Pep Guardiola has warned Sergio Aguero cannot solve Manchester City's goalscoring problems on his own as the Argentina striker prepares to make his latest return from injury. 

Aguero missed the start of this season as he continued to recover after undergoing meniscus surgery in June. 

He featured in October's 1-0 win over Arsenal and scored a penalty in City's opening 3-1 Champions League victory against Porto, only to pull up with a hamstring injury at the halfway point of the club's next Premier League outing at West Ham. 

City's all-time record goalscorer remained an unused substitute as Guardiola's side went down to a 2-0 defeat at Tottenham on Saturday - a result that leaves them languishing in the bottom half of the table with 12 points and 10 goals from their eight top-flight matches so far. 

For a team that has scored 102, 95 and 106 in their past three completed league campaigns it represents a startling drop-off, with Aguero's enforced role on the periphery easy to identify as a major part of the problem. 

Since Guardiola took charge of City in 2016, Aguero has scored 78 Premier League goals, with his attacking colleagues Raheem Sterling (64) and Gabriel Jesus (43) next on the list. 

In terms of shot conversion, the trio are similar, with Aguero netting from 24.5 per cent of his attempts - a shade below Sterling on 26.2 and a touch better than Jesus (22.3). When it comes to converting those opportunities Opta classes as big chances, Jesus (36.5 per cent) is far more wasteful than Sterling (50.5) and Aguero (53.4). 

Where the one-time Atletico Madrid favourite stands apart is the frequency of his goals, which come every 107.9 minutes. Jesus' goals-per-minute reading is 131.1, with Sterling further back on 174.7.

The England winger improves to one every 152.1 minutes if counted from the beginning of the 2017-18 campaign, although Aguero’s astonishing return falls to 103.7 counting from City's "centurions" season onwards. 

"I'm not going to say that we don't need Sergio, we need him," Guardiola said of Aguero, who is out of contract at the end of the campaign. 

"But Sergio is 32 years old and was five months injured with a difficult and dangerous injury. 

"He came back, played 50 minutes [then] 55 and he was injured again. 

"We want it and I want Sergio fit. I am not discovering how important he is for us, what he has done in the Premier League. But we have to be careful to not get back again and be injured again. 

"You have to see the moment to put him [on the pitch]. Hopefully it can be soon and he can maintain the regularity to play games." 

Aguero is likely to feature during either the midweek Champions League trip to Olympiacos or Burnley's visit the Etihad Stadium next Saturday. 

A packed schedule has City in action every midweek until the end of England's festive fixture period - a situation that is far from ideal as Guardiola ponders tactical tweaks to a team that again showed familiar flaws in north London. 

"It's impossible. Impossible," he replied when asked how realistic it was to make major adjustments on the training field. 

"But all the clubs are the same - I'm not saying we are at an advantage or a disadvantage. But it is impossible. There is not time."

Manchester City are reportedly set to extend the contracts of Raheem Sterling and Gabriel Jesus as they consider another forward.

Pep Guardiola signed a two-year extension at City this week, keeping him at the Premier League giants until 2023.

And more re-signings look set to follow.

 

TOP STORY – MAN CITY SET TO OFFER NEW DEALS TO STERLING, JESUS

Manchester City are set to offer Raheem Sterling a new deal, according to the Mirror.

Sterling, 25, is contracted at City until 2023, but the club are hopeful he will renew on improved terms.

Also under contract until 2023, Jesus is set for a bumper new deal, the Daily Star reports.

 

ROUND-UP

- Staying at Manchester City and Pep Guardiola is considering Benfica and Uruguay forward Darwin Nunez as a successor to Sergio Aguero, according to The Telegraph. Aguero is out of contract at the end of the season.

- Also coming out of contract at the end of the campaign is Liverpool midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum. Corriere dello Sport says Inter are eyeing the midfielder in January, while the Serie A giants are also looking at Udinese star Rodrigo De Paul as they consider selling Christian Eriksen.

- As Olivier Giroud struggles for game time at Chelsea, the striker is linked with a move. The Mirror says David Beckham's Inter Miami are considering making an offer for the France international in January.

