Pep Guardiola told UEFA to face up to its own failure after the European Super League project left football on the brink of disaster.

Manchester City were the first club to confirm their withdrawal from the ill-conceived breakaway project on Tuesday, less than 48 hours after the announcement of the tournament provoked widespread fury.

Players, coaches, rival clubs, national federations, FIFA, UEFA and national governments lined up to condemn the closed-shop format of the competition, where the Premier League's 'big six' were set to be founder members alongside Barcelona, Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid, Juventus, Inter and Milan.

Chelsea had also reportedly reached a decision to leave by the time City issued a brief, one-paragraph statement to confirm they would step away, with Liverpool, Manchester United, Arsenal and Tottenham all doing likewise in a flurry of late-night activity in England.

After City's announcement, UEFA issued a release from its president Aleksander Ceferin, praising the Premier League leaders for showing "great intelligence" and "courage" for admitting to their mistake.

In remarks made before those pleasantries, Guardiola was far less complimentary about European football's governing body.

"UEFA has to know: if this [Super League] has happened, it's because it's too late," he said.

"Something will happen. Always they fail. UEFA fails.

"Some important clubs have created this important situation. Why? Why? Tell me why?"

City clashed with UEFA over recent years, culminating in a two-year ban from the organisation's competitions for contravening Financial Fair Play (FFP) rules that was subsequently quashed on appeal at the Court of Arbitration for Sport last July.

But Guardiola's ire appeared to be focused upon the drive to squeeze more matches out of top clubs – an element the newly expanded Champions League format has in common with the now doomed Super League.

The Premier League, another organisation to have emerged with significant credit over a tumultuous couple of days, were also in his crosshairs.

"We spoke at the beginning of the season, about how many games there were. We spoke about the Premier League and the clubs – not the players – and instead of reducing the competition, we played more," he said.

"You think it's normal that all the clubs fight for 10 months, when they have spent a huge amount of money for these players and staff, to put the players out for three games [a week]? And then injuries and their seasons are over.

"What is the problem for UEFA? Zero. 'Why don't you finish the season, play for the national teams, play the European Championship? Why not?'.

"They don’t care. They play for their own business."

Greed has been an accusation understandably thrown at City and the other clubs to have dabbled with the Super League project and this was not something Guardiola disputed.

Indeed, ahead of his team's packed schedule continuing at Aston Villa on Wednesday, he stated the aims of the boardroom being realised have already been to the detriment of his players.

"Of course it's getting worse, but who cares? It's business, it's money. Just for this six [Premier League] teams? No, no. For everyone," he added.

"FIFA as well. The World Cup: we started with 16 and it went up and up and we're going to play with 50 countries. Ah, but it's okay. UEFA? More games.

"And the clubs. Do they listen to what the managers or the footballers said? When the season finished, we have two-three weeks off and then start again, start again. You demand.

"What about the problems about injuries? Absolutely nothing. Pick another player. The show must go on.

"Then maybe they think of something that maybe they don't like, then they react."

Pep Guardiola expressed huge reservations over any closed-shop competitions that remove the relationship "between effort and success" after plans for a European Super League were announced on Sunday.

The Manchester City boss insisted he needed more information about the tournament before making a full judgement, but admitted he was against the concept of a format that involved hand-picked clubs and no open means of qualification for other teams.

City are one of the six Premier League teams to have signed up to the continental breakaway league, which has attracted a deluge of criticism from across the sport and beyond.

Speaking ahead of City's top-flight clash with Aston Villa on Wednesday, Guardiola faced questioning over a development that has dominated the headlines since being made public.

"Sport is not a sport when the relation between the effort and reward doesn't exist," he said. 

"It's not sport when success is guaranteed, when it doesn't matter if you lose. I want the best competitions as strong as possible. In this statement, it's what I feel. This is not sport."

Jurgen Klopp does not want to continue the debate surrounding Trent Alexander-Arnold's England hopes after the right-back again wrote himself into the headlines, this time in front of Gareth Southgate.

Alexander-Arnold was controversially left out of the latest Three Lions squad by Southgate last month, the team's final gathering before a group for Euro 2020 is named.

Liverpool manager Klopp defended his player and said Alexander-Arnold's form - widely questioned this season - "cannot be the reason" for his omission.

The 22-year-old has since turned in an influential display at Arsenal, assisting the first goal in a 3-0 win, before his error let Marco Asensio in for one of three Real Madrid goals in the Champions League in midweek.

Back in Premier League action on Saturday, Alexander-Arnold was a talking point again for the right reasons.

His superb 91st-minute strike clinched a 2-1 win over Aston Villa, Liverpool's first Anfield success of 2021.

The academy graduate wrote on Twitter: "Are you not entertained!?"

