Guardiola talks up changes

Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola says the club will be looking to bring in fresh faces in the summer in a bid to improve the "mentality" in the team.

City have fallen short of claiming the Premier League title this season and crashed out in the Champions League at the hands of Monaco in the last 16 of the competition.

Guardiola knows the importance of mental strength in a squad and the experienced tactician feels his side can certainly improve in that department as they looking to challenge for the Premier League title and honours in Europe next season.

"We see in the Champions League that level [that those teams are at] and the quality they have," Guardiola explained.

"But it is not just the quality, it is the mentality and the presence to play at that level. Of course we have to make changes for next season.

"It is how they play in big situations. We lived those situations in the Monaco game so we do not forget how good they are."

Meanwhile City are preparing for the late kick-off on Saturday when they make the trip to the south coast to face Southampton.

City are 4/5 to win, 3/1 to draw and 4/5 to lose to Saints at St Mary's.

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Zidane confirms Bale absence

Real Madrid ace Gareth Bale will miss the La Liga clash with Sporting Gijon on Saturday and is a major doubt for the midweek Champions League action.

Wales forward Bale is being troubled by an ankle problem which forced him from the field on the hour mark of the 2-1 Champions League quarter-final first-leg win at Bayern Munich on Wednesday evening.

Real head coach Zinedine Zidane immediately voiced his concerns that Bale could be facing a spell on the sidelines, and has now confirmed that his player has suffered a recurrence of a problem which meant he had to go under the knife at the end of November.

Zidane told the Spanish media: "He will not travel with the rest of the group for tomorrow that is clear, after that we will see.

"We must wait to see his progress, but tomorrow he will not play and on Tuesday we will see.

"It is true that I am concerned. It's a muscular injury near his ankle. I'm worried because I don't like to see players injured and it's even worse if it's (towards) the end of the season."

Minus Bale, Los Blancos go into the game at El Molinon holding a three-point lead over Barcelona at the top of the Spanish league, with the men from Madrid also having a game in hand.

Last season Gijon held Real to a goalless draw in Asturias, while the Rojiblancos were only beaten 2-1 at the Bernabeu earlier this season.

Real are 9/20 to win the game on Saturday afternoon and are 7/1 to claim a 2-0 victory, with Cristiano Ronaldo available at 8/15 to score at any time.

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Mihajlovic keen on Hart stay

Torino head coach Sinisa Mihajlovic has confirmed he would like to keep Joe Hart at the club next season, although a permanent deal is out of the question.

England international goalkeeper Hart is coming towards the end of a season-long loan stay in Turin, having fallen out of favour at Manchester City following the arrival of former Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola last summer.

And Mihajlovic is in no doubt that he would like to see Hart stay, while accepting that if City seek to sell their player then Torino will be unable to compete for the signature.

"I would like Hart to stay at Torino, but we know – the club and him too – that we can't buy him," Mihajlovic told the Italian media.

"At the most, we can take him on loan for another year, but it depends on what Manchester City want to do and what he wants too.

"We would like to know this soon, because if we have Hart here next year then that is one thing, but if not we have to make other plans.

"Torino can only take him on loan for another year, so it is up to City to decide, but we need a decision quickly so we can plan the future."

Citizens boss Guardiola had earlier stated that no decision would be taken on the future of Hart until the season draws to a close, adding: "At the end of the season we will speak – we follow all the players who are (out) on loan."

Meanwhile, Torino are back in action on Saturday and are 11/20 to claim a Serie A victory at home to Crotone, while they are 13/8 to keep a clean sheet and Andrea Belotti is available at 21/10 to score the first goal of the game.

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Conte plays down domestic focus

Chelsea head coach Antonio Conte has dismissed suggestions that not playing in Europe this season has been a major factor in their Premier League success.

The Blues hold a seven-point lead with seven games to play, with some pundits pointing to the fact that the Londoners have not had to balance the demands of domestic and European football as a reason for their lofty position.

However, ahead of a massive game at Old Trafford against Manchester United on Sunday, Conte has played down such views, insisting that his players doing a 'great job' should be the focus of attention.

He told reporters: "I listen to this story from when I was the coach in Juventus in my first season.

"For sure we have more time to work with the team, it is my first season with a new club and it is important to have more time to work and transfer your ideas of football.

"But if this is the only reason you stay on top of the table, it is a big mistake. We are doing a great job and we hope to play in a great competition like the Champions League – I prefer this."

Conte has already tasted victory twice against the Red Devils this season, with the Blues storming to a 4-0 Premier League win at Stamford Bridge in October.

Just under five months later they claimed a 1-0 FA Cup sixth round victory in the capital, with N'Golo Kante scoring the only goal of the game, having also found the net in the league victory.

Chelsea can be backed at 19/10 to make it three wins out of three over United this season and are 9/4 to keep a clean sheet at Old Trafford.

