Unai Emery insists the idea of "revenge" will not be in his thought process against Manchester United as his past difficulties with Arsenal continue to draw focus.

For the first time in Villarreal's history, they will contest a major European final on Wednesday when Emery's team go up against Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's Red Devils.

But the coach's previous work at Arsenal remains a talking point ahead of the Europa League final in Gdansk, with Emery often ridiculed by English football fans and sections of the media during his time in London.

He got one over on his old club in the semi-finals, however, with his team seeing off Arsenal to end Villarreal's European drought – the Yellow Submarine had been eliminated in each of their previous four semi-finals, UEFA Cup/Europa League semis in 2004, 2011 and 2016 and the Champions League final four in 2006.

Emery guided Arsenal to the Europa League final in 2019 before he was sacked by the Gunners in November that year, replaced by fellow Spaniard Mikel Arteta.

In fact, since the competition's rebranding in 2009-10, Emery has reached the Europa League final on more occasions than any other head coach (five – 2014, 2015, 2016, 2019 and 2021). The Spaniard has won the trophy on three of the previous four occasions he has reached the showpiece, all with Sevilla.

Now he is aiming to achieve success with Villarreal, though he insists any desire to win the trophy has nothing to do with the fact his opponents are English.

"Not at all," he told reporters when asked whether "revenge" was on the cards. "I feel an obligation to Villarreal, this badge, this club, this president.

"I am proud to be able to defend this Villarreal project. There is no revenge with the English teams or people. I am proud to play in this final defending Villarreal’s colours."

Diego Forlan, who played for both clubs during his impressive career, stressed in an interview with Stats Perform that United are not favourites for the match, despite the general consensus suggesting otherwise.

Emery accepts "history and experience" are on United's side, adding that most would have considered them front-runners at the start of the knockout stage.

Yet he is in no doubt that the Yellow Submarine have more than a fighting chance.

"We cannot escape reality. A few months ago we said Man United were among the favourites for the competition," Emery said. "Now we are in the same situation, but we are firm candidates for this title and play against the favourites.

"They have good players, history and experience, but we have a very strong recent history to deserve these moments."

Bruno Fernandes and Luke Shaw are adamant Manchester United do not need any form of motivation or inspiration from the club's iconic former manager Alex Ferguson ahead of Wednesday's Europa League final.

United face Villarreal in Gdansk as they look to win their first piece of silverware since Ole Gunnar Solskjaer replaced Jose Mourinho in December 2018.

Solskjaer's former boss Ferguson is staying in the same hotel as the United squad and has been particularly prominent in the media of late, granting numerous interviews after largely avoiding the press in his eight years since retirement.

Ferguson led United to two Champions League successes – among many other titles – during his storied reign at the club, therefore knows plenty about the pressures and emotions that come with such occasions.

But Shaw and Fernandes stressed they are in no need of any extra motivation or pep talks from Ferguson as they look to sink the Yellow Submarine.

Speaking to the media, Shaw said: "I wouldn't expect him to speak to us. I am sure we don't need people to inspire us for the game tomorrow, as much of a legend as he [Ferguson] is.

"Inside our group we need to do that ourselves. Of course, I'm sat next to the manager now and I am sure he'll be doing that tomorrow, so I'm not sure we'll be seeing too much of Sir Alex tomorrow."

Fernandes continued: "I think we have a coach who passed a lot of time with Alex Ferguson so everything he could say to us, he [Solskjaer] already knows. We trust our coach.

"The team is confident. We trust ourselves, we know what we have to do. This is our moment to do our best.

"We trained well the days before, we have another day to train. Make the job tomorrow, enjoy the moment – being in the final is not for everyone."

It will be United's first European final since the 2016-17 edition of this competition, when they defeated Ajax 2-0 under Mourinho – before that they had gone nine years without a trophy in Europe.

Even reaching the final this time around is something of a milestone, particularly for Solskjaer, as United's record in semi-finals prior to their two-legged tie with Roma was poor under the Norwegian.

The 8-5 aggregate win over Roma ended a run of four successive semi-final eliminations for United under Solskjaer, whose only other final as a manager was in the 2013 Norwegian Cup, and the club's players will relish the chance to end their trophy drought.

"We come to this club because we want to win. It doesn't matter if the club doesn't win for many years, the hope is still there," Fernandes said.

"Trophies are part of this club. Every player knows he will come to United to fight for trophies, to be a better player.

"If you look to history, you have to look to the history, pressure is part of your life. I like the pressure, that's good for me.

"The most important for us is to try to win the game. Everything can happen, but we can control some stuff. Most importantly, the team is growing up and tomorrow will be a sign of that."

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer hopes the presence of Sir Alex Ferguson will help inspire his Manchester United players to "take the next step" by winning the Europa League.

