Manchester City are set to be without Ilkay Gundogan for Wednesday's Premier League trip to Everton due to a groin injury.

Germany playmaker Gundogan has been in a rich vein of form during City's ongoing 16-match winning run in all competitions.

A brace in Saturday's 3-0 victory over Tottenham at the Etihad Stadium took his 2020-21 goals tally to 13 - already the most prolific of the ex-Borussia Dortmund favourite's career, with 11 of those coming in his past 15 appearances.

But Gundogan pulled up with a tight groin shortly after beating Hugo Lloris for a second time and City boss Pep Guardiola is unlikely to risk him at Goodison Park.

"Gundo is much better but don't think he's available tomorrow," he told a pre-match news conference on Tuesday.

"Everyone else okay, except Nathan Ake."

Sergio Aguero was an unused substitute against Tottenham as he awaits a return from a bout of coronavirus, which arrived on the back of knee and hamstring injury woes for City's all-time record goalscorer.

"Sergio has been one year injured, so he cannot start from the beginning. But he's ready to come back. He was on the bench last game, he will be again," said Guardiola.

"As soon as we believe he can start he is going to take minutes."

City's record-breaking run has come almost entirely without Aguero's involvement, while Kevin De Bruyne has also been laid low by a hamstring injury over recent weeks.

The reigning PFA Players' Player of the Year is back in training, however, and nearing a return.

"He's getting better, really better," said Guardiola, who also confirmed centre-back Ruben Dias was fit again following a sickness bug.

"Today Kevin did all the training with the group with all of us, so he's feeling much better."

The midweek trip to Merseyside is City's game in hand on their nearest rivals at the summit, the originally scheduled fixture having been postponed in December due to a COVID-19 outbreak among Guardiola's squad.

A win would take them 10 points clear of Manchester United and Leicester City but Guardiola is taking nothing for granted against Carlo Ancelotti's men.

"Everton always has been one of the greatest teams in England," the City boss added.

"This season has been much better than the previous seasons. It is normal, Carlo knows his players much better.

"Like all the teams, Manchester City included, they have good moments and bad moments. But the quality from Carlo is always there."

With Lionel Messi's future far from certain at the end of the season, his former team-mate Neymar has apparently reached out to the Barcelona captain about a move to Paris Saint-Germain.

Brazilian superstar Neymar played alongside the six-time Ballon d'Or winner for four LaLiga seasons between 2013 and 2017, before sealing a world-record transfer to Ligue 1 giants

It is understood Pep Guardiola's Manchester City are ready to make a play to bring Messi to the Premier League, but Mauricio Pochettino's PSG appear to be taking the direct approach.

 

TOP STORY – NEYMAR PUTS IN A CALL TO MESSI

Lionel Messi's contract at his boyhood club expires in the off-season, less than a year after the Barcelona superstar sensationally tried to leave Camp Nou but found his exit plans blocked.

According to L'Equipe, Neymar – who is set to miss the Champions League trip to the Barcelona on Tuesday – has put in a call to convince Messi to join Paris Saint-Germain.

Messi will lead out Barca in the first leg of the last-16 tie, having stated he will wait until the end of the current campaign before making a decision on where he will play in 2021-2022.

ROUND-UP

- PSG star Kylian Mbappe has decided to stay put this off-season but is not planning on extending his current contract, which expires in 2022, claims ESPN.

Liverpool are looking for defensive reinforcements and they are monitoring Aston Villa's England Under-21 international Ezri Konsa, according to The Athletic.

- Bayern Munich's free-agent defender David Alaba has already agreed to join Real Madrid at season's end, reports Fabrizio Romano.

Premier League action coincided with Valentine's Day this weekend and Southampton ended a long drought of a particular kind on the most romantic day of the year.

There was also an impressive scoring feat for an Arsenal striker to enjoy on February 14, as the Gunners sent the White Roses of Leeds United back to Yorkshire with their tails between their legs.

A Valentine's Day chocolate variety set was the only box Harry Kane got near this weekend after a tricky time of it against Pep Guardiola's Manchester City, as Ilkay Gundogan continued his remarkable run.

All the above feature in our quirky facts from the weekend's top-flight action!

SAINTS' VALENTINE'S CARD AND AUBA'S RETURN TO FORM

It's usually nice to receive a card or two on Valentine's Day – the only exceptions are if they're tokens of sympathy from your mother, or handed out to you by a referee.

