Manchester City star Sergio Aguero is reportedly wanted by Barcelona.

Aguero's future at City is uncertain with the 32-year-old coming out of contract at the end of the season.

And the forward is unsurprisingly wanted by Europe's biggest clubs.

 

TOP STORY – BARCELONA WANT AGUERO

Barcelona are eyeing Manchester City forward Sergio Aguero, according to The Sun.

Aguero has also been linked to Paris Saint-Germain as City's all-time leading goalscorer entered the final six months of his contract.

The Argentina international has scored two goals in nine games this season.

 

ROUND-UP

- Staying at Barcelona and Eric Garcia looks set to join the club from City. The cover of Mundo Deportivo says Garcia is poised to move to Barca in January in a deal worth €5million (£4.5m) plus variables.

- Also facing an uncertain future is Fernandinho. The Telegraph reports Fernandinho is undecided about his future, with the City man having offers from South America.

- Matteo Guendouzi is set to see out his loan spell at Hertha Berlin. Fabrizio Romano says the midfielder will not return to Arsenal in January, with the Bundesliga club wanting him to stay until season's end.

- Wolves seem unlikely to sign a forward in January. The Mirror claims they have aborted interested in Liverpool striker Divock Origi and Chelsea's Olivier Giroud.

- With Frank Lampard under pressure at the helm of Chelsea, help could be incoming. Sky Sports reports Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich is considering bringing back former manager Avram Grant to work with Lampard.

Manchester City striker Sergio Aguero is in isolation after coming into contact with someone who tested positive for coronavirus.

Aguero was expected to feature in Sunday's FA Cup clash with Birmingham City at the Etihad Stadium after recovering from knee and hamstring problems.

However, he was not in the matchday squad, with Gabriel Jesus starting the 3-0 victory over the Championship side.

Manager Pep Guardiola later confirmed that 32-year-old Aguero is isolating despite returning a negative test for COVID-19.

"Unfortunately, he was in contact more than usual with one person who is positive," Guardiola said after the match. "He must isolate for a few days.

"I don't know exactly because he has been tested like all of us six times in the last 10-15 days so it is negative. Today I think he was negative too but the protocols says in some cases isolate, and in other cases we still play football.

"He was not able to play today."

Aguero, whose contract expires at the end of the season, has only made three starts for City in all competitions in 2020-21.

In his absence on Sunday, two goals from Bernardo Silva and another from Phil Foden secured City's place in the fourth round of the cup.

Guardiola's men return to Premier League action at home to Brighton and Hove Albion on Wednesday and host Crystal Palace next Sunday.

Paris Saint-Germain are reportedly eyeing Manchester City forward Sergio Aguero.

Aguero, 32, is out of contract at the end of the season and his future with the Premier League giants is uncertain.

And PSG are apparently eyeing the forward.

 

TOP STORY – PSG EYE AGUERO

Mauricio Pochettino and PSG have Aguero in their sights on a free transfer at the end of the season, according to the Mirror.

Injuries have limited Aguero to just nine appearances in all competitions this season.

Aguero is Manchester City's all-time leading scorer with 256 goals.

 

ROUND-UP

- Linked with a move for Borussia Dortmund midfielder Julian Brandt, Arsenal may also be looking elsewhere. Bild reports PSG's Julian Draxler, who is out of contract at the season's end, is an alternative for the Premier League club.

- Also at Arsenal, Mesut Ozil seems set to leave the club. The Guardian reports the playmaker is in talks to join Fenerbahce on loan, but Arsenal do not want to pay any part of his salary if he moves to the Turkish giants.

- Lyon striker Moussa Dembele is again being linked with a switch. Goal reports Dembele is not interested in a move to West Ham, and Atletico Madrid are keen to land him. L'Equipe says Atletico want Dembele on loan.

- Kieran Trippier's ban has been put on hold pending an appeal, but his January reportedly could have been very different. TalkSPORT reports Manchester United were considering a bid for the defender, who was keen on a move, before his ban over betting rule breaches.

- Manchester United are apparently not chasing Moises Caicedo. Fabrizio Romano reports United, who were previously linked to Caicedo, will not sign the Independiente del Valle and Ecuador attacker, who is said to be the subject of a bid from Brighton and Hove Albion.

Sergio Aguero's mood is "better than ever" as he tentatively nears the end of an injury nightmare, according to Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola.

Guardiola confirmed City's all-time top scorer will start Sunday's FA Cup third-round tie against Birmingham City at the Etihad Stadium as he looks to put the after-effects of meniscus surgery behind him.

