiola hails from
  • On Tuesday Spain reported the death toll had jumped by 514 in just 24 hours
  • Coronavirus symptoms: what are they and should you see a doctor?

Pep Guardiola has donated €1million (£900,000) in the fight against coronavirus in Barcelona.

The Manchester City manager has earmarked the money, sent to the Angel Soler Daniel Foundation, to be spent on purchasing medical equipment.

The fund is named after a doctor from Santpedor – the town Guardiola hails from – who passed away in the 1970s. 

Pep Guardiola has donated €1million in the fight against coronavirus in Barcelona

Guardiola made the pledge on Tuesday following an appeal over the weekend.

The foundation had raised just over €33,000 after the initial plea and Guardiola’s personal contribution has rocketed their resources.

Spain is on a nationwide lockdown, declaring a state of emergency on Saturday – two days before the United Kingdom announced stricter guidelines. 

Barcelona is in lockdown as the death toll in Spain jumped by 514 in a single day on Tuesday

Barcelona is in lockdown as the death toll in Spain jumped by 514 in a single day on Tuesday

The City boss is a proud Catalan and has been known to wear a yellow ribbon

He played for Barcelona almost 400 times

Man City manager Guardiola represented Barcelona for most of his playing career

The coronavirus death toll in Spain jumped by 514 in a single day, as the situation in the country quickly worsens. 

Official figures on Tuesday show that 2,696 people have now died in the country and close to 40,000 are infected 

The Barcelona medical college said that equipment is in short supply across Catalonia and Guardiola’s generosity will go a long way to easing the strain on health centres. Catalonia is reported to have the most concentrated number of cases in Spain. 

A proud Catalonian, Guardiola has been fined by the FA in the past for ‘wearing a political message’. The yellow ribbon he displayed was in support of jailed activists who campaigned for independence. 

Guardiola is understood to have been working on ways of sending the finances since hearing of the coronavirus appeal. 


Liverpool ‘set to be given Premier League title’ if season is ended now due to coronavirus


2020 OLYMPIC GAMES 

Cancelled

The Olympic torch relay in Greece was cancelled on Friday 13 March – just a day after the flame was lit in Olympia.

Large crowds mobbed Hollywood actor Gerard Butler as he lit the cauldron in the Greek city of Sparta on Friday despite repeated warnings for spectators not to attend because of coronavirus.

That forced the decision by the Greek Olympic Committee to halt the torch relay on Greek soil on just the second day of its scheduled eight-day journey.

The Olympic flame will still be handed over to the Tokyo 2020 organising committee at the Panathenaic Stadium in Athens on Thursday, but without fans. It is the only the third time that a relay to Athens for the summer Games has not been completed.

In doubt 

The scale of the outbreak in Japan saw senior International Olympic Committee member Dick Pound describe the disease as ‘the new war’ threatening Tokyo 2020 and he warned the Games may have to be cancelled if the virus was still around by May.

Olympic organisers told athletes to train as normal with no decision on cancellation

The Japanese government later insisted Pound’s comments were not the IOC’s official stance but there remains doubts over whether the summer showcase can still go ahead with health concerns.

Athletes have been told to keep training and the plan remains to hold the Games in Japan as planned but training for around 80,000 volunteers has been delayed for at least two months- it was due to begin on February 22. 

On Friday, March 13; President Donald Trump’s suggestion to postpone the Tokyo Olympics for a year because of the spreading coronavirus was immediately shot down by Japan’s Olympic minister.

‘The IOC and the organising committee are not considering cancellation or a postponement – absolutely not at all,’ Seiko Hashimoto, an Olympic bronze medalist, told a news conference in Tokyo.

The International Olympic Committee and Tokyo organisers have stayed on message since the viral outbreak in China three months ago spread across Asia and then the globe: The games will open as schedule on July 24. 

ATHLETICS

Cancelled

World Athletics Indoor Championships (March 13-15 in Nanjing) is off until 2021.

The World Athletics Indoor Championships in Nanjing, China, has been postponed due to concerns over the danger of the coronavirus and its ability to spread

The World Athletics Indoor Championships in Nanjing, China, has been postponed due to concerns over the danger of the coronavirus and its ability to spread

North Korea cancelled the Pyongyang Marathon scheduled for April after imposing a border lockdown due to the level of outbreak in South Korea.

The Seoul Marathon is cancelled in a bid to protect runners following the mass outbreak in South Korea.

The Paris half-marathon is cancelled and the French government also decided to ban all indoor public gatherings of more than 5,000 people.

The race involving some 44,000 competitors was scheduled for Sunday (March 1) in the French capital city. Organisers said the race will be postponed to a date yet to be determined.

The Barcelona marathon scheduled for March 15 has been postponed until October to stop the spread of the coronavirus, Barcelona’s city hall said in a statement.