Until this year, Southampton were the only Premier League side to play a match on Valentine's Day and not receive a card, but that changed when Graham Scott booked Oriol Romeu in Saints' 2-1 defeat to Wolves. Coincidentally, that was the Spaniard's 51st Premier League yellow card since the start of 2015-16, 11 more than any player.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang had a rather more enjoyable Valentine's Day, however, as the Arsenal man scored his first Premier League hat-trick in their 4-2 defeat of Leeds United.

He joined Michael Owen and Matt Le Kissier, sorry, Le Tissier as the only players to net trebles in the Premier league on Valentine's Day.

GUNDOGAN GUNNING FOR GOALS

To say anyone predicted Ilkay Gundogan establishing himself as one of the Premier League's deadliest marksman would be a heinous lie… Yet, here we are – he is.

In fact, the German's form isn't bettered by anyone else across Europe's top five leagues in 2021, as his brace against Tottenham took him to nine goals since the turn of the year.

Andre Silva of Eintracht Frankfurt is the only player to match that haul across the same period, but his conversion rate is nothing compared to Gundogan's.

The City star, who has been playing a more advanced role lately, has converted 47.4 per cent of his shots since January 1 – among players to have scored at least five times this year, that is the fifth highest. It is a better record than those of Robert Lewandowski, Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi.

Given the rate he's going at, Gundogan may now have an eye on the all-time record for German players in a single Premier League season – Jurgen Klinsmann (20) and Uwe Rosler (15, both in 1994-95) are the only ones to score more than 11.

KANE FORCED TO THINK OUTSIDE THE BOX

It was another miserable outing for Tottenham at the weekend as their 3-0 loss at City consigned them to a fourth defeat in five Premier League games, as many as they had suffered in their previous 28.

Harry Kane endured a particularly frustrating day, as he was starved of service and found himself roaming as a result, hardly conducive to getting opportunities in the danger area.

In fact, he failed to touch the ball once inside the penalty area, which is practically unheard of for Kane.

It was only the fourth occasion of Kane failing to touch the ball in the box in a league game he started.

SAKA'S TEENAGE KICKS

Bukayo Saka has been a standout performer for Arsenal for quite a while, not just this season. However, in 2020-21 he has arguably taken his influence up a level.

He was a livewire against Leeds at the weekend, winning Arsenal's first-half penalty shortly after he was perhaps cruelly denied another by the VAR.

His performance further highlighted how much influence he has despite not turning 20 for more than six months – he is the youngest player in the Premier League this term to score five goals, be involved in at least seven goals, create 25 chances and complete 30 dribbles.

There has been plenty of talk recently about whether he will get himself into the England squad for the delayed Euro 2020 later this year – at the moment, you'd have to say he'd be unlucky to miss out.

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola labelled Ederson's passing the best he has seen from a goalkeeper.

A long pass from Ederson set up Ilkay Gundogan's sealer in City's 3-0 Premier League win over Tottenham on Saturday.

Guardiola has previously suggested the goalkeeper could become City's penalty taker, such is his ability with his feet.

Having worked with Manuel Neuer at Bayern Munich and Victor Valdes at Barcelona, Guardiola said Ederson was the best passer.

"With his feet, he is the best. The quality of the pass, I would say, is the best," he said.

"Manuel and Victor were incredible too but the quality of the pass is the best. I would not say who is the best [overall] because I had success in the past with incredible keepers in Victor, Manuel and Eddie.

"He has credit from the manager, backroom staff and players. He's outstanding and he knows it.

"But the players know – if you want credit and to be recognised, win games, win titles and you will get it.

"If you don't win games and titles, you will not get it. It's not more difficult than this."

City are seven points clear atop the Premier League table ahead of visiting Everton on Wednesday.

Roses are red, violets are blue, have we got the perfect Valentine's Day content for you!

Questionable rhymes aside (okay, very questionable), love is in the air as long-standing couples and newly formed relationships celebrate the day of romance on Sunday.

The world of football is certainly no stranger to the language of love, so before you crack open a bottle of red and exchange cheap knock-off gifts with your significant other why not get some inspiration for love with our Valentine's Day facts with some help from Cupid!

(Well not Cupid, Opta – but the team at Opta are full of love!)

MATT LE KISS-IER LOVES TO SCORE ON VALENTINE'S DAY

Valentine's Day is of course a day for love (and overpaying for those last-minute flowers and cards you forgot to buy…).

Two players have been particularly good at spreading the joy on February 14th with Southampton legend Matt Le Tissier and ex-Liverpool striker Michael Owen each scoring three times in the Premier League on this date – the most of all players.

Here's something even more interesting about that stat, though – each man's tally is a result of scoring a Valentine's Day hat-trick.

