Cole Palmer has joined Erling Haaland at the top of the Premier League goal-scorer’s chart after adding four more to his tally in Chelsea’s 6-0 thrashing of Everton.

The Chelsea midfielder surged alongside Manchester City goal machine Haaland in the race for the Golden Boot, with both players currently on 20 in the top flight this season.

Here, the PA news agency takes a look at the top six contenders for the award as the 2023-24 Premier League campaign enters the run-in.

Golden Boot battle

Cole Palmer (Chelsea) – 20 goals in 28 appearances

The 21-year-old’s remarkable first season at Chelsea just keeps getting better. Palmer, who did not score a league goal for Manchester City, has notched 10 in his last five league matches, rocketing into Golden Boot contention.

Erling Haaland (Man City) – 20 goals in 26 appearances

Haaland set the Premier League ablaze in 2022-23, claiming a new record of 36 goals in a season. The 23-year-old started like a train again this season before missing five games with a foot injury. Since returning in January he has scored six in 11 appearances, underwhelming by his standards, but the Norway hit man remains a heavy favourite to retain the Golden Boot.

Ollie Watkins (Aston Villa) – 19 goals in 32 appearances

Watkins is enjoying his most prolific season in the top flight, already surpassing his 15 goals from last season, while also providing the most assists (10) of those on this list. The 28-year-old’s current goal conversion rate is better than Haaland’s and he will be hoping to feature for England at the Euros.

Alexander Isak (Newcastle) – 17 goals in 24 appearances

Isak has more than justified Newcastle’s outlay of around £60million after a thigh injury limited his impact in his first campaign at St James’ Park. The 24-year-old is the first Newcastle player since Alan Shearer in 2003-04 to score 20 goals in a season for the club in all competitions.

Mohamed Salah (Liverpool) – 17 goals in 26 appearances

Salah has won the Golden Boot on three occasions during his stellar Liverpool career and has scored 20 top-flight goals or more in four of his six previous seasons at the club. The Egypt forward is on course to make that five in seven.

Dominic Solanke (Bournemouth) – 17 goals in 32 appearances

When Solanke struck the opener in last weekend’s 2-2 draw at Manchester United he broke the record for the most Premier League goals scored in a single season by a Bournemouth player. The 26-year-old has produced his best form under Andoni Iraola and could force his way into England’s plans for the Euros.

Southgate’s sharp-shooters

Gareth Southgate must be filled with excitement when he looks at the top 10 scorers in the Premier League this season, with six England players on the list.

Palmer only made his England debut in November but his astonishing form for Chelsea must surely earn him a spot in the squad for this summer’s Euro 2024.

Watkins could find himself in a straight shoot-out with Ivan Toney for the spot as back-up striker to Bayern Munich’s Harry Kane, while Solanke has just one England cap to his name back in 2017.

Further down the scoring charts, West Ham’s Jarrod Bowen has enjoyed a stellar campaign with 15 goals while Manchester City midfielder Phil Foden has netted 10 goals since Christmas to take his tally to 14 overall.

Arsenal’s Bukayo Saka, a certain starter for England in Germany injury permitting, also has 14 goals to further add to their firepower.

And when Kane’s 43 goals in all competitions for Bayern and Jude Bellingham’s 22 for Real Madrid are factored in, Southgate’s side are an exciting prospect.

Cole Palmer has joined Erling Haaland at the top of the Premier League goal-scorer’s chart after adding four more to his tally in Chelsea’s 6-0 thrashing of Everton.

The Chelsea midfielder surged alongside Manchester City goal machine Haaland in the race for the Golden Boot, with both players currently on 20 in the top flight this season.

Here, the PA news agency takes a look at the top six contenders for the award as the 2023-24 Premier League campaign enters the run-in.

Golden Boot battle

Cole Palmer (Chelsea) – 20 goals in 28 appearances

The 21-year-old’s remarkable first season at Chelsea just keeps getting better. Palmer, who did not score a league goal for Manchester City, has notched 10 in his last five league matches, rocketing into Golden Boot contention.

