Frank Lampard put Chelsea's 2-1 defeat to Manchester City down to the "finer details" and a moment of quality from Riyad Mahrez.

Chelsea took the lead through N'Golo Kante at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday, but the Premier League champions fought back - Kevin de Bruyne's deflected strike restoring parity before Mahrez slotted home at the culmination of a brilliant run.

Lampard's side had more possession than City, despite living dangerously at the back at times, and he believes moments in both boxes are ultimately what settled the contest in Pep Guardiola's favour.

"Coming into the game with our recent form and how we're developing quickly, recently, I wanted to come here and compete, be brave on and off the ball and I think in the first half you saw all of that," Lampard told a news conference.

"At 1-0 we had relative control of the game. It's clear that never lasts if you have one moment, which they had a couple of moments, but we were playing well and there's a lot of positives but we lost the game, so it shows at this level, the finer details in both boxes are what decide these ones.

"I don't think you can come away from this game and say anything other than two really strong teams going against each other and one wins it because of a deflected goal and a real moment of quality from Mahrez and the rest is pretty much in the balance."

Chelsea headed into the fixture on the back of six straight Premier League victories, though the Blues are yet to beat any of the established "big six" Premier League sides under Lampard.

They have lost twice to Manchester United - on the opening day of the season and in the EFL Cup - while also going down to Liverpool in the UEFA Super Cup and in the Premier League.

Lampard, though, insists all of the defeats have not been down to Chelsea's style of play or the inexperience of his youthful side.

"Everyone seems fixated on these couple of games we've played," Lampard said.

"We went toe-to-toe with Liverpool in Istanbul, lost on penalties. Lost at home in the league, pushing for 45 minutes and we've lost today with a very good performance.

"It's moments in the boxes, it's not something that you can put down to being a rule of going into a game why you'd win it or why you don't.

"These teams, Liverpool and City, have been getting results for a long time because they work together, work hard and those finer details they get right."

Frank Lampard believes Chelsea have demonstrated they are on track to close the gap to Manchester City and Liverpool in the Premier League.

Chelsea opened the scoring against City on Saturday, but the defending champions - who are nine points shy of current leaders Liverpool - came back to win 2-1.

The defeat ends a six-match winning run for fourth-placed Chelsea in the league, though Lampard has no doubt his side demonstrated they have enough quality to challenge the leading teams in the competition.

"Some big parts were good, some bits we can improve on. That's why there's a gap, that's why there was a gap last year of however many points, that's what City and Liverpool have done," Lampard told Sky Sports.

"I think we went toe to toe in the main. A moment of quality from Mahrez and a deflection for the first goal feels like the difference, for me.

"There was a lot of detail in the game, but I feel like we didn't have that bit of quality that we can have. Games like this can be won or lost in the boxes - and I think it was [the case].

"We're coming to close the gap. I don't want to shout that too loudly because football is day to day, week to week.

"Now we have to show our response to a defeat after a great run of wins, it feels like a long time since we lost a game in the league, so now we need to go and straight away get back on it, because I do feel like there were bits of that game that show that we're coming.

"Of course we're in the early stages, we're three or four months in, we're a team that we're strong last year anyway but some of our players were playing in the Championship last season and there's a bit of a transitional feel to it.

"I feel if we keep working then we will be coming."

City won despite posting a possession figure of 46.74 per cent, according to official Opta data, the lowest figure any Guardiola side has registered in 381 top-flight games.

"It's how we try and play. You can never be comfortable, they had a few good opportunities early on, but so did we," Lampard added of his team's style.

"I think maybe we got a little bit sloppy in fact, gave them a chance. Good teams, great teams, work to earn their luck. We're in that process. We need to work to make sure that goes in our favour.

"I felt for big parts of the game, in terms of possession we had more and caused a lot of problems behind their midfield line, but then there were times when we were sloppy trying to pass it between our centre-halves, trying to get our full-backs involved.

"They pressed well, they're very well organised. They made it hard for us and there's details in our own game to push a bit more."

If winning ugly truly is a mark of champions, Manchester City's Premier League title challenge is very much alive.

After losing to Liverpool two weeks ago and then watching yet another late winner from Jurgen Klopp's relentless Reds at Crystal Palace earlier on Saturday, City's task against Chelsea was straightforward: don't give the leaders any more reason to believe.

