Tributes have been paid to three British nationals who died when a Ukrainian plane crashed in Iran.
Mohammed Reza Kadkhoda Zadeh, who owned a dry cleaners, BP engineer Sam Zokaei and PhD student and engineer Saeed Tahmasebi were all on board the flight.
They were among the 176 people from seven countries who died in the crash.
Ukraine International Airlines flight PS752 crashed just after taking off from Imam Khomeini airport at 06:12 local time (02:42 GMT).
The airline said the plane underwent scheduled maintenance on Monday.
A Downing Street spokesman said the UK was “working closely with the Ukrainian authorities and the Iranian authorities” over the crash, and there was “no indication” the plane was brought down by a missile.
Iran said it will not hand over black box flight recorders recovered from the plane. Under global aviation rules, Iran has the right to lead the investigation, but manufacturers are typically involved and experts say few countries are capable of analysing black boxes.
As well as the three Britons, the victims in the crash included 82 Iranians, 63 Canadians, 11 Ukrainians – including all of the crew, 10 Swedes, four Afghans and three Germans, Ukraine foreign affairs minister Vadym Prystaiko said.
Rescue teams were sent to the crash site but the head of Iran’s Red Crescent told state media that it was “impossible” for anyone to have survived the crash.
Tributes were paid locally to Mr Kadkhoda Zadeh, 40, who ran a neighbourhood dry cleaners in Hassocks, West Sussex, and had a nine-year-old daughter.
Steve Edgington from the pet shop next door said he had known Mr Kadkhoda Zadeh for 14 years, and described him as a lovely, hardworking man who was good at his job and loved by staff.
Savvas Savvidis, 36, who rented a room in Mr Kadkhoda Zadeh’s home in Brighton, said he was a “super-nice person”.
“It’s so sad. Before he left we had a conversation, he told me that he spent all his life working, working really hard, and now finally he wants to start to enjoy life a bit more.”
Mr Savvidis described Mr Kadkhoda Zadeh as a humble man who loved his daughter very much.
The dry cleaners closed on Wednesday, with neighbouring businesses telling the BBC that staff were too upset to stay open.
Meanwhile, in a statement, BP said “with the deepest regret” that its employee Mr Zokaei, 42, from Twickenham, was among the passengers.
Mr Zokaei had been on holiday. He had worked for BP for 14 years and was based at the company’s site in Sunbury-on-Thames in Surrey.
“We are shocked and deeply saddened by this tragic loss of our friend and colleague and all of our thoughts are with his family and friends,” BP said.
A friend of Mr Zokaei, who did not wish to be named, told the BBC they were “still in shock”.
“He was a highly accomplished person. Very clever and very friendly. Always smiling and full of positive energy. He will be sorely missed.
“He was always trying new adventures. He cycled and toured Europe on bikes a few times. He also loved travelling to interesting far out places.”
Also killed was Mr Tahmasebi, 35, who worked as an engineer for Laing O’Rourke in Dartford.
Last year, Mr Tahmasebi married his Iranian partner, Niloufar Ebrahim, who was also listed as a passenger on the plane.
“Everyone here is shocked and saddened by this very tragic news,” said Laing O’Rourke.
“Saeed was a popular and well respected engineer and will be missed by many of his colleagues. Our thoughts are with his family and friends at this most difficult time and we will do all we can to support them through it.”
‘Humble and generous’
Mr Tahmasebi – whose full name was Saeed Tahmasebi Khademasadi – was also a part-time PhD student at Imperial College London’s Centre for Systems Engineering and Innovation.
A spokeswoman for the university said: “We are deeply saddened at this tragic news. Saeed Tahmasebi Khademasadi was a brilliant engineer with a bright future.
“His contributions to systems engineering earned respect from everyone who dealt with him and will benefit society for years to come.
“He was a warm, humble and generous colleague and close friend to many in our community. Our thoughts and sincere condolences are with Saeed’s family, friends and colleagues, as well as all those affected by this tragedy.”
At Prime Minister’s Questions earlier, Boris Johnson and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn both said their thoughts were with the families of those killed.
