Jack Grealish has issued an apology and said he is "deeply embarrassed" after ignoring coronavirus lockdown measures to attend a party over the weekend.

West Midlands Police launched an investigation after they were called to the Dickens Heath area of Solihull, where two parked cars suffered minor damage.

Aston Villa captain Grealish appeared to be pictured at the scene on social media following the incident.

Grealish had urged the public to stay at home just a day earlier after the Government last week enforced a lockdown and the midfielder has expressed his regret over failing to heed his own warning.

"Hi everybody. I just want to do a quick video message just to say how deeply embarrassed I am about what has happened this weekend." he said in a video posted on his Twitter account.

"I know it's a tough time for everyone at the moment, being locked indoors for so long and I obviously just got a call off a friend asking to go round to his. I stupidly agreed to do so.

"I don't want anyone to make the same mistake that I did, so obviously I urge everyone to stay at home and follow the rules and the guidelines of what we've been asked to do.

"I know for a fact that I'll be doing that in the near future now and obviously, like I said, I urge everyone to do the same.

"I hope everyone can accept my apology and we can move on from this, and hopefully obviously in the near future we can all be out enjoying ourselves again, once this has all boiled over. So cheers guys and thank you."

A Villa statement confirmed Grealish would receive a fine, with the money going to a local hospitals charity.

It read: "Aston Villa is deeply disappointed that one of our players ignored the Government's guidance on staying at home during the coronavirus crisis. 

"Club captain Jack Grealish has accepted that his decision to leave his house was wrong and entirely unnecessary. It breached the government guidelines which are clear and should be adhered to by everybody. 

"The player will be disciplined and fined with the proceeds donated to The University Hospitals Charity in Birmingham."

As the world continues to battle against the coronavirus pandemic, football fans across the globe face another weekend scratching around for something to fill the void.

The domestic calendar in England was halted last week in a bid to reduce social gatherings and the Football Association confirmed its leagues would not return until at least the end of April.

While we cannot say for sure how this weekend's Premier League fixtures would have gone, our friends at Opta have come up with a system to predict the outcomes.

What chance would your team have had? Take a look below.

 

Predictor explainer:

The Opta Predictor estimates the probability of each match outcome (win, draw or loss) given each team's attacking and defensive quality. The team's attacking and defensive qualities are based on four years of historic results, with more weighting given to their most recent results. The model will take into account the quality of the opposition that a team scores or concedes against and reward them accordingly.


 

BURNLEY v WATFORD

Home win: 49 per cent
Draw: 26 per cent
Away win: 25 per cent

Watford may have handed Liverpool their first defeat of the Premier League season, but with just one victory in their past three visits to Turf Moor it is Burnley who are expected to win by the predictor. Sean Dyche's side have gone unbeaten in seven top-flight matches to move into a more comfortable position in the middle of the table.

CHELSEA v MANCHESTER CITY

Home win: 30 per cent
Draw: 24 per cent
Away win: 46 per cent

Manchester City are the pick to prevail at Stamford Bridge, a ground where Pep Guardiola has lost on two of his three Premier League visits. Kevin De Bruyne's winner in September 2017 fired City's charge to a 100-point title romp but goals from N'Golo Kante and David Luiz saw the Blues hand Guardiola's men the first league defeat of their triumphant 2018-19 campaign. Kante and De Bruyne were both on target when the sides met at the Etihad Stadium back in November, before Riyad Mahrez sealed a 2-1 comeback win for the hosts.

LEICESTER CITY v BRIGHTON

Home win: 62 per cent
Draw: 22 per cent
Away win: 16 per cent

Brighton won at Arsenal back in December, but that was just one of two away victories for the Seagulls so far in the Premier League this season, so their prospects at Leicester were inevitably looking bleak. After a worrying slump, Leicester looked to have rediscovered their mojo by the time the league ground to a halt, with Jamie Vardy back on the goal trail following a drought. Leicester’s nine wins at the King Power Stadium this term looked highly likely to become 10.

