Sergio Aguero is felling better every day after returning to training but Pep Guardiola is unsure when the Manchester City striker will be available for squad selection.

City's all-time record goalscorer has endured a frustrating campaign and has not featured since coming on as a late substitute in the 3-1 win over Chelsea on January 3.

That is one of only nine appearances made all season by Aguero, who struggled with knee and hamstring issues before being struck down with coronavirus last month.

He returned to training on Monday but Guardiola cannot say for certain when the Argentina international will feature again.

"Yesterday he trained with the group for 10-15 minutes and later did some part alone," Guardiola said at a news conference ahead of Wednesday's FA Cup tie with Swansea City.

"Day by day he is feeling better. Is he ready? Not yet."

City make the trip to Wales on a 14-game winning run in all competitions, including a 4-1 victory over Liverpool on Sunday to tighten their grip on top spot in the Premier League.

That equals the all-time winning run by an English top-flight side but Guardiola has warned his players they cannot afford to take last-16 opponents Swansea for granted.

"I can't explain it. I just think about the next game and try to prepare for it as well as possible - there are no more secrets than that," the Catalan coach said.

"We are so calm when we lose and the same now we are winning. The reason why is thinking the next game and now it's Swansea."

City's winning run has come despite the absence of Aguero, with Guardiola often preferring to go without a recognised striker up top - as was the case against Liverpool.

"We play with a centre forward many games," Guardiola said. "When we don't play with a typical centre-forward people can move a bit more but we have to arrive in the box. 

"We saw the game against Liverpool - four or five players were inside the box. Every game is different. 

"We are looking forward, even Gabriel [Jesus] is dropping, improving in his position not playing like a player you can link and the striker just being there. 

"I'm not a big fan of this. I prefer to move behind this position and we have some players who can do it."

Wednesday's clash at the Liberty Stadium will be the first between Man City and Swansea since a dramatic FA Cup quarter-final in 2018-19, which the Citizens edged 3-2.

Guardiola's men have won 12 of their last 14 meetings with Swansea in all competitions, including each of the last six in a row.

However, the Welsh side have been in good form of their own of late, winning eight and drawing two of their last 10 matches, and are seeking to reach the last eight for a third time in four seasons.

Guardiola saw his side survive a scare against fourth-tier Cheltenham Town in the last round and is expecting another tough test against Championship promotion contenders Swansea.

"Swansea have a tradition of good managers: Michael Laudrup, Roberto Martinez, [Graham] Potter - now I realise how good he is as we suffered a lot when we played Brighton," Guardiola said.

"It was a difficult game the last time we played Swansea. I don't expect a different game to when we suffered there two seasons ago to go through. 

"I know they are consistent, score, good defensively, don't concede chances, so solid in their formation, physically strong, they have the quality to play upfront and in the middle. 

"It will be an incredibly difficult test. We have to do a good performance. We suffered against Cheltenham, 1-0 down with 80 minutes. I don't expect a different game tomorrow."

Man City have won 18 of their 21 FA Cup ties under Guardiola and have scored more goals (65) in the competition since the Catalan arrived in 2016-17 than any other side.

Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain are still eyeing Barcelona star Lionel Messi.

Unsurprisingly, Messi's future remains a talking point with his contract with the LaLiga giants expiring at the end of the season.

And the two clubs most strongly linked with the six-time Ballon d'Or winner remain interested.

 

TOP STORY – PSG, MAN CITY STILL EYEING MESSI

Paris Saint-Germain are quietly continuing their push to sign Barcelona star Lionel   Messi , according to France Football.

The Ligue 1 giants have angered Barca boss Ronald Koeman as those connected with PSG have regularly discussed Messi.

ESPN says Manchester City are also still tracking Messi, but will wait until March or April before making more of a move.

ROUND-UP

- Out of contract at Real Madrid in 2022, Raphael Varane 's future is unclear. Marca reports the LaLiga giants suspect the defender will not renew and they could sell him for €50million at the end of this season as a result, with PSG and Manchester United interested.

- Madrid are favourites to land Bayern Munich star David Alaba . The Telegraph reports Alaba's wage demands, believed to be around £20m per year, are too high for Chelsea . Alaba is set to leave the Bundesliga giants when his contract expires at the end of the season.