Legendary former manager Ferguson, who won 38 trophies in 26 years at Old Trafford, has travelled with the United squad to Gdansk ahead of Wednesday's final with Villarreal 

The Red Devils face Spanish side Villarreal seeking their first silverware since Solskjaer took over from Jose Mourinho in December 2018, initially on a caretaker basis.

It also marks just Solskjaer's second final as a manager, having won the 2013 Norwegian Cup with Molde, where he also lifted the Tippeligaen in 2011 and 2012.

After ending his curse of losing in four cup semi-finals as United boss, Solskjaer believes a first trophy for his current crop of players can be a springboard for further success.

"Of course, when players get the taste of success, it can go one of two ways," Solskjaer said at Tuesday's pre-match news conference. 

"Now we've done it, or how I felt before, it gives you that feeling of being hungry for more. You want that feeling again. 

"For this group, working hard for a year or two, it's a next step for them now to go and enjoy a game like this.

"These are big nights for us. It might be the stepping stone for something better to come. This team is a young team, a team that we've rebuilt. 

"Hopefully this is the start of something more. Sir Alex is with us, the 26th of May is Sir Matt [Busby]'s birthday. 

"When the players sign for Manchester United, they sign to win, to accept the challenge of being the best. 

"This is the best club of the world, this is the pleasure of the pressure. They wouldn't have signed if they weren't top players."

Asked about Ferguson's role in United's preparations, Solskjaer said: "He flew out with us yesterday. Some of us went to see his documentary.

"I sat there thinking about this special man. He's an encyclopaedia of football. When we eat in the restaurant, if the players wonder about something, they can ask him. 

"He's always available. I hope he's going to enjoy it as well. I owe most of my career to him and this club."

Wednesday's match will be United's eighth major European final, which is the second-most of any English club after Liverpool (14).

United, who have won five of those previous seven finals, are expected to be without key man Harry Maguire against Villarreal as the defender continues to nurse an ankle injury.

Maguire was included in United's squad, despite missing his side's final four league games of the season, but Solskjaer is not overly confident the centre-back will be ready to feature.

"We've prepared well," Solskjaer said. "Anthony [Martial] didn't make it, Phil [Jones] of course didn't make it and Harry is just probably going to jog up and down the sideline [in training].

"He'll probably try to join in the training session a little but apart from that we're looking quite good.

"It's always difficult to leave players out. But throughout the whole season, a final is a reward for what you've done the whole season.

"We'll enjoy the last training session and the players will learn the team tomorrow."

United rounded off their Premier League campaign with a 2-1 win at Wolves to finish in second place, 12 points behind runaway champions Manchester City.

Solskjaer is pleased with the progress made season-on-season and insists his players will be ready for the huge showdown with Unai Emery's Villarreal.

"I've got enough self-belief in myself, whatever circumstances I've been in," he said.  "I trust in the players, who I know are ready. I've seen in them something growing.

"I'm confident that we're ready for this now. Every player who goes into a final has the pressure to win. You have to play to win, we expect to win, but I'm sure Unai feels the same. 

"It's been a long qualification to get here and it's 50-50. I feel confident that we are ready for this. In a final, anything can happen and we have to be ready for everything."

United are facing Villarreal for a fifth time, with each of the previous four meetings – all in the Champions League between 2005-06 and 2008-09 – finishing goalless 

The Red Devils have faced Villarreal more times without ever scoring than they have any other opponent in their history.

Manchester United are not favourites against Villarreal in a "50-50" Europa League final, according to Diego Forlan, who played for both clubs.

United face the LaLiga side in Gdansk on Wednesday as manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer aims to get his hands on a first piece of silverware in the role.

This is United's eighth major European final but Villarreal's first.

Forlan feels this history has skewed perceptions of the match, though, with Villarreal unbeaten in Europe this season and led by Unai Emery, who is aiming to become the first coach to win the UEFA Cup or Europa League four times.

"I don't think Manchester United is the favourite," Forlan told Stats Perform.

"People say Manchester United due to its history, what it means, and for being such a big club. No doubt it is.

"However, for the game, the past is useless, what counts is the present, the performance itself.

"That's why players for Manchester United are careful, because they know they can win but also they can lose, 50-50.

"Maybe people are underrating what Villarreal history has. It is a team who always compete very well. They play very good football and they can hurt Manchester United."

Forlan left United for Villarreal in 2004 and featured against the Old Trafford outfit when the sides met for the first time in September 2005.

He was absent for the return match two months later, however, and had left before their most recent clashes in 2008-09.

All four games between the sides have ended 0-0, making Villarreal the opponents United have faced most in their history without ever scoring.

