Riyad Mahrez admitted he was "scared" Manchester City would be hit by a Tottenham sucker-punch before Aymeric Laporte's header secured EFL Cup final glory at Wembley.

A dynamic City performance lacked just one thing as the trophy match entered its last 10 minutes: a goal.

Then Laporte leapt to head Kevin De Bruyne's free-kick past the busy Hugo Lloris and all was well in City's world, a fourth successive EFL Cup triumph and the first part of a possible treble secured.

City had 21 goal attempts to earn a 1-0 win while Tottenham had only two, both from outside the penalty area. The return of Harry Kane meant Spurs could cling to the presence of their talisman, but they could not provide him with service in the penalty area.

With 62.2 per cent of possession, it felt inevitable City's pressure would pay off, and eventually that proved to be the case.

Mahrez told Sky Sports: "It was a tough game. We knew it was going to be tough. We stayed focused, we kept dominating, we kept passing the ball and then we scored and I think we deserved to win."

The prospect of Tottenham making City pay for their wasted chances was in the back of the mind though, as Mahrez admitted.

"Obviously you're always scared because it's a good team, but we were very confident again," he said. "It's a very good win. We get the trophy again and we're very happy.

"Just like the manager said, we focus on every competition we play. It was the final and in a final you have to win, whether you play good or not. I think we played good and we won."

City are now level with Liverpool as the most successful team in this competition's history, with eight triumphs.

They look bankers for the Premier League title and have the first leg of their Champions League semi-final against Paris Saint-Germain coming up on Wednesday. That is the title City want most of all.

Mahrez said having supporters at Wembley made a "massive difference" to Sunday's occasion. Only 8,000 were allowed into the stadium that can seat 90,000, as English football begins its slow crawl back to normality, with the COVID-19 pandemic having led to empty stands.

"It was so good to have the fans back," Mahrez said. "The atmosphere, even with 8,000, was amazing and we're looking forward to having more fans there."

Raheem Sterling grew up in the shadow of the Wembley arch and has a tattoo of his younger self staring up at England's national stadium on his arm.

Two years ago, as Manchester City completed an unprecedented domestic treble, he left his mark all over one of football's most famous stages.

He scored twice in a 6-0 FA Cup final demolition of Watford, having netted a maiden England hat-trick against the Czech Republic.

Then there was the 2019 EFL Cup final, where Sterling strode up to nonchalantly place the decisive penalty kick into the top corner to sink Chelsea in a shoot-out.

Pep Guardiola had been too nervous to watch. Asking Sterling what happened afterwards, the forward cheekily replied: "Top bins".

Heading into Sunday's final, where City were forced to bide their time before securing a 1-0 victory over Totenham and a record-equalling fourth-straight triumph in this competition, the 26-year-old's form has not been so much top bins as a smouldering dumpster fire.

Sterling was without a goal in nine City appearances since netting decisively at Arsenal back in February.  After tallies of 25 goals in 2018-19, when he was named FWA Footballer of the Year, and 31 last term, he returned to Wembley stuck on an increasingly unlucky 13.

At times, it has felt like the famed work rate that made him such a Guardiola favourite was smothering attempts to regain top gear. The harder Sterling tried, the worse he looked.

A combination of Phil Foden and Riyad Mahrez's dazzling form, the aforementioned drought and a reported row with Guardiola that both men denied has seen Sterling out in the cold when it comes to City's biggest games. His first action in the Champions League quarter-final against Borussia Dortmund came after 88 minutes of the second leg.

Gareth Southgate has also viewed the ex-Liverpool man as a go-to starter, but his experiences under Guardiola show such statuses are never set in stone and England are very well-stocked when it comes to livewire wide attackers.

Faced with a tentative Tottenham, Sterling tore into his work on Sunday like a man with a point to prove. An early hesitation saw him mugged by Serge Aurier inside the box but he skinned the former Paris Saint-Germain full-back and drilled in a cross with just too much heat for Foden to convert.

There was a clash of heads with Toby Alderweireld when he nodded a Mahrez cross wide, but Sterling bounced back up and was soon haring past a befuddled Sergio Reguilon. The end product was not there, as has so often and maddeningly been the case recently, but Guardiola extravagantly showed his approval from the sidelines.

Eric Dier, another England international with doubters to placate, made a stunning last-ditch block from a Sterling shot that was destined for the bottom corner. A combination of Alderweireld and the post denied Foden even more improbably and Spurs emerged from a first-half shellacking with the deadlock still intact.

City's fluency waned during the second half and Sterling lifting a speculative 20-yarder way over spoke of a team straining for the breakthrough, no longer so swaggeringly sure of their superiority. His five attempts were more than any other player in blue.

Ilkay Gundogan, one of Guardiola's most reliable finishers this season, released Sterling and volleyed his return delivery wide.