A UK Foreign Office spokesman has said: “We are deeply saddened by the loss of life in the plane crash in Iran overnight.”
They said it was “urgently seeking confirmation” about how many British nationals were on board and would be supporting any families affected.
Melinda Simmons, British ambassador to Ukraine, said her thoughts are with those affected.
Ukraine’s state aviation service has forbidden its national airlines from using Iranian airspace from Thursday, with the restrictions in place until an investigation into the cause of the crash has concluded.
Ukraine’s embassy in Tehran and Iranian state television both initially said technical issues caused the crash.
But the embassy later removed this statement and said any comment regarding the cause of the accident prior to a commission’s inquiry was not official.
Ukraine said its entire civilian aviation fleet would be checked for airworthiness and criminal proceedings would be opened into the disaster.
The country’s president warned against “speculation or unchecked theories regarding the catastrophe” until official reports were ready.
Ukrainian International Airlines said the flight disappeared from radar just a “few minutes” after take-off.
The Ukrainian national carrier said according to preliminary data there were 167 passengers and nine crew members on board but its staff were “clarifying the exact number”.
“The airline expresses its deepest condolences to the families of the victims of the air crash and will do everything possible to support the relatives of the victims,” a statement said.
The airline, which is investigating the crash, said the aircraft – a Boeing 737-800 – was built in 2016 and had its last scheduled maintenance on Monday.
There was no sign of any problems with the plane before take-off and the airline’s president said it had an “excellent, reliable crew”.
A statement from Boeing said its “heartfelt thoughts” were with all those affected following the “tragic event”.
There are several thousand Boeing 737-800s in operation around the world which have completed tens of millions of flights. They have been involved in 10 incidents, including this crash, where at least one passenger was killed, aviation safety analyst Todd Curtis told the BBC.
This is the first time a Ukraine International Airlines plane has been involved in a fatal crash.
Mikel Arteta earned his first win as Arsenal boss as the Gunners produced a powerful first-half performance to beat a lacklustre Manchester United.
The visitors, who were without the injured Paul Pogba, actually began brightly, but the game took a different turn on eight minutes when Nicolas Pepe steered in his fifth goal of the season after Sead Kolasinac’s cross was deflected to him.
That led to a first half in which the hosts were in control and Pepe hit the post before they doubled their lead when his corner was smashed in from close range by Sokratis Papastathopoulos.
Ole Gunnar Solskajer’s side came into the game with one loss in their previous nine games, and although they improved after the break, they rarely tested Arsenal goalkeeper Bernd Leno.
It was characteristic of a stop-start season in which they are yet to win three Premier League games in a row.
The defeat leaves them fifth in the table, five points behind Chelsea, who drew with Brighton earlier in the day.
Victory for Arsenal ended a run of seven home games without a win in all competitions and lifted them to 10th place, four points behind United.
But they remain closer to the relegation zone than the top four.
Pepe peps up Arsenal
There has been evidence of a lift in Arsenal’s three performances since Arteta was appointed, but without a win, questions remained as to whether he was the right man to take over from former boss Unai Emery, given his lack of experience as a manager.
Arteta was just an onlooker in the stands for the lifeless draw at Everton, but that was followed by a 1-1 draw with Bournemouth on Boxing Day and a crushing late defeat by Chelsea at home last Sunday.
This was a different game altogether, though, as Arsenal put the pieces together. With Granit Xhaka, who has been linked with a move to Hertha Berlin, restored to the midfield, the Swiss and Lucas Torreira were quicker to the tackle than their opponents.
Mesut Ozil covered 11.54km, more distance than any other Arsenal player.
While record £72m signing Pepe was at the heart of Arsenal’s attacking endeavour as they were roared on by their fans.
After scoring early on, he sent United left-back Luke Shaw halfway down the Holloway Road with a sharp turn before setting up Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who sliced a volley over.
The Ivorian then fed Alexandre Lacazette, who somehow hit his shot out for a throw-in from about six yards out, before Torreira went close from another Pepe pass.