Alexander-Arnold had a game-high 102 touches and no Reds player created more chances than his three. Crucially, he also made a joint-high three tackles.

A balance between attack and defence has been identified as key, and this was the first time all season Alexander-Arnold had three key passes and three tackles in the same league match.

Klopp was again asked about his star performer post-match but hopes the topic of conversation can finally now change.

"He wants to be in the [England] squad - that is clear - so we don't have to talk too much about it," Klopp said. "He is a wonderful player.

"I think Gareth agrees that he is a really wonderful player, then there is a manager who has to make a decision.

"I respect that, I really respect that. Trent respects that, I respect that.

"To be in the England squad, you have to play outstanding football. Trent did this very, very often at a very young age. So there's nothing to talk about.

"There will be tough decisions, not only at that position, too, for Gareth. I have to make tough decisions every day – that's normal in the job.

"But we don't have to talk about it; just leave the boy playing football, which he's pretty good at, and don't talk any more about it."

Although Alexander-Arnold lost possession 35 times and was dribbled past twice, there were no errors leading to shots to add to the two against Madrid - one of which Asensio punished.

Prior to the trip to Spain, Alexander-Arnold had only made one such error all season across all competitions.

"Life is like this, football is like this," Klopp said, hailing the defender's character.

"He played an exceptional game against Arsenal, a top game today, and in Real Madrid, we don't have to hide that, he was involved in the second goal they scored. That's how it is.

"I don't think Trent is in a situation where he has to prove himself constantly at this level; he has to play good football.

"As a young player, you have to develop, and you only do that if you challenge yourself in specific moments.

"If he's not playing well, it's not that he's not bothered or doesn't care, it's the opposite."

Jurgen Klopp feared Liverpool were living the "same old story" against Aston Villa, but hopes his side's response to falling behind can help them against Real Madrid in the Champions League.

The Reds finally recorded a first home win in the Premier League in 2021, though the champions had to rally from a goal down at half-time following Ollie Watkins' opener at Anfield.

Mohamed Salah drew Liverpool level before Trent Alexander-Arnold struck a superb stoppage-time winner, the full-back's goal coming with England manager Gareth Southgate watching on inside the stadium.

Klopp was particularly pleased with the spirit shown by his players, with Liverpool ending a six-game losing streak at Anfield in the league. The 2-1 triumph aids their hopes of a top-four finish this season, while it also offers a timely boost ahead of hosting Madrid in midweek.

"Obviously, the other game [against Arsenal] was really, really good, but today seemed to be the same old story, if you like," the Liverpool boss said.

"We played well but we made one mistake – which is not the biggest mistake in the world – to give them the opportunity to score, and they do. We score an equaliser, which was a great goal – a great pass, great link-up play, all these kinds of things – and then you get the information it is offside.

"We go in at half-time and it's a little bit like the same story again. But it was decided long ago and we have accepted that it’s going to be a bumpy season for us, we have to strike back again, and again, and again.

"The boys did. It took a while until we scored, but we scored a really nice goal. Then, in our situation, we had to increase a little bit the risk, took off a centre-back [Ozan Kabak] for [Xherdan] Shaqiri.

"Then we scored this wonderful goal for 2-1. It was the best goal for ages, emotionally. I'm really happy for the three points."

Liverpool ended an eight-match winless run in the Premier League at their own ground. In doing so, they scored as many goals against Villa as they did across that shocking streak.

Klopp said in his media conference: "It's no secret that it's quite a bumpy season for us. We have to fight through and if, in the end, we finish in a Champions League spot, then great.

"But it's tricky. I'm not surprised any more when things like the first half happen, I'm interested in the reaction. I liked the reaction. If we didn't turn the situation around previously, that's why we lost six games in a row at home, which should not happen - but it happened."

Next up is the return fixture in the quarter-final tie with Madrid, who triumphed 3-1 in the opening leg on Spanish soil.

While making clear his players will give it their all in attempting to turn the situation around, Klopp appreciates they face a tall order against opponents who were so clinical in the first meeting.

"We need a perfect performance on Wednesday if we want to have a chance – just a chance," Klopp said.

"I really think that with the way we played – and the way Real Madrid played there – it doesn't look very promising, but the good thing is we can play better.

"Real Madrid doesn't come here and think they are already through. It's going to be a tough one, but we will give it a try, I can promise.

"This helps, of course. When you are in the moment and win everything, you don't feel the intensity, you just want to play the next game – you would play the next day if you could. 

"Obviously, for us in the moment, it's not that easy. We have to work really hard. We have to create five chances to score a goal, or 10 to score. You have go through that, you cannot change it just because you want to. You have to work for it. We did that against a strong opponent, a very important three points.

"Whatever it gives us for Wednesday, we will use."

Liverpool left it late to secure a first Premier League win at home in 2021, with Trent Alexander-Arnold's superb stoppage-time strike downing Aston Villa 2-1 at Anfield.

