Zack Steffen will make his Premier League debut for depleted Manchester City as their clash with Chelsea goes ahead despite a coronavirus outbreak.

Pep Guardiola is without six players for Sunday's trip to Stamford Bridge, with the club's squad badly affected by COVID-19.

Eric Garcia was the latest to test positive on the day of the game, though the Spaniard was due to miss out through injury anyway.

Kyle Walker and Gabriel Jesus were confirmed to have the virus on Christmas Day, though Guardiola did not reveal the identities of the others to have returned positive tests.

But goalkeeper Ederson did confirm he is self-isolating, meaning 25-year-old United States international Steffen was picked to start between the posts, wirth Scott Carson as back-up.

Steffen signed for City in 2019 but spent last season on loan at Fortuna Dusseldorf, meaning the game at Stamford Bridge is to be his Premier League bow, his four previous appearances this term coming in the EFL Cup and Champions League.

Benjamin Mendy has been picked among the substitutes despite being found in breach of social distancing rules on New Year's Eve, while Ferran Torres is absent from the visitors' travelling party.

Although Frank Lampard revealed on Friday that two Chelsea staff members had contracted coronavirus, their squad remains unaffected.

Lampard also played down the idea of Hakim Ziyech starting against City after an injury absence, however, the Morocco star was named in Chelsea's line-up.

Timo Werner also returns to the starting XI after being dropped for the 1-1 draw with Aston Villa.

Kai Havertz remains among the substitutes.

Manchester City goalkeeper Ederson has backed calls for concussion substitutions in football following the injuries to Wolves striker Raul Jimenez and Arsenal's David Luiz.

Jimenez suffered a fractured skull after a clash of heads with David Luiz in the first half of his side's 2-1 Premier League win at Emirates Stadium on Sunday.

The Mexico international required lengthy medical attention and oxygen before being carried off on a stretcher and taken to hospital, where he is recovering.

David Luiz continued playing after having his head bandaged, but the defender was substituted at half-time after his cut began to bleed again.

The incident has amplified focus on the risk of lasting head trauma to footballers amid a campaign in England for the game's authorities to take greater steps to reduce the danger of later-life health problems such as dementia.

While Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta insisted David Luiz was cleared to continue after adhering to concussion protocols, Alan Shearer, the Premier League's record goalscorer, insisted more must be done to safeguard players from serious head injury.

"Football needs to get real, it needs to wake up, it needs to get serious. Not next year, next month, now. It is not acceptable, it has been going too far too long," Shearer, who has previously presented a documentary on dementia, said on BBC's Match of the Day.

Ederson, a former team-mate of Jimenez at Benfica, told reporters on Monday: "I was very worried. I was watching the game. It was an accidental clash, head to head but very difficult.

"All the concern and all the care at the moment is very important. It is a part of the body that is very fragile and needs special attention, I agree when there is a blow to the head there should be a substitution whether the player can continue or not because you might be feeling okay because you're warmed up, but after the game you could feel the consequences.

"It is something we cannot change, it is accidental. It wasn't an intentional blow they just went to compete for the ball, but we know the risks of a head injury. I hope he recovers quickly and will be back as soon as possible."

City face Porto in the Champions League on Tuesday.

Ederson will start Brazil's World Cup qualifier against Venezuela, while Gabriel Menino has been cut from the squad after testing positive for COVID-19.

Tite picked Weverton as his goalkeeper for the opening two qualifiers against Bolivia and Peru, with Ederson an unused substitute as Alisson missed out due to a shoulder injury.

Alisson returned to the squad for Friday's meeting with Venezuela and Tuesday's clash with Uruguay, but it is the Manchester City keeper who has got the nod from Tite.

"We have three great goalkeepers. Weverton played last time and comes in after a good sequence at Palmeiras. He played two very good games," said Tite.

"I spoke with the three of them personally, together with [goalkeeper coach Claudio] Taffarel. Alisson is an excellent goalkeeper. We have Ederson, who is experiencing a great technical and physical moment."

Tite also confirmed there will be starts for Allan, Everton Ribeiro and Gabriel Jesus, with Casemiro and Philippe Coutinho not in the squad due to coronavirus and injury respectively. Neymar, meanwhile, is being rested in the hope he can recover from a left leg issue to feature in Uruguay.

