Brazil have summoned eight Premier League players for October's World Cup qualifiers – and former Middlesbrough star Juninho is hopeful a deal will be struck to avoid more quarantine chaos.

Coach Tite called nine English-based stars for the last batch of internationals at the start of September, but none travelled, with top-flight English clubs refusing to release a number of players travelling to countries on the United Kingdom's travel red list.

Anyone returning from those countries would have been required to quarantine in a hotel for 10 days upon their return, regardless of vaccination status, which was an unacceptable situation for the clubs.

There are hopes that a deal can be struck to allow footballers to travel in bubble conditions, with Juninho pointing to talks involving the Premier League, world football's governing body FIFA and British government officials.

At one point last month it appeared the players who did not join their national teams could be obligated to miss club games, effectively as a punishment, but that threat eventually receded.

Some Premier League players did travel to their national teams, however, and Tottenham's Giovani Lo Celso and Cristian Romero, plus Aston Villa's Emiliano Martinez, joined up with Argentina. They were then at the centre of incredible scenes in Sao Paulo when Brazilian health authority officials stormed onto the pitch to stop the Selecao's game against Argentina proceeding.

Brazil's travel rules demand individuals to isolate if they have been in the UK within 14 days of their arrival in the country.

The English-based contingent selected by Brazil for October's games includes captain Thiago Silva, goalkeepers Alisson and Ederson, Fred, Gabriel Jesus and Roberto Firmino. Everton's Richarlison misses out due to a knee injury, but Leeds United's Raphinha and Tottenham's Emerson Royal are in the squad.

Juninho, now a co-ordinator of the Brazil national team, said the players were selected this time because of the belief a solution could be found.

"There have been several meetings with FIFA, the Premier League and the British government," Juninho said, quoted on Brazilian sport website Lance.

"We trust that next week there will be a resolution on these cases."

Brazil travel to play Venezuela on October 7 and Colombia three days later, before a home clash in Manaus against Uruguay on October 14.

The players are due to assemble in Bogota, Colombia, on October 4. Brazil's eight wins from eight have put them firmly at the front of the race to qualify for next year's finals in Qatar.

 

Brazil squad: Alisson (Liverpool), Ederson (Manchester City), Weverton (Palmeiras); Danilo (Juventus), Emerson Royal (Tottenham), Alex Sandro (Juventus), Guilherme Arana (Atletico Mineiro), Thiago Silva (Chelsea), Marquinhos (Paris Saint-Germain), Eder Militao (Real Madrid), Lucas Verissimo (Benfica); Casemiro (Real Madrid), Fabinho (Liverpool), Gerson (Marseille), Everton Ribeiro (Flamengo), Fred (Manchester United), Lucas Paqueta (Lyon), Edenilson (Internacional); Gabriel Jesus (Manchester City), Antony (Ajax), Raphinha (Leeds United), Gabi (Flamengo), Matheus Cunha (Atletico Madrid), Neymar (Paris Saint-Germain), Vinicius Junior (Real Madrid).

Central and South American players who were barred from travelling to World Cup qualifiers by their Premier League teams will be available this weekend after their countries backed down from a request to ban them under FIFA rules. 

Players from Brazil, Mexico, Chile and Paraguay are cleared to play as their national federations agreed late Friday to waive a measure that would have compelled the players to sit out after their clubs refused to release them for international duty. 

Premier League teams last month decided to prevent players from nations on the United Kingdom's COVID-19 "red list" to participate in Qatar 2022 qualifiers, citing the UK's requirement that people who have travelled to those countries quarantine for 10 days upon their return. 

There had been some indications earlier Friday that the players might be available, but official word did not come down until shortly before midnight London time. 

Brazilians now available to their clubs Saturday include Ederson and Gabriel Jesus of Manchester City, Chelsea's Thiago Silva and Manchester United's Fred. 

Among players from other nations involved, Wolves can use Mexico's Raul Jimenez on Saturday, while Newcastle will have Paraguay's Miguel Almiron available, and Watford can play Chile's Francisco Sierralta 

Liverpool will be most relieved, with Alisson, Fabinho and Roberto Firmino cleared to face Raphina and Leeds on Sunday. 

