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Mikel Arteta insisted he is "not conflicted at all" by Manchester City's looming UEFA ban after Arsenal thrashed Newcastle United to move within sight of the European places in the Premier League.

Former City assistant coach Arteta oversaw a 4-0 defeat of Newcastle on Sunday, but the news Pep Guardiola's side are facing a two-year suspension from European competition dominated the weekend.

While City have announced an intention to appeal the ban, there is the possibility fifth could now secure Champions League qualification, with the Europa League potentially in reach for a team in eighth depending on who wins the domestic cups.

Arsenal are 10th, lifted by second-half goals from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Nicolas Pepe, Mesut Ozil and Alexandre Lacazette, but Arteta was not looking to revel in his former employers' gloom.

"We don't know anything about it," he told Sky Sports. "We will have to wait and see.

"It's very difficult. I'm not conflicted at all. I want the best for Manchester City, the best for Pep, for the players.

"I love a lot of people there and I am so grateful for the time I spent there. The only thing I want for them is positive and good things.

"I just want to do the best we can for Arsenal, to achieve ourselves what we deserve."

Arsenal were poor before half-time against Newcastle, making a slow start and surviving the occasional scare, and Arteta is not getting carried away.

"We want to go game by game because, 10 days ago, I was disappointed by the game at Burnley," he said. "A lot of things are going to happen.

"It's up to us and how consistent we can be from now until the end of the season. If we want to have a chance [of qualifying for Europe] in the last few games, we have to put wins together."

Asked what Arteta told his team after the tough first half, captain Aubameyang said: "'Just keep going'. We started not at our best.

"But in the second half, we put in some more energy and we went through and scored the first, the second, the third."

On the coach's overall impact at Emirates Stadium since his December appointment, the striker added: "We feel better. We have an idea of playing that's very clear.

"We'll try to maintain this level. We are happy to keep going like this."

Alexandre Lacazette scored for the first time since December to put the gloss on a much-needed 4-0 win for Arsenal and head coach Mikel Arteta against Newcastle United on Sunday.

Arsenal came into the clash at Emirates Stadium level on points with visitors Newcastle, having won just six times in the Premier League this season - and only once since Arteta's December appointment.

But after a frustrating opening period, the influential Nicolas Pepe laid on a goal for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in the 54th minute, and Pepe himself scored three minutes later to all but settle the contest.

Mesut Ozil added another in the 90th minute, before substitute Lacazette, who last netted against Standard Liege on December 12, got in on the act in stoppage time.

Arteta, who revealed before the match he turned down an approach from Newcastle while still an assistant at Manchester City, could enjoy the closing stages of a precious victory, with Arsenal climbing back up to 10th and within sight of the European places.

Newcastle's set-pieces had caused early problems for Arsenal, and Sean Longstaff's deflected strike forced a scrambling save from Bernd Leno, before Joelinton awkwardly stabbed wide from six yards moments later.

Martin Dubravka was not troubled for over half an hour, but Arsenal pressure built heading into half-time as the Newcastle goalkeeper made stops from Aubameyang, Eddie Nketiah and Pepe.

The hosts were on the front foot again following the restart, and Pepe danced to the byline before cutting a cross back for Nketiah, who volleyed against the crossbar.

The opener soon followed, with Aubameyang towering over Valentino Lazaro to head Pepe's right-wing delivery across Dubravka into the bottom-right corner.

And the second came less than three minutes after the first, as Bukayo Saka nutmegged Lazaro on the left and squared for Pepe to sweep low inside the near post.

Ciaran Clark skewed wide from a great position in the area when teed up by Allan Saint-Maximin, who himself hit the post with a fine curling effort, but there was no dramatic Newcastle recovery.

Ozil's close-range finish deceived Dubravka for a scruffy third Arsenal goal, before Lacazette's own slightly untidy effort found the top-right corner to spark a joyous celebration.