Le Tissier registered three against the Reds back in 1994, while Owen took home the match ball with a treble versus Sheffield Wednesday four years later.

Owen's three goals are part of 12 Liverpool have tallied on the day of love – comfortably the most by a team. Arsenal follow on seven, with Aston Villa and Southampton on four.

A ROSE FOR THE LADY?

Flowers are synonymous with Valentine's Day but none more so than the rose.

Two players named Rose have plied their trade in the Premier League – Danny (194 appearances) and Matthew (five appearances). The former, of course, is an England international who with his marauding runs from full-back has often been a, ahem, thorn in the side of opponents…

There are other love-themed names to have featured in the top flight. Valentino Lazaro played 13 times in the Premier League for Newcastle United on loan last term, while Valentin Roberge made 10 appearances for north east rivals Sunderland.

The Black Cats also had Donald Love on their books, the defender having previously represented Manchester United once in the top flight.

FOXES RACK UP THE CARDS

Whether from a partner or a secret admirer, it's always nice to receive a card or two on Valentine's Day.

Unless of course you're playing in the Premier League, in which case you want to see the referee keep their cards in their pockets.

In this regard, Leicester City have not been overly successful – the seven yellow cards representing the most received by a team on Valentine's Day. Arsenal follow closely behind with six, with Manchester City on four.

The Foxes also fare badly when it comes to red cards, having picked up two on February 14th – Danny Simpson and Hamza Choudhury account for those dismissals. The only other player to have been sent off on Valentine's Day is Everton hero Duncan Ferguson ... no, we weren't shocked either.

THE BEST BROMANCES

It goes without saying that we don't need to confine our love sharing to one manufactured day of the year…

No, we should be spreading the joy in our hearts all year round and these strike partnerships certainly succeed in that category.

Going back to the start of the 2015-16 season, no two players have combined for more goals than Spurs duo Harry Kane and Son Heung-min (33).

In fact, Kane features three times in the top-five – also ranking third with Christian Eriksen (19), and sharing 18 with Dele Alli.

Manchester City pairing Sergio Aguero and Kevin De Bruyne are second with 20, while Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez (18), who fired Leicester to shock title glory in 2015-16, also feature.

If reports are to be believed, Lionel Messi will leave Barcelona at the end of the season.

However, his next destination remains a mystery.

The United States, though, could be next on the list for the record six-time Ballon d'Or winner.

 

TOP STORY – MIAMI MOVE ON THE CARDS FOR MESSI?

Lionel Messi could be keen on joining David Beckham's Inter Miami in MLS, claims Sport.

Messi, whose contract is set to expire, is tipped to leave Barcelona at the end of the season amid strong links to Ligue 1 champions Paris Saint-Germain and Premier League giants Manchester City.

But the six-time Ballon d'Or winner could be lured to the United States, where Beckham co-owns Inter Miami.

 

ROUND-UP

- According to The Sun, Manchester United are battling Barca and Real Madrid to sign Sevilla centre-back Jules Kounde. United are reportedly determined to bolster their defence and Kounde has emerged as a key target.

Liverpool have made Torino defender Bremer their top transfer target at the end of the season, reports the Mirror. Despite the January arrivals of Ozan Kabak and Ben Davies, Liverpool still want to strengthen their defence.

- Spanish journalist Siro Lopez says Sergio Ramos has made his decision to leave Madrid. It comes as the likes of United, PSG, Juventus and Chelsea eye the superstar Madrid captain on a free transfer.

Madrid are interested in Real Betis midfielder Nabil Fekir, reports Estadio Deportivo. Inter, Valencia, Atletico Madrid and Napoli are also believed to be eyeing the Frenchman.

Lionel Messi would be perfectly suited to Manchester City amid ongoing doubts over his future at Barcelona, according to Pablo Zabaleta.

Barca superstar Messi is out of contract at season's end and the record six-time Ballon d'Or winner has been heavily linked with Ligue 1 champions Paris Saint-Germain and Premier League giants City.

A move to City for Messi would mean a reunion with former Barca boss Pep Guardiola – the pair teaming up to win two Champions League titles and three LaLiga crowns among other honours between 2008 and 2012.

Ex-City and Argentina full-back Zabaleta backed countryman Messi to swap Barcelona for Manchester.

"If Lionel Messi ­decides to leave Barcelona and he wants to play in the best league then he has to experience the Premier League for himself," Zabaleta told The Mirror.

"It is something that will ­interest him – because every player I know always asks me what the Premier League is like.

"Leo has been in La Liga for so many years and I think it would be a huge ­attraction for him to experience English football. And Manchester City offer the ­perfect conditions.