Earlier Friday, Jurgen Klopp said at a news conference that he hoped a solution could be reached for the benefit of all parties involved. 

"It is a really difficult situation and really tricky for all the clubs, and the players especially," Klopp said. "We should not forget at this moment that the players wanted to play these games, the clubs wanted to let the players go but it was not possible."

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola hit out at the "crazy" decision from the Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF) to invoke a FIFA suspension for Ederson and Gabriel Jesus.

City duo Ederson and Jesus were – among the majority of other South American players in the Premier League – not released by their clubs for the recent round of World Cup qualifiers on the continent.

Premier League clubs unanimously agreed last month they would refuse to release players called up by nations that are on the British government's travel red list amid the coronavirus pandemic.

All of South America is on this list, and players would have had to quarantine in a hotel for 10 days upon their arrival back in the United Kingdom, leaving them unavailable for at least two league games and next week's European fixtures.

Spurs trio Davinson Sanchez, Giovani Lo Celso and Cristian Romero nevertheless joined up with Colombia and Argentina respectively, while Aston Villa's Emiliano Martinez and Emiliano Buendia also travelled, though the Argentine contingent agreed to return early.

However, Martinez, Lo Celso and Romero were at the centre of incredible scenes in Sao Paulo last weekend when Brazilian health authority officials stormed onto the pitch to detain the trio, as Brazil's travel rules demand individuals to isolate if they have been in the UK within 14 days of their arrival in the country.

Explaining his frustration and confusion, Guardiola pointed to this fact after Brazil invoked a FIFA ruling to prevent clubs from fielding the players they did not release.

Ahead of Saturday's trip to Leicester City, Guardiola told a news conference on Friday: "Right now it still isn't clear, hopefully they can play, we will wait and see tomorrow if there is some good news. The club didn't inform me of anything. So we are going to wait and see if they can play or not.

"I don't understand the situation for the fact that I don't know what we can do. It's an honour for us that our players go and play for the countries where they are born. It's no problem at all.

"It's difficult to justify for me that the Argentina players who play in the Premier League, they go to Brazil and they were not allowed to play, and the Brazilian players who should have travelled to play this game would have been completely the same.

"So if they travelled there, they wouldn't have been able to play because of the quarantine there. If they do it so they [fly to Brazil] but cannot play in Brazil and after when they came back they could not play here for 10 days. And if they don't fly, then after they are suspended for five days because they were here. So it makes no sense.

"Argentina travelled with some players, the police were on the pitch, and they could not play the game because they didn't follow the protocol.

"So it would have happened with the Brazil players. And after the federation from Brazil asked FIFA to ban these players that cannot travel to play with them, but they could not play there, and now they could not play here? It's crazy."

With Zack Steffen isolating in the United States having tested positive for COVID-19, Guardiola will likely have to call on veteran goalkeeper Scott Carson to make just his second City appearance if Ederson is rendered unavailable – the former England international's only previous outing being in a 4-3 win over Newcastle United back in May, his first top-flight appearance in a decade.

Ferran Torres scored a hat-trick in that match and, after netting twice against Arsenal last time out, has now been involved in six goals in his last six league appearances. 

Jesus, playing on the right of City's front three, has also made a strong start to the season and would be a miss for Guardiola's team. Indeed, the forward has only scored more times against Everton (eight) in the Premier League than he has in meetings with Leicester (five).

Guardiola was at least able to offer positive news on the fitness of Phil Foden and Kevin De Bruyne.

"Yesterday Phil made the first training session, and Kevin was training alone and then with the players still here," he said. "They're feeling much better."

Pep Guardiola will take the mental health of his international stars into consideration as Manchester City prepare for a quick turnaround into the new season.

The Premier League champions went down to a 1-0 Community Shield defeat against Leicester City on Saturday, their former striker Kelechi Iheanacho coming off the bench to win and convert a late penalty at Wembley.

Guardiola remained without Raheem Sterling, Phil Foden, Kyle Walker, John Stones, Ederson and Gabriel Jesus after their respective runs to the finals of Euro 2020 and the Copa America with England and Brazil.