Erling Haaland (Man City) – 20 goals in 26 appearances

Haaland set the Premier League ablaze in 2022-23, claiming a new record of 36 goals in a season. The 23-year-old started like a train again this season before missing five games with a foot injury. Since returning in January he has scored six in 11 appearances, underwhelming by his standards, but the Norway hit man remains a heavy favourite to retain the Golden Boot.

Ollie Watkins (Aston Villa) – 19 goals in 32 appearances

Watkins is enjoying his most prolific season in the top flight, already surpassing his 15 goals from last season, while also providing the most assists (10) of those on this list. The 28-year-old’s current goal conversion rate is better than Haaland’s and he will be hoping to feature for England at the Euros.

Alexander Isak (Newcastle) – 17 goals in 24 appearances

Isak has more than justified Newcastle’s outlay of around £60million after a thigh injury limited his impact in his first campaign at St James’ Park. The 24-year-old is the first Newcastle player since Alan Shearer in 2003-04 to score 20 goals in a season for the club in all competitions.

Mohamed Salah (Liverpool) – 17 goals in 26 appearances

Salah has won the Golden Boot on three occasions during his stellar Liverpool career and has scored 20 top-flight goals or more in four of his six previous seasons at the club. The Egypt forward is on course to make that five in seven.

Dominic Solanke (Bournemouth) – 17 goals in 32 appearances

When Solanke struck the opener in last weekend’s 2-2 draw at Manchester United he broke the record for the most Premier League goals scored in a single season by a Bournemouth player. The 26-year-old has produced his best form under Andoni Iraola and could force his way into England’s plans for the Euros.

Southgate’s sharp-shooters

Gareth Southgate must be filled with excitement when he looks at the top 10 scorers in the Premier League this season, with six England players on the list.

Palmer only made his England debut in November but his astonishing form for Chelsea must surely earn him a spot in the squad for this summer’s Euro 2024.

Watkins could find himself in a straight shoot-out with Ivan Toney for the spot as back-up striker to Bayern Munich’s Harry Kane, while Solanke has just one England cap to his name back in 2017.

Further down the scoring charts, West Ham’s Jarrod Bowen has enjoyed a stellar campaign with 15 goals while Manchester City midfielder Phil Foden has netted 10 goals since Christmas to take his tally to 14 overall.

Arsenal’s Bukayo Saka, a certain starter for England in Germany injury permitting, also has 14 goals to further add to England’s firepower.

And when Kane’s 43 goals in all competitions for Bayern and Jude Bellingham’s 22 for Real Madrid are factored in, Southgate’s side are an exciting prospect.

Cole Palmer is grateful for the opportunity Chelsea gave him to join the club after he celebrated successive home hat-tricks when he scored four times in the Blues’ 6-0 win over Everton.

The Manchester City academy graduate, who joined the Blues last summer, scored a spectacular individual goal to open the scoring.

Palmer scored a header and added a third when he capitalised on a Jordan Pickford error before converting a penalty in the second half. Nicolas Jackson and Alfie Gilchrist also got on the scoresheet as the Toffees came completely unstuck.

It was Palmer’s second home triple in a row, following his three goals against Manchester United earlier this month.

Palmer told Chelsea’s official website: “To make the decision to come to Chelsea was a big one for me and my family, but I just wanted to play football. I’m thankful to Chelsea for the opportunity and I’m buzzing.

“We started well and to score a hat-trick, I’m buzzing. I think the team needed that after last Sunday and some previous games. We did well tonight. It was a great game for the team and me.”

Palmer showed wonderful skill for his first goal after he jinked past Jarrad Branthwaite, receiving a flick-on from Jackson before he produced a first-time curled effort from outside the box into the bottom left-hand corner.

The 21-year-old added: “I think my first one was my favourite.

“My right-footed goal was a bit of a swinger, but my first one was probably my favourite. As an attacker, you always want to help the team with goals and assists, but my main focus was playing well and trying to get into the positions to score goals.”