- Yet to play in the Premier League this season, Dean Henderson may look to leave Manchester United. The Sun reports the goalkeeper wants a January loan move to boost his chances of keeping his spot in England's squad for next year's European Championship. It says Leeds United and Brighton and Hove Albion are interested.

- Another Manchester United goalkeeper seeking an exit is Sergio Romero. The Mirror reports United are prepared to accept £2.5million for Romero in January, having wanted double that during the close season.

Kevin De Bruyne claimed he is baffled by the current interpretation of the handball rule after Manchester City once again fell foul of VAR against Tottenham.

Spurs dug in for a 2-0 win thanks to goals in each half from Son Heung-min and substitute Giovani Lo Celso, moving them to the top of the Premier League table after a performance which delighted boss Jose Mourinho.

By contrast, Mourinho's old rival Pep Guardiola finds his side languishing in 10th with 12 points from eight matches, although they were entitled to be frustrated when a marginal handball call went against Gabriel Jesus when he set up Aymeric Laporte for what briefly looked to be a first-half equaliser.

Referee Mike Dean consulted the pitchside monitor, with the replay showing the ball brushed Jesus' bicep on the hem of his shirt sleeve.

The latest guidance on handball from the International Football Association Board (IFAB) stipulates the "T-shirt line" should be used to differentiate between where the shoulder ends and the arm begins in terms of legal and illegal playing of the ball.

"I don't know the rules anymore honestly," De Bruyne told Sky Sports, with the same combination of Laporte and Jesus denied by VAR when the sides drew 2-2 at the Etihad Stadium last season – a match that followed the remarkable drama of the sides' 2019 Champions League quarter-final.

"I thought if it's above the arm here [above the bottom of the sleeve] that it’s not handball anymore.

"Everybody knows that it hits him here. I don’t know the rules.

"If you will listen tomorrow or the day after they will come on whatever channel and the referee will say it's a good decision, so it really doesn't matter.

"I've been playing professional football for 12 years and in the first nine years there were no rule changes. Now there are a lot of rule changes.

"I don't know why. Football is a nice game. The people making the rule changes need to be in the game."

Another familiar aspect of City's performance was combining a dominance of possession with a lack of cutting edge in attack and defensive fragility.

The visitors had 22 shots, with half of those blocked, to Tottenham's four. Son's goal was Spurs' only attempt of the first half and City had accounted for 66.4 per cent of possession by full-time.

Guardiola highlighted Laporte's decision to charge out of the defensive line to challenge Harry Kane in the build-up to an opening goal when Rodri and Joao Cancelo also appeared culpable, but De Bruyne believes he and his attacking colleagues must take a significant share of the blame.

"I think we played well but we missed that cutting edge," he said.

"To keep Tottenham to about three or four chances, that's quite good. But if you're not sharp enough in front of goal, which is happening lately, it's not enough."

Jesus and fellow striker Sergio Aguero have spent time on the sidelines this season, with the latter on the bench in north London alongside Raheem Sterling, who suffered an injury while on England duty.

"Obviously it's been up and down with the players going in and out," De Bruyne added. "It's very difficult for players to come back from injury and be sharp. It's difficult to find consistency.

"I think the first two thirds of the pitch we played well, but the end needs to be sharper. That will come, hopefully sooner than later."

International football is largely over for 2020 and the Premier League is returning for the run-up to Christmas.

The next five weeks are jam-packed with action both domestically and in Europe, and hitting the ground running this weekend could give plenty of sides a timely boost.

If you're getting that fantasy team primed once more, cast your eye over our Opta-powered top tips...

 

EDOUARD MENDY

Chelsea goalkeeper Edouard Mendy finally conceded a goal in the Premier League in his last appearance, although the Blues still recovered to beat Sheffield United 4-1.

There's no reason to lose faith in the Senegal international ahead of the visit to Newcastle United this weekend.

In fact, Mendy has saved six of the seven shots on target he has faced in England's top flight, giving him a save percentage of 85.7. No keeper in the division can boast such a figure this season.

 

BEN CHILWELL

Chelsea's new-found stability means filling the backline with Blues defenders is no longer a risk to your fantasy success.

Of course, Ben Chilwell is someone who can provide plenty of points regardless of doing any actual defending.

He has been directly involved in four goals (two scored, two assisted) in five league games this season, more than any other defender.