What does it mean? Arsenal still finding their feet

There was some hope Arteta might have shaped a much-improved Arsenal over the recent mid-season break, but that did not appear to be the case in the first half. The Gunners struggled to break Newcastle down, before their quality came to the fore in a frantic spell. There would appear to be plenty still to do to restore Arsenal to their former glories despite this big win.

Purposeful Pepe

This has not been a wholly successful first season in England for Pepe, but there are signs he is rediscovering the form that convinced Arsenal to splash out a club-record fee last year. The winger was Arsenal's best player in a testing first half and then turned the game on its head with an assist and a goal within 12 minutes of the restart.

Lazaro loses out

Newcastle's new wing-back, making his full Premier League debut, enjoyed a promising first half, getting forward to good effect down the right while standing up to Saka going the other way. But he was later twice beaten for the crucial goals, first unable to challenge Aubameyang in the air and then embarrassed by Saka's trickery.

What's next?

Arsenal have a trip to Olympiacos in the Europa League on Thursday before their next league assignment at home to Everton. Newcastle have a clear midweek but are then back in the capital next Saturday to visit Crystal Palace.

Jose Mourinho jokingly questioned whether Manchester City's two-season European ban for breaching UEFA's Financial Fair Play (FFP) regulations could end up giving him another Premier League title.

UEFA announced the sanction for City, as well as a €30million fine, on Friday for "overstating its sponsorship revenue in its accounts and in the break-even information submitted to UEFA between 2012 and 2016".

The reigning Premier League champions criticised the process and announced their intention to appeal the suspension at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).

It has since been reported that City could be stripped of their 2014 Premier League title but Mourinho opted against making an extensive evaluation of UEFA's decision after Tottenham's 3-2 win over Aston Villa on Sunday.

However, he quipped he would be more interested if a chance arose for the Manchester United side he led to second in 2017-18 to be retrospectively awarded the crown claimed that season by City.

Pep Guardiola's team finished that campaign with a record 100 points, 19 more than United amassed in second.

Mourinho said: "My view is that I didn't lose one single minute analysing what UEFA and FIFA have to analyse.

"If I go into that analysis I have to ask if the team that finished second in 2018 is going to be champion, yes or no? That would be interesting. But jokes apart, I just wait calmly."

Should the sanction on City remain in place it would mean the team that finishes fifth in the Premier League this season would earn Champions League qualification.

Spurs assumed that position thanks to Son's 94th-minute winner at Villa Park, but Mourinho acknowledged there is plenty of competition.

"I don't think about fourth or fifth, I just think about doing the best we can, getting the most points we can, the best position we can and at the end of the season we will see where we are," he said.

"Because maybe we are sixth or seventh and then it doesn't matter if the fifth goes to the Champions League, so we have a big fight.

"You could see [on Saturday] Liverpool first against the last [Norwich City], you could see today Villa fighting to stay in the division and us fighting for the top positions, how difficult it was.

"This is the Premier League. So when we speak about the fifth, I think Wolves, Sheffield United, Manchester United, Arsenal, Everton, everybody looks to the table and they say 'we can do it' and they can, so it's going to be very hard."

Jose Mourinho joked Toby Alderweireld "scored three goals" as Tottenham left it late to earn a 3-2 win in a cracker at Aston Villa.

Alderweireld put past his own goalkeeper before lashing home an equaliser at Villa Park, and he was also outjumped when Bjorn Engels later restored parity for the hosts.

But Engels himself made an injury-time error that Son Heung-min, who earlier had made it 2-1 when scoring the rebound from his saved spot-kick - awarded for an Engels foul on Steven Bergwijn, capitalised on to win it for Spurs.

"In a funny way I would say Toby scored three goals," a smiling Mourinho said of the Belgium defender, whose wife gave birth to their son Jace this week. 

"First in our goal, the second a fantastic goal he scored, and the third he loses the duel with Engels. 

"But he scored with a shot of his life which was to be a dad again two days ago. It's something to remember."

Pepe Reina was busy in the home goal but Villa will count themselves unlucky to lose after putting in a valiant effort, a fact Mourinho himself acknowledged.