- United 's sights may be elsewhere. The Independent claims RB Leipzig defender Ibrahima Konate is their main centre-back target ahead of 2021-22. Konate has also been linked to Liverpool and Chelsea .

- Arsenal want a young left-back to learn from Kieran Tierney, according to The Athletic.

Paris Saint-Germain midfielder Marco Verratti said he is excited about the prospect of playing alongside Lionel Messi at the Ligue 1 champions.

Barcelona superstar Messi is out of contract at season's end and the six-time Ballon d'Or winner has been heavily linked with PSG and Premier League giants Manchester City.

As Messi's future dominates headlines, PSG star Verratti discussed his possible arrival in Paris.

"Of course, I would like to play with Messi," Italy international Verratti told Canal+.

"To have him in the squad would be something magnificent, one more thing that football would give to me.

"I would give the ball to Neymar and Messi and stay behind to just [enjoy] watching them a bit."

PSG and Barcelona will meet in the Champions League last 16, with the first leg taking place at Camp Nou on February 16.

It will be a reunion for former Barca star Neymar, who has scored six goals in 11 Ligue 1 matches this season.

Neymar - who left Barca in a world-record €222million deal in 2017 - has scored 13 goals across all competitions.

"We are not stupid, we know that he is the best player and our role is to put him in the best possible condition," Verratti said. 

"He knows that when I have the ball, I'm looking for him. He always makes movements to receive the ball well."

Mauricio Pochettino's PSG are third in Ligue 1 after 24 rounds, three points adrift of leaders Lille following Sunday's 2-0 Classique victory against Marseille.

PSG face Caen in the Coupe de France on Wednesday before welcoming Nice to the French capital in Ligue 1 action on Saturday.

Manchester City's away leg of their Champions League last-16 tie with Borussia Monchengladbach will be played in Budapest, UEFA has confirmed.

The news comes a day after UEFA made the same decision regarding RB Leipzig's home clash with Liverpool on February 16 due to the travel restrictions on entry to Germany from areas affected by COVID-19 mutations.

German citizens or residents are granted exemptions but there have been no such special arrangements made for professional athletes, meaning City's squad would not be allowed entry to the country.

UEFA regulations do allow for ties to be switched or moved to a neutral venue, and European football's governing body has confirmed the Puskas Arena will host Gladbach and City.

A statement read: "UEFA can confirm that the Champions League round of 16 first-leg match between Borussia Monchengladbach and Manchester City will now take place at the Puskas Arena in Budapest. The date of the match (24 February 2021) and kick-off time (21:00CET) will remain the same.

"UEFA would like to thank Borussia Monchengladbach and Manchester City for their close cooperation and support, as well as the Hungarian Football Federation for their assistance and agreeing to host the match in question."

The second leg is scheduled to take place on March 16 in Manchester.

There was more penalty drama for Manchester City as the Premier League leaders visited reigning champions Liverpool on Sunday.

Gundogan skied his spot-kick at an empty Anfield, although it would not prove a costly miss as City ran out 4-1 winners to extend their advantage at the summit.

Pep Guardiola will no doubt be keen to correct a remarkable failing in his outstanding side's game, however.

City's record from 12 yards features in our quirky facts from the weekend's top-flight action.
 

Sterling's penchant for pens wasted at City

As Gundogan, who later scored twice, blazed over in front of the Kop, it meant City have now accounted for four of the past six Premier League spot-kicks to miss the target - including three against Liverpool (also Riyad Mahrez in October 2018 and Kevin De Bruyne in November 2020).

City are five points clear at the top of the table with a game in hand but could be in an even more commanding position if they were more clinical from the spot.

In Raheem Sterling, City boast the player who has won more penalties (21) than any other in Premier League history, the latest seeing Fabinho trip the former Liverpool forward.

Sterling is unlikely to ease his side's penalty woes, however, having scored just one of his four attempts in the competition.

Only two players in Premier League history have a worse record after taking at least four penalties, with Mike Newell and Juninho Paulista each missing all their four attempts.

Nick Barmby, like Sterling, netted one of four. No player in the competition has ever taken five or more penalties and converted fewer than two.
 

Lloris longevity leading Ronaldo and Messi

Tottenham captain Hugo Lloris made his 500th top-flight appearance in the 2-0 win over West Brom, keeping his 173rd clean sheet.

Since his Ligue 1 bow for Nice in March 2006, no player has appeared more often in Europe's top five leagues than the World Cup-winning France goalkeeper.