The sextet will return to training on Monday, while Kevin De Bruyne is still on the mend after an ankle injury sustained during Belgium's progress to the quarter-finals of the European Championship.

Aymeric Laporte – a Euros semi-finalist with Spain – must self-isolate until the middle of next week because a passenger on his flight back to the United Kingdom after a vacation tested positive for COVID-19. The defender has tested negative.

It adds up to a far-from-ideal preparation for next weekend's league opener at Tottenham, a fixture likely to be lent a tempestuous edge by City's pursuit of Harry Kane.

Nevertheless, Guardiola knows a return to peak physical fitness will come in time, even though he again took aim at scheduling arrangements by UEFA and FIFA in his post-match comments at Wembley.

The former Barcelona boss is more concerned about the mental strain endured by players who have been on a near non-stop schedule since returning to action from the coronavirus lockdown last June.

Asked whether his England players would benefit from being afforded an extra week of rest, he replied: "It depends on their heads. They have to rest and now they can be ready, but it depends on here [the head].

On whether his returning internationals would be ready to play at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, Guardiola replied: "A few players get the condition so quick, others need a little more time. We will see the weight, the body fat, how they arrive. And especially their heads.

"There are players who play three, four or five days and their mentality is positive and they are ready to fight and suffer in the bad conditions. Some of them take a little more time.

"We will try to discover which ones are ready immediately."

Foden is unlikely to be among that group, given he must still recover from the foot injury that ruled him out of England's penalty shoot-out loss to Italy.

Stones was an ever-present at centre-back for Gareth Southgate's side, while Sterling and Walker were each named in the UEFA Team of the Tournament.

"All of them, they played really well. I'm glad and happy for them. They have had many years together," Guardiola said.

"They made an incredible achievement. When you achieve a final in the Euro it's a big, big thing.

"They have to be so proud of what they have done with the national team. The benefits to the confidence will be there.

"But the past is the past. What you have done with the national team is for the memories. The challenge is ahead of us to do a good season."

Another Premier League season has come to an end and Sergio Aguero added another top-flight record to his collection.

Manchester City's all-time leading goalscorer was already the top-scoring overseas player in Premier League history and his farewell brace from the bench in a celebratory 5-0 win over Everton made him the top one-club scorer in the division with 184.

Impressive, yes, but those are conventionally impressive numbers.

For the final time in 2020-21, Stats Perform takes a look through the more unusual figures to have emerged over the course of an action-packed round of games.

 

The year of the penalty

Anwar Al Ghazi's second-half penalty ultimately proved decisive as Aston Villa beat Chelsea 2-1 and it was also a landmark goal – the 100th spot-kick to be scored in the Premier League this season.

Never before have penalty goals ticked into three figures, with the effects of VAR arguably keenly felt.

However, does the volume of penalties being given mean they are less costly than they once were? Manchester City conceded 10 in a season for the first time and ended up as champions.

The 10th came at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday, although Ederson was on hand to keep out Gylfi Sigurdsson's attempt and preserve a 19th clean sheet of the season.

There should be little surprise that a penalty ended up being awarded during the game. When Ruben Dias brought down Richarlison it was the 19th time Michael Oliver had pointed to the spot this season.

That amounts to a new high for an individual referee during a campaign, usurping the inimitable Mike Dean's 17 in 2009-10. Perhaps the Merseyside official will view it as a challenge?

 

Chelsea share the wealth

Thomas Tuchel's side stumbled rather than strode into the top four, going down to a 2-1 defeat at Villa Park and finding themselves in the unusual position of being grateful for a Tottenham victory at Leicester City.

Chelsea might have secured Champions League qualification in more stress-free fashion if any of their players had bothered scoring more goals.

Yes, that might not be the most earth-shaking piece of tactical insight, but the Blues have provided one of the season's statistical curiosities.

They are the first team in a century to have reached the top four despite having no player reach double figures for league goals, with the previous team to manage the feat in such a fashion being Everton in 1910-11.