Then, just when frustration and anxiety were reaching dangerous levels for a team in a cup final with both centre-backs and a defensive midfielder on yellow cards – an impressively haphazard subplot City managed to weave into their general dominance – the Sterling trait that has done so much to highlight his struggles became a virtue. He just kept going and going.

Aurier put in an overall display to belie his reputation for an uneasy relationship with basic discipline, but City's left winger coaxed a foul out of his marker in the 81st minute. Kevin De Bruyne curled in the free-kick and defender Aymeric Laporte popped up with a towering close-range header, sealing the deal with a most un-Guardiola goal.

Sterling was standing in the six-yard box and clenched both fists before turning away from the mob engulfing Laporte to congratulate De Bruyne, a man on top of his game.

The same cannot be said for Sterling right now, but this felt like a step in the right direction.

Aymeric Laporte headed Manchester City to a 1-0 win over Tottenham in the EFL Cup final as Pep Guardiola's men landed their first trophy of what could be a treble-winning season.

City's attacking players rained attempts on the Tottenham goal in a one-sided Wembley clash, but it was defender Laporte who came up with the clinical finish in the 82nd minute, nodding Kevin De Bruyne's free-kick past Hugo Lloris.

The Spurs goalkeeper had been magnificent until then, but the quality of the delivery and the precision of Laporte's header gave the French goalkeeper little chance.

Top of the Premier League and chasing Champions League glory, a fourth consecutive triumph in the EFL Cup seems unlikely to be the pinnacle of City's achievements this term.

Harry Kane will start the EFL Cup final for Tottenham against Manchester City, with Kevin De Bruyne back for the holders at Wembley.

England captain Kane suffered an ankle injury during last Friday's 2-2 draw at Everton, after scoring both Spurs' goals in a match that proved to be Jose Mourinho's last at the helm.

The 27-year-old was yet to resume training on Friday but interim boss Ryan Mason has selected Kane alongside Son Heung-min and Lucas Moura in a three-pronged attack.

City playmaker De Bruyne, whose 24 goal involvements this season are more than any of this team-mates, suffered a similar complaint to Kane as the Premier League leaders went down 1-0 to Chelsea in last weekend's FA Cup semi-final.

He sat out a 2-1 midweek win at Aston Villa but is back as Pep Guardiola's side chase a fourth consecutive success in this competition.

Despite having a Champions League semi-final against Paris Saint-Germain coming up on Wednesday, Guardiola has not made the wholesale changes that partly explained a poor City showing against Chelsea.

Kyle Walker, Ruben Dias, Ilkay Gundogan, Phil Foden and Riyad Mahrez are all retained in the starting XI, with Raheem Sterling completing the forward line.

Leeds United CEO Angus Kinnear has heavily criticised the "self-proclaimed big six" in the Premier League for their involvement in a breakaway European competition, branding the "deeply cynical" plan a betrayal of every true football supporter.

Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United and Tottenham were all part of a 12-club group that launched the Super League last Sunday.

The proposal included the agreement that the six English clubs, as well as fellow founding members Atletico Madrid, Barcelona, Inter, Juventus, Milan and Real Madrid, would qualify each year for the competition, regardless of performances in their domestic leagues.

However, a widespread backlash led to the collapse of the competition inside 48 hours of the initial announcement. The Premier League contingent all withdrew on Tuesday, though UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin has made clear there will still be consequences for getting involved.

Ahead of hosting Manchester United at Elland Road on Sunday, Kinnear lambasted Leeds' domestic rivals in his programme notes.

"The fact that the whole Leeds fan-base has been united by the brilliantly impassioned words of Gary Neville illustrates how desperate the plight of European football became this week," Kinnear wrote.

"A fortnight ago we left the Etihad with an instinct that Manchester City didn't take well to being humbled by lowly Leeds United, but we could never have predicted that it would be the catalyst for them creating their own league where they would never have to be inconvenienced with the spectre of on-pitch failure again.

"The audacity of a resurgent Leeds United, an ambitious Aston Villa, a brilliantly managed Leicester City, a Champions League-bound West Ham United and an Everton with bold stadium plans have clearly overwhelmed the self-proclaimed 'big six'.

"The timing of their plan combined with the turmoil of a global pandemic was not coincidental, it was deeply cynical, and the clandestine plotting of fellow Premier League shareholders made it all the more seditious.

"Whether the collective intent was a genuine move to breakaway or the act of playground bullies seeking negotiating leverage at European and domestic level by threatening to take their ball home is irrelevant. The result was a betrayal of every true football supporter. However, this astonishing ingordigiousness has been the unexpected catalyst of creating a furious unity across nations, leagues, players, owners and fans.

"I was proud to see Leeds United and Liverpool supporters stand shoulder to shoulder in protest before a game which once again showed we are already in a Super League and making it all the more bizarre that, in the world envisioned by Liverpool's ownership, the same fixture would have been a meaningless dead rubber."