"I think we deserved to win but I don't think they deserved to lose. I think they were good, they gave us a real football match, a real fight," added Mourinho. 

"They played to win, I don't think they played to get a point - probably in the last 10-15 minutes yes -but during the game their attitude was to win the game. It's fantastic, that's why the game was so good."

Spurs' late winner means they are just a point adrift of fourth-place Chelsea, who face Manchester United on Monday.

The table may look favourable from a Spurs point of view but Mourinho believes a few sides will be fancying their chances.

"Not just for us. A window opens for many teams, probably teams that saw fourth as too far. What seemed far, now the fifth place is not far," he said, referring to the fact fifth would be enough for a Champions League place given Manchester City's two-season European ban administered by UEFA, which the club said they intend to appeal against.

"Arsenal, Everton, Sheffield United, Wolves...everyone will feel they have the chance."

Son Heung-min pounced on Bjorn Engels' error to score a last-gasp winner as Tottenham won an enthralling Premier League contest 3-2 at Aston Villa.

Engels' equaliser appeared to have earned the relegation-threatened hosts a point at Villa Park, but his failure to control a long ball allowed Son to coolly steer past Pepe Reina.

Son had earlier put Spurs 2-1 in front from the rebound of a penalty awarded as a result of an Engels foul shortly before half-time, the forward's first in the game coming after team-mate Toby Alderweireld had scored at both ends.

Villa remain just a point above the bottom three, while Champions League-chasing Spurs are just one point adrift of fourth-place Chelsea.

Eddie Nketiah was selected for a first Premier League start in Arsenal's game against Newcastle United on Saturday.

The 20-year-old was expected to go back out on loan after being recalled from Championship side Leeds United due to a lack of game time in January, but Mikel Arteta opted to retain his services.

After featuring as a substitute against Sheffield United and Burnley, Nketiah was chosen to lead the line against Newcastle at Emirates Stadium on Sunday.

Nketiah was joined in the front three by Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Nicolas Pepe, with Alexandre Lacazette and Gabriel Martinelli dropping to the bench.

Dani Ceballos was handed a place in a Premier League starting line-up for the first time since a 1-1 draw with Wolves on November 2.

Arsenal spent their mid-season break on a warm-weather training camp in Dubai, while Newcastle were granted an extended weekend off.

Steven Bergwijn has opened up on how his "world collapsed" upon hearing the news his good friend Abdelhak Nouri had suffered permanent brain damage.

Nouri collapsed during a pre-season fixture between Ajax and Werder Bremen in July 2017 and was placed in an induced coma.

The Amsterdam club later announced Nouri, a burgeoning talent in the club's academy, had been diagnosed with "serious and permanent brain damage".

Netherlands winger Bergwijn, who joined Tottenham in January, became big friends with Nouri – known as 'Appie' - in the youth ranks at Ajax before he switched to Eredivisie rivals PSV.

 "When I heard Appie had brain damage, I just can't describe my feelings," Bergwijn said.

"At that time I didn't sleep so much. In the first weeks I was scared to play, scared to go on the pitch because Appie was a young boy and out of nowhere. 

"It was difficult. It's still difficult. I speak to his brother every day but it's still difficult.

"We were like brothers. I have known Appie all my life, from when we were seven years old. We were in the same squad and since then we are best friends.

"We [PSV] played against RKC and I scored two. I was happy and after the game the team manager came to me and he said this has happened. Yeah, my world collapsed.

"I just waited for the calls from my agent because he went to see Appie. Then I heard two or three weeks later that he had brain damage. I can't describe it. At that time, I didn't sleep so much."

Bergwijn began his Spurs career with a sensational strike against Manchester City in a memorable 2-0 win earlier this month.

The 22-year-old had made a promise to Nouri's brother before making his debut for the Premier League club.

"I spoke with his brother and he told me, 'you're going to score for Appie,' and I said, 'okay, watch me, I'm going to score'. I did it."

