Raheem Sterling believes he has transformed from a player who was not "living the way I should" into a football obsessive.

Sterling heads into Saturday's derby against Manchester United at the Etihad Stadium as Manchester City's premier attacking threat, particularly in the injury-enforced absence of Sergio Aguero.

The England forward has become indispensable for club and country, converting his promise into prolific returns over recent seasons.

Under the guidance of Pep Guardiola, former Liverpool star Sterling blossomed with 18 and 17 goals respectively in City's back-to-back Premier League triumphs in 2017-18 and 2018-19.

The 24-year-old has eight in 14 top-flight outings this time around, the same number of goals he amassed during England's successful Euro 2020 qualifying campaign.

"It's all about mentality. Mentality, maturity and growing up," Sterling said.

"I think now I'm living for football. I'm obsessed with football, obsessed with scoring goals, obsessed with recovering quicker and obsessed with improving myself.

"You have every facility here so you have to use it to the best of your advantage to try to be the best you can be. I was decisive but I wasn't 100 per cent committed. I wasn't 100 per cent living the way I should be living to be a professional footballer. I realised that and changed it.

"You see the improvements on the pitch and so that's why you continue to do it. Because you see how you feel on the field and what your output is.

"You look at what your numbers are doing. It's a good thing and, as a professional, you have to learn, take it in your stride and keep learning. That’s all I do."

An uncomfortable number for City to look at right now is the 11-point gap between themselves and Premier League leaders Liverpool.

Jurgen Klopp's men won 3-1 when the sides met at Anfield last month and have only dropped two points all season, although Sterling is not giving up on three consecutive league titles just yet.

"We just need to keep winning games and hope they lose some," he said.

"It's as simple as that. They're playing some good football at the moment, but it's a long season. We have got to keep winning, keep believing.

"Football is a funny game and in one moment it can change. You have to be ready. At the moment, they're leading, and we just have to keep working and keep winning."

First of all, that means no slip ups against United, who won two and drew one of the previous three derbies at the Etihad Stadium before City ran out 3-1 winners last term.

"We're always fighting against each other to be the number one team in the city," Sterling added.

"That's always a great thing to do. Both teams have great players and great managers; I think this weekend we'll show nothing less.

"Playing against United is always difficult and we know it'll be a tough game."

Pep Guardiola conceded he is surprised by the gap between Manchester City and Manchester United since he took charge at the Etihad Stadium.

City and United – who meet in this season's first Manchester derby on Saturday - finished fourth and fifth respectively in 2015-16, separated only by goal difference after amassing 66 points apiece.

Guardiola's arrival at the same time as Jose Mourinho took charge at Old Trafford for the subsequent campaign was expected to herald an unforgettable new chapter in a century-old local squabble, while adding to the enmity the two elite tacticians built up when at Barcelona and Real Madrid.

It did not quite pan out that way, with Mourinho's EFL Cup and Europa League triumphs in 2016-17 proving to be a false dawn at United.

By the time the former Chelsea and Inter boss was sacked in December last year, City were on their way to back-to-back Premier League titles and a domestic treble that means Guardiola has lifted five of the past six major honours on offer in England.

City are 11 points better off than United heading into the match at the Etihad Stadium, the gap having been nine, 19 and 32 points at the end of each of the past three seasons.

Guardiola pointed to his team's 3-2 defeat to their rivals on their own patch in April 2018, a result that delayed a coronation as champions, as a warning of what can happen in derby matches, but he was realistic about the overall picture in Manchester

"My reflection is we were better. In the time we were here, we were better than United at the end of the season," he said.

"The points show that. Our consistency was incredible. It surprised myself, too.

"But in one game, another game, a derby, everything can happen."

At his own pre-match news conference, United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer joked about not always being able to enjoy Manchester derbies during his playing days as City loitered in the lower divisions – a period at the end of the 1990s in which Guardiola has become well-versed.