In doubt

A mixed relay Olympic triathlon qualification event scheduled for Chengdu, China in May is moved to Valencia, pending an outbreak in Spain.

BADMINTON

Cancelled

German Open (March 3-8), Vietnam Open (March 24-29) and Polish Open (March 26-29), all Olympic qualifying events, are cancelled due to ‘strict health protection’.

BOXING

Cancelled

Olympic boxing qualifiers to be staged in Wuhan were cancelled by the International Olympic Committee, and now are relocated to occur in Amman from March 3-11

The IBF title fight between Daniele Scardina and Andrew Francillette in Milan on February 28 was postponed by Matchroom due to restrictions in Italy following the outbreak.

The Japanese boxing commission cancelled all fight cards scheduled for March on government advice to suspend all pending sporting fixtures. They will not be rescheduled.

In doubt 

All British fights over the next two months are under threat. The BBBoC confirmed to Sportsmail they are no currently making recommendations to cancel shows but admitted that can change and will await guidance from the government.

CRICKET

Cancelled 

England’s tour of Sri Lanka was postponed on Friday 13 March due to the coronavirus pandemic, with the England and Wales Cricket Board citing ‘completely unprecedented times’.

The decision was confirmed while Joe Root’s side were in the field at Colombo’s P Sara Oval, contesting a warm-up game for a two-Test series that was in the process of being written off by decision-makers back at Lord’s.

CYCLING

In doubt

Danish cyclist Michael Morkov has been cleared to race at the UCI Track Cycling World Championships after being kept in isolation over fears of an outbreak of coronavirus.

Morkov, 34, had travelled to Berlin in February after contesting the first four stages of the UAE Tour, the final two stages of which were then cancelled after two members of staff on the race were suspected of having the disease.

Riders and staff on the UAE Tour have been in lockdown since but, after the Abu Dhabi Department of Health issued a statement on Saturday saying 167 tests had come back negative, the UCI said Morkov was free to race as normal.

Danish cyclist Michael Morkov was tested for coronavirus after being put in isolation

Danish cyclist Michael Morkov was tested for coronavirus after being put in isolation

FOOTBALL

Cancelled

Top-level English and Scottish football has been suspended until April 3 at the earliest due to the coronavirus pandemic, it was announced on Friday 13 March.

The Football Association, the Premier League, the English Football League, FA Women’s Super League and FA Women’s Championship have all agreed to call a halt to competitive action with immediate effect.

A joint statement from the Scottish Football Association and the Scottish Professional Football League confirmed the suspension of all football north of the border until further notice.

The decisions to suspend follows players and staff becoming affected by the virus, or individuals self-isolating as a precaution after reporting symptoms consistent with Covid-19.

The Premier League clash between Manchester City and Arsenal, scheduled for March 11, had already been postponed as a ‘precautionary measure’ after Olympiacos owner Evangelos Marinakis tested positive for coronavirus weeks after watching his Greek team play at the Emirates Stadium. 

On Friday 13 March, UEFA has announced all Champions League and Europa League fixtures scheduled for next week are postponed, as well as the quarter-final draws for both competitions. UEFA has called an emergency meeting on Tuesday 17 March to discuss whether Euro 2020 can go ahead as scheduled. 

All domestic fixtures at all levels are postponed by the Chinese Football Association as the season is pushed back due to the scale of the outbreak in China.

Asian Champions League matches involving Guangzhou Evergrande, Shanghai Shenhua and Shanghai SIPG are postponed until April.

The start of the Korean K-League season is postponed. The four teams in the AFC Champions League are playing their matches behind closed doors.

Japan’s J-League postponed all domestic games until the middle of March.

Inter Milan’s game against Sampdoria was one of four Serie A games cancelled on February 22-23 weekend due to affected regions in Italy leading to advice from the prime minister to call off sporting events.

Inter Milan’s Europa League match with Getafe was also postponed on March 11, while Roma’s flight to Spain to face Sevilla was banned from landing before being postponed, with Italy on lockdown. 

The Coppa Italia match between Napoli and Inter Milan on March 5 became the latest fixture to be called off, when it was postponed indefinitely. It was the 12th game to be postponed since the crisis began and the third involving Inter.

Ludogorets players were taking no chances after the coronavirus outbreak in Italy

Ludogorets players were taking no chances after the coronavirus outbreak in Italy

An update from sports minister Vincenzo Spadafora later confirmed all the Serie A fixtures for the weekend commencing March 7-8, would be played behind closed doors. And with the country on lockdown, it was later announced that all sport, including Serie A games, would be suspended until at least April 3 to contain the virus.

In France, it was announced on Friday 13 March that there will be no top-flight football in France for the immediate future after their governing body postponed all matches in light of the coronavirus pandemic.  

In Spain, April 18’s Copa del Rey final between between Athletic Bilbao and Real Sociedad has been postponed.

