Jurgen Klopp hopes Liverpool can have a little more luck with regards to injuries next season, believing a full-strength squad would see them sitting much closer to runaway leaders Manchester City. 

Liverpool finished 18 points clear of second-place City in the 2019-20 Premier League season as they ended a 30-year wait to be crowned champions again. 

However, while they have struggled in the defence of their title, Pep Guardiola's squad are once again the team to beat. They set a new record with Wednesday's 3-1 triumph at Everton, becoming the first top-flight team to start a calendar year with 10 straight league victories. 

The Reds' focus has switched to finishing in the top four - they sit in fifth place ahead of Saturday's Merseyside derby, 16 points behind City - but Klopp feels such a huge gap would not have existed if he had key players available. 

Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez have been long-term absentees, with fellow centre-back Joel Matip now out for the rest of the season. Diogo Jota, meanwhile, has not featured since December 9, while Naby Keita is only just nearing a return having yet to make an appearance in 2021. 

Asked in his pre-match media conference about what it will take to be closer to City next season, Klopp replied: "We don't have to think about that now.

"We don't play them this year anymore - probably not, maybe the Champions League. For next year, then we have a little bit more time.  

"It's never the case that we thought, 'How can we overtake City and become the finest team in English football?'. We never saw it like this – we wanted the best version of ourselves.  

"We have that chance again, then if that's good enough, it's good enough. If another team is better, then that's how sport works. You cannot do more than be the best version of yourselves.   

"That's what we really try again, as a team especially. We need a little bit more luck, then a few other things as well.  

"But, in the beginning, slightly more luck with injuries would help. Then we can come closer to them.  

"I think we can all agree if I would say, probably Pep would say it too, that a full season for both teams and we wouldn't be 16 points away. But we are. That's how it is, we accept that.  This season, though, it is not about how close we can come to Manchester City."

Van Dijk has been out of action since the previous Merseyside derby at Goodison Park, back in October 2020.  

The defender was hurt early in proceedings following a challenge from goalkeeper Jordan Pickford, while team-mate Thiago Alcantara also suffered an injury in the game after a wild tackle from Richarlison that saw the Brazilian sent off. 

Klopp, however, made clear the game takes on no extra importance because of what happened in that 2-2 draw last year, as Liverpool look to avoid suffering four consecutive Premier League defeats for the first time since December 2002.  

"We play the way we play. It's very emotional but we are always emotional, to be honest," Klopp - who confirmed on Friday that Fabinho will not feature at Anfield - said. "That's our way to play.  

"What the other teams do I don't know, because I have no influence on that. I can imagine that after the first game you try to create some stories around that, but we will be prepared for a football game, for a derby, like we always do.  

"Nobody can say about his team that they are not ready for derbies, from an attitude point of view, from an understanding point of view over how important it is.  

"This team always was [ready] and will be tomorrow. Obviously, there are stories around, all these kind of things, but I have nothing to say."

Pep Guardiola insists he has had no significant influence over Mikel Arteta's fledgling managerial career.

Arteta spent three and a half seasons working as one of Guardiola's assistants at Manchester City before leaving to take the top job at Arsenal in December 2019.

City travel to Emirates Stadium on Sunday looking to extend their record-breaking winning run of 17 matches in all competitions.

Thursday's 1-1 draw against Benfica in the Europa League means Arsenal have only won once in their past five games but Guardiola nevertheless expects a tough test from his former understudy, who he does not believe has been getting much luck of late.

"What I see the last month or two months, every game Arsenal plays better than the opponent," he said.

"Our dream as managers is to deserve the results. We play to deserve what we want to get. Sometimes you lose or you win, you cannot control.

"What we want to deserve he is doing and in the games over the  last month, always they are better than the opponent – analysis in terms of controlling the game, creating more chances and conceding few.

"We must have an incredible performance to play as good as possible with the ball and run a lot in the right tempo to get the ball because they have an exceptional build-up already.

"In the final third they have incredible energy with [Emile] Smith [Rowe], [Bukayo] Saka and [Pierre-Emerick] Aubameyang.

"In the future they will be a real contender to fight for the titles."