What's more is their top Premier League scorer Jorginho netted all seven from the penalty spot. Tammy Abraham, Timo Werner and Mason Mount – all of whom have experienced sharply contrasting fortunes since Tuchel replaced Frank Lampard in January – have six apiece.

Jorginho is the Blues' lowest scoring top-scorer in a top division season since Ian Hutchinson also led the way with seven in 1974-75.

Players certainly seem to have no problem scoring once they leave Chelsea. Aston Villa's Bertrand Traore became the 25th old Stamford Bridge employee to score against his former club. No Premier League side has seen ex-players score against them more often.

 

Blades creators not cutting through

If individual goal tallies are a cause for concern at Chelsea, relegated Sheffield United can roll their woes back one more step in the process.

No Blades player will return to the Championship with more than two assists to their name, with John Lundstram, John Fleck and George Baldock all level as their most prolific – in the loosest sense of the word – creators.

In the history of the Premier League, only one other team has gone through a season without a player reaching at least three assists. Mark Kinsella, Steve Jones, Danny Mills, Richard Rufus and Eddie Youds had two apiece for Charlton Athletic in 1998-99.

United at least signed off with a 1-0 victory over Burnley. David McGoldrick's winner was the 1,000th goal scored in the Premier League this season.

 

No, no, no, no on last day for Nuno

Nuno Espirito Santo said farewell to Wolves having restored the club to the Premier League and enjoyed a wonderful four seasons in charge.

But maybe the Portuguese tactician should have headed off on his holidays early, because just about the one thing not to have improved during his Molineux tenure is Wolves' final-day record.

In the four seasons before Nuno arrived in the midlands, the club won four in a row on the last day of the season between 2013-14 and 2016-17.

Promotion from the Championship had already been secured before a 3-0 loss to Sunderland to close out 2017-18. Liverpool beat Wolves 2-0 at Anfield as their final-day title bid fell short in 2019.

Chelsea won 2-0 at Stamford Bridge last July as Nuno's men cast an eye towards their pending Europa League bid and Manchester United's 2-1 weekend triumph made it four concluding losses out of four.

Time is running out to secure precious fantasy football points as the Premier League season nears an end.

Manchester City have the title in the bag, but it may still be all to play for in fantasy leagues heading into the penultimate weekend of the campaign.

With some teams still having three games to play in a hectic schedule, it will be vital to make the right picks and ensure points could potentially mean prizes.

Here are a few tips to help you out, powered by Opta, as always...

 

EDERSON

City travel to Newcastle United on Friday for their first match since being crowned champions.

They have won 11 consecutive Premier League away matches and a 12th victory at St. James' Park would see them break the all-time record in the top four tiers of English football.

City have kept 16 clean sheets on their travels in all competitions this season and are one away from equalling the record by a top-flight team in a season.

Newcastle have managed just 41 shots in seven Premier League games against Pep Guardiola's side, so another clean sheet could be on the cards for Ederson, who has more than any other goalkeeper in the division this season (18).

 

TRENT ALEXANDER-ARNOLD

Liverpool full-back Trent Alexander-Arnold was outstanding in the 4-2 victory at Manchester United on Thursday.

With England boss Gareth Southgate watching on, Alexander-Arnold caught the eye with an influential display as Jurgen Klopp's side claimed three precious points in the battle for a Champions League spot.

The Reds travel to relegated West Brom on Sunday knowing a win would leave them just a point behind fourth-placed Chelsea with two games to play.

Since he was omitted from the last England squad in March, Alexander-Arnold has created more chances than any other top-flight player with 21, making him a necessity for your XI.

 

LUCAS DIGNE

Everton full-back Lucas Digne has enjoyed another impressive season for Carlo Ancelotti's side.

The Toffees entertain bottom club Sheffield United at Goodison Park on Sunday as they hunt a place in Europe next season.

France international Digne can make an impact at both ends of the pitch, with his seven assists the joint-highest by a defender in the Premier League this season, along with Aaron Cresswell of West Ham.

Everton have kept four clean sheets in their previous six matches with Digne in the side too, so will be aiming to blunt the Blades on Merseyside.

