John Stones ended his long goal drought as holders Manchester City secured a 2-0 derby win over Manchester United to set up an EFL Cup final showdown with Tottenham.

Stones has been outstanding at the heart of the City defence since forcing his way back into the side this season and he scored his first City goal in 1,162 days at Old Trafford on Wednesday.

The in-form centre-back had earlier put the ball in his own net early on but Marcus Rashford was offside, summing up how his fortunes have changed.

United were unable to respond following Stones' goal early in the second half and Fernandinho doubled City's lead seven minutes from time with an excellent finish.

Pep Guardiola's side were worthy winners, dumping their neighbours out at the same stage they did 12 months ago as they aim to win the competition for a fourth consecutive season.

 

 

Manchester City have confirmed Scott Carson, Cole Palmer and one staff member have tested positive for coronavirus.

The Premier League club have been massively impacted by COVID-19 cases in recent weeks, with six first-team squad members being forced to sit out Sunday's 3-1 win at Chelsea.

Ahead of Wednesday's EFL Cup semi-final clash with Manchester United, City have announced three more positive cases in the latest round of testing.

"Manchester City FC can confirm that Scott Carson, Cole Palmer and one member of staff have tested positive for COVID-19," a club statement read.

"Both personnel will now observe a period of self-isolation in accordance with Premier League and UK Government protocol on quarantine.

"Everyone at the club wishes Scott, Cole and all of our other colleagues a speedy recovery ahead of their return to work, training and competition."

Teenage academy product Palmer has featured twice for City this term in cup competitions, while third-choice keeper Carson has yet to make an appearance.

City previously had to shut their training centre following last month's initial coronavirus outbreak, which led to their trip to Everton being postponed four hours before kick-off.

Gabriel Jesus, Kyle Walker and Eric Garcia are all confirmed to have contracted the respiratory illness, while Ederson previously confirmed he was self-isolating.

Defender Benjamin Mendy was named among the substitutes for the Chelsea match, despite breaching coronavirus regulations by hosting a New Year's Eve dinner party.

Meanwhile, four Manchester City Women players tested positive on Tuesday.

During Fred's early months in the Premier League, it would be fair to say many Manchester City fans will have felt their team had dodged a bullet.

Prior to his move to the red side of Manchester, speculation was rife that Pep Guardiola had identified Fred – at Shakhtar Donetsk back then – as a long-term replacement for Fernandinho in midfield.

Fred had made a reputation for himself as an effective box-to-box midfielder who could have an impact on the ball as well as off it.

But it was difficult to see what possessed Manchester United to pip City to his reported £55million signing during the 2018-19 season, as he struggled with the tempo of the game and didn't appear to offer anything particularly outstanding to any part of the United unit.

However, as the past year or so – especially this season – highlights, Fred has become one of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's most-trusted individuals.

As United welcome City to Old Trafford in Wednesday's EFL Cup semi-final, Fred has another chance to show why that is the case.

MR DEPENDABLE?

Fred may have only started 10 of United's 16 Premier League games this term, but a telling pattern emerges when you look at which matches they were.

Among those games, he was in Solskjaer's line-up for outings against Chelsea, Arsenal, Everton, Southampton, City, Leeds United, Leicester City and Aston Villa.

All of those are, of course, either 'big six' rivals or teams pushing to be in the upper echelons of the Premier League this term. He was brought on at half-time in the 6-1 demolition by Tottenham, and while he hardly held Spurs at bay, they were at the very least less rampant in the second half.

It cannot be a coincidence that these are the type of matches Fred has been used in most often, with Solskjaer clearly valuing the midfielder's off-the-ball qualities as United regularly look to absorb pressure and spring counter-attacks.

That will likely be the tactic again as United host EFL Cup holders City in Wednesday's semi-final, a one-legged repeat of last season's two-match tie in the same round.

A year on from the 2019-20 first leg, Solskjaer will be hoping for a rather different outcome, as City – opting to go with a false nine – overran United's midfield and battered them at Old Trafford that day, deservedly winning 3-1.

There will likely be just four players from the United starting XI of the game a year ago who line up on Wednesday, with Fred one of them. The upheaval in the squad has been significant, but it's telling that the Brazilian is one of those still playing a role, and an important one at that.

He may have let himself down again with a red card against Paris Saint-Germain, but it seems Solskjaer accepted responsibility over that incident.