The Reds rallied from a goal down to secure three crucial points in terms of the top-four battle, while the result is also a timely boost with a Champions League second leg against Real Madrid coming up in midweek.

Ollie Watkins – who scored a hat-trick in a stunning 7-2 win for his side when Liverpool visited Villa Park early in the season - gave the visitors a half-time advantage on Merseyside, his left-footed shot squeezing underneath Alisson.

Roberto Firmino had a potential equaliser ruled out by the video assistant referee before the interval, but Mohamed Salah scored the Reds' first home goal from open play in the league in 765 minutes to level early in the second half.

Liverpool had a let-off when Trezeguet hit the post but, with England boss Gareth Southgate watching on, Alexander-Arnold collected a loose ball on the edge of the penalty area and curled in a late winner.

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has suggested players should cut out social media use to minimise the impact of would-be online abusers.

Trent Alexander-Arnold, Sadio Mane and Naby Keita were all sent racist comments after Liverpool were beaten 3-1 by Real Madrid in the first leg of the Champions League quarter-final.

The club condemned the abuse as "abhorrent" and "utterly unacceptable" and called on platforms to introduce "the strongest possible preventative measures".

Rangers, managed by former Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard, joined Swansea City and Birmingham City this week in boycotting social media as part of a challenge to companies to do more to prevent abuse.

Klopp is not active on social media but believes the best way to deprive abusers of the "forum" they crave is to "cut them off".

He told reporters: "With social media in general, we obviously have the problem that people can hide behind whatever account and say what they want to say. That's a problem that really has to get sorted on this planet as quick as possible.

"I got criticised quite a lot in my life, and not only recently. And the advice I would give is that people you don't know, people who are not really interested in you, people who don't want to help you with criticism, don't listen [to them]. Don't listen. 

"They need a forum. They need people to read it and take these kinds of things seriously. That's how bullying works, that's how blaming works, that's how shouting works, how harsh criticism works. If you cut that side off, then it's already helped a lot and it cannot harm you.

"That's my advice to the players. The rest, I don't really understand enough the need for social media. I know there are some good things for sure, but a lot of things are just not important, and for you, as a person, if you can cut them off then it's already a step in the right direction."

Liverpool face Aston Villa on Saturday looking to avenge their remarkable 7-2 defeat last October while also putting pressure on the teams in the Premier League top four.

Klopp sees the Villa clash and the second leg against Madrid as a chance to show they deserve to be in the Champions League, both this season and next.

"There is no opportunity without pressure," he said. "We are at the highest level of professional football, we want to fight for the Champions League, both qualifying for next year and being a part of it still for this year.

"A week ago we, spoke about a wonderful game we played against Arsenal, a great game of football. A few days later we played pretty much the opposite of a great game against Real Madrid, but this game shouldn't have any influence on the Aston Villa game."

Klopp admitted it was difficult to move on from their thrashing by Villa in the previous meeting, in which the champions conceded seven goals for the first time since April 1963.

"You cannot put a game like this one aside immediately," he said. "We had to work with it. A lot of problems showed up in that game. Some of the problems we had before, some we never had before.

"You work with results. The higher or more strange a result is, it doesn't mean it gets more necessary to work with it, but for sure we spoke about it quite frequently. 

"It differs, how long it takes me to get over a game. Usually, especially after a win, my mind is immediately at the next game, but we still have to reflect on the last game. I watch these games, and then I know better what happened in the game. I just try to understand why things happen."

Jack Grealish has suffered a setback in his injury recovery and will be absent for another "few weeks", Aston Villa boss Dean Smith has confirmed.

Attacking midfielder Grealish has missed Villa's last seven matches due to a shin complaint, with Smith's side winning only two of those games.

The Villa captain will now sit out the clash with Liverpool at Anfield this weekend and is likely to remain a doubt for when they next play, against Manchester City on April 21.

"Myself and Jack were quite optimistic to get him back a bit sooner than he probably should and he's had a setback that will probably put him back a couple of weeks," Smith said.

"He was really good in training, but he couldn't tolerate the loading. It's a loading injury and we have to de-load him over the next few weeks and get him back from there.

"We know it's not a long-term injury and he will be back. We all, Jack included, probably pushed him back a little bit too quickly. We wanted him to get back and he had a little setback."

Only three players have more Premier League assists than Grealish's 10 this term, while he ranks second behind Bruno Fernandes for chances created (75) and joint-third for Opta-defined 'big' chances (14).

Grealish's injury meant he missed out on England selection for the recent World Cup qualifiers, but Smith is optimistic the absence will not damage his player's chances of making Gareth Southgate's squad for the rescheduled Euro 2020.