The hosts had to withstand greater pressure from Solskjaer’s side in the second period but in contrast to the Chelsea defeat, when they conceded twice in the last seven minutes, Arteta’s side managed the game well.
Their only concerns were injuries to Kolasinac and Lacazette, who were both taken off in the second half.
Pogba-less United show further cause for concern
Manchester United improved after the break, but it would have been hard not to do so after a poor first half.
Marcus Rashford had tested Bernd Leno in the first minute, but once they went behind to Pepe’s opener, they struggled to match Arsenal’s superior energy in midfield.
Jesse Lingard, who returned to the starting line-up, was hardly involved while Nemanja Matic could not get to grips with Ozil, Torreira or Xhaka, who were often one step ahead.
It was another game where Solskjaer’s team missed the influence of Pogba, who has not started a game in three months. After the game, the United boss said the French midfielder had picked up an ankle injury which would need an operation, keeping him out for “three or four weeks”.
Prior to the game, it had been hinted that Pogba would be fit to play.
United did lift their game once Lingard was substituted, with his replacement Andreas Pereira almost making an instant impact as he hit the side netting.
There were also chances for Fred and substitute Mason Greenwood, but without the injured Scott McTominay, and the ongoing problems with Pogba, United looked short on creativity in midfield and need to find solutions quickly should they want to maintain a top-four challenge.
Man of the Match – Nicolas Pepe
Arsenal finally beat top half team – the best stats
- This was Arsenal’s first Premier League win this season against a team currently in the top half of the Premier League (P10 W1 D4 L5).
- Nicolas Pepe has scored all his five goals for Arsenal in all competitions in London – four at the Emirates and one at London Stadium.
- Arsenal have scored eight goals via corners in the Premier League this season, two more than any other team.
- Manchester United have now lost four of their past five away Premier League visits to Arsenal (W1).
Arsenal host Leeds on Monday, 6 January in the FA Cup third round (kick-off 19:56 GMT), while Manchester United travel to Wolves on Saturday, 4 January (kick-off 17:31) in a repeat of their quarter-final defeat last season.
Christmas dinners have been served to Londoners who are reliant on the city’s homelessness services.
Hairdressers and opticians were also made available at City Hall before guests were given a three-course meal.
Last year, 8,855 people were seen rough sleeping in London, an 18% increase since last year, and more than double the number in 2010.
“Events like this help bring a sense of community back in to London,” Claire, a former rough sleeper, told the BBC.
Claire, who spent 30 years either living on the streets or in prison, said: “It’s the type of event that does matter. It forms partnerships and builds bonds.
“If it wasn’t for the support of St Mungo’s, I’d either be dead or doing what I was before.”
Guests were chosen from the thousands of Londoners that currently receive assistance from services funded by City Hall and delivered by charities St Mungo’s and Thames Reach.
But Claire said services were still “hit and miss”.
“Where I live I’m still waiting for support with my mental health,” she added.
Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said: “St Mungo’s and Thames Reach are struggling with finances.
“Since I became mayor we’ve more than doubled the amount of money we’ve spent on rough sleeping and the size of our outreach team.
“But we’re just scratching the surface. We’ve not got the money or the resources to do much more – as it is I’m criticised for going outside my remit and my power.
“It is both heartbreaking and shameful that in one of the richest cities in the world we still have the levels rough sleeping that we do.”
Last year 15,470 people were accepted as being homeless by London councils.
There were 55,000 families living in temporary accommodation, such as bed and breakfasts and hostels.
Hundreds more people are estimated to be sleeping on London’s night buses.
Petra Salva, Director of Rough Sleeper Services at St Mungo’s, said: “It’s wonderful that the Mayor has opened the doors of City Hall for this festive event.
“Christmas can be a time of mixed emotions for clients in our services and our staff work hard to support those who stay with us over the holiday period.”
Sue Peart is preparing to be on the phone for Samaritans on Christmas Day.
It comes after her life quickly changed in 2017, when she left her job as a national magazine editor to look after her sick mother, who died only months later.