Aguero underwent an operation in June and has been forced to manage ongoing discomfort in the joint since a hamstring injury at West Ham curtailed his initial return in October.

Despite being ravaged by a coronavirus outbreak among their squad, City head into the weekend buoyed by their two finest performances of the season - a swashbuckling 3-1 win over Chelsea preceding a 2-0 win against rivals Manchester United in the semi-finals of the EFL Cup.

Four minutes from the bench at Stamford Bridge was the sum of Aguero's action across the those games, as he was an unused substitute at Old Trafford.

Nevertheless, his goalscoring prowess has been an obvious miss across the course of the campaign. In their most recent title-winning season, City averaged 2.6 goals per game in the Premier League with Aguero in the side.

That has fallen to 1.6 in all matches this time around, with a win percentage of 53.9 per cent, set against 84.8 with Aguero in harness two seasons ago. Shots per 90 minutes are also down from 18.1 to 15.6 when the two data sets are compared.

"Just look at the numbers, the quality he has in the box, Sergio is unique," Guardiola told a pre-match news conference.

"He has a tough, tough injury. The important thing is his mood is exceptional, I would say better than ever.

"It's important that the feeling, the last two weeks, his knee's reaction was really good after training. This is the best news we can have.

"He’s going to start, the minutes his performance level or knee will dictate. What's important is good quality minutes, as much as possible, we start from the beginning and after we'll see what happens.

"It will be great to have Sergio fit. He’s so optimistic. He says 'I will score goals' and that is the most important thing."

Aguero is out of contract at the end of the season, as is fellow fans' favourite Fernandinho.

The 35-year-old Brazil international has returned to his customary central midfield position this season, having deputised at centre-back for much of last, and completed the scoring with a sweetly struck volley against United in midweek.

Following the departure of David Silva over the close season, Fernandinho has stepped up as club captain and impressed Guardiola greatly with his leadership skills.

"With the players in this part of the season, everything is open," Guardiola said, when discussing the prospect of the veteran earning a fresh deal.

"I am more than impressed with the first captain role of Fernandinho, he is leading in an exceptional way. In the good moments and the bad, bad moments.

"If everyone can take an example of what he has done so far, the team will be stronger."

Pressed for examples of how the quietly spoken star commands the dressing room, Guardiola replied: "How he talks with his mates, how he talks with my assistant coach, before the game, at half-time.

"Not just talking to players about football matters, in life, how to behave in training, every single day. He's the first who proves that he's able to do it.

"That's why he goes to Old Trafford, plays holding midfielder there. It was not easy for Bruno Fernandes to control him.

"At the beginning of the season he stepped forward and showed how to be a captain."

City will have Ederson, Ferran Torres and Tommy Doyle available for selection once more, provided they returned negative COVID-19 tests on Friday.

The trio tested positive ahead of the postponed Premier League match at Everton on December 28.

The date of January 1 is typically the time for New Year's resolutions but for some footballers in Europe's top five leagues it signals the day they can plot a lucrative move to a new club.

A number of top players, including Barcelona's Lionel Messi, are out of contract at the end of the 2021 season and from the start of the year are free to open talks with other teams.

Messi, of course, will be the one that takes the limelight but there are some other big-name players who will be free to leave their clubs for nothing in six months.

Here's the best players (and a couple of pretty good second choices) who are out of contract in 2021 and make up a free transfers XI.

FREE TRANSFERS XI (4-3-3)

GK: Gianluigi Donnarumma (Marko Dmitrovic)
The youngest goalkeeper ever to play for Italy – at 17 years and 189 days – has now matured into one of Serie A's most consistent performers between the sticks. The 21-year-old has been key to Milan's surge to the top of the table with four clean sheets in the league so far this season.

RB: Elseid Hysaj (Kenny Lala)
Comfortable on both the right and left flanks the versatile Albanian full-back, 26, has been a dependable, and largely unsung, part of Napoli's defence since 2015. He may lack the eye-catching assists of attacking defenders but Hysaj uses the ball intelligently in possession.

CB: Eric Garcia (Shkodran Mustafi)
A product of Barcelona's La Masia academy he joined Manchester City in 2017 where Pep Guardiola has been influential in his development. Blessed with an excellent reading of the game, and a superb positional sense, the 19-year-old has rejected a new contract at City and appears hungry for regular first-team football elsewhere.