Pep Guardiola's message before the game was simple, too, as the task of hauling in Liverpool was laid bare: "We have two options – give up or don't give up." Against Chelsea, they flirted with the former before choosing the latter.

Quite what the message to Benjamin Mendy was is another matter, though, and one that could have deeper implications when the title race enters its more decisive months.

Chelsea, of course, came to Etihad Stadium in buoyant mood - quite the contrast to the way they left it last season after a 6-0 humiliation of a kind rarely experienced, certainly since Roman Abramovich laid down roots in London. But this is a different Chelsea: a team playing with few expectations, bursting with confidence and chasing an eighth away win in a row in all competitions for the first time.

More to the point, there was a plan: get after Mendy. Not included against Liverpool for "tactical reasons", Mendy was part of the Chelsea blueprint from the off. Willian attacked relentlessly down the right and N'Golo Kante often joined him. With Raheem Sterling unwilling to track back, Rodri was dragged to the left to provide cover.

That was how Chelsea struck.

Mateo Kovacic played a one-two with Jorginho on halfway, and Kante set off, a diminutive whirlwind surging through the middle of the sky blue shirts onto the Kovacic pass. Rodri, out of position, did not track him; Fernandinho, emergency centre-back again, could not. Kante finished well under pressure from Mendy, who had belatedly realised the danger. It was Chelsea's second and final shot on target.

Chelsea deserved their lead. Beating City requires a careful plan and the hope of an off-day from Guardiola's men and, boy, they had that in the first half-hour. Kante has not been transformed by Frank Lampard - nobody should forget how Maurizio Sarri was often pilloried for playing the France star further forward - but he has embraced this idea of unleashing the former Leicester City man. In terms of average positions, Kante ended the first half the furthest forward of any Chelsea player. He was a weapon deployed with astute precision.

City, meanwhile, were alarmingly poor. Whatever the end result, Guardiola teams can normally be guaranteed to have more possession and run that little bit harder than their opponents. After 45 minutes, they had had 45 per cent of the ball and been outsprinted 56-50.

And yet, they were winning.

Kevin De Bruyne was wayward with his early passing but it soon became clear that, if it was going to happen for City, it would happen through him. It duly did 29 minutes in, De Bruyne dummying Jorginho and finding the net via the well-placed studs of Kurt Zouma, all after Fernandinho waded back into more comfortable midfield waters to steal possession.

For all their own problems at left-back, City identified the same weakness in Chelsea, a team who, exciting as they are, have kept only three clean sheets in the league under Lampard. Emerson Palmieri was tasked with dealing with Riyad Mahrez and simply never managed it. When he asked for help from Kovacic, they were equally obliging in allowing Mahrez to cut into the box on his left foot and finish in supreme style.

Mahrez was the main threat after the break, a clever corner giving Joao Cancelo a chance to score before a brilliant Kepa Arrizabalaga save denied him a second goal of his own. He would have had a late assist for Sterling but for a correct VAR intervention for offside.

A Chelsea comeback never really looked on and City had control once Ilkay Gundogan was introduced, even if they ended with the lowest possession figure, 46.7 per cent, that Guardiola has seen in 381 league matches in charge of Barcelona, Bayern Munich and City.

They are back into third, nine points behind Liverpool, with a slight hop in their step if not quite a spring. Never mind the gap, as David Silva said on Friday; City have overturned them before.

But there is a nagging doubt about Mendy, about how he impacts the team as a whole and whether he is worth the gamble, that is more difficult to ignore.

Manchester City claimed a valuable Premier League victory over Chelsea on Saturday, despite recording the lowest share of possession any Pep Guardiola side has managed in a top-flight game.

During his stints in charge of Barcelona, Bayern Munich and City, Guardiola has become synonymous with dominance of the ball.

Yet his side's 2-1 win against Chelsea at the Etihad Stadium, secured by goals from Kevin De Bruyne and Riyad Mahrez after N'Golo Kante had given the visitors the lead, was notable for City managing a possesion figure of just 46.74 per cent, according to official Opta data.

That represents the lowest figure any Guardiola side has registered in 381 top-flight games.