UEFA said it is asking governments across the continent to ensure Euro 2020 goes ahead in three months despite the coronavirus outbreak.

MLS has been suspended for 30 days with David Beckham’s first Inter Miami home game delayed. 

Impacted

The home leg of the Chinese women’s national team’s Olympic qualification play-off against South Korea set for March is switched to Sydney. The squad are held in quarantine upon their arrival in Australia for January’s qualifying group stage due to fears of virus carriers.

Inter Milan’s Europa League match against Ludogorets on February 27 was played behind closed doors. Only TV rights-holders are allowed to attend as media as the club look to secure the San Siro. Ludogorets players arrived in Italy wearing face masks.

Serie A announced five matches on February 28-March 1 would be played behind closed doors, including Juventus vs Inter Milan in Turin, a huge match between title rivals.

Ligue 1 followed suit with games set to be played in empty stadiums until April 15. Clubs also have the option of playing games with just 1,000 fans.

LaLiga became the latest league to ban supporters in stadiums after guidance from Spain’s health ministry and sports council. Barcelona’s Champions League tie with Napoli will also be played in an empty ground.

Olympiakos' owner Evangelos Marinakis has tested positive for the coronavirus

Olympiakos’ owner Evangelos Marinakis has tested positive for the coronavirus

Manchester United clash at Austrian side Lask was behind closed doors, with United handing out £350 to each fan to help with travel and accommodation after they sold 900 tickets for the Europa League game. 

Newcastle United have banned their players from shaking hands with each other amid coronavirus fears.

Three players from third-division Italian football club US Pianese have tested positive for coronavirus, the Tuscany side confirmed on Friday. 

Olympiacos owner Evangelos Marinakis, who also owns Nottingham Forest, tested positive for the coronavirus. Both Olympiacos and Forest squads were tested and all returned negative. 

In Germany, Hannover 96 defender Timo Hubers tested positive for the virus.

Spain’s Copa del Rey final, which was set to take place on April 18, between Real Sociedad and Athletic Bilbao has now been postponed.

Cristiano Ronaldo went into isolation in Madeira after it emerged that his Juventus team-mate, Daniele Rugani, has coronavirus. 

Another Juventus player, Paulo Dybala, has also tested positive according to reports and he has been placed in quarantine. 

The Football Association of Ireland announced that all football under its jurisdiction will cease until March 29. 

Liverpool have announced a charity match between a Reds Legends side and Barcelona Legends, due to be played at Anfield on March 28, has been postponed.

FIFA says it will postpone South American World Cup qualifying matches due to take place in March. 

Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta tested positive for coronavirus on March 12 with the entire first-team squad being put into isolation. The Gunners’ game against Brighton, scheduled for Saturday March 14, has been postponed.

In the early hours of Friday, March 13, Chelsea announced that winger Callum Hudson-Odoi had been diagnosed with the illness.

The club’s first team have gone into self-isolation, while two buildings at their training ground in Cobham have been closed. Their game against Aston Villa, scheduled for Saturday March 14, appears certain to be postponed. 

In doubt

Thursday’s Europa League clash between Olympiakos on Wolves took place behind closed doors after an order by the government in Greece, but Wolves have asked UEFA to delay the fixture.

England’s friendly against Italy at Wembley in March is still set to go ahead, as per a tweet from England football’s account on March 11. England are also set to play Denmark in March.

Israel has warned citizens to avoid all international travel, which raises questions whether supporters or players will travel to Scotland for their Euro 2020 play-off match on March 26. 

Growing concerns that some matches at Euro 2020 could be called off if the coronavirus outbreak gets worse between now and the summer. The tournament is set to be multi-city. UEFA admit they are in a ‘waiting stage’ and must follow the orders of the individual countries involved. However, FA Chairman Greg Clarke has stated that he expects the tournament to go ahead.

Premier League games are ‘likely’ to be played behind closed doors ‘in the coming weeks’ over coronavirus fears, Everton board member Sasha Ryazantsev has warned, in line with the action taken in Serie A. 

Chelsea’s Champions League last-16 second leg at Bayern Munich is also heading towards being postponed, it was revealed on March 13. 

Football bodies across England and the rest of Europe are bracing themselves for a reported total shutdown of every league until September. UEFA will hold a meeting on Tuesday, March 17 will be crucial in sorting the fate of the 2019-20 season.

FORMULA ONE

Cancelled

The Australian Grand Prix has been called off after a McLaren team member came down with Covid-19, leading to the British team pulling out prior to a decision being made on whether the race would still go ahead. 

The announcement came hours after Lewis Hamilton said it was ‘shocking’ that the race was going ahead. 

The Chinese Grand Prix in Shanghai on April 19 is postponed with no decision over whether it will be reinserted into the 2020 calendar for later in the season.  