CB: Sergio Ramos (Jerome Boateng)
The knees might be creaking at the age of 34, but the Real Madrid and Spain centre-back's mix of bloody-minded determination and charismatic leadership make him an asset to nearly any defence despite being at the back end of his career.

LB: David Alaba (Romain Saiss)
Able to operate in defence or midfield the 28-year-old Austria international has spent a decade as one of Bayern Munich's most consistent and reliable players. With nine Bundesliga and two Champions League winners' medals under his belt he has bucketloads of experience at the top level.

CM: Georginio Wijnaldum (Hakan Calhanoglu)
The Dutch midfielder has been converted by Jurgen Klopp from a goalscoring attacker into an intelligent midfield workaholic integral to Liverpool's style of play. Largely unheralded, he is man for the big occasion as his two goals in Liverpool's famous 4-0 comeback win over Barcelona demonstrate.

CM: Fernandinho (Mesut Ozil)
He turns 36 next May, and may lack the bite of old, but the Brazilian still has a lot to offer either as an efficient defensive midfielder or classy centre-back. Another player whose influence and quality may only be fully appreciated by City when he has actually left the club.

CM: Luka Modric (Julian Draxler)
A cultured and experienced midfield playmaker who, despite his diminutive frame, still oozes class whenever he is on the ball. Part of the furniture at Real Madrid since 2012 the 35-year-old Croatian looks like he still has plenty of years at the top ahead of him provided injuries do not take their toll.

RF: Lionel Messi (Florian Thauvin, Lucas Vazquez)
Should he stay or should he go? The transfer saga of 2020 looks set to dominate much of 2021 as well. Barcelona's greatest ever player needs no introduction. Since his debut in October 2004, Barca have won 55.9 per cent of their LaLiga games without Messi (won 66, drawn 39 and lost 22), compared to 73.7 per cent with him in the side (won 368, drawn 83 and lost 48).

CF: Sergio Aguero (Olivier Giroud, Arkadiusz Milik, Diego Costa)
Injury problems appear to be catching up with the 32-year-old Manchester City striker. On his day, there are few better natural finishers around. Aguero has more hat-tricks (12) than anyone else in the Premier League and is the highest non-English scorer in the history of the competition with 180 goals.

LF: Memphis Depay (Angel Di Maria)
A pitiful return of just two league goals in 33 appearances saw him jettisoned by Manchester United in 2017 but since then Depay has rebuilt his career and started to flourish. The Dutch forward has a respectable 62 goals in 154 appearances for Lyon in Ligue 1 and aged 26 is about to hit his peak.

Kevin De Bruyne still runs with the hunger of a non-league footballer despite becoming one of the leading stars in the global game.

That is the assessment of Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola amid a hectic festive schedule where his players' capacity to endure the hard yards will be put to the test.

Goals from Ilkay Gundogan and Ferran Torres saw City swat aside Newcastle United 2-0 on Boxing Day, while back-to-back Premier League away days at Everton and Chelsea before an EFL Cup semi-final at Manchester United on January 6 means this could represent a defining stretch of the season for Guardiola's squad.

De Bruyne completed 90 minutes against Newcastle, the 12th time he has done so in 14 Premier League games this season.

Guardiola has sought to manage his workload elsewhere, with the Belgium playmaker sitting out four Champions League matches as City cruised through their group.

Last week's 4-1 EFL Cup quarter-final win at Arsenal came with De Bruyne convalescing back in Manchester and, with City bunched into a congested pack behind defending champions Liverpool, Guardiola wants to have last season's PFA Players' Player of the Year firing on all cylinders in the top flight.

"We need him. Kevin is one of the biggest stars in the world right now and runs without the ball like he is a player from the Conference," he said, acknowledging the 29-year-old's seeming inability to play without the throttle down

"He is an outstanding player, I know how important he is for us.

"Sometimes, for example, like in the game against Arsenal, he did not travel. I prefer to have him fit and focused in the Premier League.

"The other competitions are important but right now we don't want to be far, far away from the top of the league.

"We are going to find our rhythm and we are going to be close to the top of the league, hopefully in the last eight or 10 games of the league, being there to fight against the teams above us."

Ahead of Monday's game at Goodison Park, De Bruyne has covered 127.5 kilometres in the Premier League this season, second only to Rodri in the City squad, although the Spain international has started every match to clock up 148.5 km.

With 179 sprints, De Bruyne is only behind noted speedsters Raheem Sterling (254) and Kyle Walker (219) this term.

His famed creativity remains undimmed, with only Jack Grealish (49) and Bruno Fernandes (44) crafting more goalscoring opportunities than De Bruyne (42).