The Red Devils might also be wary of Spanish teams' recent records against English opposition in finals, with the past nine meetings – since Liverpool beat Alaves 5-4 in the 2000-01 UEFA Cup – seeing the LaLiga side come out on top.

Emery was in charge for one of those nine, overseeing a Europa League final victory against Liverpool with Sevilla in 2015-16.

"[Emery] is a very experienced coach," Forlan added. "He has been coaching many years. He has won the Europa League and was also in the final with Arsenal when they lost against Chelsea.

"It is a guy that knows this competition very well. I think it is good for the team when you have a coach with the experience, the support that he has.

"It doesn't give you everything you need to win the final, but it gives you a little bit of support, which is good when you go into a game like this."


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While it will not be the main item on the agenda, it is fair to say that Manchester United's centre-back strength will be under the microscope in Wednesday's Europa League final against Villarreal.

Of course, any apparent issues at the back will be drowned out – at least initially – if Ole Gunnar Solskjaer guides United to their first piece of silverware during his tenure.

However, as the game approaches, it is at the heart of their defence where United's biggest problem lies, with Harry Maguire unlikely to be fit for the game.

Love him or loathe him, there is little doubt Maguire has been United's best – and certainly most present – centre-back since he joined the club in 2019, with the defeat to his former club Leicester City earlier this month the first Premier League game he had missed for the Red Devils.

He did not feature in any of the final four league fixtures and, even though he has travelled to Gdansk, a starting role seems highly unlikely.

Therefore, it will either be down to former Villarreal man Eric Bailly or Axel Tuanzebe to partner Victor Lindelof – either way, it is hardly the most convincing of partnerships.

If United are to bridge the gap to Manchester City, it has been a long-held belief of many pundits and columnists that centre-back is one of the few areas they have significant room for improvement in, with the options available in Maguire's absence highlighting that.

Up against them on Wednesday will be Pau Torres, a central defender who has been linked with some of the world's biggest clubs, including United. Could he be the long-term answer they are looking for?

The playmaker at centre-back

Maguire has enjoyed a solid season for United, his influence at the back made all the more notable in the two matches they have lost without him. The main question mark is over the man next to him, which is usually Lindelof.

For a period last year, it appeared as though United would try to bring in a left-footed centre-back to partner Maguire, who would be allowed to shift back to the right side of the pairing.

Nathan Ake seemed an obvious candidate given Bournemouth's relegation and the fact Solskjaer appeared to indicate his interest in the Dutchman after a game against the Cherries – his comments caught by a nearby television camera.

He went to Manchester City instead, but Torres has a similar profile in that he is a left-footed centre-back who is praised for his ability on the ball.

Playing out from the back has been a frequent aspect of United's play under Solskjaer, and Torres would certainly fit in – his tally of 747 forward passes in LaLiga this term were bettered by only Jules Kounde (918) and Clement Lenglet (812) in terms of fellow defenders.

Where he does better than both, however, is bringing the ball out of defence. His 432 progressive carries – movements that take the ball more than five metres upfield – is 42 more than any other LaLiga defender, while he has carried the ball 4,784.4 metres up the pitch, again a high for the league.

This has even translated into having an attacking influence, with his two assists at the end of a carry only bettered by Jose Gaya – a full-back – among defenders. In fact, he's the only centre-back to get more than one assist in this fashion.

It all demonstrates how useful and reliable Torres can be for a team that wants to build from deep. Stylistically at least, it would seem the Spain international could be a great fit for United.

Room to grow, or not enough of an upgrade?

Despite the acclaim Torres has received over the past two seasons, there are those unconvinced by some of his defensive skills.

He has been accused of being too prone to making snap decisions, which does not tend to bring positive results for him in one-on-one situations, while it has also been pointed out that his communication with a partner can be poor, especially when it comes to offside traps.

The other potential issue is, while Torres is undoubtedly a wonderful player technically and arguably the most gifted centre-back in that regard in Spain, his weaknesses are similar to those already seen from Lindelof during his time at Old Trafford.

The problem many have with Lindelof is that he too often appears uneasy in physical confrontations, while also looking uncomfortable against nimble forwards.

Torres is athletic – tall, quick and strong, but he still seems unsure how best to use those physical traits at times, and his defensive numbers are not an upgrade on Lindelof.

The Sweden international averages more aerial challenges (3.5) and aerial wins (2.2) per 90 minutes than Torres (2.7 and 1.7) in the 2020-21 season, while their frequency of being involved in duels is very similar: 5.8 for Lindelof and 5.5 per game for Torres.

Torres does win more of those duels on average (3.4 to 3.3), but the difference is negligible. As for their respective abilities to sniff out danger, Lindelof also comes out on top with regards to interceptions, averaging 1.1 per game to Torres' 0.7.