Impacted 

The Bahrain Grand Prix, scheduled for March 20-22, is set to be called off as is the inaugural Vietnam Grand Prix (scheduled to take place in Hanoi on April 5). 

The Chinese GP was first to be cancelled and other races could yet follow that lead

The Chinese GP was first to be cancelled and other races could yet follow that lead

In doubt 

There is hope that the F1 season can begin on May 3. F1 chiefs are looking to press on with the Zandvoort race in Holland on that date.

GOLF

Cancelled

The Women’s Amateur Asia-Pacific golf championship, slated to take place from February 12-15 in Thailand, was postponed and has been rescheduled for October.

The Honda LPGA Thailand event in Pattaya, Thailand scheduled for February 20-23 along with the HSBC Women’s World Championship in Singapore, scheduled to start on February 27, were both postponed

The PGA Tour Series-China postponed two qualifying tournaments and delayed the start of its 2020 campaign by two months, cutting the number of regular season events down from 14 to 10.

The decision was made to cancel the LPGA Blue Bay tournament in China, with the event at Hainan Island (due to start on March 5) seen as dangerous to players’ health

The European Tour postponed the Maybank Championship (April 16-19 in Kuala Lumpur) and Volvo China Open (April 23-26 in Shenzhen).

After deciding to play with no spectators from the second round of the Players Championship onwards, the PGA Tour cancelled the event entirely after the first round on Thursday 12 March. 

They have also scrapped their next three events, meaning there will be no PGA Tour events prior to the first major of the year, The Masters, in April. However, on Friday 13 March the prestigious Augusta tournament was also postponed.

In a statement released online, Fred Ridley, Chairman of Augusta National Golf Club, emphasised that the decision makers hope to hold the prestigious tournament ‘at some later date’. 

The first men’s major championship of the year was due to begin on April 9 in Georgia, but has been suspended due to the escalating pandemic. 

Impacted

Lorenzo Gagli and Edoardo Molinari were withdrawn from the Oman Open on medical grounds after Gagli showed symptoms of the virus. He shared a hotel room with Molinari and he was told to self-isolate. They were later reinstated to the tournament after testing negative for the virus. 

HORSE RACING

Impacted

The Japan Racing Association revealed that ‘government-sanctioned races’ will go behind closed doors.

Two race meetings in France next week are to take place behind closed doors in a response to the coronavirus outbreak.

Monday’s jumps card and the Wednesday fixture on the Flat at Compiegne will have no paying customers, with the order coming from the mayor of the town and the president of the Compiegne Racing Society.

Racing in Ireland is to take place behind closed doors starting until March 29. 

The Cheltenham Festival went ahead despite travel disruption caused by the virus

The Cheltenham Festival went ahead despite travel disruption caused by the virus

RUGBY

Cancelled

Scotland Women’s Six Nations match with Italy on February 23 is postponed due to an outbreak in the Milan area.

And the Women’s match between Wales and Scotland in the Six Nations on March 15 is also off after one Scottish player tested positive for the virus. 

Ireland’s Six Nations meeting with Italy on March 7 is postponed.

Ospreys and Ulster’s Pro14 trips to play in Italy on February 29 are postponed. Ospreys were due to play Zebre in Parma with Treviso the venue for Ulster’s game against Benetton.

Ireland's Six Nations encounter with Italy on March 7 has been postponed

Ireland’s Six Nations encounter with Italy on March 7 has been postponed

The Italian Rugby Federation suspended its National Championship and youth games for February 28-March 1.

Hong Kong Rugby Sevens is postponed, which is a blow to Olympic preparations for Team GB.

England’s final Six Nations game against Italy is off ‘with the intention to reschedule it at a later date’. The same applies to the corresponding women’s and U20s fixtures. All were due to be played on March 13-15.

Meanwhile, France’s Six Nations clash with Ireland on March 14 has been pushed back with the French government taking measures against sporting events. 

In doubt

Scottish rugby announced preparations ‘continue as normal’ as they discuss with French rugby whether to proceed with their Six Nations match on March 8 following a second coronavirus death in France.

All of Italy’s remaining Six Nations fixtures – they are due to host England in their final game on March 14 – are in serious doubt given the scale of the outbreak in Italy.

Fears of the virus spreading then prompted ITV to abandon plans to send commentators and pundits out to Rome for England’s game against Italy in Rome.

TENNIS

Cancelled

All events on the ATP Tour have been suspended for six weeks. 

The BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells in California, set to start on March 9, was postponed at the eleventh hour.  It came after a confirmed case of the coronavirus in the nearby Coachella Valley.

The final of an ATP Challenger event in Bergamo, Italy, between Enzo Couacaud and Illya Marchenko of Ukraine is cancelled. Both players received ranking points and prize money for getting to the final. They were denied the opportunity to play behind closed doors.