As a result, Sue’s mental health suffered – but two years later she is lending an ear to those in need.
Video Journalist: Paul Murphy-Kasp
Ryan Sessegnon marked his first Tottenham start with a goal but could not prevent Spurs from losing 3-1 to Bayern Munich in their final Champions League group game.
Both sides had already qualified for the last 16, with Bayern progressing as Group B winners and Tottenham going through as runners-up, and consequently they made numerous changes for Wednesday’s encounter at the Allianz Arena.
Bayern beat Spurs 7-2 in their first meeting in this season’s competition at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium and took an early lead through Kingsley Coman.
Spurs hit back soon after when Sessegnon showed great composure to bring a pass under control inside the area and rifle a powerful finish beyond Manuel Neuer.
Thomas Muller, on as a first-half substitute after Coman picked up an injury, then struck just before the break when he tapped in after Alphonso Davies had hit the post.
Philippe Coutinho went close to scoring a spectacular third for the hosts but his fierce drive from distance bounced off the underside of the crossbar before being cleared.
The former Liverpool forward got on the scoresheet in the second half when he curled into the bottom corner from the edge of the area.
Spurs will face one of Barcelona, Juventus, Paris St-Germain, Valencia or RB Leipzig in the last 16, with the draw on Monday.
After the game, Bayern said France forward Coman would be out for “some time” with a capsule tear in the left knee”.
Sessegnon shines on full debut
With qualification to the last 16 and positions in the group already sorted before this game, Spurs boss Jose Mourinho understandably opted to give his fringe and young squad players a chance to shine.
After a testing start to his Spurs career, Sessegnon grasped his opportunity with both hands. The 19-year-old signed from Fulham on deadline day but a hamstring injury he picked up in the summer while with England Under-21s had limited him to just three first-team appearances from the bench.
He took just 20 minutes to make an impression in Munich, thundering an unstoppable strike past Neuer after first taking a touch to control Giovani lo Celso’s deflected pass.
At 19 years and 207 days, Sessegnon became Spurs’ youngest Champions League scorer and went on to put on an assured performance.
He was the standout player for an otherwise flat Spurs who struggled to compete against a Bayern team that barely got out of third gear.
Man of the match – Ryan Sessegnon (Tottenham)
Bayern join an exclusive club – the stats
- Bayern Munich became just the second club to win all six of their group games in a single Champions League campaign (in the competition’s current format, since 2003-04) after Real Madrid, who have done so twice (in 2011-12 and 2014-15).
- By collecting maximum points (18) and a goal difference of +19 Bayern became the best group winner in the history of the competition.
- Spurs manager Jose Mourinho has lost each of his three away games at Bayern Munich, with all three coming in the Champions League in charge of different teams (3-2 with Chelsea, 2-1 with Real Madrid and 3-1 with Spurs).
- Bayern Munich have gone unbeaten at home in the Champions League group stage for the sixth consecutive campaign, winning 17 of their 18 games at the Allianz Arena since the 2014-15 season (D1).
- Spurs have conceded at least two goals in five of their six games under Jose Mourinho in all competitions (11 in total), including in all three of their away games.
- Bayern Munich’s Thomas Muller scored his 28th Champions League goal at the Allianz Arena – only four players have ever scored more at a single venue in the competition (Lionel Messi at the Nou Camp and Cristiano Ronaldo, Raul and Karim Benzema at the Bernabeu).
- Ryan Sessegnon is the third-youngest player to score a Champions League goal under Jose Mourinho, after Carlos Alberto (19y 167d) and Mario Balotelli (18y 84d).
‘I learned important information’ – what they said
Tottenham boss Jose Mourinho said: “It would be unfair to speak about conclusions. No conclusions, just information and that is very important for me.
“Some of the players played their first minutes with me. Some of the players like Foyth was the first time he played.
“It was important to collect some information, information you normally collect in the season or in pre-season. I just arrived and I need information.
“I am happy with the decisions I made, I hope our supporters understand what I did. Internally we made this decision and we think it was the best decision for the team.”