 

MATHEUS PEREIRA

Brazilian forward Matheus Pereira has been a shining light in a poor season for West Brom.

The Baggies were unable to avoid an immediate return to the Championship, a defeat to Arsenal last weekend consigning Sam Allardyce to a first relegation from the Premier League.

Albion will be desperate to keep hold of Pereira, who has scored five goals in six matches ahead of the encounter with Liverpool.

He has been directly involved in 15 goals this season, with only Peter Odemwingie (22 in 2010-11) and Romelu Lukaku (21 in 2012-13) managing more involvements for the Baggies in a Premier League campaign.

 

SON HEUNG-MIN

Tottenham face Wolves at home on Sunday smarting from a 3-1 defeat at Leeds United last time out.

Son Heung-min scored Spurs' only goal at Elland Road, where the London club's slim hopes of securing a Champions League spot were all-but ended.

The South Korea forward has been directly involved in four goals in three games under caretaker boss Ryan Mason, scoring three and setting one up.

Son has found the back of the net in three consecutive Premier League games and will be a major threat to Wolves. He had managed just one goal in his previous seven outings in the competition during the final stages of Jose Mourinho's reign.

 

SERGIO AGUERO

City's all-time leading goalscorer Sergio Aguero issued an apology after his embarrassing Panenka penalty gave Chelsea goalkeeper Edouard Mendy the simplest of saves last weekend.

Aguero will be determined to make amends as he nears the end of his time with City and could take his frustration out on Newcastle.

The Argentina striker has scored 15 goals in 14 Premier League games against the Magpies, averaging one every 61 minutes, and it would be no surprise to see him add to that tally.

 

MICHAIL ANTONIO

West Ham head south to face Brighton and Hove Albion on the back of a 1-0 home defeat to Everton that left their chances of qualifying for the Champions League hanging by a thread.

They will need to respond on the south coast against a Brighton side who are safe now.

Antonio has been directly involved in 14 goals in his past 13 away Premier League starts, netting 11 times and providing three assists.

He can trouble the Seagulls and improve those numbers. Indeed, the forward has scored 24 times for the Hammers on the road in the competition, five more than any other player for the club.

Pep Guardiola insists it makes "no sense" for players who will have to quarantine upon their return to the UK to go on international duty later this month – stating Manchester City will not release such players.

In light of on-going coronavirus travel restrictions, FIFA has made the unprecedented move of giving clubs the right to prevent players from joining up with their national teams if the fixtures in question mean a quarantine period of five days or more upon their return.

In the UK, anyone travelling to 'red list' countries must isolate for 10 days when they come back, with no exemptions granted for elite sportspeople.

The list features all of South America and parts of Africa. Portugal, the only European country on the list, have sought to mitigate the impact by moving their World Cup qualifier against Azerbaijan on March 24 to Turin.

Although that seemingly frees up City trio Bernardo Silva, Joao Cancelo and Ruben Dias, Guardiola will be able to put his foot down when it comes to Argentina striker Sergio Aguero, Algeria winger Riyad Mahrez and Brazil contingent Ederson, Fernandinho and Gabriel Jesus.

"We didn't speak. We will wait until after this game against United and I am pretty sure that next week we'll talk about that," Guardiola told a news conference ahead of Sunday's Manchester derby.

"But I think it makes no sense if the players go to the national team and then have to isolate for 10 days when they come back. It makes no sense.

"We've worked incredibly hard for seven, eight or nine months and after the international break comes the real part of the season, and important players cannot play for 10 days? It makes no sense.

"They are not going to fly. That’s for sure. If they can fly, play with the national team and come straight back to training, they’ll fly.

"We invest a lot of time and money for the important part of the season and if six, seven, eight players cannot play with us, it makes no sense, honestly. No sense."

Guardiola's stance means the runaway Premier League leaders are aligned with the reigning champions after Jurgen Klopp also said Liverpool players from affected countries would not be released.

The City boss, who famously went against Barcelona's stance during his time as head coach and allowed Lionel Messi to win a gold medal at the 2008 Olympic Games, insists he is not acting to devalue international football – just merely reacting to the realities of these times.