"He knows Pep very well, he knows [sporting director] Txiki Begiristain and [chief executive] Ferran Soriano – and also Kun Aguero.

"It would be a big ­decision if Leo leaves ­Barcelona. But if that's what he wants then it would be a good thing for him to go to a club that has people already there who can help him to settle

"When you have been at one club for so long, moving ­somewhere new can be very strange.

"I am sure clubs like ­Paris Saint-Germain and Juventus would also be ­interested in signing him, but it is my opinion that City would be the best place to go after Barcelona."

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola believes Liverpool can still retain their Premier League crown, despite Jurgen Klopp surrendering the title.

City are seven points clear atop the table, and 13 ahead of Liverpool, with a game in hand following Saturday's 3-0 win over Tottenham.

Liverpool manager Klopp admitted the titleholders cannot hope to go back-to-back this season after suffering a 3-1 defeat at Leicester City.

But Guardiola told reporters: "From what I saw, the way they played today against Leicester, of course we have to lose games but of course they can do it.

"It is the same Liverpool that I met in the last years but in the boxes they are not as clinical as they were before. The quality they played, to do what they've done against Leicester, that they've not been able to get past halfway.

"Football is boxes and sometimes you have that period where you have to create more to score and every time they arrive they score. Football is a mood, feeling, not tactics sometimes. Sometimes it leaves us.

"The quality of the team is still there. I don't think they drop the quality of press or play, they always create more than the opponent. I don't like to suffer against them but as a spectator, I always enjoy watching Liverpool."

City remain unbeaten in their last 23 matches in all competitions (W20 D3), conceding just six goals during this period – the Manchester giants have extended their record winning run for a top-flight side across all competitions to 16 matches.

Guardiola's City have not trailed for a single minute in any of their last 15 Premier League games, since a 2-0 loss to Tottenham in November.

In the league's history, only Arsenal have embarked on a longer run of successive games without going behind (a streak of 19 matches between December 1998 – May 1999).

City, meanwhile, are the first side to keep 14 clean sheets from their opening 23 Premier League games in a season since neighbours Manchester United (17) and Chelsea (14) in 2008-09.

Liverpool lost a third successive top-flight game under Jurgen Klopp for the first time and Manchester City extended their record winning run in Saturday's Premier League action.

The Reds conceded three goals in a seven-minute spell as they went down 3-1 to Leicester City - managed by their former boss Brendan Rodgers - at the King Power Stadium.

Klopp's men are now 13 points adrift of City, who brushed aside Tottenham 3-0 at the Etihad Stadium later in the day for their 16th win in a row in all competitions.

Burnley also scored three unanswered goals at Crystal Palace to move further clear of the relegation zone, while Brighton and Hove Albion and Aston Villa played out a 0-0 draw.

Leicester City 3-1 Liverpool: No Vardy party for Klopp after latest setback

Liverpool's trip to Leicester marked Klopp's 300th game in charge of the club, though the German had little to celebrate come full-time after his side capitulated late on.

Klopp became the ninth manager to reach that landmark figure for the Reds and the day initially got off to a good start for his side.

Mohamed Salah gave the visitors the lead with his 10th away league goal of the season - the first player in the division to reach that mark - but then came a Leicester onslaught.

James Maddison made it eight goal involvements in his last nine league outings, before Jamie Vardy put Rodgers' side ahead.

It was the former England international's eighth Premier League goal against Liverpool - only against Arsenal (11 goals) has he found the net more times.

Harvey Barnes then rounded off the scoring with his eighth Premier League goal of the season, making him the highest-scoring English midfielder in the division this term.

The last time Liverpool lost three league games in a row was in November 2014 under Rodgers, who is the first ex-Reds manager to beat his former side since Roy Hodgson did so with West Brom in April 2012.

Manchester City 3-0 Tottenham: Goal-crazy Gundogan shines again for Guardiola's juggernaut

After setting a record for the number of successive wins for an English top-flight club in all competitions with their midweek FA Cup win at Swansea City, the Citizens picked up from where they left off in a straightforward victory against Tottenham.

City have now won 16 games in a row and are unbeaten in 23 in all competitions since losing 2-0 to Spurs in November's reverse fixture, conceding just six goals during that record-breaking run.

Incredibly, Pep Guardiola's men have not trailed for a single minute in any of their 15 league games since that loss at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium - only Arsenal, 19 games between December 1998 and May 1999, have embarked on a longer run.

Ilkay Gundogan has been City's star performer across their perfect streak, with his brace here taking him to nine Premier League goals in 2021 - the most of any player across Europe's top five major leagues since the turn of the year.