Tottenham return to Premier League action this weekend when they travel to Wolves on Sunday (14:00 GMT). Meanwhile, the draw for the last 16 of the Champions League is on Monday (11:00 GMT).
Croydon. Famous for concrete, Boxpark, Stormzy and Kate Moss.
The south London borough is home to some 387,000 people, with the highest number of under-18s in the capital.
Croydon North, Croydon South and Croydon Central are its three parliamentary constituencies. The latter is a marginal, bellwether seat and since 1979 its winner has belonged to the party that forms the next government.
On a wet, grey day, residents shared their views on the election issues that mattered most to them.
Gemma, 33, is a council officer who moved to the area five years ago and lives in Shirley.
She said she “loves Croydon” and it had improved in her time there with the opening of places such as Boxpark – a pop up mall next to East Croydon station that serves a variety of cuisines from converted shipping containers.
The election however, is causing her some consternation. “I just feel like we’re on the precipice of something awful and there just needs to be a massive change.”
The environment and education are her top priorities.
“As I have two young children, my son just started school and I love his school but I’d be devastated if cuts affected it,” she said.
Waiting for a tram Courtney Robinson, a software engineer in his 20s, said Brexit was his bugbear.
“I feel the people are being sold isolation as independence and it is my generation and those after us who will pay the consequences,” he said.
He is not entirely convinced by any of the main party leaders.
He said he was disappointed with Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn not taking a stance over Europe and believed the Tories have “screwed over the country”.
According to the council, about 7,000 people are employed in Croydon’s tech-associated industries, with a further 7,000 in engineering.
As a millennial working in tech, Mr Robinson said housing costs were less of a problem for him, despite the “ludicrous” prices.
He rents a flat in New Addington that only takes up 15% of his salary but said the price of commuting was a big concern.
His views on Brexit and transport were shared by 50-year-old Daisy Nahrulla, who has lived in her own home in Thornton Heath for the past 18 years.
She has been training to be a business coach after years working in the City in transport financing.
Ms Nahrulla has previously voted Labour but said she wanted to move away from the “mess that is Brexit” and would either vote Liberal Democrat or Green.
“We need more stations in south London. Transport has been under-invested for years,” she said.
Melissa Brooks, 33, is a single mother of two who was born in Croydon. Retail accounts for a large proportion of the local economy and for the past 16 years Ms Brooks has worked part-time at Next.
She said violence and drugs were her worry, having witnessed people “sniffing things off bin lids” outside her home.
Her eldest son starts high school next year and she has chosen a school nearest to their home.
“He’s so quiet and you don’t have to be part of a gang now. They’re targeting random innocent people and that really scares me,” she said.
She did not vote in the 2017 election but did take part in the EU referendum.
Essentially though she has lost faith. “I don’t know if it makes a difference really,” she said.
- Drug crime in the year to September in Croydon was twice England’s national average, according to Croydon Council data
- Violent crime was also higher, with 17.3 crimes per every 1,000 of the population compared to 11.3 across England
- Croydon University Hospital’s most recent CQC report found it needed to improve overall but that outpatient waiting times were good and within national standards for many conditions, including cancer
- Croydon Council and the Home Office have been the town’s largest employers with more than 41,000 people working in these offices
- Retail and logistics employed more than 16,000 people respectively in 2017
Her friend Ann Charles, 69, lives in South Norwood and is a mother of three.
She is a carer for her eldest daughter and volunteers at a lunch club.
Ms Charles said normally she voted Labour but would not be doing so as she did not trust Mr Corbyn but she said she was “not sure about Boris either”.
She recently spent more than eight hours waiting on a regular trip to a hospital with her daughter and said the main problem for her was immigration.
“We need some of it but schools and hospitals are inundated with people, they’re struggling to cope,” she said.
Milo, 18, is studying mechanics at Croydon College. His mum and dad have always voted in the election and he said he planned to vote Labour.
He wanted politicians to “look out for the youth” and speak to young people, especially those in areas of “higher gang activity”.
“Ask them what they’re into and make the changes,” he added.