The Brazil boss is set to have one fewer option at right-back, however, after Menino was found to have contracted COVID-19, despite testing negative upon his arrival at the Granja Comary base on Monday.

"In the tests carried out yesterday, Gabriel Menino tested positive for COVID-19. All other players in the group tested negative," Brazil doctor Rodrigo Lasmar explained.

"It is important to note that, on Monday, when the players arrived, all members of the delegation were tested and the results were negative.

"We have already informed the medical department of Palmeiras. The player is asymptomatic, is already isolated and has been cut from the squad.

"All protective measures are being taken. We will perform a new round of tests before our trip to Uruguay, after the game [against Venezuela]."

Menino has played the bulk of the 2020 Campeonato Brasileiro season as a central midfielder and leads Palmeiras in terms of assists (three), duels won (91) and touches (920).

The 20-year-old has made 286 successful passes in the opposition half – the second most among his team-mates – and ranks third at Palmeiras in terms of dribbles completed (22) and tackles (34) this term.

Head coach Tite insisted there is no barrier to Brazil taking the field to face Venezuela and he is unsure whether a replacement for Menino will be drafted in.

Tite said: "The doctor will speed up the other tests. In the meantime there is no problem for us to play. Roughly speaking, the information given to us – for all players and coaching staff – was that.

"These are challenges that all national teams have faced. The selection had a greater number than are actually here, either due to injury to the COVID-19 problem.

"But opportunities arise. Pedro was called up … but there are also other opportunities for high-level players to come and show themselves.

"The first reaction was to say: 'Man, what a pity for Gabriel Menino, and we are all at risk.' The pandemic is not over. That is not an opinion, it is fact. We have to be very careful."

Ederson has rejected the criticism aimed at Jordan Pickford after the Everton goalkeeper's rash challenge on Virgil van Dijk left the Liverpool defender with a serious knee injury. 

England's number one clattered into the Dutchman in the early stages of last month's Merseyside derby, with Van Dijk subsequently undergoing surgery as he faces up to a prolonged spell on the sidelines. 

Pickford – who was left out by Carlo Ancelotti for the Toffees' loss to Newcastle United last time out – has come under fire from many quarters, but Manchester City goalkeeper Ederson has sympathy for the 26-year-old. 

Speaking ahead of City's crunch clash with Premier League champions Liverpool on Sunday, Ederson said: "First and foremost, I don't think any player steps on the pitch looking to injure an opponent. Sometimes you have a fraction of a second to make a decision.

"Unfortunately, Jordan Pickford had that clash with Van Dijk and it ended up resulting in a serious injury. That's part of football; sometimes it happens.  

"It could happen to any of us. I don't think it was Pickford's intention to injure Van Dijk and in the same way I don't think it was [Sadio] Mane's intention to do that when he clashed with me in our game a few years ago. 

"You have such a short time to make a decision and it could happen to any of us." 

Van Dijk's absence is undoubtedly a boost for City's prospects at the Etihad Stadium this weekend, with Fabinho also set to miss out for the visitors. 

But Brazil international Ederson knows Jurgen Klopp's side will still carry a threat as City seek a fourth consecutive home league win over the Reds for the first time since 1937. 

"Their best centre-back, Van Dijk, is out," he said. "Fabinho has been playing really well this season and he's out too. But we mustn't forget that Liverpool still have great players. 

"Their absences aren't going to be a big disadvantage for them or a big advantage for us. We don't focus on the players that aren't going to play, or a specific absence, we focus on Liverpool as a whole team."

The match will see Ederson come up against a familiar face, with compatriot Alisson in between the posts at the other end. Despite competing for a starting spot for their country, the two are friends. 

“I have a good friendship with Alisson. He is an incredible guy," he said. "Our rivalry is only on the pitch, off the pitch that doesn't exist. We are good friends. 

"I hope we both can have a good game on Sunday. Our style is very similar. Perhaps I play more with my feet, but so does he. 

"Liverpool have more or less the same style of play and he is an incredible goalkeeper." 

Alisson faces a tough task, with Liverpool having failed to keep a clean sheet in any of their past 10 away league games against City, conceding 26 goals in that run. 

City, who are looking to win back-to-back top-flight games for the first time this season, have been victorious in nine of the their past 10 Premier League games against the team who were reigning champions.

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.

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