Despite such ambitions being a constant of Guardiola's career, he does not feel his influence is prominent in the work of a man who overcame him in last season's FA Cup semi-final.

"He doesn't need help. He is more than well prepared than to get help from me," he said.

"He is an important person in my life. We had a lot of contact in or period here in Manchester

"Everything going well for him makes me happy."

Guardiola added: "No, I didn't inspire him. What he knows he knows for himself.

"I'm not, absolutely in this case, any influence. What he is doing is all the credit for him and his backroom staff."

A look at some of the Opta data behind the two teams' performances this season backs up Guardiola's assertion that Arteta is not simply building a replica of City in north London.

City's patient build-up play is a hallmark of Guardiola's style and their 582 open-play sequences with 10 or more passes is almost 100 more than the next highest team in the division on this metric (Chelsea 493).

Arsenal are fifth in terms of such passages of play behind Liverpool and Manchester United, although their 338 is a significant drop on the numbers City's domination of matches has allowed them to rack up.

Similarly, when it comes to build-up attacks – sequences of 10 or more passes that end in a shot – City are top of the pile with 141, while Arsenal's 73 is once again fifth best.

When Guardiola teams are playing well, it generally follows that they are pressing very well. For high turnovers – those sequences that start 40 metres or less from an opponent's goal – only Liverpool (227) fare better than City (224) this term.

Arsenal are 10th in the league with 160, while they allow opponents 13.7 passes per defensive action on average, compared to City's 11.9, which further suggests a more aggressive pressing approach from Guardiola's men.

Manchester City have denied reports of a £433million package being proposed to lure Lionel Messi to the Premier League.

Messi is out of contract at Barcelona at the end of this season, having tried to engineer a departure from Camp Nou last August.

During that time, he was heavily linked to City and a reunion with Pep Guardiola, while Barca's appeal to the superstar forward arguably suffered another heavy blow as they were thrashed 4-1 by Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League this week.

On Friday, The Sun reported Messi had a five-year proposal worth £606m put to him by City before the current campaign, although this figure has been revised due to the wider financial climate of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and the fact the six-time Ballon d'Or winner will be 34 in June.

However, a club spokesperson told Stats Perform no such offer has been made, nor are there any talks currently ongoing.

Were Messi to sign for City, it looks increasingly likely he would be joining a title-winning side.

Guardiola's men extended their record-breaking winning run for an English top-flight team to 17 matches across all competitions by beating Everton 3-1 in midweek, a result that stretched their lead at the top of the table to 10 points.

Everton boss Carlo Ancelotti said he felt City were "impossible" to play against after a dazzling second-half showing at Goodison Park, where fine strikes from Riyad Mahrez and Bernardo Silva - both players adept in the right-sided attacking roles Messi has filled for large chunks of his career - saw the visitors pull clear.

"I appreciate it, but I don't agree with Carlo, absolutely I do not agree," Guardiola said ahead of Sunday's trip to Arsenal.

"We can lose, the opponents are good and we try to do better than them every single game. This is the only target.

"I love Carlo, he is an incredible inspiration for me as a manager, for many things, but I don't agree with him."

Ilkay Gundogan sat out the Everton game with a groin complaint and Guardiola will make a late call on the Germany playmaker, who has been in sparkling form of late with nine goals in as many Premier League games since the turn of the year.

Gundogan's performances meant Kevin De Bruyne's absence with a hamstring injury was not felt as keenly as might have been expected.

The Belgium star returned from the bench versus Everton and came through will no ill-effects, leaving defender Nathan Ake (hamstring) as City's only remaining senior absentee.

"Nathan is back training on the pitch alone but is closer to coming back with us," Guardiola added.

"Gundo trained just part of the training session today, we'll see how he feels. The rest are fit."

Manchester City are counting the cost of the current financial climate and have slashed the budget assigned to lure Lionel Messi away from Barcelona.

The 33-year-old Barca captain could depart his boyhood team in the 2021 off-season after publicly trying, and failing, to force an exit from the Catalan club last August.

A reunion with Pep Guardiola at Manchester City has been the subject of much speculation, but Messi may have to compromise to make the move happen as the Premier League leaders' bargaining power has taken a hit.