Manager Mauricio Pochettino heaped praise on Palmer, who is now joint top in the Premier League’s Golden Boot race with Erling Haaland on 20 goals each.

He said: “I don’t judge the player when we sign (them) but I expected the best. It doesn’t surprise us, he’s a player who has had the capacity to score goals when he was playing at Manchester City. He has the capacity to score easily.

“The way he’s adapted, playing and performing is fantastic. He behaves like a top scorer and I think it’s amazing for the team and him.”

Pep Guardiola immediately turned his attention to the challenge of Real Madrid after his Manchester City side thrashed Luton 5-1 on Saturday.

City enjoyed the perfect preparation for Wednesday’s Champions League quarter-final second leg against the Spanish giants as they cruised past the Hatters in a one-sided encounter.

An early own goal from Daiki Hashioka set them on their way before second-half strikes from Mateo Kovacic, Erling Haaland, Jeremy Doku and Josko Gvardiol wrapped up a comfortable win.

With the three points taking City back to the Premier League summit, putting pressure on rivals Arsenal and Liverpool ahead of Sunday’s fixtures, Guardiola could switch his focus to Real.

“The team is alive,” said the City boss, whose side played out a pulsating 3-3 draw with Real last Tuesday.

“It’s difficult against Real Madrid but, at the same time, let’s try and go to do it with our people.

“Whatever happens, we will give everything. There is not one minute when we won’t know what to do.

“We have all our desire to do it. I want the Etihad full, no seat empty.”

City are chasing an unprecedented second successive treble.

Guardiola said: “We have to admit it, what a privilege, still fighting for the Premier League, playing against Real Madrid with a chance to qualify for the semi-final, and the FA Cup next Saturday, a semi-final again.”

Although City won comfortably, Guardiola felt Luton had made things difficult.

He said: “It was really hard until the second goal.

“We played really good and had a lot of chances in the first half but we missed something in the finishing.

“How many times have I seen in world football that a team is better and doesn’t win the game? Many times. We know how difficult Luton are.”

Hatters boss Rob Edwards conceded he had not expected his relegation battlers to get anything from the game.

He said: “It was always going to be difficult. Without sounding very defeatist, I almost made peace with it.

“They were the dominant team, they were amazing, but we stayed in the game as long as we could. It’s tough but today was never going to derail us.”

Edwards bemoaned his side’s luck in conceding so early, with the own goal coming as a Haaland shot cannoned into the net off Hashioka’s head.

He said: “We wanted to try to be aggressive but then Haaland knocks out Hashy with the first goal – one of the few defenders we have left knocked out on the floor and we’re 1-0 down after a minute.

“What a start that is, that’s tough.”

Hashioka required treatment before continuing but Edwards later clarified he had not actually been knocked unconscious.

He said: “No, he was just lying flat. I was just saying that in jest. I was just worried that he was.

“He just got up and I thought, ‘thank goodness for that’. Otherwise we would have been putting a centre forward at centre-back.”

Erling Haaland added Luton to his collection to ensure he has still scored against every opponent he has faced in the Premier League.

Here, the PA news agency looks at the prolific Norway international’s Manchester City record.

Full house

Chelsea, Liverpool and Brentford were the only teams not to concede to Haaland in his astonishing debut season in England, when he won the Premier League Golden Boot with 36 goals in 33 games.

He ticked off Chelsea and Liverpool in successive league games either side of November’s international break and, having failed to score in this season’s first meeting with the Bees, had to wait until February’s postponed return fixture to complete the set of 21 opponents he had faced.

Having missed December’s fixture against Luton while injured, they were not among that number – despite February’s five-goal FA Cup onslaught – so his penalty in Saturday’s 5-1 win extended his perfect record to 22 opponents.

Haaland now has 56 goals in 61 Premier League appearances.

