Back when Pep Guardiola was in his playing pomp and Zinedine Zidane was plotting his path towards the summit of the European game, elite clubs loved to look towards Brazilian brilliance to supply a vital measure of Champions League pizzazz.

Guardiola could delight in picking out the lethal Romario from midfield. Where he trod for Barcelona, Ronaldo, Rivaldo and Ronaldinho duly followed.

"Pep has a special feeling for Brazilian players," Guardiola's former assistant and newly appointed Flamengo boss Domenec Torrent told Globoesporte earlier this year.

"In fact, he has a preference for Brazilians because they are very versatile and can adapt to any type of football."

It was little surprise to see Brazil internationals at the heart of Guardiola's plans for Friday's Champions League showdown with Real Madrid, with a 2-1 win and 4-2 aggregate victory their reward. But Jogo Bonito, this was not.

FERNANDINHO'S STEADYING HAND

Eric Garcia's decision to reject a new contract at City has the teenage centre-back heading for the exit door – a situation sure to have caused his manager anguish on the eve of Madrid's arrival in Manchester.

Guardiola has placed great faith in a 19-year-old he declares "does not make mistakes". Negotiating your way out of a potentially triumphant Champions League campaign might count as one.

Garcia had established himself as Aymeric Laporte's first-choice partner in central defence over recent weeks. His apparently pending return to boyhood club Barcelona meant a defensive recall for a man 16 years his senior.

In their first season since Vincent Kompany's departure, City have wanted for leadership and presence on the big occasions. Liverpool, Chelsea, Manchester United, Arsenal and Tottenham all have victories over them.

The sight of Fernandinho, striding out as captain felt like a grown-up heading into a situation where one was required. Converted from a central midfielder this season, he made a perfectly judged tackle when the in-form Karim Benzema lurked on the edge of the City area in the fifth minute.

TIRELESS JESUS GIVES VARANE NO REST

At the other end of the field, Fernandinho's international team-mate Gabriel Jesus resumed the hard yards he carried out in City's 2-1 first-leg win. Guardiola doesn't often have a need for left-wing donkey work. When he does, Jesus dutifully trots over from centre-forward and gets to work. Romario would never have entertained such a thing.

Jesus lined up in an ever-alert and harassing front three alongside Phil Foden and Raheem Sterling. He seized upon Raphael Varane's first error of a personal ordeal to selflessly give Sterling his 100th goal in City colours.

The Brazilian in the City line-up possessing the most flair was arguably their goalkeeper. Ederson's passing was once again bafflingly good in its range an execution, but he had the basics of his craft in immaculate order as he denied Benzema sharply and snaffled any other shot that came his way.

He had little chance when Madrid's number nine powered in a header to equalise on the night. After that wobble, Jesus bought a free-kick then won a header from a long ball pumped to his flank.

Little flecks of dirty work to draw the sting from a difficult moment. And all while a Yorkshireman at right-back was gallivanting about like gloriously renegade Cafu. Kyle Walker gained possession nine times - more than any other City player - and won all seven of his duels.

MADRID'S AURA EBBS AWAY

As has been the case over the course of City's season, chances were created and spurned by vibrant but profligate attackers. If they lose in Lisbon, it will probably be in circumstances were they feel they shouldn't have.

It felt dicey to have left the door ajar to such greats of the competition. But during an increasingly torrid second period for Madrid – in line with Juventus's woes in Turin – the layers of an aura fell away and time ticked loudly on some great careers.

Kevin De Bruyne was romping around and tearing holes in a manner reminiscent of the man in the away dugout and errors from a ragged Madrid defence were piling up.

Dani Carvajal, who could have done without Sterling's company when Guardiola shuffled his front three at half-time, coughed up possession 15 times. Ferland Mendy and Varane were also into double figures in that regard, with the latter culpable when the tie was put to bed.

Lurking with maximum nuisance value was Jesus, producing a one-touch finish to make Romario and his other great countrymen purr. A moment of triumph etched from a thousand beads of sweat rolling down Guardiola's robust Brazilian spine.

Pep Guardiola is encouraged to see Manchester City's assist king Kevin De Bruyne scoring more goals himself.

