Alisson was a notable absentee from Liverpool's squad for Wednesday's Premier League clash with Brighton and Hove Albion due to illness. 

The Brazil international has started 18 of the reigning champions' 21 top-flight games this term, keeping five clean sheets. 

However, he will play no part against Brighton at Anfield, a game which comes four days before the Reds face league leaders Manchester City. 

Caoimhin Kelleher, who had featured just once previously for Liverpool in the Premier League, was drafted in as his replacement. 

Liverpool triumphed in just one of the three previous league games Alisson missed, conceding an average of three goals against in those matches.

That compares to an average of 0.8 goals against in the 18 games Alisson has started, of which the Reds have won 10, drawn six and lost two. 

The only other change made by Jurgen Klopp from the 3-1 win over West Ham at the weekend was up top, Roberto Firmino coming in for Divock Origi. 

Ben Davies, signed from Preston North End on deadline day, was named among the substitutes, though fellow new defender Ozan Kabak was not included in the matchday squad. 

Liverpool are unbeaten in their past 12 meetings with Brighton in all competitions, winning 10 and drawing two in a run stretching back to 1984.

Virgil van Dijk will not play again for Liverpool this season barring "a miracle", according to manager Jurgen Klopp.

It had been reported that Van Dijk could return in April from an anterior cruciate ligament injury suffered in the Merseyside derby last October.

The 29-year-old has been undertaking his rehabilitation in Dubai and was said to be closing in on a return to the pitch, but Klopp does not consider that to be a realistic possibility.

"Whatever happens I think we have space for Virgil on the Champions League list, I think he was on the Premier League list – nobody told me I have to change something with that. If we have space in the Champions League list, Virgil will be on the list," he told a news conference.

"No doctor told me there's a chance for Virgil to play again this season. I don't want to say it's impossible, but it's not likely.

"If we have space we will put them all on even when the medical people tell them there's no chance because we believe in miracles from time to time.

"But if there's no place then we have to consider these things and say the chance is not too big so we have to make a decision. But if they're on the list then it's only because we hope for nearly a miracle and that's it."

With Joe Gomez, Joel Matip and makeshift centre-back Fabinho also out injured, Liverpool brought in Ben Davies from Preston North End and Ozan Kabak from Schalke on deadline day.

Klopp was pleased to have bolstered his defensive options and intends to let Rhys Williams return to the Under-23 squad in order to get more game time.

Liverpool take on Brighton and Hove Albion on Wednesday and Klopp is hopeful he will not have to throw Davies and Kabak straight into action against Graham Potter's men at Anfield.

"The good thing is it is football and they play football in Germany and the Championship, so that's not the problem," said Klopp.

"[There have been] 12 or 13 different centre-half pairings and then that makes it more difficult for example Neco [Williams] and Kostas [Tsimikas] too.

"You search for stability in the team when you change that often, but we don't live in an idle world and that means we have to be smart and quick and try different things.

"We play differently to Preston and Schalke so they'll need time but we don't have a lot, so we'll use the time we have in our hands and try our best.

"If they had to start Wednesday together I think that would be not too cool, but we will give them a few more days."

Tottenham lost another battle on the same day as the Royal Rumble and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain reached a Premier League landmark he will not be boasting about on Sunday.

Leandro Trossard scored the only goal of the game as Brighton and Hove Albion beat Spurs to ease their relegation fears, inflicting what looks like a finishing move on Jose Mourinho's side in the title race.

Oxlade-Chamberlain came off the bench for the 100th time in a top-flight game late in Liverpool's 3-1 victory at West Ham, while leaders Manchester City broke a record on Saturday.

With the help of Opta data, we take a look at some of the quirkiest stats from the Premier League action over the weekend.

 

Trossard wrestles the initiative

Tottenham made the journey to the south coast reeling from a painful midweek defeat to Liverpool in which they lost captain Harry Kane to injury.

Trossard delivered the knockout blow at the Amex Stadium, leaving Mourinho's men 11 points behind leaders City in sixth place.

Spurs fans who follow WWE may have been fearing the worst, as they have lost nine times when playing on the same day as the Royal Rumble was staged - more than any English league club.

Edge and Bianca Belair came out on top in the extravaganza at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida after Spurs were seemingly eliminated from the title race.

Sub century for Ox

Midfielder Oxlade-Chamberlain replaced Divock Origi 10 minutes from time in the Reds' victory at previously in-form West Ham.

The former Arsenal man became the 15th player to make 100 top-flight appearances off the bench.

Peter Crouch (158) did so on the most occasions, with Oxlade-Chamberlain's team-mate James Milner (154) second on the list and Jermain Defoe (149) completing the top three.

Happy new year for irrepressible City

City extended their winning streak to 12 matches at the expense of bottom side Sheffield United on Saturday, Gabriel Jesus scoring the only goal of the game.

Pep Guardiola's side will take some stopping in their bid to regain the title, as they lead neighbours Manchester United by three points with a game in hand.