Fans protested outside Elland Road on Monday ahead of Leeds' home fixture with Liverpool – a game that finished 1-1 after Diego Llorente dented the visitors' top-four hopes with a late equaliser.

The hosts had warmed up prior to the game wearing shirts that read "Earn it" – in reference to the Reds' bid to qualify for the Champions League – and "Football is for the fans". There was also a sign saying the same stationed behind one of the goals inside the stadium.

UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin has made clear the 12 European Super League clubs must face the consequences for their involvement in the planned breakaway competition.

Less than 48 hours after the official announcement of the tournament, and following a huge public backlash to the plan, the 'big six' from the Premier League – Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United and Tottenham – all ended their involvement.

Ceferin has praised the English clubs for a willingness to admit they made a mistake, but that will not mean they avoid punishment – albeit it is unclear yet what action the governing body will take.

In an interview with the Mail on Sunday, the UEFA chief revealed how he has placed the teams in different tiers while comparing Barcelona, Juventus and Real Madrid to those who believe Earth is flat, with that trio still remaining aligned to the initial proposal.

"Everyone has to take consequences for what they did and we cannot pretend nothing happened," Ceferin told the newspaper.

"You cannot do something like that and just say: 'I've been punished because everybody hates me'. They don't have problems because of anyone else but themselves. It's not okay what they did and we will see in next few days what we have to do.

"But for me it's a clear difference between the English clubs and the other six. They pulled out first, they admitted they made a mistake. You have to have some greatness to say: 'I was wrong'.

"For me there are three groups of this 12 — the English six, who went out first, then the other three [Atletico Madrid, Inter and Milan] after them and then the ones who feel that Earth is flat and they think the Super League still exists. And there is a big difference between those.

"But everyone will be held responsible. In what way, we will see. I don't want to say disciplinary process but it has to be clear that everyone has to be held responsible in a different way.

"Is it disciplinary? Is it the decision of the executive committee? We will see. It's too early to say."

There was widespread condemnation of the Super League from fans, governing bodies and former players alike, leading to financial backers JP Morgan to admit they "misjudged how the deal would be viewed by the wider football community".

UEFA announced changes to the Champions League format on Monday, including an increase from 32 to 36 clubs as the current group stage system is to be shelved in favour of a single league.

Clubs will get to play four extra matches per season, with the top eight in the final table advancing through to the last 16. Those placed between ninth and 24th will enter a play-off round to decide who else will qualify for the knockout stages, while those 25th and lower are eliminated and do not enter the Europa League.

The radical reforms to the competition are scheduled to come into place for the 2024-25 season.

Brad Friedel thinks Jurgen Klinsmann could be a good option to replace Jose Mourinho but says it is not vital for a "Tottenham person" to take the job.

Mourinho was sacked as head coach on Monday just 17 months after succeeding Mauricio Pochettino at the Premier League club.

Ryan Mason will installed as caretaker boss until the end of the season as the Spurs hierarchy mull over a permanent replacement for the Portuguese.

Former Tottenham striker Klinsmann stated "anything is possible" this week when asked if there was any possibility that he could take the hotseat.

Friedel suggested Klinsmann could be a contender for Spurs to consider and thinks Mason could stake his claim with a strong finish to the season, but there is no need for the next boss to have an affiliation with the club.

The ex-Spurs goalkeeper told Stats Perform News: "Look at how successful Mauricio [Pochettino] was with Daniel [Spurs chairman Levy]. So I don't think you have to know the club.

"I worked with the youth national side under Jurgen when I was head coach of the under-19s and he was head coach of the senior team. And he was very good to work under. He was very loyal to his staff and he does know the club.

"I think what's important going in and managing Tottenham is your relationship with Daniel Levy. He is a tough, shrewd negotiator. There is no doubt about it. But he is an honest negotiator, and he is very punctual and gets back to people all the time.

"And just because he is a tough negotiator does not mean he's a bad person to run a football club – probably the opposite to that.

"Is it necessary, does it have to be a Tottenham person? No, I think what is more important is the person being able to navigate through in his dealings with Daniel.

"That was very important, but Mauricio was excellent at it. But he had tremendous support staff and had a couple of conduits that buffered situations over the years.

"So what I will say is this – anyone who takes the job, you have everything you need to be successful apart from the fact you’ll not have the number one, two or three [highest] budgets [in the Premier League].

"But that doesn’t mean you cannot have a world class football team at your disposal. So a wonderful job for somebody, and maybe Ryan Mason will do an incredible job and maybe Mase will get it. We don't know."

Tottenham face Manchester City in the EFL Cup final at Wembley on Sunday.

Florentino Perez says the clubs who claimed this week to have abandoned the European Super League remain contractually tied to the project.

