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  1. Tottenham need one point for Europa League qualification

    Tim Sherwood

    The north London club must hold off the challenge of Manchester United to clinch a return to European competition in what is set to be Tim Sherwood's final game in charge.

    Tottenham need a point to be assured of a Europa League spot when they face Aston Villa on the final day of the Premier League season.

    Sixth place and Europa League qualification for a fourth consecutive season would belong to the north London club if they avoid defeat at White Hart Lane on Sunday, with Manchester United three points behind them, though it would have been secured earlier if Spurs had done better than a chastening 2-0 loss at West Ham.

    It is set to be Tim Sherwood's last game as manager. He was handed an 18-month contract when he succeeded Andre-Villas Boas in December but, despite keeping Tottenham on course for a top-six finish, the former England midfielder will be replaced at the end of the season.

    Heavy Premier League defeats against the likes of Manchester City, Chelsea and Liverpool, as well as a Europa League exit at the hands of Benfica, harmed Sherwood's prospects of staying on in the role and several names have been linked with his post.

    Louis van Gaal was initially touted for the role but is now set for Manchester United, while his fellow Dutchman, Ajax boss Frank de Boer, claims to have been contacted by Tottenham - which the club denied - and Southampton manager Mauricio Pochettino is also a target.

    Sherwood has faced difficult circumstances and a significant injury list - the West Ham reverse ended a four-match unbeaten run that included three victories.

    Younes Kaboul is suspended for the clash with Villa following his red card last time out but fellow defender Jan Vertonghen (ankle) could feature after turning out for the Under-21s and midfielder Etienne Capoue (ankle) could return.

    Villa boss Paul Lambert has conceded to being uncertain over his own future, although there has not been a clamour for the Scot's position comparable to Sherwood's.

    A 3-1 win over Hull City belatedly secured Villa's top-flight status but Wednesday night's trip to Manchester City saw them ship four goals on the road for a second consecutive match.

    Although Lambert - a former Scotland international and Champions League winner with Borussia Dortmund during his playing days - described staying up as one of his greatest achievements in football, he is realistic about Villa's plight.

    "I think the football club needs investment," he told the press. "It's punching you right in the face. Any club that wins a European Cup and has won leagues before and got a massive fanbase should never be in this position."

    For now, Lambert's youthful and patched-up squad must soldier on for 90 minutes more. They could be handed a boost in attack as Gabriel Agbonlahor battles to return from a knee problem, while Marc Albrighton (groin) could bolster Lambert's midfield. Strike duo Christian Benteke and Libor Kozak are long-term absentees.

     

  2. Celta vs Real Madrid: La Liga Preview

    Carlo Ancelotti

    After picking up just a point from each of their last two matches, Carlo Ancelotti's men simply have to defeat Luis Enrique's side to keep their championship hopes alive.

    Real Madrid must win at Celta on Sunday and hope that Barcelona and Atletico Madrid slip up if they are to remain in the Primera Division title race.

    Carlo Ancelotti's side dropped points against Valencia and Real Valladolid in disappointing draws last week, meaning that both Barca and Atletico now have the league crown in their hands. 

    Those draws have left Los Blancos four points adrift of city rivals and Champions League final opponents Atleti, who host Malaga as the Blaugrana travel to Elche.

    With Diego Simeone's men heading to Camp Nou on the final day, there remains an outside chance for Madrid to usurp both of their rivals and claim back the crown they last won in 2012.

    Having won the Copa del Rey in April and with a Lisbon showdown against Atletico to come later in May, Ancelotti refuses to give up on winning a treble.

    The Italian told the press: "Winning La Liga will be very difficult but it's still mathematically possible. We have to carry on and win our remaining two La Liga games. I'm not concerned about who the favourites are to win the title."

    Crucially, the Madrid coach is confident of having Cristiano Ronaldo available for the trip to the Balaidos, after the Portugal forward limped off with just nine minutes on the clock in Wednesday's 1-1 draw against Valladolid.

    "He wasn't in pain and wasn't complaining of a muscle sprain," Ancelotti explained.

    If Ronaldo does miss out, Madrid may turn to a new goalscoring hero to find the net, after Sergio Ramos made it five in four matches with the opener in midweek. The defender, perhaps more famed for clocking up cards than goals, marked his 400th appearance for the club with his 36th league goal for the club.

    Celta, who have won three in a row, provided spirited opposition for more than an hour in January's reverse fixture until Karim Benzema broke their resistance before Ronaldo added two more in a 3-0 win for the hosts but it has been a hugely improved campaign for the hosts, who triumphed in their final two games last term to finish just one point above the relegation zone.

    Luis Enrique's side look set for a top-half finish and they have been in fine form in front of goal lately, scoring 12 times in their past four outings.

    The visitors will be without defender Pepe, who has a calf injury, while Celta could stick with Sergio Alvarez in goal, after he made his first appearance of the season in place of Yoel for the 2-0 win at Osasuna.

     

  3. Atalanta vs AC Milan: Serie A Preview

    Clarence Seedorf

    Rumours continue to circulate over Clarence Seedorf's future as Milan, fresh from a derby triumph over Inter, travel to Atalanta on Sunday.

    Seedorf, who has been in charge since January, enjoyed the biggest win of his tenure last time out as Nigel de Jong grabbed the only goal to beat Inter.

    Yet, despite that success bolstering Milan's chances of a UEFA Europa League spot, speculation has continued to mount that the Dutchman will be deposed at the season's end.

    For now, though, Milan and Seedorf most focus their attentions on overcoming an Atalanta side who have picked up just one point in their last five Serie A games.