"He's proved himself already, but the one thing for certain is he will be back before the end of the season, and then Gareth [Southgate] has to make a decision whether he thinks he's right for that," Smith said.

The Premier League made its comeback this weekend, and there was no shortage of drama on Sunday.

It was a tail of turnarounds throughout the four fixtures – three sides coming from behind to win while Newcastle United and Tottenham played out a topsy turvy 2-2 draw.

Manchester United needed a late goal to see off Brighton and Hove Albion, while Southampton and Aston Villa claimed victories.

United have now won 95 Premier League points after conceding first, seven more than any other team in the history of the competition and, using Opta data, we take a look at more of the best facts from across the day's matches.

Southampton 3-2 Burnley: Ings puts former club to the sword in thrilling fightback 

Southampton picked up their first Premier League home win since their opening game in 2021 as they came from two goals down to beat Burnley 3-2, ending a run of five league outings at St. Mary's without a victory (D1 L4).

The Saints had not won a league game that they had trailed in by two goals since March 2016, when they defeated Liverpool under Ronald Koeman, but Danny Ings inspired the turnaround against his former club.

Having teed up Stuart Armstrong's goal, Ings became just the fourth player in Premier League history to score in four successive appearances against sides he has previously played for in the competition, after Robbie Keane in 2004, Jermain Defoe in 2009 and Wilfried Bony in 2017.

It was Nathan Redmond who then dealt the decisive blow, volleying in from Theo Walcott's cross after Nick Pope had brilliantly denied Ings a second.

Redmond has been directly involved in five goals in his past two games for Southampton (three goals and two assists), as many direct goal involvements as he had registered in his previous 30 appearances in all competitions combined.

Chris Wood gave Burnley the lead from a VAR-awarded penalty – the 100th spot-kick taken in the top flight this season, and the 83rd to be converted. This is only the seventh Premier League campaign to see a century of penalties awarded.

Newcastle United 2-2 Tottenham: Kane double not enough as Spurs let another lead slip

Tottenham looked set to move into the top four as they led 2-1 at Newcastle – Harry Kane's double putting them ahead after Joelinton carried on his goalscoring form against Spurs; he has now netted a total of four Premier League goals in 62 appearances, with two of those coming in four matches versus the north London team.

Kane has been directly involved in 45 goals in all competitions this term, scoring 29 times and providing 16 assists, equalling his career-best tally from 2017-18 (41 goals and four assists).

He has also scored 84 goals in 120 away games in the Premier League for Spurs, the most goals any player has scored on the road for a single club in the competition, going past Wayne Rooney's 82 for Manchester United.

Yet his efforts were not enough – Joe Willock rescuing a point for relegation-battling Newcastle, who have drawn three consecutive Premier League games at St. James' Park for the first time since another three-game run spanning December 2017 and January 2018.

Tottenham have dropped four points from winning positions against Newcastle this season, their most in a campaign against a single side since also dropping four versus Arsenal and West Brom in 2015-16, while Spurs have now failed to win six Premier League games after leading at half-time, the most of any side in 2020-21.

Aston Villa 3-1 Fulham: History made at Villa Park before Cottagers collapse

Sunday's clash between Aston Villa and Fulham was the first game in Premier League history in which every player in the starting XI for both sides was born after the first ever Premier League game on August 15, 1992.

Despite Dean Smith saying he would be available, Jack Grealish was not in Villa's squad, and Fulham hit the front through Aleksandar Mitrovic, who – after 159 days and 23 games without a goal for club and country – has now scored six times in the past 12 days, five times for Serbia and once for the Cottagers.

Yet only Southampton (18) and Brighton (20) have dropped more points from winning positions in the Premier League this season than Fulham (16) after Scott Parker's third-bottom side suffered a collapse.

Trezeguet scored a rapid double – his two goals coming just 160 seconds apart. The Egypt international had previously attempted more shots without scoring than any other player in this season's Premier League (29).

Ollie Watkins helped himself to his first league goal in eight games, ending a run of 18 shots without a goal in the competition since netting versus Arsenal in February.

Manchester United 2-1 Brighton and Hove Albion: Matchwinner Greenwood in elite company

Only Wayne Rooney (15) and Marcus Rashford (13) have scored more Premier League goals as teenagers for United than Mason Greenwood (12), who struck late on to complete the turnaround at Old Trafford.

Former Red Devil Danny Welbeck opened the scoring in Sunday's final game – he became the first player to net as many as three Premier League goals against United after having appeared for the club in the competition.

The 2020-21 season is only the second to see two players who have previously appeared for Manchester United in the Premier League score against them (Wilfried Zaha and Welbeck), along with the 1997-98 campaign, when Dion Dublin and Mark Hughes did so.

But United have now won 25 points from losing positions this term, nine more than any other side, while Brighton remain winless at Old Trafford in 13 attempts in all competitions (D2 L11).