The Belgium midfielder set up Raheem Sterling in Sunday's 5-0 win over relegated Norwich City, claiming his 20th assist of the campaign to match Thierry Henry's single-season record in the Premier League.

De Bruyne also netted twice himself – particularly sumptuously before half-time – as City broke through the 100-goal barrier.

It meant he finished with 13 Premier League goals, his most prolific return in England's top flight.

"We know the assists and the quality he has for this but we need his goals," Guardiola told a post-match news conference.

"Today he scored two brilliant goals. Of course, the first one is special."

Guardiola had no concerns over De Bruyne's pursuit of an individual record harming his overall performance.

"We tell them, play simple, play as you know. Don't be focused too much on achieving it because it will come along," he said.

"He made one assist but could have easily broken the record. Now he is going to share it with Titi Henry. He played really good.

"The individual target, the focus to achieve something. It's good. Athletes always want to overcome and be better and benefit for the team."

De Bruyne was not the only City player to chalk up leading individual numbers this season, with Ederson's 16th clean sheet winning him the Premier League Golden Glove.

It is an honour Guardiola felt the Brazil international earned in a sharp outing at the Etihad Stadium – his save in a one-on-one from Teemu Pukki particularly impressive.

"It's so nice, but I think today he deserves it because he made two incredible saves. Without him it would not be possible," Guardiola added.

"He made a really good season and he deserves what he has done. We are so happy for this award."

David Silva was granted a warm ovation from his team-mates and City's backroom staff when he made way on his final Premier League performance.

The former Spain playmaker still has a shot at Champions League glory next month as he brings down the curtain on a glorious decade in Manchester and, when fans are allowed back into stadiums, Guardiola is sure Silva will be granted a more fitting farewell.

"It was the smallest standing ovation of all time," he chuckled. "He will come back to receive the standing ovation he deserves from our fans.

"I have the feeling that they want to do it. I think what the players and staff have done shows the gratitude and honour that he has to have for these incredible 10 years he has done at this club.

"We wanted to say thank you for what he has done for this club."

The Premier League season concludes on Sunday, with Liverpool completing their victory lap at Newcastle United.

A dominant campaign from Jurgen Klopp's men means the destination of the big prize has long been decided, although there are still the matters of Champions League qualification and relegation to address.

The remaining top-four berths will go to two of Chelsea, Leicester City and Manchester United – with the latter two playing each other at the King Power Stadium in Sunday's standout clash.

At the other end of the table, two of Aston Villa, Watford and Bournemouth will be joining Norwich City in the Championship next season.

However, as we examine below, there are individual awards and achievements still up for grabs.

 

Vardy leads the way in Golden Boot race

A goal from Jamie Vardy against United could represent a huge step towards Europe's elite competition for Leicester City, while it will almost certainly mean the Golden Boot for the former England striker.

Vardy is on 23 goals, in a landmark campaign that saw him being up 100 in the Premier League. Of the 29 players to have reached a century in the competition, only Ian Wright (28 years, 286 days) made his debut at an older age than Vardy (27 years, 232).

The main competition comes from Danny Ings, whose 21 goal makes him the third Southampton player to score 20 or more in a Premier League season, following Matt Le Tissier (25) in 1993-94 and James Beattie (23) in 2002-03.

Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang is next in line on 20. The Gabon international has also enjoyed a landmark campaign, becoming the sixth fastest player to 50 Premier League goals in history as he did so on his 79th top-flight outing for Arsenal.

Liverpool superstar Mohamed Salah and Raheem Sterling are the outsiders on 19 apiece. If Sterling nets against Norwich, he will become the first Englishman to score 20 times in a top-division season for Manchester City since Brian Kidd – now a member of Pep Guardiola's backroom staff – did so in 1976-77.

 

De Bryune hunting Henry's assist record

One man in particular will be keen on Sterling adding to his haul – provided it comes from one of his passes!

Kevin De Bruyne has 19 assists in the Premier League this season, placing him one shy of Thierry Henry's competition record.

Arsenal's Mesut Ozil also assisted 19 times during 2015-16.

De Bruyne has been directly involved in 30 league goals this term, scoring 11 alongside his creative exploits. This is the most for a central midfield since Frank Lampard scored 22 and supplied 14 assists for Chelsea in 2009-10.