Ajax were reportedly interested in bringing Bergwijn back to the club at the beginning of this campaign, but a move failed to materialise and he is now a Spurs player instead.

Bergwijn admits there was little time to think things through in January, saying: "My father called me and said, 'pack your stuff, you're going to London'.

"It was like this. It was fast. I didn't expect to make the transfer now, I thought in the summer. But if Tottenham wants you, you can't say no. It's an honour to be here.

"They have big players. In Holland, everyone regards them as big players, including me. But now they have welcomed me."

One win in five, two in seven, three in 10, four in 13: it is fair to say Chelsea's form in the Premier League has been well below what is expected of a 'big six' team.

However, the poor run of results has combined with missteps from Manchester United, Arsenal and Tottenham, leaving Chelsea ahead of them in the race for the top four - though a two-season European ban for Manchester City is set to offer fifth place a route to the Champions League.

Despite leading Arsenal to just one win in his seven Premier League games at the helm, it is widely accepted that Mikel Arteta's impact since taking over the Gunners has been positive.

Questions were asked of Jose Mourinho's influence at Tottenham amid a run of four wins in 10 in all competitions, but a defeat against Chelsea on Monday could deal a huge blow for for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer at United.

The Red Devils have won three of their past seven in the top flight and five of their previous 11, so why is Frank Lampard not receiving the same level of scrutiny as his Norwegian counterpart?

 

A consistent approach

Although Lampard arrived at Chelsea with just one Championship season of managerial experience under his belt, he has implemented an attacking system with an increased passing tempo.

The players are comfortable in the positions they are deployed and can operate to the head coach's instruction, while he's also proved to be adaptable. A switch to a three-man defence and a high press earned a 2-0 win at Mourinho's Tottenham in December, while an in-game move away from that system after falling behind at Arsenal preceded a dramatic late turnaround for a 2-1 triumph.

A tactical switch resulted in United becoming the only team to deny runaway leaders Liverpool a Premier League victory this season, but, in contrast to Chelsea's front-foot approach, Solskjaer’s sides tend to offer more on the counter, with his focus appearing to be on speed and hard running.

Lampard's stock with fans was already high due to his status as a club legend and that has improved by laying on a more positive style than what was witnessed under Maurizio Sarri. Solskjaer, in contrast, has failed to move enough away from the defensive football that resulted in Mourinho's sacking at Old Trafford.

 

Market movements

A transfer embargo at the start of his tenure meant Lampard was unable to make any new signings after taking over from Sarri.

His focus on youth was a necessity, rather than out of choice, but he has still been bold in making Tammy Abraham his first-choice striker and trusting Mason Mount, Fikayo Tomori and Reece James to make the step up to first-team regulars a season after successful loan spells in the Championship.

Abraham, Mount and Tomori have experienced dips in the quality of their individual displays, but that is only to be expected from young players.

Solskjaer has also shown faith in academy products - Brandon Williams and Mason Greenwood are regular fixtures in the first-team squad.

However, their transfer policy has become the subject of much consternation. Executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward's house was attacked before a big-money deal for Bruno Fernandes was wrapped up in January, finally bringing an end to a saga that had been drawn out since the previous window. The arrival of Harry Maguire in the close season was similarly long-winded.

United appear to make a meal out of any major signing and are still yet to appoint a director of football to aid the process.

The structure at Chelsea is far clearer and while Solskjaer has been at pains to talk up his role in transfers, Lampard has made it clear such matters are largely out of his hands. By voicing his displeasure at a lack of signings in January, he cleverly moved to absolve himself of any blame.

 

Great (or not so great) expectations

The season was essentially a write-off for Chelsea before it had even started, a place in the top four would likely have been considered an overachievement.

Since being appointed permanently in March, Solskjaer has had to contend with failing to keep United at the level he inspired them to during his initial interim reign – he won his first eight games and 14 out of 19, while also securing a place in the Champions League quarter-finals before being appointed permanently in March. It took him until December to rack up another 14 victories.