Such metrics can often be skewed when an individual – in this case Lindelof – is playing for a team expecting to spend more time in possession against most opponents they come up against.

It underlines that Torres is generally a passive centre-back, which is not necessarily a bad thing, as Maguire is rather different, but it is a key aspect United would have to take into consideration if they are to make a move for him.

The caveat for Torres' blind spots, however, is that he is still only 24 and 2020-21 is just his second full season in LaLiga – he does have plenty of time to develop.

His exceptional technical skills at least provide him with a solid platform to build from, but would the other side of his game mean he would be considered an upgrade over Lindelof?

The Europa League final will be his final audition and an opportunity to prove how his strengths outweigh any weaknesses.

For the first time under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Manchester United are preparing for a final.

The Europa League might not be top of the agenda for Solskjaer's United ambitions but, after four semi-final defeats as manager in three different competitions, he will be delighted to have a shot at what could be the Red Devils' first trophy since they won this competition in 2017.

Of course, this is also a momentous occasion for Villarreal: a first European final of any kind against a team who have been in these matches seven times previously. However, the Spaniards boast experience in coach Unai Emery, who won this trophy on three occasions while in charge of Sevilla.

Ahead of the first major final in European competition this week, Stats Perform examines the key Opta data...

The Coaches

When it comes to experience at this stage, Emery certainly has the edge.

The former Arsenal boss lifted this trophy three years in a row from 2014 to 2016 and could become the first coach to win either the UEFA Cup or Europa League four times.

Solskjaer, however, has contested only one final in his managerial career: he won the 2013 Norwegian Cup with Molde. Indeed, no Norwegian coach has ever won a major European trophy.

Emery and Solskjaer have faced off twice before in the Premier League, when the Spaniard was at Arsenal. The Gunners won 2-0 at Emirates Stadium in March 2019, ending Solskjaer's unbeaten league start at United, before a 1-1 draw at Old Trafford in September of that year.

However, it was Solskjaer who came out on top when they met in a knockout fixture, United triumphing 3-1 in north London in an FA Cup tie in January 2019. Their goals in that tie came from Alexis Sanchez, Jesse Lingard and Anthony Martial - none of whom will be involved in Gdansk.

The Records

While Emery is chasing history of his own, Villarreal are hoping to become the 10th Spanish team in a row to defeat an English side in a European final - a run that includes United losing twice to Barcelona in the Champions League.

United have found it tough going against the Yellow Submarine in the past. In fact, the Red Devils have faced Villarreal more often without scoring than any other side in their history, with each of their previous four meetings ending 0-0.

However, United have won five of the seven major European finals they have contested (only Liverpool, with 14, have been in more among English sides). A win would secure the 67th trophy in their history, extending their lead over Liverpool (65) when it comes to England's most successful clubs.

The Star Names

All eyes will be on Bruno Fernandes in his first final for United.

The Portugal star has played 57 times this season, more than anyone else in Europe's top-five leagues, providing 28 goals and 18 assists. Only four players across those top leagues have been directly involved in more goals. His 137 chances created surpasses anyone else.

Wednesday could also see Mason Greenwood make his first career appearance in a final. Should he score, he would become only the second English teenager to do so in a major European final, the first being Brian Kidd, who netted on his 19th birthday when United beat Benfica in the 1968 European Cup final.

At the other end of the career spectrum sits Edinson Cavani, who has averaged a goal or assist every 35 minutes in this season's Europa League, the best return of anyone to play at least 200 minutes in the competition.

Cavani, who has 10 league goals in just 13 starts in his first season with the club, is bidding to become the third player aged 34 or over to score in a major European final for an English side, after Gary McAllister in the 2001 UEFA Cup final and Didier Drogba in the 2012 Champions League final.

Carlos Bacca has history in this fixture, having scored twice in the final six years ago for Sevilla. The Colombian could become the first player to score in a major European final for two teams from the same nation since Hernan Crespo, who was on target for Parma in 1999 and then Milan in 2005.

Villarreal's main threat will likely come through Gerard Moreno. With 29 goals and 10 assists in all competitions, he has been the most dangerous Spanish forward in Europe this term. Indeed, Lionel Messi (50) is the only player from LaLiga with more direct goal involvements.

Harry Maguire was included in the Manchester United travelling squad for Wednesday's Europa League final against Villarreal.

The Red Devils captain has not played since injuring his ankle in the 3-1 Premier League win over Aston Villa on May 9.

Manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer admitted on Sunday he did not expect Maguire to be involved but that he would give the centre-back as long as possible to prove his fitness.

While Maguire is in the 26-man group heading to Gdansk, striker Anthony Martial misses out.

Martial has not played for United since March due to a knee injury sustained while away on France duty.