 

TOP STORY – CITY FORCED TO LOWER MESSI CONTRACT OFFER

City had already tabled a five-year contract designed to tempt Messi to switch LaLiga for the Premier League – but the numbers have now changed, reports The Sun.

A package worth £600million (€693m) had reportedly been prepared in order to tie the six-time Ballon d'Or winner down for the rest of his career, should he opt to leave Barca at the end of the season.

But The Sun says City will now not match the terms set in August, and the offer has dropped to £430million (€496m), potentially opening the door for Paris Saint-Germain to swoop.

ROUND-UP

Chelsea have already made contact with winger Jonas Hofmann, according to Bild, as the Borussia Monchengladbach exodus threatens to begin following the news that coach Marco Rose is leaving for Borussia Dortmund next season. Hofmann played for Thomas Tuchel at Dortmund.

Milan midfielder Franck Kessie is also in Tuchel's sights, and the Blues could offer Fikayo Tomori to the Serie A giants on a permanent deal as part of a player-plus-cash exchange, reports Il Milanista.

- Everton loanee Moise Kean has netted 14 goals in 25 games for PSG and his parent club will not part with the Italy international for any less than £60m, says Fabrizio Romano, while Juventus want to bring the striker back to Turin, according to Le 10 Sport.

 

Everton 'will demand £70m for Moise Kean transfer' after impressing at PSG https://t.co/3PvjhBQ1rf

— Sun Sport (@SunSport) February 18, 2021

- 'If there are opportunities, I will have a look at them,' is what Wilfried Zaha told the Financial Times Business of Football Summit, reports The Sun. The Crystal Palace winger has been previously linked with Arsenal and Tottenham.

- Gunners midfielder Lucas Torreira, currently on the fringes while on loan at Atletico Madrid, is close to securing a move to Fiorentina for next season, claims Gazzetta Dello Sport.

Manchester City appear to be cruising towards the Premier League title and will look to extend a 17-match winning run away to Mikel Arteta's Arsenal.

While top spot is firmly in their hands, the chasing back have plenty to play for, with Manchester United in need of a win at home to Newcastle United and Tottenham heading to West Ham for a tough London derby.

Chelsea's winning streak under Thomas Tuchel has put them firmly back into top-four contention, and Timo Werner's welcome return to goalscoring could have come at a critical time.

That said, fantasy football managers would also be wise to consider Danny Ings, whose impressive scoring record will be of concern to Tuchel's men.

 

EMILIANO MARTINEZ

Aston Villa's reported £20million spend on Emiliano Martinez is a candidate for the best piece of Premier League business this season.

Martinez kept his 12th clean sheet of the season to help Villa grind out a draw at Brighton and Hove Albion last time out.

The former Arsenal man is just the fifth Villa keeper in the Premier League era to keep at least 10 clean sheets in a season and is only three short of Brad Friedel's tally set back in 2009-10. Leicester City's impressive attack could have met its match.

 

LUKE SHAW

Manchester United left-back Luke Shaw has enjoyed perhaps his best season for the club, with his form rarely affected despite his team's up-and-down recent results.

He has provided an assist in each of his previous three appearances, registering five in total this term, his best tally in a single league season.

Against a struggling Newcastle side, Shaw could become only the fourth United player to assist a goal in four consecutive games, after Ryan Giggs, Nani and Antonio Valencia.

LEWIS DUNK

Brighton have not conceded more than one goal in any game since drawing 3-3 with Wolves on January 2.

On Saturday, they host a Crystal Palace side who have failed to score in a higher share of their away league games this season (58 per cent) than in any other campaign in the competition's history.

A clean sheet for Brighton and Lewis Dunk looks likely, and given the centre-back has scored more goals (six) than any other defender except Virgil van Dijk (also six) since the start of 2019-20, he could be worth the captaincy this weekend.

 

RAHEEM STERLING

If Arsenal are to stop City's run, they will need to keep Raheem Sterling quiet.

The England forward has scored seven times in the league against the Gunners – he has only scored more often against Watford, West Ham and Bournemouth.

Sterling has netted in all three of his previous league meetings with Arsenal and has registered four goals and two assists in his most recent five games against them.