FRED THE FACILITATOR

It seems highly unlikely Fred will ever be in the running for any of the Premier League's end-of-season individual awards – he doesn't score or create enough, and you cannot say his influence is anything like that of N'Golo Kante in the title-winning Leicester City side.

But, one player who surely will be a candidate for individual gongs is Bruno Fernandes, and players like him need colleagues like Fred in order to thrive.

The Brazil international is well-rounded and has the technical ability to lend support in offensive situations, such as his neat interchanges with Paul Pogba against Aston Villa last time out.

But Fred is undoubtedly at his most effective when his side are not in possession, with his 49 tackles more than any other United or City midfielder in all competitions this term.

It's a similar story with his interceptions count. Fred has made 30 in 2020-21, five more than Rodrigo, who ranks second among the United and City engine room players. That is despite Fred despite playing over 400 minutes less than City's Spain international. Of course, City generally have more of the ball than United, but it still highlights Fred's awareness.

Critics might point out his 12 key passes is a rather meagre total, but with Bruno Fernandes (69) creating chances with such frequency, one could argue it doesn't matter – after all, Fred isn't being put in the team to be a creator.

Curiously, in the league since January 1 last year, United actually have a worse win percentage (50) with Fred in the starting XI than they do without him (71.4), though this is clearly skewed by the fact he is often reserved for games against better opposition.

But what is notable from this time period is United concede fewer shots - 10.3 per game - on average when Fred starts. That goes up to 12.1 shots per 90 minutes when he's not in the first XI – while the team's own shots count increases from 12.4 to 15 each game with the Internacional youth product in the side.

Opta's advanced passing data also reflects favourably on Fred, particularly with respect to starting three open-play sequences that ended in a goal, which is the joint second highest in the Premier League this term.

He has also initiated four open-play passing sequences that led to a shot, which only Luke Shaw, Harry Maguire and Fernandes can better in the Red Devils' squad.

UNNOTICED, UNDER-APPRECIATED, BUT NOT USELESS

Fred is perhaps the sort of player many would consider dispensable, and maybe he is in certain matches. Rarely does he stand out as an individual, certainly not to the extent of say Fernandes and Marcus Rashford, and much of his work can go unnoticed.

But many of us inadvertently analyse players in isolation and by their individual numbers, rather than how they fit into the collective. Sure, Fred doesn't create many chances, but what he offers United off the ball is seemingly vital for Solskjaer.

Fred may not be the player a lot of United fans expected two and a half years ago, but he has certainly proven himself to be no dud.

Manchester City have reportedly annoyed Kevin De Bruyne with their contract offer amid interest in Lionel Messi.

De Bruyne, 29, has been expected to sign a new deal with the Premier League giants, with his contract expiring in 2023.

But with Messi coming out of contract at season's end, City's offer to De Bruyne has seemingly drawn questions.

 

TOP STORY – MAN CITY ANNOY DE BRUYNE AMID MESSI INTEREST

Manchester City have annoyed De Bruyne with their contract offer, according to The Athletic.

The report says the offer is less than De Bruyne is currently on because of potentially signing Messi. However, the Belgium international is still expected to re-sign.

City have been strongly linked to Messi, who could leave Barcelona at the end of the campaign when is contract is due to expire.

The Barcelona captain has insisted he will not make a decision on his future until the season's conclusion.

 

ROUND-UP

- Also coming out of contract is Bayern Munich star David Alaba. The Guardian reports Liverpool are interested in signing the defender, but Real Madrid lead the race.

- Staying at Real Madrid and there is uncertainty over Sergio Ramos' future. With his contract expiring at the end of the season, Ramos will not accept a one-year deal and the defender and LaLiga champions are distant in their bid to reach an agreement, according to Marca. The Manchester Evening News reports City are not interested in Ramos.

Antoine Griezmann is still yet to find his best form for Barcelona, but Sport reports the Blaugrana are not considering selling the forward.

Mesut Ozil could be set to leave Arsenal. Football.London reports the playmaker, who comes out of contract in June, is in negotiations with MLS franchise DC United.

- Linked with Juventus and InterOlivier Giroud is set to stay at Chelsea, according to Goal. They also claim Juve are considering Sampdoria forward Fabio Quagliarella as an alternative, while Milan look set to keep hold of star midfielder Hakan Calhanoglu.