Favourite opponents

Haaland’s highest Premier League tally against any opponent is six goals, against derby rivals Manchester United. He followed up last season’s hat-trick at the Etihad Stadium with a double at Old Trafford and another home goal this term.

Fulham and Crystal Palace follow, with five goals in three games against each, with hat-tricks at home to Palace last season and Fulham this.

He has four goals in three games against each of Everton, Nottingham Forest, West Ham and Wolves, with hat-tricks against Forest and Wolves last season.

He has three against both Brighton and Southampton and has scored in every league appearance against Fulham, Everton, West Ham, Palace (three games each, with Fulham and West Ham still to play again this season), Saints (two games), Leicester and Sheffield United (one).

Record books

Harry Kane also scored against every Premier League opponent he faced, a total of 32 clubs, during his time with Tottenham – a brief loan at Norwich early in his career did not yield any of his eventual 213 goals in the competition.

Frank Lampard holds the record for scoring Premier League goals against the most clubs overall, with his 39 one more than Andy Cole, but neither player scored against every opponent they faced.

Third on that list with 37 opponents is the league’s record scorer Alan Shearer, whose 20 goals against Leeds is the most by one player against a single opponent.

Champions Manchester City moved back to the top of the Premier League with an emphatic 5-1 victory over relegation battlers Luton on Saturday.

A fortuitous early own goal from Daiki Hashioka set the hosts on the way at the Etihad Stadium before a Mateo Kovacic screamer and Erling Haaland penalty effectively secured victory after the break.

Plucky Luton defended stoically throughout and earned consolation through Ross Barkley but Jeremy Doku and Josko Gvardiol wrapped up the scoring.

The result took City above Arsenal and Liverpool at the summit, putting pressure on their title rivals ahead of Sunday’s fixtures.

Victory was almost as routine as it comes, with City not getting anywhere near top gear in a one-sided cruise.

Rodri got his wish for a rest as Pep Guardiola made six changes following Tuesday’s pulsating draw at Real Madrid.

With the Spanish giants visiting the Etihad next week, Phil Foden, Jack Grealish, Bernardo Silva and John Stones also sat out – the latter not even in the matchday squad – while goalkeeper Ederson replaced Stefan Ortega.

Kevin De Bruyne returned after illness while Kyle Walker was on the bench after recovering from injury.

Luton’s task was daunting enough without the outrageous slice of misfortune that saw them concede the opener inside two minutes.

Thomas Kaminski did well to save after Haaland had been played through by De Bruyne and Doku’s follow-up was also blocked.

Haaland had City’s third attempt as the ball looped up but his acrobatic volley was heading well wide until it took a huge deflection off Hashioka’s head and ended up in the net.

With the luckless Hashioka requiring treatment from the forceful blow, it was apparent the Hatters were facing a long afternoon.

Yet, to the battling visitors’ credit, they defended with great determination.

Kaminski parried a powerful effort from Gvardiol before saving comfortably from Matheus Nunes, De Bruyne and Ruben Dias.

Haaland put over a chance at the back post and Nunes shaved the upright with an effort that ran across goal.

De Bruyne forced a good save from Kaminski just before the interval and Dias sent a long-range effort narrowly wide early in the second half.

Julian Alvarez also missed the target with a shot on the turn but City finally doubled the lead with a Kovavic thunderbolt just after the hour.

The Croatian had a first strike deflected wide but made no mistake from the resulting corner, hitting an unstoppable effort as the ball bounced along the edge of the area.

Luton responded with their first meaningful attack, and Fred Onyedinma pulled the ball back for Cauley Woodrow, but the substitute fired against the bar.

It proved a short-lived foray into City territory, with normal service soon resumed and Doku winning a penalty after tricking and being brought down by Onyedinma.

Haaland calmly sent Kaminski the wrong way to register his 31st goal of the season but only his second in six outings.

Barkley robbed Nunes to pull one back but City, despite taking off a frustrated-looking De Bruyne, finished with a flourish.

Doku claimed their fourth after weaving through the area in the 87th minute and Gvardiol followed up his fine strike against Real with another stunner in time added on.