AARON CRESSWELL

However, the prize for 2020-21's most creative defender goes to West Ham's Aaron Cresswell.

His three assists and 17 chances created are the top figures in the competition among defenders and he has been a part of three clean sheets to boot.

With the Hammers facing struggling Sheffield United this weekend, Cresswell is well worth considering.

 

JACK GREALISH

Now that doubts about his place in the England team appear well and truly dismissed, Jack Grealish can focus on the more improbable task of keeping Aston Villa in the race for Europe.

Only Harry Kane (eight) has more assists this term than Grealish (five), and only Mohamed Salah (20) has created more chances from open play (17). The Liverpool star is also the only player with more touches in the opposition box (85) than the Villa captain (70).

What's more, Grealish has scored in each of his past four appearances in all competitions against Brighton and Hove Albion, including in all three meetings last season. They are his favourite opposition.

WILFRIED ZAHA

Crystal Palace's four wins from their first eight games owes much to the form of Wilfried Zaha.

With five goals and two assists, he has already equalled the number of goal involvements that he managed in 38 league games in 2019-20.

Palace face winless Burnley on Monday.

 

GABRIEL JESUS

No Sergio Aguero? No problem. Gabriel Jesus has been involved in 11 goals in his past 11 matches in all competitions (eight scored, three assisted).

The Brazil striker has also scored in each of his previous three games and will look to stretch that run to four for the first time since April 2018 when Manchester City face Tottenham.

 

PATRICK BAMFORD

Only four players have scored more goals in the Premier League this season than Patrick Bamford - and they are only one ahead of the Leeds United striker.

Bamford has hit seven in his eight league games in 2020-21, a scoring run not seen at the club since the days that Mark Viduka graced Elland Road (he managed nine in his first eight appearances).

Given Arsenal's inconsistencies, there is every chance Bamford will pick up where he left off prior to the international break.

Neymar will not recover from injury in time to face Uruguay in Brazil's second 2022 World Cup qualifier.

The Selecao number 10 was called up by his country despite missing Paris Saint-Germain's past three matches with a groin strain.

Brazil face Venezuela on Friday, a game Neymar was already expected to miss, and then visit Uruguay on Tuesday.

They will again be without their talisman for that match, as team doctor Rodrigo Lasmar explained.

"We were hopeful that he could play," he said. "That's why we brought him to Brazil.

"He has improved but not enough so that he'll be ready for the game on Tuesday against Uruguay. We have decided to release Neymar."

Brazil have won both of their two fixtures so far in the qualifying campaign, with Neymar hitting a hat-trick last time out against Peru.

Gabriel Jesus wants Brazil to again prove they can win without Neymar after it was confirmed their talisman would miss the 2022 World Cup qualifier against Venezuela.

Selecao number 10 Neymar is struggling with a groin strain, missing Paris Saint-Germain's past three matches in all competitions – including a Champions League defeat to RB Leipzig.

Brazil are just as reliant on the 28-year-old as his club, with their remarkable semi-final collapse against Germany at a home World Cup in 2014 coming after he was injured in the last eight.

But Tite's men were also without Neymar for last year's Copa America, a competition they won, and Jesus does not believe his side can go looking for excuses.

"Obviously we talk about the importance of Neymar with his club and for our team, how much he has given and gives every day," the Manchester City forward said. "I'm a big fan.

"But when it comes to the national team, everyone has to share the responsibility, it can't just fall on him. Everyone is here for a reason.

"With Neymar, we were closer to victory, but the Selecao demonstrated that they can play without him.

"We always want him to be available, as he scores, assists. But if he can't play, while we know his importance, we have to share the responsibility.

"Whoever is here has the quality to make the Selecao win."

Jesus, who both scored and was sent off in the Copa America final, is determined to play his part, having missed the previous international break through injury.

"Even as a young man, I have a certain history here and I am happy to wear this shirt that I always dreamed of," he said.

"And whenever there is a call-up, it is the same party as always; I look, I hear my name and I am moved.

"I always want to come and help, and this time I came with 100 per cent focus to be able to help."

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola insists he is "happier than ever" with a start to the season that leaves his team 10th in the Premier League after seven matches.