The availability of Mauricio Pochettino, so often linked with United, has only served to sharpen the focus on the Norwegian and increase the speculation over his position.

A poor result against Chelsea will no doubt ramp it up further.

Manchester City's two-season Champions League ban could be about to reverberate through the Premier League.

Pep Guardiola's future had been a topic of discussion prior to UEFA handing down sanctions for "serious" Financial Fair Play breaches and the loss of European competition has fuelled suggestions the Catalan could quit the club.

Media reports indicate City already have alternatives in mind, and their search for a successor looks set to pose problems for Premier League rivals.

 

TOP STORY – CITY EYE PEP REPLACEMENTS

Mauricio Pochettino and Brendan Rodgers are among the contenders to take over at City if Guardiola walks, according to The Telegraph.

The report states the pair "would be in the running" to become the club's next manager in the event their current boss decides to leave at the end of the season.

Ex-Tottenham manager Pochettino recently admitted he would "love" to return to the Premier League, telling the 'In The Pink' podcast: "It's going to be difficult, I know, and for now it's a moment to wait and we'll see what happens."

The Argentinian has been heavily linked to City's cross-town rivals Manchester United, while Rodgers is tied to Leicester City until 2025.

ROUND-UP

- Juventus-linked Guardiola might not be the only big name headed for the Etihad Stadium exit. The Sun claims Real Madrid will launch an "all-out assault" in a bid to sign Raheem Sterling.

- City could potentially even be docked Premier League points for the same Financial Fair Play breaches that compelled UEFA to act, says The Guardian.

- Meanwhile, over at Old Trafford, United have set their asking price for Paul Pogba at £130million, reports the Daily Star.

- As for potential arrivals, United are interested in Norwich City pair Todd Cantwell and Max Aarons plus West Ham midfielder Declan Rice, states the Daily Mail.

- Serie A side Milan are no closer to extending Gianluigi Donnarumma's deal beyond June 2021, according to Tuttomercato, and LaLiga title contenders Madrid are monitoring the situation.

- Sky Sport Germany continues to link former Bayern Munich boss Niko Kovac to manager-less Bundesliga outfit Hertha Berlin, who saw Jurgen Klinsmann leave earlier in the week.

Liverpool's match-winner Sadio Mane made the "perfect" return from injury at Norwich City - and now he looks primed to face Atletico Madrid in the Champions League.

Reds boss Jurgen Klopp was delighted with the impact of Mane, with the Senegal forward returning from his hamstring setback to strike a stunning late goal at Carrow Road.

A 1-0 win moved Liverpool 25 points clear of second-placed Manchester City, preserving their record of having dropped only two points all season in the Premier League.

Mane and James Milner both came off the bench after recent lay-offs to play their part in Liverpool's 25th win in 26 league outings this term.

Klopp said: "It helps when you have such quality on the bench to bring on."

Now Liverpool turn their focus to Tuesday's first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie, a trip to the Wanda Metropolitano to take on Diego Simeone's Atletico.

"Sadio could have started, of course," Klopp said, "but I wanted to have a free decision for Tuesday actually.

"I don't think too often and too much about these games, but when two players are back from injuries, like Sadio and Fabinho, you don't think they can play two games. [Don't think they] should play; can, yes, if you have to, but should play.

"And the quality of the other boys is just too big that you have to push somebody through. It was perfect for Sadio to get a few minutes. It looked like he was ready, yes."

Klopp stressed Liverpool's performance in windswept Norwich was not perfect and spoke of the team playing "two or three or four long balls too many".

"Obviously our midfield was sometimes surprised by the long balls of our centre-halves and just couldn't push up early enough or quick enough, so we didn't win the second balls and all these kind of things," Klopp said in his post-match news conference.

"You need to get used to circumstances and after 45 minutes we knew how it feels. More information from us at half-time and we could improve, that was obviously much better then second half.

"We had so many counter-press situations where we won the ball back, where we put them under pressure, kept them under pressure and scored a wonderful goal. That's it."

Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson set up Mane's winner with a long pass that the striker took down skilfully before turning and firing past Tim Krul.

Speaking to Liverpool's official website, Henderson said: "It was a fantastic run from Sadio, great touch and a great finish – fantastic goal from him.

"It's good that Sadio is back after his injury and he's straight on the scoresheet, so nice to have him back and nice to get the three points."

Henderson added: "We've got to recover quickly, we've got another big game in midweek against Atletico Madrid which will be another tough test, so we've just got to go there and do everything we can to get a good result."

Jurgen Klopp expressed sympathy for Pep Guardiola and his Manchester City players after UEFA hit the Premier League champions with a two-season ban from European competition.

City swiftly announced their intention to appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) after Friday's punishment, which relates to breaches of Financial Fair Play (FFP) regulations between 2012 and 2016.

Klopp's Liverpool were involved in a titanic title battle with City last season, missing out by 97 points to 98 in the final reckoning, but Saturday's 1-0 win at Norwich City extended their advantage this time around to a scarcely credible 25 points.

However, a burgeoning generational rivalry could be set to meet an abrupt end if the sanctions against City force a hasty rebuild at the Etihad Stadium.

Guardiola also competed against Klopp when the duo led Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund in the Bundesliga and the Reds boss expressed admiration for the Catalan tactician after full-time at Carrow Road.

"It was a shock when it came out. Completely, 'Wow, what's that'?" he told Sky Sports.

"I'm a football guy, I can only speak about football and what Pep has done since he was in England is exceptional.

"All the rest I have no idea. At the moment I can imagine it is really difficult for the sports people to understand.

"You believe the people you work for and then someone else sees it completely differently.

"I really feel for Pep and the players. It's the first verdict, they will appeal and we will see what happens then.

"It’s obviously serious because UEFA would not react like that [otherwise]. The football City played was exceptional and is exceptional."

Klopp felt Liverpool were anything but exceptional before half-time against the Premier League's bottom side but Sadio Mane's introduction with half an hour to play proved decisive – the returning Senegal international scoring a fabulous winner 12 minutes from time.

"It was a difficult game for different reasons," Klopp said. "The wind, the organisation of the opponent and the way we played in the first half.

"The distance between the line was too big, we were a little bit too early with our long balls in behind.

"That's not exactly like how we wanted to do. The counter-press was not there because we did not press up.

"We had nice situations, good set pieces but not much more.

"We improved, Trent [Alexander-Arnold]'s positioning was higher. We were much more compact and could win the ball in the counter-pressing situations.

"Then we brought on Fabinho and Sadio – one was important for the organisation, gave Hendo [Jordan Henderson] the freedom to be more involved offensively, and Sadio was fresh and made the difference."

The moment Sadio Mane powered his size eight left boot through the ball to sink Norwich City was one of sheer inevitability, another challenger dismissed, that first Premier League title for Liverpool surely just weeks away now.

But what a peculiar contest it was at Carrow Road, Liverpool grinding away in a low gear, wearing down opponents they expected to crack, and who duly did.

Liverpool and Norwich don't play out low-scoring games, went the theory. We thought of Luis Suarez habitually ripping apart the men in yellow and green, the absurdity of Liverpool's 5-4 win at this ground in 2016, and more recently of the 4-1 spanking dished out to the Canaries on the opening evening of this season.

An eye-catching Opta pre-match statistic said that of the 359 fixtures to have been played more than 10 times in the Premier League, Norwich versus Liverpool had the highest goals-per-game average - 68 goals being plundered in 17 games.

But this never looked like following the four-goals-a-game average, and it would have been easy to daydream through the first 45 minutes.

Liverpool, mindful of their Champions League trip to Atletico Madrid next Tuesday, were not minded to direct the full might of their arsenal at their hosts, and Norwich are burdened by a nagging fear factor when it comes to the men in red.