    The visitors will certainly be confident, having won six of their seven league encounters to move within a point of sixth-placed Torino and, indeed, just three behind Inter.

    While only the top five are guaranteed a place in Europe next season, the spot currently occupied by Torino looks set to be good enough, too, with Coppa Italia finalists Napoli and Fiorentina likely to qualify for continental competition via their league positions.

    With number one Christian Abbiati suspended, Marco Amelia should get the nod in goal for Milan, who will be without the injured Valter Birsa and Riccardo Saponara.

    Enigmatic striker Mario Balotelli enters the game with a point to prove, though, after being warned by Italy coach Cesare Prandelli that his FIFA World Cup place is not guaranteed.

    Atalanta, who have not beaten Milan on home turf in their last four attempts and lost the reverse fixture 3-0 in January, will be without Riccardo Cazzola and Stefano Lucchini through injury, while Manuel Estigarribia is suspended.

    Mario Yepes, meanwhile, is a doubt to face his old team after suffering a head injury against Juventus on Monday. The veteran Colombian centre-back, who boasts 95 international caps, spent three years at San Siro, playing 38 times having signed from Chievo in 2010.

     

     

  4. Pellegrini makes City slicker

    Manuel Pellegrini

    Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini will celebrate one of his greatest achievements if his side clinch the title this weekend.

    Pellegrini is proud not only of the position City are in heading into their final game of the Barclays Premier League season but of the manner in which they have got there.

    Pellegrini has advocated an attractive brand of attacking football all season and, despite criticism his approach was too reckless at times, he has rarely deviated.

    With City now realistically needing just a draw against West Ham on Sunday to secure a second title in three seasons, his methods are close to receiving significant vindication.

    The Chilean said: "I repeat, the reality is the way we did it is one of my best achievements in this season.

    "The first thing I can say is we chose the right squad for what we needed to do this year."

    Pellegrini now expects his side, which moved two points clear of Liverpool at the top by beating Aston Villa 4-0 in midweek, to complete the job against the Hammers.

    He knows the possibility for jitters still exists, however, and will want his players to follow his ice-cool example.

    Pellegrini has betrayed little emotion all season and that is an approach he has honed from experience, having been "different" in his younger days.

    "I think when I started this career I had, absolutely, a different character," the 60-year-old said.

    "As a player I was a different character to the one I am today but to prepare to be a manager I think you must change a lot of things.

    "You have to understand you are not a player and have another attitude with the players."

    Asked if he does suffer from nerves, the former Malaga coach said: "I know how to control (them) - it is different.

    "After so many years, it is very important to control your emotions because when you have to take decisions under emotion normally you do it the wrong way.

    "I think it is very important of the manager to be calm, to try to repeat what we did the whole year.

    "I expect to win. We are thinking not of winning one point but just winning the match, and the best way to do it is to play the way we always do."

    Pellegrini has a fully-fit squad available with Sergio Aguero back in contention after a groin injury.

    Aguero, top scorer with 28 goals in all competitions this season, missed the game against Villa after limping out of the action at Everton last weekend.

    Pellegrini said: "The whole squad is fit for Sunday. It is very important, always for a manager, if you have your whole squad and choose from all your players."

     

  5. Bayern Munich vs Stuttgart: Bundesliga Preview

    Bayern Munich vs Stuttgart

    There should be goodwill in the air When Bayern Munich welcome Stuttgart to close their triumphant Bundesliga campaign.

    Stuttgart's top-flight status remained in the balance until last weekend, when they suffered a 2-1 home defeat to Wolfsburg.

    Ultimately the result proved no great cause for concern as Bayern overcame Stuttgart's fellow strugglers Hamburg 4-1 to make Huub Stevens' side safe.

    In any case, Stuttgart tend to be well-mannered hosts as far as Bayern are concerned - the Bavarian club have won the past 10 encounters in all competitions.

    Bayern will be formally presented with the Bundesliga trophy after Saturday's game, six weeks on from securing the title.

    Nevertheless, any feel-good factor around the Allianz Arena has all but disappeared during the interim period - largely thanks to Real Madrid's emphatic 5-0 aggregate UEFA Champions League semi-final victory that ended Bayern's defence of their European crown.

    The manner of those losses has brought growing rumours of discontent regarding the methods of coach Pep Guardiola. For his part, the former Barca boss insists that he will stay faithful to the 'tiki-taka' style that he pioneered during four phenomenally successful years at Camp Nou, and captain Philipp Lahm launched a defence of his manager this week.

    "With Pep Guardiola, we showed throughout two-thirds of the season that we could have our own style of play that is very effective, precise and dangerous in attack, and, yes, like Barcelona, have lots of possession of the ball," he told Sport Bild.

    "And that's the style we're going to continue working on. (We have) controlled and beaten great teams like Manchester City, Arsenal, Man United and Chelsea."

    On the field, Bayern will be without Jerome Boateng after the defender received a red card for an altercation with Hamburg's Kerem Demirbay, while Mario Mandzukic will look to become the Bundesliga's top scorer for 2013-14.

    The Croatia international is locked on 18 goals with Borussia Dortmund forward and future team-mate Robert Lewandowski. The duo will square off in next weekend's DFB-Pokal final.

    At the end of a disappointing campaign, Stevens might allow himself a wry smile when reflecting on the apparent internal strife at Bayern over a potential double-winning season.

    Stuttgart began their plans for next term this week by securing the signing of Red Bull Salzburg right-back Florian Klein on a free transfer.

    The 27-year-old Austria international has agreed a deal running until July 2017.

     

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