SON HEUNG-MIN

West Ham have rarely gone into recent games with Tottenham as favourites, but they are six points ahead of Jose Mourinho's men in the table, after playing a game more.

However, they will have to contend with Son Heung-min if that points gap is going to grow. The South Korea star has been involved in six goals in his past five league games with the Hammers and assisted in each of the last three.

In fact, he has assisted more goals (four) against West Ham than he has against any other side in the Premier League.

 

TIMO WERNER

Timo Werner ended his league goal drought against Newcastle United last time out, scoring exactly 1,000 minutes after his previous effort against Sheffield United in November.

Despite that much-publicised goal drought, Werner has actually been directly involved in more goals (10) in the league than any other Chelsea player this season, while only Mason Mount (105) has had a hand in more shots (73).

With his confidence beginning to grow, this could be a good time to back the Germany striker in your selection.

DANNY INGS

Southampton have lost six games in a row since knocking Arsenal out of the FA Cup in the fourth round, so backing a win over Chelsea would seem a little bold.

Still, expecting Danny Ings to be among the goals is usually a safer bet.

The striker has the best minutes-per-goal ratio of any Saints player with at least 15 in the competition, averaging one every 161 minutes.

Premier League boss Richard Masters is hopeful this season's champions will be spared having to lift the trophy in an empty stadium.

Chief executive Masters is eyeing next term for a major return of supporters, but he says there is a possibility some may return before the 2020-21 campaign ends.

Fans have been absent for almost all of this season to date due to the COVID-19 crisis.

A brief window in December saw up to 2,000 fans allowed in a number of games, but that was quickly shut as infection rates climbed.

It has created the possibility of the champions, like Liverpool last season, having to celebrate their title success behind closed doors.

Yet Masters, who spoke at the FT Business of Football summit on Thursday, is holding out hope that falling coronavirus numbers may mean stands can soon be occupied, even if only by a small number of fans.

"No-one can say but we have not lost hope we might see a few back this season, depending what happens with the numbers," Masters said.

"Hopefully the season finishes as planned on 23 May and wherever the trophy presentation might be, there might be some supporters in the ground as well.

"It depends what happens with the numbers but next season I hope it opens up quickly, so we can get fans back in stadiums and get back to the real Premier League."

Manchester City appear to be surging towards a third Premier League title in four seasons, having opened up a 10-point lead over nearest rivals Manchester United and Leicester City with 14 games remaining.

Football clubs across the world have haemorrhaged money in the last year, with the income stream provided by fans in stadiums taken away.

Some are facing battles to survive and meet payments, while there are concerns for TV deals in many parts.

According to Masters, the Premier League can avoid settling for reduced broadcast income, which is the fate that has affected some major leagues.

He said, quoted by the BBC, that the European picture was "not necessarily relevant" to how deals may pan out in the United Kingdom.

Masters stressed he would not "accept things have plateaued and we are looking at a downward curve".

He added: "We have done some media rights deals during the pandemic and are ahead of our current position in the markets where we have been selling."

Following Manchester City's 3-1 victory at Swansea City in the FA Cup last Wednesday, Pep Guardiola's side won their 15th successive match.

In doing so, they set a new record for an English top-flight club in all competitions, overtaking the 14-game winning runs of Arsenal and Preston North End in 1987 and 1892, respectively.

They have since extended this streak to 17 after great wins over both Tottenham and Everton in the Premier League.

Back in 2017, it was claimed by some that City had secured 20 wins on the trot, between August 26 and December 3 until they eventually lost 2-1 away at Shakhtar Donetsk in the Champions League on December 6.

The bone of contention stemmed from the 12th game in this run; a 0-0 draw against Wolves in the EFL Cup, which saw City progress 4-1 in a penalty shootout.

Here at Stats Perform, we have worked on the basis that a penalty shootout is a method to find a winner of a tie or to decide a tournament/trophy winner, rather than to decide who won an individual match.

The official Laws of the Game, which are the responsibility of the International Football Association Board (IFAB) could be interpreted in other ways, but we have always held the belief that they explain the situation as we understood it.