Second on the list over that span is another goalkeeper still going strong in Inter's Samir Handanovic on 493 games, coincidentally also registering 173 clean sheets.

And the two biggest names of all sit third and fourth, Cristiano Ronaldo on 484 appearances just ahead of Lionel Messi's 480.

Karim Benzema (463) makes the top 10, while David Silva (448), Sergio Ramos (446) and Sergio Aguero (443) are all in the top 20.
 

Saints star not quite the free-kick king

James Ward-Prowse's latest free-kick goal came in a losing effort for Southampton at Newcastle United, but he nudged further up the all-time Premier League standings.

The spectacular effort at St James' Park was the England international's 10th direct free-kick strike in the competition, becoming the ninth player to that mark.

Ward-Prowse has scored with 13.9 per cent of his 72 direct free-kick shots, while 37 per cent of his 27 Premier League goals have come via this method.

Only Laurent Robert (11 of 23 goals for 47.8 per cent) and Sebastian Larsson (11 of 26 goals for 42.3 per cent) netted a greater share of their goals in the competition direct from set-pieces.

Ward-Prowse still has some way to go to match David Beckham's record of 20 free-kick goals, however. Thierry Henry (12), Gianfranco Zola (12) and Ronaldo (11), along with Robert and Larsson, are the others still above the Southampton star.

His tally of four this term trails only Beckham in 2000-01 and Robert the following season (both five) over a single campaign.

Trent Alexander-Arnold accepted Liverpool's players had let themselves and the fans down after falling to a 4-1 defeat at home to Premier League leaders Manchester City. 

Liverpool were condemned to a third consecutive league loss at Anfield, making the Reds the first reigning champions to suffer such a run in the English top flight since Chelsea back in March 1956. 

Mohamed Salah's second-half penalty at least ended Liverpool's league goal drought at 410 minutes, though having drawn level at 1-1 from the spot, the home team fell apart to leave their already slender title hopes in tatters. 

Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson twice made costly mistakes that led to goals for Ilkay Gundogan – his second of the contest – and Raheem Sterling, while Phil Foden slammed in a late fourth to complete the Merseyside rout. 

Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool now sit 10 points behind leaders City, who also have a game in hand, but full-back Alexander-Arnold promised supporters the Reds will improve as they aim to finish the season strongly. 

"We know we've let ourselves and the fans down today. No excuses," the England international wrote in the Twitter post.

"It just has to be better to finish the season strong. We'll give it everything."

Liverpool have won just two of their past eight Premier League games – both away in London – but still remain in the top four. 

Klopp takes his squad to third-placed Leicester City next, with captain Jordan Henderson insisting the players must quickly get the heavy loss out of their system as they focus on the rest of the campaign. 

"When you get beat it’s always disappointing, especially in the manner we did in the end," Henderson told the club's website. "It's never nice. 

"It's hard to take now, but in football you've got to move on quickly. We've got a full week to get it out of our system, train properly – which we haven’t had for a while. 

"So we need to use it the best we can this week to get prepared for a tough game against Leicester." 

Liverpool sit on 40 points in the Premier League table, 27 fewer than they had after 23 games in their title-winning season. That is the biggest drop-off by any reigning champion at the same stage of a campaign in English top-flight history.

Pep Guardiola hopes Phil Foden understands there is plenty of room for improvement but said it is a joy to have the boyhood Manchester City fan starring for his team.  

Foden scored a stunner and set up another goal as Premier League leaders City romped to a 4-1 victory over reigning champions Liverpool at Anfield on Sunday. 

Playing in a central role up front, Foden struggled to get into the game in the first half but thrived in the second after Guardiola had altered City's shape. 

His exquisite strike rounded off a remarkable 10-minute spell late in the second half in which the match went from 1-1 to 4-1. 

Two blunders from Alisson had gifted City their second and third goals – Ilkay Gundogan tucking in from Foden's cut back before Raheem Sterling headed home his 100th goal under Guardiola from Bernardo Silva's deft lob. 

Foden lashed in a fourth from a tight angle to wrap things up and condemn Liverpool to a third straight Anfield defeat for the first time since 1963.

Asked about the Englishman's performance, Guardiola told Sky Sports: "He's a guy who keeps the ball really well, he's really aggressive.

"But still he is so young, he doesn't understand in some positions what he has to do, so in the first half he was not in the right positions.