Gabriel Jesus cancelled out Mohamed Salah's early penalty to claim a 1-1 draw against champions Liverpool in a compelling Etihad Stadium encounter on Sunday.

Kevin De Bruyne dragged his own spot kick wide, meaning City had to be content with a share of the spoils domestically for a third time this season, giving them a haul of 12 points from a possible 24.

However, Guardiola seems keen to look at the bigger picture of a three wins out of three in the Champions League, progress to the quarter-finals of the EFL Cup and a solitary, if chastening 5-2 defeat to table-topping Leicester City back on September.

Asked whether he was happy at a post-match news conference, Guardiola replied: "A lot. Maybe more happier than ever.

"In 12 games we lost one in all competitions because [against Leicester] we conceded three penalties.

"Still we didn't learn. Hopefully it is the last time we give the opponents a penalty like this.

"But [I am happy] a lot. I see the situation every day with the players in the locker room, that's why.

"Hopefully the international players come back safe with no injuries and we can continue."

City's attack has fallen way short of their usually prolific standards so far this term, with injuries to strikers Sergio Aguero and Jesus a key factor.

However, the Brazil international now has three goals in as many outings this term, with his wonderfully taken equaliser following an emphatic strike in the 3-0 midweek win over Olympiacos.

"He was really good," Guardiola said. "I didn't expect he could sustain 90 minutes but he did it.

His physicality and rhythm is so strong.

"He helped us, he scored a fantastic goal - the goal of a striker. Good for him."

City return to Premier League action after the international break with a trip to Tottenham, who are five points better off than them in second having played a game more.

Jurgen Klopp's bold team selection for Liverpool's 1-1 draw at Manchester City heightened the feeling of a changed dynamic within the rivalry that has come to define the present era in English football and its two main tactical protagonists.

Pep Guardiola has run through a range of configurations during his City tenure when confronted by the man with whom he began a compelling duel in their Bundesliga days.

Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund first placed the high priests of juego de posicion and gegenpressing in direct competition, the two strategic approaches that still dominate elite European football.

According to positional data collected by Opta, in each of his previous 11 encounters with Guardiola in England, Klopp wheeled out his trusty 4-3-3 - high intensity, high pressing and highly successful.

But prolific Anfield newboy Diogo Jota presented a conundrum. A midweek hat-trick against Atalanta made the Portugal forward hard to leave out, even if it meant breaking up the esteemed from three of Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino.

Easy. Just play all four of them.

Salah reaps rewards for flying start

Klopp's call soon appeared as calculated on the sodden Manchester turf as it had cavalier on paper.

The equation weighed up by the Liverpool boss was a City defence buoyed by three consecutive clean sheets but unproven under prolonged scrutiny was worth the risk of a thorough examination.

City are not the free-scoring machine of their 100-point season in 2017-18 or the titanic tussle with Liverpool over the subsequent 12 months. In the first seven games of this Premier League season, City have scored only 10 times - 17 fewer than at the same stage last season. Before Sunday's match, their xG per game figure of 1.3 was their lowest in the competition since Opta began putting together such data in 2013-14.

The Reds were relentless early on, skidding balls in behind City's defensive line. The presence of a front four did not dissuade full-backs Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson from their usual raids.

While 51.8 per cent of City's first-half attacks came down the left flank where Raheem Sterling roved with intent against his former employers, Liverpool's assaults were split more or less evenly across the right, left and central channels.

Kyle Walker's clumsy foul on Mane for Salah's opening penalty was the culmination of an opening 13 minutes under siege.

Roads to Rodri closed off

The escape route Guardiola mapped out for his men was blocked off, with Salah and Firmino allowing central defenders Aymeric Laporte and Ruben Dias to have possession, while blocking off passes to holding midfielder Rodri.

The Spain international was named man of the match for a robust showing against Sheffield United last weekend but he toiled badly here. He won one of seven duels and a pass completion rate of 83.6 per cent dropped to 72 per cent in the opposition half, meaning he fulfilled neither of his briefs to provide protection and control.

Even for the most part of his eight career losses to Klopp - more than he has suffered to any other coach - the sense has been of Guardiola setting the terms of engagement. That was not the case here, but a City side in transition have shown they can operate in a more circumspect manner in recent weeks.