Meanwhile, Kante is available at 10/1 to score at any time on Sunday afternoon.

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Klopp calls for duo support

Jurgen Klopp has urged his Liverpool squad not to rely too much on Philippe Coutinho and Roberto Firmino to secure Champions League qualification.

The Reds' boss spoke out in the build up to Sunday's Premier League clash against West Brom at the Hawthorns as the side look to build on last weekend's vital come-from-behind 2-1 win at Stoke to maintain their place in the top-three of the table.

Liverpool were trailing 1-0 and struggling to find a breakthrough against the Potters until Brazilian duo Coutinho and Firmino, who had been struggling with illness and fatigue respectively, were introduced into the action at half-time.

Both got on the scoresheet to seal the win for the Reds and Klopp is now looking for the rest of the team to step up to the plate so they do not become too over-reliant on the pair.

"It's very important that players can play together, but if they are only two then it's pretty difficult still," said the German tactician.

"If we would have played like that in the first half and Roberto and Phil would have been on the pitch, I can only imagine if the difference would still have been that big.

"But with all playing better and these two highest quality players on the pitch, we could change the game. That was fantastic, really good.

"But, again, if they tried to do it alone… no chance. It's about fitting in the game, fitting in the team and obviously they are that good that they would fit in nearly each team. It's good to have them here."

Liverpool travel to face the Baggies boosted by Arsenal's 3-0 defeat at Crystal Palace on Monday night which keeps them nine points ahead of the Londoners, having played two games more.

However, Manchester City can move above them into third with a win at Southampton on Saturday evening and Manchester United are fifth, six points adrift of them, also with two games in hand, so Klopp is just focusing on winning their games.

He added: "I think it's pretty sure – even when a few teams have (played) less games than we have because they play against each other they cannot get all the points.

"But it will be difficult enough. The challenge of West Brom is big enough and has all our respect and all our concentration. That's what we are doing."

Liverpool, who are 2/9 to finish in the top four, are priced at 10/11 to win at West Brom on Sunday. The Baggies are 16/5 to win and the draw is 14/5.

Howe ready for toughest test

Bournemouth head coach Eddie Howe is expecting the toughest challenge of the season when his team face Tottenham Hotspur at White Hart Lane.

The Cherries are currently seven points clear of the relegation places, having put together a run of five matches unbeaten prior to a 3-1 loss at home to champions-elect Chelsea last time out.

I was very impressed with them last season and, if anything, I'm even more impressed with them this season.

Eddie Howe

And Howe is preparing for another massive test at White Hart Lane on Saturday, with Spurs the closest challengers to the Blues for the Premier League title.

Howe told the Evening Standard: "They probably do present the biggest challenge in the Premier League. If you look at their recent record, it will be really tough examination for us.

"I was very impressed with them last season and, if anything, I'm even more impressed with them this season.

"Last year, probably with Manchester City, they were our toughest opponents and the game will be one of our toughest this year. They have a young squad and a great manager, so the future looks bright.

"(But) we aim to win, regardless of who we play or where we play – that is how we prepare. We don't prepare to draw, we prepare to win."

Howe can welcome defender Tyrone Mings back into the fold after he completed a five-match suspension, but midfielder Andrew Surman is absent due to a knee injury and Dan Gosling (also knee) is a major doubt.

Earlier this season the two sides shared the spoils from a goalless draw on the south coast and the Cherries are 10/1 to keep another clean sheet on Saturday.

The visitors are 11/2 to claim a draw at White Hart Lane, with Bournemouth 66/1 to be relegated this season.

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Allardyce calls for Eagles focus

Crystal Palace manager Sam Allardyce has told his players to retain their focus as they bid to complete the job of ensuring Premier League survival.

The Eagles have moved six points clear of the drop zone on the back of five wins in their last six league games, but Allardyce has warned that the task of preserving their top-flight status is far from done.

Next up is a visit from reigning Premier League champions Leicester City, who have also won five of their last six league games to move clear of danger.

And Allardyce expects a major test from the Foxes at Selhurst Park, telling the club's official website: "We have given ourselves a little cushion above the bottom three. We have won five out of six, but I have told my players not to lose focus.

"It'll be an interesting challenge for us to see if we can take on Leicester, master their tactics and be clever enough to beat them.

"You'd expect one or two changes for them, but they've got a very good squad. They'll be tough to beat, back to their old selves."

Leicester have won their last three meetings with Palace, including a 3-1 victory at the King Power Stadium in October.

The three clashes of the two sides prior to that City won were decided by the only goal of the game, including a 1-0 Foxes victory at Selhurst Park last season, when Riyad Mahrez was the matchwinner.

The Eagles can be backed at 4/5 to take all three points on Saturday, with the draw available at 14/5, while a 2-2 final scoreline is priced at 16/1.