Rodrigo had earlier given the home side the lead from the penalty spot after getting the nod over goalkeeper Ederson, who may not have got on the scoresheet but did at least register an assist - the third goal he has set up for City in all competitions.

On the back of their 5-4 extra-time loss to Everton in the FA Cup last 16, Spurs have now shipped eight goals in their last two games - the most a Jose Mourinho-managed side has conceded in a two-game period in all competitions.

Crystal Palace 0-3 Burnley: Zaha-less Eagles fail to fly

The result at Selhurst Park had a sense of inevitability about it before a ball was even kicked due to Wilfried Zaha being ruled out with a hamstring injury.

Palace have now lost 18 of their last 20 Premier League games in which star man Zaha has been absent, failing to score in 16 of those 18 defeats.

What was surprising, though, is the fact Burnley netted three times, matching their tally from their previous 10 away league matches combined.

Johann Berg Gudmundsson opened the scoring after five minutes - the first time he has netted in back-to-back Premier League appearances in what was his 108th game in the competition.

Jay Rodriguez's fifth league goal against Palace - only against Nottingham Forest (six) has he bagged more - had Burnley two up and Matt Lowton rounded off the scoring.

It was the right-back's first top-flight strike since April 2013, a run spanning some seven years and 313 days.

Brighton and Hove Albion 0-0 Aston Villa: Martinez repels Seagulls in stalemate

Brighton were held to a goalless draw by Villa but it was not for the want of trying as they attempted 26 shots, which is the most they have ever managed in a Premier League game.

Villa keeper Emiliano Martinez had another inspired game with nine saves in total on his way to keeping a seventh away clean sheet in the Premier League this season - only Brad Friedel in 2009-10 (eight) has kept more in a single campaign for the club.

Brighton continued to push for a goal right until the end and were helped in their pursuit of an opener by substitute Adam Lallana, whose four chances created was the highest of any player on the pitch, despite only playing 28 minutes.

A point for Brighton does at least extend their unbeaten run to six top-flight matches, something they last achieved in November 1981 with a run of eight.

This is perhaps a fixture the neutrals should steer clear of in future, given that the last seven league games in which Brighton have hosted Villa have seen just eight goals scored, with neither team netting more than once in a match.

Pep Guardiola still harbours concerns over the quality of Manchester City's penalty takers after Rodri scored from the spot against Tottenham.

Rodri opened the scoring in the 23rd minute on Saturday, though his finish only just escaped the grasp of Hugo Lloris, who should have done better.

Ilkay Gundogan – who missed a penalty in the 4-1 win over Liverpool last week – won the spot-kick and then scored twice to take his tally of league goals in 2021 to nine and seal a 3-0 win.

Though City are now seven points clear at the top, and 13 ahead of reigning champions Liverpool, who went down 3-1 at Leicester City earlier on Saturday, Guardiola was not best pleased when asked about Rodri taking the spot-kick.

The former Atletico Madrid midfielder had never scored a penalty in his senior career, and Guardiola told BBC Sport: "The penalty is clear and then the first time we attack in the second half we score, that can happen.

"Is Rodri the taker now? No. I would say I admire the courage to take the penalty but it was not a good penalty.

"I am not laughing, I am concerned about this. We will have a real specialist to take them with quality. We have to practice."

Ederson provided a sensational assist for Gundogan's second goal – the third time the goalkeeper has set up a goal during his time at City – and Guardiola seems to be seriously considering the Brazil international as a potential penalty taker.

Guardiola added: "When I talk about Ederson and penalties, you see his assist, 60-70 yards, well then he will score from 12 yards!"

However, Guardiola's decision may come as news to Rodri, who also revealed he ignored the advice of Ederson, who appeared to pass on some information via Bernard Silva in the build-up to the spot-kick.

"I was a bit angry in the last weeks because we missed many penalties, much more than we expect, and in big games you have to score penalties because the margins are so small," Rodri told Sky Sports.

"I told my team-mates that for the next penalty I would shoot. I got the ball, nobody took the ball off me. Fortunately, I scored.

"Goalkeepers know each other, [Ederson] told Bernardo some tips about Lloris, where I should shoot the penalty – I didn't listen! Sometimes it's better to focus on what you're confident doing.

"We were laughing in the locker room, next penalty for sure I am going to take."

Despite City's penalty problems, Guardiola's team are ploughing on in their bid to recover the title they lost last season.

City remain unbeaten in their past 23 matches in all competitions (W20 D3), conceding just six goals during this period, and have won 11 Premier League games in a row.