LIVERPOOL v CRYSTAL PALACE

Home win: 76 per cent win
Draw: 16 per cent
Away win: 8 per cent

A predicted triumph for Liverpool at Anfield is by no means a surprise given they are on a top-flight record of 22 straight home wins. With just an eight per cent chance of winning, Palace had the lowest chance of victory in this round of fixtures. However, with City predicted to come out on top against Chelsea, the Reds' wait to clinch the Premier League title would have continued.

MANCHESTER UNITED v SHEFFIELD UNITED

Home win: 48 per cent
Draw: 30 per cent
Away win: 22 per cent

The halt in football action came at a bad time for Manchester United, who were on a magnificent roll - 11 matches unbeaten with eight victories. The Opta predictor backed the hosts to continue that run, but at 48 per cent, a home win was seen as far from a certainty. Amid an amazing season, Sheffield United are just two points behind Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's men and at 30 per cent, it is the most likely contest on the matchday to end in a draw. That was also the outcome in a thrilling 3-3 draw at Bramall Lane in November.

NEWCASTLE UNITED v ASTON VILLA

Home win: 54 per cent
Draw: 24 per cent
Away win: 22 per cent

The predicted win for Newcastle is something Aston Villa – second from bottom and 10 points shy of Steve Bruce's men – could ill afford in reality. Newcastle are unbeaten in five matches at St James' Park, although that run includes three consecutive 0-0 draws. Villa have lost four in succession in the Premier League and only won three times in the top flight since beating the Magpies 2-0 in the corresponding fixture on November 25.

NORWICH CITY v EVERTON

Home win: 28 per cent
Draw: 26 per cent
Away win: 46 per cent

Norwich prop up the Premier League table and the predictor reflects as such, with Everton having a greater chance of victory on the road. The Toffees' last win at Carrow Road came in 2004, though, and Everton were beaten 2-0 at home by Daniel Farke's side back in November, Todd Cantwell and Dennis Srbeny with the goals at Goodison Park.

SOUTHAMPTON v ARSENAL

Home win: 28 per cent
Draw: 24 per cent
Away win: 48 per cent

Southampton’s resurgence during December and January had given way to a worrying patch of form over February and early March. Ralph Hasenhuttl's men did beat Aston Villa at home, but this Arsenal side under Mikel Arteta’s leadership are a different prospect to the team Saints held 2-2 in north London back in November. The Gunners are unbeaten in the Premier League in 2020, and they would have fancied claiming all three points on offer at St Mary's.

TOTTENHAM v WEST HAM

Home win: 70 per cent
Draw: 17 per cent
Away win: 13 per cent

The Hammers were not predicted to fare particularly well at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, but they did defy the odds with a 1-0 win at the same venue in April 2019, Michail Antonio scoring the winner. Tottenham were the victors in the reverse fixture this season, a 3-2 triumph in Jose Mourinho's first match in charge.

WOLVES V BOURNEMOUTH

Home win: 58 per cent
Draw: 23 per cent
Away win: 19 per cent

Wolves are unbeaten in all three of their Premier League matches against Bournemouth, including a 2-1 win in the reverse fixture, and the predictor has them as the more likely winners on this matchday. That would come as a welcome relief to Wolves, who have won just one of their last five home top-flight matches, while Eddie Howe's men would be primed for a seventh consecutive away loss.

The Premier League has been suspended until at least April 30 due to the coronavirus pandemic, so what does that mean for the rest of the season?

Decisions made by UEFA and CONMEBOL to push back Euro 2020 and the Copa America until 2021 opened the door for domestic competition to continue longer than initially planned.

Upon announcing a four-week extension to the initially planned hiatus on Thursday, the Football Association (FA) revealed it would allow its leagues to continue beyond the June 1 deadline set out in its regulations.

The eventual run-in could prove to be heavily congested. Some Premier League teams are still competing on three fronts, others possess a game in hand, while UEFA is still hoping for a round of international matches in June.

If no games are cut out, we look at how the calendar for English teams could hypothetically shape up if competitions across Europe were able to resume following April 30.