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Powell treble keeps Latics alive

Nick Powell's 11-minute hat-trick helped Wigan come from behind to defeat barnsley 3-2 and keep alive their Championship survival hopes.

The Latics looked to be on their way to a costly defeat at the DW Stadium on Thursday night as Adam Armstrong had fired the Tykes in front three minutes before half-time and Ryan Kent's stunning strike made it 2-0 just before the hour.

That prompted Wigan's interim boss Graham Barrow to put former Manchester United forward, Powell, who has just returned after a three-month injury layoff, on as a substitute in the 66th minute.

The 23-year-old got his side back into the contest with a 71st-minute free-kick, which Barnsley goalkeeper Adam Davies could only push into the net, before equalising two minutes later when he fired in the loose ball after Ryan Colclough's shot was blocked.

Powell completed his hat-trick and Wigan's comeback from the penalty spot on 82 minutes after being pushed by Angus MacDonald.

The win leaves Wigan four points from safety, although Bristol City above them in the final position of safety do have a game in hand on Good Friday.

However, a second successive victory, both courtesy of Powell's big impact from the bench, has left Barrow hopeful that they can keep their fight for survival going to the wire.

He said: "On talent alone Nick Powell deserves to be in the Premier League and that's why you put him in that bracket.

"I am just glad for the supporters that we have given them something back for sticking with us all season; we have just got to carry on now. It would be fantastic to take it to the final day of the season, if we can't do it before."

"I'd be lying if I said I thought he could go on and get a hat-trick but then you know he's always going to make an impact.

"At 2-0 down with so long left in the game it was by no means over, but Nick got the goals so early and made the win a possibility."

Wigan are still 1/16 to be relegated to League One after just one season back in the Championship, Blackburn are 2/7 and Bristol City are priced at 9/1.

Wenger remains coy over future

Arsene Wenger has remained cagey over his future as Arsenal manager and said "nothing" has changed regarding his plans.

The 67-year-old Frenchman has refused to disclose his plans for the future beyond this season, despite revealing weeks ago that he had a good idea whether he would sign a new contract extension to extend his stay with the Gunners to 22 years.

However, the situation could be taken out of his hands as the pressure continues to intensify on Wenger following Monday's dismal 3-0 Premier League defeat at Crystal Palace which has left the side's hopes of a top-four finish and Champions League qualification hanging in the balance.

The Emirates Stadium hierarchy could yet decide to withdraw their contract offer and look to make a change, but Wenger is not worried about that possibility.

He said: "What is happening at board level is not down to me. I focus on what is down to me, the performance of the team and what the fans are interested in is the performance of the team."

Wenger did say his relationship with the Gunners' board and owner Stan Kroenke "has always been the same and that has not changed", despite the poor recent run which has left Arsenal sixth in the Premier League, seven points adrift of fourth-placed Manchester City albeit with one game in hand.

And, when again asked if anything had changed regareding his future on a personal basis, he added: "Nothing."

Arsenal, who are 13/2 to finish in the top four this season, travel to relegation-haunted Middlesbrough on Monday night and are 4/7 to end a run of four successive away defeats with a much-needed win. Boro are priced at 11/2 to secure a first win since 17th December and the draw is 10/3.

Buckingham uncertain about future

Coach Des Buckingham doesn't know whether Wellington Phoenix's trip to Brisbane Roar on Sunday will be his last in charge.

The Phoenix have mixed feelings about the way they've ended the campaign, as they have missed out on the top six despite getting good results late-on.

A run of five games in which they picked up just one point proved fatal to their chances of making the Finals Series and they weren't able to make up enough ground after that.

Since that sequence ended in round 20, Wellington have only lost one of their six games and have picked up wins against Brisbane, Newcastle and Melbourne Victory.

Buckingham wants his team to go to Suncorp Stadium for their final round game and repeat the win they secured away to the Roar in late February.

He said: "We finished the back-end of last season on a bit of a downward spiral, four losses back to back, whereas this season's finishing on a positive in terms of results."

Buckingham and Chris Greenacre have been in joint charge since Ernie Merrick resigned eight weeks into the season. In that time the Phoenix have had six wins, six draws and six losses.

The pair have been told they will be interviewed separately next week for the head coach role, while Buckingham says their lack of consistency is an area that will need to be addressed.

"The biggest noticeable thing for us this year has been especially the back line," he added. "We've been unable to field a very similar or the same back line for a lot of the games we've had and that's quite an important area."

Experienced striker Shane Smeltz, who scored one of the goals in Wellington's win the last time they went to Brisbane, won't be involved this weekend as he has signed a marquee deal with Indonesian club Pusamania Borneo FC.

Wellington are 9/2 to beat the Roar, who are 4/7, with the draw 10/3.

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