The efforts of Sterling and De Bruyne have gone a long way to placing City close to an impressive collective feat. If Guardiola's side score three times against Norwich, they will reach 100 goals for a third consecutive Premier League season.

 

Ederson and Pope battle it out for Golden Glove

Another City player looking after number one on Sunday is their number one. Ederson is on 15 clean sheets, putting him level in the Golden Glove standings with Burnley's Nick Pope.

The Clarets end another excellent season at home to Brighton and Hove Albion and if Ederson and Pope cannot be separated at full-time the award will be shared.

Both men have a similar save percentage, with Pope stopping 70.7 per cent of efforts sent his way compared to Ederson's 69.6, but the Englishman has been far busier.

Pope has made 118 saves from 164 shots faced, compared to Ederson's 64 from 92.

Although impressive, neither man has been flawless, with Ederson committing three errors leading to goals and Pope culpable for two.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette will start together in attack for Arsenal in Saturday's FA Cup semi-final against Manchester City, although Bukayo Saka must be content with a place on the bench.

Record signing Nicolas Pepe has been preferred to teenager Saka by head coach Mikel Arteta.

Dani Ceballos and Granit Xhaka will look to build on their promising alliance in central midfield, while David Luiz must try to put a nightmare outing from his last encounter with City behind him.

The experienced centre-back was at fault for Raheem Sterling's opening goal in a 3-0 win for City at the Etihad Stadium last month, where he also gave away a penalty and was sent off.

As revealed by Pep Guardiola on Friday, regular number one Ederson starts in goal for the holders.

Claudio Bravo has featured in the domestic cups for City this season, including in their EFL Cup final win over Aston Villa in March, but the veteran Chile international is sidelined with a muscular complaint.

Teenage centre-back Eric Garcia partners Aymeric Laporte in the heart of defence, with Ilkay Gundogan anchoring the City midfield behind dual playmakers David Silva and Kevin De Bruyne.

Riyad Mahrez gets the nod to start on the right of a front three completed by Sterling and Gabriel Jesus, with Phil Foden having to be satisfied with a place on the bench alongside Bernardo Silva.

Arsenal beat City 2-1 after extra time at the same stage of this competition three years ago, although Guardiola's side have won each of the subsequent seven meetings between the teams.

Pep Guardiola confirmed Ederson will start Manchester City's FA Cup semi-final with Arsenal as Claudio Bravo struggles with a muscle problem.

Ederson, number one for the Premier League and Champions League, has taken a backseat to Bravo for the FA Cup and EFL Cup this season.

However, the Chile international has not been fit enough to be named among the substitutes for City's previous two Premier League games.

Guardiola revealed Bravo will not be involved at Wembley on Saturday.

"He is going to play, Eddie, because Claudio is a little bit injured," Guardiola said at a media conference.

"In the last games he was not on the bench because he has a little bit of a muscular problem. Not a big one, but he is not able to play tomorrow."

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola does not believe Sunday's surprise Premier League loss to Southampton highlights the need for the club to sign new players.

Guardiola's City suffered their third consecutive away defeat in the Premier League after going down 1-0 to Southampton at St Mary's on Sunday.

After routing newly crowned champions Liverpool 4-0 last time out, City – who rested Kevin De Bruyne and others – succumbed to Che Adams' first Premier League goal as they fell 23 points adrift in second position.

Napoli star Kalidou Koulibaly and Bayern Munich's David Alaba have been among the players linked with moves to City at the end of the season.

But when asked if City's defeat was a question of needing new players, Guardiola told reporters: "No, I don't think so.

"I think we play good, honestly. We play with the character and desire to drive until the end. We played against Southampton who had 10 players in the penalty area. We did it really well.

"We will review the game, and with the chances that we had, we can do more. It's difficult to create more chances than we created and the way we did it.

"I'm so proud, so I liked the way we played but it's not enough. There's no complaint about the players. We played really well, I like it but it's not enough to win the games."

Guardiola, meanwhile, does not feel City goalkeeper Ederson is to blame for the loss to Southampton.