Manchester City will seek to reassert themselves against Manchester United in Wednesday's EFL Cup semi-final, with their status as the leading team in the rivalry for much of the past decade a source of pride to Pep Guardiola.

City have not finished below their neighbours in the Premier League since United's most recent Premier League title success in 2012-13, winning three subsequent top-flight crowns themselves.

Two of those came under Guardiola, United finishing a distant second in 2017-18 as City racked up a record-breaking 100-point haul.

The sides also met at the same stage of the EFL Cup last season, as City prevailed en route to a third consecutive Wembley success in the competition, although there have been signs that the local argument is starting to turn of late.

“United has always been a big club," Guardiola said. "When I faced them with Barcelona, Bayern Munich and here, it was always important.

"It is a rivalry in the city and for many decades United was above Manchester City. For us, we are incredibly proud and it is an honour for the last decade to be there with them and sometimes win, most of the times, and sometimes lose."

A 3-1 first-leg triumph in last season's semi-final is City's only victory in the most recent five Manchester derbies.

United restored pride and caused nerves to jangle with a 1-0 win at the Etihad Stadium as Nemanja Matic scored and was sent off in the return game, while also completing a Premier League double in 2019-20 either side of those matches.

Both teams have hit more impressive form since December's turgid 0-0 draw at Old Trafford in their most recent encounter, although it is United who sit level on points with champions Liverpool at the summit and have a chance to go top if they avoid defeat in their game in hand against Burnley next week.

"They have always been contenders," Guardiola said. "Every year, when we start the season, United is a contender.

"If it didn’t happen in the last few seasons, it is a question for them. It is no different facing United or other contenders."

City turned in a majestic performance as they dispatched Chelsea 3-1 at the weekend - a performance that was all the more impressive after a coronavirus outbreak robbed them of six first-team players.

Kyle Walker and Gabriel Jesus have now completed 10 days of self-isolation after having positive tests confirmed on Christmas Day, but Ederson, Ferran Torres, Eric Garcia and Tommy Doyle will remain unavailable at Old Trafford for a one-off encounter - the EFL having ditched its usual two-legged format to ease fixture congestion.

“We don’t have many players. To play one or two games is okay but if this sustains for a long time and I can only use 14 or 15 players it will be more difficult," Guardiola explained.

"Like everyone in the world, we adapt, you have to adjust our lives and our professions as much as possible and we don’t have an alternative.

"The most important thing is that the guys who have COVID can recover well and the guys handle it well and try to avoid it as much as possible."

City will be in action for the first time since the death of club great Colin Bell, who passed away after a short illness, aged 74.

Players past and present lined up to pay tribute to Bell on Tuesday, with former City captain Vincent Kompany tweeting: "So very sad to hear [of] Colin Bell's passing. Heard all about The King!

"A true Manchester City legend. This man was on another level, if only I could have seen him play. Incredibly kind and humble when I met him."

The Premier League has announced 40 new cases of COVID-19 among players and club staff - by far the highest figure recorded in a single week.

At the same time, the league said it was confident its protocols meant games should continue to be played, with clubs now being tested twice weekly.

The results for December 28 to January 3 saw the number of positives surge from the previous high of 18, which was recorded the week before.

In a statement, the Premier League said 28 tested positive from 1,311 tested between December 28 and December 31, with a further 12 positives from 984 players and staff who underwent tests from January 1 to January 3.

Although England has entered a national lockdown, professional sport is being allowed to carry on, unlike last season when the campaign went on hold for three months.

The latest figures from league chiefs follow the postponement of three matches last week due to coronavirus infections, with Fulham's games against Tottenham and Burnley called off, along with Manchester City's fixture at Everton.

Despite this impact, the Premier League said it would press on with the season as intended. There have been calls from some in the game for a circuit break - a period in which clubs could look to get the virus under control.

The Premier League, however, said: "With low numbers of positive tests across the overwhelming majority of clubs, the league continues to have confidence in its COVID-19 protocols, fully backed by the government, to enable fixtures to be played as scheduled."

It said players or club staff must self-isolate for 10 days after a positive test.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is convinced Manchester United have developed significantly since suffering three semi-final defeats in 2019-20 as they prepare to host rivals Manchester City in the last four of the EFL Cup.

Had things gone a little differently last term, Man United might have ended the campaign with three trophy successes, breaking Solskjaer's duck as the club's boss.