"It's not that easy, people expect us to have 70 per cent of the possession, but these guys [Chelsea] have a lot of quality," said ex-Blues midfielder De Bruyne in a post-match interview with Sky Sports.

"It shows the other side we have, that we can control the game while defending and that's also good for us."

 

Sergio Aguero may have sustained a "bad" injury as Manchester City earned a comeback Premier League win at home to Chelsea, said manager Pep Guardiola.

City only had 46.74 possession against the in-form Blues, the lowest recorded by a Guardiola side in his 381 top-flight matches as a manager, but they collected a crucial three points.

N'Golo Kante had given Chelsea a deserved lead by squeezing a clever finish past returning goalkeeper Ederson, but Kevin De Bruyne's deflected shot levelled the score before Riyad Mahrez curled in what proved the winner.

City's comeback, though, was marred by a trio of injuries to key players as Rodri, David Silva and Aguero all had to be substituted during the second half at Etihad Stadium.

Aguero appeared to be in some discomfort as he hobbled off and Guardiola fears the striker could miss some time for the champions.

"I think Sergio will be bad, I think so... this feeling, tomorrow [Sunday] we will know," Guardiola told Sky Sports.

"We will see tomorrow, the feeling is it is muscular. It is what it is, we have young players and we will try [to cope if Aguero is ruled out]."

Manchester City came from behind to claim a valuable 2-1 win at home to Chelsea and move up to third in the Premier League table, although Saturday's victory was marred by injury concerns for Rodri, David Silva and Sergio Aguero.

N'Golo Kante marked his 150th Chelsea appearance with a deserved opening goal, before City hit back to lead at the interval thanks to Kevin De Bruyne's deflected strike and a fine solo effort from Riyad Mahrez.

City lost at title rivals Liverpool in their last game before the international break but crucially got back to winning ways despite a strangely low-tempo performance at the Etihad Stadium, where three key players limped off during the second half.

Defeat for Frank Lampard's side ended a six-game winning streak in the league and denied the Blues the chance to set a club record of eight straight victories away from home in all competitions.

Chelsea were the better side initially and opened the scoring in the 21st minute, Kante bursting through a gap in City's defence to meet Mateo Kovacic's lofted pass, hold off the challenge of Benjamin Mendy and squeeze a clever finish past Ederson.

City were soon level, though, De Bruyne equalising against his old club when he sold Jorginho a dummy and saw his shot take a decisive deflection off Kurt Zouma, and they led before half-time.

Mahrez collected the ball in the left channel, skipped inside away from Kovacic and Emerson Palmieri and fired a superb low shot through the legs of Tomori to beat Kepa Arrizabalaga.

Chelsea were fortunate not to be 3-1 down at the break, Kepa's loose pass presenting Aguero with a clear sight of goal that the striker wasted by hitting the crossbar.

City lost Rodri and Silva after the break, prior to Kepa making a fingertip save to deny De Bruyne his second, while Aguero also hobbled out of the action to join City's growing injury list.

Ederson made a brilliant flying save to keep out Willian's drive, though a goal kick was incorrectly awarded, and substitute Mason Mount curled a late free-kick wide before Raheem Sterling had a third for City disallowed for offside by VAR.

 


What does it mean? City back on track despite injury issues

This was far from a vintage City display as they struggled to dominate possession in their usual fashion, but they did enough to recover from a damaging defeat at Liverpool last time out - their third Premier League loss of the season - though Pep Guardiola may be concerned about Aguero's injury, in particular. Chelsea slip to fourth, dropping below City, after suffering a first league loss since September.


Mahrez magic decisive

Bernardo Silva's suspension handed Mahrez a chance to shine and the Algeria winger provided a wonderful winner for City, his first league goal since September coming at the perfect time.


Sterling struggles to impose himself

It was a dramatic international break for Raheem Sterling, who was dropped by England for a Euro 2020 qualifier following an altercation with Liverpool defender Joe Gomez. The City forward did not provide enough defensive cover for Mendy on Saturday and was well below his effervescent best in attack, though he would have scored at the death but for a marginal offside call aided by video technology.


What's next?

Shakhtar Donetsk visit the Etihad in the Champions League on Tuesday, with Chelsea away to Valencia the following day. City go to Newcastle United in the league on Saturday, when Lampard's side are at home to West Ham.

