Leicester City boss Brendan Rodgers insisted his side were denied a "clear penalty" in Saturday's 1-0 defeat to Manchester City at the King Power Stadium.

The hosts had a couple of appeals turned down in the first half for Ederson's challenge on Kelechi Iheanacho and a possible handball against Kevin De Bruyne.

Whereas De Bruyne got away with blocking James Maddison's free-kick with his arm, the officials pointed to the spot at the other end for a similar incident involving Dennis Praet.

Rodgers agreed referee Paul Tierney was right to award the visitors a penalty, which Sergio Aguero failed to convert, but felt Leicester should also have been given one of their own.

"[Praet] has gone to block it and it's a penalty - we accept that. But you hope you get them for you as well," he told Sky Sports.

"But we're disappointed we didn't get a penalty - it's so clear. I felt it was the reason VAR was brought in. 

"The ball was going towards the goal, the corner, and Kevin De Bruyne stops it. He's lifted his arms up. 

"If you look at the reaction of the other players in the wall, their hands were down. It's handball."

Kasper Schmeichel kept the champions at bay for large parts of the game by producing a string of fine saves, including a penalty save to frustrate Aguero.

City have now missed their last four top-flight penalties, each by a different player, but they were rescued by substitute Gabriel Jesus' late strike three minutes after he was introduced.

"They are incredibly quick with Jamie Vardy, Harvey Barnes and Kelechi," Guardiola said at his post-match news conference.

"It was an incredible test for us. I'm so pleased for the victory."

Guardiola's side face Real Madrid on Wednesday for the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie and the Catalan coach has been handed a big fitness boost.

Raheem Sterling has missed City's last two games with a hamstring injury, while Aymeric Laporte left the field early in the second half against Leicester, but both men could feature in Madrid.

"[Laporte] asked me to be substituted, but he's not injured," Guardiola said.

"He's been four months, five months injured, we can't forget that. He had to run a lot. It was different against West Ham, we could control it easier. But he's okay.

"Raheem is also much, much, much better. I think he'll be ready."

After Gabriel Jesus saw a penalty saved in a 1-0 win at Sheffield United in January, Pep Guardiola identified goalkeeper Ederson as Manchester City's best spot-kick option.

"Ederson is the best. Believe me, Eddie is the best taker we have on the penalties," said the City boss last month.

"He has no blood in his brains, he's so calm, so he could do it."

With Sergio Aguero seeing an effort from 12 yards stopped by Kasper Schmeichel in City's 1-0 victory at Leicester City on Saturday, Guardiola may now have to consider passing the duties to his keeper.

City have failed with four of their seven penalties in the Premier League this season, and here we reflect on their struggles in 2019-20.

August 10, 2019: Sergio Aguero v West Ham - SCORED

There were signs of what was to come for City from the spot this season even in an opening-day 5-0 win. Aguero netted City's fourth from 12 yards, but only after referee Mike Dean had ordered a retake for encroachment, Lukasz Fabianski having saved his tame initial effort.

September 21, 2019: Sergio Aguero v Watford - SCORED

Aguero needed no second invitation in City's 8-0 thrashing of Watford, scoring the second goal with a confident low penalty struck straight down the middle after team-mate Riyad Mahrez had been fouled by visiting goalkeeper Ben Foster.

December 21, 2019: Ilkay Gundogan v Leicester City - SCORED

Schmeichel was unfortunate not to deny Gundogan in the reverse fixture at the Etihad Stadium, the Germany international just beating his outstretched arm to find the bottom-right corner and put the reigning league champions 2-1 up in an eventual 3-1 win prior to Christmas.

December 27, 2019: Raheem Sterling v Wolves - MISSED

The start of City's dreadful recent run of missed penalties began in a thrilling 3-2 defeat at Molineux. Sterling was given a second chance after Rui Patricio kept out his first attempt, with a retake ordered. The Portugal keeper denied him again, only for Sterling to tuck away the rebound.