A high-profile example of why the winner of a penalty shootout cannot be considered the winner of a match is that of the 2011-12 Champions League semi-final tie between Real Madrid and Bayern Munich.

The two sides drew 3-3 on aggregate and it was in the second leg – which Real Madrid won 2-1 on the night – that Bayern Munich progressed to the final with a 3-1 penalty shootout victory.

Based on the assumption that the team to win the shootout wins the match, you would have two winners in a single game; Madrid won 2-1 but also lost because of a 3-1 shootout reverse to Bayern, who lost as well due to suffering a 2-1 defeat in the actual game.

City have been involved in an occasion similar to this in recent times. They won 2-0 at home to Danish club Aalborg in the first leg of their 2008-09 UEFA Cup round of 16 tie, before losing 2-0 away a week later.

City progressed 4-3 following a penalty shootout on the night but lost the actual game 2-0.

Following City's current phenomenal run of form, the IFAB's technical director David Elleray spoke to Stats Perform and put the matter to bed, once and for all. He referred to Law 10.2 in the 2020-21 Laws of the Game.

Elleray told Stats Perform: "Law 10 makes it clear that a match is drawn, won or lost according to the number of goals both teams score in 'normal' time or in 'normal' time plus extra-time.

"'Away goals' and 'kicks from the penalty mark' (KFPM) [penalty shootouts] are not part of the match itself and are only used to determine a 'winning team' where one is required. For KFPM, this is made clear in the next section of Law 10."

"Thus KFPM (as with 'away goals') do not change the result of the match itself as they occur after the match has ended," added Elleray.

Clearly, we're not the overlords of the statistics world.

Clubs, competitions and statisticians may choose to deem 'penalty shootout' wins as match victories – we can't change that. What's important is that terminologies need to be tightened up by those that choose this way of thinking, as there is an important technical difference between a match that's won in 'normal' time (or after extra-time) and one that's drawn and then 'won' as a result of kicks from the penalty mark (penalty shootout).

For example, the latter might constitute part of a 'winning' run (general term) but, for some, not necessarily part of a 'match-winning' run.

We'd like to thank David Elleray for his time and willingness for his statements to be put on record for publication, hopefully clearing up any confusion about this subject.

It further highlights just what an incredible run of form City are currently enjoying.

Kylian Mbappe's future is in his own hands after showing the world what he is capable of while scoring a hat-trick in Paris Saint-Germain's 4-1 Champions League demolition of Barcelona.

With his contract in the French capital set to expire in June 2022, Mbappe ultimately has the choice of either signing a new deal or leaving his hometown team – and the World Cup winner has been non-committal so far.

Should the 22-year-old sensation decide to take his career abroad, there will be no shortage of suitors, with four European giants ready to swoop.

 

TOP STORY – LIVERPOOL, MANCHESTER CITY, REAL MADRID, JUVENTUS EYE IN-DEMAND MBAPPE

If PSG cannot persuade Mbappe to sign a long-term extension, they will not want to lose a world-class talent without a fee, so the Ligue 1 champions have placed a €200million (£173m) tag on his head, according to Le Parisien.

Le Parisien reports the price may not deter the Frenchman's admirers, who include Premier League rivals Manchester City and LiverpoolReal Madrid and Juventus.

While those clubs may want him, it is unclear if all of them would be able to afford Mbappe, who is set to make more than €30m per year gross on his next contract. Reports claim PSG will aim to price their Champions League rivals out of a deal.

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola believes Bernardo Silva is back to his "unstoppable" best after the Portuguese star shined in the Premier League leaders' 3-1 win against Everton.

After Everton forward Richarlison cancelled out Phil Foden's opener, Silva set up Riyad Mahrez to put City in front in the 63rd minute at Goodison Park on Wednesday.

Silva then turned from provider to goalscorer, collecting Gabriel Jesus' pass to extend the advantage with 13 minutes remaining and seal City's 17th successive win in all competitions.

Harking back to his outstanding form in City's 2018-19 title-winning campaign, Guardiola heaped praise on the impact Silva has made during his 28 starts this season.

"What a player. I can say that, what a player. Everything he does, he does incredibly well," Guardiola told reporters.