They last enjoyed a victory over Liverpool in April 1994, when Jeremy Goss clattered a brilliant goal to secure a 1-0 win at Anfield, in the last match Liverpool played at their home ground before the famous Kop terrace was demolished.

It was the same week that saw Nelson Mandela elected as South Africa's president. One day after Goss and Norwich spoiled the party at Liverpool, sport was struck by tragedy when Ayrton Senna died after a crash at Imola during the San Marino Grand Prix.

A quarter of a century later, and Liverpool see sitting ducks when they clock the yellow in those Norwich shirts.

So it is 25 wins from 26 games for Jurgen Klopp's Reds in this season's top flight, and a 25-point lead over Manchester City, which is now the least of Pep Guardiola's worries.

When Liverpool last won the English title - the old First Division - their 1989-90 campaign contained the anomaly of two goalless draws against Norwich.

They won the league with 79 points from 38 games that term, finishing nine points clear of nearest rivals Aston Villa.

Now they have 76 from 26 and are heading for all sorts of records, especially if teams such as Norwich present themselves, flap and flounder and let an off-colour Liverpool pilfer the points.

Lukas Rupp effectively tripped over Norwich's team-wide insecurities when he bolted clear of the Liverpool offside trap late in the first half. Confronted with Allison, Rupp looked like a little boy lost and bungled a short-range pass to Teemu Pukki.

Liverpool cooked up a series of chances after the break, with Tim Krul heroically keeping the home side in the game before Alex Tettey rattled the outside of Alisson's right post from 25 yards. Alisson possibly had the ball covered.

Mane, returning from injury, came off the bench and injected a spark before rattling in the winner. He expertly took down a long pass from Jordan Henderson, turned sharply and lashed a left-footed shot past Krul.

Never doubt this Liverpool. The goal came in the 78th minute, but in another sense it had been long coming.

Klopp said the win was "outstanding" and his team - "these wonderful football players" in their manager's words - are almost over the line.

Their lead is "insane", Klopp said.

It's only February, but check the reality of this extraordinary situation, which on Saturday saw Norwich fans keenly posing for pictures with Klopp.

We're already witnessing a lap of honour.

Sadio Mane made a goalscoring return for Liverpool, coming off the bench to snatch a 1-0 win for the runaway Premier League leaders at Norwich City.

Jurgen Klopp's side were on top for long spells but ceded a clear chance in each half to the Canaries – Lukas Rupp botching a one-on-one and Alexander Tettey hitting the post.

Mane duly helped the Liverpool attack shift through the gears and stepped up with the winner 12 minutes from time.

The lead at the summit is now a gigantic 25 points for Klopp's rentless Reds.

Liverpool dominated possession and pushed their hosts back for the majority of the opening period but created little of note, save for a pair of sighters from the all-action Trent Alexander-Arnold.

Indeed, Norwich enjoyed the best opening of the half, only for Rupp to miss a simple pass to Teemu Pukki that allowed a scrambling Alisson to claw to safety.

Todd Cantwell fired into the side netting from a tight angle in the 52nd minute amid some ragged moments creeping into Liverpool's play, although a Naby Keita piledriver tipped over by Tim Krul showed their threat remained.

Krul excelled himself with a brilliant double save from Mohamed Salah and Keita before the hour, after which Mane's introduction from the bench gave fresh impetus to the Reds' attack.

Grant Hanley was forced to hack out of his own goal mouth in the 71st minute before Norwich surged forward on the break and Tettey almost caught out Alisson, firing a snapshot against the outside of the right post.

Hanley then miscued a free header from Ondrej Duda's corner and Daniel Farke's side would regret not making the most of that flurry.

Mane got the run on a tumbling Christoph Zimmermann – the centre-back picking a woeful moment to stain an otherwise towering display - to collect Jordan Henderson's raking ball and lash home a forceful left-footed finish.

Roberto Firmino could have ensured a nerveless finale but ballooned Alexander-Arnold's drilled cross over from close range in the 86th minute.