Ederson is back in the Manchester City side to face Chelsea in the Premier League on Saturday.

The goalkeeper missed City's last game, a 3-1 defeat at Liverpool that left the champions nine points behind Jurgen Klopp's Reds in the Premier League table.

Ederson was withdrawn during a Champions League draw with Atalanta this month due to a thigh injury, with Kyle Walker ending the game in goal after Claudio Bravo was sent off.

The Brazil international has, as expected, been passed fit for a crunch clash with Chelsea, with Frank Lampard's side having won six straight Premier League games to move up to third in the league, above City.

Bernardo Silva is out after being banned for one game for his controversial tweet about team-mate Benjamin Mendy, while Raheem Sterling starts after being dropped for England's 7-0 win over Montenegro during the international break following an incident with Liverpool defender Joe Gomez.

David Silva also returns to midfield, having been an unused substitute against Liverpool, while Riyad Mahrez starts alongside Sterling and Sergio Aguero.

Joao Cancelo, John Stones, Fernandinho and Mendy line up in defence.

Chelsea make two changes from a victory over Crystal Palace as they aim to win eight consecutive away games in all competitions for the first time in their history.

Jorginho replaces Mason Mount in midfield and Cesar Azpilicueta comes in for Reece James at full-back.

Frank Lampard will not judge his Chelsea players on one game as they prepare to face Manchester City, and admitted the Blues would need to defend well at the Etihad Stadium.

Chelsea go into their clash with the champions on Saturday having won six Premier League matches in a row and only Manchester United have beaten Lampard's men on the road this season, that defeat coming on the opening weekend back in August.

Since then Chelsea have lost only to league leaders Liverpool in the league, and City are still smarting from their 3-1 defeat to the Reds before the international break.

Lampard described City and Liverpool as having set the standard for his players to aspire to but said he would not be tearing up the gameplan that has been working well for him in recent weeks.

"We are playing Man City and I'm not going to judge us right now on that one game," Lampard told Soccer Saturday.

"I will judge us over what we've done until now, how we keep improving, how we work and where we go over a bigger period.

"We know that when you go to Man City or any of these big teams that you can lose, but what you must do is give everything and not roll over, no matter what happens, and you must fight until the end and give everything you can as a team.

"We won't change our plan hugely. Some people ask if we're going to go there and defend or can we go and attack but you're going to have to defend, it's all about how well you do it and it's going to be a huge part of the game."

Third-placed Chelsea are a point clear of City in the table and Lampard's men have been scoring freely, but the Blues have lost three of their last four Premier League away games against Pep Guardiola's men.

Lampard has a number of players in fine form, with Christian Pulisic having scored five goals in his last three league games, and the Chelsea boss said he feels no need to play down his players' achievements thus far.

"There's a balance to it for me and one thing is that we're playing well," said Lampard. "I don't want to hide that from the players and double bluff them - they are playing well and they should know that.

"But the other thing is, when you come up against these teams, you don't know if you're going to be judged at the end of the season on these games because there are 38 matches in a season and we want to win a huge majority of them.

"But you do know that when you come up against them head to head, the level of detail and the finer moments of the game will be the deciding factor."

Pep Guardiola rubbished claims Manchester City's patchy form this season will persuade him to seek pastures new, suggesting he a stay beyond the end of his contract is possible.

City host Chelsea on Saturday as they resume their title defence nine points in arrears of Liverpool, after Jurgen Klopp's runaway leaders beat them 3-1 at Anfield last time out.

Guardiola's animatedly fraught touchline demeanour throughout the contest, where he railed against key decisions that did not fall in his side's favour, arguably painted a picture of deeper discontent.

This is only the second time the 48-year-old has entered a fourth season in charge of a club, following his 2011-12 campaign at Barcelona, where they won the Copa del Rey, Supercopa de Espana, UEFA Super Cup and Club World Cup, but ceded LaLiga to Real Madrid.

A year's sabbatical followed before a three-season stay at Bayern Munich, and the manner in which events unfolded on Merseyside meant it was easy to draw parallels and presume the famously intense Guardiola was burning himself out.

"My last season in Barcelona, I won four titles. I'm sorry – it was not bad," he grinned when the comparison was raised before the game against Chelsea, who are a point and a place better off than City as they sit third in the Premier League.