China forfeited a Davis Cup tie because the men’s team were unable to travel to Romania for the March 6-7 playoff.

WTA event Xi’an Open (set for April 13-19) is cancelled due to fears over player safety. WTA announced they are assessing their schedule with a number of events set for China in the second half of the season.

The International Tennis Federation has announced that next month’s Fed Cup finals have been postponed due to the coronavirus outbreak.

The event was due to be held in Budapest and the competition’s play-offs, which were set to take place in eight different locations, have also been placed on hold.

The WTA also announced no tournaments will be staged for at least five weeks. 

Impacted

Japan’s home Davis Cup tie against Ecuador next week is now set to be played behind closed doors.

Players will be banned from handing their towels to ball-kids at next week’s BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, organisers said on Friday. 

OTHER SPORTS

Cancelled 

MotoGP have cancelled their first two races of the season in Qatar and Thailand. Moto2 and Moto3 will though run in Qatar though as they were already based at the track for pre-season testing.

Cycling’s United Arab Emirates Tour has been cancelled with Chris Froome tested for coronavirus and Mark Cavendish put into lockdown in his hotel room. 

South Korean baseball league cancelled all 50 pre-season game which were slated to take place from March 14-24. It is the first time since the leagues inception in 1982 that an entire set of exhibition matches are off. 

The first-stage draw for the Table Tennis World Championships, scheduled for South Korea from March 22-29, is postponed.

A beach volleyball tournament, due to be held in Yangzhou from April 22-26, is postponed until after the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

World Short track speed skating championship in Seoul is cancelled.

Next month’s World Triathlon Series event in Abu Dhabi was postponed on Saturday as a precautionary measure.

The event was due to take place from March 5 to March 7 in the city, which has reported new cases of the virus.

Event organisers said they still hoped to reschedule the event to take place later in March or April. 

The Women’s World Ice Hockey Championships, scheduled for Canada later this month, have been cancelled. 

The NBA has also been suspended indefinitely after two Utah Jazz players contracted the virus. 

The NHL has announced it has paused the 2019-20 season with no date confirmed for when it will resume. 

The London marathon has been postponed for six months. It was scheduled to take place on April 26 but has now been pushed back to October.

All 72 pre-season baseball games in Japan are to take place behind closed doors

All 72 pre-season baseball games in Japan are to take place behind closed doors

Impacted

The Japanese professional baseball league made the decision to play their 72 pre-season games behind closed doors until March 15. Baseball is among the most popular sports in Japan. 

In an aid to decrease risks of exposure to the virus, the NBA have told players to avoid taking items such as pens, markers, balls and jerseys from autograph seekers. 

In doubt

The South Korean baseball league regular season is in doubt ahead of the first round of matches on March 28. An emergency meeting has been called.   

Doubts remain as the Asian weightlifting championships, scheduled for March, are relocated from Kazakhstan to neighbouring Uzbekistan. They could still be postponed.

MARTIN SAMUEL: Closing football’s doors is the only option


Fans. Where would football be without them? We are about to find out. Close the doors. It is the only available option. Postponement, play-offs, ending the season now, none of it works, none of it would be fair.

Not every team is like Liverpool, in a position to claim moral victory as champions less than two weeks into March. Issues of promotion and relegation are less clear. And there is no time in football’s overcrowded schedule for delay.

If the European Championship goes ahead — and while the wider world may be sceptical, UEFA insist it will — the time between the conclusion of the domestic football season and the agreed date for players to be released for international duty is measured in days more than weeks. No solution is ideal, but some are simply unworkable. Football closes its doors or 2019-20 is declared void.

Closing football’s doors is the only option ahead of postponing games or scrapping the season

‘Does football work without spectators?’ asked Pep Guardiola, before the hurried postponement of Manchester City’s match with Arsenal. ‘We do our job for the people and if the people cannot come to watch us, there is no sense. I would not love to play in the Premier League or Champions League or the cups without people.’

Well, yes and no. The commercial plan of every elite club, including City, aggressively targets a great many who will never set foot inside the Etihad, or any English football stadium. They consume the Premier League through television subscriptions in countries across the world, and we are conditioned to believe they are no less important than those who stand in the rain for their club every week.

So let’s not pretend football is all about the hardy souls who go to it. Often, they are the last to be considered in everything from fixture scheduling to VAR replays. Who are the least informed people when the ball goes in the net these days? Those inside the stadium. Who are repeatedly inconvenienced by kick-off times and dates shifted with no consideration for the journeys undertaken? The travelling fans. And none of that is Guardiola’s fault. But let’s not pretend that the people are prioritised by his, or any other, sport.

Pep Guardiola says football won't work without crowds but match-going fans aren't prioritised

Pep Guardiola says football won’t work without crowds but match-going fans aren’t prioritised

So once we have accepted that sacrifices will have to be made to deal with an unexpected but very real threat, playing before television cameras in an otherwise empty stadium is by some distance the least worst option.