"We want to let them go to the national team. I know how important it is for them. I'd never say don't go to represent your country and to prepare for the European Cup or American Cup," he added.

"But it's no sense to do it and not play for 10 days, no training session, be at home, when we are playing for the league.

"If we go through, we will still be in the Champions League and we don't play with these players.

"They are not going to fly. I don't know what is going to happen but they are not going to fly, for sure.

"We've followed the protocols for eight, nine months. No restaurants, closed. The people are here - home, home, here, in the bubble, don't do it [break protocols], protect them, test them every two days.

"And after, in an important part of the season in the league, we don't have the players because the government has decided it is in a red zone and they cannot play when we are playing every three or four days?

"They are not going to fly, sure. I'm pretty sure that UEFA or FIFA will understand this argument."

Manchester City will be looking to stretch their record winning run to 20 matches when they welcome fellow in-form side West Ham to the Etihad Stadium in the Premier League this weekend.

Pep Guardiola's men are 10 points clear at the summit and two of their players feature among our Opta-fuelled fantasy picks, along with a couple of Everton men on the back of last week's long-awaited derby win at Liverpool.

Manchester United, Tottenham and Leicester City players are also selected ahead of games against Chelsea, Burnley and Arsenal respectively.

 

EDERSON

There are many factors behind the leaders' winning run - not least an incredible defensive record, with goalkeeper Ederson more than playing his part.

The Brazil international has kept 15 clean sheets from 24 Premier League games this term, averaging one every 1.6 matches.

Only two keepers to have played at least 10 times have averaged fewer games per clean sheet across an entire season - Chelsea's Petr Cech (24 in 35 apps in 2004-05) and former Manchester United stopper Edwin van der Sar (21 in 33 apps in 2008-09).

JOAO CANCELO

Simply keeping out the opposition is not enough in the life of a modern day full-back, best epitomised by Cancelo at Man City.

On top of helping City to that formidable defensive record, he has also created the most chances (34) from open play among fellow Premier League defenders this season.

Cancelo may only have set up two goals in the top flight this season, but he has the highest number of expected assists (4.28) among defenders, just ahead of Manchester United's Luke Shaw (4.04).

 

LUCAS DIGNE

Carlo Ancelotti was delighted with the news Digne had signed a new long-term deal with Everton this week and little wonder given the full-back's impact on the side.

No Premier League defender has more assists than the 27-year-old's six this season - level with West Ham's Aaron Cresswell and one more than Andy Robertson and Shaw.

Since Digne's debut for Everton in August 2018, only Liverpool pair Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold (28) have assisted more goals than the Frenchman (17).

GYLFI SIGURDSSON

There was a point when Sigurdsson's time at Everton appeared to be up not so long ago, but the creative midfielder has more than proved his worth to the side of late.

He was been involved in six Premier League goals in 23 appearances this term - four goals and two assists - which is one more than he managed in 35 games last season.

That is a tally he will be confident of building on this gameweek, as the Iceland international has only scored more Premier League goals against Chelsea (six) than he has versus opponents Southampton (five).

 

MARCUS RASHFORD

In the week he celebrates the five-year anniversary since scoring twice on his United debut, Rashford takes on his favourite opponents in Chelsea.

The United academy product has scored five times against the Blues in all competitions and registered a couple of assists.

Only against Leicester City has he found the net as many times, while only against Newcastle United and West Ham (both seven) has he been directly involved in more goals.

HARRY KANE

If Rashford enjoys playing against Chelsea, the same is true of Kane against Tottenham's next opponents Burnley.

The England skipper has been directly involved in 10 goals in nine Premier League appearances against the Clarets, finding the net seven times and laying on three assists.

Burnley's defenders will not look forward to coming up against Kane, with Riyad Mahrez the only player to score against them more often (eight times) in their Premier League history.

 

JAMIE VARDY

Vardy's scoring record against the division's traditional top four is well known by now, particularly when it comes to facing Arsenal.

The Leicester striker has scored 11 goals in 12 previous Premier League appearances against the Gunners, including a late winner in the reverse fixture.