But, United lost 3-1 to Chelsea in the FA Cup semis, suffered a late 2-1 defeat to Sevilla in the Europa League and fell at the same stage of the EFL Cup to City, losing 3-2 on aggregate.

The elimination by City was particularly chastening given the manner of the first-leg home loss, as United were swept aside and somewhat fortunate to only lose 3-1 – the 1-0 away win in the second meeting was insufficient to save their hopes.

But it could be argued there is a different aura to this United side. They are level on 33 points with pacesetters Liverpool in the Premier League but have played one game less, and they head into Wednesday's game unbeaten in seven across all competitions.

The EFL Cup semi-finals this season are limited to one-game affairs rather than being split over two, and Solskjaer is adamant United are a different animal.

"When you get to a semi, you've done a lot of good work to get there and naturally you're playing against better and better opposition," Solskjaer told reporters.

"I think we've improved immensely in a year since the last semi [against City] and even when we were in Europe in August.

"For me, it's a step closer to get to the final, we've developed a lot, it's easy to say, 'have we learned?' But it's not about if we've learnt, it's about some fine margins in those semi-finals as well.

"When you win games of football, you don't think about it's a semi-final or a normal game or a league game or a quarter final, you just think about this game and want to win it."

United have faced City six times since Solskjaer was initially installed as Jose Mourinho's replacement in December 2018 and, perhaps rather surprisingly, has the edge over Pep Guardiola in their head-to-head with three wins to two.

Their most recent meeting, just under a month ago, was a rather cagier 0-0 draw that had few conclusions drawn from it by most, though Solskjaer still felt there were signs of United's progression.

They have every reason to be wary again, however – City have progressed from their previous five EFL Cup semis and lost only twice in 23 games in the competition under Guardiola.

"I've seen progress," Solskjaer continued. "Sometimes the results don't show the whole picture of the game, some of our counter-attacking goals in the wins we've had have been brilliant; in the league away when we won, we could have scored four or five in a 10- or 15-minute period.

"A few counter attacks there were out of this world but we had less control of the ball and defended fantastically. I think the last game was more or less 50-50 in possession, maybe a more cagey game from both teams but still I felt that was a progression having stayed more in the game.

"You never know what kind of system he [Guardiola] is going to come up with but you know you've got to defend really well against Man City.

"It's hard to keep the ball in their half, they find a way of overloading, so you've got to be brave, compact, trust your players.

"When we have the ball, we have to be able to keep it, play out of their press because they're one of the quickest to put the counter pressure on and win the ball high up.

"So, it's a balance. We've found that balance. We didn't have the 'X factor' last game, maybe because they were a little bit more cagey and set up to counter attack more as well.

"They've been some fascinating games and I feel we've got closer and closer and results sometimes you can't control."

Andriy Shevchenko is in the conversation to take over as Chelsea manager if the Blues decide to part ways with manager Frank Lampard.

With Chelsea languishing in ninth place in the Premier League table, Le10sport reports the Ukrainian's name is on the Blues list of possible replacements.

Shevchenko played for the club between 2006 and 2008 and has since forged a managerial career with the Ukraine national team, moving through the under-19 and under-21 teams to the senior dugout.

 

TOP STORY – SHEVCHENKO BEING CONSIDERED AS NEXT CHELSEA MANAGER

Chelsea are studying their options to replace Lampard and his former Blues team-mate Shevchenko is part of the shortlist, reports Le10sports.

The 44-year-old led Ukraine through an undefeated Euro 2020 qualifying campaign to reach the finals, drawing 0-0 in Portugal and beating the European champions 2-1, in Kiev.

Shevchenko remains close to the club as his 14-year-old son, Kristian, plays in the Blues academy and is well liked by club owner Roman Abramovich, say Le10sports sources.

Southampton made Premier League history on Monday, as they became the first team to beat all seven winners of the competition in the season after they lifted the crown.

Ralph Hasenhuttl's men defeated Liverpool 1-0 at St Mary's, prevailing in the fixture for the first time since 2016 thanks to Danny Ings' second-minute lob against his former club.

Southampton have now beaten Liverpool, Manchester United, Manchester City, Blackburn Rovers, Leicester City, Chelsea and Arsenal in the campaign following a title triumph.

Here is a look back at the matches that make up that run.