Seven assists, all from open play, put him second in the division behind Harry Kane (10).

These numbers have been amassed despite City rarely being close to their thrilling best collectively in 2020-21, although Guardiola spotted some encouraging signs in that regard against Newcastle.

"[I'm happy] because we played really well. We played at the tempo [we need to]," he explained.

"We won games in the recent past, this season, where we were not playing in the right tempo.

"Football is time. Without the ball everybody runs, but with the ball we have to play in one rhythm and not to hide.

"You don't just pass the ball. Everyone has to be in his position. Then, in the right moment, several players in several positions make an explosion. This was maybe one of the first days that we saw it [this season]."

Close-range misses, with Raheem Sterling once again among the culprits, remained a feature of the performance - City scored from just two of their seven 'big chances' - meaning Sergio Aguero closing in on full-match fitness is a timely boost.

"We missed two goals from four or five yards to the goal line. It always happens, we have to improve this. We know it," Guardiola added, having introduced City's all-time leading scorer Aguero for a substitute cameo against Newcastle.

"The very good news is the 15 or 20 minutes Sergio played we saw him sharp, dynamic and good. This is incredible news for is. We need him. Absolutely."

Gabriel Jesus was a surprise absentee and Sergio Aguero only made the bench as Manchester City attempted to return to winning ways at Southampton in the Premier League. 

Brazilian striker Jesus has scored just twice in the Premier League this season, but it was fitness rather than form which saw him sidelined for the clash with Saints on Saturday.

City said Jesus and defender Aymeric Laporte, also missing from the 20-man matchday squad, were "not fully fit" for the match at St Mary's.

Aguero, however, was healthy enough to take his place among the nine substitutes - upped this week from seven in a move to allow for concussion replacements.

The striker has struggled for fitness this season and missed training after the West Brom game, but he took part on Friday, giving manager Pep Guardiola the option to use him at some point.

Ferran Torres and Raheem Sterling led the City attack, as Guardiola made four chances from the midweek draw with West Brom.

Torres, Kyle Walker, John Stones and Bernardo Silva all came into the XI as Jesus, Phil Foden, Nathan Ake and Benjamin Mendy made way.

Goal-shy City, unusually struggling to put the ball in the net this season, went into the game on the south coast 11 points behind leaders Liverpool, albeit with two games in hand, after Jurgen Klopp's men thrashed Crystal Palace 7-0 at Selhurst Park.

The loss of Jesus comes amid a disappointing run of form for the striker in this season's Premier League. He has failed to score in his last five appearances, despite playing the full 90 minutes each time.

He had just three shots in total across his last three games, suggesting he was perhaps due a spell out of the team, regardless of fitness.

Torres, however, has fared similarly disappointingly on the goals front, netting once in 422 minutes in this season's Premier League, with a dismal shot conversion rate - including blocks - of 7.14 per cent. 

City stood four points behind Southampton going into the game.

Just under a month ago, Manchester City excitedly announced Pep Guardiola had extended his contract with the club until 2023, but the news was curious in that the response from supporters and media alike was somewhat muted.

While the fact it was only a new two-year deal may have contributed to that, with respect to fans there seemed to be trepidation as to whether Guardiola was still getting the results – stylistically as well as wins – many expected.

Although some will have dismissed the signs of City turning stale as natural by-products of a turbulent year for the sport, others undoubtedly began to voice concern at City's performances and the lack of intensity Guardiola's team have shown.

And City have arguably got worse since the news of his extension broke – their four wins in the past nine games across all competitions have been against Olympiacos, Burnley, Fulham and Marseille.

They lost to title hopefuls Tottenham and produced largely insipid displays against Manchester United and West Brom.

City will end the weekend 11 points adrift of the summit if they lose to high-flying Southampton and Liverpool beat Crystal Palace – something is not right at the Etihad Stadium.

 

IMPOTENT CITY

In 2019-20, many put the 18-point deficit between champions Liverpool and City down to the latter's apparent defensive frailties, though in reality they only conceded two more goals than the Reds.

Nevertheless, City bolstered their backline with Ruben Dias and Nathan Ake, and although still by no means perfect, their 12 goals conceded this season is the joint-best in the division with Tottenham.

However, perhaps they would have been better off diverting some of that transfer focus to the attack. As Opta data shows, there is little doubt where their problems lie this term.

Firstly, City's haul of 18 goals from their first 12 league matches is by far their lowest under Guardiola and almost half the 35 they managed by the same point last term.