 

What does it mean? Reds' record charge remains on course

Liverpool are set to break a host of Premier League records on their march to glory and 17 consecutive Premier League wins means they are now only one behind Manchester City's all-time mark from the 2017-18 season. Norwich are seven points from safety at the foot of the table and entitled to feel slightly aggrieved over having nothing to show for their efforts.

Sadio on the Mane

Klopp getting Mane back in time for the return of the Champions League represents a huge boost. The verve and invention he injected into Liverpool's efforts here was palpable and decisive.

Oxlade-Chamberlain fails to press his claims

Filling in for any of Liverpool's much-vaunted front three is a thankless task and it was no surprise to see Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain's number raised to make way for the returning Mane with half an hour remaining. The England international failed to make an impression on the contest, although a chunk of credit should go to Max Aarons, who excelled at right-back for the Canaries.

What's next

Liverpool travel to Atletico Madrid on Tuesday to resume their Champions League defence, with their next Premier League assignment coming at home to West Ham a week on Monday. Norwich travel to Wolves in eight days' time.

Matej Vydra struck the winner as Burnley overcame Southampton 2-1 in stormy conditions at St Mary's on Saturday and moved into the top half of the Premier League.

Burnley took the lead in bizarre circumstances after just 93 seconds when Danny Ings left Ashley Westwood's corner at the near post and Alex McCarthy, who was standing behind his line, was unable to keep it out.

Ings atoned for that error by firing his 15th league goal of the season into the bottom-right corner from the edge of the box in the 18th minute.

Jack Stephens headed a cross from Sofiane Boufal - who went off injured in the first half - against the crossbar before the break and Burnley regained the lead on the hour mark, Vydra controlling Jeff Hendrick's long diagonal pass brilliantly before drilling home.

Southampton appealed for a penalty after Stephens' cross hit Ben Mee's arm, but referee Simon Hooper let play continue and VAR backed up his decision.

Nick Pope did well to deny Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg in the 90th minute and Sean Dyche's men hung on to make it four top-flight matches without defeat, while Saints have won just one of their past five across all competitions.

Pep Guardiola will consider his future at Manchester City after the club were hit with a two-season Champions League ban.

City were handed the sanction – and a €30million fine – by UEFA on Friday for "serious breaches" of Financial Fair Play regulations.

The Premier League club have denied wrongdoing and intend to appeal the verdict, but they could face personnel problems if unsuccessful.

 

TOP STORY – GUARDIOLA TO CONSIDER MAN CITY FUTURE AFTER EUROPEAN BAN

Guardiola will consider his future as City manager at season's end unless the verdict is overturned, according to The Telegraph.

The Catalan – who has been linked with Juventus – is contracted until 2021 and had suggested previously he intended to honour his deal.

ESPN reports Guardiola is worried about how the ban will impact his players but does claim the former Barcelona coach would be willing to remain as long as he, personally, is happy.

ROUND-UP

- With Ole Gunnar Solskjaer still under some pressure at Old Trafford, Manchester United are favourites to land Massimiliano Allegri as manager, according to Sport Mediaset. Paris Saint-Germain, Milan and Roma are also reportedly interested in the former Juventus coach.

- Staying at Manchester United, the Manchester Evening News reports Leicester City star James Maddison wants a move to the Premier League giants. Maddison has been reported to be close to signing a contract extension at the King Power Stadium.

- With Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang coming out of contract at the end of next season, Arsenal may opt to sell the forward during the next transfer window. The Mirror reports Inter are hoping to sign Aubameyang, who has also been linked to Barcelona.

- Olivier Giroud is prepared to wait to make a decision on his future despite coming out of contract at season's end. The Telegraph reports the Chelsea striker has been offered a pre-contract by Lazio but is in no rush to make a decision after attracting interest from Tottenham in January.

- Inter and Napoli are set for a transfer battle. CalcioMercato reports Hellas Verona and Albania defender Marash Kumbulla is a target for both clubs, who will need to pay at least €20m for the 20-year-old.

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