Look at the alternatives. To the cynic it almost seems as if the Premier League is trying to limp on until Liverpool are officially crowned champions, which may be less than two weeks away, and that would settle the primary issue.

Yet a football season is about so much more than who comes first. It is simply not an option to freeze the leagues on the date government decides large public assembly is too risky, and regard those standings as the final word.

Had that been done after 28 games last season, Liverpool would have won the title and Arsenal, not Chelsea, would have qualified for the Champions League. And how could it be adequately explained to the clubs in the bottom three that their fate has been sealed at some midway moment?

Bournemouth would go down on the same points as Watford and West Ham, with nine matches to correct that unresolved. Aston Villa would be relegated without playing the game in hand that could lift them to 16th.

It is not an option to regard current standings as the final word with points still to play for

It is not an option to regard current standings as the final word with points still to play for

One option would be to have no relegation — but then how would that sit with Leeds, at last anticipating their return to the Premier League, or those clubs scrapping it out for play-off places throughout football’s pyramid? These are exceptional circumstances, but we cannot make them worse with random unfairness.

Play-offs? How, and who? Should Liverpool start off level against a club they currently lead by 25 points? And how far should these knockout games stretch, considering Arsenal, in ninth, still hold ambitious hopes of securing a Champions League place?

Who would feature in relegation play-offs? Are Southampton safe, seven points above the bottom three with nine games to play, or do we draw an arbitrary line at, say, a bottom four, so that Watford are in, but West Ham are saved with a superior goal difference of two? Play-offs are another arbitrary solution that dissolves on analysis. They would require complex legislation, conjured on the hoof.

Guardiola, and others, favour postponement, but this presumes resumption and nothing can be guaranteed there. Who knows where the European continent will be in two weeks’ time? And then what? Plus, there isn’t room in football’s calendar for any kind of delay, or diversion. The winter break proved that. The odd FA Cup replay and the whole process spun off into chaos as a third of the top division ended up reneging on their pledge to take a rest.

UEFA stated that the European Championships will go ahead, perhaps behind closed doors

UEFA stated that the European Championships will go ahead, perhaps behind closed doors

Speaking with Roberto Martinez, manager of Belgium, on the way back from Leipzig on Wednesday the absence of wriggle room became clear. The guidance from UEFA is that the European Championship will go ahead, perhaps behind closed doors, meaning countries will get first call once the Champions League final has been played on May 30.

The Premier League ends on May 17, so even a hiatus of two weeks would impact on that with players having no break at all, or truncated time with the national squad. And many European leagues finish later than here.

This isn’t a movable feast. Guardiola’s proposal — and Nuno Espirito Santo of Wolves echoed it — would create a logistical nightmare given football’s obligations on multiple fronts. And that is if the crisis has passed by May, which seems unlikely.

So playing the season to empty stands in soulless, echoing arenas is the best of it, sadly. And, yes, thousands may gather outside, or in pubs and clubs, because humans are social creatures and like to share experience, but then it is the job of government and medical practitioners to educate. If people are informed and that information is consistent, they can be steered towards smarter decisions. Yes, it would be a thrill to be in the vicinity when Liverpool finally lift the Premier League trophy — but is it worth killing Granny?

Thousands may gather outside grounds with medical practitioners needed to educate

Thousands may gather outside grounds with medical practitioners needed to educate

Equally, we are warned that many small clubs would struggle without gate revenue. Yet this is where Premier League largesse should come to the rescue. Not to save basket-case businesses like Bury, but to keep those clubs afloat who cannot possibly have been expected to prepare for this day. Emergency funds and empathy are not beyond football’s wealthiest, surely?

For how long? That’s the crux of it: nobody knows. Nobody knows anything, really. The guidance conflicts, best practice varies. Landing at City Airport from Frankfurt on Wednesday, the whole plane had to fill in forms to aid location in the event of a fellow passenger developing coronavirus. Yet there was only space to record one set of flight details. What of those whose journey began elsewhere, connecting through Frankfurt? It seemed to be window-dressing, not a plan. Then it was on to a train north. The chap sitting across the table of four had a persistent cough. It was too crowded, and we were all too polite to question him on it, but were there passenger locator forms, just in case? Not a chance. No consistency.

And if thousands in a stadium are a risk, what of those tightly-packed coaches that shuttle passengers out to remote parking locations for their aircraft at busy hubs? Anyone flying Leipzig-Frankfurt-London City had been herded on to three of them before 8am. And why did Avanti, newly operating the west coast rail franchise and already making travellers miss Virgin, wait until 12.04pm to announce the platform for the 12.07pm to Liverpool, meaning the London Euston concourse was rammed and then bunched up as travellers hurried to get a seat? It’s all so random.