 

May 2/3 - Matchday 30

May 7 - Postponed Europa League last-16 first legs and unplayed matchday 29 games

May 9/10 - Matchday 31

May 12/13/14 - FA Cup quarter-finals

May 16/17 - Matchday 32

May 19/20/21 - Champions League and Europa League last-16 second legs

May 23/24 - Matchday 33

May 26/27/28 - Champions League and Europa League quarter-final first legs

May 30/31 - Matchday 34

June 2/3/4 - Champions League and Europa League quarter-final second legs

June 6/7 - Matchday 35

June 13/14 - International week

June 20/21 - Matchday 36

June 23/24/25 - Champions League and Europa League semi-final first legs

June 27/28 - Matchday 37

June 30/July 1/2 - FA Cup semi-finals

July 4 - Matchday 38

July 7/8/9 - Champions League and Europa League semi-final second legs

July 11 - FA Cup final

July 15 - Europa League final

July 18 - Champions League final

Pepe Reina feels shelved plans to continue playing Premier League games despite the coronavirus outbreak were crazy as he prepares to return to training with Aston Villa on Monday.

The spread of COVID-19 has led to widespread preventative action across the football world, with the top divisions in England, Spain, France, Germany and Italy among those to suspend all matches this weekend.

The Premier League initially stated its intention to proceed with fixtures, however positive tests for the virus returned by Arsenal head coach Mikel Arteta and Chelsea winger Callum Hudson-Odoi forced an emergency meeting to review its stance, while Everton, Manchester City, Leicester City and Bournemouth have all reported instances of players self-isolating.

In the UK at large, measures to combat coronavirus are yet to reach the lockdown levels of Italy and Spain, with Reina – who is on loan at Villa - urging the authorities not to "cover their eyes and look the other way".

"Here, in England, they have recommended prudence and to try to be at home as calm as possible," the 37-year-old told Marca.

"I don't have to look after myself at home because we're going to rest over the weekend and on Monday we have training.

"Only those who have positive cases in their teams, like Chelsea or Arsenal, have put their players in quarantine and isolation, but we keep training as usual from Monday.

"It was crazy to [propose that the Premier League] keep playing, we have to take this seriously.

"Other countries which are more affected have already taken more radical measures and we have to follow this path. England can't cover their eyes and look the other way, the life and health of everyone is more important than sport.

"You have to have clear priorities in life and football is just a game and entertainment for people, the health of the people has to come first ahead of any other interest."

UEFA will stage a video conference with all of its stakeholders on Tuesday to decide how to proceed with on-going competitions such as the Champions League, Europa League – both of which have had forthcoming matches postponed – and Euro 2020.

Reina believes the European Championship, which is set to be hosted across 12 European cities, should be put back until 2021.

"The leagues should only start once everything has calmed down," he added. "The most logical solution is to send the European Championship to next year, that should perhaps be the first measure."

Daniel Levy is known as a difficult negotiator.

The Tottenham chairman squeezed every penny out of United when the Red Devils turned to Dimitar Berbatov in 2008.

United also reportedly pulled out of the running for Luka Modric, who joined Real Madrid in 2012, as they did not want to haggle with Levy.

However, United could be ready to lock horns with Levy over Harry Kane's signature.

 

TOP STORY – WOODWARD READY TO BATTLE LEVY FOR KANE

Manchester United and Ed Woodward are ready to battle for the signing of Tottenham star Harry Kane, according to the Evening Standard.

Kane is reportedly considering his future at Tottenham and the England international striker is believed to be open to a switch to United at the end of the season.

United are yet to permanently replace Romelu Lukaku and Red Devils executive vice-chairman Woodward reportedly wants to lock horns with Spurs chairman Daniel Levy.

 

ROUND-UP

- Could United beat Borussia Dortmund to Jude Bellingham? Birmingham City's 16-year-old sensation Bellingham visited United's training ground on Monday and reportedly spoke to former manager Alex Ferguson as the Red Devils ramp up their interest. Bellingham is valued at around £30million.

- David Beckham's Inter Miami want to sign Manchester City star David Silva, reports The Mirror. Silva, out of contract at the end of the season, has been linked to fellow MLS franchise New York City – who are the sister club of Manchester City and part of the City Football Group.

- Tuttosport claims Juventus are targeting Valencia attacker Ferran Torres. The 20-year-old has also been linked to LaLiga champions Barcelona, Real Madrid and Premier League leaders Liverpool.