The space Klopp afforded to Kevin De Bruyne allowed the master playmaker to arrow a pass into the feet of Gabriel Jesus, whose Dennis Bergkamp impression illuminated a dank evening and lifted City.

De Bruyne's searching cross met Joe Gomez's elbow to earn a penalty that was nowhere near as accurate.

It was a glaring miss Guardiola would be left to rue after a Jesus header was the closest either side came in a second half of few chances.

A 1-1 draw where adrenaline gave way to attrition leaves City 11th after seven matches, but with a game in hand on Liverpool, five points better off in third.

Laporte and Dias taking City back to basics

Sections of the City fanbase have complained over Guardiola's failure to unleash a talent-stacked team as he once did. But without David Silva's quicksilver creativity and Leroy Sane's explosive wing-play - two world-class talents who loved these games - they are a different beast. Seven shots was their lowest in a Premier League fixture at the Etihad Stadium since February 2010, also against Liverpool

The teeth may not be so sharp, but there is added streetwise bulk. A combined outlay in the region of £120million means Laporte and Dias should provide reassurance, but plenty of City's other high-profile buys at centre-back confirm price tags are not guarantees.

After that rocky opening, they shut Liverpool down impressively. Laporte's four clearances were more than any other player on display, he and Dias won all of their aerial duels and the Portugal defender completed 93.7 per cent of his passes.

While Rodri and Ilkay Gundogan could not provide the requisite control in front of them, losing possession 25 times between them, Laporte and Dias brought the steel.

If Klopp's team selection on Sunday suggested a return to the heavy metal football on which he turned down the volume on to achieve greater clarity, Guardiola showed further evidence of a growing pragmatic streak. Following the 5-2 loss to Leicester City, his team have scored once in each of their subsequent Premier League games.

As the quality and entertainment waned after the break, it occurred that grinding rather than flying to wins might have be the way to go as a compelling rivalry shifts its shape again in this strangest of seasons.

Jordan Henderson has questioned the "harsh" penalty call that went against Liverpool in their 1-1 draw with Manchester City and says his side have to be happy with a point.

City were awarded a penalty after Kevin De Bruyne's cross hit Joe Gomez on the arm, with referee Craig Pawson pointing to the spot after a lengthy wait that involved him checking the pitchside monitor.

However, De Bruyne was unable to convert from 12 yards - the first time a player has missed the target entirely from the spot in a Premier League game since City's Riyad Mahrez against Liverpool in October 2018.

It was the second controversial penalty call of the day after Max Kilman was penalised for handling Dennis Praet's cross in Leicester City's 1-0 win over Wolves.

And while Henderson understands why City were given a penalty, he does not agree with the current handball laws.

"People will say I am biased because it is against us, but I saw one similar in the Leicester game as well," he told Sky Sports. "Joe is running back to his own goal, where is he going to put his arms? 

"I think it is so difficult for defenders. I felt it was harsh, but they have been pretty consistent. In the Leicester game they gave it and they gave it [for Man City] but for us as players I think it is harsh.

"Hopefully the refs can look at it. They shouldn't have been given in both games."

Gomez was equally frustrated at the decision, arguing that he had no chance of moving his arm away from the ball.

"On a personal note, it's frustrating," he said. "I think everyone knows the power that Kevin De Bruyne can hit the ball with. 

"In that moment, I'm just running towards goal. I'm not going to run with my hands behind my back and I'm not going to dispute the ball hitting my hand, but I've not made an attempt to try and handle it. 

"Then it's frustrating when the referee goes over and looks in slow motion at something that has happened in real time when De Bruyne has hit the ball as hard as he has. 

"I've got to accept his decision, but I think there are enough conversations going on around that rule at the minute. 

"You have to look at the scenario with some common sense and just think, what could I have done?"

Mohamed Salah had earlier fired Liverpool ahead from the penalty spot after Kyle Walker lunged in on Sadio Mane, but Gabriel Jesus equalised 18 minutes later in a high-quality first half.

The second period was less eventful, with the sides managing just one shot on target between them compared to four in the first half, and neither team managed to sneak a victory.

The draw ultimately suits Liverpool more than City, keeping the champions five points in front of their opponents having played one game more.