January 21, 2020: Gabriel Jesus v Sheffield United - MISSED

The failure that sparked Guardiola's Ederson remarks saw Brazil international Jesus thwarted, Dean Henderson – on loan at the Blades from Manchester United, of course – moved to his right to palm clear with a diving, two-handed save.

February 2, 2020: Ilkay Gundogan v Tottenham - MISSED

Gundogan went for the same formula that saw him score against Leicester, but Hugo Lloris went low to his left to deny him in the first half, with claims for another penalty after the France international felled Sterling in pursuit of the rebound rejected following a VAR review.

February 22, 2020 Sergio Aguero v Leicester City - MISSED

Aguero placed the ball on the spot at the King Power Stadium after Dennis Praet was adjudged to have handled in the area. However, Schmeichel got the better of the Argentina striker, marking his fourth Premier League penalty save, one more than famous father Peter recorded while playing in the same competition.

Manchester City's Champions League ban could have some serious consequences.

While City are planning to appeal UEFA's two-season suspension from European competition after an investigation found the club broke financial fair play regulations, rivals are circling.

City's stars are reportedly attracting interest from far and wide.

 

TOP STORY – BARCA EYE BERNARDO SILVA

LaLiga champions Barcelona are targeting Manchester City star Bernardo Silva, according to the Transfer Window Podcast.

The report comes following City's Champions League suspension handed down to the Premier League giants by UEFA.

City team-mate Raheem Sterling has already been linked to Real Madrid.

 

ROUND-UP

- Marca says Madrid are ready to make a move for Rennes teenager Eduardo Camavinga. The 17-year-old has starred for the Ligue 1 outfit and is reportedly valued at €70million.

Paul Pogba has also been linked to Madrid but Goal claims he could be offered a new contract by Manchester United, who expect the Frenchman to leave at the end of the season. Former club Juventus are also reportedly tracking the midfielder.

Paris Saint-Germain are looking to either Juventus head coach Maurizio Sarri or Massimiliano Allegri amid uncertainty over the future of Thomas Tuchel, reports La Gazzetta dello Sport.

- Lille defender Gabriel is being monitored by Arsenal, Everton, PSG and now Leicester City, according to Le10 Sport.

- The Mirror says Arsenal are set to raise transfer funds through the sale of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and potentially Matteo Guendouzi as the Gunners eye Valencia's Carlos Soler and RB Leipzig defender Dayot Upamecano.

Pep Guardiola says any club would "tremble" if Real Madrid or Barcelona enquired about one of their star players, amid speculation linking Raheem Sterling with Los Blancos.

In an interview with Spanish publication AS on Friday, City forward Sterling spoke of his admiration for Madrid following rumours of a potential move to the Santiago Bernabeu.

The England international was also pictured holding up the shirts of both City and Madrid, who meet in the Champions League last 16 next week.

In a news conference ahead of City's Premier League clash with third-placed Leicester City, Guardiola insisted he has no doubt over Sterling's commitment.

However, he conceded all clubs have to worry should Madrid or their LaLiga rivals Barcelona come calling.

"All the clubs have to know that when Real Madrid or Barcelona knock on the door, the other clubs must tremble, they will be a little bit in trouble," Guardiola told reporters.

"Barcelona and Madrid are maybe the strongest and most powerful teams in terms of history and how good they are. That is normal and I understand completely.

"But on the same point, you just see the commitment from Raheem, every single day when he arrives. He's never injured.

"His commitment in every game, offensively and defensively, so he's one of the best players in the world and it's normal that big clubs see his desire for the team.

"I don't know if Madrid or Barcelona called his agent, [but] I don't have any doubts about the commitment Raheem and the other ones have had from the first day to the last day."

Guardiola himself has been linked with leaving City after the club was handed a two-year ban from the Champions League by UEFA for a breach of Financial Fair Play (FFP) regulations.

With City in the process of lodging an appeal after denying UEFA's claims, Guardiola swiftly moved to dismiss reports of a potential exit and reiterated his commitment to City once more on Friday.

"My happiness. I'm looking for my happiness, that's the only thing I'm looking for," Guardiola said when asked if he would consider staying beyond the expiration of his current deal, which runs out at the end of next season.