The most recent season where they had a worse scoring record at this stage was 2010-11 (15 goals), though they had one more point (21) than they do now, with 20 the fewest City have accumulated by this stage since 13 in 2008-09.

Obviously, you need to shoot to score, so it makes sense that City are having fewer shots than before as well – they've tried their luck 194 times this term, a decrease from 258 at this point in 2019-20. Their previous low in this respect under Guardiola was 206 after 12 games in 2017-18, but their conversion rate was off the charts at 19.4 per cent.

The closest City have got to that in any other season with Guardiola was 14.6 per cent the following year – this term it is just 9.3 per cent. It's the only campaign under the Catalan coach in which their conversion rate is below 13 per cent after 12 games.

 

NO LONGER INTIMIDATING

The intimidating aura City have had under Guardiola appears to have vanished, their one-paced performances against United and the Baggies evidence of that.

Last season City won 12 matches across all competitions by at least a four-goal margin, yet, as we approach the halfway mark this term, they have done so just twice.

One of those was, of course, against Burnley at the end of last month – though one might argue this doesn't say much about City given that was the fourth time in a little over two years they have beaten the Clarets 5-0.

But City's goalscoring issues can be further amplified beyond just looking at how often they're scoring, and once again it makes for unpleasant viewing for Guardiola.

Compared to his previous four seasons in charge, City's touches in the opposing box have come down to 32.4 per game (it was 42.6 in 2019-20) and that understandably has a knock-on effect.

In every season under Guardiola before 2020-21, City have improved their goalscoring chance quality (excluding penalties) before a massive regression this term. In 2019-20, their non-penalty xG (expected goals) per game was 2.25 – it is now just 1.38.

Even accounting for those excluded penalties, there is still a huge drop-off from 2.48 to 1.57 per game.

Their average non-penalty shot xG rating is 0.087, meaning one would expect the 'average' player to score 8.7 per cent of the time – again, this is a significant drop from 11.6 per cent in 2019-20.

 

DE BRUYNE OR BUST

Given City's issues in front of goal seemingly coincide with Sergio Aguero's absences, it might seem logical to link the two, but Opta data shows City's record with and without him since August 2011 is very similar.

In Aguero's 266 Premier League appearances, City have averaged 2.2 points and 2.3 goals per game – those figures remain identical for the 88 matches he has missed, while the team's win percentage actually goes up to 69.3 from 66.9.

As City's underwhelming xG data suggests, their problem has been chance creation, which again leads us back to the suggestion that – in hindsight – perhaps they would have been better off adding further reinforcements to their frontline.

Kevin De Bruyne has of course remained a dependable star, as evidenced by his 10 assists in 15 appearances across all competitions – he is well on track to surpass his 22 from 48 games last term.

 

But the Belgian does appear to be playing a different role. Whether this is to compensate for David Silva's exit or for other attack-minded players' productivity decreasing, it is unclear, but his season heatmaps show De Bruyne is operating almost equally across the breadth of the final third – in 2019-20, he was at his most influential towards the right flank.

His creativity has suffered, though he is still playing 3.51 key passes per 90 minutes in the league (4.51 in 2019-20). It's in front of goal where his influence has decreased the most, however, as De Bruyne has scored only twice all season, or once every 591 minutes, and both have been penalties. His frequency was once every 239 minutes last season across all competitions.

 

The problem for City is that, although De Bruyne continues to carry the burden, other players expected to create in the final third are struggling.

Bernardo Silva (0.24 from 2.26), Phil Foden (1.07 from 1.82), Raheem Sterling (1.38 from 1.62) are all playing fewer key passes per game than last term, while new signing Ferran Torres (1.07) – although clearly a talented player – has not been able to pick up the slack left by David Silva's departure (2.41).

The only player who seems to have remained consistent is arguably the most-maligned among City's forwards – Riyad Mahrez. He plays 2.76 key passes on average per 90 minutes – it was 2.78 in 2019-20.

Given Aguero's quality in front of goal, it seems unlikely he wouldn't at the very least lead to a marginal improvement when he returns for good, but if one thing is clear, it's that City's creators have to get craftier.

Pep Guardiola has praised John Stones for his impressive recent form and made it clear all members of his Manchester City squad must be ready to play when required.

Stones has started three Premier League games in a row alongside Ruben Dias in the heart of the City defence, all of which have resulted in clean sheets.

The England international has seized his chance since earning a recall - he played in the 3-1 win over Wolves to open the league campaign, but had not featured in the competition prior to starting the 5-0 victory over Burnley on November 28.