Adams scored the only goal of the game in the 16th minute, catching the Brazilian keeper off his line after Oleksandr Zinchenko had been dispossessed of the ball.

"We use our keeper to build up our play. We use our keeper to play better," Guardiola said. "It gives us a lot. The mistake is part of the game but we didn't lose for that reason.

"It happens many times this season this situation. The amount of chances we have but it's football. The amount of chances we have but not able to score goals."

Manchester City were merely reigning Premier League champions from around the turn of the year. Any meaningful title defence ended a long time ago.

After amassing an astounding 198 points over the course of consecutive championship-winning campaigns, Pep Guardiola's men were unable to summon an adequate response in the face of Liverpool's relentless onslaught.

City's 2-1 defeat to Chelsea at Stamford Bridge last week completed the formalities, meaning Guardiola's plans over how to wrest back control should already be well underway.

Ahead of Liverpool's trip to City on Thursday, we look at the areas where he and the Etihad Stadium's brain trust should be focusing their attention.

 

ADDRESS OBVIOUS GAPS IN THE SQUAD

Guardiola's suggestion at the end of last week that he might not seek a like-for-like replacement for Leroy Sane if the Germany winger completes his long-mooted switch to Bayern Munich understandably caused consternation among City fans. Vincent Kompany's influence and aura were irreplaceable when he called time on his career in Manchester in May 2019, but a new centre-back would certainly have come in handy.

The cruciate knee ligament injury that decimated Aymeric Laporte's campaign left Fernandinho simultaneously learning a new position and standing in as City's most reliable option in central defence, as Nicolas Otamendi and John Stones laboured. A high-quality partner for Laporte must be the number one transfer market priority.

A natural left-winger is also needed. Sane has been another long-term injury victim this term and, without that option, City's attacks have sometimes become narrow and predictable. On the subject of cruciate knee ligament injuries, Benjamin Mendy looks to have put a nightmarish two years behind him, although he endured a game to forget against Chelsea. It would be foolish to count on the France international's fitness holding for long and links to England left-back Ben Chilwell are understandable.

RECHARGE AND REPLENISH STAR MEN

The three positions above are likely to be the limit of City's ambitions in an uncertain market, with the depth of coronavirus' impact upon football finances yet to be fully realised. Whether or not the Court of Arbitration (CAS) for sport overturns or reduces their two-season Champions League ban must also be factored into any plans.

The good thing for Guardiola is the fact that plenty of room for improvement lies within. Aside from the imperious Kevin De Bruyne and the ever-prolific Sergio Aguero, it is hard to identify a senior City player who can be wholly satisfied with their efforts this term. Ederson's three errors leading to a goal are second only to Newcastle United goalkeeper Martin Dubravka (five) in the division, while Bernardo Silva and Raheem Sterling have at times appeared burned out following the exertions of a triumphant 2018-19.

UNLEASH PHIL FODEN

David Silva's departure at the end of this season was expected to usher in Phil Foden to blossom as the master's apprentice. This has been muddied slightly by the England Under-21 star's best performances coming in a wide attacking role, most notably his man-of-the-match outing in the EFL Cup final and his two-goal showing in the recent 5-0 demolition of Burnley. He was badly missed at Chelsea.

Guardiola loves players who are adept in a number of roles and Foden has thrived regardless of what his brief is on any given stage. The academy product has long looked a player at home in this City team; he now seems like one who could significantly elevate it. It is time to let him fly.

REMAIN BANNED FROM THE CHAMPIONS LEAGUE

From having to scale down more ambitious transfer targets to tackling some awkward conversations with star players over their immediate futures, the seismic blow of City's exclusion from the Champions League holding firm should not be underplayed. However, if we are looking at this purely in terms of their chances of winning a third Premier League title in four seasons, a coach of Guardiola's calibre getting free midweeks to hone his side to his version of perfection is something of which Liverpool and others would be right to be wary.

DON'T ACTUALLY CHANGE TOO MUCH

Under Roberto Mancini and Manuel Pellegrini, City compiled deplorably meek title defences. The clear daylight between themselves and Liverpool this time around makes it tempting to lump their 2019-20 efforts in with those other failures. But there is an important wider context. The Manchester United and Chelsea sides that unseated Mancini and Pellegrini were not a patch on Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool machine. This City had won six of the previous seven domestic honours on offer and could conceivably finish 2019-20 with the FA Cup and that elusive Champions League nestled alongside the EFL Cup in the trophy cabinet.