Tom Magrath has been working on a stall at the town’s Surrey Street market since he was 14.
He shared Milo’s concerns about knife crime but said he could not vote for Mr Corbyn and would be voting for the Conservative Party on 12 December.
Mr Magrath added: “They’ve got to… get us out of the EU because we voted for that.
“I know what we’re going to get though – the best of a bad bunch.”
Arsenal have identified Wolves boss Nuno Espirito Santo as a potential replacement for Unai Emery if the Gunners decide to sack the Spaniard.
Head coach Emery is under pressure after a winless run of six matches across all competitions.
Arsenal have only won four of 13 Premier League games this season.
BBC Sport understands that if Emery is sacked and Nuno is allowed to speak to Arsenal, then the Portuguese would be a strong contender to take over.
Nuno said it would be “disrespectful” to talk about being linked with Arsenal when asked in a news conference before his side’s Europa League tie against Braga on Thursday.
“I wouldn’t ever mention an issue which is not a reality,” he said. “Speaking about a job which has a manager would be disrespectful and I will not do so.”
Emery said he still has the full support of the club, having been warned results must improve while being offered public backing by the Arsenal hierarchy earlier this month.
“Really the club is supporting me,” he said. “I feel the club, everyone responsible in that area, is backing me. Really I appreciate it a lot.
“I feel strong with that support and know my responsibility to come back and change that situation.”
The former Sevilla and Paris St-Germain boss added he is only focused on “today and tomorrow” as he prepares for his side’s Europa League match at home to Eintracht Frankfurt on Thursday.
“My job is to prepare for the match, to show the best performance in front of our supporters,” he said.
Arsenal go into Thursday’s game top of Group F, four points clear of both their German opponents and Standard Liege.
On Sunday, a number of Arsenal fan groups called for “urgent action” over the “state of things” at the club.
“My focus is only today and tomorrow, to do all the things that we have worked on here at the training ground,” Emery added.
“We know our supporters were disappointed by the draw against Southampton, but we have the perfect chance to reconnect with our supporters.
“Our wish is that every supporter tomorrow helps the team, we need them.”
Arsenal are also eight points adrift of the top four and 19 points behind Premier League leaders Liverpool.
Chelsea became the first team through to the Women’s Continental League Cup quarter-finals after beating Tottenham 5-1 at Kingsmeadow.
Beth England scored two of Chelsea’s five second-half goals to ensure Chelsea progressed and extended their unbeaten run in all competitions to 10 games this season.
Elsewhere, there were also wins for fellow WSL sides Brighton and West Ham.
Brighton’s 5-0 win over London Bees moved them top of Group B.
The Hammers’ 3-1 win over Lewes moved them up to second in Group D behind Chelsea.
In the only all-WSL fixture of the night, Drew Spence’s early second-half goal set Chelsea up for a convincing win.
The London derby defeat was Spurs’ second in four days, having gone down 2-0 to Arsenal in front of a Women’s Super League record crowd of 38,262 at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on Sunday.
There was nothing like that crowd at Kingsmeadow, a ground with a capacity of less than 4,900 – which itself attract a record attendance for a WSL game held at a non-Premier League stadium when 4,790 watched Chelsea overcome Manchester United on Sunday.
In the all-Championship fixtures, Charlie Estcourt scored a late winner for Charlton Athletic against London City Lionesses, while the second tier’s bottom side Coventry United held division leaders Aston Villa in a 2-2 draw before going on to earn an extra point with a penalty shootout win.
- Coventry United 2-2 Aston Villa (Coventry won penalty shootout 3-1)
- Charlton Athletic 1-0 London City Lionesses
- London Bees 0-5 Brighton
- Chelsea 5-1 Tottenham
- West Ham 3-1 Lewes
BBC Sport has launched #ChangeTheGame to showcase female athletes in a way they never have been before. Through more live women’s sport available to watch across the BBC in 2019, complemented by our journalism, we are aiming to turn up the volume on women’s sport and alter perceptions. Find out more here.