City failed to register a shot on target after Jesus' leveller and had just seven shots overall, which is their lowest in a league game on home soil since February 2010 - also against Liverpool (five).

And Jesus, who has now scored in three successive games for City, concedes it feels like an opportunity missed for his side to close the gap.

"Both teams wanted to win. Sometimes when it's like this you have to control the ball more," he said. "We have to keep playing like this and try to convert the chances.

"We played at home and we have to win the games here. The result is not good for us and maybe it's good for them."

Kevin De Bruyne's missed penalty proved costly for Manchester City as they played out an engrossing 1-1 draw with Liverpool at the Etihad Stadium. 

Mohamed Salah did convert a 13th-minute spot-kick as the reigning Premier League champions struck the first blow in the heavyweight top-flight tussle, putting them on course to sit top of the table during November's international break. 

City, however, weathered the early storm amid the Manchester downpours before countering impressively through Gabriel Jesus, his sixth goal in his past seven league outings. 

They could have scored again before half-time had the usually reliable De Bruyne not failed to convert from 12 yards out, the Belgian missing the target completely after another penalty was awarded for handball.

The majority of the pre-match focus had been on Jurgen Klopp's team selection, though the German solved the selection poser involving Diogo Jota and Roberto Firmino by picking both, seemingly deciding attack to be the best form of defence for his team following previous results in this fixture. 

The bold approach reaped an early reward, albeit one gifted to them by Kyle Walker's ill-timed lunge on Sadio Mane. Salah duly slotted home from the spot for his eighth league goal of the season. 

Aggrieved following a potential foul on Raheem Sterling at the other end prior to the opener, City took their time to get to grips with Liverpool's attacking system.

De Bruyne's ability to find a pocket of space allowed him to set up the equaliser for Jesus, the Brazilian's turn deceiving Trent Alexander-Arnold and allowing him to poke the ball beyond Alisson. 

City had the chance to take the lead before the break. Joe Gomez was punished when a cross struck his outstretched arm, only for De Bruyne to uncharacteristically drag wide.

Jesus spurned a glorious opportunity of his own, heading Joao Cancelo's inviting cross wide, during a second half that saw a more considered approach from both sets of players.

Liverpool faded as an attacking threat as the minutes ticked by, not aided by the loss of Alexander-Arnold to injury, but avoided suffering any late knockout blow, thereby maintaining the five-point gap between themselves and City.

Diogo Jota joined Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah in a four-pronged Liverpool attack to take on Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium.

Jota has enjoyed an impressive start to life with the Premier League champions since joining from Wolves, scoring seven goals in 10 appearances across all competitions.

The Portugal international netted a hat-trick in the 5-0 midweek demolition of Atalanta in the Champions League, when Firmino had to be content with a place on the bench.

Jurgen Klopp recalled the centre-forward, whose Brazil team-mate Gabriel Jesus was named to lead the City attack for the first time since suffering an injury in their opening Premier League win at Wolves.

Jesus was on target when he came on in Tuesday's 3-0 victory against Olympiacos, when Ferran Torres scored his third goal in as many Champions League outings.

The Spain youngster completed City's forward trident alongside Jesus and Raheem Sterling, with Phil Foden and Bernardo Silva among the substitutes, where there was no place for Riyad Mahrez.

Liverpool knew victory would send them back to the top of the table and open up an eight-point advantage over City, who have played a game less.

Nevertheless, Klopp's men have struggled in this fixture, losing on each of their past three league trips to east Manchester – results that tally to a cumulative scoreline of 11-1.

When you are taking on the Premier League champions, being without your all-time leading goalscorer is a frustrating situation to find yourself in. Imagine if his usual back-up was only just returning from injury as well…

Such circumstances are certainly not ideal, and they have befallen Pep Guardiola as Manchester City prepare to host Liverpool in a clash of the two Premier League title favourites at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday.

Sergio Aguero will not be ready to return from the hamstring injury that has kept him out of action since the 1-1 draw with West Ham two weeks ago, while Gabriel Jesus only came back from six weeks out on Tuesday – though he did manage to score in his 21 minutes on the pitch during a 3-0 victory over Olympiacos in the Champions League.

There is every chance Jesus could be moved into the starting line-up, but Guardiola may be unwilling to take a risk with no let-up in the schedule after an international break that the 23-year-old will spend with the Brazil squad.