Also, it is not a slight on the Reds' brilliance to note most things that could have fallen in their favour this season have. That is inevitable. City sealed their 100-point season with a last-minute winner at Southampton, having beaten Saints, Bournemouth, West Ham and Huddersfield Town in similar fashion before the turn of the year. Mind-boggling deeds require a certain level of fortune.

Heading into their game at Chelsea, City were still ahead of Liverpool by five points with a game in hand in Opta's Expected Goals league table (Yes, yes… when's the parade?!?!). Liverpool's brutally clinical efforts are to be admired, but the underlying numbers suggest such a gulf will not become the norm.

Manchester City were merely reigning Premier League champions from around the turn of the year. Any meaningful title defence ended a long time ago.

After amassing an astounding 198 points over the course of consecutive championship-winning campaigns, Pep Guardiola's men were unable to summon an adequate response in the face of Liverpool's relentless onslaught.

City's 2-1 defeat to Chelsea at Stamford Bridge completed the formalities, meaning Guardiola's plans over how to wrest back control should already be well underway.

Here, we look at the areas where he and the Etihad Stadium's brain trust should be focusing their attention.

 

ADDRESS OBVIOUS GAPS IN THE SQUAD

Guardiola's suggestion at the end of last week that he might not seek a like-for-like replacement for Leroy Sane if the Germany winger completes his long-mooted switch to Bayern Munich understandably caused consternation among City fans. Vincent Kompany's influence and aura were irreplaceable when he called time on his career in Manchester in May 2019, but a new centre-back would certainly have come in handy.

The cruciate knee ligament injury that decimated Aymeric Laporte's campaign left Fernandinho simultaneously learning a new position and standing in as City's most reliable option in central defence, as Nicolas Otamendi and John Stones laboured. A high-quality partner for Laporte must be the number one transfer market priority.

A natural left-winger is also needed. Sane has been another long-term injury victim this term and, without that option, City's attacks have sometimes become narrow and predictable. On the subject of cruciate knee ligament injuries, Benjamin Mendy looks to have put a nightmarish two years behind him, although he endured a game to forget against Chelsea. It would be foolish to count on the France international's fitness holding for long and links to England left-back Ben Chilwell are understandable.

RECHARGE AND REPLENISH STAR MEN

The three positions above are likely to be the limit of City's ambitions in an uncertain market, with the depth of coronavirus' impact upon football finances yet to be fully realised. Whether or not the Court of Arbitration (CAS) for sport overturns or reduces their two-season Champions League ban must also be factored into any plans.

The good thing for Guardiola is the fact that plenty of room for improvement lies within. Aside from the imperious Kevin De Bruyne and the ever-prolific Sergio Aguero, it is hard to identify a senior City player who can be wholly satisfied with their efforts this term. Ederson's three errors leading to a goal are second only to Newcastle United goalkeeper Martin Dubravka (five) in the division, while Bernardo Silva and Raheem Sterling have at times appeared burned out following the exertions of a triumphant 2018-19.

UNLEASH PHIL FODEN

David Silva's departure at the end of this season was expected to usher in Phil Foden to blossom as the master's apprentice. This has been muddied slightly by the England Under-21 star's best performances coming in a wide attacking role, most notably his man-of-the-match outing in the EFL Cup final and his two-goal showing in the recent 5-0 demolition of Burnley. He was badly missed at Chelsea.

Guardiola loves players who are adept in a number of roles and Foden has thrived regardless of what his brief is on any given stage. The academy product has long looked a player at home in this City team; he now seems like one who could significantly elevate it. It is time to let him fly.

REMAIN BANNED FROM THE CHAMPIONS LEAGUE

From having to scale down more ambitious transfer targets to tackling some awkward conversations with star players over their immediate futures, the seismic blow of City's exclusion from the Champions League holding firm should not be underplayed. However, if we are looking at this purely in terms of their chances of winning a third Premier League title in four seasons, a coach of Guardiola's calibre getting free midweeks to hone his side to his version of perfection is something of which Liverpool and others would be right to be wary.