"We love our clubs. Each fan loves their club and that's why they support. It doesn't matter if you have a lot of success in the past, it's part of how you feel," he said.

"Normally the supporters want to see their teams win and win and win, but they support them even in the bad, bad circumstances.

"Manchester City, I learned in the history, in the bad, bad moments, always the support was higher or more louder than now.

"In the perspective of the trophy cabinet, they are better. No doubts about that. Numbers are numbers in that situation and they lift more titles than us.

"But we try to be there for as long as possible. For City fans, Manchester City always will be better, like United fans will always believe their club is better."

In terms of a competitive rivalry, Liverpool now concern the blue side of Manchester as they once did the red.

Despite an 11-point gap to Jurgen Klopp's Premier League leaders, Guardiola is satisfied with the efforts of a City team who stylishly returned to winning ways by thumping Burnley 4-1 in midweek.

"I don't know. One reason, no doubt about that, is the quality of the opponent. Their numbers are incredible," he said.

"I expected a bit [of a drop off] in the first weeks of the season after back-to-back [titles] but the players, I am not dissatisfied with how they play. I am quite happy when I review all the games we played.

"I don't believe the stats too much, but I know we are the best team by far creating chances and the best team by far [at] conceding few [chances].

"But we are 11 points behind. Something happened, I will try to discover."

A vulnerable defence without the injury Aymeric Laporte and departed captain Vincent Kompany has been frequently cited, not least after City stepped away from a close-season bidding war with United for England centre-back Harry Maguire.

"He's a United player, he decided to go there," Guardiola added. "They paid more than we wanted to pay and he is there.

"I think he's an exceptional player for United and for England."

Nigel Pearson will lead Watford's survival mission after returning to the Premier League as head coach of the Hornets.

The former Leicester City manager succeeds Quique Sanchez Flores, whose short-lived second spell at Vicarage Road was brought to an end last weekend after a sore defeat to Southampton.

Pearson has signed a contract initially until the end of the season, Watford said on their official website.

The Hornets sit bottom of the Premier League with eight points from 15 matches. Pearson, 56, becomes their third head coach of the campaign, after Javi Gracia and Flores.

Watford chairman and chief executive Scott Duxbury said: "Nigel is an impressive coach and comes with all of the experience and success we believe can have a very positive impact on our season.

"It's been a pleasure spending time listening to the passion with which he talks about the game. His enthusiasm, organisation and motivation will I'm certain prove essential in driving the team forwards and upwards over the coming weeks and months."

Former England Under-21 boss Pearson previously managed Leicester in the top flight, in the second of his two spells with the Foxes, and has also had stints in charge of clubs including Southampton, Derby County and Hull City. His last job was with OH Leuven in Belgium.

Pearson will be presented to Watford's supporters at Saturday's home game against Crystal Palace, but the team will be managed by interim boss Hayden Mullins, Watford said.

Leicester City striker Jamie Vardy has 14 goals for the Foxes this season with nine in his past seven Premier League games.

Vardy's form has sparked talk of a title challenge for Brendan Rodgers' side, with Leicester currently occupying second place - eight points behind leaders Liverpool.

The 32-year-old's current sequence has also drawn comparison with another of his hot streaks when Leicester last won the league. 

Vardy's incredible run of scoring 11 matches in a row, which broke Ruud van Nistelrooy's record of 10 goals in consecutive matches, was one of the most memorable moments of Leicester's championship-winning campaign of 2015-16.

"I don't think he is," Rodgers said, when asked if Vardy was thinking about breaking for the record again. "I think he just looks to the next game."

VARDY'S GOALS ECHO 5000-1 TITLE SEASON

When Vardy is flying, so are Leicester. There is something more than reminiscent about his current ruthlessness in front of goal. Or is there?

Vardy seems to be attempting fewer dribbles this time around – his tally of 13 so far is proportionally lower than the 33 he made in those record-breaking 11 matches. A sign, perhaps, his style is not quite as tenacious and direct as a few years ago.