United are prepared to pay £70m for Aston Villa captain Jack Grealish, says The Mirror. Grealish has emerged as one of United's prime transfer targets and the Red Devils are ready to test Villa's resolve as the Premier League strugglers face relegation.

Paris Saint-Germain continue to target Napoli defender Kalidou Koulibaly. PSG have identified Koulibaly as Thiago Silva's replacement but Calciomercato says it will be difficult for the Ligue 1 holders to lower Napoli's demands. Koulibaly – also linked to the likes of United, Madrid, Tottenham and Manchester City – reportedly has a €150m termination clause.

- Kicker says Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich are considering signing on-loan Inter winger Ivan Perisic at season's end.

Jamie Vardy's first goals of 2020 helped end Leicester City's four-match winless run in the Premier League with a dominant 4-0 victory over struggling Aston Villa.

Vardy has led the scoring charts for much of the campaign, but a calf injury and a loss of form coincided with a tough stretch for Brendan Rodgers' third-placed Leicester.

However, Villa – second from bottom and facing swift relegation back to the Championship – made for an easy target at the King Power Stadium on Monday, granting the Foxes revenge for their EFL Cup semi-final defeat.

Harvey Barnes preyed on an awful Pepe Reina error to net the 40th-minute opener after a wasteful Leicester start, beating the goalkeeper to a long ball 25 yards from goal, steadying himself and firing beyond a pair of backtracking Villa defenders.

Vardy was introduced from the bench just before the hour-mark and had his name on the scoresheet four minutes later, as he dispatched a penalty after Tyrone Mings was adjudged to have handled in the area.

The former England striker doubled his tally with a near-post finish past Reina 11 minutes from time, and there was still time for Barnes to also convert a second, sweeping in Marc Albrighton's centre.

Dean Smith's Villa, beaten by Manchester City in last weekend's EFL Cup final, are two points from safety but do have a game in hand. 

The 19-year-old man of the match strolled through the Wembley mixed zone on Sunday evening wearing a beaming grin along with his winners' medal, only to receive one more instruction from his manager.

"Phil, you must!" said Pep Guardiola, gesturing towards the gaggle of waiting journalists, eagerly wanting a piece of Phil Foden.

But no sooner had he headed towards the microphones, the midfielder was told in no uncertain terms it was time to go right now as the team bus was ready to leave.

It meant Manchester City's coach driver had done something largely beyond Aston Villa for the duration of Sunday's EFL Cup final by stopping Foden from doing whatever he wanted. 

City continued their recent dominance of the competition with a third successive triumph thanks to first-half goals from Sergio Aguero and Rodri, before Mbwana Samatta pulled one back in the 41st minute for a valiant Villa.

It proved a day to savour for City's old guard. Aguero, Fernandinho and David Silva now have five winners' medals apiece from English football's mid-season final.

Club record goalscorer Aguero settled nerves after a scrappy start with a typically astute piece of poaching. Ever the man for the big occasion, the Argentina star has been directly involved in eight goals across 10 Wembley appearances, while Villa will be sick of the sight of a man boasting 10 strikes in his past six outings against them.

Within the context of Aymeric Laporte's injury struggles this season, Fernandinho has shifted seamlessly from defensive midfield lynchpin to become City's most reliable option at centre-back.

The 35-year-old typically provides an expert combination of aggression and poise while his rotating cast of partners cough up goal-causing mistakes.

Fernandinho's probing, purposeful passing from deep to get Guardiola's men back on the front foot early in the second half after John Stones' forlorn grapple with gravity in the build up to Samatta's powerful header ensured both sides of that equation were clearly evident at the national stadium.

Aguero and Fernandinho are under contract for 2021-22 but the current campaign amounts to a victory lap for the mercurial Silva, who will end a glorious decade in Manchester over the next three months.

Guardiola has frequently stated his plan for the club captain to symbolically pass the torch to Foden, who has waited diligently in the wings since his 2017 debut as the understudy to City's twinkling left-footed magician.

The realities of elite sport and the passage of time mean succession planning is rarely completely smooth, however, and the match against Villa often felt like Foden ripping the baton from his mentor's hand and tearing off on a journey mapped out in boyhood dreams.