The new alternative

Guardiola may simply decide to keep using Ferran Torres, who typically plays as a winger, through the middle.

Torres has been deployed there since Aguero's injury and has proved adept in the role. He has scored two goals in the three matches he has started as a striker, though he has only converted 50 per cent of his big chances after missing two in the 1-0 victory over Sheffield United last week.

Playing him in a central role has not entirely stymied his creativity either, with the Spaniard supplying five key passes despite the change of position. His touches in the opposition box per 90 minutes has remained steady as well at around seven.

Another option

City typically dominate possession in Premier League matches, but they can expect Liverpool to have a greater share of the ball than most of their opponents do.

Since the start of last season, Raheem Sterling has averaged 3.1 shots and 0.5 goals per 90 minutes against Premier League opponents that had less than 40 per cent possession.

However, when the opposition have enjoyed more than that amount, his shots and goals per game rise to 3.3 and 1.0 respectively.

While his goals per game rate doubles against teams that have over 40 per cent of possession, Sterling's expected goals (xG) average only narrowly increases from 0.5 to 0.6, suggesting he has just had better days against opponents that see more of the ball.

Is it enough?

Playing Sterling or Torres as a central striker could perhaps therefore help Guardiola get the better of Klopp, someone he typically struggles against more than his other contemporaries.

The German has claimed more victories over Guardiola than any other manager, triumphing in eight of their previous 19 encounters for a win rate of 37 per cent.

Jose Mourinho (five) is the only other coach to have beaten the Catalan on more than three occasions.

Taking bad shots

It will likely take more than just playing a winger as a striker for City to get the better of Liverpool, though.

City are only averaging two shots per game fewer than they have over the course of the previous four Premier League seasons combined, but their shot conversion rate is down at 9.4 – comfortably their worst percentage of the Guardiola era. Their previous low is 12.6 and was set in Guardiola's first season at the helm, while in 2017-18 they were converting 15.9 per cent of their shots.

Part of the reason for this could be that City are taking lower quality shots this season. Their average xG per shot is 0.08, with Wolves (0.07) and West Brom (0.05) the only teams in the league possessing a lower score.

A tough proposition

There is no guarantee they will find life easier against Liverpool this season, even with Joe Gomez being the only regular first-team centre-back available to Jurgen Klopp amid injuries to Virgil van Dijk, Joel Matip and Fabinho.

The Reds have maintained the same intensity when defending as they showed last season; they have increased their average high turnovers per game from 6.6 to 9.4, narrowly raised the number of pressed sequences – which is when the opposition have three or fewer passes in a sequence that stops within 40 metres of their own goal – from 17.8 to 18.7 and continued to limit opponents to 10 passes per defensive action.

It is Liverpool. It is Jurgen Klopp. It is the champions. It is the leaders. It will be a difficult assignment for Guardiola however he approaches the game, but it could be worse than having to play Torres or Sterling as a striker.

Pep Guardiola was delighted to see Gabriel Jesus make a goalscoring return in Manchester City's win over Olympiacos.

Jesus came off the bench for his first appearance since September, scoring in the 3-0 Champions League victory on Tuesday.

The Brazil forward has been directly involved in nine goals (six goals and three assists) in his past seven appearances in the Champions League.

Guardiola, whose side host champions Liverpool in the Premier League on Sunday, was happy to have the 23-year-old back.

"It was important of course. The fact that Gabriel is back is so important for us and good news, especially for the striker to score a goal, a brilliant goal that he scored," the City manager told a news conference.

"There were good things, I'm delighted with most parts of the game and happy that Gabriel is back."

While City top Group C with nine points from three games, they are 10th in the Premier League ahead of a blockbuster clash with Liverpool.

But with City now unbeaten in eight games in all competitions, Guardiola said he was pleased with where his team were at.

"It is what it is. It's well. I'm delighted to face [Liverpool] with the situation that we have. We struggled in the beginning, the people know it," he said.

"But we move forward, we dropped some points, especially with West Ham we didn't expect it. The rest maybe we deserved it. But it's still just six or seven games in the Premier League. We have a lot of games to play.