"Okay, we didn’t win the league and, as always, I didn't win the Champions League, but it was good.

"And we played the best football we played in Barcelona in the last season because we knew each other. That was my feeling."

Guardiola reports a similar feeling of contentment when it comes to his current employers, bolstered by an affinity for the city he presently calls home.

"I don't have any reasons to move from here. I am incredibly satisfied to work with this club and these players and I want to help," said Guardiola, whose City contract expires in 2021.

"If the people believe I am going to resign or I am going to be sad for these results, for nine points behind, the people don't know me.

"I like this challenge. I love to be in this position. If the club wants, next season I want to be here. One hundred per cent.

"I want to live in this city because I know lovely people here and I want to work and live with them. I want to be here.

"It's not because I am friends with Txiki [Begiristain, City and ex-Barcelona director of football] that I am going to stay here for the rest of my life. I am sitting here because I win; if I don't win, I am in trouble. I know that.

"I am incredibly satisfied to work in this city and at this club. I want to help this club to get better. I still enjoy working with these players a lot and I would like to stay longer.

"If the club wants, I will stay."

Ederson will return from a thigh injury against Chelsea after the goalkeeper was a keenly felt absentee versus Liverpool, although City's long-term casualties still include Aymeric Laporte and Leroy Sane.

During the international break, the Football Association handed Bernardo Silva a one-match ban for a racially insensitive tweet he sent to team-mate Benjamin Mendy, while Raheem Sterling's clash on England duty with Liverpool defender Joe Gomez amounted to another unseemly episode.

This set of circumstances adds up to a sharp contrast with City's imperious march to a domestic treble last season and a 100-point haul in 2017-18, but Guardiola insists he always maintained a sense of perspective.

"A few months ago, people said, 'you can't do better; you are a perfect team' and I said all the time, 'nope'," he recalled.

"Football depends on the balance of the team and it is so flexible. Wow: be careful. I have the feeling we are not far, far away from the way we played in the last seasons.

"It would be easy for me to say we miss Laporte, Leroy and the other ones and that is why there is a nine-point gap.

"That would be poor analysis to get through and improve as a team. We have to find a solution. The big clubs always overcome the situations."

Having rejected any notion of finality around this phase of his City reign, Guardiola expressed a similar sentiment regarding the uphill battle to come in the title race.

"I know all around the world the Premier League is done," he added. "If that happens, we will try again next season.

"We have two options: give up or don't give up. And I don't think after the way we played, especially at Anfield, we are going to give up.

"We are not going to win, maybe, but we are not going to give up."

Manchester City's David Silva has not been surprised by the positive impact Frank Lampard has had at Chelsea since taking over as head coach.

Chelsea face defending Premier League champions City at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday, and head into the fixture a point and a place ahead of Pep Guardiola's side.

While City lost 3-1 to leaders Liverpool last time out, Chelsea have won their past six Premier League outings.

Silva played alongside Lampard at City in 2014-15 after the former England midfielder ended a 13-year playing stint at Chelsea and says he could spot the managerial potential immediately.

"I could see a manager in him when he was here. He was an incredible player, a world-class player," said Silva, who will bring his City career to an end after this season.

"The way he played, as well as his experience in football, now he transmits it to his players. He is showing it already, he is going to be a fantastic manager.

"I'm not surprised [how well he's done so quickly]. He has clear ideas and he is doing very well. What matters is that he has been given the opportunity and he's making the most of it."

With Chelsea serving a transfer ban, Lampard has been praised for his willingness to utilise the Blues' youngsters, with Tammy Abraham, Mason Mount and Fikayo Tomori all particularly impressive, while Christian Pulisic has begun to shine in recent matches.

City trail league leaders Liverpool by nine points, but Silva insists Chelsea must also be considered as contenders in the Premier League title race.

"I think so. Even though it's Lampard's first season, they are playing really well," Silva added.

"They are there in the title race. It will be a beautiful game: two attacking teams that want to keep the ball and score goals. It's going to be an entertaining game for the fans.

"Abraham is playing really well, like the rest of his team. They have players that they are doing really well and helping him.

"They have also a bunch of young players and, when the team plays well, it's always easier for them to shine."

Silva also stressed the importance of City immediately recovering from their defeat at Anfield last time out.