There were 2,500 Atletico Madrid fans at Anfield on Wednesday, who wouldn’t be allowed to attend a match in their native country. Someone is right in their corona-virus protection procedures, and maybe someone else is very, very wrong. Let’s hope it’s not us.

Aston Villa 1-2 Manchester City: Pep Guardiola’s side win third Carabao Cup on the trot


This went exactly as expected, but better than expected, too. Manchester City won, as was widely predicted, but Villa were not embarrassed or swept aside, which was not.

The last team to play City in a cup final, Watford, went down by six; the last time Villa reached a domestic cup final, against Arsenal in 2015, they lost by four. 

Fears surrounded a similar outcome. Bookmakers had City the same price to win by seven as Villa were to win by one. So in the circumstances, a single goal losing margin didn’t seem to carry the same pain of cup final defeat for the vanquished claret end. They cheered and lauded their players at the conclusion almost as if they were victors. 

Manchester City celebrate claiming the Carabao Cup after the 2-1 victory over Aston Villa at Wembley Stadium

Pep Guardiola's side climbed up the famous steps at Wembley and captain David Silva raised the trophy aloft

Pep Guardiola’s side climbed up the famous steps at Wembley and captain David Silva raised the trophy aloft 

Rodri scored City's second goal with a header and was soaked with champagne as his team-mates sprayed him

Rodri scored City’s second goal with a header and was soaked with champagne as his team-mates sprayed him

It was heartbreak for Aston Villa in the end - captain Jack Grealish shows his dejection after the full-time whistle

It was heartbreak for Aston Villa in the end – captain Jack Grealish shows his dejection after the full-time whistle 

MATCH FACTS:

Aston Villa: Nyland, Guilbert, Engels, Mings, Elmohamady (Trezeguet 70), Nakamba, Douglas Luiz, Targett, El Ghazi (Hourihane 70), Samatta (Davis 80), Grealish

Subs not used: Taylor, Lansbury, Konsa, Reina

Goals: Samatta 41

Bookings: Nakamba, Elmohamady, Mings

Manager: Dean Smith 

Man City: Bravo, Walker, Stones, Fernandinho, Zinchenko, Gundogan (De Bruyne 58), Rodri, Silva (Bernardo Silva 76), Sterling, Aguero (Jesus 83), Foden

Subs not used: Mendy, Mahrez, Otamendi, Ederson

Goals: Aguero 20, Rodri 30

Bookings: Sterling, Rodri

Manager: Pep Guardiola 

Referee: Lee Mason 

Maybe this is a sorry indictment of the growing gulf in English football; maybe it was just sheer relief. Certainly, when City went two goals clear after 30 minutes, the gloomy silence from Villa’s fans suggested fear. They hadn’t trailed in this competition all season. Yet would they, like Watford, be taken apart on a global stage?

What saved them was not some tactical masterstroke, or spirited revival. It was a mishap, a misstep, the sort of random event that too often befalls John Stones, which is why whatever the future holds for Manchester City this summer, a defensive upgrade has to be a priority. 

They cannot continue like this, dominating games yet always vulnerable to the most random factors, such as Stones’ inexplicable fall minutes before half-time. It is hard to convey just how comfortable City were at that moment. 

They were two goals clear with Aston Villa reduced to ever more desperate interventions at the back. One saw Bjorn Engels throw himself into the sort of manic block that John Terry used to make – no surprise given he is now Villa’s coach. Yet somehow, from a point where the only question seemed to be ‘how many?’, Stones undermined that supremacy and allowed Villa to go into the second-half a goal behind, and reinvigorated by this unlikely turn of events.

Stones fell. It can happen to anyone, but it is astonishing how often it happens to him, these little accidents. He was tracking a through ball, one eye on Anwar El Ghazi, another on Mbwana Samatta, and just seemed to trip over his own feet and collapse in a heap. El Ghazi sprinted through, suddenly unchallenged, and hit a lovely cross which Samatta converted with a powerful diving header. Very impressive – and suddenly Villa were back in it.

They shouldn’t have been. After a bright start which saw El Ghazi head narrowly over from an Ahmed Elmohamady centre, the game had settled into a familiar pattern: Villa defending in deep banks, City probing artfully around them. Sergio Aguero had a header from an Ilkay Gundogan cross go wide after nine minutes and then, with 20 gone, City struck.

It was another goal that showcased the vision of Phil Foden, crowned a thoroughly deserved man of the match. He was causing Matt Targett all manner of problems on the right, and Rodri picked him out with a sweet diagonal ball. Most players of his age would have tried to hit an area, central around the six yard box, where Villa’s defences were massed. 