DON'T ACTUALLY CHANGE TOO MUCH

Under Roberto Mancini and Manuel Pellegrini, City compiled deplorably meek title defences. The clear daylight between themselves and Liverpool this time around makes it tempting to lump their 2019-20 efforts in with those other failures. But there is an important wider context. The Manchester United and Chelsea sides that unseated Mancini and Pellegrini were not a patch on Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool machine. This City had won six of the previous seven domestic honours on offer and could conceivably finish 2019-20 with the FA Cup and that elusive Champions League nestled alongside the EFL Cup in the trophy cabinet.

Also, it is not a slight on the Reds' brilliance to note most things that could have fallen in their favour this season have. That is inevitable. City sealed their 100-point season with a last-minute winner at Southampton, having beaten Saints, Bournemouth, West Ham and Huddersfield Town in similar fashion before the turn of the year. Mind-boggling deeds require a certain level of fortune.

Heading into their game at Chelsea, City were still ahead of Liverpool by five points with a game in hand in Opta's Expected Goals league table (Yes, yes… when's the parade?!?!). Liverpool's brutally clinical efforts are to be admired, but the underlying numbers suggest such a gulf will not become the norm.

Ederson has credited Pep Guardiola with making him a better goalkeeper and says the Manchester City boss "sees football in another way" to others.

Brazil international Ederson has spent three seasons working under the Catalan coach, playing a key part in two Premier League title successes and four domestic cup triumphs.

The 26-year-old is well known for his ability to command the box and start attacks from deep, but he was at fault for both goals in March's derby defeat to Manchester United.

However, Ederson insists that taking risks is something that is expected of him under Guardiola, who he credits for taking his game to the next level.

"The role of a goalkeeper in Pep's team is like the 11th outfield player on the pitch, in terms of the build-up, the pressing," he told Sky Sports. 

"I think it's more difficult. There is a bigger responsibility because you can't afford to make any mistakes. If you do, it probably ends in an opposition goal.

"Pep is a great manager who sees football in another way. He lives football and breathes football. The way he thinks about the game is completely different to other managers. 

"He has helped me a lot, but not only me, the rest of my team-mates too.

"You can tell he implanted a style of play in all of us and in the club, so we don't need much time to practice our football style because we have been playing it for a long time now."

Ederson has been compared to Ronald Koeman in terms of his ball-playing ability from the back, something that the former Benfica stopper believes comes naturally to him.

"I don't practice it that much, maybe two or three times a week," he said. "It's a natural skill that I have, to hit long balls, so I don't need to practice it every day.

"I think futsal helped me a lot when I was 11 or 12 years old. It helped me to think quicker and look for the passing lines. I think I managed to move those lessons to 11-a-side."

Ederson has previously suggested that he is interested in playing outfield in the future, but he does not expect that to happen during his time at the Etihad Stadium.

"When I play with my friends, I always play as a midfielder," he added. "I could do it, but not here at City. 

"We already have lots of good midfielders in the team. It's only jokes, but if one day there is an opportunity, who knows?"

Ederson apologised to Manchester City team-mate Eric Garcia for the sickening on-field collision that left the teenage defender stricken and in need of a stretcher.

Brazil goalkeeper Ederson charged from his area to avert danger late on in City's 3-0 win over Arsenal at the Etihad Stadium on Wednesday, with Garcia suffering what appeared to be considerable collateral damage.

The 19-year-old received lengthy treatment before being taken from the field wearing a neck brace.

Garcia was taken to hospital before being released on Thursday, with manager Pep Guardiola confirming he will now spend around 10 days on the sidelines, in line with Premier League concussion protocols.

Ederson is hopeful his young team-mate can make a speedy recovery as he prepares to face Burnley on Monday.

"I spoke to him and apologised to him for the moment," he said.

"It didn't go the way I wanted, obviously. I didn't want to clash with him.

"Unfortunately, it happened. Thank God, it was only a shock, nothing serious.

"He was [back at the training ground on Friday], he was fine. He didn't have trauma, only a cut."