The Real Madrid president, who has been a driving force and staunch defender of the controversial breakaway, says those that signed up "can't leave", even if they say they have quit the league.

Twelve teams declared last Sunday that they had committed to the Super League, but on Tuesday all six Premier League clubs announced they had quit. Inter and Atletico Madrid soon followed, Milan may also withdraw, while Juventus remain advocates of the league but have acknowledged its collapse.

Real Madrid and Barcelona very much remain, but for all the merits of Clasico clashes, they need other clubs to firmly commit.

Perez was asked in an interview with Spanish newspaper AS whether it was true that clubs would have to buy themselves out of binding contracts.

He said: "I'm not going to take my time to explain what a binding contract is here. But the fact is, the clubs can't leave.

"Some, because of the pressure, have had to say they'll leave. But this project, or something very similar, will happen, and I hope it's in the near future."

Supporters, players, coaches, politicians and even royalty have come out in opposition of the plans, with the 'closed-shop' nature of the Super League, whereby the 12 founding clubs would be guaranteed continuing membership, being criticised as an anti-competitive concept.

UEFA and FIFA, the long-time governing bodies of the European and world game, have been scathing and pointed to the possibility of punishments being imposed on the clubs involved.

Perez vowed the Super League has not yet been killed off and is merely a sleeping project, poised to be resurrected.

"The entity exists and the members who make up the Super League are there too," he said.

"What we've done is given ourselves a few weeks to reflect on the hostility with which certain people who don't want to lose their privileges have manipulated the project."

He said financial backers JP Morgan remain involved, despite the investment banking firm stating it "clearly misjudged" the depth of feeling that would be stirred in the football community by the league.

"They've taken time to reflect, like the 12 clubs," Perez said. "If something needs to be changed, it'll be changed, but the Super League is the best project we've thought can be carried out."

Perez said he was baffled by UEFA's Champions League expansion plans, announced on Monday, which will see 36 teams rather than the current 32 compete from the 2024-25 season, each guaranteed at least 10 games per season, and he said the start date was too far away.

Madrid, Barcelona and all major European clubs have been hit heavily financially by the COVID-19 crisis, with major revenue streams such as matchday income cut off.

Perez said there was a danger that "all the clubs go bankrupt" unless there is immediate action.

Chatter rippled quickly across the Wembley press room, a buzz of excitement quickly following. It was the first thing most people looking at hot-off-the-press team sheets mentioned.

"Foden's starting."

Since describing the playmaker as "a gift" in the aftermath of his maiden senior outing for Manchester City against Manchester United in the 2017 International Champions Cup, Pep Guardiola persistently had his use of Foden questioned.

The teenager wasn't playing enough, then he wasn't starting enough, then he wasn't starting enough meaningful games. Guardiola maintained he had a plan and it absolutely did not include Foden going out on loan.

But there he was in the first XI for a major cup final. He responded by turning in a man-of-the-match display as City beat Aston Villa 2-1 to win a third consecutive EFL Cup.

They will look to make it four in a row against Tottenham at Wembley on Sunday and, in the interim period, Foden has scarcely looked back.

A serious player

His outing in the 2020 final was Foden's 61st appearance for City, going back to a competitive debut from the bench against Feyenoord in the Champions League in November 2017.

Those initial steps of his career saw him make 24 starts and play 2,439 minutes. His knockdown for Sergio Aguero to open the scoring against Villa was a 10th assist to sit alongside 10 goals.

In a little over a year since, Foden has almost doubled his appearances with 56 and 38 starts contribute to a major leap of 3,598 minutes played.

The returns those appearances have yielded do much to explain his status as a one of Guardiola's go-to men, to the extent it is possible he will be afforded the luxury of a rest against Spurs, given City have a Champions League semi-final against Paris Saint-Germain on the horizon and a Premier League title to wrap up.

That might not be the most advisable course of action, given City's record of won 26, drawn three, lost one when Foden starts this season. The sole defeat came in the second Premier League game of the season against Leicester City in September.

That win percentage of 86.7 per cent drops to 68.2 (W15 D3 L4) when Guardiola opts to take Foden out of the firing line.

"His influence in our game is massive right now," the City manager told Sky Sports after another man-of-the-match showing at Villa's expense in midweek, where Foden netted a first-half equaliser in a 2-1 win before his twinkling feet mercilessly goaded opposition right-back Matty Cash into a red card.

"He is becoming a serious player for us," Guardiola added.

Pep's most prolific youngster

Last season's EFL Cup final was played out in front of a capacity Wembley crowd, for whom the Super League was a rugby league competition. It truly was a different world.

Whatever this disorientating reality is, Foden is making it his own.

In the period since he has scored 19 and laid on a further 11 in all competitions, with his minutes-per-goal figure down from 244 to 189 and shot conversion up from 13 to 16.5 per cent.