Across 90 minutes in which Villa's refusal to go quietly was the main factor in City lacking the relentless rhythm that defines their best work, Foden was their most reliable outlet.

No-one else in their Hacienda-inspired black shirts led the dance as the teenager did, unquestionably the player most in tune with Guardiola's "take the ball, pass the ball" mantra when in opposition territory.

Foden completed 90 per cent of his 41 passes in the Villa half, set against 87.5 per cent of 32 from Silva, who he also outstripped in overall touches (71 to 57) and tenacity – (7/10 duels won to 3/8).

All the unmistakable Silva visuals remain – gliding into pockets of space in front of defenders and receiving the ball with eloquent mischief, all while shuffling easily as if in his favourite pair of carpet slippers.

And yet, each refined movement feels the tiniest split-second slower. Opponents can now generally close out those shafts of light where the 34-year-old used to thread his most delightful passes.

Foden became the player most familiar with the whites of Aston Villa eyes, daring them not to blink. One particularly velvety touch on the end of Oleksandr Zinchenko's raking 29th-minute pass almost brought a goal to savour.

Guardiola talked up the youngster's goal threat afterwards and no City player could match his five attempts on the day. Although not noted for his aerial ability, Foden's 20th-minute knockdown for Aguero means he now has seven assists to go with a pair of goals in 10 competitive starts in 2019-20.

Even without those impressive numbers, the evidence presented to 82,149 spectators was enough. On a gala day for City's most influential players of the past 10 years, Foden made a statement of intent for the decade to come.

Oleksandr Zinchenko lobbied for the EFL Cup to be renamed in Claudio Bravo's honour after the goalkeeper's Wembley heroics sealed a 2-1 final victory for Manchester City over Aston Villa on Sunday.

Goals from Sergio Aguero and Rodri ensured Pep Guardiola's side lifted the trophy for a third consecutive season, although Villa hit back through Mbwana Samatta before half-time and pushed them to the limit during a breathless finale.

Dean Smith's Premier League strugglers came agonisingly close to forcing extra time in the 88th minute when Bjorn Engels rose above the City defence, only for Bravo to somehow push his header to safety via his right post.

A torrid debut season in English football in 2016-17 saw the Chile international lose his status as Guardiola's regular number one, but a cup that has now worn blue and white ribbons in five of the past seven campaigns has become a salvation of sorts for Bravo.

In 2017-18, he proved the difference during penalty shoot-out victories over Wolves and Leicester City on the road to Wembley and he was an ever present this time around after a ruptured Achilles left him as a spectator last term.

"It's unbelievable. Someone said in the dressing room they have to change the name of the cup – not the Carabao Cup, the Claudio Bravo Cup because he is the hero again," Zinchenko said.

"We are so happy for him."

EFL Cup glory in 2018-19 proved the catalyst for an unprecedented domestic treble – a feat that will not be repeated this season as Liverpool count down to the formality of becoming Premier League champions.

City's FA Cup defence resumes in the fifth round at Sheffield Wednesday this midweek, however, and they are bolstered by renewed belief in Europe after a statement 2-1 win at Real Madrid in the first leg of their last-16 tie.

"We are focused on the next game all the time. We can only speak about good season or bad season after the season," Zinchenko insisted.

"In the last couple of years we have been playing in 11 competitions and won eight titles [three EFL Cups, two Premier Leagues, two Community Shields and an FA Cup], which is incredible. We are still fighting for everything

"I hope [we can win three trophies again]. That is why we are working hard, everyone every day. I dream of it."

Guardiola again sprung surprises with his teamsheet at Wembley, making eight changes from his much-discussed starting XI at the Santiago Bernabeu, with heroes of the Madrid victory Kevin De Bruyne and Gabriel Jesus having to make do with places on the bench.

"It's so difficult for the manager, I cannot imagine. It's not an easy decision in this case," Zinchenko added, having failed to make the matchday squad in the Spanish capital before being handed a cup final start at left-back.

"Everyone deserves to play and everyone has to understand this kind of situation. Nobody can be sad, we have to support each other. That is the key."

Raheem Sterling says Manchester City are "fully focused" on completing a treble after beating Aston Villa 2-1 in Sunday's EFL Cup final.