Pep Guardiola has dismissed Erling Haaland’s critics and insisted the Manchester City striker is continuing to make a big impact.

Haaland has scored 30 goals for City this term but only one in his last five. After Roy Keane last week claimed the Norway international was comparable to a League Two player in his general play, Jamie Carragher this week described him as “the ultimate luxury footballer” and said he was not world class.

But asked if he was happy with Haaland’s all-round contribution, Guardiola said: “A lot. He helps us to make more spaces in the areas and his contribution has been exceptional since the day he arrived last season.”

Guardiola said pundits “can do whatever they want”, but insisted he was only interested in the performance of his team, who are still in contention to repeat last season’s treble after drawing the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final tie against Real Madrid 3-3 on Tuesday night.

City can go top of the Premier League for 24 hours at least if they beat Luton on Saturday, and face an FA Cup semi-final against Chelsea next weekend.

“We are quite similar to last season,” Guardiola said. “We scored four goals, four goals, three goals in the last three games, 11 goals in three games.

“And (Haaland) helped us score some of them (by) creating lots of spaces for the other ones to score the goals. I saw in his face, in what he said after the game, in the locker room, he was extremely happy (in Madrid).

“It was a good result, let’s see what happens next Wednesday. Now the target is Luton.”

Bidding to win the Premier League for a fourth straight season, City remain locked in a tight race at the top. They start the weekend a point behind both Arsenal and Liverpool, with their rivals not in action until Sunday.

City have twice won the title on the final day of the season under Guardiola, but this is the first time they have faced a three-way title race so late in the campaign.

“We know what we have to do,” Guardiola said. “We’ve done it. The people say, ‘you’ve done it, so you’re going to win’. No, it’s not about that. But we have done it and know exactly what we have to do.

“The players will be ready. There is no doubt about that. We know what we are playing for.”

Although a treble repeat is still possible, there is a sense City have not been at the same standards this term, with injuries taking a toll.

“(The players) know how tough it has been this season for many reasons, maybe one of the toughest seasons we have faced for sure,” Guardiola added.

“We know exactly internally how difficult it has been in many, many moments this season and we were still there, we were there. I know the players will be ready.”

After Tuesday’s match in Madrid, Rodri had said he was in need of a rest after his 41st appearance of the season. Guardiola indicated any player who wanted a breather need only ask, but that he expects the 27-year-old Spain midfielder to be available to face Luton.

“It is normal,” Guardiola said. “If one player feels that, what is the problem? All the teams who play in the latter stages of all competitions, Champions League, Europa League, fighting for qualifications, or against relegation, all have the same problem with the amount of games…

“I’m pretty sure Rodri will be ready. I know him. After the game he was tired because it was tough, the game against Real Madrid. He came from Crystal Palace and it was really tough as well.

“But I know him. He will arrive and say, ‘I’m fine, I’m ready’.”

Pep Guardiola has said he will rest Rodri if the Spain midfielder asks to sit out Saturday’s Premier League match against Luton.

Following Tuesday’s 3-3 Champions League draw with Real Madrid, Rodri’s 41st appearance of the season, the 27-year-old said he was tired and that a rest was “something we are planning”.

Rodri is arguably the most difficult player for Guardiola to replace in his squad, and City lost all four of the domestic games he missed through suspension earlier this season. They have not lost any of the last 66 games in which Rodri played.

“I didn’t speak with him but if he needs a rest he will have rest,” Guardiola said on Friday. “Or no. I don’t know.

“I have the feeling that the games when he was tired like against Crystal Palace and Madrid, he was better in the second half. He runs more and was more precise in the second half than the first.

“More than the physicality, it is a case of spending mental energy. Playing every three days, three days. Of course he’s tired, playing a lot of minutes. Rodri is so important for us and we’ll decide tomorrow what we have to do.”