"I'm working with exceptional players especially and I have the feeling that they follow us 100 per cent, knowing how it's not easy working with us and with me, but I'm happy.

"That is the only reason why, when I move on always it's because I am thinking I can be happier than the place that I was before. That is the only reason.

"We have got incredible owners and a good relationship, so I think it will not be a problem to understand both sides if we decide to stay three more years or stay in the time we are together."

Raheem Sterling believes Manchester City's players have not been shown the respect they deserve when it comes to individual awards.

City are set to relinquish the Premier League title to Liverpool in the coming weeks, but had previously won the trophy for two successive seasons under Pep Guardiola, who has also won the EFL Cup and Community Shield twice, as well as the FA Cup, during his time in England.

Manuel Pellegrini also managed to win the league with City in 2013-14, two seasons after the club secured their maiden Premier League triumph in dramatic fashion on the final day of 2011-12.

However, while City stars have dominated the PFA Team of the Year over recent campaigns, and Sterling himself has scooped the Young Player of the Year prize – as has team-mate Leroy Sane – the England forward still feels the club is not represented enough.

"Especially in the last year where we have won the domestic quadruple including the league, to not have a player winning PFA Player of the Year kind of speaks for itself really," Sterling told AS.

"The award was given to a Liverpool player [Virgil van Dijk] who had a fantastic season but I look at previous seasons as well when Yaya Toure scored 20 goals from midfield and he didn't win Player of the Year.

"Also, Sergio Aguero has been at the club for more than seven years and has scored unbelievable goals during this time, yet none of City's players have won it.

"It is impossible to win the league four times and none of the players were Player of the Year. 

"So, this year Liverpool win the league and a Liverpool player will win the Player of the Year for sure. We won the league four times and we were not treated with the same respect.

"The first year we won the league [under Guardiola], Kevin De Bruyne was unbelievable and they gave it to another player [N'Golo Kante].

"Every year we win a major trophy and it's given to an opposition player. It's that sort of thing that doesn't depend on us, but we keep going."

Pep Guardiola has backed Raheem Sterling after the Manchester City forward was pictured with a Real Madrid shirt in an interview with a Spanish newspaper.

The England international has been linked with a move to the Santiago Bernabeu and told AS he was happy at City but "always open to challenges".

City head coach Guardiola was asked about Sterling’s interview in a news conference on Friday, ahead of the Premier League match against Leicester City.

"Players are free to talk and say what they believe, what they think," Guardiola said. "We are not here to tell them what they have to say.

"It's normal if you make an interview with the Madrid media that he speaks about Madrid."

Sterling posed with City and Madrid shirts ahead of the Champions League last-16 first leg between the teams next Wednesday, which comes at a turbulent time for the English club.

UEFA has handed the reigning Premier League champions a two-season ban from European competition and a €30million fine after an investigation found City broke financial fair play regulations.

City have vowed to fight the verdict at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), with chief executive Ferran Soriano saying it is "simply not true" that the club breached the rules.

But the issue looks set to dominate discussion around City for the foreseeable future, to the obvious frustration of Guardiola.

The former Barcelona boss told reporters his team would give 100 per cent until the end of the season as he led a fresh defence of their achievements.

"I'm completely sure about the commitment of our players. They have shown it for many, many years, so nothing changes in this terms," Guardiola said.

"At the end of this season nobody knows what is going to happen.

"With calm we're going to decide to do what we want, what the players want, but right now, the commitment for the last three months together in every single game, I don't have any doubts we will be incredibly well, as we always have been."

Asked about what some people may think of City in the wake of the UEFA punishment, Guardiola said: "I cannot change what people think. I know how hard we work. I'm so proud of what we have done in these years all together.

"So I have a different opinion. All that we won in these seasons, nobody helped us from outside, so we did an incredible job, day by day, game by game.

"This is not finished, it's not over, we appeal as a club and we will see what happens in the end."

Zinedine Zidane thinks Raheem Sterling is a quality player but is not interested in discussing a possible Real Madrid bid for the Manchester City star.