That early strike from Jesus made it nine wins out of nine for City in January, more than any side has achieved in a calendar month since the formation of the Football League in 1888.

Shot-shy Clarets

Chelsea eased to their first win under Thomas Tuchel on Sunday, seeing off Burnley 2-0 at Stamford Bridge.

The Clarets arrived in London on a three-match winning run, including a shock 1-0 triumph at Anfield and a 3-2 thriller against Aston Villa.

Sean Dyche's men barely laid a glove on Chelsea, though, and went the longest any side has gone without an attempt at goal in the Premier League this season.

They looked set to become the first team not to have an attempt in a game since Bournemouth against Manchester City in March 2019 until James Tarkowski's header in stoppage time. Better late than never? Dyche might not see it that way.

Jose Mourinho claimed his Tottenham team showed a "sadness" in their 1-0 defeat to Brighton and Hove Albion on Sunday.

Spurs suffered back-to-back Premier League defeats as Leandro Trossard's well-crafted early goal proved decisive at the AMEX Stadium.

It was Brighton's first home league win of the campaign – and their first since June – while Tottenham have lost four of their last eight top-flight matches, as many defeats as they had suffered across their previous 28 games in the division.

Talisman Harry Kane was missing due to an injury sustained in Thursday's reverse to Liverpool, and Spurs have won just three of their last 13 Premier League games in which the England captain has not featured (D4 L6), including none of their last four (D1 L3).

A dismal first-half showing saw Tottenham manage just one attempt, the 11th occasion a Mourinho side has had one shot or fewer in the opening 45 minutes of a Premier League game, and the former Chelsea and Manchester United boss accepted his team started with a lack of intensity.

"I agree with that," Mourinho told Sky Sports. "We didn't start well and the team was a bit sad, my feeling was the team was a bit sad.

"To concede a goal early brought even more sadness and lack of self-esteem, the team was suffering. The second half was different. The chances they had were the chances of a team that was trying everything.

"I saw people trying really hard, I saw some individuals with fatigue but trying hard. The defeat of course is always a bad feeling, but I leave with a positive feeling for my boys which is a good thing for me."

Indeed, Mourinho – who has lost all three of his league visits to Brighton – went as far as to say his side deserved more than they got from the match, despite mustering only eight attempts compared to the hosts' 16, with only substitute Carlos Vinicius truly testing Seagulls goalkeeper Robert Sanchez.

"The last 25, 30 minutes I saw a team ready to give everything, gamble everything and finish the way we finished," he added.

"Probably the boys deserved more than we got. I go with the positive feeling for my boys because in the last 30 minutes they showed they wanted everything but defeat."

In Kane's absence, Son Heung-min filled in up top, with Gareth Bale handed a rare start on the right, but the duo failed to link up to much effect, the latter creating only one chance before he was subbed off just after the hour.

"We tried to start with a team that could try to give Sonny the same dynamic that he is used to," Mourinho explained.

"There is no replacement for Harry but we tried to have Bale going into those positions to connect with Son, and we were not successful, but I'm not speaking about Bale, I am speaking about us.

"Vinicius is a different player, we tried to change the target point. He brought us energy, new problems to the opponent. The team improved."

Brighton and Hove Albion ended a run of 14 Premier League home matches without a win as they overcame toothless Tottenham 1-0.

Shorn of Harry Kane, who suffered an ankle injury against Liverpool on Thursday, Jose Mourinho's side were second best for large periods of Sunday's encounter.

Indeed, bar two efforts from Spurs substitute Carlos Vinicius, Brighton had little trouble holding onto the lead given to them by Leandro Trossard's 17th-minute finish.

It came at the culmination of a slick team move befitting of Graham Potter's desired style of play, with Brighton not made to suffer for a late Aaron Connolly miss as they moved seven points clear of the bottom three.

Alexis Mac Allister has created two goals in his last three Brighton appearances and might have had another assist in the third minute when he teed up Pascal Gross, who prodded against the post.

With Spurs failing to get out of the blocks, however, Mac Allister and Gross combined to brilliant effect 14 minutes later – the latter racing onto the Argentine's neat throughball and squaring for Trossard to slot home.

The integral Mac Allister sent an acrobatic attempt just wide as Brighton probed for a second, with Steven Bergwijn then lashing across goal with Spurs' first attempt in the 30th minute.

In need of drastic improvement, Mourinho introduced Vinicius in place of Davinson Sanchez for the second half.

Vinicius was quickly involved as he saw a close-range header saved by Robert Sanchez, though Hugo Lloris had to be alert at the other end to deny Ben White.

Neal Maupay headed wide as Brighton threatened to turn the screw, though an excellent strike from Vinicius looked set to make them pay until Sanchez got across to make a fine stop.

Toby Alderweireld's magnificent block from what seemed a tap-in for Connolly kept Spurs' hopes alive, yet Brighton held on to seal a first home league win since they beat Arsenal in June.