Solskjaer has named young forwards Anthony Elanga, Amad Diallo and Shola Shoretire in the travelling party, with all three having featured in the 2-1 win over Wolves on the final day of the Premier League season.

Elanga scored his first Premier League goal in the victory at Molineux.


United squad travelling to the Europa League final:

David de Gea, Dean Henderson, Lee Grant, Nathan Bishop; Eric Bailly, Victor Lindelof, Harry Maguire, Luke Shaw, Alex Telles, Axel Tuanzebe, Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Brandon Williams; Amad Diallo, Bruno Fernandes, Fred, Daniel James, Juan Mata, Nemanja Matic, Scott McTominay, Paul Pogba, Donny van de Beek; Edinson Cavani, Anthony Elanga, Mason Greenwood, Marcus Rashford, Shola Shoretire.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer insists he is "ever the optimist" but does not expect Manchester United captain Harry Maguire to be fit for the Europa League final.

Maguire hurt his ankle in the 3-1 win at Aston Villa on May 9 and missed his side's final four Premier League matches of the season.

The England international has had to use a protective boot during his recovery but has not been definitively ruled out of Wednesday's match with Villarreal in Gdansk.

However, Solskjaer admits it is unlikely Maguire will be able to come through a full training session in Poland in just 48 hours' time.

"I will wait for Wednesday," the United manager said after Sunday's 2-1 win at Wolves. "Maybe see if he can run on Tuesday but it is still a bit away. I don't expect him to be ready.

"Of course, he wants to play but it is going to be up to the doctor. I don't expect him to be ready. It does not look great but, ever the optimist, I am still hopeful.

"He has to train on Tuesday when we are over there. It is not many days. I don't expect him to be ready."

United's win at Molineux saw them become only the third different club to go an entire top-flight season in England without losing an away game, after Preston North End (1888-89) and Arsenal twice (2001-02 and 2003-04).

Solskjaer chose to rest several key first-team players ahead of Wednesday's final, handing starts to back-ups such as Brandon Williams, Nemanja Matic and Juan Mata, as well as youngsters Amad Diallo and Anthony Elanga, while Will Fish and Hannibal Mejbri made their senior debuts as late substitutes.

Elanga broke the deadlock with his first Premier League goal before Mata's penalty secured the win after Nelson Semedo had equalised.

Solskjaer said he may well have fielded a stronger side had United been able to play a day earlier, as Villarreal did.

"If we had played yesterday I would probably have picked a different team. I am glad I didn't because it's the first win I have had here," he said.

"Fair play to LaLiga, moving seven games just for Villarreal to have another day of preparation. They could have played tonight and rested players against Real Madrid, it could have been a different result and you never know what that would have changed.

"Good by them and we have to think about it ourselves, definitely. We did not ask the Premier League but of course, whenever we can help our own teams we should do it."

Even with Maguire likely to be sidelined, Solskjaer still hopes he can win his maiden trophy as United boss in what will be his first final since his return to the club in late 2018.

"You always feel pressure at Man United to win things, win trophies," he said. "That is one of the steps. Sometimes a trophy can hide other imperfections but the progress in the league, that we have been in loads of semi-finals, it shows progress.

"But the next step for this team is to win trophies and challenge the champions in the Premier League as well.

"When you win things, you just want to win more. You want to feel that sensation. I know my players will believe but when you get the taste of that first one, it is a big step in the right direction. It is that taste for it. The belief is there, for sure."

Zinedine Zidane will head into pivotal talks with Real Madrid "in the next few days" after his team finished the season empty-handed.

A 2-1 win over Villarreal on Saturday was a hollow success, given rivals Atletico Madrid also won to clinch the LaLiga title, and Zidane summed up his emotions afterwards by saying: "My mood is screwed up."

Late goals from Karim Benzema and Luka Modric saw Madrid turn around the home game, after Yeremy Pino gave Villarreal the lead.

That goal made Yeremy the youngest player to score away against Madrid in LaLiga in the 21st century, at the age of 18 years and 214 days.

Villarreal have a Europa League final against Manchester United in Gdansk ahead of them on Wednesday, but Madrid's season is over.

Zidane is widely expected to leave, but he held fire on confirming his plans in the wake of the Villarreal game.

"We have to be calm. I'm going to talk to the club quietly, but later. Not now," Zidane said. "In the next few days we will talk about it. Soon we will see what will happen, not only with me but also with the club for next season."

Had Zidane announced his departure, it would have taken a good deal of attention away from Atletico.

Instead, he praised Diego Simeone's team for lasting the pace in the title race, ultimately finishing two points clear of Los Blancos and seven ahead of third-placed Barcelona.

"We must congratulate Atletico who deserve it, because the team at the top deserve it," Zidane said in a post-game news conference.