Such sharp shooting saw him score the winner in both legs of City's Champions League quarter-final win over Borussia Dortmund, the latter rasping strike leading to a cathartic and emotional embrace with Guardiola.

Unsurprisingly, Foden is far outstripping his expected goals (xG) figure of 11.8 since the 2020 EFL Cup final, while an xG 9.8 aligned almost exactly with his 10 goals beforehand.

This higher output is because, much to the profound discomfort of Cash and others, Foden has evolved from the scheming midfielder of his youth to an explosive and versatile wide attacker.

Only Kevin De Bruyne with 24 has been directly involved in more City goals than Foden's 23 this season, thanks to his 14 goals and nine assists.

Looking further back across a career where Guardiola has worked with some of the finest young talent in the game, Foden's overall 29 goals and 21 assists give him 50 goal involvements – more than any other player before turning 21 under the former Barcelona Bayern Munich boss.

The England international's 29 goals are also unmatched among that age group, with Bojan Krkic also scoring the same number for Guardiola's Barcelona.

This weekend is unlikely to be the last time Foden graces Wembley this year, as a starring role with England at Euro 2020 surely awaits – the 20-year-old having taken to international football effortlessly.

From boy to main man

"He was a boy when I arrived, at 17 years old he trained every day with these guys and played more minutes," Guardiola said on Friday.

"Now he is stronger with his physicality, but it is normal. He is still at an age to get stronger, play more minutes and have more experience.

"He has the ability to play in different positions. That's why he is a better player but still, like every player, he can be better. It depends on him."

In this week of all weeks, as he hauled his boyhood team to a vital win, there was something delightful about watching Foden's star continue its unchecked and rapid ascent since that surprise cup final call.

When the modern City began stacking up trophies almost a decade ago, he cheered them on from pitchside as a ballboy. Now, he plays a pivotal role in everything they achieve.

Given his employers' involvement in the tawdry Super League debacle, it will be an incredibly long time until any vaguely romantic notions can be pinned to Manchester City as an organisation.

But Foden's story, that of a young man living out his childhood fantasy every week, playing the football from all of our wildest dreams, is one any fan can cherish. Its appeal is something the suited goons and hedge fund cretins will never understand.

When Foden plays, in those moments of velvet first touches, darting dribbles and thumping finishes, all the nonsense melts away in the face of pure footballing talent. Guardiola was right, he really is a gift.

Chelsea "deeply regret" their decision to join the European Super League, though they have criticised some fans for directing abuse at club officials.

The Blues were one of 12 teams to join the proposed breakaway league, only to then change their decision within 48 hours.

Chelsea's withdrawal came amid pressure from the media, politicians, fellow clubs, UEFA, the Premier League and the Football Association (FA), while hundreds of supporters gathered outside Stamford Bridge prior to Tuesday's contest with Brighton and Hove Albion, with Petr Cech having to mediate with the protesters.

In an open letter to Chelsea's fans, the club's board and owner Roman Abramovic have offered their apologies, indicating they joined the group in order to keep in touch with their major rivals.

It stated: "Our ambition with Chelsea has always been to make it the best club in the world, both on the pitch and in how we work with, and give back to the community off it.

"The joint decision to join the European Super League was driven by this same ambition. When it became clear that a new league might be formed, we did not want Chelsea to miss out on the opportunity to play in such a potentially prominent league, nor did we want to risk the club falling behind our closest English and European rivals in competitive terms.

"As a club, we are committed to an open and regular dialogue with our fans and other stakeholders, but, on this occasion, regrettably, due to time constraints and confidentiality restraints, this was not achieved.

"We recognise we should have addressed these issues in advance of joining the group. The owner and board understand that involving the club in such a proposal was a decision we should not have taken. It is a decision we deeply regret."

Chelsea did, however, add that some of the debate had transitioned into abuse.

"The club does ask, however, that this dialogue is conducted in a respectful way," the statement continued.

"The abuse which some club representatives have been the target of over the past few days is not acceptable. Antisemitism, sexism, racism and threats of violence have no place in our community nor in this discussion.

"We hope that you will help us make sure that a respectful tone remains, even when we disagree."

Chelsea's London rivals Tottenham are facing a major fan backlash of their own, and the Tottenham Hotspur Supporters' Trust (THST) demanded the club's executive board resign over the Super League episode.

THST called for "elected and accountable fan representation" on a new board, attacking those currently in office.

The Trust said in a statement: "The consequences of their decision to attempt to launch this breakaway league could now lead to substantial penalties against Spurs – points deductions, suspension from competition, financial penalties, other sanctions.

"They signed up to this plan knowing they risked all that, and knowing they risked their players being banned from international competition. The responsibility of the club's board is to always act in the best interests of THFC.

"The current board clearly has not acted in the best interests of the football club. In fact, its action could still lead to outcomes that are in the worst interests of THFC. We think their relationship with us is irreparably broken. And we think their continued presence risks punitive action being taken against the club.