They have not trailed for a single minute in any of their past 15 Premier League matches since a 2-0 loss to Spurs in the reverse fixture in November; in the competition's history, only Arsenal have embarked on a longer run of successive games without going behind (a run of 19 matches between December 1998 and May 1999).

One other issue for Guardiola, however, could be Gundogan's fitness.

The Germany international has scored more goals since the turn of the year than any other player in Europe's 'top five' leagues but succumbed to a groin problem midway through the second half.

Guardiola confirmed the 30-year-old will undergo further checks in the coming days.

Jose Mourinho was not surprised to see his "very tired team" lose at Manchester City, although he felt Tottenham were in the match before conceding a "modern penalty".

Spurs have won once in six matches in all competitions after suffering a 3-0 defeat at City in the Premier League just three days on from an extra-time FA Cup exit against Everton.

Tottenham have conceded eight goals this week, having shipped five at Goodison Park, the worst two-game total of Mourinho's coaching career.

Despite having just seven shots to City's 15 and only three on target - all of them in the second half - the Spurs head coach was pleased with his side's effort and frustrated with the circumstances surrounding the 23rd-minute opening goal.

Tottenham had had the best effort to that point, as Harry Kane's free-kick hit the crossbar, but Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg fouled Ilkay Gundogan for a penalty that Rodri dispatched.

The result never appeared in doubt thereafter and Gundogan added a brace, swelling his 2021 total to nine - the most of any player in Europe's 'top five' leagues.

"It's a fresh team against a very tired team, but a team that started the game very, very well, with the game completely controlled," Mourinho told Sky Sports.

"We hit the post - 1-0, that could give us that fuel that you need when you are especially tired like the boys were.

"And then one more of these 'modern penalties' - I call them 'modern penalties' - to put us in a difficult situation.

"I'm very, very happy with the players' attitude. I had guys on the pitch that played two hours a couple of days ago; they gave everything.

"Of course, we have guys in difficulty. Lucas [Moura] was the one that I took off at half-time, but I had other guys on the pitch in such a difficult situation.

"But brave attitude, great dignity. Of course, losing 3-0, a team that is not united, a team that is not together would give up and would probably be punished in a way that the team didn't deserve at all.

"But I saw guys like Harry, like Pierre, Ben [Davies], just to tell three names - I could give you five, six or seven - giving everything.

"I have nothing to say against my players, not even a couple of defensive mistakes that are always present. I cannot complain of the attitude of the boys."

Asked to expand on his suggestion of "modern penalties", Mourinho replied: "A 'modern penalty' is the penalty where even if you touch with the nail inside the box, it can be a penalty.

"Of course, it depends on the opponent, it depends on the team. But for some, you touch with the nail, it's a penalty.

"Then you go to the VAR and the VAR cannot deny that there was a touch, sometimes with a toe, sometimes with a nail, sometimes with a nose.

"You cannot deny that there was contact. That's what I call 'modern penalties'."

Only Leicester City (10) have won more spot-kicks than City's seven this season (level with Manchester United and Chelsea), although the league leaders have only converted four of them.

Rodri was tasked with this latest penalty after misses for Gundogan, Raheem Sterling and the injured Kevin De Bruyne this term.

De Bruyne (twice) and Gundogan have also found the net from 12 yards in the Premier League in 2020-21, although it has been a long-term issue for City.

Tottenham goalkeeper Hugo Lloris, beaten on this occasion, has saved three City penalties since moving to England in 2012, his most against any one club in this time.

If a week is a long time in football, what of 12 weeks?

When Manchester City visited Tottenham on November 21 and lost 2-0, they fell to 11th in the Premier League, already eight points behind their opponents after eight matches.

Victory took Spurs to the summit, as they ended the day there for the first time in six years.

Jose Mourinho was the coach downplaying title talk. "We are just fighting to win every match," he said. "But we are going to lose matches, we are going to draw matches."

He was not wrong.

Their latest loss, at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday, meant Tottenham have just one win in six in all competitions and now harbour only outside ambitions of the top four, let alone top spot.

There were certainly similarities – in the first half, at least – between November's 2-0 Spurs triumph and Saturday's 3-0 City success, similarities that may reasonably irritate both coaches.

Mourinho could rue Harry Kane's early free-kick, which bounced away off the post when it might have instead teed up another evening of frustration for City.

Pep Guardiola oversaw dominant displays on each occasion – 60.9 per cent of possession and 15 attempts this time – but can still point to three points inexplicably dropped in the reverse fixture, even if they appear highly unlikely to cost his side.

For City are now the side in the ascendancy, seven points clear of Leicester City with a game in hand to play and finally enjoying the rub of the green against Tottenham.