"We have given everything on the field and I am responsible for everything. What the players want is to win."

Madrid finished their LaLiga campaign on an 18-game unbeaten run, winning 13 and drawing five in that sequence to apply pressure on one-time runaway leaders Atletico.

That goes down as their best run without defeat in a single league season since Carlo Ancelotti's Madrid also strung together 18 unbeaten games in the 2013-14 campaign, winning 15 times.

Yet Madrid finish the season without a pot to their name, after an early Copa del Rey exit to Alcoyano, a Champions League semi-final loss to Chelsea, and a Supercopa de Espana last-four defeat to Athletic Bilbao.

"We have not won anything. We know what we have to achieve," Zidane said. "The fans are the most important thing here. They have to be very proud of what the players have done. We have given everything."

The 48-year-old Frenchman became the world's most expensive footballer when he arrived at Madrid from Juventus in July 2001, and it might be a wrench to leave the club for a third time.

He has departed as a player and as a coach before, and he might not get another chance to return to the job he currently holds.

Zinedine Zidane and Real Madrid missed out on the title and had to find comfort in the late comeback that brought a 2-1 home win against Villarreal in LaLiga.

Madrid have ended a season without silverware for the first time since 2009-10, and there are doubts over whether captain Sergio Ramos and particularly coach Zidane will remain at the club.

Needing a win here to stand any chance of overtaking Atletico Madrid, the long-time leaders, Zidane's team were sorely lacking in quality and looked set to end their campaign on a losing note.

LaLiga has worthy champions in Atletico, with Madrid trailing here for much of the game to a goal from 18-year-old Yeremy Pino, before Karim Benzema netted an 87th-minute leveller and Luka Modric fired a stoppage-time winner.

Zinedine Zidane feels flattered that Real Madrid's stars want him to stay at the club but claimed the team might be capable of hitting greater heights without him.

The Frenchman is widely expected to step down as Madrid coach during the close season, and confirmation of that could come as soon as Saturday.

Villarreal, who will face Manchester United in the Europa League final next Wednesday, provide the opposition for Madrid's final match of the campaign.

There is a chance Madrid could finish as LaLiga champions, but they head into the fixture with a two-point deficit to Atletico Madrid, who travel to Real Valladolid.

That would be an ideal way for Zidane to bow out of his second spell in charge of Los Blancos, although the most likely outcome is that his team finish runners-up.

When it was mentioned to Zidane in his pre-match news conference that the players would welcome him staying on, the 48-year-old said: "I love my players very much. They have saved me on the pitch, in the sense that they have always given everything in every game.

"That they think that for me is very nice as a coach."

Three-time FIFA world player of the year Zidane has won three Champions League titles with Madrid and LaLiga twice.

Asked whether Madrid could be a better side without him, Zidane gave a surprising response, saying: "Sure, sure."

He repeatedly refused to answer whether his mind was made up on his future.

"We are going to play tomorrow, that's the important thing. We have time to talk about that. This is not the time," Zidane said. "We must put all the energy into tomorrow's game After 37 matchdays we are not going to waste time talking about next year. We are only focusing on tomorrow's game.

"The important thing is not what I am going to do, but the team. I repeat myself, I'm sorry."

A barren season on the trophy front would be a sorry way for Zidane, the galactico turned superstar boss, to make his exit.

He could yet become the first Real Madrid manager to win two league titles in a row since Leo Beenhakker's three between 1987 and 1989, and Zidane may hope Villarreal's focus is on their European final.

However, Villarreal, who sit seventh heading into the weekend, will want to guarantee a place in next season's European competitions through their league placing, so it is not a dead game for them either.

Madrid have only won two of their last seven meetings with Villarreal in LaLiga (D4 L1). However, promisingly for Zidane, both of those wins came in their past two home league games (3-2 in May 2019 and 2-1 in July 2020).

If Madrid miss out on the title, Zidane accepts there will be disappointment, but he said: "My players cannot be blamed for anything. Injuries, COVID, there have been many things.

"You can always do better and I am always critical of myself. I am a winner and I don't like to lose. In my life I fight and I give everything to win. And the players also want to win."

Manchester United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has revealed Harry Maguire is likely to miss the Europa League final against Villarreal.

Maguire suffered ankle ligament damage in an awkward collision with Anwar El Ghazi during the 3-1 win over Aston Villa on May 9 and subsequently had to be withdrawn.

Solskjaer said earlier this week that Maguire was feeling optimistic about his chances of being fit for the match on May 26.

But Solskjaer has now said he does not expect the defender to recover in time.

"He's walking, but it's a long way from walking to running, so to be honest I don't think we'll see him in Gdansk," said the United boss.

"I'm going to give him until Tuesday night, the last training session, to see if he can be out there.