"We believe the immediate resignation of the current executive board is in the best long-term interests of the club."

Chelsea "deeply regret" their decision to join the European Super League, though they have criticised some fans for directing abuse at club officials.

The Blues were one of 12 teams to join the proposed breakaway league, only to then change their decision within 48 hours.

Chelsea's withdrawal came amid pressure from the media, politicians, fellow clubs, UEFA, the Premier League and the Football Association (FA), while hundreds of supporters gathered outside Stamford Bridge prior to Tuesday's contest with Brighton and Hove Albion, with Petr Cech having to mediate with the protesters.

In an open letter to Chelsea's fans, the club's board and owner Roman Abramovic have offered their apologies, indicating they joined the group in order to keep in touch with their major rivals.

It stated: "Our ambition with Chelsea has always been to make it the best club in the world, both on the pitch and in how we work with, and give back to the community off it.

"The joint decision to join the European Super League was driven by this same ambition. When it became clear that a new league might be formed, we did not want Chelsea to miss out on the opportunity to play in such a potentially prominent league, nor did we want to risk the club falling behind our closest English and European rivals in competitive terms.

"As a club, we are committed to an open and regular dialogue with our fans and other stakeholders, but, on this occasion, regrettably, due to time constraints and confidentiality restraints, this was not achieved.

"We recognise we should have addressed these issues in advance of joining the group. The owner and board understand that involving the club in such a proposal was a decision we should not have taken. It is a decision we deeply regret."

Chelsea did, however, add that some of the debate had transitioned into abuse.

"The club does ask, however, that this dialogue is conducted in a respectful way," the statement continued.

"The abuse which some club representatives have been the target of over the past few days is not acceptable. Antisemitism, sexism, racism and threats of violence have no place in our community nor in this discussion.

"We hope that you will help us make sure that a respectful tone remains, even when we disagree."

Chelsea's London rivals Tottenham are facing a major fan backlash of their own, and the Tottenham Hotspur Supporters' Trust (THST) demanded the club's executive board resign over the Super League episode.

THST called for "elected and accountable fan representation" on a new board, attacking those currently in office.

The Trust said in a statement: "The consequences of their decision to attempt to launch this breakaway league could now lead to substantial penalties against Spurs – points deductions, suspension from competition, financial penalties, other sanctions.

"They signed up to this plan knowing they risked all that, and knowing they risked their players being banned from international competition. The responsibility of the club's board is to always act in the best interests of THFC.

"The current board clearly has not acted in the best interests of the football club. In fact, its action could still lead to outcomes that are in the worst interests of THFC. We think their relationship with us is irreparably broken. And we think their continued presence risks punitive action being taken against the club.

"We believe the immediate resignation of the current executive board is in the best long-term interests of the club."

Ryan Mason insists Tottenham are not simply "the Harry Kane team" as he waits for news of the striker's fitness before the EFL Cup final.

Kane is a doubt for Sunday's game against Manchester City having sustained an ankle injury last week and failed to train since.

If the England captain is able to feature, though, he would come up against a side managed by Pep Guardiola, who famously referred to Spurs as "the Harry Kane team" in 2017.

Kane has been involved in 47 goals in 43 games for Tottenham in all competitions this season and would be sorely missed this weekend, but discussion of Guardiola's comments prompted interim head coach Mason to highlight the team's "combined effort".

"I think when you've got one of the best players in the world, I think you can say that," Mason said. "I think of Barcelona with Messi, Real Madrid with Ronaldo.

"When guys are posting up crazy numbers and scoring and creating moments, big moments in big games, it's normal that your mind thinks they're the most important players, of course.

"But we're a team, a squad, a group of players. Whoever's out on that football pitch needs to come together, needs to work, to fight together, to compete to get a positive result.

"Of course, if you have one of the best number nines in the world, people will talk, but, no, it's a combined effort of everyone involved, that's for sure."

While Mason is assessing Kane "hour by hour" and will undoubtedly pick the striker if he is fit, Spurs have actually fared better - numbers-wise - when their talisman has been out this season.

Tottenham have won 53.5 per cent of the 43 matches Kane has played this season, scoring 2.0 goals per game.

When he has not been involved - including in Mason's debut win against Southampton - Tottenham have six wins from nine (66.7 per cent) and have scored 2.8 goals per game.

Mason also has other attacking stars to turn to, with Son Heung-min matching Kane's 16 assists and posting 36 goal involvements.

Lucas Moura (17), Gareth Bale (14) and Carlos Vinicius (13) are next on that list of goal involvements and could each have a part to play if Kane cannot make it.

But the 27-year-old Kane, who has attempted 168 shots and created 52 chances this season, will be determined to make the Spurs team as he waits for his first piece of silverware at senior level.