Sergio Aguero opens the scoring for Manchester City after 20 minutes, slotting the ball into the bottom-corner

Sergio Aguero opens the scoring for Manchester City after 20 minutes, slotting the ball into the bottom-corner

Aguero was assisted by Phil Foden, who found the Argentine in the box with a accurate header back across the face of goal

Aguero was assisted by Phil Foden, who found the Argentine in the box with a accurate header back across the face of goal

Midfielder Rodri doubles City’s advantage after half-an-hour, directing the ball beyond the grasp of Villa keeper Orjan Nyland

Foden is better than that, though; sharper, smarter, old beyond his years. He could see Aguero arriving and sent the ball back to him with a beautifully weighted header. City’s talismanic striker needs no better offer than that, and finished smartly past goalkeeper Orjan Nyland.

Foden could have added to the total with a curling shot on 27 minutes, picked out cross field again, this time by Oleksandr Zinchenko. And then City scored their second, with a straightforward set piece that seemed to catch Villa half asleep – no doubt to the fury of Terry, and others, on the Villa bench. 

Gundogan whipped it in from the right, Rodri met it with little opposition. Getting outplayed by City is no sin, but the very least Villa manager Dean Smith could have hoped for was that his team would compete, would jump.

Foden was involved again in the 36th minute when he again cut the ball back for Raheem Sterling, whose shot was blocked on its way to goal by Tyrone Mings. The young man had a fierce shot flash across the face of the target shortly after half-time, too. 

Then, after 57 minutes, Pep Guardiola decided to pay Villa his biggest compliment, introducing Kevin De Bruyne from the substitutes bench, although one of his first touches involved stepping on the ball, slipping, and almost letting Villa in on the counter attack. Maybe it’s catching.

The Spanish international celebrates his goal, after capitalising from a corner which shouldn't have been awarded

The Spanish international celebrates his goal, after capitalising from a corner which shouldn’t have been awarded

Villa striker Mbwana Samatta pulls a goal back just before half-time with an excellent diving header at the near-post

The Tanzanian got in-between Fernandinho and Oleksandr Zinchenko to give his team a route back into the final at Wembley

The Tanzanian got in-between Fernandinho and Oleksandr Zinchenko to give his team a route back into the final at Wembley

Bjorn Engels came so close to a dramatic equaliser for Aston Villa but his header was saved onto the post by Claudio Bravo

Bjorn Engels came so close to a dramatic equaliser for Aston Villa but his header was saved onto the post by Claudio Bravo

Yet it would be wrong to suggest the second-half saw the teams slug it out. That 45 minutes followed the same pattern as the first, City in possession, Villa in retreat. Aguero took a fearful battering and Marvellous Nakamba was lucky to stay on the field. 

His tackle on the Argentinian was reckless, two-footed and lacking control. It was more miraculous than marvellous that he was able to continue, and all that saved Nakamba from a red was that his studs were not up and he did not go over the ball. Aguero was lucky, though.

Not so much the next time. A quite exquisite move ended with Bernardo Silva crossing for Aguero to meet the ball with a far post volley. It hit the side-netting – one of those optical illusions that fools half the stadium to the delight of the other half – but Aguero also rattled his knee against the attempted block. 

It was an accident, but he left the field hobbling and bleeding to several crass attempts to quicken his exit from referee Lee Mason and some Villa players.

Yet as injury time approached the lead remained a single goal – and every team has a puncher’s chance from set pieces. So it proved. 

Bravo managed to claw his right hand onto the ball, with the rebound hitting the post and City eventually cleared their lines

Bravo managed to claw his right hand onto the ball, with the rebound hitting the post and City eventually cleared their lines

Guardiola was nervous in the second-half as his side failed to kill off a valiant and defiant Villa but they came through

Guardiola was nervous in the second-half as his side failed to kill off a valiant and defiant Villa but they came through

Villa won a corner and, from it, Engels’ header hit the far post. When five minutes of additional time was then called, it was greeted more enthusiastically at the Villa end, than City’s. Indeed, to see City getting 11 behind the ball, and being reduced to hoofed clearances was also a win of sorts, but not one that gets a team a trophy. Villa got to make another climb to collect unwanted medals – their fourth straight losing cup final since 1996.

As for City, a fourth Carabao Cup win next season would equal the record set by Liverpool in 1984, but so much is unknown about the club’s immediate future; football’s too, given one of the topics for the government’s emergency Cobra meeting on Monday is whether large assemblies must be outlawed to prevent the spread of coronavirus. 

Maybe the call on that could have been made before more than 82,000 people were allowed to gather for the biggest domestic football match of the year so far. By the time this season is out, stopping Manchester City might be the least of anyone’s worries.

It is now three Carabao Cup wins in succession for City and Guardiola places importance on the competition

It is now three Carabao Cup wins in succession for City and Guardiola places importance on the competition

There were scenes of jubilation on the Wembley turf and City are targeting more silverware this season

There were scenes of jubilation on the Wembley turf and City are targeting more silverware this season