"Ligaments take time to heal."

His absence is an unusual situation for United and Maguire to find themselves in.

The centre-back had played in every minute of 71 consecutive league games for the Red Devils – and in his final five for Leicester City before moving two years ago – until that injury.

In fact, Maguire has played for 9,615 minutes in all competitions since the start of 2019-20. At the time of his injury, that was almost 1,000 more than any other player across the top five leagues.

Solskjaer added: "He's a very important person in the dressing room and a leader.

"Before the fans came in you all heard him from the stands. He wants the team to do well, he's organising from the stands, which has been easy because it's been so quiet.

"He'll be in the dressing room and make sure everyone's ready for the final."

If Maguire is indeed out, United are likely to line up with Victor Lindelof and Eric Bailly in the centre of defence, with the latter facing his former club.

Real Madrid have announced Toni Kroos – who was already in isolation – has tested positive for COVID-19, ruling him out of action for LaLiga's finale.

Midfielder Kroos missed Sunday's 1-0 win over Athletic Bilbao due to health and safety protocols having come into direct contact with a confirmed coronavirus case.

The Germany international had remained away from the club since Friday, when Madrid issued a statement revealing he had returned negative test results at that stage.

However, he will now miss the final game of the season for Los Blancos, who remain in the running to retain their league title in Spain.

"Real Madrid announces that our player, Toni Kroos, tested positive in the COVID-19 test he underwent today," a statement from the club read on Monday.

"Kroos has been in isolation since Friday, May 14 after having come into direct contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19."

Madrid's triumph at the weekend leaves them still two points behind leaders Atletico Madrid going into the closing weekend of the campaign.

It had appeared Zinedine Zidane's side were going to take over at the summit, only for their city rivals to stage a comeback at home against Osasuna. Luis Suarez scored a late winner at the Wanda Metropolitano to grab a 2-1 triumph that keeps them in pole position.

Madrid host Europa League finalists Villarreal on Sunday, while Diego Simeone's Atleti travel to relegation-threatened Real Valladolid.

Kroos' health will also be of great interest to Germany coach Joachim Low, too, considering the delayed Euro 2020 tournament begins next month.

The former Bayern Munich player missed the World Cup qualifiers in March due to injury, meaning his most recent international appearance came in the 6-0 Nations League loss to Spain in November 2020.

Europe's top five leagues all conclude this week and there are still plenty of matters to be resolved – not least who will be crowned champions in Spain and France.

Every division has something riding on the final days of the season, whether it be top spot, European qualification, or relegation.

Ahead of what is set to be a dramatic conclusion to the Premier League, LaLiga, Ligue 1, Serie A and the Bundesliga campaigns, we look at the state of play in each league.

 

PREMIER LEAGUE

Manchester City wrapped up the Premier League title with three games to spare, making them the first team in the competition's history to win the title despite being as low as eighth on Christmas Day.

All three relegation places were also decided with three games remaining – a Premier League record – with Fulham joining Sheffield United and West Brom in dropping down a division.

That leaves just the European spots to fight for, and it is shaping up to be an entertaining end to the English top-flight season in that regard. Manchester United are guaranteed a top-four finish, but five other teams – Leicester City, Chelsea, Liverpool, Tottenham and West Ham – are in the mix for the two other Champions League berths with two rounds of games to go.

There is also the small matter of the Europa League places for the teams finishing in fifth and sixth, as well as a spot in the inaugural Europa Conference League, which goes to the team in seventh, meaning everyone from 10th-placed Leeds United to Leicester in third have something to play for. That includes Arsenal, who have not missed out on European football of some sort in 25 years.

LALIGA 

The Spanish title race appeared to take a dramatic twist on Sunday as Real Madrid leapfrogged Atletico Madrid at the summit for around 20 minutes. However, Atleti scored two late goals to beat Osasuna, meaning they are two points ahead of their city rivals heading into the final round of games.

Atleti, who have led the way at the top for 29 matchdays, now need to match Madrid's result against Villarreal when they travel to relegation-threatened Real Valladolid on the final day of the season. It is worth noting that Los Blancos have the superior head-to-head record, so a draw would not be enough for Atleti if Madrid win.

Barcelona are officially out of the title race, meanwhile, but they are assured of a top-four finish along with Sevilla. Real Sociedad and Real Betis occupy the Europa League spots, while Villarreal are in a Europa Conference League berth, though just one point separates the three teams so that could all yet change.

To complicate matters, Villarreal could still qualify for the Champions League by winning the Europa League final against Manchester United.

At the bottom end of the division, Eibar are already relegated and they will be joined by two of Valladolid, Elche or Huesca. Valladolid must beat Atletico in their final game to have a chance of staying up, while the onus is on Elche to better Huesca's result as they are level on points but have an inferior head-to-head record.