"The year that we won the second Premier League in a row, he was unstoppable.

"He was an important player for us and he's back.

"I'm more than pleased because, I've said many times, he's a lovely person.

"As a manager, you will dream to always have people like Bernardo. I think his mum and dad must be so proud about the son that they have."

Lionel Messi is not motivated by money as he eyes titles amid uncertainty over his Barcelona future, according to presidential candidate Joan Laporta.

Messi has been heavily linked with Ligue 1 champions Paris Saint-Germain and Premier League giants Manchester City, with his contract expiring at the end of the season.

The record six-time Ballon d'Or winner tried to leave Camp Nou at the start of the 2020-21 campaign before opting to stay.

As doubts remain over Messi following Barcelona's 4-1 rout at the hands of PSG in the first leg of the blockbuster last-16 tie on Tuesday, Laporta – one of the remaining candidates in the running for the presidency – remains hopeful of keeping the 33-year-old.

"Giving him affection is very important," Laporta told Sky Sport Italia. "The love story between Messi and Barcelona is one of the most beautiful stories in football.

"He has to be loved. He deserves it. And he has to be valued with an economic offer that makes him feel valued, but he's not led by money.

"I know him, I have a good relationship with him and a lot of respect.

"He's a winner. What he wants is to win again, with Barcelona. I'm going to do everything I can to keep him. Our competitors are state clubs, they are making offers.

"We have to be clear that money doesn't guarantee titles, and Leo is more about winning titles than making money."

Laporta added: "He makes more money than he costs, much more. Messi's cost represents eight percent of the club's total income, while he generates around 30 percent of the income.

"Messi is very profitable for Barcelona, but the most important thing is the emotional return he gives us.

"It's priceless when you ask a young boy or girl who their favourite player is and they immediately say Messi."

Messi's opening goal against PSG was his 20th goal of the season for Barcelona in all competitions – it is the 13th consecutive campaign he has scored 20-plus goals for the club.

The Barca captain has scored in the Champions League in each calendar year since 2005. This run of at least one goal in 17 consecutive years is the joint-longest run in the competition's history alongside Raul (1995-2011).

Everton manager Carlo Ancelotti congratulated Manchester City and declared them champions-elect after the runaway Premier League leaders powered to a 3-1 win at Goodison Park.

City opened up a 10-point gap over second-placed neighbours Manchester United after a commanding display against Everton on Wednesday, with goals coming from Phil Foden, Riyad Mahrez and Bernardo Silva.

Everton star Richarlison did net a first-half equaliser but it was not enough to stop the Toffees from falling to a second consecutive loss on Merseyside in four days, following the 2-0 reverse against Fulham on Sunday.

City have won their last 12 league matches, 17 in all competitions, and Ancelotti cannot see any team stopping Pep Guardiola's high-flying side from securing a fifth Premier League trophy and seventh English domestic crown.

"I think so. It's really difficult to say another name," Ancelotti said.

"Man City, in this moment, are in a good mood. They have fantastic quality, they have belief, they are strong.

"We tried to put the game on the strong side but it was difficult against Rodrigo, against [Ruben] Dias, against [Aymeric] Laporte."

Pep Guardiola credited Manchester City for showing patience in attack as they claimed a 3-1 win over Everton to move 10 points clear at the top of the Premier League. 

Phil Foden's deflected strike put City ahead at Goodison Park but the game was level at half-time after Richarlison turned in a Lucas Digne strike that came back off the post. 

Everton, who had lost each of their previous five league games against City and conceded at least twice every time, were looking resolute in defence until Bernardo Silva teed up Riyad Mahrez to score a stunning second goal. 

Silva added a fine third 13 minutes from time as City became the first side in English top-flight history to win their first 10 games of a calendar year. 

Manager Guardiola felt the less-hurried approach in attack in the second half proved key against a Toffees side who have now failed to win at home in five league matches. 

"A real tough game, not perfect conditions, the winter time, and they are so physical as a team," Guardiola told Amazon Prime. 

"But a solid performance. The guys ran like we had to do and it's three points.

"We had the quality up front but it always comes through the passes. When we arrived in the final third, we wanted to attack too quickly, we needed to be patient. The second goal is an example of that. 