His form has seen him keep Aymeric Laporte out of the line-up, though Guardiola is not interested in any complaints about a lack of minutes from within his squad, considering the crowded schedule City face in the coming weeks during the festive period.

"It depends on the performance," the City boss said when asked about Stones' selection ahead of Laporte during his media conference on Monday.

"John is performing well, so that's why he's playing. But there are a lot of games and anything can happen.

"Everyone has to be ready, I've told them that many times. Don't complain much, because around the corner you have the chance. Maybe not, but you have to be ready."

City drew 0-0 at Manchester United on Saturday in an uneventful derby, making it the third successive game against their neighbours in which they have failed to score.

It was just the fifth goalless draw between the sides in 47 Premier League meetings, albeit three of those stalemates have come in the last 11 clashes.

Guardiola was unable to call upon Sergio Aguero at Old Trafford due to illness, but the striker has returned to training and could be involved against West Brom on Tuesday.

"Today he has trained, the last two or three days he did not. After today's training, we will decide on Tuesday," Guardiola said.

"Eric Garcia is still not fit, Oleksandr Zinchenko neither. The rest are okay."

Aguero has been hampered by injuries this season, restricting the club's all-time leading scorer to just five appearances in all competitions.

City will be expected to return to winning ways when they host West Brom regardless of Aguero's availability, having won 13 on the spin against their next opponents in the league.

Indeed, the visitors have never recorded a victory at the Etihad Stadium, their last away success over City coming at Maine Road back in February 2003.

Paul Pogba was given the chance to prove Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's claims the Frenchman remains "hungry" as the midfielder was restored to the starting XI for Saturday's Manchester derby.

Pogba had to settle for a spot on the bench as Manchester United were dumped out of the Champions League by RB Leipzig on Tuesday, though he was lively in his cameo, but starts against Manchester City at Old Trafford.

The World Cup winner saw a header deflected in as United got the score back to 3-2 in the second half after falling 3-0 down, and then his cross was almost turned in by a Leipzig defender late on as the Red Devils pushed for the equaliser that would have sent them through at the expense of the Germans.

Alas, United were unsuccessful and therefore come into the derby under pressure, while Pogba has long been considered out of form.

His benching in Leipzig came just a day after his agent Mino Raiola claimed Pogba was finished with United, but Solskjaer will hope he can link up to good effect with his midfield colleagues – Scott McTominay kept his place in the side, while Fred returned alongside him.

Marcus Rashford, Mason Greenwood and Bruno Fernandes were selected in attack.

City, however, were once again without Sergio Aguero.

The Argentinian striker has missed most of the season so far due to knee and hamstring injuries, and although he scored as a substitute against Marseille in the Champions League in midweek, he was not even been named on the bench for City.

Gabriel Jesus was picked to lead the line, while at the back John Stones returned in place of the injured Eric Garcia.

Bernardo Silva believes Sergio Aguero's return will provide Manchester City with the boost they need to claim the bragging rights in this weekend's derby.

Aguero played 25 minutes as a second-half substitute and scored the second goal in a 3-0 win over Marseille in the Champions League on Wednesday.

City boss Pep Guardiola said Aguero would not start against Manchester United at Old Trafford on Saturday but Silva was delighted to have the club's record goalscorer back in the mix, with complications in his recovery from meniscus surgery having limited the 32-year-old to five appearances this season.

"Everyone knows he's important," the Portugal midfielder said in quotes reported on City's website.

"He is one of the best players the club has ever had and a great goalscorer.

"He is also a great guy and personality to have around the team and it's great to have him back."

Silva is hopeful the victory against Marseille, which wrapped up an unbeaten Group C campaign to seal top spot, will lay the foundations for a positive result against their bitter rivals.

"When you win it's always easy to go to the next game, it's easier to win again and again," he insisted.

"We want to keep the momentum going in a tough game against United on Saturday and we want to keep winning."

City head into the derby a point behind United and six points off the Premier League summit.

Pep Guardiola insists Sergio Aguero will not start Saturday's derby at Old Trafford despite making a goalscoring return to action for Manchester City in the Champions League.

Aguero played 25 minutes as a second-half substitute and poached the second goal in a 3-0 win over Marseille from close range.

Complications in his recovery from meniscus surgery have limited the 32-year-old to four appearances this season and Guardiola said after the match that he would take a long-term view of his star striker's fitness.

"He played well, he scored a goal – for his instincts, for his quality in [the penalty area]," he said after Ferran Torres netted his fourth Champions League goal of the season and Raheem Sterling completed the scoring in the final minute.