LIGUE 1

The Ligue 1 title battle is also going right down to the wire in a three-way dogfight. After a thrilling race that has lasted the course of the season, underdogs Lille lead heavyweights Paris Saint-Germain by one point with one matchday left.

Monaco have won seven of their previous eight games and are three points off leaders Lille, though they require both Les Dogues and PSG to slip up on the final day, as well as beating Lens. Should it come down to goal difference, PSG hold a big lead over their two title rivals.

Incredibly, PSG are still not yet technically assured of a Champions League place as Lyon in fourth are only three points worse off, although it would take a defeat for the reigning champions and victory for Lyon, plus a goal swing of 16, for them to miss out.

Monaco's opponents Lens, incidentally, also have plenty to play for at the weekend as they are sixth – enough for Europa Conference League qualification – but can still be caught by Rennes in seventh, while they could yet overtake Marseille in fifth if results go their way.

At the opposite end of the table, there may only be one spot left to be settled in the bottom three – Dijon and Nimes are both already down – but six teams are still very much in danger of the drop. Nantes occupy the relegation play-off spot, with Lorient, Brest and Strasbourg just a point better off, and Bordeaux and Reims only two points clear.

SERIE A

With Inter being crowned Scudetto winners for the first time in 11 years at the start of the month, the biggest storyline in Serie A regards Juventus' top-four fate. The dethroned champions, who had finished top nine years running before this season, are currently down in fifth.

Juve are one point behind Napoli and Milan in the two spots directly above them, while Atalanta are three points better off in second and have the better head-to-head record against the Bianconeri.

Andrea Pirlo's side are therefore in need of favours on the final day in what is poised to be a nail-biting finale in terms of those Champions League places. Lazio will finish sixth, so they are assured of Europa League football next term, while Roma hold a two-point advantage over Sassuolo in the Europa Conference League position.

Parma and Crotone are both down already and one of Benevento or Torino will join them, the latter currently three points outside of the relegation zone and with a game in hand to play on Benevento.

BUNDESLIGA

RB Leipzig provided Bayern Munich with some stern competition for a while, but the Bavarian giants' quality eventually told and they are Bundesliga champions for a ninth year running.

It's not only the title race that's done and dusted in Germany, in fact, as RB Leipzig are certain of second place, and both Borussia Dortmund and Wolfsburg will join them in the Champions League next season.

Eintracht Frankfurt and Bayer Leverkusen, meanwhile, will finish in fifth and sixth respectively regardless of events later this week.

However, Union Berlin have work to do if they are to finish seventh for a place in the Europa Conference League play-offs as Borussia Monchengladbach are a point further back, while Stuttgart and Freiburg are two behind with a game to go.

Seven-time German champions Schalke will be competing in the second tier of German football next season, but Cologne and Werder Bremen are hanging on in there, sitting two and one point behind Arminia Bielefeld respectively in 15th place.

Where will Pau Torres play next season?

The Villarreal defender is reportedly wanted by Premier League giants Manchester United, who are set to face the LaLiga outfit in the Europa League final.

But Napoli are also eyeing the Spain international.

 

TOP STORY – UNITED FACE FIGHT FOR VILLARREAL DEFENDER

Manchester United could face a battle from Napoli to sign Villarreal centre-back Pau Torres, according to Gazzetta dello Sport.

United are looking to bolster their defence amid links to Real Madrid captain Sergio Ramos and team-mate Raphael Varane, as well as Sevilla's Jules Kounde.

Torres has emerged as a serious option, though Napoli are also reportedly interested, with star Kalidou Koulibaly's future uncertain.

 

ROUND-UP

- Lautaro Martinez and Inter have opened dialogue over a contract renewal, says the front page of Monday's Gazzetta dello Sport. Martinez has previously been tipped to join Barcelona, while Madrid have reportedly emerged as suitors.

- L'Equipe claims Lyon captain Memphis Depay will complete his move to Barca in June. It comes as Barca look to seal other free-transfer details for Manchester City defender Eric Garcia and Liverpool's Georginio Wijnaldum. Barca have also been linked with Borussia Dortmund sensation Erling Haaland and City's soon-to-be free agent Sergio Aguero.

Roma have no interest in signing Juventus goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon. The Italy great will leave Turin at the end of the season, but it will not be for the Italian capital, reports Calciomercato.

- According to Calciomercato, Mauro Icardi has been tipped to swap Paris Saint-Germain for Juventus. With Cristiano Ronaldo and Paulo Dybala linked with Juve exits, former Inter captain Icardi could return to Italy.

Atalanta are set to trigger their option to sign Cristian Romero from Juve, claims Fabrizio Romano. The defender has been scouted by United.

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