"We have one game left [before international break] so now is time to enjoy tonight. I want to think about the game today, tonight, nine points and tomorrow is recovery. And in the layover we are going to prepare the training sessions for two days before Liverpool."

John Stones had an "almost perfect" performance as he made his first start for Manchester City in over a month, according to Pep Guardiola.

Stones partnered Nathan Ake in the centre of defence as City beat Olympiacos 3-0 at the Etihad Stadium to make it three wins from three Champions League group games this season.

Guardiola's men restricted the Greek champions to a solitary shot on target on a night when goals from Ferran Torres, Gabriel Jesus and Joao Cancelo helped City earn a comfortable three points, and Stone's display on his full return to the side delighted his coach.

"Last season we did not have enough players for competitions when we had a nightmare with injuries," Guardiola told BT Sport.

"It was really good, especially Nathan for the beginning and from John. He's back at his level with an incredible performance – almost perfect – and it is not easy when you are a long time without playing.

"I am so delighted for his mentality, he played really good."

Guardiola also welcomed the return of Jesus, who made only his second City appearance of the season when he came on as a second-half substitute.

The 23-year-old Brazil international scored within 12 minutes of his introduction to double City's lead – an intervention Guardiola picked out as the key moment of the game.

"[We were] exceptional first half, unfortunately we could not finish with more goals because we played really well," said Guardiola.

"In the second half we struggled for some moments but when we scored the second one the game was over. We struggled a bit to find the second goal but finally with an incredible goal from Gabriel and then from Joao, we finished the game.

"In general it's good news for him and for us that Gabriel is back. It was a real solid performance, especially in the first half, and the reason why we struggled a little bit is because we could not score the second one."

Looking ahead to his side's clash with Premier League champions Liverpool at Etihad Stadium on Sunday, Guardiola added: "Now it's good, we have finally four or five days to recover well and prepare for Liverpool and the international break, and focus on the Premier League."

Ferran Torres became the third-youngest player in Champions League history to score in four consecutive appearances as he helped Manchester City to a third straight win in this season's competition, a 3-0 success over Olympiacos.

Kylian Mbappe and Erling Haaland are the only players to have netted in four games in a row at a younger age than 20-year-old Spain international Torres, who scored in the 12th minute, adding to his strikes against Porto and Marseille for City this term and against Atalanta for Valencia last season.

City went into this game unbeaten in seven matches in all competitions and could have been out of sight by the time the Greek champions began to put them under pressure in the second half.

But substitutes Gabriel Jesus and Joao Cancelo scored late on to clinch a result that extends City's group stage streak to 14 games without defeat, and manager Pep Guardiola will be pleased with their form as he aims to take City beyond the quarter-finals for the first time in his reign.

Torres met a City corner with a sublime backheeled shot that flew narrowly wide after six minutes.

City's recent signing went one better six minutes later, playing a one-two with Kevin De Bruyne before sliding a low shot through the legs of goalkeeper Jose Sa to put the hosts in front.

Guardiola's men continued to create the better chances and Raheem Sterling put the ball in the net, only to have his close-range effort ruled out for offside.

A poor pass by Phil Foden afforded Mathieu Valbuena a shot at goal early in the second half but he fired narrowly wide under pressure from John Stones.

Youssef El-Arabi tested Ederson with a shot from just inside the box as City found themselves pinned back again, and Jose Holebas later blazed wide.

But De Bruyne played in Jesus nine minutes from time and the Brazilian lashed the ball home from an acute angle, before Cancelo's carefully placed shot found the bottom corner from just outside the box to wrap up the win.
 

What does it mean? Torres filling Aguero's boots

With Sergio Aguero injured, Torres has staked his claim playing as a centre-forward, with three goals in three Champions League appearances for City.

De Bruyne the creator

Only Kylian Mbappe (15) has made more assists than De Bruyne (14) in the Champions League since the start of the 2017-18 season and the Belgium international fed City's forwards from the first whistle here.

Toothless Olympiacos toil again

Olympiacos have just one goal to show for their efforts in three Champions League games this season and wasteful finishing ensured they scored from none of their six shots on goal here.

What's next?

City face Premier League champions Liverpool at home on Sunday, while Olympiacos are away against struggling OFI in the Greek Super League 1 on the same day.

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