Saracens have brought in a major communications company to help manage the public fallout of the salary cap scandal, with the Premiership champions yet to formally appeal against their points deduction and fine.
Sarries are set to be docked 35 points and fined £5.36m after an inquiry into business dealings between owner Nigel Wray and some of the club’s players.
Journalists were banned from asking director of rugby Mark McCall questions about the salary cap breach during Wednesday’s regular media briefing.
The news conference was called to preview their match against Racing 92 on Saturday, when they will begin the defence of their European Champions Cup crown.
FTI Consulting, a global business advisory firm, were present at the briefing and will oversee how Sarries manage the situation publicly.
McCall confirmed the club have until Monday, 18 November to officially lodge their appeal.
In a statement issued on the same day the sanctions were announced, owner Wray said it felt as though “the rug is being completely pulled out from under our feet” and vowed to “appeal against all the findings”.
Premiership Rugby has said a review “can only be on the basis that there has been an error of law, the decision is irrational or that there has been some procedural unfairness”.
What did McCall actually say on Wednesday?
Former Ireland international McCall said it will be a “heck of a challenge” if the 35-point deduction stands, adding that it would be about the Premiership holders “trying to avoid relegation”.
“It’s a challenge we haven’t had to experience before as a group and I think one that we’ll get our head around and relish if we have to do that,” he told BBC Sport.
“We’re in a bit of adversity at the moment and I think over the years when adversity has come our way we’ve dealt with it pretty well.
“This is obviously probably adversity at a different level to what we’ve been used to before.”
Saracens have won six of their opening eight games in all competitions and are likely to be without most of their England World Cup players for their European opener in France, with several yet to return to training.
“I genuinely don’t think it’s realistic that people can jump from being away for five months into something completely different,” McCall added.
“For us to try and tell them playing against Racing’s the biggest game – they played a World Cup final two weeks ago – so we’ve been having some individual conversations to see how they genuinely feel and try to make some decisions with them, rather than for them, as to when they come back.”
What does it all mean for their European campaign?
Saracens centre Alex Lozowski, who spoke to the media after McCall, insisted the club can “absolutely” defend their European crown, adding they are “not going to lie down and give it away”.
But European Professional Club Rugby director general Vincent Gaillard earlier said the sanction “isn’t good news” for their tournament.
“Our concern rests in their capacity to put everything into the European Cup knowing that they will have to fight all the way to avoid relegation,” said Gaillard.
“Perhaps other clubs will be happy that they are going to be a bit wounded but it’s not good news for us.
“We would prefer that they are thoroughly behind the competition.”
England international Lozowski said the Saracens squad had become accustomed to not being popular within the sport, after the silverware they have won over recent years.
“Since I’ve been here we’ve been pretty much been universally disliked so it’s not really new to us,” he said.
“That’s what happens when you have success and win championships. What happened has, I guess, made that a bit worse but we are used to being disliked so it’s nothing new for us.
“The target on our backs may be a little bit bigger now but looking at the people we have I’m pretty sure everyone’s ready to deal with that.”
What’s the background?
The charges relate to a failure to disclose player payments in each of the 2016-17, 2017-18 and 2018-19 seasons.
Saracens previously claimed they “readily comply” with salary cap rules and were able to spend above the £7m cap because of the high proportion – almost 60% – of home-grown players in their squad.
The Allianz Park outfit have several of the game’s biggest stars on their books, including seven of the 31-man squad that represented England at the World Cup in Japan.
One of the dominant forces in northern hemisphere club rugby, Sarries have won five Premiership titles and three European Champions Cups since 2010-11 – with two of those domestic titles coming in the timeframe that Premiership Rugby have been investigating.
Their three European successes have all come within the past four seasons.
Son Heung-min scored twice following a difficult few days to take Tottenham towards the Champions League knockout stages by thrashing Red Star Belgrade.
Spurs lie second in Group B, four points clear of Red Star in third, knowing one victory from their final two games will ensure progression to the last 16.
Forward Son, who was left “devastated” by his foul that led to a horrific ankle injury for Everton’s Andre Gomes on Sunday, netted twice in the second half, lashing home a finish from an angle and tapping in from close range.