Indeed, as long as Tottenham's drought - since 2008 - continues, there will be fears Kane could move on in pursuit of glory elsewhere.

"He will want to win trophies, no doubt about it," ex-Spurs man Brad Friedel told Stats Perform News this week.

"He's a very ambitious player, obviously one of the best, and everyone can see his goals tally and watch him play to say that."

Mason - appointed this week - becomes the latest man to try to end that wait. He will be the first coach to take charge of a major cup final in England as early as his second game in charge since Luton Town's Syd Owen made his bow in the 1959 FA Cup final.

"I think every club wants to win trophies. That's normal," Mason said. "It's very difficult in this country, probably the most difficult country in the world to win trophies. We've seen that.

"We've been close to that over the past few years, but unfortunately we haven't been able to get over the line."

Harry Kane was shocked to see Jose Mourinho sacked ahead of the EFL Cup final against Manchester City and only found out about the decision five or 10 minutes before the official announcement.

While Kane had previously seen Mauricio Pochettino axed and acknowledged that Mourinho knew the risks of taking charge at Tottenham, he was not expecting the move which came just six days before the final.

The England captain, though, praised interim manager Ryan Mason and is "buzzing" to see his friend get the opportunity lead Spurs to silverware on Sunday, having won his first match 2-1 against Southampton in the Premier League.

Kane is a fitness doubt for the EFL Cup final after he suffered an ankle injury in last week's draw at Everton.

Mason says the club will take no risks with their talisman, who has still not returned to training, but they are monitoring his situation hour by hour.

"I was surprised - I'll be totally honest," Kane said to Sky Sports about the sacking of Mourinho. 

"I came in that morning and probably found out five to 10 minutes before it was announced.

"A lot of the focus was on the Carabao Cup final and preparing for that. But, look, it's football. I've been here now where a couple of managers have been sacked.

"As a player now, I don't think you ever expect the boss to be sacked but it's part of the game, you have to deal with it.

"I had a great relationship with Jose, I wish him all the best for whatever his next job is, but he knows as we know football can be cut-throat and we just have to look forward.

"We have a big final to prepare for now and we're looking forward to that. Ryan's been great. It's obviously been strange for him, a bit of a rollercoaster coming in late notice and taking on the job.

"I thought he's done incredibly well; how he's handled the whole situation, handled the boys and obviously getting his first win against Southampton was a massive moment.

"Me and Ryan are good mates, we've known each other a long time, on and off the field we are really close.

"I'm buzzing for him to have this opportunity and to have the experience to manage one of the best clubs in the world. Hopefully we can try and win on Sunday and experience a truly special moment together."

The build-up to the final – and even the sacking of Mourinho – was overshadowed by Spurs' planned involvement in the European Super League.

It was not a prospect Kane was keen on and he was glad to see the project fall apart within 48 hours.

Kane added: "I liked the outcome of it. I didn't quite like the idea of it if I'm honest. I can totally understand the fans' point of view.

"From a lot of people's point of view, it wasn't quite right. It's obviously been ended for now. I'm proud of the fans for sticking up for what they believe in. 

"For football in general it's good the way it is. The competitiveness is an important part of football and that's the reason we play."

Kane has previously acknowledged he faces a big decision over his club future at the end of the season.

Spurs look unlikely to reach the Champions League and the City clash provides Kane with a shot at what would be his first major honour.

City boss Pep Guardiola is looking to deny him and become the first manager to win the EFL Cup in four consecutive seasons.

Guardiola's side have not lost any of their last 19 ties in the competition since being eliminated by Manchester United in October 2016.

No player has scored more club goals at Wembley than Kane, who has 31 in 44 games at the national stadium for Spurs. It was Tottenham's temporary home during the construction of their new stadium.

He has netted eight times in his last 10 club games at Wembley, though there have only been two English scorers in the last seven EFL Cup finals – John Terry in 2015 and Jesse Lingard in 2017.

As for Mason, the last manager to take charge of an English club in a major final as early as his second game at the helm was Luton Town's Syd Owen in the 1959 FA Cup final.

Tottenham are still waiting to decide if Harry Kane will feature in Sunday's EFL Cup final, but Ryan Mason says the club will take no risks with their talisman.

Kane suffered an ankle injury in last week's draw at Everton, putting his involvement in the Wembley meeting with Manchester City in doubt.

The England captain has still not returned to training.

No player has scored more club goals at Wembley than Kane, who has 31 in 44 games at the national stadium for Spurs, but Mason is staying patient.

"We're not sure yet," the interim head coach said of Kane's status. "He didn't train with the team today but we'll have more of an idea tomorrow to see if we can get him back on the pitch.

"I'm not really sure. It's a case of taking it hour by hour now. The days are obviously running out.

"It's a case of seeing how he feels in the next four hours, the next six hours, and taking it from there."