City lifted the trophy for a third year in a row - and the fifth time in seven seasons - thanks to goals from Sergio Aguero and Rodri inside the opening 30 minutes at Wembley.

Mbwana Samatta's header gave spirited Villa hope and City survived a scare when Bjorn Engels' header was turned onto the post by Claudio Bravo late on.

Sterling concedes his side have no hope of overhauling the 22-point gap on Premier League leaders Liverpool, but the forward is eyeing up more silverware in the Champions League and FA Cup.

The reigning Premier League champions lead Real Madrid 2-1 ahead of the second leg of their Champions League last-16 tie and travel to Sheffield Wednesday in the fifth round of the FA Cup on Wednesday.

"The league has been difficult," he told Sky Sports. "We won one title so far and we're still in the running for two more so we we're fully focused and ready to do the business.

"We just have to keep focused and that's what we've done here.

"It's so hard to [win it] for three years on the bounce and that's what we have done - we just need to keep going and winning trophies."

Including the Community Shield, City have now won eight of the last nine competitions they have entered and head coach Guardiola does not expect any team to match that level of dominance.

"I think the fact that we've won eight of nine is incredible - it's remarkable," he said. "I think it will be so difficult to do it again, not just for ourselves but for our opponents - it's the consistency.

"For this club it's not just about one title, it's about every game we play and every title we play for counts and try to win and that is the best thing we can give for this club.

"Sometimes you win a title and then after cannot win a title for a long time. 

"What is important is everybody knows we have the responsibility to fight and try to win the games and titles and that means a lot."

Jack Grealish described himself as "devastated" after Aston Villa fell to a 2-1 EFL Cup final loss against Manchester City at Wembley.

The lifelong Villa fan was visibly emotional at the end a match that was ultimately settled by Rodri's controversial goal, which came from a corner that should not have been awarded, with the ball clearly having come off Ilkay Gundogan last.

Grealish was proud to push Pep Guardiola's side close, with Bjorn Engels having seen a late header pushed onto the post by Claudio Bravo after Mbwana Samatta had reduced the deficit. 

"I'm devastated, but we took one of the best sides in Europe all the way to the end," he told Sky Sports. 

"They had their fair share of chances, as we knew they would, but we hit the post late on.

"The winner is a goal that should never have been a goal – it was not a corner. The referee said [Gundogan] was off the pitch when it hit him. 

"We wanted an explanation at half-time but he didn't want to give one. A club like us who haven't won anything in a while and we lose by a goal that shouldn't have stood.

"We're proud of each other. City are in the top two or three teams in Europe. We always knew it was going to be tough and now we focus on the league."

Dean Smith's side are locked in a battle for Premier League survival, sitting 19th in the table and two points adrift of safety.

Pep Guardiola expressed his delight at Manchester City's "incredible" run of EFL Cup success after his side saw off Aston Villa to win the trophy for a third straight year.

First-half goals from Sergio Aguero and Rodri proved enough for City at Wembley on Sunday, despite Villa striker Mbwana Samatta replying before the interval.

The 2-1 win means City have come out on top in five of the last seven editions of the tournament, with Guardiola at the helm for the 2018, 2019 and 2020 final victories over Arsenal, Chelsea and Villa respectively.

"Three times in a row is a big success," Guardiola said, per BBC Sport. 

"It is the consistency - incredible.

"It was awesome. We struggled in the first minutes and the last ones. They had two clear chances in the first minutes but we played really well, especially in the second half.

"The game was good. Phil [Foden] was clinical. It is a big success, our second title of the season with the Community Shield, it is so nice."

Guardiola believes his determination to take every competition seriously has been rewarded with City's run of silverware in a tournament they have now won seven times in their history, a total only bettered by Liverpool's eight.

He added: "We have won a lot. I tried when we arrive [to ensure] every game we play we try to win it, every competition we try to win it. Three times in a row being here and winning is great."

Rodri conceded Manchester City "suffered" in their pursuit of a third successive EFL Cup title, which his controversial goal ultimately secured.

Pep Guardiola's side earned a 2-1 win over Aston Villa at Wembley on Sunday, Rodri having headed in his side's second from a corner that should not have been awarded.