Blackburn Rovers

Southampton sold Alan Shearer to Blackburn in 1992, and three years later the England striker led Rovers to their first and only Premier League title. In the following season, Blackburn finished seventh, while Southampton avoided relegation on goal difference.

They claimed three crucial points in that survival battle on April 6, 1996, with Matt Le Tissier's 80th-minute penalty sealing a 1-0 win over Blackburn at The Dell.

Manchester United

Southampton sensationally beat defending champions United 6-3 on October 26, 1996, with Eyal Berkovic and Egil Ostenstad both scoring braces as the mercurial Le Tissier starred once more

They also beat a title-defending United side in 1997-98, 2000-01 and 2003-04.

Arsenal

The Gunners were top dogs in 2001-02, but came unstuck at St Mary's in November the following season, with James Beattie scoring twice and Kolo Toure's own goal settling the game 3-2 in Southampton's favour.

Manchester City

Early in Mauricio Pochettino's tenure, Southampton defeated defending champions City at St Mary's 3-1 in February 2013.

Their win included a quite sensational own goal from Gareth Barry, who steered a fine, inadvertent finish into the bottom-right corner of City's net to cap off the victory. They beat City last season, winning 1-0 in July, though Liverpool already had already deposed Pep Guardiola's side by that point.

Chelsea

Southampton were relegated to when Chelsea won their first Premier League title under Jose Mourinho, losing both of their games to the Blues on the way down.

However, they beat Chelsea in October 2015, with Steven Davis, Sadio Mane and Graziano Pele doing the damage in a 3-1 win as Mourinho's second spell in charge at Stamford Bridge hurtled towards a premature conclusion.

Leicester City

The Foxes charged to a remarkable Premier League success in 2015-16, but they were thrashed 3-0 at St Mary's in January 2017.

James Ward-Prowse, Jay Rodriguez and Dusan Tadic were on target in what was Southampton's biggest home win in the Premier League since a 4-1 victory against Crystal Palace on the final day of the previous season.

Liverpool

History was made as, despite Liverpool having 16 attempts – albeit with only one on target – Southampton held on to claim a hard-fought, well-deserved win.

The result left Hasenhuttl in tears at full time and also lifted Saints to within four points of the Premier League leaders.

Kevin De Bruyne believes Manchester City are starting to approach their peak, with the Belgium star stating Pep Guardiola's team were not ready for the start of the 2020-21 campaign.

City's elongated 2019-20 season finished in August, as they slumped to a 3-1 defeat against Lyon in the Champions League quarter-finals.

Guardiola's side were given an extra week off prior to starting their Premier League season in September, but their tally of 12 points from their opening eight games was their worst start to a top-flight campaign since 2008-09.

However, City are unbeaten in seven top-flight outings since a 2-0 defeat to Tottenham, conceding just twice during that run.

De Bruyne scored and set up another in a dominant 3-1 win over Chelsea on Sunday, creating three chances and attempting a game-high five shots.

City have closed to within four points of leaders Liverpool and have two games in hand on the reigning champions, who lost 1-0 at Southampton on Monday.

First they face rivals Manchester United on Wednesday in the EFL Cup semi-finals - chasing a fourth consecutive triumph in the competition - and De Bruyne has put their early struggles down to a lack of proper preparation owing to a condensed pre-season. 

"I think at the beginning of the season we had many difficulties, many injuries, no pre-season," De Bruyne said. 

"Mentally and physically, we weren't ready for the new season.

"I think over the last month we recovered a few players, we raised our level, we have won a few matches and we have gone up a few places in the table.

"We still have another eight games in January in all competitions, it's going to be tough, but I think we are ready for the battle and that is what matters."

HOW CITY'S START COMPARED TO 2019-20

After eight games this season, City had scored just 10 goals, conceding 11 at the other end. In contrast, after the same number of fixtures last term, they had scored 27 times and allowed in just nine.

City had a pass completion rate of 87.74 per cent, while 47.57 per cent of their tackles were successful – again, both of these figures were lower than their corresponding numbers for 2019-20 (89.22 per cent and 58.73 per cent respectively).

With eight games played last season, City had created a total of 132 opportunities, with 32 of these counted as "big chances" by Opta.

They were 39 down in terms of chances created by the same stage this term, while they had created 20 fewer big opportunities and only managed 125 attempts compared to 167 last season.

Guardiola's men recorded three wins, three draws and two defeats from their opening eight encounters of 2020-21, having won five, drawn one and lost two up to and including October 6, 2019.