The South Korean did not celebrate his first goal; instead he clasped his hands and bowed his head.
Mauricio Pochettino’s side went ahead in the first half courtesy of the impressive Giovani Lo Celso, who clipped home a finish on his first start for the club following an almighty goalmouth scramble in which Spurs hit the post and bar. Christian Eriksen added a fourth late on.
Red Star had chances of their own but could not find a way past Paulo Gazzaniga, with the Spurs goalkeeper saving sharply off Milan Pavkov and Rajiv van La Parra.
It was Spurs’ first away win since their thrilling Champions League semi-final comeback against Ajax last season.
Son on song for Spurs
Tottenham’s overall form this season has been poor, losing four of their 11 matches in the Premier League and suffering a 7-2 humiliation at home by Bayern Munich.
But the north Londoners have recovered from that demolition in outstanding fashion, scoring nine goals in back-to-back games against Red Star.
Their victory in Belgrade was all the more impressive as the home side tend to provide a stern examination for the visitors, losing just twice in their previous 21 games in Europe at the Rajko Mitic Stadium, including an impressive victory over eventual winners Liverpool last season.
Son was sent off for tripping Gomes in the 1-1 draw at Goodison Park on Sunday and was visibly distraught by the injury but Pochettino said he was “in a very good way” to play and his two goals showed it.
For the first, he received a pass inside the area from Dele Alli, worked it onto his left foot and smashed a finish into the roof of the net. With the events of Sunday still on his mind, Son opted to remain subdued.
His second finished off a neat team move, converting from close range following Danny Rose’s low cross to the back post.
Midfielder Eriksen came off the bench to round off an excellent night for Spurs by deftly clipping in with five minutes remaining.
Lo Celso displays his potential
Argentine midfielder Lo Celso joined Spurs on loan – with an option to buy – from Real Betis on transfer deadline day in August, but has been restricted to six substitute appearances having struggled with a hip problem.
In Serbia, he showed a glimpse of his potential with an all-round, energetic performance, seemingly shaking of his early season injury issues.
During his 86 minutes on the pitch, Lo Celso touched the ball more times (102) and made more tackles (five) than any other player on the pitch, while he won the ball back eight times. He made 79 passes with an accuracy of 90%.
The former Paris St-Germain player finished off the opening goal well, taking a touch and stroking in from six yards out but not before an incredibly chaotic period of play.
Lo Celso had slipped Harry Kane through on the goal and the skipper toe-poked his effort against the post, while Son saw his follow-up cleared off the goalline.
The Red Star defenders failed to clear and the ball eventually reached Kane again at the back post, but his volley across goal was somehow diverted onto the crossbar by Son from a yard out.
Again Red Star were unable to get the ball to safety, allowing Lo Celso to claim his first goal for Tottenham.
We need to keep going – Pochettino
Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino told BT Sport: “We are happy for the performance of the team. It is a very difficult place and we spoke a lot before the game about Liverpool, PSG and Napoli not winning here, but the team was fantastic.
“We controlled the game after we scored and we were much better. We have a big squad and when you have plenty of options you have problems too because someone is happy and someone is not.
“This season is different to the previous season and now we need to keep going. It is only a game and we need to add three more points to qualify but it is a good feeling after Everton.”
Man of the match – Son Heung-min (Tottenham)
Spurs’ scoring run – the stats
- Tottenham’s victory was their first away win in any competition in nine games this season (D5 L3).
- Red Star Belgrade have suffered their heaviest home defeat in their European Cup/Champions League history.
- Tottenham have become the first English team to beat Red Star away from home in a Champions League/European Cup tie.
- Red Star have conceded more goals than any other side after four rounds of matches in this season’s Champions League (13).
- Tottenham have now scored in each of their past 13 Champions League away games – only Chelsea (13 between March 2000 and April 2005) can match such a run among English sides in the competition.
- Giovani Lo Celso scored his sixth goal in his past eight appearances across the Europa League/Champions League.