He is marginally down on the number of shots on goal, too. He has attempted 24 shots in the past seven games versus 49 in 11 during 2015.

Vardy does, though, have two assists to his name during this streak against none last time around. An indicator of his experience, intelligence and awareness.

"I love his energy," said Rodgers. "I love his passion. He actually loves football, which helps. He knows the game."

 

HIGH-OCTANE VARDY STILL HUNGRY FOR GOALS

The well-documented pre-match routine has remained the same for Vardy under Rodgers.

Vardy still downs three cans of Red Bull, sips a double-expresso coffee and munches on a cheese and ham omelette ahead of kick-off.

He also remains as committed and hungry as ever, even though he turns 33 next month. It was only eight years ago he was working in a factory before turning professional for Fleetwood Town.

In the build up to the campaign, Vardy came back leaner and meaner than he has ever been. The Telegraph reported his pre-season his fitness statistics were 21 per cent better his best score in 2012, the year he joined the Foxes.

He has also been more accurate during this goalscoring streak. Vardy has a shooting accuracy of 72.7 per cent and a shot conversion of 37.5 per cent in his present run compared to 62.2 and 26.5.

 

FIVE GOALS FROM GREATNESS

Five goals in five games would see Vardy break the record he set in November 2015.

Leicester's next five games are Aston Villa (a), Norwich (h), Manchester City (a), Liverpool (h) and West Ham (a) and Vardy will be a near-certain starter provided he does not pick up an injury or suspension.

On paper, Liverpool and City might present Vardy's biggest test but he actually boasts an impressive record against the Premier League's top clubs.

His seven goals in 10 games against Liverpool is only bettered by the nine he has scored facing Arsenal in the same number of matches – no wonder they wanted to sign him in 2016! 

Against defending champions City, he has four goals in 10 appearances, one in four against Villa, one in two versus Norwich and three in nine against West Ham.

Chelsea can press on with their January plans after the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) halved their transfer ban on Friday.

The Blues were barred by FIFA from registering new players for two successive windows in February, having been found guilty of breaching rules relating to the international transfer and registration of players under the age of 18.

However, CAS has reduced that ban to one window, which the Blues have already served, giving Frank Lampard the green light to make fresh acquisitions next month.

We take a look at who could be arriving at Stamford Bridge during the mid-season market.

 

BEN CHILWELL

Left-back would seem the obvious place to start for Lampard.

Club captain Cesar Azpilicueta and Emerson Palmieri have been deployed there this season, but the latter has been linked with a move to Juventus.

With Marcos Alonso out of favour and Azpilicueta now 30, Chelsea might want a younger option in line with the parts of their first team now thriving.

Leicester City's Chilwell, 22, fits the bill, although he would not come cheap. Valencia's Jose Gaya is another mooted target who would likely command a smaller fee.

JADON SANCHO

Willian and Pedro are both out of contract at the end of the season and they appear destined to depart.

Teenager Callum Hudson-Odoi will be expected to have a bigger role and Christian Pulisic has impressed in recent weeks, but Lampard would welcome more attacking firepower.

Borussia Dortmund winger Sancho's time in Germany seems close to ending and the Londoner might relish a return to the capital.

However, if Sancho is to depart over the next two windows, Chelsea will be in a long line of interested suitors.

WILFRIED ZAHA

A move away from Crystal Palace failed to materialise in the close-season window for Zaha.

The former Manchester United winger is undoubtedly talented and proven in the Premier League.

However, Zaha's situation is complicated by the fact he signed a five-year contract in 2018.

Arsenal and Everton were reportedly keen a few months before the demises of Unai Emery and Marco Silva, but Chelsea represent a more attractive option.

NATHAN AKE

Fikayo Tomori and Kurt Zouma have been Lampard's preferred central-defensive partners, though the Blues have kept just three Premier League clean sheets in 2019-20.