Mbwana Samatta's goal before the interval – following a calamitous error from John Stones – ensured it was no walk in the park for City, who survived a late Villa barrage that included an almighty scare when Claudio Bravo turned Bjorn Engels' late header onto the post.

It would have been harsh for City to concede a leveller given their general dominance of the match, but Rodri confided that it had been a tough battle.

"We know they are a really tough team because they are really tall and strong, so we knew we could never give up," he told Sky Sports.

"I'm happy for the team because it's tough being here. I think they scored because of our mistake.

"At the end, we suffered a little bit but I think we had enough chances to score more goals, but we are happy for the team.

"It's the second title for us [after the Community Shield] so we are very happy."

Phil Foden, who was excellent for City, echoed his team-mate's sentiments regarding the challenge posed by relegation-threatened Villa, and rejoiced in his own input, which included an assist for Sergio Aguero's opener.

"I have to say fair play to Aston Villa, they gave us a really good game," he said.

"When I play, every minute counts, so I try and do my best and I'm very proud of my performance.

"You look at players like Kevin De Bruyne and David Silva, who are great, so when I get into the team I have to make the most of it."

Manchester City won their fifth EFL Cup in the past seven seasons with a 2-1 victory over Aston Villa at Wembley on Sunday.

Sergio Aguero's goal got the defending champions up and running, with Rodri heading in a controversial second from a corner that should not have been given.

Mbwana Samatta's diving header got Villa back in the contest ahead of the break but City dominated the second half before surviving an almighty late scare.

Having been on the back foot, Villa came close to a last-gasp leveller as Bjorn Engels forced Claudio Bravo into a fine save, tipping his header onto the post as City won the trophy for a third year in a row.

This trophy formed part of a historic domestic treble in the last campaign and City's hopes of FA Cup success are still alive, even if their Premier League title defence has been left in tatters by a Liverpool side who suffered a shock loss to Watford on Saturday.

If City are to collect another hat-trick of trophies it will also require a maiden Champions League success, with Wednesday's stunning 2-1 win at Real Madrid raising hopes on that front.

It was eyebrows that were raised when Guardiola's team was announced, showing eight changes from that midweek starting line-up, with Kevin De Bruyne the headline name on the bench.

Villa, who have won the competition five times but not since 1996, made a bright start and Anwar El Ghazi headed narrowly over from Ahmed Elmohamady​'s delivery.

With City having won seven of the last eight matches against Villa, scoring nine goals in this season's two league fixtures, it was little surprise to see them grow into the contest and Sergio Aguero looped a header onto the roof of the net.

The breakthrough came after 20 minutes when Rodri picked out Phil Foden, who nodded into the path of Aguero to convert via a slight deflection off Tyrone Mings.

City won a corner 10 minutes later that should have been a goal-kick, the ball clearly having come off Ilkay Gundogan last, and from that set-piece – taken by the German – Rodri headed home.

Dean Smith's side showed tremendous character to reduce the deficit before the break, John Stones stumbling comically under a high ball as El Ghazi capitalised, his cross converted by Samatta.

Foden bounced a shot wide from the edge of the box early in the second half as City sought to snuff out any threat of a turnaround, with De Bruyne's introduction soon after another indication of their intent.

It became a game of attack versus defence, with Villa pinned back, and it took a stunning Orjan Nyland save to keep out Rodri's downward header.

Remarkably, Villa almost snatched a leveller, but Bravo produced a superb save to push Engels' attempt onto his right-hand upright in the dying moments.

 

What does it mean? Silverware lining for City

City have had a long time to get used to the idea the Premier League trophy will not reside at the Etihad Stadium next season, and so competitions like the EFL Cup – evidently not taken lightly by Guardiola – have taken on added importance.

This is yet another piece of silverware to add to his and the club's collection, which should provide a boost for a run-in that could yet yield two further prizes.

Villa, meanwhile, must quickly dust themselves down as they seek to secure their top-flight status.

Classy Foden shines on Wembley stage

Foden's first City goal came in this competition against Oxford United in 2018, his performance then earning rave reviews from Guardiola, who has used him relatively sparingly. But Foden's class was evident again in London, the English midfielder showcasing his exquisite first touch on numerous occasions, while also providing a headed assist for Aguero's opener.