Gareth Bale has reached "a crucial moment" in his second spell at Tottenham and must help the team soften the blow of losing Harry Kane, according to Jose Mourinho.

The on-loan Real Madrid forward has struggled to make a major impression this season with Spurs, starting only one Premier League game.

Taking into account four appearances as substitute, Bale has played a mere 170 minutes in the English top flight this season, scoring once and creating four chances.

Barring a turnaround in fortunes in the second half of the season, his switch looks set to go down as a disappointing gamble by the club.

Bale scored 42 goals and had 20 assists in 146 Premier League games across his first spell at the club, productivity which heralded a big-money move to Spain.

With Kane facing a lay-off after injuring his ankle in Thursday's 3-1 defeat to Liverpool, head coach Mourinho wants other players to "step up", starting from Sunday's game at Brighton and Hove Albion.

And asked whether Bale can do that, Mourinho said: "Yes, I hope so. He didn't play much [against Liverpool], he played 15 minutes with the team losing 3-1.

"But he played 90 minutes in the [FA] cup and that for him is a big impact for him, to play 90 minutes.

"It's a crucial moment for him, he's feeling better and better. When you lose a player of Harry's quality and dimension, the other guys have to step up and hopefully he can help us."

Bale's appearance in Monday's 4-1 cup win over Wycombe, a match in which he scored, was a signal that his fitness is returning, but Mourinho knows it will take a big effort from several players to fill the void created by Kane's setback, given the England captain is such a linchpin of the side.

"Harry Kane is Harry Kane, there are players in some teams that are not replaceable," Mourinho said.

Spurs were without a host of forwards for a time last season, with Kane and Son Heung-min particularly missed, and Mourinho was forced to field several makeshift line-ups.

Mourinho pointed to having Carlos Vinicius, Steven Bergwijn, Lucas Moura and Bale all available this time.

However, he stressed Bale could not be a like-for-like replacement for star man Kane, who has 12 Premier League goals and 11 assists this season.

Removing penalties, Kane has nine goals from an xG (expected goals) rating of 7.2, meaning he is exceeding what he might be expected to achieve based on his chances.

"I don't think Gareth is a striker and I don't think he likes to play as a striker," said Mourinho.

"It was something we spoke about when he joined us and he was very objective with me by saying that he doesn't feel he is a left winger, like he was before, or a number 10, like he was before too.

"The position he likes to play is the position where we are playing him every minute we are giving him, which is on the right side of attack.

"When Gareth plays, starting or coming from the bench, that's his position in our team."

Mourinho said Dele Alli, linked with a move to Paris Saint-Germain, is injured and would not be available for the Brighton trip.

Manchester United were stunned by bottom club Sheffield United in a seismic result for both ends of the Premier League table.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side were expected to regain top spot and end Manchester City's stay at the summit after 24 hours, although Chris Wilder's basement boys had other ideas.

Former City youth product Kean Bryan gave the visitors the lead at Old Trafford but normal service looked to have been resumed when former Blade Harry Maguire headed home.

But Oliver Burke had the final word in the 74th minute, giving Sheffield United a 2-1 triumph – only their second win of the Premier League season.

Brighton and Hove Albion and Fulham could not add to their pair of wins after a goalless draw at the Amex Stadium and sit 10 and five points better off than Wilder's men respectively.

It was the same scoreline at Stamford Bridge as Thomas Tuchel's reign got off to an underwhelming start against Wolves, while Everton against Leicester City also ended all square and there was a thrilling win for Burnley over Aston Villa.

Here are the pick of the Opta facts from some results that might look crucial in the final reckoning.

Manchester United 1-2 Sheffield United: Bryan and Burke land title-race body blow

It was a case of familiar frailties returning to haunt United's title bid as Bryan headed home John Fleck's corner.

Since the start of last season, no team has shipped more goals from corners than the 14 let in by Manchester United, Brighton and Chelsea.

Maguire also made the most of slack set-piece marking to net his sixth league goal for the club and his first at home.

But the hosts' defending from open play left a similar amount to be desired as Burke settled matters via a deflection off Axel Tuanzebe.

Bryan and Burke are the first players to net their maiden Premier League goals in the same match against United since Esteban Cambiasso and Jamie Vardy did likewise for Leicester in 2014.

Four defeats in 10 home matches means the Red Devils have amassed their highest number of league losses at Old Trafford since going down in seven in 2013-14.

Sheffield United became the first team from Yorkshire to win a Premier League game at Manchester United and only the third side in the Premier League era, following Leeds United in January 2010 (FA Cup) and York City in September 1996 (League Cup).

Chelsea 0-0 Wolves: Possession without penetration for Tuchel's Blues

A day after being installed as Frank Lampard's successor, Tuchel saw his swiftly remodelled Chelsea dominate but fail to find the net against Wolves.

Struggles against Nuno Espirito Santo's side are nothing new, no matter who is in charge. This is the second time in three seasons that Wolves have gone unbeaten versus Chelsea, having also won at Molineux and drawn at Stamford Bridge in 2018-19.