Germany international Antonio Rudiger is due back soon but it is a former Blues defender who may be of interest in January.

It is believed Chelsea included a £40million buy-back clause in Ake's deal when he was sold to Bournemouth in 2017.

As was the case with Nemanja Matic, Ake has developed considerably during his time away from Stamford Bridge and could prove a relative bargain at his buy-back price.

MOUSSA DEMBELE

With 11 goals in 14 Premier League games, Tammy Abraham has shown he is capable of leading the line.

However, there are limited options behind him and they will be depleted further if Olivier Giroud, 33, leaves as expected.

Lyon striker Dembele, once of Fulham and Celtic, is thought to be of interest to the Blues.

The joint-top scorer in Ligue 1, Dembele is having a fine season. But would he be happy playing second fiddle to Abraham?

Chelsea have hit out at FIFA for treating them "entirely differently to Manchester City" over transfer breaches after the London club had their registration ban halved by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).

The Premier League side were banned from registering new players for two successive transfer windows by FIFA in February, a punishment handed down for breaching rules related to acquiring and registering players under the age of 18.

An appeal to FIFA had been partially upheld, allowing them to sign players 16 or younger, but Friday's announcement means they will now be able to buy reinforcements for their senior team in January.

Chelsea have since taken the opportunity to lambast FIFA's treatment of them, convinced they were dealt a crueller hand than Manchester City, who avoided a transfer ban in August despite the world's governing body finding them to have breached rules on under-18 signings.

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola has urged striker Gabriel Jesus to have the belief he can be a derby day hero on Saturday.

With Sergio Aguero still absent due to a thigh injury, much of City's goalscoring burden in their clash with Manchester United will fall upon the shoulders of the Brazil international.

Jesus ended a 10-game goal drought for club and country with a brace in City's 4-1 win over Burnley on Tuesday, which has boosted his confidence.

The 22-year-old has failed to find the net in his four appearances in the Manchester derby – three of which have come from the bench - but Guardiola has confidence in the forward's ability.

"He has to be himself – we need his goals. That’s why we won the last game,” the City boss said at his news conference ahead of the clash with United.

“We need him and his goals, if he puts this idea in his head he can do it every game.

"Confidence has to be there in the heads, not because of good or bad performances, winning or losing games. Not just him, all the players."

Guardiola claimed the mental strength of his squad is still strong even though they find themselves 11 points behind Premier League leaders Liverpool.

"There are some things that are undeniable, the mentality and how strong they are," he said.

"We have to learn, with all athletes, he would not be in the high level [he is] and playing if he didn't have quality.

"They can control it, they don't need the manager to speak to them, they have to believe they are good enough and show how good they are.

"All the time it's there, if they score goals the confidence rises, if a keeper doesn't concede goals the confidence rises."

City are 11 points of ahead of sixth-placed United, who beat former manager Jose Mourinho's Tottenham side at Old Trafford on Wednesday.

Guardiola believes counterpart Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is doing a "good job" at United and will have them side fired up for the Etihad Stadium showdown.

"The history is huge and the quality of players they have has always been there and we have to try to beat them," he added.

"They are incredibly fast up front and at set pieces with Harry Maguire, they have the physicality and aggression. I have a good impression.

"It's an important game against a good rival with a big history. We play against a good team to try to follow the performance from the last game.

"It's Man United, all respect to what they have done for English, European and world football."

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola insists there have been no approaches for Mikel Arteta and he wants the assistant coach to stay with the club.

Arteta has been linked with the vacant Arsenal top job after Unai Emery was sacked. The former Gunners midfielder was also among the candidates to replace Arsene Wenger 18 months ago.

The 37-year-old is also reported to be of interest to Everton, another of his former clubs as a player, who dismissed Marco Silva on Thursday.

However, Guardiola reiterated his desire to keep Arteta in City's coaching ranks, and he is confident of him staying at least until the end of the Premier League season.