"Sometimes it's fine, no problem, make an extra [pass], because at the end we have to try to get the players we play up front in better conditions to make the action." 

Richarlison's equaliser was the first goal City had conceded from open play in the league since a late consolation from Callum Hudson-Odoi in a 3-1 win at Chelsea on January 3. 

For Guardiola, the most pleasing aspect was that they limited Everton – who drew 3-3 with Manchester United at Old Trafford and scored five in an FA Cup win over Tottenham last week – to just three attempts. 

"Football is not defensive-offensive. You cannot win titles if you are not solid. It's important we concede few chances. This is the most important thing," he said. 

"We cannot forget this team scored three goals at Old Trafford, five against Tottenham, so it's a team that has ability up front to create chances. And we conceded few."

Manchester City moved 10 points clear at the top of the Premier League after a 3-1 victory over Everton at Goodison Park on Wednesday. 

With in-form goalscorer Ilkay Gundogan missing through injury, it was fellow midfielders Phil Foden, Riyad Mahrez and Bernardo Silva who stretched City's winning run to 17 games in all competitions. 

Mahrez struck a sublime second for City in the second half, his fourth league goal on this ground, after a fortuitous Richarlison effort had cancelled out Foden's deflected opener. 

Silva's third 13 minutes from time – shortly before Kevin De Bruyne made a return from injury off the bench – ensured Carlo Ancelotti's side have only won twice in eight league games in 2021, and their season is in danger of unravelling. 

City controlled the first half-hour but Everton limited them to few chances, with Michael Keane covering well to deny Gabriel Jesus the clearest opening. 

The Toffees went behind in unfortunate fashion 32 minutes in, Foden's right-foot shot flying past Jordan Pickford via a big deflection off Seamus Coleman.

The lead last only six minutes, though. Coleman's cross from the right was smashed goalwards by Lucas Digne – Everton's first shot of the match – and the ball came back off the post and bounced in off Richarlison's knee. 

The second half followed a similar pattern, Jesus and Rodri each missing the target from presentable chances, although Gylfi Sigurdsson led two promising breaks for Everton that should perhaps have yielded more. 

City's pressure told 63 minutes in, Mahrez cutting in from the right and curling a superb strike in off the left-hand post after Silva had created some space. 

Silva capped a fine performance with the decisive third, collecting Jesus' lay-off, working space on the edge of the box and firing in a shot that Pickford could only parry into the net.


What does it mean? Record-breaking City continue title charge 

City's lead at the top over Manchester United now stands at 10 points after 24 games and, on current form, it is a gap that looks unlikely to be bridged. 

This was their sixth league win in a row over Everton and made it 10 consecutive top-flight victories to start the calendar year, surpassing the record of nine first set by Bolton Wanderers in 1906 and then United in 2009. 

Everton, who have lost three league games at home in a row for the first time in five years, stay seventh. 

Silva service 

Everton were just beginning to look comfortable in defence when Silva produced the telling impact, pulling apart the backline to set up Mahrez and then rifling home a goal of his own. 

The Portugal midfielder misplaced just two of his 62 passes, 43 of which were in the Everton half. 

Mina injury adds to mounting Everton worries 

Yerry Mina went off injured in the first half to leave Everton's task even more daunting, as well as give Ancelotti a selection headache ahead of the weekend trip to Liverpool. 

The Italian last lost three league games at home in a row back when he was in charge of Milan in 2006 and, with Southampton and Chelsea to play after the champions, this could be a tough few weeks for him. 

What's next? 

City head to Arsenal on Sunday, with Everton next up at the home of the champions for Saturday's Merseyside derby. 

Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola is concerned the March international break could result in another wave of coronavirus positives for Premier League clubs.

City can go 10 points clear at the Premier League summit with victory over Everton at Goodison Park on Wednesday - a rearranged fixture after the initially scheduled December encounter was postponed due to a COVID-19 outbreak among Guardiola's squad.

Aston Villa also withdrew from action during the post-Christmas period and Newcastle United were affected similarly earlier in the season.

The Premier League responded by upping testing at clubs to twice a week and, in the most recent period returned, there were two positives from 2,970 players and club staff tested.