The visitors certainly had to work to keep their opponents at bay as the Blues hogged 78.9 per cent of possession and racked up 820 passes. Since Opta began collecting this data in 2003-04, both are the highest totals by a team in their coach's first match in charge.

Tuchel is on a run of four consecutive league clean sheets after Paris Saint-Germain completed shutouts in his final three Ligue 1 matches.

Before this season, Thiago Silva was a key part of his backline in the French capital. Reunited in London, the Brazil veteran is now unbeaten in 25 home league appearances under Tuchel (W22 D3).

Wolves have not been so assured defensively of late and this was their first league clean sheet since a 2-0 win over Crystal Palace on October 30, ending a run of 12 straight games without one.

Burnley 3-2 Aston Villa: Wood heads for the heights to lift Clarets

Chris Wood netted a 79th-minute winner as Burnley twice came from behind at Turf Moor to beat Aston Villa and move nine points clear of the relegation zone.

Wood rose to nod home a cross from winger Dwight McNeil for something of a trademark goal. Since his top-flight debut for Burnley in August 2017, no player has scored more headed goals than the New Zealand striker, who is level with Harry Kane on 15.

McNeil pulled Sean Dyche's side level after Jack Grealish netted his sixth league goal of the campaign. Combined with his eight assists, the England star has 14 goal involvements in 18 Premier League matches – the same number he managed last season (eight goals, six assists).

Ollie Watkins matched Grealish's goals mark from 2019-20 when he opened the scoring, making it eight Premier League goals in 18 outings.

Ashley Westwood got the assist for Ben Mee's initial equaliser, meaning he has 16 assists for Burnley in the competition. Only Johann Gudmundsson (17) has more.

Everton 1-1 Leicester City: Long-range lone ranger James shines again

James Rodriguez continued his fine form for Everton with a spectacular strike to put Carlo Ancelotti's men in front.

The Colombia international has scored 19 goals from outside the box in Europe's top five leagues – three for Monaco, 11 for Real Madrid, three for Bayern Munich and now two for Everton.

This was his first with his right foot and added to an impressive personal haul of four goals and three assists. Only Dominic Calvert-Lewin (11) has been directly involved in more Premier League goals for Everton this season.

However, another specialist made sure the points were shared. All five of Youri Tielemans' goals for Leicester in the league this season have come away from home.

The Belgium international has netted the most away goals of any player yet to score at home this term.

Everton might well have a further say in the title battle to come. They are unbeaten in the three league games they have played against opponents starting the day above them in the table this season – a 1-0 win over Chelsea and 2-0 defeat of Leicester last December.

Brighton and Hove Albion 0-0 Fulham: All square in tense basement battle

High stakes did nothing for the entertainment value in this relegation six-pointer, completing a pair of 0-0 draws between Brighton and Fulham this season.

Perhaps it was not for the want of trying – with 26 shots combined (16 for Brighton and 10 for Fulham), only Aston Villa v Burnley (33) last month and Leeds United v Arsenal (34) in November have produced more shots without a goal being scored in 2020-21.

It was the first time Fulham have played out two goalless draws against the same opponent in a single season since a pair of 2001-02 stalemates with Leicester.

Brighton have become bore-draw specialists, playing out 14 0-0s since their promotion to the top-flight in 2017-18, which is more than any other side in that period.

As their positions in 17th and 18th illustrate, both teams are finding victories hard to come by.

Fulham are winless in nine, with six draws and three losses, since beating Leicester 2-1 in November, while Brighton's 2-1 triumph against Arsenal in June is their only win in the past 19 matches at the Amex Stadium. Since then they have lost and drawn seven apiece on home turf.

Arsenal have signed Australia goalkeeper Mat Ryan on loan from Brighton and Hove Albion until the end of the season.

The Gunners have said the 28-year-old will "provide competition and support" for Bernd Leno and Runar Alex Runarsson after Matt Macey joined Hibernian.

Leno has started all 19 Premier League games for the Gunners so far this season after Emiliano Martinez was allowed to leave for Aston Villa at the start of the campaign.

Runarsson has made four Europa League appearances and another in the EFL Cup.

Ryan, 28, has been a regular for Brighton, playing 121 Premier League matches in three-and-a-half seasons, but recently lost his place to Spanish goalkeeper Robert Sanchez.

Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta said: "We know Mat very well through his performances with Brighton in recent seasons and he brings additional quality to our squad. 

"Mat has very good Premier League experience and has played over 100 times in the league, which is something that will benefit us greatly on and off the pitch. 

"We welcome Mat to Arsenal and look forward to working with him this season."

The keeper, meanwhile, tweeted to say he was "buzzing" to join the club he supported as a child.

Ryan, who has 59 caps for Australia, will wear the number 33 jersey after becoming Arsenal's first signing of the January transfer window.

Technical director Edu added: "Mat is an experienced goalkeeper, a proven talent in the Premier League and has also played many internationals for Australia. 