"There has been no approach," Guardiola said in his news conference ahead of Saturday's visit of Manchester United.

"Have I spoken to him about his future? No. Do I want him to stay? Yes."

In an interview with Sky Sports, Guardiola acknowledged Arteta was "ready" to take a job in management but should only accept a suitable position.

"I said last game he'll be close to me against Manchester United and hopefully he can stay, but at the end of the season I don't know what will happen," Guardiola said.

"He will be here until the end of the season, yes, I think so. I'm not a guy who puts a hand on my staff to say what they have to do. We are human beings and everyone has dreams and desires.

"He's ready. It's the right time when he gets an offer, and he takes the offer. If you tell me ready about his knowledge of the game, as a human, professional, work ethic, he is ready, absolutely. He's ready."

When asked whether Arteta should succeed him as City boss, Guardiola gave a positive verdict.

"He is able to, absolutely," Guardiola added. "But it depends on him, the club, many things I cannot decide.

"When I arrived here, we are in touch to work together, I was convinced on that, and he was convinced to help us. The time we are together, it's magnificent.

"Hopefully he stays this year, next year, for as long as possible at this club, that would be my dream, but Mikel has his own life and I will never say what he has to do."

Jose Mourinho is refusing to deal in hypotheticals with regards to the future of Tottenham star Christian Eriksen.

The attacking midfielder is out of contract at the end of the season and was linked with a move away in the previous transfer window but a deal failed to materialise.

Reports suggest Spurs are willing to listen to offers of £40million for Eriksen in January, half the amount Manchester United were supposedly quoted in the close season, with a switch to Italy or Spain thought to be his favoured destination.

However, Spurs boss Mourinho kept his cards close to his chest when asked what will happen with Eriksen next month.

"My feelings are until I have anything official rather than hypothetical, I will not comment," Mourinho said. 

"The only thing I can say is the player is a free agent at the end of the season. 

"Of course I've had a conversation with him, but I'm not sharing anything, from respect with the player."

Mourinho was also quizzed on the possibility of turning Giovani Lo Celso's loan move from Real Betis into a permanent deal.

The Argentina midfielder has made 10 appearances this term but only two of those were as part of the starting line-up, with injury problems having blighted his start to the campaign.

Mourinho has no doubts about Le Celso's quality, though conceded he is still getting to grips with life in England.

"I'm doing my work now to try to improve results and get the best out of the players," he added.

"Of course, Giovani is in Europe for a number of years, but France with PSG and then Spain, it's a completely different football world than it is in England.

"So many experienced players arrive in England and the click for them is not automatic. So a young guy like Giovani also needs his time to adapt to the Premier League.

"You could see, even with Mauricio [Pochettino], an Argentinian man like him, easy communication, surrounded by some boys who speak French, he speaks English, so even in those surroundings of support it's not like he arrives here and explodes immediately.

"But we know the good player he is, give him time to develop and we think he is going to be a good player for us."

Jose Mourinho told his Tottenham side to get angry after being left disappointed by the reaction in the dressing room to Wednesday's defeat at Manchester United.

The Portuguese's first return to Old Trafford as a coach since being sacked by the Red Devils a year ago ended in disappointment as Marcus Rashford's double either side of Dele Alli's equaliser condemned him to a first defeat since taking the reins at Tottenham.

After the game, Mourinho described the atmosphere among the Spurs squad as "sad", and he wants to see a different response from the team when they suffer setbacks.

"I saw a sad dressing room, a sad bus and a sad plane, and that's not what I like after a defeat," he said on Friday.

"I think after a defeat you can't be sad. You have to be more than that. You have to be raging and angry. 

"Being sad is not going to resolve your problems. It's obvious we have problems, but we need to have time to work. But we have players with quality and a great dressing room."

One area of concern for Mourinho is a leaky defence, with Tottenham having conceded twice in each of the four games he has overseen since replacing Mauricio Pochettino last month.