"We worked but he is a little bit distracted sometimes in these positions. Playing wide is more easy for him but he will learn.

"After that, the assist for the second goal and then scoring the fourth goal, we know what a huge talent he is, but he's still young and we are still hopeful that he can understand that he can improve, because in the first half he was not in the position that we needed and that's why we suffered in some moments to get the control."

Guardiola had never before tasted victory at Anfield, City's previous five visits during his tenure having returned four defeats and just one draw.

And, while the Spaniard acknowledged the difference a lack of supporters makes, he was still impressed by his players' ability to overcome in-game setbacks.

He added: "What's important is the three points. Of course I'm so proud of the guys. Anfield with people and without is completely different. It's good, especially when we miss the penalty, concede the goal.

"We react with huge personality. Raheem Sterling, phenomenal. The commitment from everyone. Three points, grateful, happy, but tomorrow feet on the grass and thinking Swansea.

"We are not one player. Gundogan started to be one of the top scorers, we have to do it as a team. We have an incredible captain. In this period, to do wins in a row is so difficult."

Thanks to their win, City sit 10 points clear of champions Liverpool and five  ahead of second-placed neighbours Manchester United at the summit of the Premier League – and with a game in hand on both. 

But Guardiola is not getting carried away as he looks ahead to a testing February fixture schedule. 

He continued: "I said before, I'm not a guy who predicts the future. In February, five points is nothing. Swansea, Tottenham, Everton, Arsenal, many tough games. Be calm and keep going. 

"In England you think February will be softer but the schedule is even tougher. One game at a time. The next one is Swansea."

Jurgen Klopp saw positive signs from Liverpool but admitted two "massive mistakes" by Alisson proved their downfall in a 4-1 defeat to Manchester City.

The reigning Premier League champions slipped to a third successive home league defeat on Sunday, with the result leaving them well off the pace in the title race.

City now sit five points clear of nearest rivals Manchester United but 10 ahead of Liverpool, while Pep Guardiola's squad also have a game in hand.

Mohamed Salah's penalty cancelled out Ilkay Gundogan's opener in an eventful second half at Anfield, but two blunders by Alisson helped City on their way to a record-equalling 14th successive win in all competitions.

"When you lose 4-1 it's not your day. Big parts of the game were brilliant from my side, we played really good football," Klopp told Sky Sports.

"In the first half we played really good football, against City it just means you are reading the game. Start of the second half, City changed the system slightly to a 4-4-2.

"It's a little adaptation and at the start of the second half we didn't give enough options to play and gave the first goal away. We just gave them a bit too much of an opportunity.

"We scored the equaliser and it looked like the game could now go in our direction. We made two massive mistakes, it's clear, everybody saw them, they used them, then 3-1 it's tough to take. 

"The performance was good for a lot of time. Really good, high level, if we played more before like in these moments we would not be 10 points behind City.

"The goals - we made massive mistakes, if you make them against City it's the killer. That's why we lost the game."

Klopp felt the rest of the team did not help out Alisson for the stray passes that led to City's second and third goals, scored by Gundogan and Raheem Sterling respectively.

The Brazil international is the first Liverpool goalkeeper to make two errors leading directly to a goal in a single game since Loris Karius against Real Madrid in the Champions League final in May 2018.

"It's true as well that we didn't give him a lot of options, especially the first one," the Liverpool boss said.

"I think the second one there is no explanation, maybe he had cold feet or something, it sounds funny but it could be, but still the opportunity was there to kick it into the stands.

"But Ali has saved our lives many times and tonight he made two mistakes."

With a double-digit gap to City, Klopp confirmed his main focus is on sealing a top-four finish and a place in next season's Champions League. 

They return to league action next Saturday, travelling to third-place Leicester City.

"It is of course our main target, that is clear, we will try everything," Klopp said. "We've enough games to play to secure that but we have to win games."

Pep Guardiola noticeably bristled when asked in his pre-match broadcast interview whether Manchester City would ever have a better opportunity to break their Anfield hoodoo.

Not since 2003 had City claimed all three points at this ground, but this time they arrived on a 13-game winning streak to face opponents who have not looked themselves of late. 

Still, their manager did not wish to tempt fate ahead of his side running out at a stadium that has been far from a happy hunting ground for him.

Not only had City never won here under his stewardship, they had been regularly dismantled across meetings in the Premier League and Champions League.