In an interview with Madrid publication AS, Sterling described Los Blancos as "a fantastic club" and suggested he could be interested in playing at the Santiago Bernabeu, although he made it clear he is happy at City.

With Pep Guardiola's side facing a ban from European competition pending the outcome of a planned appeal, the future of Sterling is likely to intensify over the coming weeks, particularly with Madrid and City meeting in the last 16 of the Champions League.

Madrid head coach Zidane is undoubtedly an admirer of Sterling, but he seems disinclined to encourage speculation.

"I can't talk about a player who isn't mine," he told reporters on Friday. "He's a very good player, no doubt about that."

Madrid face Levante in LaLiga on Saturday before their attentions turn to City next week.

One player hoping to impress is Rodrygo, who has not made a league appearance since January 26.

"He hasn't been in the last three squads, but we know he's an important player for us and when everyone is there, you have to select a squad," Zidane said of the Brazilian.

"That's all it is, because we're happy with him. He's shown he's very good."

Madrid captain Sergio Ramos is said to be at an impasse in talks over a new contract, with Madrid reportedly unwilling to match their captain's request for a two-year extension.

Zidane, though, expects a new deal to be agreed without too much complication and is even backing the defender in his desire to represent Spain at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.

"Sergio's renewal looks easy to me. I want Sergio with me. He's our captain, our leader and an example as a player," he said.

"He's very important for all Madridistas, for the players...

"He should go, of course [to the Olympics]. I will support him. It's very beautiful to play for your country."

Raheem Sterling has described Real Madrid as "a fantastic club" amid speculation over his Manchester City future.

The LaLiga giants have been linked with a move for the 25-year-old over the past two seasons, but City's looming ban from Europe has fuelled those rumours further.

Sterling insists he is happy at City, where he has won two Premier League titles, two EFL Cups and the FA Cup since moving from Liverpool in 2015, but he cannot disguise his admiration for Zinedine Zidane's side.

"Right now, I'm at City and I'm really happy," Sterling told Madrid sports publication AS.

"But I say Real Madrid are a fantastic club. When you see the white shirt, you know exactly what the club stands for. It's massive. But at the same time, I have a contract with City now and I have to respect this. But it's a fantastic club.

"No one knows what the future will hold. I am a player and I am always open to challenges but right now my challenge is at Manchester City. In the future, hopefully, who knows..."

City were given a two-season ban from European competition by UEFA after being found guilty of breaching Financial Fair Play regulations, although the club insist they have done nothing wrong and intend to appeal at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).

Speaking on the issue, Sterling said: "It's something we don't know much about yet because it's something that has not been confirmed. The club has a long way to go and we just have to wait and see what happens, but I have full confidence in the club."

City face Madrid in the last 16 of the Champions League, with the first leg at the Santiago Bernabeu taking place next Wednesday.

Sterling is relishing the challenge of facing the 14-time champions of Europe and does not think there is anything lucky about Zidane having led Madrid to three consecutive Champions League triumphs from 2016 to 2018.

"We had a good reaction when we knew that they will be our rival," said the England star. "If you want to do well I think the best thing you have to do is to play against the best teams straight away and there is no better challenge than Real Madrid.

"It is always going to be a difficult game whether they are in a good or a bad moment, just because of the atmosphere, the historical stadium that we are going to...

"It's going to be a difficult game, especially now that they are doing really well, but at the same time I’ve got full confidence in our team and if we get it right on the day, I believe we can win.

"I think to win the Champions League so many times, especially in a row as well, is very difficult. I don't think that's luck; it's definitely a formula. Some people have that winning mentality and he wins by any means. So I wouldn't say that it's luck, I'd say it's something he has probably developed over his great career as a player and he's developing his career as a manager, so it continues this winning touch."

Raheem Sterling is focused on Manchester City, according to his agent, amid reports linking him with a move to Real Madrid.

Speculation over the futures of several City players has intensified in the wake of the two-season Champions League ban handed to the club by UEFA for "serious breaches" of Financial Fair Play regulations, although they deny wrongdoing and intend to appeal.

Sterling, who is contracted at City until 2023, is reportedly a target for LaLiga giants Madrid.