But Mourinho says it is not just the back four that have to increase their defensive responsibility.

"We have to sort out our defence. We have conceded two goals in every match. We are conceding cheap goals," he said.

"We have to work on it but it is hard, as we had a recovery day yesterday and we play tomorrow. To analyse, to comment and to coach in a meeting room helps, so hopefully we'll get some positive things after the negative things.

"It's not the defence, it's the defensive process. I'm not looking at individual players. There are 11 players on the pitch."

On Saturday, Mourinho's men welcome a Burnley side who will be aiming to bounce back from consecutive home defeats to Crystal Palace and Manchester City.

And Mourinho is not expecting many surprises from the Clarets, saying: "We know how Burnley play - unless they play differently to how they have always played.

"There will be no surprises, but they are a hard team to play against. It isn't just about their two strikers against our two centre-backs."

Frank Lampard welcomed the opportunity to mould his squad after Chelsea's transfer ban was halved but kept his counsel when asked about potential targets.

The Blues saw a two-window ban imposed by FIFA as punishment for breaching rules relating to the international transfer and registration of players under the age of 18 shortened by the Court of Arbitration for Sport on Friday.

Head coach Lampard can consequently sign players in January, though he has yet to properly discuss his strategy with the club's hierarchy.

"It is what it is and now we know," Lampard said at a news conference ahead of Saturday's trip to Everton. "Obviously the club was working towards that positive outcome and it allows us the potential to look at the market going forward.

"I'm pleased from a football level, it was never my job to get involved with reasons why or legal reasons, for the club moving forward it's a good thing. Now it's a discussion we can take up.

"Nothing much [has been said] because it wasn't something to discuss at length until we knew the decision. The club has been working away, putting forward our case, I've been working hard for the results on the pitch."

The ban did little to shelve rumours for potential incomings at Stamford Bridge. Borussia Dortmund winger Jadon Sancho, Crystal Palace forward Wilfried Zaha and Leicester City full-back Ben Chilwell have all been rumoured targets.

Lampard, expectedly so, was not willing to engage in conversation about potential incomings, though.

"I'm not going to sit here and go too far down any lines with that," he added.

"We will see where we are, as I said I'm happy with the squad we have here, I think we're doing okay. In terms of the bigger picture and what we do it's constantly fluid."

The ability to bring in players may also pave the way for the departure of out-of-favour striker Olivier Giroud, who is keen to play games to keep his place in France's squad ahead of Euro 2020.

But Lampard said the news does not change his thoughts on his striking options.

"It doesn't [change anything], I don't consider it at all. I just consider the squad I've got now. In January we can discuss those options," Lampard said when asked about Giroud, whose contract expires at the end of the season.

Lampard has earned plaudits for blooding several of Chelsea's young stars this term, with Tammy Abraham, Mason Mount and Fikayo Tomori among those to have grasped their opportunities.

The former England international says the fact he can sign players does not necessarily change his mindset, though he conceded entering the market poses a new challenge for his fledging Chelsea coaching career.

"Again we haven't had that conversation because we couldn't buy. The fact people have given us credit is because they expected less of us," he said.

"I still want more, I think we could have more points and be higher up the table. If we feel there are positions we can strengthen we'll do that. 

"That's why people expected less of us, because those around us were spending £100million and we didn't have that. We lost Eden Hazard and two number nines, it's important going forward that we get it right.

"It is a challenge yeah, I suppose the one thing I felt affected me in the summer is when you come into a club, sometimes the players you bring in, the attributes they have, are key to what you want to do. I couldn't do that.

"Moving forward I will put that to the club. It's a much bigger process, it's not just me getting it right or wrong. Any recommendations I make to improve the squad will be ones I see as improving us."

Jurgen Klopp described Virgil van Dijk receiving praise from Franco Baresi as like "being crowned by the king" after the defender led Liverpool's strong representation in this year's Ballon d'Or list.