And it was fear of a repeat that no doubt accounted for a cautious start from the visitors that did not reflect the form book.

When the first real chance of note arrived late in the first half, it came for City from the penalty spot, but Ilkay Gundogan could only blast the ball into the Kop from 12 yards. 

Since the start of last season, the Blues have only scored nine out of their 17 penalties – a 53 per cent conversion rate – and this latest miss must have had Guardiola fearing it would be another forgettable visit to Merseyside.

But, as has been the case across a season that started in less-than-ideal fashion for the visitors, both team and player grew from that moment forth.

As such, it was no surprise to see Gundogan on hand to smash the ball home from close range with the first of three shots across the 90 minutes following the restart.

And, though a rare error from Ruben Dias – a figure who has had a transformative effect on City's defence this term – allowed Mohamed Salah to level things shortly after, the idea that it might inspire the hosts on to victory looked fanciful.

So it proved, with Gundogan restoring the lead after Phil Foden showed lovely feet in the aftermath of a poor Alisson Becker kick before Raheem Sterling capitalised on another questionable moment from the Brazilian goalkeeper.

The scoreline then got the gloss it deserved as Foden smashed in powerfully to underline his new-found status as a key man in a refreshed City side which now looks destined to be win the league.

Guardiola and his squad spent last season fending off the critics as Liverpool marched off into the distance to clinch the title in record time.

But, having added Dias and found new heroes in the likes of Gundogan and Foden, it looks like they who will cruise to silverware this time around.

Perhaps Jurgen Klopp can cling to that idea as he reflects on a poor performance that got the result it deserved and ended any hopes of his team taking part in a title challenge this term rather than a scrap for a top-four finish.

Having gone 1,369 days and 68 games without a Premier League defeat at Anfield, Liverpool have now lost three on the bounce at home for the first time since 1963.

Injuries no doubt account for that historic run in some way, evident as they were in the Reds once again naming two midfielders at centre-back.

Yet waiting until deadline day to sign the two defenders they desperately needed looked particularly ill-advised when Klopp revealed ahead of kick-off that neither was considered ready to feature in this game.

And the German will surely have been concerned by the fact that September signing Thiago Alcantara in no way showed himself to be capable of picking up the midfield slack as he put in an unimpressive showing.

In fairness, a lack of both fight and quality was not just a midfield issue for Liverpool, it has spread throughout the team during a run of results that has wrecked their season.

The only hope for the Reds this campaign is that the imminent return of Diogo Jota and the opportunity to restore Fabinho and Jordan Henderson to the centre of the park can help fend off potential challengers for a top-four spot.

Should that happen, Klopp will believe his side is capable of following City in immediately bouncing back into title contention next term with the help of a few tweaks.

If not, then Europa League football and a far trickier rebuild job surely awaits.

Phil Foden hailed Manchester City's "courage" after they inflicted a 4-1 defeat on champions Liverpool to take a significant step towards regaining the Premier League title.

Foden played a starring role as City extended their winning run to 14 matches in all competitions – a joint-record for top-flight clubs in England.

City had to stay patient after Ilkay Gundogan missed a first-half penalty, but their opener arrived when Alisson pushed Foden's shot to the feet of the Germany midfielder.

Mohamed Salah equalised from the penalty spot, Liverpool's first home league goal in 410 minutes, before glaring Alisson errors took the game away from Jurgen Klopp's side again.

Foden superbly set up Gundogan when Alisson gifted him the ball, then the goalkeeper played another slack pass to allow Bernardo Silva to find Raheem Sterling.

England international Foden had the final say with a fierce strike that made him the youngest player to score and assist against Liverpool at Anfield in a Premier League game.

Victory moved City five points clear of second-placed Manchester United and 10 ahead of Liverpool with a game in hand over both, but Foden urged calm.

"It gives us every chance to go on and win it now but the job isn't done," the 20-year-old told Sky Sports. "[There is] a long way to go – just hopefully keep putting points on the table.

"When you beat the champions, everyone's confidence goes sky high. We haven't won here for a bit."

Foden won 10 of his 15 duels, while earning four fouls, and added: "It's brilliant, every player wants to play in a big game like this; we showed our courage from minute one.

"They played a brilliant game, made it so difficult for us, but we showed our courage to play the football, even when we lost it, and in the first half we still carried on playing our game.