This represents a significant drop from 36 positives out of 2,593 tests between January 4-10 but Guardiola is wary of some of this good work being undone when his players and others begin travelling the globe again over the coming weeks.

City's Champions League last-16 trip to Borussia Monchengladbach has been switched to Budapest, with European games featuring Premier League counterparts Liverpool, Manchester United, Arsenal and Chelsea also switched from their original venues due to local COVID-19 protocols.

Asked whether the subsequent international matches next month will place members of his squad at risk, Guardiola replied: "Hopefully not but the only way to be protected from this virus is to stay at home and don’t move and social distance and no contact and don’t travel.

"Now the people are going to travel, the players are going to the national teams and it’s difficult after to control it, so I think something is going to rise unfortunately.

"I would love to say or to guess it's not going to happen but from experience it happened in two or three waves already worldwide, so if you move you take a risk to be contaminated, to get the virus again."

Earlier this month, FIFA granted clubs the right to refuse to release players called up to their national teams if there is a mandatory quarantine period of five days or more on their return.

For Premier League clubs - and significantly for City given the make-up of Guardiola's squad - this means players representing Portugal or South American nations can be held back because anyone returning from those countries will need to quarantine in a hotel for 10 days as they are on the UK's "red list".

Guardiola said there had been no discussions between clubs and federations to his knowledge and does not want the Premier League's handling of the pandemic to be undermined.

"I think the Premier League should be concerned about this, all the leagues [should be] concerned," he said.

"I know the national federations need to play, for the qualification, for the friendly games, for their preparation for the European Championship in summer time, this is normal.

"But the reason why there were a lot of cases in the Premier League and now there is no cases is because people don't move - home and training centre, game, home no more than this.

"The players are going to the national team, they know the situation. We'll tell them to be careful and after they go to the national team they are going to protect them as well."

City will try to extend a record-breaking run of 16 consecutive victories at Goodison Park. They will be without in-form midfielder Ilkay Gundogan (groin), although Kevin De Bruyne (hamstring) will travel with the squad after a month on the sidelines.

After the initial Everton postponement, Guardiola did not envisage City - or any other side - being able to put such a relentless run together.

"That’s true, everyone thought [the season] would be cancelled again," he added.

"Here in England in December and January, the cases rose amazingly but the Premier League and all the clubs, all the team managers and the protocols were so effective."

Pep Guardiola hailed Jurgen Klopp's "exceptional " achievements as the Liverpool boss comes under increasing pressure amid their slump in form.

Klopp conceded the title following Liverpool's 3-1 defeat to Leicester City on Saturday, admitting that the gap to Guardiola's Manchester City - which stands at 13 points ahead of City's game in hand with Everton on Wednesday - was too much for the defending champions to make up.

The Reds, who face RB Leipzig in the Champions League last 16 on Tuesday, are in danger of missing out on playing in that competition next season.

Liverpool's loss at the King Power Stadium was their third successive defeat in the Premier League and they sit sixth in the table, two points behind fourth-placed Chelsea and fifth-placed West Ham.

However, Guardiola praised Liverpool's display at Leicester, where they took the lead before Brendan Rodgers' side scored three times in the space of seven minutes, and was extremely complimentary of his managerial rival when asked if he had empathy for Klopp.

"A lot," he replied at a pre-match media conference. "What he's done is exceptional.

"I said many times now and previously in Germany, he makes football attractive for all spectators, wants to give joy to fans, attacking football and no doubts about it.

"We have good and bad moments, no manager can sustain season after season, winning and winning, it would be boring.

"Sometimes you have to lose, to realise. I speak personally, sometimes it's good to lose, you realise how difficult it is.

"When you come back you get more credit and value for what you've done."

City can go 10 points clear at the top with a win over Everton, having won their last 16 games in all competitions and their last 11 in the league.

"We never get perfection, what we've done, the 16 games in a row, 11 in the Premier League, is thinking the next game, this is the only secret," added Guardiola.

"All games left to play, a lot can happen. All I think is Everton. We are in mid-February, a lot of points [to play for], we'll drop points and that's the moment I expect to see the reaction of all of us."

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