Rashford – who has only scored more league goals (five) against Leicester City than he has against the Seagulls – equalised after being teed up by Bruno Fernandes, who has been directly involved in five goals in three Premier League appearances against Brighton.

Tottenham bounced back from a dreadful week to keep their hopes of a top-four Premier League finish alive. 

A north London derby defeat to Arsenal was followed by a shocking Europa League exit at the hands of Dinamo Zagreb, but Jose Mourinho's men comfortably swatted aside Aston Villa 2-0 to move to within three points of fourth-placed Chelsea.

The Gunners, meanwhile, produced a stirring comeback to seal a 3-3 draw against West Ham, David Moyes' side giving them more than a little assistance. 

There were also wins for Brighton and Hove Albion and Leeds United over Newcastle United and Fulham respectively. 

Using Opta data, we look at some of the more quirky facts from the weekend's top-flight action.

 

Spurs bounce back from European nightmare

Jose Mourinho demanded a positive response from his side after their dismal Europa League exit to Dinamo Zagreb on Thursday and they duly delivered. 

Goals in either half from Carlos Vinicius and Harry Kane sealed a fourth win in five Premier League games for Spurs, while they became the third side to win six consecutive top-flight away games against Villa, after Manchester United (2003-2007) and Liverpool (2011-2019). 

Vinicius has now scored nine goals in his nine starts for the club across all competitions, the Brazilian needing just 12 shots to do so.

That kind of accuracy is familiar to Kane, who has been directly involved in 30 goals in the Premier League this season (17 goals, 13 assists). The England captain is the first player to reach that total in the 2020-21 competition, while it is the first time he has achieved this since 2017-18 (30 goals, two assists).

Villa might point to the absence of the talismanic Jack Grealish as a contributing factor to their poor display. The Villains have a 17 per cent win ratio in the Premier League games without the England international, which rises to 50 per cent when he is in the side.

Hammers give Arsenal a helping hand

West Ham players scored five goals in their clash against Arsenal at the London Stadium, yet David Moyes' side had to make do with a 3-3 draw. 

The Hammers took a 3-0 lead against Mikel Arteta's men, but ended up with just a point after Tomas Soucek and Craig Dawson put into their own nets before Alexandre Lacazette's late leveller. 

It meant Moyes' outfit became the first team to score two own goals in a Premier League game since Swansea (also against Arsenal) in January 2017, while Soucek became the first player to score at both ends of the pitch in the same home top-flight game for West Ham since Frank Lampard against Leicester City in November 1998.

The collapse meant West Ham failed to win after being three goals ahead in a Premier League game for the first time since September 1998 when they lost 4-3 to Wimbledon. 

Following their 3-3 draw with Tottenham earlier in the season, the result meant the Hammers have been involved in two of the Premier League's three three-goal comebacks this season – the most instances in a single campaign since 2010-11 (also three). 

There is nothing boring about them these days. 

Leeds return to Yorkshire with capital gains

Leeds' trips to London have largely been fruitless affairs in recent years, but they returned to winning ways in the capital with a slender triumph over Fulham. 

Patrick Bamford and Raphinha were on target as Marcelo Bielsa's side sealed a first win there in 17 games across all competitions, with their previous success coming in the shape of a 3-1 win against QPR in 2017. 

Bamford brushed off his disappointment at not being included in Gareth Southgate's England squad to become the first Leeds player to score in four straight league appearances against a single club since Luciano Becchio against Middlesbrough between 2010 and 2012. 

Joachim Andersen had given the Cottagers hope of securing at least a point when he joined Bjarne Goldbaek and Claus Jensen as the only Danish players to score for the club in the Premier League. 

Raphinha brought home the bacon for Leeds, though, scoring his sixth goal since his first top-flight start in November – only Bamford has scored more (seven) in that period.

Magpies' rotten run against Brighton continues

Brighton could scarcely have handpicked more accommodating opponents than Steve Bruce's sorry Newcastle.

The Seagulls' comfortable victory was their second at the Amex Stadium in 2021 – double what they achieved at home in 2020. 

Leandro Trossard, Danny Welbeck and Neal Maupay were on target for the hosts, with the former pair's strikes both coming from outside the penalty area – the first time Brighton have scored two such goals since a clash with QPR in April 2017.

They have now played more Premier League games against Newcastle (eight) without losing than against any other side in the competition, Graham Potter's side winning four and drawing four. 

The Magpies have scored just one goal in those games, with only Sheffield United having faced a side more often while netting just once in the competition, the Blades hitting the back of the net on a solitary occasion in 10 games against Manchester City.

Jose Mourinho could not help but wonder why Tottenham's response against Aston Villa did not come earlier in the week to rescue their Europa League campaign.