"Mat will further strengthen our squad with his experience and knowledge of playing at the highest level.

"Following Matt Macey’s recent move to Hibernian, Mat will provide very good competition and positive support to all our goalkeepers.

"We are looking forward to him integrating quickly into the set-up here at Arsenal."

Tariq Lamptey has signed a new long-term contract with Brighton and Hove Albion.

The 20-year-old full-back agreed a new deal with the Premier League club that will run until the end of the 2024-25 season.

Lamptey has become a mainstay of Graham Potter's side since joining from Chelsea last January, making 19 appearances in all competitions.

The England youth international has recently been linked with some of Europe's biggest clubs including Bayern Munich, Atletico Madrid and Arsenal.

"We are delighted to see Tariq commit his long-term future here," Brighton boss Potter said via the club's website.

"We knew his potential when we signed him a year ago, and hoped he would have a really positive impact on the club, and that has proved to be the case with his performances since June.

"He has been the model professional, he works exceptionally hard, is a humble lad and is a team player. He fits in with everything we would want from a player, now it's about helping him reach his potential."

Lamptey has made 11 appearances in all competitions in 2020-21, although he has missed Brighton's last seven matches including Saturday's 1-0 league win at Leeds United.

An exciting prospect both defensively and going forward, Lamptey has attempted more dribbles (3.75) and made more interceptions (1.9) per 90 minutes than any other Brighton player this season to make at least 10 appearances.

He scored his first goal for the club in the 2-1 loss to Tottenham on November 1.

Chelsea needed a late intervention from Mason Mount to overcome Fulham 1-0 on Saturday, relieving the pressure on boss Frank Lampard. 

Brendan Rodgers - a man tipped to take over at Stamford Bridge if Lampard is removed as boss - saw his Leicester City side climb up to second in the table with a 2-0 win over Southampton. 

There were also wins for Brighton and Hove Albion, West Ham and struggling West Brom. 

Here is the pick of the Opta facts from Saturday's action in the Premier League.

 

Fulham 0-1 Chelsea: Mount settles west London derby

Chelsea left it late to overcome Fulham at Craven Cottage, Mason Mount scoring with 12 minutes remaining to end the Blues' run of three straight away Premier League defeats. 

The scoreline perhaps should not come as a surprise, given Chelsea have won 131 Premier League games by that margin - the most common winning score for a single team in the competition's history. 

The result also marked Chelsea's fourth away clean sheet of the season - a feat they managed just once last season. 

It could have been a different outcome had Antonee Robinson not seen red shortly before half-time for a wild lunge on Cesar Azpilicueta. That dismissal was Fulham's third in the Premier League this season - no side has had more so far this term. 

Defeat for Scott Parker's side means they are winless in their last 19 top-flight London derby matches since a 2-1 win over West Ham in January 2014.

Leicester City 2-0 Southampton: Maddison and Barnes on target for flying Foxes

Leicester moved up to second in the Premier League after earning their first home league win against Southampton since April 2016, ending a run of four without a win against the Saints at the King Power Stadium. 

They were set on their way by James Maddison, who has now scored in consecutive top-flight games for the Foxes for the first time since October 2019, matching his goal tally at the King Power Stadium from each of the previous two campaigns.

Harvey Barnes' 10th goal of the season sealed all three points, the winger equalling his best ever goals return in a single campaign. 

Southampton, meanwhile, have now failed to score in four of their last five Premier League games, as many as they had in their previous 34 in the competition.

The Saints' first 12 Premier League games this season saw 41 goals scored (F24 A17), at an average of 3.4 per game, while their last six games have seen just six goals scored (F2 A4).

Wolves 2-3 West Brom: Pereira brace gives Allardyce lift off

Sam Allardyce got off the mark with his first win as West Brom boss to revive his side's survival hopes against out-of-form Wolves.

The veteran manager, previously without a win in five matches in all competitions since taking over, is now without defeat in six Premier League games against Wolves - his best unbeaten return against any side in the division.

Matheus Pereira gave West Brom the lead from the penalty spot early on - the ninth league game in a row Wolves have conceded first - before Fabio Silva and Willy Boly turned the game in the home side's favour.

In doing so, Boly became the first Wolves player to concede a penalty, assist and score a goal in the same Premier League game since Adlene Guedioura in May 2011 - also against West Brom at Molineux.

Semi Ajayi levelled the game up with his ninth headed goal since the start of 2018-19 - no defender in England's top four tiers has scored more, level with Virgil van Dijk and Aaron Pierre - and Pereira scored the winner with another spot-kick.

Wolves, who last lost successive home league games against West Brom between 1929 and 1931, are without a clean sheet in 12 Premier League matches - the longest ongoing run among sides in the division.

Leeds 0-1 Brighton: Maupay haunts Bielsa's men again

Brighton ended a nine-game winless run in the Premier League with a narrow victory at Leeds thanks to Neal Maupay's close-range finish after 17 minutes.