But the 25-year-old forward's agent, Aidy Ward, said Sterling's focus was on the Premier League club.

"Raheem is solely focused on Manchester City and will not be distracted by any talk of transfers to any club at the moment," he told the Mirror and the Daily Mail.

Sterling, who arrived at City from Liverpool in 2015, has scored 20 goals in 35 games in all competitions this season but is sidelined with a hamstring injury.

Raheem Sterling will miss Manchester City's clash with West Ham on Sunday after it was confirmed the England forward has suffered a hamstring injury.

The blow to Sterling came about late in City's defeat to Tottenham last weekend, and the reigning Premier League champions have stated only that he will be absent for this weekend.

It remains to be seen whether Sterling recovers in time for the match against Leicester on February 22, or the Champions League last-16 first-leg tussle with Real Madrid four days later.

A statement on City's official website said: "Raheem Sterling will miss the visit of West Ham after scans revealed he has suffered damage to his left hamstring.

"The forward limped out of our game at Tottenham on Sunday with six minutes remaining and was assessed on Thursday at the CFA [City Football Academy].

"He will continue to be monitored during the winter break. Everyone at City wishes Raheem a full and speedy recovery."

City begin their short mid-season break after the match against lowly West Ham, with Pep Guardiola's side, who sit a distant second to Liverpool in the table, returning to action 13 days later against Leicester.

Sterling has scored 11 goals in 23 Premier League outings for City this season.

Dele Alli is "lucky" to be in contention to face Southampton in the FA Cup after escaping serious injury when caught by Raheem Sterling in Sunday's 2-0 win over Manchester City, according to Jose Mourinho.

Sterling made firm contact with Alli's ankle in the first half and appeared fortunate to avoid a red card for the mistimed tackle, with Mourinho's frustration evident after the match.

It was one of several refereeing decisions to grate on Mourinho during the gripping encounter, with the use of VAR once again at the centre of post-match discussions.

Alli eventually came off 20 minutes from time and there were worries that the effects of Sterling's challenge might rule the attacking midfielder out of action.

But Mourinho confirmed Alli could face Southampton on Wednesday, convinced the England international is fortunate to have not suffered serious damage.

"No, it's not as bad [as we first thought]," Mourinho told reporters. "So, there is a chance of him playing tomorrow [Wednesday], let's wait and see.

"It's just a question of being a little bit lucky, or unlucky. You need a little bit of luck. Dele Alli was very lucky.

"Did Sterling want to injure him? I don't think so, I don't believe that he wanted [to hurt Alli]. So, respect to Sterling, I have no problem at all.

"But the intention does not count. What counts is the action. It is a red card."

Mourinho was particularly animated on the touchline against City, with footage of one action going viral on social media – the clip showing him sprinting to the fourth official to complain about a decision in the aftermath of Hugo Lloris' penalty save.

The Portuguese coach accepts he may have gone too far with his reaction, but explained his frustration stemmed from what he feels is a misuse of VAR.

"[I went viral] in a funny way, but not in a good way, but I say in a funny way," he said.

"I think the fact that now it is allowed to have the screen in front of us... I think it's not good for the emotions, for our emotions, because we watch and we watch exactly the same as the VAR [official] is watching, decisions the referees don't see as well as we do.

"That's because the referees, they are on the pitch and, as I was saying the other day, it is 200 miles per hour and very difficult for them, and sometimes they don't see things the same way we do.

"In 2004-05, I remember I tried to go with a screen to the bench and I was forbidden by the rules, and in this moment now you are allowed.

"So, I don't think it's good for the emotions. My reaction was just based on being able to watch everything on the screen, so I watched the Dele Alli situation, I watched the penalty, the pretend penalty – I watched everything, so that creates emotions, but okay, I went viral for the wrong reasons."

Jose Mourinho felt Raheem Sterling was lucky to avoid a "clear red card" in the opening stages of Tottenham's 2-0 home win over Manchester City.

Second-half strikes from debutant Steven Bergwijn and Son Heung-min sealed a valuable victory for Mourinho's side on Sunday, with City having seen Oleksandr Zinchenko dismissed for a second booking on the hour mark, shortly before the opening goal.