In six prior meetings between the sides going back to 2019, City had three times been exasperated by damaging VAR decisions and twice missed penalties, winning on two occasions but exiting the Champions League with one of those victories on an epic night at the Etihad.

Tottenham took their turn to appeal in vain after 21 minutes when the ball evaded Ilkay Gundogan in the area but Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg's clumsy challenge did not, allowing Rodri to step up for a spot-kick that crept beyond Hugo Lloris.

The goalkeeper has saved three City penalties in a Spurs shirt and should have done better with this one, just as he should Gundogan's tame second-half toe-poke, bringing a miserable end to a week the World Cup winner – also at fault at Everton in the FA Cup – would surely rather forget.

At the other end of the scale from the lacklustre Lloris, Rodri and Joao Cancelo, rampant again, have transformed their City careers since struggling away at Tottenham, while two-goal Gundogan is Europe's form player; no-one in the 'top five' leagues can match his nine strikes in 2021.

Indeed, an apparent groin injury shortly after Gundogan netted his second should concern City, but this latest great Guardiola team do not appear to miss their stars.

Ruben Dias, whose only defeat in English football came in the game at Spurs, was kept on the bench by a fever. Record goalscorer Sergio Aguero returned to the matchday squad for the first time in over a month. Kevin De Bruyne, the best of the lot, remains out.

On this evidence, the next man up will see City safe in their pursuit of another title and then perhaps an unprecedented quadruple.

This is a season defined by injuries and absences, where Liverpool are lost without Virgil van Dijk and "the Harry Kane team" returned no goals and no points from the two matches which their talisman sat out.

Without PFA Players' Player of the Year De Bruyne in the XI this term, City have taken 19 points from a possible 21, scoring 2.4 goals per game (up from 1.8) and conceding 0.3 (down from 0.8). They have collectively improved to fill the void, extending their record-breaking winning run to 16 matches.

Under pressure in November, Guardiola now has a breadth of options, a brilliant side and is even beating Tottenham. It is his league to lose.

Ilkay Gundogan was integral once more as Manchester City emphatically beat Tottenham 3-0 to seal an 11th straight Premier League victory and move seven points clear at the top.

Pep Guardiola's team have not lost in any competition since a 2-0 defeat in the reverse meeting with Spurs in November, and the juggernaut never looked likely to stop on Saturday.

City scored with their first three attempts on target – Rodri converting a penalty that Gundogan won before the former Borussia Dortmund man stabbed in his 12th goal of 2020-21.

And three days on from their remarkable 5-4 FA Cup defeat to Everton, any lingering comeback hopes Spurs harboured were dashed when Gundogan fooled Davinson Sanchez to slot in his second, though a groin injury for City's talisman did present one cause for concern for Guardiola.

Against the run of play, City would have been behind had Harry Kane's superb free-kick not clattered Ederson's left-hand upright.

But having controlled 74.2 per cent possession in the opening 15 minutes, City were gifted the opportunity to lead when Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg clattered into Gundogan to concede a second penalty in as many games.

With Gundogan making a mess of City's spot-kick at Anfield last week, Rodri took responsibility, though he was fortunate Hugo Lloris failed to keep out a rather unconvincing finish.

Lloris atoned before half-time, denying Gundogan a 10th league goal of the season after Raheem Sterling had got the better of Ben Davies to tee up the Germany international.

Yet the Premier League's top scorer in 2021 did get his eighth goal since the turn of the year five minutes after half-time, prodding home at Lloris' near post after more terrific play from Sterling, though Spurs' goalkeeper should have done better.

While one goalkeeper floundered, the other then turned provider – Ederson's searching pass controlled exquisitely by Gundogan and, with Sanchez slipping and flailing wildly, he finished coolly to round off another supreme City performance.

What does it mean? City storming towards the title

Last week's stunning win at Anfield was what truly signified a shift in power from Liverpool back to the blue half of Manchester, and there seems to be little stopping City now, with Guardiola's team having won 16 games on the bounce in all competitions, since drawing with West Brom on December 15.

Even without the benched Ruben Dias, who has been suffering with illness this week, the hosts were in complete control throughout, and the problems keep mounting for Jose Mourinho, whose side have lost four of their last five league games and sit in eighth, 17 points behind City.

Gundogan in a league of his won

Gundogan has scored 11 Premier League goals this season – the only German players to score more in a single season in the competition are Jurgen Klinsmann (20) and Uwe Rosler (15), both in the 1994-95 campaign.