Kane has played in each of Tottenham's three games en route to the final, scoring in the quarter-final against Stoke City.

Mason trusts the striker will contribute to making the right call on his fitness this week.

"Harry is a top professional," he said. "We're taking it hour by hour and we'll see how he feels.

"What we're not going to do - and what Harry's not going to do - is put his body on the line if he doesn't feel like it's suitable. We're never going to put Harry in that position, absolutely not.

"But we'll see what happens, see how he feels tomorrow, and then we'll start making a decision from there.

"It's a combined effort. How does the player feel? What do the medics feel? What's the advice? What are the chances of something happening?

"Harry's a mature man, a mature professional footballer. He's had to deal with certain situations and I think, ultimately, we'll speak to him, with no pressure.

"How d'you feel? What are you feeling? We'll go from there."

Mason does not feel the situation is comparable to Spurs' previous final appearance in the Champions League in 2018-19 when Kane returned from injury ahead of schedule and mustered only a single shot in a 2-0 defeat to Liverpool.

"I think it was completely different because Harry had a very long time out injured for the Champions League final," Mason said.

"I don't know if Harry's going to be available for training tomorrow, let alone the game on Sunday, but if he is then it's a quick turnaround.

"A week without training is not a problem for someone in Harry's condition.

"We're going to have to probably assess it later tonight, early in the morning and see if we can get him on the pitch."

Mason - already the most junior Premier League coach of all time - will become the youngest ever EFL Cup final manager (29y 316d). Gianluca Vialli had been the youngest until now (33y 263d) as he guided Chelsea to victory in 1998.

"It means a hell of a lot," he said. "I've not really thought about it a great deal, because I've been preparing for the game, but this isn't really about me.

"It's about the football club, it's about Tottenham Hotspur being involved in these big matches, our fans getting to see us in these big matches.

"My focus is fully on the match. Maybe once the season's done and I get some time to think, I'll look back on it and be very proud."

Tottenham are without silverware since the 2008 final victory over Chelsea, while opponents City are bidding for a record-equalling eighth triumph and fourth in a row.

"I think there was a two or three-year period where Tottenham had chances and maybe should have [won something], but football doesn't always work out like that," Mason said.

"What they did do is develop a great team and the club went in a direction that we wanted - that's how Tottenham should go about things.

"Listen, unfortunately, we didn't get over the line, but if we don't get over the line on Sunday, we still have our identity and our DNA as a football club. That's the most important thing."

Kevin De Bruyne and Sergio Aguero are back in training ahead of Manchester City's EFL Cup final showdown with Tottenham on Sunday.

Pep Guardiola's side are aiming to win the trophy for a fourth consecutive season, returning to Wembley eight days after a 1-0 defeat to Chelsea in the FA Cup semi-finals.

The pain of that defeat was compounded by star midfielder De Bruyne hobbling off with an ankle injury, although the problem is not as bad as first feared.

De Bruyne sat out Wednesday's 2-1 win at Aston Villa but resumed work with Guardiola's first-team squad alongside Aguero.

City's all-time record goalscorer has endured a final campaign at the Etihad Stadium beset by knee and hamstring issues after meniscus surgery last June, while he also suffered the effects of coronavirus.

"Both [De Bruyne and Aguero] they are training today," Guardiola said, meaning each man appears to have better prospects than Harry Kane, who was unable to take part in Tottenham's Friday session.

"Today was the first training session after the last two weeks [for Aguero]. Tomorrow he will have the last training session and we are going to decide."

Final successes in the past three campaigns over Arsenal, Chelsea and Villa mean City can become the second team in history after Liverpool between 1981 and 1984 to lift the cup for a fourth season in a row.

However, as was the case in the Chelsea reverse, Guardiola hinted there might be wholesale changes as he casts an eye towards Wednesday's Champions League semi-final first leg against Paris Saint-Germain.

"We've said many times. every game must be taken seriously. But the Premier League is the most important competition this season. After that it is the Champions League, the FA Cup and after the Carabao Cup," he said.

"When you play this competition at the beginning of the season when every player is fit, it is perfect to rotate and everybody can be involved.

"We have to play right now in the middle of the decisive part of the season. I would say the Premier League is the first title of the season and the second to qualify for the Champions League – ask all the teams who are fighting to qualify for next season.

"Once we are there and arrive in this position, normally the Carabao Cup is over, but now we are going to play [the final] in the middle part of the important part of the Premier League season. And three days before, like a dream come true at the end [of the season], we play the semi-final of the Champions League."

Guardiola added: "That’s why we have a mix of contradiction; that it's a final we have to win, but we have one eye on the Champions League and one eye on Crystal Palace [in the Premier League next weekend].

"Carabao Cup is nice - we want the four, we will play to win the fourth. But PSG and Palace are there and PSG [in the second leg] is there. We'll see what happens on Sunday."

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