A busy week of European football concluded with a host of British clubs in Europa League and Europa Conference action on Thursday night

October 1, 2021

Tottenham ran out 5-1 winners over Mura, with Harry Kane grabbing a much-needed hat-trick in front of the Spurs faithful.

West Ham beat Rapid Vienna 2-0, although Declan Rice’s goal sparked trouble among fans at the London Stadium.

Leicester’s shaky start to the season continued with a 1-0 defeat at Legia Warsaw.

And it was a bad night for the Scottish clubs.

Celtic were beaten 4-0 at home to Bayer Leverkusen, while Rangers suffered a 1-0 defeat to Sparta Prague which was marred by more reported abuse of midfielder Glen Kamara.

Pep Guardiola insists he and his Manchester City players are relishing the prospect of facing Liverpool at a packed Anfield on Sunday.

The Premier League champions have a notoriously poor record at the home of the Reds, with last season’s success being their first there in 18 years and only their second since Boxing Day 1981.

Yet some people have suggested even that came in helpful circumstances as no fans were present for the 4-1 victory in February due to coronavirus restrictions.

Guardiola does not believe this is a major factor.

“I’m very pleased Anfield is full again and we can go there to play a game,” said the City manager. “It’s nice that the people are back and we can enjoy a fantastic atmosphere there.

“Hopefully we can handle it in a good way. I’m pretty sure the players would prefer to play with fans at Anfield than without. Everything is more alive.

“I don’t know the reasons why we didn’t win at Anfield over the 18 years but, over my five years, it was because they were an exceptional team.

“It’s not about intimidation. It’s about the quality of the opponent. When you don’t win it’s because they are so good. We try to do our game with or without spectators.”

Steve Bruce would not be surprised if Newcastle’s Premier League rivals had tried to block a takeover which would have massively boosted their spending power.

Daniel Jowell, the QC acting for Mike Ashley’s St James Holdings Ltd in its legal battle with the organising body, claimed at a Competition Appeal Tribunal hearing this week that “a number of major clubs that control or strongly influence the Premier League” had joined media group beIN in lobbying against the proposed sale to a consortium funded in large part by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund.

Asked if that would surprise him, Magpies head coach Bruce said: “Would it surprise me? No. No, it wouldn’t surprise me.

“You wouldn’t want another big player on the patch, would you, so it wouldn’t surprise me, no.”

Amanda Staveley’s consortium, which includes the Saudi PIF and the Reuben Brothers, formally withdrew its £300million-plus offer in July last year with the financier blaming the Premier League’s failure to either approve or block the takeover on rival clubs after a 17-week wait for an answer.

Fans are desperate to see the back of Ashley, whose two-pronged legal action also includes an arbitrations case due to be heard in January next year, are as keen as the sportswear magnate to see the deal resurrected.

However, Bruce insists neither he nor the players can afford to be distracted by what is happening behind the scenes.

He said: “A lot of them have been here a long time and it’s been whirling around, so I think it becomes tedious, if that’s the right word.

“I don’t think so. All that stuff, they can’t control. What they can do is train well, play well, win on a Saturday. That’s what they’re paid for. They’re professionals, so that’s what they’ve got to really focus their attention on rather than anything else.”

Thomas Tuchel has revealed his bemusement at Gareth Southgate naming Reece James in his England squad, insisting the Chelsea full-back will miss the upcoming internationals through injury.

James hobbled out of Chelsea’s 1-0 Premier League loss to Manchester City last weekend with an ankle injury.

And now Blues boss Tuchel has joked that the 21-year-old could only manage water polo given he is limited to training in the pool due to his ankle problem.

James was called up to the England squad for next week’s World Cup qualifiers against Andorra and Hungary.

But now Tuchel has insisted the Chelsea academy graduate will not be fit in time, also ruling him out of Saturday’s Stamford Bridge clash with Southampton.

When asked if James had been named in the England squad with his blessing, Tuchel replied: “You would assume so, no? But when I saw it I thought that maybe Reece goes with the water polo team for England, because right now he trains in the pool.

“So I was a bit surprised, but I understood that he was selected for the football team. So this will not happen because Reece is training in the pool right now.

“So my understanding, my last information is that he will not go. So that can only be a misunderstanding, nothing else.”