Maupay rounded off a slick team move for his 10th away goal for Albion in the competition, making him just the second player to reach that tally for the Seagulls after Glenn Murray (11).

It was the striker's fourth goal in five league appearances against Leeds and ensured a first ever away top-flight victory in this fixture for his side at the fourth attempt.

Leeds, whose two shots on target was their second fewest in a home match under Marcelo Bielsa, have lost their first three games in a calendar year for the first time since 2014.

West Ham 1-0 Burnley: Antonio hits milestone goal in narrow win

Michail Antonio made the difference as Burnley fired another blank, the versatile forward becoming the fourth West Ham player to reach the 40-goal mark for the club after Paolo Di Canio (47), Mark Noble (46) and Carlton Cole (41).

All 40 of those goals have been scored inside the penalty area - only Tim Cahill (56), Javier Hernandez (53), Gabriel Jesus (43) and John Terry (41) have netted more with 100 per cent coming inside the box.

No team has failed to score in more different Premier League games than Burnley this season (10), while no team has netted in more different games than West Ham (15).

It was also a third successive clean sheet in the league for David Moyes' men for the first time since September 2019 as they picked up an eighth win of the campaign in their 18th game, a tally it took them 32 games to reach last time around.

Pep Guardiola suggested Manchester City got a reality check against Brighton and Hove Albion despite moving third with a fourth consecutive Premier League win.

Phil Foden's goal was enough for a 1-0 victory that took City back to within four points of leaders Manchester United with a game in hand.

It was another win and another clean sheet for City – their eighth shutout, a league high – but Guardiola's men did not quite hit the heights of previous performances.

The manager saw that as a positive, however, believing it was important for his side to come through a tricky test against strugglers Brighton.

"For the next games that we have in January, February, this is the best thing that could happen today," Guardiola told BBC Sport.

"There's some rumours outside the team, in the team after Stamford Bridge, [Manchester] United, and the reality is today, the game that we played today.

"It's nice to play the way we played. For 60, 70 minutes, we were so good.

"The first half was the way we have to play; the second half we struggled more because of the quality of the opponent - not because we were lazy or a lack of concentration, not these kinds of things."

City won despite missing a late penalty through Raheem Sterling, their seventh Premier League spot-kick failure since the start of last season, of which the England forward has accounted for three.

Sterling had replaced Foden, who was enthused by City's performance while acknowledging room for improvement.

"I feel like we're back to our best," Foden said. "We're definitely taking confidence from the last few results.

"Today I still thought we could have done better, but we dug deep to get the win. Overall, I'm really proud of the team and how we kept going to the final whistle. Overall, it's a great result."

It was a seventh win from seven Premier League meetings with Brighton, and City now intend to turn their focus to Crystal Palace next on Sunday.

"We know that we have a game in hand, but we just have to think of the next opponent and not think too far ahead," said Foden, now City's top scorer with eight in all competitions.

"We just want to keep going with this form and push to win the league, hopefully."

Manchester City extended their unbeaten Premier League run after Phil Foden's first-half goal secured a comfortable 1-0 victory over Brighton and Hove Albion.

Foden found the back of the net a minute before half-time and that proved to be enough for Pep Guardiola's men to make it eight games without defeat – including four straight wins – in the top flight.

England international Foden took his tally for the season to eight goals in all competitions at the Etihad Stadium on Wednesday, making him City's highest-scoring player in 2020-21.

Bernardo Silva hit the crossbar and Gabriel Jesus made his return from COVID-19 as a substitute, but City were unable to add to their tally, with Raheem Sterling missing a stoppage-time penalty.

A lovely exchange between Kevin De Bruyne and Ilkay Gundogan led to the first major opening in the 14th minute, but the Belgium international was kept out by Robert Sanchez inside the six-yard box.

Mahrez was unable to supply the finish at the end of an intricate move around the visitors' box, before De Bruyne was again denied by Sanchez following a counter-attack from Brighton's first corner.

City made the breakthrough on the stroke of half-time, with Foden controlling a pass from De Bruyne exquisitely and guiding a fine finish into the bottom-left corner from the edge of the box.

Guardiola's men remained comfortably on top in the second half and after Mahrez missed a one-on-one, Sanchez denied Gundogan and saw Silva's follow-up – which came after he sent the ball through Ben White's legs – crash back off the bar.

Substitute Sterling blazed his last-gasp penalty over after De Bruyne pounced on a wayward header from Lewis Dunk and was taken down by Sanchez.

But City had done enough to move up to third and four points behind leaders Manchester United with a game in hand.

 

What does it mean? Defence still rules for City

City have done well to put together a strong run despite the absences of Jesus and Sergio Aguero, but their impressive form has been built on their defence.

They have conceded just two goals during their eight-game unbeaten run, while they have let in just seven in their past 14 outings in the top flight – four fewer than any other side since the start of October.

Brighton looked dangerous on the break at times, but Ruben Dias and John Stones secured a clean sheet for Ederson on his return from coronavirus.