Van Dijk narrowly finished second behind Lionel Messi in voting for the 2019 award, with the centre-back one of four Reds to be included inside the top 10.

Yet the Dutchman deserved to scoop the individual honour, according to the legendary Baresi, with the former Italy and AC Milan star stating Van Dijk was "the best" when quote-tweeting a picture of the newly-crowned winner.

Sadio Mane came in fourth, one spot ahead of team-mate Mohamed Salah, but received comforting words from the man who lifted the trophy, with Messi stating how it was a "shame" the Senegal forward finished outside the top three.

Klopp was delighted to see his players acknowledged for a 2018-19 season that climaxed with them lifting the Champions League - and believes there is still even more to come from the "incredible" Mane, who played such a pivotal role in helping Liverpool overcome a first-leg deficit to knock Barcelona out at the semi-final stage.

"The first three in the Ballon d'Or were Messi, Van Dijk and Cristiano [Ronaldo], then Sadio. That is a nice row anyway, having two players there shows how we played a good season," Klopp told the media.

"Sadio is in incredible shape. Since the first day he came in, he's been an incredible player.

"I think I can remember his first goal, against Arsenal. He was running down the line, cutting inside and then, with the next step, with the left foot, into the far corner. I can still remember it, along with all his other goals since then. In each year he has made big steps.

"I saw after how Baresi was really positive about Van Dijk. He [Baresi] is one of the biggest defenders I can remember. That's like being crowned by the king.

"For an offensive player, that's like when Messi says something like this. Sadio, especially in the game against Barcelona at home, was quite impressive.

"If he stays healthy, he will have an incredible career. I think he can climb up, Ballon d'Or wise. But other people make decisions, not even Lionel Messi can decide that."

Goalkeeper Alisson was seventh in the final Ballon d'Or results, while team-mates Roberto Firmino, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Georginio Wijnaldum finished inside the top 30.

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp claimed some people are willing the club to fail during a gruelling schedule of fixtures.

The Reds are eight points clear at the top of the Premier League and face a crunch game against Salzburg to make the knockout phase of the Champions League on Tuesday.

Liverpool also have the Club World Cup and an EFL Cup quarter-final on the horizon before an intense festive period.

Klopp's squad will be tested to its full capabilities, but he has backed his players to respond to the challenge and accept being rotated.

"When you are in a good position there are a lot who celebrate early, some hope you fail," Klopp told a news conference ahead Saturday's Premier League clash with Bournemouth.

"We are in a difficult situation with the games but accepted it. We have to deal with it.

"These players have a desire to show that they are good enough and they can deliver in moments like this. It is not that complicated; you just need players who understand the situation.

"I know when you're a football supporter, you want to play the best 11 all the time but this is not FIFA or the PlayStation. It's just how it is."

Liverpool will be forced to field separate teams in fixtures for the Club World Cup and EFL Cup, which take place a day apart on different continents.

Klopp has selected a strong 23-man squad for the trip to Qatar for the former and will give the club's youngsters a chance in the quarter-final of the latter against Aston Villa.

The Liverpool boss said he ruled out the possibility of splitting his squad in two.

Klopp continued: "For us, there was absolutely no chance to do it differently, in the moment when it was clear when it would be played and all the other dates were absolutely not possible for us to play it later.

"We won the game against Arsenal, a very exciting game and I loved it, and in that moment it was clear, now we have to find a solution and the solution will not be perfect. But we try to make it as perfect as possible.

"We go with a specific squad to Qatar and try our best there. And the other ones will play here. If somebody thought I should have done it differently, I cannot change that.

"I know everybody thinks 'no chance' but football is a wonderful game.

"If you want, I'm responsible even for that game [against Villa], not being there. So they have no pressure, they just should fight for each inch on the pitch and enjoy themselves."

Klopp also expressed sympathy with sacked Everton manager Marco Silva after a 5-2 defeat in the Merseyside derby on Wednesday spelled the end of his tenure at Goodison Park.