Indeed, in 2021, he has scored more goals than any other player in Europe's big five leagues, netting nine goals in nine Premier League games. However, he went off holding his groin shortly after making it 3-0, and Guardiola may now be without a player who has been crucial in Kevin De Bruyne's absence.

Lloris making a meal of it

Spurs captain Lloris was at fault for Everton's opener on Wednesday and could have done better for both of City's opening goals this time out, having got a hand to Rodri's penalty before allowing Gundogan's near-post finish to creep under him.

This is the first time a Mourinho-led side has conceded eight goals in a two-game period, and his goalkeeper – who did at least make a smart stop from Sterling late on – is far from blameless.

What's next?

City make the trip to Goodison Park on Wednesday, with Everton their opponents in a match rescheduled from December. Spurs, meanwhile, face Wolfsberger in the Europa League a day later.

Jurgen Klopp admits Liverpool cannot hope to retain their Premier League crown after a late collapse condemned them to a 3-1 defeat at Leicester City.  

Mohamed Salah opened the scoring at the King Power Stadium on Saturday, but the Reds conceded three times in the space of seven crazy minutes. 

The result means Liverpool have lost three in a row in the league for the first time since November 2014 – when current Leicester boss Brendan Rodgers was in charge –and face a real fight to finish in the top four.  

Klopp was not happy with the VAR decision to award the home side’s equaliser, with the direct free-kick from James Maddison initially ruled out for offside, as he acknowledged any title challenge is now over. 

"I don't think we can close that gap this year, to be honest," Klopp – who reached the personal milestone of 300 games in charge of Liverpool - told the media.  

"We have to win football games and big parts of our football was today again really, really good. We have to do it consistently. We have to avoid mistakes; we have to avoid misunderstandings.   

"We cannot avoid mistakes of VAR or stuff like this, but all the rest that is in our hands we have to avoid. Today, in two situations, we didn't do that and that's why they could score two goals. The rest of the football game is really good.   

"Yes, if you win football games maybe you could score today more goals, but that's the steps you have to make. First, you have to perform again; the result is always massively related to the performance.

"We were good enough to win for a long, long period in the game, but not until the end because of a couple of things." 

Asked to confirm he was conceding the title, he replied: "Yes, I can't believe [the question], but yes."

Liverpool have now conceded 32 goals in 24 league games during a turbulent campaign, just one fewer than the entire 2019-20 championship-winning season. 

Next up is a trip to Budapest for the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie against RB Leipzig, followed by the small matter of a Merseyside derby against Everton at Anfield. 

"In the moment it's tough, it's tough, and I know the only way out of the situation is to play good football, to fight, to work hard on these kinds of things," the former Borussia Dortmund boss said. 

"We are still able to do that, and we will keep doing that, we have to do that. Then we will get the results and we will see where we end up.  

"The situation is not easy, that's clear, but it's our situation and how it always is with your own situation, you have to sort it yourself and that's what we will do."

Real Madrid are considering a move for Kalidou Koulibaly, while Manchester United are targeting Jadon Sancho in a cut-price deal.

Amid uncertainty over Sergio Ramos' future at Madrid, the LaLiga giants continue to be linked with centre-backs.

They seemingly have plenty of options – and Napoli star Koulibaly is among them.

 

TOP STORY – REAL MADRID LIKE KOULIBALY

Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane likes Napoli defender Koulibaly, according to AS.

The report says Bayern Munich star David Alaba, who is out of contract at the end of the season, is still Madrid's first option.

With Ramos potentially leaving when his contract expires at campaign's end, AS also says Villarreal defender Pau Torres and Sevilla's Jules Kounde will be expensive.

ROUND-UP

- Manchester United opted not to sign Borussia Dortmund star Sancho ahead of 2020-21, and it could pay off. Eurosport reports United could land Sancho for just £50million (€57.1m) in the next transfer window. The Bundesliga club were demanding about £100m (€120m) for Sancho last year.

- Borussia Monchengladbach midfielder Florian Neuhaus is seemingly attracting plenty of interest. Kicker reports Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund, Liverpool, Manchester City and Juventus are interested in the three-time Germany international.

- Arsenal look set to strengthen ahead of next season. The Sun reports they are close to finalising a deal for 18-year-old Sporting CP forward Tiago Tomas for £20m (€22.8m).

- On loan at Real Betis from Barcelona, Emerson may not return to Camp Nou. CalcioMercato reports Milan are considering a move for the right-back.

- Former Milan and Chelsea forward Alexandre Pato will join Orlando City on a one-year deal, according to Fabrizio Romano and The Mane Land. Pato has been without a club since leaving Sao Paulo in August last year.

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