Mason misses the obvious

Given City's dominance of the match, it might seem churlish to single out referee Lee Mason's role as being pivotal, but such a brazen mistake – the award of the corner which led to Rodri's goal – on such a big stage is hard to overlook. Besides, Stones' error was humiliating enough without also singling him out here...

What's next?

City head to Sheffield Wednesday in the FA Cup on Wednesday, with the Manchester derby to follow on Sunday. Villa's fight for survival takes them to Leicester City a week on Monday.

Kevin De Bruyne will start Manchester City's EFL Cup final showdown against Aston Villa on the bench.

De Bruyne starred as Pep Guardiola's side came from behind to win 2-1 at Real Madrid in the Champions League on Wednesday – creating Gabriel Jesus' equaliser before dispatching a late penalty to give City a first-leg advantage in the last-16 tie.

But Guardiola has opted to manage the workload of his star playmaker, who sat out large chunks of last season with two separate knee injuries.

Club captain David Silva takes the armband from De Bruyne as he returns to the starting line-up alongside Sergio Aguero and Fernandinho, the experienced trio having been named among the substitutes at the Santiago Bernabeu, while England Under-21 midfielder Phil Foden looks set to complete a front three that also includes Raheem Sterling.

Elsewhere on another eyebrow-raising team sheet from Guardiola – showing eight changes from midweek – there are defensive recalls for John Stones and Oleksandr Zinchenko.

Orjan Nyland has been named in goal for Villa, the understudy having impressed sufficiently in the semi-final triumph against Leicester City to keep the experienced Pepe Reina on the bench. Similarly, City understudy Claudio Bravo retains his cup place at the expense of regular number one Ederson.

City are aiming to extend their recent dominance of the competition by winning a fifth EFL Cup in the past seven seasons, along with a third in succession having beaten Arsenal 3-0 in the 2018 final before overcoming Chelsea on penalties 12 months ago.

When the sides met at Villa Park in January, Aguero hit a hat-trick and De Bruyne excelled as the visitors ran out 6-1 winners.

Kevin De Bruyne will start Manchester City's EFL Cup final showdown against Aston Villa on the bench.

De Bruyne starred as Pep Guardiola's side came from behind to win 2-1 at Real Madrid in the Champions League on Wednesday – creating Gabriel Jesus' equaliser before dispatching a late penalty to give City a first-leg advantage in the last-16 tie.

But Guardiola has opted to manage the workload of his star playmaker, who sat out large chunks of last season with two separate knee injuries.

Club captain David Silva takes the armband from De Bruyne as he returns to the starting line-up alongside Sergio Aguero and Fernandinho, the experienced trio having been named among the substitutes at the Santiago Bernabeu, while England Under-21 midfielder Phil Foden looks set to complete the front three alongside Aguero and Raheem Sterling.

Elsewhere on another eyebrow-raising team sheet from Guardiola - showing eight changes from midweek - there are defensive recalls for John Stones and Oleksandr Zinchenko.

 TEAM NEWS IS IN! 

XI | Bravo, Walker, Stones, Fernandinho, Zinchenko, Rodrigo, Gundogan, Foden, D Silva (C), Sterling, Aguero.

SUBS | Ederson, G Jesus, De Bruyne, Bernardo, Mendy, Mahrez, Otamendi.

 @HaysWorldwide
 #ManCity #CarabaoCup pic.twitter.com/kH4Crx2TC9

— Manchester City (@ManCity) March 1, 2020

Orjan Nyland has been named in goal for Villa, the understudy having impressed sufficiently in the semi-final triumph against Leicester City to keep the experienced Pepe Reina on the bench. Similarly, City understudy Claudio Bravo retains his cup place at the expense of regular number one Ederson.

City are aiming to extend their recent dominance of the competition by winning a fifth EFL Cup in the past seven seasons, along with a third in succession having beaten Arsenal 3-0 in the 2018 final before overcoming Chelsea on penalties 12 months ago.

When the sides met at Villa Park in January, Aguero hit a hat-trick and De Bruyne excelled as the visitors ran out 6-1 winners.

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