"We need him to compete with the other [attackers]

"All the guys were brilliant, starting with Kyle [Walker], he is back, and ending with Ferran at the top."

Asked whether Aguero was in his plans for the starting XI against Manchester United, who head into the encounter a point and a place above City, Guardiola replied: "No. He was four of five months injured.

"I would love to feel he is ready, but we don't want to make a setback.

"That's why we must be patient. The important thing is he is here."

At his post-match news conference, Guardiola added: "His instinct to score goals always will be there. The important thing is he made three or four training sessions and the reaction after the training sessions [in the knee] was good.

"Today he had 25 minutes, scored a goal, was active.

"It's step by step. The reaction tomorrow after this effort is the most important thing."

Aguero acknowledged his fitness remains a work in progress following surgery in June and his subsequent setbacks, including a hamstring strain sustained during October's 1-1 draw at West Ham.

"Happy to be back, happy for the W [win]," he tweeted.

"My knee is feeling better and I'm gradually getting back into condition. My gratitude goes to the physios, the medical and technical staff, my team-mates and the fans for all your support."

Ilkay Gundogan could be a doubt for the derby, although Guardiola suggested his withdrawal at half-time against Marseille due to an ankle knock was mainly precautionary.

"He had a knock in his ankle and was a bit disturbed the way he was running the last minutes [of the first half]," the manager explained.

"He played 90 minutes in the last game and we didn’t want to take risks. We'll see tomorrow and the day after tomorrow how he feels."

Sergio Aguero returned to action with a goal as Manchester City closed out their triumphant Champions League group campaign with a routine 3-0 win over Marseille.

Ferran Torres brought the game to life after a goalless first half, continuing an impressive vein of form in Europe's top competition with a smart 48th-minute finish.

Aguero, who has struggled with the after-effects of meniscus surgery over the early months of the season, came off the bench to seal the points 13 minutes from time, offering Pep Guardiola a timely reminder of his qualities ahead of Sunday's Manchester derby at Old Trafford.

Another substitute, Raheem Sterling, completed the scoring for City, who were already through as group winners and can now boast their best-ever Champions League haul of 16 points.

Marseille bow out of continental competition in 2020-21 after five defeats from six outings.

Ilkay Gundogan delivered a wonderful out-swinging free-kick from the right in the 13th minute and Aymeric Laporte should probably have done better than heading over under pressure from Alvaro.

Marseille grew into the contest and, shortly after Eric Garcia's knee injury forced City into a defensive change, Dimitri Payet had a deft finish with the outside of his right foot ruled out for a clear offside.

Garcia's replacement, John Stones, made a vital sliding challenge to deny Valere Germain after Florian Thauvin skipped past Nathan Ake with ease.

Guardiola's attacking half-time change, which saw Sterling replace Gundogan and Bernardo Silva and Phil Foden drop into central attacking midfield positions, paid swift dividends.

Silva drove forward after picking up Stones' pass to play in Mahrez, who laid on Torres for a composed close-range conversion.

Foden twice went close before the hour - scuffing wide on the end of a move he started before shooting too close to Steve Mandanda, who kept out a stinging 65th-minute drive from Kyle Walker.

Torres was unable to convert the rebound on that occasion but Mandanda must have know what was to follow when he parried Ake's firm header from Foden's corner and saw the arch poacher Aguero lurking.

It was Sterling's turn to smuggle the ball home in the final minute when the unfortunate Mandanda could only push Torres' cross onto Alvaro.

What does it mean? Guardiola to go back to the future in Manchester derby

During a forgettable first half, City lined up in a now-familiar 4-2-3-1 and, not for the first-time this season, provided limited goalscoring threat. The half-time rejig, stationing Fernandinho as a lone holder behind energetic and creative runners from midfield, gave the hosts far more teeth. Plenty has changed since Guardiola's tried and trusted 4-3-3 helped City to accrue 198 points across two title-winning seasons and the manager's concerns over vulnerabilities to the counter-attack are valid, especially when considering the threat United will pose.

But when he took the handbreak off - albeit in an admittedly meaningless match - it was easy to wonder whether attack remains the best form of defence for a team now on a run of five consecutive clean sheets.

Torres continues to grow in stature

A close-season signing from Valencia, Torres can reflect on a fine adaptation to his new surroundings. He has only started five of City's 10 Premier League games to date but made it four goals in five Champions League appearances. A winger by trade, the 20-year-old again impressed in a central attacking role. Throw in his Nations League hat-trick in Spain's 6-0 rout of Germany last month and you have an impressive body of work.