"In the end, it paid off. I feel at times we were the slower team to get going. It was definitely better in the second half, so it's something to work on, to start better."

Foden felt Alisson's errors came due to City's pressing, the Brazil number one the first Liverpool goalkeeper to make two mistakes leading to goals since Loris Karius in the 2017-18 Champions League final.

Alisson made only a single save, the Foden shot from which Gundogan pounced on the rebound.

"We forced the errors," Foden said. "It's something we've worked on in training, everyone worked for each other today, and you get your rewards for it."

Manchester City took another big step towards the Premier League title as they thrashed Liverpool 4-1 on Sunday, a record-equalling 14th straight victory in all competitions.

Only Preston North End, whose run ended in January 1892, and Arsenal in 1987 have ever achieved such a sequence of wins while in England's top flight.

City can now set a new benchmark against Swansea in the FA Cup on Wednesday.

They have moved five points clear of second-placed Manchester United with a game in hand at the top of the Premier League, while Liverpool are back in fourth, 10 points off the pace.

Defending champions Liverpool were undefeated in 68 consecutive home league matches before hosting Burnley last month but have now lost three in a row at Anfield for the first time since September 1963, also being beaten by Brighton and Hove Albion prior to this fixture.

Chelsea, in March 1956, were the previous reigning champions to endure a three-game losing stretch at home in the top flight.

Liverpool at least ended a 410-minute home league goal drought with Mohamed Salah's penalty, cancelling out Ilkay Gundogan's opener.

The Reds avoided going four league matches at Anfield without scoring for the first time in their history, having drawn a blank in a draw with United prior to this losing run, but it counted for little in the end.

Gundogan preyed on an Alisson error for his second, before the Liverpool goalkeeper again ceded possession for Raheem Sterling to net his 100th goal under Pep Guardiola.

Alisson became the first Liverpool goalkeeper to make two errors leading directly to goals since Loris Karius' desperate showing in the 2017-18 Champions League final.

There was still time, too, for Phil Foden to add a spectacular fourth and cap City's first away win in this fixture since May 2003.

Aged 20 years and 255 days old, Foden, who teed up Gundogan's second, became the youngest player to score and assist in a Premier League game against Liverpool at Anfield.

Ilkay Gundogan scored twice as Manchester City secured a record-equalling 14th successive win in all competitions – and a first for Pep Guardiola at Anfield - with a 4-1 thrashing of struggling Liverpool.  

The Germany midfielder made amends for a first-half penalty miss with a brace after the break as the visitors cut loose to march five points clear at the Premier League summit.  

Alisson's poor clearance led to Gundogan's second of the game and the goalkeeper was also at fault for City's third, as Raheem Sterling headed in his 100th for the club under Guardiola. Phil Foden rubbed salt in the home side's wounds with a superb solo goal to round out the scoring. 

The result leaves Liverpool's title defence in tatters; they have lost three successive league games at home for the first time since 1963 and sit 10 points back having played a game more than the leaders.  

Mohamed Salah did end a home league goal drought spanning 410 minutes when he converted a penalty having been pulled back by Ruben Dias, but Alisson’s errors helped City respond in emphatic fashion.

Liverpool have received a triple fitness boost for their clash with Manchester City as Sadio Mane, Alisson Becker and Fabinho return from injury to start.

Fabinho is back following a three-game absence necessitated by a muscle issue, while Mane returns after a similar problem forced him to miss the Reds' last two fixtures.

Alisson, meanwhile, is back in goal after illness kept him out of the midweek defeat to Brighton and Hove Albion at Anfield.

That trio's availability accounts for three of the hosts' four changes, with 20-year-old midfielder Curtis Jones replacing the experienced James Milner the other.

Manchester City, meanwhile, make two changes to the starting XI that beat Burnley in midweek, with Pep Guardiola opting against naming a recognised striker as Gabriel Jesus drops out for Phil Foden.

At the back, Aymeric Laporte makes way, with Oleksandr Zinchenko his replacement.

 

Trent Alexander-Arnold says Liverpool can have no excuses for their poor Premier League form as they have failed to do the basics this season.

The reigning champions are fourth in the table and seven points adrift of leaders Manchester City, who travel to Anfield on Sunday and also have a game in hand.

Liverpool have already lost four league games this term, which is one more than in the whole of their title-winning campaign of 2019-20.