"We are nine points behind. We need to focus on ourselves, try to win every game and we will see what happens at the end of the season," said Silva, who has won four Premier League titles with City. 

"I think we are in good form, in spite of some bad results. Liverpool are doing very well; that's why there is a big gap between us. This is not the first time we have been so far off the top of the table.

"We have had this gap in other seasons, even with less games left, and we managed to win the championship in the end. We need to remain calm and focus on our games."

Pep Guardiola has no immediate plans to swap Manchester City for a return to his former club Bayern Munich.

Bayern are on the search for a new coach after sacking Niko Kovac earlier in November.

Hans-Dieter Flick is currently interim coach, while Mauricio Pochettino - who was sacked by Tottenham on Tuesday - has been linked with a switch to the Allianz Arena.

The Bundesliga champions are also rumoured to be interested in moving for City boss Guardiola, who spent three seasons at Bayern between 2013 and 2016 before taking over at City.

However, Guardiola has insisted Bayern are aware he is a person who respects his contracts, adding he wishes to stay at City as long as the club want him to remain. 

"When these things appear, is it the media or the club? We don't know. It could be one guy [starting a rumour] and then people take it," Guardiola told Sky Sports News.

"I like the people from Bayern a lot. I was incredibly happy there, but they know I'm a guy that respects what I sign.

"In football, when you are not getting results you can be sacked but in this case if the club [Manchester City] wants me, I want to stay here.

"It doesn't matter if Bayern want me or not in the future. My love for the city, the club and the people I met there is incredible.

"It is the same in Barcelona because it is my hometown, but the same happened here. I have more things to do."

Guardiola acknowledged he will not remain at City forever, but insists it is the memories created at clubs that form the best legacies.

"That is the real legacy that you like, more than lifting titles," Guardiola said. "You remember the places for the people you live with, not for the museums or cathedrals.

"I will not be here [at Manchester City] forever. It's important when you leave that you can come back and be happy with the people."

Under Guardiola, City have won successive Premier League titles, two EFL Cups and an FA Cup, as well as two Community Shields.

Pep Guardiola has no immediate plans to swap Manchester City for a return to his former club Bayern Munich.

Bayern are on the search for a new coach after sacking Niko Kovac earlier in November.

Hans-Dieter Flick is currently interim coach, while Mauricio Pochettino - who was sacked by Tottenham on Tuesday - has been linked with a switch to the Allianz Arena.

The Bundesliga champions are also rumoured to be interested in moving for City boss Guardiola, who spent three seasons at Bayern between 2013 and 2016 before taking over at City.

However, Guardiola has insisted Bayern are aware he is a person who respects his contracts, adding he wishes to stay at City as long as the club want him to remain. 

"When these things appear, is it the media or the club? We don't know. It could be one guy [starting a rumour] and then people take it," Guardiola told Sky Sports News.

"I like the people from Bayern a lot. I was incredibly happy there, but they know I'm a guy that respects what I sign.

"In football, when you are not getting results you can be sacked but in this case if the club [Manchester City] wants me, I want to stay here.

"It doesn't matter if Bayern want me or not in the future. My love for the city, the club and the people I met there is incredible.

"It is the same in Barcelona because it is my hometown, but the same happened here. I have more things to do."

Guardiola acknowledged he will not remain at City forever, but insists it is the memories created at clubs that form the best legacies.

"That is the real legacy that you like, more than lifting titles," Guardiola said. "You remember the places for the people you live with, not for the museums or cathedrals.

"I will not be here [at Manchester City] forever. It's important when you leave that you can come back and be happy with the people."

Under Guardiola, City have won successive Premier League titles, two EFL Cups and an FA Cup, as well as two Community Shields.

Manchester City will welcome back goalkeeper Ederson for the Premier League visit of Chelsea on Saturday.

The Brazil international suffered a thigh injury during City's 1-1 Champions League draw at Atalanta earlier this month, ruling him out of the 3-1 defeat at Liverpool where understudy Claudio Bravo deputised.

The reverse gave Jurgen Klopp's men a nine-point advantage over City at the Premier League summit and the reigning champions lie fourth, a point and a place behind their weekend opponents.

Manager Pep Guardiola can therefore be grateful Ederson's brief but keenly felt absence is at an end.