Teams will be allowed to make five substitutions from nine players on the bench for the EFL Cup semi-finals and final. 

The change in the rule was introduced following consultation with Manchester United, Manchester City, Tottenham and Brentford, the four semi-finalists in the 2020-21 competition. 

VAR will also be introduced, having not been involved in previous rounds. 

The EFL added in a statement on Monday: "Each team is only permitted a maximum of three opportunities (excluding half time, full time and half time of extra time) to make substitutions during normal time. However, if a tie goes to extra time, an additional opportunity to use a substitute(s) will also be permitted but only from the five substitutes allowed." 

The decision comes despite Premier League clubs voting against the option of using five substitutes in a single game in England's top flight, a rule which has been adopted in other major competitions across Europe this season. 

City boss Pep Guardiola has been among the more vocal in his criticism of not continuing the five-sub rule, which was temporarily introduced into the Premier League following the resumption of the 2019-20 season after the coronavirus-enforced shutdown. 

City face United at Old Trafford on Wednesday, with Spurs hosting Brentford 24 hours earlier. 

This season's semi-finals will be one-legged and go to extra time and penalties if required, rather than the traditional two-legged ties, due to the congested fixture schedule caused by the disruption to the football calendar. 

The final was moved from February to April, when it is hoped some fans may be allowed to attend.

Frank Lampard's position as Chelsea head coach is under threat, while Tottenham have started talks to extend Harry Kane's deal.

Lampard is under increasing pressure at Stamford Bridge after just one win in their past six Premier League games.

Sunday's 3-1 loss to Manchester City has only put further pressure on the Chelsea boss.

 

TOP STORY – LAMPARD'S POSITION AS CHELSEA BOSS UNDER THREAT

Lampard's job as Chelsea head coach is under serious threat, according to The Athletic.

The report says the Premier League club, who are eighth in the table, have started looking at replacements.

Lampard took charge of Chelsea in July 2019, but they sit seven points behind Liverpool and Manchester United – who have both played one game fewer – despite spending heavily in the close season.

ROUND-UP

- Kane's impressive form for Tottenham has seen him linked with the likes of Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain. The Independent reports Spurs have started talks with the forward, who has 10 goals and 11 assists in the Premier League this season, over a contract extension, even though his current deal runs until 2024.

- With Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez sidelined with long-term injuries, Liverpool continue to be linked with defenders. But The Athletic reports the Premier League champions are not considering a move for Lille defender Sven Botman.

- Struggling for game time at Tottenham, Dele Alli is linked with a reunion with Mauricio Pochettino at PSG. Foot Mercato reports Pochettino has spoken with Alli, who is open to a move.

- Staying at PSG and Sky Sports reports the Ligue 1 giants are in negotiations with Everton to sign Moise Kean on a permanent deal worth around €34.6million (£31m). Kean has scored nine goals in 16 games in all competitions on loan at PSG.

- Samuel Umtiti's Barcelona future is uncertain. Todofichajes reports Nice have a strong interest in the defender on an initial loan deal.

- Patrick Bamford has scored 10 Premier League goals this season and the Leeds United forward is out of contract next year. The Sun reports Leeds are set to reward the 27-year-old with a lucrative new deal.

Phil Foden hailed the work of "genius" Pep Guardiola and outlined his plans to continue improving after inspiring Manchester City to a 3-1 victory against Chelsea.

The England international set up Ilkay Gundogan for City's first goal in Sunday's clash and swept home Kevin De Bruyne's cross for their second just 157 seconds later.

At 20 years and 220 days, he became the second youngest player to score and assist in a Premier League game against Chelsea since Jermain Defoe in September 2002.

De Bruyne extended the visitors' lead before half-time at Stamford Bridge but it was Foden who earned particular praise from boss Pep Guardiola after the game.

"I'm so proud," Guardiola told Sky Sports. "He never dropped one bit of his energy he can play up front in all four positions. 

"He has a sense of goal, he scored a fantastic goal. We rely on him incredibly.

"For England as well he will be a top player because he's so clever and calm. He made another great performance."

Foden has now been directly involved in 14 Premier League goals – finding the net nine times himself and setting up five more for his team-mates.

That is as many as Manchester United legend Paul Scholes managed at the same age, only strengthening comparisons made between the pair.