Spurs head coach Mourinho was scathing of his side after they lost 3-0 to Dinamo Zagreb on Thursday in a match where he had expected a reaction.

The trip to Croatia followed a north London derby defeat to Arsenal, but a two-goal first-leg Tottenham lead was overturned by Dinamo in another drab display.

So when an improved Spurs showing earned a 2-0 win at Villa, Mourinho's delight was tempered by memories of their midweek mishap.

"I'm very happy with the result, I'm very happy with the performance, I'm very happy with the attitude," he told a news conference.

"I'm not happy with the feeling that if you did it tonight, why didn't you do it 48 hours ago? That match on Thursday will be a scar for a long time.

"It's not going to heal just because we won, but total credit to the players. They were a team. They fought together."

Mourinho described the victory as "the reaction of men", yet only four of his starting XI from Thursday remained in the team.

It was a selection that paid off. Harry Kane and Lucas Moura were the only two attackers to keep their places, the former scoring from one of four shots while the latter assisted from one of four key passes.

Meanwhile, Carlos Vinicius was among those to come in and scored his first Premier League goal.

The two Mourinho picked out for special praise were defenders, though.

Japhet Tanganga, playing at right-back, made five clearances, two blocks, a tackle and an interception, as Joe Rodon contributed three clearances, two interceptions, a block and a tackle.

Mourinho explained: "My thinking was we need angry people, we need fresh and positive feelings.

"We need kids on the bench that live a dream, kids that if you play them 10 seconds, they play them like the last seconds of their career.

"I need people on the pitch that I know the match is really important for them. Tanganga and Rodon are these kind of players."

A comfortable win meant Mourinho for now staved off a 10th league defeat of the season - an unwanted mark he has never previously reached - but the coach told Sky Sports he would have no issue losing if the attitude was as it was in this match.

"I want to be proud of my players [no matter] the result," he said. "During my career, I was proud of my players many times, many times after defeats, many times.

"I was not proud last Thursday, and I was not proud at the Emirates. I want to be always proud of them, even in defeat.

"For me, more than thinking in this moment about which position we are going to end, more than thinking about the cup final, it's to try to develop the spirit that we need."

Harry Kane acknowledged Tottenham's Europa League defeat to Dinamo Zagreb was "embarrassing" but the striker was delighted with their response at Aston Villa.

After losing a north London derby to Arsenal last weekend, Spurs crashed out of Europe in midweek, going down 3-0 in Croatia after winning the first leg 2-0.

They became the first English team since Manchester City in 2016-17, against Monaco, to be eliminated after claiming a two-goal lead from the first leg.

Jose Mourinho and his Tottenham players were critical of their own performance in the aftermath but victory at Villa got them back on track.

Kane played a part in the opener for strike partner Carlos Vinicius, netting his first Premier League goal, before a penalty – won and converted by the England captain – took the Spurs talisman to 30 goal involvements in the competition this season.

"Massively [important]," Kane told Sky Sports of the win. "The past couple of games have not been good enough in all areas really, so we knew we had to bounce back.

"Just before the international break as well, we didn't want to go away with three losses or two losses and a draw.

"We knew we needed to win. The boys put in a great shift and we deserved it."

Mourinho called Tottenham's commitment into question after Thursday but they won 73 duels to Villa's 57 in a determined display back in league action.

Their performance was epitomised by Lucas Moura, who created four chances – including an assist – but also won six fouls.

The Brazilian was the only visiting player to contest more duels (21) than Kane (19).

Kane appeared to agree with Mourinho's assessment of the Dinamo match while highlighting the clear improvement on Sunday.

"The attitude [was an issue]. I think the last couple of games we dropped below our standards in that aspect," he said.

"Working hard together, all in the same direction, we lost a bit of that. It was nice to see that back today, everybody fighting, putting our bodies on the line.

"That's what we're going to need from now until the end of the season if we're going to give the top four a push.

"Whenever you go through a difficult couple of games like we have... a London derby and then obviously going out of the Europa League in that fashion, it was embarrassing for us as players.

"The only way we can give back to the fans, give back to the club is to get back out there on the pitch and show what we're made of. I think we've done that."

Tottenham ended an awful week with a much-needed win as Aston Villa went down 2-0 in the Premier League on Sunday.

Spurs' season had gone off the rails over their previous two matches, losing the north London derby to Arsenal and then remarkably exiting the Europa League at the hands of Dinamo Zagreb after claiming a 2-0 first-leg lead.

Their focus now - until the EFL Cup final, at least - is on European qualification through the league, and Jose Mourinho's men did their hopes no harm at Villa Park.

While the visitors were still far from convincing, Carlos Vinicius' first Premier League goal and a Harry Kane penalty took Tottenham sixth, within three points of the top four.