While the closing stages were fraught with worries over Garcia's health, the start of the contest featured a poignant show of solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement.

All players took a knee – a now familiar sight since the Premier League's return to action – and Ederson is pleased to see such widespread support for a subject and a cause that is close to home.

"It's very important. My father is black, I have black relatives, and you can't discriminate against anyone because of the colour of their skin, their race or their religion," he said.

"We need to treat everybody the same way. It doesn't matter what the colour of your skin is. We need to treat everybody equally.

"Living with discrimination in the world in the 21st century is very complicated, it's difficult to accept and unfortunately, there are too many cases of racism happening.

"I hope with those gestures we can help to reduce the number of cases."

Pep Guardiola claims Leroy Sane was fit to make his Manchester City first-team return "weeks ago" but remains short of rhythm.

Sane suffered an anterior cruciate ligament injury during last August's Community Shield triumph against Liverpool, scuppering both his season and a purported switch to Bayern Munich.

The Germany winger resumed full training last month, when he featured for City's under-23 team against Arsenal.

However, he has not featured in one of Guardiola's matchday squads during a run of games that has included a Champions League trip to Real Madrid, the EFL Cup final and a Manchester derby.

"He is getting better week by week," the City manager said of Sane's fitness, while not ruling out the prospect of the 24-year-old featuring when his team host Arsenal in the Premier League on Wednesday.

"He is training, he is not injured. He can play. Another issue is a lack of rhythm, the tempo, the moment of the season. We are going to decide.

"But yes, he was ready weeks ago."

Guardiola again backed first-choice goalkeeper Ederson, who was culpable for both goals conceded as Manchester United claimed the local bragging rights with a 2-0 win over their neighbours at Old Trafford on Sunday.

"He's an extraordinary keeper. You and me [the reporter], we cannot make mistakes because we are sitting," he said. "The players can make mistakes wherever they want. It is how they react and he always reacts good."

Guardiola confirmed he has remained in regular contact with Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta, his former assistant who left City to take charge of the Gunners in December.

Raheem Sterling previously cited Arteta's nurturing influence as a factor in his improvement over recent seasons but Guardiola doubts the England forward's ongoing 12-match goal drought can be attributed to the ex-Everton midfielder no longer being part of the Premier League champions' coaching staff.

"You have to ask Raheem," he said. "Raheem has scored goals and is going to score goals. The talent is there.

"Of course, Mikel helped all of us as much as possible. Not just Raheem, all the players.

"My assistant coaches are free to do what they think to help the team. We try to do our best for the club we defend, and the people we work with, to do as well as possible on the pitch."

Influential duo Kevin De Bruyne (shoulder) and Aymeric Laporte (hamstring) will be assessed ahead of the Arsenal game after their absences were keenly felt last weekend.

Ilkay Gundogan insists it was wrong to award the free-kick that led to Manchester United's opening goal in the derby and has accused Bruno Fernandes of play-acting.

City midfielder Gundogan was penalised when he prodded the ball away from Fernandes while making minimal contact with the United star 29 minutes into the match at Old Trafford.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side took the lead from the resulting set-piece, Fernandes chipping a clever pass that Anthony Martial volleyed past Ederson.

United withstood City pressure in the second half before Scott McTominay pounced on another Ederson error to secure a 2-0 victory in second-half injury time.

"There was frustration about the free-kick before the goal," Gundogan admitted. "It was not a foul at all. I just touched the ball and he goes on the floor shouting.

"I don't even know if the referee saw it or just had a feeling that it was a foul. That was very disappointing for me, to be honest, because I was involved in the action and conceding the goal straight afterwards hurt very much. We tried hard after conceding the first one but it just wasn't enough."

Gundogan refused to pin blame for the defeat onto Ederson, who also nearly allowed Martial to score a second with uncharacteristically careless control.

"Eddy has been crucial in so many games for us, and he is allowed to make mistakes. Unfortunately, this time they were punished, very crucially for us," he said.

"We win together and lose together. That's why we play football; that's why we're a team. He will deal with that situation very well. He's angry, disappointed and frustrated, but it's always about how you get out of it. He has all of our support and I'm sure he will do much better in the next games."