Delightful De Bruyne

De Bruyne was at the heart of everything positive for City in the first half. By setting up Foden he has now assisted 14 goals in all competitions this season, a tally no Premier League player can better.

Jesus use raises questions

City finally have a fit striker in Jesus, but for some reason Guardiola decided to play him from the left after sending him on in the 67th minute. It was not until Sterling entered 15 minutes later that the Brazil international got to play through the middle.

What's next?

City host Crystal Palace on Sunday in the second of three straight Premier League home games, while Brighton are in action at Leeds United a day prior.

Manchester City's 2020-21 Premier League title bid has been one of unlikely storylines and standout players.

Whether it's the resurgence of John Stones, helming the most miserly defence in England's top flight alongside record signing Ruben Dias and leaving the highly touted Aymeric Laporte out in the cold as a result, or a rotating cast of attackers impressing as emergency centre forwards in the absence of Sergio Aguero and Gabriel Jesus, it pays to expect the unexpected from Pep Guardiola's squad.

Perhaps the most surprising development has been Joao Cancelo's transformation from expensive and unreliable back-up to a key man pushing City's game and maybe even Guardiola's vaunted idea of football to new heights.

"He arrived last season, he was confused in the beginning. He expected something we could not offer him," the City boss said of the Portugal full-back on the eve of Wednesday's Premier League match against Brighton and Hove Albion, where victory would move his side to within a point of champions Liverpool with a game in hand.

Cancelo arrived from Juventus with a £60million price tag – a sizeable chunk of which was remunerated as Danilo moved in the opposite direction – and proceeded to start fewer than half of City's 58 games across all competitions after his move.

What's more, he seemed ill at ease with the tactical demands placed upon him by Guardiola, such as switching and interchanging positions frequently during matches. The battle to be first choice at right-back seemed unfairly skewed in favour of Kyle Walker, one of the most consistent performers of the Catalan's tenure at the Etihad Stadium.

"Last season he struggled a bit with a new club, new ideas, the way we wanted to play," Guardiola confirmed

Alongside Rodri, who arrived from Atletico Madrid for a similar outlay, Cancelo became a poster boy of a failed campaign for many City fans, where a third straight EFL Cup success could not make up for Liverpool romping clear to the Premier League title.

Despite being an ever present in the Premier League this time around, Rodri still seemingly has more to do to convince the masses. However, first when filling in at left-back and more recently at right-back as Walker convalesced following a COVID-19 positive, Cancelo has consistently caught the eye.

"Now he has had more time and helps us to do something we need," Guardiola said. "He was outstanding all the season, playing at a high, high level."

Carrying City forward and backing up De Bruyne

From Dani Alves rampaging down the Barcelona right to Phillip Lahm becoming an auxiliary midfielder late in his career, Guardiola's best teams have usually featured a full-back doing something a little bit special.

During this month's 3-1 and 2-0 wins at Chelsea and Manchester United in the Premier League and EFL Cup respectively – arguably City's best two performances of 2020-21 – Cancelo excelled, roving forward and often in-field from a nominal right-back position, his combination of technical skills and physicality to the fore.

While at Bayern and blessed with the services of Lahm and David Alaba, Guardiola pioneered a gambit whereby his full-backs could tuck inside to bolster the defensive midfield position.

He still uses this tactic at City, but Cancelo has generally caused damage from more advanced starting points in the midfield.

"Oleks [Zinchenko] can play there too," Guardiola said when discussing Cancelo's role. "Benjamin [Mendy] and Kyle Walker can play in different positions but it depends on the opponent – which opponent we can use [the full-back] inside, outside."

The 26-year-old's ability to drive forward with possession has been to the fore. According to Opta, he has created eight chances from carries, including an assist, while having two shots himself.

This is a string Mendy and Walker do not appear to have to their bows, as they have one shot-creating carry each this season.

Cancelo's frequent presence in opposition territory has contributed to him being ranked second in the City squad in terms of chances created (24), passes ending in the final third (272) and passes played in the box (63) in the Premier League this season, with top spot in all categories belonging to Kevin De Bruyne.

Only De Bruyne, Riyad Mahrez and Raheem Sterling have completed more dribbles than Cancelo (16), a player who seems to have given a new dimension to a City team that had come to look stale during the early weeks of the season in the aftermath of David Silva and Leroy Sane's departures.

"It's especially about their quality," Guardiola added. "It's not about 'okay, I want to play this player in this position', I have to know if he can do it for his qualities. That's all.

"[Cancelo] can do it, but he can do it from outside as well. This alternative that he can give us as a team is so important. Honestly, it's so important."

Pep Guardiola believes he should shoulder the blame for Manchester City's struggles earlier this season.

City can move to within a point of Liverpool if they beat Brighton and Hove Albion at the Etihad Stadium on Wednesday - the first of two games they have in hand on the reigning champions.

Guardiola's side have been bolstered by a 13-match unbeaten run, spanning four competitions, and the sort of consistency that appeared beyond them as they spluttered through the opening weeks of 2020-21.