Ilkay Gundogan had a first-half penalty saved for City, who had 18 shots to their opponents' three, but Mourinho believed it would have been a very different contest had Sterling been shown red for a 12th-minute challenge on Dele Alli that was reviewed by VAR, only for a yellow card to be awarded.

Sterling's foot appeared to brush the top of the ball before making firm contact with Alli's ankle, leaving the Spurs boss unimpressed.

"I'm so pleased for the boys," Mourinho told Sky Sports. "We can look at the perspective that we were a bit lucky in a couple of situations, they [City] hit the post or they missed a good chance.

"But we can see it from the other perspective and say that we were very, very unlucky that the VAR didn't decide for a Sterling red card, which is a clear red card.

"From that moment obviously it is a completely different game if you have to play 75 minutes or something like that against 10 men. So 11 v 11, [it was] really difficult, hard, but my boys were very well organised, great effort, great discipline."

Mourinho also appeared enraged when Sterling took a tumble immediately after Hugo Lloris had kept out Gundogan's spot-kick, only to avoid a second yellow card for simulation even though VAR ruled he had not been fouled by the goalkeeper.

However, he had high praise for midfielders Giovani Lo Celso and Harry Winks, and goalkeeper Lloris.

"Against City, they love the ball, they know better than anyone to know what to do with the ball, so when they have the ball for the majority of the time it's hard, but I think [we had] fantastic performances, great concentration," the Portuguese added.

"The way Lo Celso and Winks, they controlled Kevin De Bruyne, the movements that he does in these areas, and Lo Celso, the way he controls also that position where Sterling comes inside and Gundogan supports them. I think the boys were phenomenal in there, in their effort.

"The goalkeeper saved a penalty – I think it was God's will because it's not a penalty – but our goalkeeper is fantastic and he's there to try and give us points."

Bergwijn's wonderful goal saw the new signing from PSV control the ball on his chest before firing home a superb volley on the turn.

"[It was] so sharp, technically so comfortable, chest, volley," said Mourinho. "[It was] unstoppable, even for a great goalkeeper like Ederson."

Steven Bergwijn scored a superb volley on his debut as Tottenham earned a 2-0 victory over Manchester City, who dominated possession but missed a penalty and had Oleksandr Zinchenko sent off.

Pep Guardiola's men were perhaps guilty of overplaying in front of goal across the course of a game that exploded into life when Hugo Lloris saved an Ilkay Gundogan spot-kick in a frenetic climax a tense first half at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

The champions remained on top until Zinchenko received a second booking and his marching orders, leaving Spurs to capitalise on their man advantage almost immediately with Bergwijn's memorable strike after 63 minutes.

Son Heung-Min's seventh top-flight goal of the season left City with too much to do in the final 20 minutes and they suffered a first defeat in six league outings that all but extinguishes their already faint title hopes with Liverpool 22 points clear at the top of the table.

Kevin De Bruyne and Sergio Aguero missed early chances in the Spurs box and Raheem Sterling escaped with just a yellow card after a dangerous challenge that almost buckled Dele Alli's ankle.

Riyad Mahrez turned his back on a shooting chance when he mistakenly thought he had been flagged offside but moments later his threaded pass sent Aguero through for a shot against the foot of the post as Spurs came under fire.

The half ended in chaos, with a belated VAR review overturning referee Mike Dean's decision not to award Aguero a penalty following a clumsy challenge by Serge Aurier.

After Gundogan's spot-kick was saved by Lloris, there was an angry melee as Tottenham's players fumed over Sterling's attempt to win another penalty when he tumbled over the goalkeeper's arms, with Toby Alderweireld and Zinchenko booked for their contributions.

A mix-up between Lloris and Japhet Tanganga allowed Aguero to loop a shot towards goal that was cleared as far as Sterling and he squared to Gundogan, who blazed over the crossbar with the net gaping.

Zinchenko was shown a second yellow card for barging Harry Winks as the Spurs midfielder broke towards the half-way line and shortly after the hosts were ahead.