City could not match United's intensity in the first half and were short on creativity in the absence of Kevin De Bruyne, managing only four shots on target throughout.

"It hurts a lot," said Gundogan. "Not really the result but that we didn't play our best game, especially creating in the last third. This game is always big, one of the biggest derbies in the world. That's why we wanted to perform and play well.

"United were much more aggressive, especially after scoring the first goal. They tried to press very high for 10 minutes afterwards. Missing Kevin is crucial in these kind of games.

"But we still have some very important games, big games. We play Arsenal now and Burnley. Then obviously a vital game against [Real] Madrid at home [in the Champions League] and another crucial game in the FA Cup.

"So we still have the possibility to win silverware. We will try to achieve that and do better than we did on Sunday."

Pep Guardiola backed Ederson as an exceptional goalkeeper after the Brazil international's errors led to Manchester City's 2-0 derby defeat at Manchester United.

Following a period of early control from City, Anthony Martial's volley squirmed through Ederson's grasp to give United an advantage they did not relinquish in the face of second-half pressure.

Ederson also lackadaisically missed his touch to almost allow Martial a second, and his ill-advised throw as the visitors chased an equaliser allowed Scott McTominay to seal the points in stoppage time.

"He saved one or two, so… he is an exceptional goalkeeper," Guardiola told Sky Sports after suffering a third defeat to his local rivals this term.

"I'm not here to come to judge my players if they make mistakes. It's part of the game.

"He will recover and he is an exceptional goalkeeper."

City remain 25 points shy of champions-elect Liverpool and still comfortably ensconced in the top four - a fact in itself that remains somewhat academic as their two-season ban from UEFA competition awaits an appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

This season's Champions League remains a live ambition, with a 2-1 advantage held over Real Madrid before a return last-16 encounter at the Etihad Stadium later this month, while City travel to Newcastle United in the FA Cup quarter-finals after already winning a third EFL Cup in succession.

Despite this cup-heavy feel to the season run-in, Guardiola baulked at the suggestion his team lacked motivation or underperformed in their Premier League assignment at Old Trafford.

"We played so good. Even when we win 5-0, we can play better," he added.

"The schedule we know. Liverpool are far away and we have to play the game for ourselves. Today we did it."

Two costly mistakes from Ederson handed Manchester United a derby victory over Manchester City on Sunday to put Liverpool on the brink of a first Premier League title.

Anthony Martial fired the Red Devils ahead in the first half with a shot that City's goalkeeper should probably have kept out at his near post.

United survived some heavy second-half pressure until Scott McTominay scored an injury-time second after Ederson's throw went straight to his feet.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side, beaten at home by City in their past three league meetings and the EFL Cup semi-final first leg, claimed a top-flight double over their city rivals for the first time since 2009-10 to leave the champions' title defence hanging by a thread.

Pep Guardiola's first league loss at Old Trafford brought an end to City's five-game winning run in all competitions, as United boosted their hopes of qualifying for next season's Champions League.

Claudio Bravo will start for Manchester City in the EFL Cup final against Aston Villa, with manager Pep Guardiola showing faith in Ederson's Premier League understudy for the Wembley clash.

City boss Guardiola has used 36-year-old Bravo as his goalkeeper in domestic cup competitions this season.

And the former Barcelona boss vowed he would stand by that policy for the March 1 trophy match.

The confirmation from Guardiola is sure to be warmly welcomed by Chilean Bravo, whose Premier League opportunities have been minimal since Ederson arrived at the club ahead of the 2017-18 season.

Bravo spent almost 12 months out of action because of a ruptured Achilles sustained in August 2018, so the Wembley outing will emphasise his City re-emergence and Guardiola's trust in his ability.

The ex-Barca and Real Sociedad keeper was still sidelined when City reached last season's EFL Cup final, and on that occasion Guardiola picked Ederson ahead of young Aro Muric, who had played in the earlier rounds.

"Last season I changed Ederson from Aro because we played against Chelsea," Guardiola said. "Chelsea have incredible high pressing and we needed to play for the build-up a little bit quicker and faster and better.

"And Edy was better in that moment than the young keeper Aro. Aro helped us a lot, I spoke to him before the final. But if Claudio is fit, he is going to play."

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