Those 11 strikes place Vardy behind only Wayne Rooney for goals scored against Arsenal in the competition, the United legend netting 12 times against the London club in his career.

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola labelled Ederson's passing the best he has seen from a goalkeeper.

A long pass from Ederson set up Ilkay Gundogan's sealer in City's 3-0 Premier League win over Tottenham on Saturday.

Guardiola has previously suggested the goalkeeper could become City's penalty taker, such is his ability with his feet.

Having worked with Manuel Neuer at Bayern Munich and Victor Valdes at Barcelona, Guardiola said Ederson was the best passer.

"With his feet, he is the best. The quality of the pass, I would say, is the best," he said.

"Manuel and Victor were incredible too but the quality of the pass is the best. I would not say who is the best [overall] because I had success in the past with incredible keepers in Victor, Manuel and Eddie.

"He has credit from the manager, backroom staff and players. He's outstanding and he knows it.

"But the players know – if you want credit and to be recognised, win games, win titles and you will get it.

"If you don't win games and titles, you will not get it. It's not more difficult than this."

City are seven points clear atop the Premier League table ahead of visiting Everton on Wednesday.

Pep Guardiola still harbours concerns over the quality of Manchester City's penalty takers after Rodri scored from the spot against Tottenham.

Rodri opened the scoring in the 23rd minute on Saturday, though his finish only just escaped the grasp of Hugo Lloris, who should have done better.

Ilkay Gundogan – who missed a penalty in the 4-1 win over Liverpool last week – won the spot-kick and then scored twice to take his tally of league goals in 2021 to nine and seal a 3-0 win.

Though City are now seven points clear at the top, and 13 ahead of reigning champions Liverpool, who went down 3-1 at Leicester City earlier on Saturday, Guardiola was not best pleased when asked about Rodri taking the spot-kick.

The former Atletico Madrid midfielder had never scored a penalty in his senior career, and Guardiola told BBC Sport: "The penalty is clear and then the first time we attack in the second half we score, that can happen.

"Is Rodri the taker now? No. I would say I admire the courage to take the penalty but it was not a good penalty.

"I am not laughing, I am concerned about this. We will have a real specialist to take them with quality. We have to practice."

Ederson provided a sensational assist for Gundogan's second goal – the third time the goalkeeper has set up a goal during his time at City – and Guardiola seems to be seriously considering the Brazil international as a potential penalty taker.

Guardiola added: "When I talk about Ederson and penalties, you see his assist, 60-70 yards, well then he will score from 12 yards!"

However, Guardiola's decision may come as news to Rodri, who also revealed he ignored the advice of Ederson, who appeared to pass on some information via Bernard Silva in the build-up to the spot-kick.

"I was a bit angry in the last weeks because we missed many penalties, much more than we expect, and in big games you have to score penalties because the margins are so small," Rodri told Sky Sports.

"I told my team-mates that for the next penalty I would shoot. I got the ball, nobody took the ball off me. Fortunately, I scored.

"Goalkeepers know each other, [Ederson] told Bernardo some tips about Lloris, where I should shoot the penalty – I didn't listen! Sometimes it's better to focus on what you're confident doing.

"We were laughing in the locker room, next penalty for sure I am going to take."

Despite City's penalty problems, Guardiola's team are ploughing on in their bid to recover the title they lost last season.

City remain unbeaten in their past 23 matches in all competitions (W20 D3), conceding just six goals during this period, and have won 11 Premier League games in a row.

They have not trailed for a single minute in any of their past 15 Premier League matches since a 2-0 loss to Spurs in the reverse fixture in November; in the competition's history, only Arsenal have embarked on a longer run of successive games without going behind (a run of 19 matches between December 1998 and May 1999).

One other issue for Guardiola, however, could be Gundogan's fitness.

The Germany international has scored more goals since the turn of the year than any other player in Europe's 'top five' leagues but succumbed to a groin problem midway through the second half.

Guardiola confirmed the 30-year-old will undergo further checks in the coming days.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kai Havertz remains among the substitutes.

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