Spurs came under pressure at the back until a defensive mix-up at the other end, exacerbated by a poor clearance from former Arsenal goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez, gifted Mourinho's under-fire side the opener.

Martinez's kick landed at the feet of Lucas Moura, who offloaded to Kane and ran onto a smart return pass in the area before squaring for Carlos Vinicius, who could not miss from in front of goal.

Kane saw a shot deflected wide at the start of the second half and Villa were slow to respond, eventually having their first attempt when Joe Rodon blocked from Trezeguet on 58 minutes.

Substitute Anwar El Ghazi's drive then flew wide, but the home team's improved spell was short-lived as Kane settled the game from 12 yards, converting a slightly fortuitous spot-kick after his mis-control invited a lunge from Matty Cash.

A third Tottenham goal appeared more likely than a Villa fightback and Martinez got down well to Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg's strike, saving face but no points.


What does it mean? Tottenham's season still alive

It would have been easy for Spurs fans to be defeatist this week, but they remain firmly in the hunt for Champions League qualification. Had they won at Arsenal last week, they would head into the international break in fourth place.

Mourinho will certainly hope to see more cohesive performances in the run-in - they completed only 76.8 per cent of their second-half passes - but the result alone mattered on Sunday.

Faith in forward rewarded

Carlos Vinicius has scored more difficult goals for Tottenham this season, but his first in the league was a precious one.

Spurs supporters might wonder if his second appearance in the top-flight XI should have arrived sooner, having scored nine goals in nine starts from just 12 shots on target in all competitions.

Spurs profit from Cash error

Villa were poor all over the pitch, their attack not attempting a shot until close to the hour mark, but a shaky defence was especially susceptible down Cash's flank.

Lucas stole in ahead of the right-back to meet Martinez's scuffed kick for the breakthrough goal, before Villa's number two gave Kane a clinching penalty. Cash made five tackles but committed three fouls and was perhaps fortunate to only be booked for the last of them.

What's next?

Tottenham will welcome the timely rest before they visit struggling Newcastle United on April 4. Villa host Newcastle's relegation rivals Fulham a day earlier.

Harry Kane says there are "no words" that will make amends for Tottenham's dismal week. 

Spurs had the chance to move on from their north London derby defeat to Arsenal last weekend by securing a place in the last eight of the Europa League, having taken a 2-0 lead over Dinamo Zagreb into the second leg in Croatia on Thursday.

But an insipid performance saw Tottenham crash out of the competition as Mislav Orsic's hat-trick inspired a stunning 3-0 home win after extra time.

That led to captain Hugo Lloris labelling Spurs a "disgrace", while the World Cup-winning goalkeeper also hinted at deeper issues within the club.

Jose Mourinho's beleaguered men have the chance to return to winning ways on Sunday when they visit Aston Villa in the Premier League, but they will need to improve on a poor record on the road.

They have lost four of their last five top-flight games away from the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium - as many as they had in their previous 20. 

Kane - who has scored five goals in his last three Premier League appearances against Villa, netting braces in his last two matches – made no excuses for Tottenham's recent form and says the players need to do their talking at Villa Park. 

Posting on his social media channels, the England captain said: "Time to bounce back tomorrow after a very disappointing week. No words will atone for the last two games, we just have to show our response on the pitch!"

Tottenham are eighth in the Premier League, six points adrift of fourth-placed Chelsea, although the Blues have played a game more.

 

Jose Mourinho wants to see "the basics of every job" from his Tottenham team against Aston Villa, although he is concerned there was no response from last week's defeat to Arsenal.

Spurs had the chance to move on from their north London derby defeat by securing a place in the last eight of the Europa League, having taken a 2-0 lead over Dinamo Zagreb into the second leg in Croatia.

But a desperate performance saw Tottenham crash out of the competition as Mislav Orsic's hat-trick - his second for Dinamo in Europe - inspired a stunning 3-0 home win after extra time.

It was just the third time in 196 European matches as a coach Mourinho had lost by a three-goal margin.

"For sure, it is one of the most difficult, I'm not sure it is the most difficult one," Mourinho said ahead of Sunday's trip to Villa Park.

While Dinamo won just one more duel (76) than Spurs across the 120 minutes, the away boss felt there was a lack of commitment from his side.

Explaining why the Dinamo defeat caused him so much pain, Mourinho added: "I had in Europe moments of big pain, but pain caused by what football is.

"I lost two Champions League semi-finals on penalties - it hurts you, I'm maybe still bleeding - but the feeling for the passion for football, the respect for your job is something that hurts me deeply.

"I have this very bad feeling because, maybe for some people in football, football is a job, a way to make money. For me, it's much more than that.

"That's why I never lose these basics of football, which is the passion, the heart, the desire. I feel very, very hurt. I cannot find more words to describe it."