Lucas Moura chipped the ball to the edge of the box where Bergwijn controlled it with his chest and volleyed into the bottom-right corner of the net with exquisite technique.

Eight minutes later, Tanguy Ndombele carved an opening for Son, whose deflected shot from just inside the box beat Ederson at his near post to double Tottenham's lead and the closest City came to pulling one back was a Davinson Sanchez header against his own crossbar at the death.

 

What does it mean? Liverpool's title party plans come forward

With City trailing so far behind, Liverpool need just 18 more points to clinch the Premier League title and at the rate they are winning games that will not take long.

Tottenham, meanwhile, are up to fifth in the table and will be confident of closing the four-point gap to Chelsea above them after beating the champions.

Winks fares well in De Bruyne battle

Kevin De Bruyne tends to control games from his position in the City engine room but Harry Winks broke up the play and put Spurs on the front foot at key moments to help turn the game.

Rodrigo fades after promising start

Rodrigo showed glimpses of his silky passing abilities early on but by the second half was little more than a bystander as Spurs turned the screw.

What's next?

City are back at Etihad Stadium on Sunday when West Ham are the visitors, while Spurs travel to Aston Villa in the league after their midweek FA Cup replay against Southampton.

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola backed Raheem Sterling despite the forward's dip in form to begin 2020.

Sterling is without a goal in seven games this year, having last netted against Wolves on December 27.

The forward has scored 20 goals in all competitions this season and Guardiola said he was unconcerned about Sterling's form heading into Sunday's trip to Tottenham.

"Raheem defended incredibly well against [Aaron] Wan-Bissaka in the last game and he had the clearest chances that no other player can create for himself and unfortunately he could not score a goal," he said.

"But he was there and so I am more than delighted with the performance he made against United.

"A month ago, people were talking about his statistics, the goals, the assists, but I always said that I was not just judging Raheem on those points. It was important, but not the only one."

Sterling has already made 34 appearances for City this season, having played 51 games for the club in 2018-19.

But Guardiola, whose team are 22 points adrift of league leaders Liverpool, played down any suggestions Sterling needed a break.

"Does he need a rest? I don't think so," he said.

"He's a guy who recovers quicker than anyone I have ever seen before – he is incredible and he could play every two days.

"The more he plays the better he feels, but all players feel like that."

Sporting stars from across the globe, including Tom Brady and Neymar, have paid tribute to Kobe Bryant after the Los Angeles Lakers icon was killed in a helicopter crash.

Bryant, 41, died on Sunday in a crash close to the city of Calabasas in Los Angeles County, California.

Eight others on board, including his 13-year-old daughter Gianna, also lost their lives.

Following the initial reports of Bryant's passing, athletes and teams from across the world of sport posted their tributes to the Lakers great on social media.

New England Patriots great Brady wrote on his Twitter page: "We miss you already, Kobe."

Patrick Mahomes, another superstar NFL quarterback, said: "Man, not Kobe. Prayers to his family and friends!"

Bryant was an Olympic champion like Usain Bolt, the great sprinter, who posted a picture of the former NBA star on his page.

"Still can't believe ⁦[it] @kobebryant," he said.

World number one golfer Brooks Koepka posted a lengthy message in memory of his "hero".

"Kobe Bryant was my HERO growing up. Even to this day he was an inspiration to the way I approached things," he wrote, adding: "His mentality motivated me not only in hard times but throughout my whole life. RIP, Kobe."

Footballer Raheem Sterling said: "Rest easy, legend."

Meanwhile, Neymar, who scored twice in Paris Saint-Germain's win over Lille on Sunday, dedicated his second goal to the Lakers legend.

Drew Brees spoke to ESPN from the Pro Bowl, saying of Bryant: "I had the chance to meet him one time. He was a guy I hoped to have the chance to be around more.

"I had so much respect for him as a competitor. I know he inspired so many people in so many different ways.

"He was one of the great competitors of any generation - not just with sports but the way he approached a lot of things with what he was doing now after basketball.

"I pray for him, I pray for his family. It's a tragic loss."

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