Asked whether his number one would be fit at a pre-match news conference, Guardiola replied: "Yep. He trained the last two or three days without pain."

The fallout from City's loss at Anfield extended to a confrontation between Raheem Sterling and Liverpool defender Joe Gomez while on international duty.

Manager Gareth Southgate elected to stand down Sterling for England's 7-0 Euro 2020 qualifying win over Montenegro before restoring him to face Kosovo, but Guardiola believes the episode is done and dusted for his star attacker.

"I spoke with him. He's fine," he said.

"He said Joe is an excellent guy and they have a good relationship.

"It sometimes happens."

Asked whether such a flashpoint mirrored the widely reported hostility between Barcelona and Real Madrid players on international duty during his time in Spain, Guardiola was somewhat sceptical.

"I don't think so. [There is] no comparison," he replied.

Guardiola must do without Bernardo Silva against Chelsea, after the Football Association imposed a one-match ban and an education course upon the Portugal playmaker for a racially insensitive tweet he sent to team-mate Benjamin Mendy.

Throughout the affair, Guardiola has staunchly defended Silva's character as opposed to engaging with what offence might have been caused elsewhere, earning criticism in some quarters.

Nevertheless, he sounded a similar tone on Friday.

"In that situation the less important thing is the fact we are going to miss him," he said.

"He has been accused of something he is not, so if they want to pick up someone to show something he was the right person.

"He will be careful using the social media. If this can help to do a better society, okay. I'm pretty sure Bernardo accepts this punishment.

"He is not like he has been accused. They don't know him."

Despite such controversies and long-term injuries to the likes of Leroy Sane and Aymeric Laporte, Guardiola remained bullish over his team's prospects of mounting a credible title defence.

"A few weeks ago there was just two contenders and for the rest it was impossible, now it's four and maybe six in a few days," he added.

"We're in November, a long time to play and we try to focus on the next one."

Frank Lampard does not believe Manchester City have suffered any drop off in quality from last season, adding Chelsea's hopes of lodging a title challenge will not end if they lose on Saturday.

The Blues sit third, a place and a point above defending champions City, and head to the Etihad Stadium on the back of six successive Premier League victories.

City lost 3-1 to leaders Liverpool prior to the international break, taking their tally of defeats to the season to three.

However, Lampard does not see City as being more vulnerable than they were last season, and insists Chelsea - who could finish the day in second place if results go their way - will not be downhearted if they lose.

"I don't think so. Premier League football, it's quite casual to say they've lost three games so they aren't as strong as last year. I still see them as the same. What they have and what they can do to teams," Lampard, who played for City for half of the 2014-15 season, told a news conference.

"I've been watching a lot of them in the international break. They've had their injury problems in defensive areas but they're a great team, a big as a threat as they've always been in recent years.

"The levels that themselves and Liverpool have reached over the past few seasons, it's been incredible to watch.

"I watched it from the Championship last season, I watched it in the studio the year before and I have nothing but respect for both of them so for us to be in that position is something I'm pleased with. I actually want more as well. 

"I look at ourselves predominantly and don't consider others, where could we have got more points and there are times when we should have done. It's nice to be up there and around it and it's a great test to see where we're at.

"It won't be the end of the story. You can go to Manchester City and lose, anyone can, it's a great side what Pep Guardiola has built, what the club has built over the past years. It won't be the end, win or lose. Our story is one that's three months in the making in terms of me being here and some of the younger players.

"Their story is one of four years and more, before Guardiola, of hard work and putting a team on the pitch that has real quality."

After initially struggling to make an impact following a move from Borussia Dortmund, Christian Pulisic has starred for Chelsea in recent matches, scoring five goals across three successive league appearances.

The winger did not feature for the United States in the international break, but Lampard is confident of having the 21-year-old fit for Saturday, though Callum Hudson-Odoi is set to miss out.

"We had full communication with the United States team and their manager and their medical team," Lampard said when asked about Pulisic. "I like to be really open and transparent with that, I respect that they want their best players. 

"He had a problem going into the last game against Crystal Palace and he was struggling which is why he came off after his goal. He's started to train again in midweek so he's in contention to play.

"Callum Hudson-Odoi is the one, he has a hamstring injury he got in the England game, so he'll struggle to be in contention for this game but we're hoping it's short term."

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