Mourinho struggled to explain how Tottenham could rally against Villa, having expected to see more in the Europa League in the aftermath of the 2-1 reverse at Emirates Stadium.

"It's the same question as after the game against Arsenal, and I didn't see what I wanted to see," he said.

"It's hard to say, because I was expecting a completely different attitude and we didn't get that.

"Obviously what I want against Aston Villa is all the ingredients I said in some of the previous questions, what I consider the basics of an honest professional.

"It doesn't matter the area; at this moment we are speaking about football, we could be speaking about any other area in society.

"The basics of every job are the honesty, the commitment, the desire, the respect for the people that expect that you do good work. All these ingredients, that's what I expect to have every day."

Another setback would see Mourinho lose 10 league matches in a campaign for the first time in his career, but Spurs have an impressive record at Villa Park, unbeaten in nine in the Premier League and winning on their past five visits.

Tottenham can close the gap to the top four to three points by winning this game in hand, a vital step as the league is their only remaining route back to the Champions League.

Meanwhile, the club's last remaining trophy hope this season is in the EFL Cup. They will face Manchester City in the final and Mourinho knows recent standards will not be enough to trouble the league leaders.

"We can say that we lost a competition," he added. "Of course, the only chance we have to win a trophy this season is the final that we have to play against a very good team, against the next champions, against the team that match after match showed an incredible desire to win.

"It will be a very, very difficult final. If we want to have a chance to win it, of course the attitude has to be completely different."

As the Premier League season heads towards the home straight, so too do your fantasy football leagues.

Hurt by captaining Raheem Sterling last week before he twice missed out for Manchester City? Or wondering how to replace the injured Son Heung-min?

Time is of the essence when making these big calls, especially when there are only four league fixtures this weekend.

Fortunately, you can consider our weekly Opta-powered picks, this time featuring two of Son's Tottenham team-mates.
 

EMILIANO MARTINEZ

If your confidence in Spurs is wavering, with Son out and a north London derby defeat fresh in the memory, you might prefer to hedge your bets.

Aston Villa, Tottenham's opponents, have the standout goalkeeper in action this week in the form of Martinez, who is a reliable source of frequent clean sheets. His 14 is a total only topped by Ederson (16) this season.

Among keepers to play 500 minutes in the Premier League this term, ex-Arsenal man Martinez has the best save percentage (77.6).

LEWIS DUNK

The big battle at the bottom sees Brighton and Hove Albion host Newcastle United on Saturday, in a match that is unlikely to provide a wealth of goals based on the form of both sides.

However, defender Dunk is perhaps as likely a scorer as any. He has four in the league this season, making this his best top-flight campaign for goals, while only Neal Maupay (seven) has more for Brighton in 2020-21.

Add in the potential boost of a clean sheet and Dunk could be a real difference-maker.

STUART DALLAS

The versatile Dallas is listed as a defender, allowing him to accrue additional points for attacking contributions despite spending large parts of his career in midfield.

Indeed, no defender in the division has netted more goals than the Northern Ireland international (five) this season.

Dallas, set to face struggling Fulham with Leeds United on Friday, also has two assists for seven total goal involvements.

JESSE LINGARD

Midfield loanee Lingard was kept on the sidelines last weekend as West Ham visited Manchester United, his parent club.

But this week has already improved for the Hammers star following his return to the England fold, earning a recall following four goals and an assist in six league appearances since his temporary move. He has been on target in his past two London Stadium outings.

Now Lingard has Arsenal in his sights, and he has a great record against the Gunners. Indeed, he has not scored more against any other team in English football, having managed four goals in seven starts in all competitions against the north London giants.

GARETH BALE

Still fancy Tottenham to beat Villa? Great, we have some options for you - starting with Bale.

The winger was quiet against Arsenal but has still been involved in six goals (four goals, two assists) in his past five Premier League games, having netted just once in his first seven on his return to the competition this season.

Bale's previous meeting with Villa, back in December 2012, saw him score his first career league hat-trick in a 4-0 Spurs win.

HARRY KANE

If not Bale, then why not Kane? Or pair the two, as they are each likely to be heavily involved if Tottenham turn in a much improved performance from the Arsenal match.

Kane has six goals in six Premier League games against Villa, including five in his past three.

His most recent two meetings with Villa have seen the England captain net braces - in March 2016 and August 2019.

ALEXANDRE LACAZETTE

While Bale and Kane cannot again perform as poorly as they did in the north London derby, Lacazette will hope to match the standard he set.

Handed the captaincy and the central striking role from the start as Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was disciplined, the Arsenal number nine netted the winner and is now the club's leading marksman in the Premier League this season with 10.

West Ham should be especially wary of Lacazette, who has scored six goals in his past eight league London derbies. He has been on target in four of those encounters this term and Arsenal have won all of them.

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