The German felt Silva was not solely to blame for the club's struggles on the pitch.

"Marco is a great manager, but they thought they needed change. But we all accept this when we take a job," Klopp added.

"It is for sure not all Silva's fault. That is the situation of a coach and we all accept that. 

"I feel for him. Since I'm in England, Everton are how we all know, ambitious with big history. I said when I came in that we don't carry our history as a backpack.

"One club from the same city that has positive development and you try to catch them, that is what the manager always tries."

Brendan Rodgers has signed a new contract with Leicester City until June 2025, the club have confirmed.

Rodgers was appointed by the Foxes in February and has since overseen 17 wins in 26 Premier League matches.

Leicester have been flying this season and sit second in the table, eight points adrift of unbeaten leaders Liverpool.

Rodgers said: "When I made the decision to come to Leicester City, it was because I was excited about the direction the club was taking and how I could apply my experience to the journey. I came here with a purpose to add something to that and to help the club build for the future.

"The support I have had from the chairman, Khun Top [Aiyawatt Srivaddhanaprabha]; from the chief executive, Susan Whelan; from the director of football, Jon Rudkin; and from everyone at the club has been amazing.

"I've inherited an outstanding team of staff that are dedicated to progress and improvement and we have a group of players that are a joy to work with every day.

"And to the club's supporters, I can only say thank you for welcoming me and my staff into your club and for putting your faith in our work.

"We'll continue to work together to bring success to Leicester City for many years to come."

Leicester's performances had seen Rodgers linked with the vacant post at Arsenal, who sacked Unai Emery last week.

However, Rodgers – whose previous deal ran until 2022 – this week he was "very happy" at the King Power Stadium and the Leicester chairman was thrilled to have tied down the 46-year-old.

"Brendan's qualities as a coach are well known and evident in the way he has sought to unlock the potential in every member of our exciting young squad," Srivaddhanaprabha said.

"But just as important to us is the suitability of Brendan's wider philosophy to the club's established culture and values.

"He and his staff immersed themselves immediately, building an understanding for the club and the city and an appreciation for what makes them special.

"That has been a valuable combination over the last nine months – strengthening the bond between our players, staff and supporters – and I'm excited to see how it can continue to enhance our long-term vision for the club."

Rodgers had spells in charge of Watford, Reading and Swansea City before joining Liverpool, who he led to a second-place finish in a thrilling 2013-14 season.

After departing Anfield in October 2015, Rodgers headed to Celtic and oversaw treble-winning seasons in the 2016-17 and 2017-18 campaigns.

Leicester equalled a club record of seven consecutive top-flight victories by beating Watford 2-0 on Wednesday and will look to break the benchmark against Aston Villa on Sunday.

Chelsea are free to sign players in January after their transfer ban was halved by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) on Friday.

The Premier League side were barred from signing new players for two successive windows by FIFA in February as punishment for breaching rules relating to the international transfer and registration of players under the age of 18.

Chelsea's appeal to FIFA was partially upheld, with the club allowed to register players under the age of 16 but still not permitted to bring in new senior players.

However, Frank Lampard will now be able to add to his young squad next month after CAS reduced the ban to one window, which Chelsea have already served, while halving the 600,000 Swiss francs (£4,500) fine they were handed to CHF300,000 (£2,250).

CAS' sole arbitrator deemed Chelsea had only committed one third of the violations found by FIFA, while the breaches of other rules around transfers were deemed less serious than those attributed to the club by the governing body.

Despite his inability to recruit players before the season, Lampard has overseen an excellent start to his tenure at Stamford Bridge.

Chelsea are fourth in the Premier League, having claimed nine wins from their opening 15 games. The Blues are 14 points adrift of leaders Liverpool but are well on track to qualify for the Champions League.

Lampard's men are third in Group H in this season's Champions League but will qualify if they beat Lille on Tuesday.

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