He completed all 16 of his passes in the opposition half against Chelsea and created four chances, which is more than any other player on the field.

However, having struggled to hold down a place in the side this term, the City academy product is refusing to get too far ahead of himself.

"I still have a lot to learn," he said. "There's quality players here. Riyad Mahrez on the bench today could easily play. 

"There's quality players at the club and I just have to keep doing well each time and improving.

"The manager's praise means a lot when you put 100 per cent into a game. It feels nice. I'm enjoying my football and I want to keep enjoying it."

Foden started on the left side of a striker-less attack for a City side depleted by a coronavirus outbreak in their camp, leaving them without six squad members for the match.

The Citizens' victory was their third in a row in the Premier League, moving them to within four points of top spot with a game in hand, but was their first over one of last season's top-six finishers this term at the fifth attempt.

City dropped off in the second half and Callum Hudson-Odoi pulled one back for Chelsea in stoppage time, though Foden was delighted with his side's overall display at Stamford Bridge.

"It gives you the confidence, coming here and getting a result how we did," he said. "It gives everyone confidence in the training room and we want to keep pushing and playing like this more often.

"The first half was brilliant. To be three goals up, it's not always easy to go into the second half three goals up and play the same way. 

"You could probably tell the second half we dropped off a bit and let them have it. Overall it was a great performance and doesn't put us in a bad position with the games in hand.

"We've played good every game but just not finished our chances. Today was a brilliant performance and much more clinical in the final third.

"We had that little break after the last game and maybe that helped us out to have the energy today. It was a great performance, everyone played top today.

"We always have great tactics going into big games like this – Pep's a genius at things like this. 

"As you can tell we played the right way and we definitely done them staying high and wide and going down the flanks. It was something we did well."

Pep Guardiola feels Manchester City are returning to the type of form that saw them lift the Premier League title in successive campaigns after cruising to victory over Chelsea.

Despite being without six first-team players due to coronavirus, City ran out 3-1 winners at Stamford Bridge in Sunday's clash to make it three league victories in a row.

All three of the visitors' goals were scored in a ruthless first half, with Kevin de Bruyne assisting Phil Foden and then scoring himself after Ilkay Gundogan's well-taken opener.

The victory was City's first this season over one of last season's top-six finishers at the fifth attempt, moving them to within four points of top spot with a game in hand.

And after a disappointing 2019-20 and a slow start to this season, Guardiola could see signs of the old City against Chelsea.

"It's the same team. Same manager, same backroom staff," he told Sky Sports. "My assistant coach changed a little bit. But the players are the same and the ideas are the same. 

"The way we won leagues and titles and other things is the way we played today. The tempo we have missed in the past, today we recovered it."

Since losing 2-0 to Tottenham in November, City have won five of their seven league matches and drawn the other two.

Only Manchester United, who City face in the EFL Cup semi-finals on Wednesday, have taken more points (20) over that period than the Citizens' 17. 

This latest win came without a recognised striker in their ranks, Guardiola tasking De Bruyne, Raheem Sterling, Foden and Bernardo Silva with interchanging through the middle.

"The players were excellent in every way especially with the ball," Guardiola said. "We cannot play like other teams, we have to play in our rhythm and attack in the right moment. 

"We won titles in that way, being more patient. We missed a bit of this tempo and today we had it.

"The result is excellent at Stamford Bridge but the way we played was really great. You can't win titles without playing like that.

"Chelsea are one of strongest teams, even if they have been suffering over the last few games.

"But you see the quality of their players and the bench. We had a plan, we tried to play like we have in the past and it worked."

De Bruyne was a key component in City's striker-less system, playing three key passes and getting five shots away at goal, one of those - his 34th-minute goal - on target.

The Belgian playmaker, who has now been involved in four goals in his last six league appearances against Chelsea, praised the clinical nature of his side's first-half display.

"I think the difference today was that when we had the chances, we took them," he said. 

"It's important that we won one of these big games, as we've played some good games against the big teams but not won one of them. 

"We're still fighting an uphill battle but we're getting closer. The years when we were champions, we were winning these big games, so it's important. 

"It's a little different this year as everyone is dropping points but it's good that we're fighting and that's the only thing we can do right now."

City have now won their first league game in 14 of the last 15 calendar years, winning each of the last nine in a row since a 1-0 defeat to Sunderland in 2012.