Foden fails to make derby case

There is surely no player in Guardiola's squad who would revel more in a winning goal in front of the Stretford End than boyhood City fan Foden. The England playmaker did okay here, attempting five shots and creating two chances, but probably did not do enough to force his manager's hand for the weekend.

What's next?

City make the short trip to face Manchester United on Sunday, needing a win to leapfrog their neighbours in the Premier League table, while Marseille will target a sixth consecutive Ligue 1 victory when they host Monaco.

Pep Guardiola has vowed Manchester City's clash with Marseille will not be an opportunity for a breather ahead of the weekend's derby.

The City manager has made a point in recent weeks of stressing he will not rotate his squad, saying players will be picked on merit.

American goalkeeper Zack Steffen will make his Champions League debut against Marseille on Wednesday, an apparent indication the 25-year-old is pushing Ederson to start on a regular basis.

With the short trip to Manchester United ahead in the Premier League on Saturday, Guardiola wants his players drilled into a collective state of intense concentration.

"I don't rotate the team," Guardiola said. "I try to put the best players in the best condition for any game and decide the best for the team for this specific game.

"There is not one team for one competition and another for another one. In this tight schedule everybody has to be ready."

Guardiola was asked whether City may have a semblance of an advantage ahead of derby day, having already won their Champions League group while United face a tricky trip to RB Leipzig, knowing an off night could see them eliminated.

He said there was "absolutely nothing" of an advantage for City, and suggested United side's midweek commitments may even prove beneficial for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's men.

"They will be focused today and when you are focused and the next game is a derby game you continue to be focused. I speak from my experience," Guardiola said.

City will be tackling a Marseille side who halted a run of 13 Champions League defeats, an unwanted competition record, by beating Olympiacos last week.

The French outfit have a bleak record in England, however, having won just one of their previous 12 away games against English teams in Europe (D4 L7).

Marseille cannot go through to the last-16 stage this season, given that dismal run of losses, but Guardiola may still be wary given his record against French teams with City.

Since his arrival, City have lost three of their six Champions League games against French opposition (W2 D1), including the shock 3-1 loss to Lyon in last season's quarter-finals.

Marseille have strung together seven away defeats in succession in the competition, and an eighth would mean them enduring their worst losing run in the Champions League.

City could have Sergio Aguero involved in some capacity, but Guardiola is determined not to rush the Argentinian back.

Knee trouble has limited striker Aguero's involvement this season, and Guardiola said: "We're going to decide tomorrow, maybe he's on the bench.

"In the last three or four days he was part of the group and the training and the niggles he had in the recent past have disappeared."

Pep Guardiola is convinced Manchester City striker Sergio Aguero will still be the "same player" once he returns from his lingering injury problems. 

The 32-year-old Aguero has been limited to 26 Premier League appearances out of a possible 47 since the start of last season, with a series of fitness problems plaguing the Argentinian. 

In 2019-20, Aguero suffered with thigh issues and a knee injury that had him sidelined for four months, missing the start of this campaign.

Although he returned to the pitch in October, Aguero was soon back in the treatment room with a hamstring strain, and is currently nursing another knee injury. 

Aguero is City's all-time leading goalscorer and his pedigree in the Premier League is significant – since the start of 2015-16, his 102 goals is bettered by only Jamie Vardy (106) and Harry Kane (126). 

Despite his record in front of goal, some are concerned Aguero's injury problems will have caused the former Atletico Madrid player to lose his sharpness, though Guardiola has no such worries. 

"When he will be fit, he'll be the same player," Guardiola declared ahead of Saturday's clash with Fulham.

"Of course, age is age, he has to be fit and will need a bit more time than [Phil] Foden or Raheem [Sterling] would, because the physicality of the body is completely different, but I'm optimistic he will help us this season to do what he needs. 

"For that he must have no pain in the knee; we are working on it and today it feels much better. When he is able to train one week and two weeks in normal conditions, he will come back at his best and his sense of goal is unique in this team. 

"That is why it is so important. We cannot forget we have already played five or six months without him – that's a long time without our striker. 

"But I'm confident as he works a lot, he's a lovely person, I have an incredible relationship with him, better than ever. I like him and we want him back as soon as possible for him and for the team." 

Aguero is in the last year of his contract at City, with some long holding the belief he plans to return to Argentina once his time in Manchester comes to an end.

Page 1 of 9
© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.