Still nursing the hangover from a humbling 3-1 Champions League quarter-final defeat at the hands of Lyon in August, they won only three of their opening eight Premier League games this term.

Recent victories over Chelsea in the top flight and Manchester United in the EFL Cup semi-finals have seen City look something far more like their old selves.

Manager Guardiola feels this is in part because the team are back in tune with his principles - something that suffered as last season bled into this in the absence of normal preparations.

"From day one [we had these principles]. We lost it a bit this season, that was my fault - the message was not clear but we came back a little bit [to] the principles," he said.

"Especially the reason [for poor form] was because the players need time to get the best condition after no pre-season.

"It’s normal that, after good results and performances, the people visualise again that we can do it again in the way we did it in the past. And that is the way we have to continue."

Guardiola also feels City's improvement is down to them doing their work more smartly during games than they were earlier in the campaign.

"The only difference is that we run less, we were playing running too much," Guardiola said.

"When you play football you have to walk – or run much, much less.

"Without the ball you have to run. But with the ball you stay more in the position and let the ball run, not you. And we improved in these games, in these terms."

Tracking data collected from this season's Premier League games does not exactly bear out Guardiola's point but might align with the greater discipline he alludes to.

In the 3-1 triumph at Stamford Bridge earlier this month, the 116.7 kilometres City covered collectively was their most in any league match this term, with their 163 sprints second only to 166 in the 1-0 victory at Southampton in mid-December that launched an ongoing winning run of six matches on three fronts.

A feature common to both those games was each of Guardiola's recognised strikers, Sergio Aguero and Gabriel Jesus, being sidelined.

A rotating cast of attacking midfielders have taken turns to lead the line and City's shots per game (15.4 with Aguero and/or Jesus, 15.8 without) and goals per game (1.6 with Aguero and/or Jesus, 1.7 without) remain consistent.

Guardiola's team were striker-less at the beginning of the humiliating 5-2 home defeat to Leicester City in September, although youth team centre-forward Liam Delap came on when the score was 1-1.

A draw at Leeds United followed and in the four games since when neither Aguero nor Jesus has been available - versus Sheffield United, Southampton, Newcastle United and Chelsea - City have won each time.

"We have to adapt the quality we have, unfortunately it's a long time without Sergio," Guardiola added.

"Gabriel has been good but had COVID. But we have enough players with the quality playing wide and in the middle so we adapt with the players we have right now."

Jesus is in contention to face Brighton but Aguero continues to self-isolate after coming into close contact with someone who tested positive for coronavirus.

Phil Foden still has plenty of room for improvement, says Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola.

Foden's long-range strike against Birmingham City in the third round of the FA Cup was his seventh goal of the season in all competitions - making him City's joint top scorer alongside Raheem Sterling.

The 20-year-old also made his England senior breakthrough this season, netting twice in the 4-0 Nations League thrashing of Iceland in November.

At club level, Foden has amassed his impressive return - he also has five assists - despite not being an automatic choice in Guardiola's first XI.

The circumstances of a coronavirus outbreak at the club is a contributing factor to an unbroken run of three successive first-team starts, although a goal at Chelsea in the Premier League and an assist for John Stones in the EFL Cup semi-final at Manchester United have made a strong case for him to remain.

"He is playing like he played always, high standards in all departments," Guardiola told a news conference ahead of Wednesday's match against Brighton and Hove Albion.

"He still has big margins to improve because it would be bad news if he could not improve at the age he is.

"But from day one I have been delighted, especially with his behaviour. The quality will do the rest.

City have three consecutive home games in the space of eight days on their immediate agenda - a chance to bolster their title challenge even before considering Liverpool and Manchester United are set to take points off one another this weekend.

Even though his team appear to be back to their swashbuckling best despite trying circumstances, Guardiola remains wary of the challenges at hand.

"Brighton are a joy to watch, a joy to analyse," he said, before underlining his admiration for Seagulls boss Graham Potter.

"At the same time, when you see them you are concerned about the quality. I said to the players that we will have to be in the highest standards to complete against them. They have better stats [than their league position] in all the departments except the final third.

"I am a big fan of Graham Potter. We faced him for the first time with Swansea. Everyone [in Potter's teams] plays in his position and the ball comes to them.

"They have the courage to play. I like a lot how they play and it will be a good test after this amount of games."

Considering a 13-match unbeaten run on all fronts, Guardiola added: "The momentum can arrive and disappear in one instant.

"We cannot forget the teams we beat recently especially in Premier League and Carabao Cup - two strong teams away and we did well.

"But the momentum can disappear, we have to do it again. Especially for the way we are playing."

City remain without injured defenders Aymeric Laporte and Nathan Ake, while Sergio Aguero will continue to self-isolate, with youngsters Cole Palmer, Eric Garcia and Adrien Bernabe, and third-choice goalkeeper Scott Carson in the same situation.

Ederson, Ferran Torres and Tommy Doyle should be available to return following their own COVID-related absences.

© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.