Frank Lampard accepts Chelsea were taught "serious lessons" by Manchester City on Sunday but insists people must be patient as he tries to build a stronger team.

Pep Guardiola's side ran out 3-1 winners at Stamford Bridge, with Ilkay Gundogan, Phil Foden and Kevin De Bruyne all scoring in the first half for a side left depleted by a coronavirus outbreak.

Chelsea, who scored a consolation goal through Callum Hudson-Odoi in second-half injury time, only managed two shots on target throughout the contest as Premier League debutant Zack Steffen went largely untroubled.

The Blues have now lost four times in six league games, as many as they did in their previous 23.

They have taken 26 points from their first 17 league matches of 2020-21, three fewer than they managed at the same stage last term, and they have never finished higher than sixth after failing to amass more than 26 points at this stage of a campaign.

With top-two Liverpool and Manchester United seven points ahead of them with a game in hand, pressure is growing on Lampard, whose squad was bolstered by a net spend of more than £220million in the previous transfer window.

While accepting his side were not good enough in the first half, Lampard believes he needs time to bring Chelsea closer to the level of City and champions Liverpool.

"For 10 minutes, we were good, then they started to play and we conceded two poor goals, really poor goals. I felt it knocked us and I felt we didn't react as well as I'd want," he told Sky Sports.

"We knew they'd play without a real striker so we had to make sure that space wasn't there. We allowed the space for De Bruyne to get into the game, and [Bernardo] Silva, and Gundogan, when he gets the opportunity to shoot for the first one.

"So, yeah, serious lessons in the first half, good character in the second half, but the damage was done. The level of play, you're talking De Bruyne, I know he was here when he was a kid and credit to him, he went away and came back and now he's prime Kevin De Bruyne.

"Then you can go through their team and talk about that and the reality is for us, and it's why I spoke earlier in the season, one month ago everyone was saying, 'we can win the league', I was pretty sure in the fact that, where we're at, in terms of the [transfer] ban, in terms of the rebuild and where we're at as a team, in terms of the youth, that there are periods of pain we're going to go through as a club and individuals.

"It was a painful first half. We've got to get better at receiving the ball in tight areas, we've got to understand that, when a press comes, you've got to accept it, or miss the press out. When a team gives you a problem on the pitch, which we talked about before the game, it has to be dealt with in-game. In the first half, we didn't; in the second half, we were better, but the damage was done."

Lampard pointed to his own experience as a player as proof that things can change quickly in football when it comes to teams being successful.

"I'm not leaning on the youth [as an excuse] because I think some of the younger players really came to the fore," he said. "I thought Mason Mount showed second half, Billy Gilmour when he came on, Callum comes on and gets his goal, so it's not about the youth in the squad being the issue. It's just a reality, as I said before. 

"At the minute, we're in a little period, a five, six-game period that none of us like. I think if you probably go back to the first year of City in this regime or Liverpool, you have to fight through that. That comes with reviewing this game and looking at how you can be better.

"If you've been in football this long - and I said this to the players at half-time - I've had those days. I've sat there and had those days and lifted a trophy at the end of the year. I remember getting beaten at Middlesbrough, two or three-nil, [Mark] Viduka and Yakubu [Ayegbeni] up front, and we were sat in the dressing room pretty demoralised. We bounced back because we had a spirit in the dressing room and a quality of player.

"We're in a different period now but any player in football is going to have moments like that. Some of the results we've seen this season for other teams, Man City, Liverpool, et cetera, have been harsh for them. Now, because we're in a bit of a period, it becomes even harsher for us, I won't hide away from that.

"But the players, myself, have to take it on the chin and react. This is football."

When asked if his Chelsea players have the character to get out of their bad run, Lampard replied: "Without a doubt we have that.

"We went 16 games unbeaten and month ago, everyone's asking me, am I going to go, when's the new contract? Now people will be saying the opposite. I can't control that. We can't control that. What we can control is what we do tonight, tomorrow, the next day, what we do against Morecambe, what we do against Fulham, and then I have belief in this group.

"I hope this doesn't sound like I'm criticising players. I'll be the first to look at myself today. But when I look at the squad, I know there is uplift in this team, but I know where we're at because I see it and I know the work it takes to be at the level Manchester City showed today because that's been a lot of years in the making, a lot of players playing in the prime of their careers, showing confidence and character.

"It's normal that, as a squad, we take little knocks along the way. Now is a test."

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