That includes back-to-back losses at Anfield in the top flight for the first time since September 2012, having previously been unbeaten in 68 matches on home soil.

After storming to the title last term by an 18-point margin, a year on from going all the way in the Champions League, Alexander-Arnold accepts his side took winning matches for granted.

"Once you get accustomed to winning all the time, which we have been doing in the previous two seasons, you do get used to the feeling and you start to kind of expect it," he told Sky Sports.

"That's probably the trap we fell into this season in that we expected to win games because we're good enough, something will happen and we have that quality to find a goal from somewhere, which happened naturally last season and the season before.

"But really breaking it down, that didn't just happen because we were lucky, it happened because we worked hard, doing the basics and fundamentals right until the very last minute. 

"That really worked in our favour. The fact we were still doing it meant we were creating the right opportunities that we could score from.

"I think maybe this season we've forgotten a few of those fundamentals and we've just expected us to do that because it became so natural for us to do it.

"Every team goes through periods like this. You can't expect anyone to keep winning every single game, especially in a league like the Premier League. 

"It would be wrong of us to expect that from ourselves and for people to expect it of us. We want to, but I think in the back of our minds, we all knew this period would come at some point."

Liverpool have not been helped by long-term injuries sustained by Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez earlier in the campaign, with fellow centre-back Joel Matip now also out for the season.

Jurgen Klopp's men have kept just six clean sheets in 22 league games this term - only seven teams have a worse return - conceding in each of their last four outings.

But Alexander-Arnold, who has come in for criticism this term, insists injuries alone are not to blame for the Reds' drop-off in form.

"We're a team that's not going to sit here and make excuses," he said. "There are no excuses on our behalf because we've lost a few centre-backs and we haven't got fans - that's the same for everyone. 

"We've had a few injuries but that's football, you can't blame anyone for that. It's about us being able to adjust and adapt to the situation. We haven't done that as well as we would have liked to.

"With people talking about our centre-halves, it's not like we're conceding three or four goals a game. It's more about one goal, not keeping a clean sheet and not scoring at the other end.

"It's just about clicking as a full team and getting that rhythm back. I personally feel in the last few games, we have been doing that, bar the Brighton game… It's not as if our performances have been down in the gutter."

Liverpool have also struggled in an attacking sense, failing to score in any of their last three home league matches for the first time since October 1984, a run that amounts to 348 minutes ahead of City's visit.

Pep Guardiola's side have conceded just 13 Premier League goals this term, the best defensive record in the division, but Klopp is confident his attacking talents will soon click into gear.

"The creating of the moment [to score] is not really different and that means we come into similar positions but we don't score," he said. "Can we be more often in these areas? 100 per cent.

"We don't think and don't feel we do everything and destiny is against us, it's just the situation we are in. There's no dreaming or wishing, it's all about working and that's what we do.

"Am I concerned? In a normal way, yes of course, because these are the things we have to do in training. We work on things to bring the boys as close as possible to the point where they have to take the final kick. 

"That's what we've always tried and we'll carry on with that. That we change our approach in moments because of the opponent is clear as well. In the end, we have to make the right decisions."

Liverpool have lost just one of their last 29 home league matches against City - a 2-1 defeat in May 2003.

Will he leave Paris Saint-Germain or not?

That is the question regarding French star Kylian Mbappe.

Real Madrid are keen, but they are reportedly prepared to wait.

 

TOP STORY – MADRID WAITING FOR MBAPPE

Real Madrid have decided to wait to sign Kylian Mbappe until Paris Saint-Germain put the French star up for sale, according to Marca.

LaLiga champions Madrid have been tipped to sign Mbappe, who has also been linked with Premier League holders Liverpool.

PSG are trying to re-sign Mbappe as his contract runs out in 2022, and if they are unsuccessful amid their pursuit of Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi, Madrid are ready to pounce.

 

ROUND-UP

- Marca says Sergio Ramos' knee injury could spell the end of his illustrious career with Madrid. Ramos is out of contract at season's end and the star captain has been linked to the likes of Manchester United, Manchester City, PSG, Chelsea and Juventus.

Liverpool are interested in Leeds United winger Raphinha, reports Football Insider. The Brazilian only moved to Elland Road at the start of the season.

- Gazzetta dello Sport claims Juventus are hoping to sign Roma sensation Nicolo Zaniolo.

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