If City beat Real in next Wednesday’s second leg of their Champions League quarter-final, they will not have a free midweek for the rest of the campaign, and Guardiola acknowledged it is increasingly difficult to manage player fitness during such an intense schedule.

“If a player doesn’t want to play then he’s not going to play, simple,” he said. “Another one will play. If he’s exhausted, it can happen and another player is going to play.

“It’s not just Rodri. I’d love to rest central defenders but we don’t have them. In the (international) friendly games they were injured and we are in big, big trouble. So they cannot rest.”

Bernardo Silva, Phil Foden and Josko Gvardiol got City’s goals in Madrid, with Erling Haaland having scored only one in his last five for City – although he has 30 goals for the season so far.

Haaland may have scored 82 goals in 90 appearances since joining City at the start of last season, but Jamie Carragher this week said he was a luxury player who is not yet at a world-class level.

Guardiola has defended the 23-year-old striker against criticism but said there was still much he could do to improve his game.

“He’s a young player,” Guardiola said. “He has some departments where he has to improve, like a 33-year-old player has margins to improve too. But it’s more about the team than him. We scored three goals (in Madrid). They had two central defenders close to him and it’s not easy.

“It’s the most difficult position on the pitch. Two against one. They were so tight and are really good defenders…

“He has to play more minutes, learn what you have to do. The target is not to win the Ballon d’Or, it’s the Premier League, Champions League, FA Cup, and he did it.

“Without him what we won last season, five titles, it wouldn’t be possible, no chance.”

Pep Guardiola is refusing to look beyond Manchester City’s visit to Crystal Palace despite Real Madrid looming as a Selhurst Park slip-up would leave their Premier League title hopes in tatters.

A win for City in Saturday’s lunchtime kick-off will move them level on points with leaders Liverpool, who head to Old Trafford for a clash with arch rivals Manchester United on Sunday afternoon.

Guardiola accepts a draw or defeat would all but end their aim of claiming a fourth-successive title so even the prospect of a trip to the Spanish capital on Tuesday evening will not divert his attention.

City are also defending their Champions League crown and take on Carlo Ancelotti’s side in the quarter-final first leg but Guardiola will only start thinking about the clash after facing Palace.

“Honestly, if we were 18 points in front of second in the Premier League, I would have two eyes on Madrid but it’s not the case,” Guardiola said.

“We’re third, not far away from the top of the Premier League, but if we drop points it will be almost impossible.

“We have to win that game and after that we will have more time, not for recovery, but to prepare. So I have not had much time to see Real Madrid.

“When we have been fighting for nine or 10 months for the Premier League title, why should I be distracted now from this important game against Palace, when the distance is so close?”

Guardiola is mulling over whether to restore Erling Haaland and Kevin De Bruyne to his starting line-up in south London after benching the pair in the 4-1 midweek victory over Aston Villa.

City will be favourites to beat a side that have claimed just two points from their last 12 and sit 14th in the table but Palace hit back from 2-0 down to draw 2-2 at the Etihad Stadium in mid-December.

Guardiola, who could welcome back goalkeeper Ederson this weekend but will be continue to be without defenders Kyle Walker and Nathan Ake, is aware he cannot take the threat of the Eagles lightly if City are to remain in contention for a trophy he continues to prize above all others.

“I love it,” he said. “Of the domestic trophies, it is the most important. I’m not going to say the Champions League is not nice, of course it is.

“We have it and know how it feels in our soul and we are at peace, for the fact we’ve got it. But (the Premier League) is just the nicest because it’s more difficult, there are more games, every week, two or three games.

“The Champions League, of course, is important, but it depends on something you perhaps can’t control.

“Both are incredibly important, but the Premier League proves a lot. It shows the mentality of the teams, being there all the time for many, many years.

“From my education at home or whatever, every day you have to do the best – that means a lot to me personally.”

Phil Foden took his tally for the season to 14 goals with a hat-trick against top-four hopefuls Villa and Guardiola admitted he could be in the running for Premier League player of the season.

“He’s a contender like many others, many players play a good season,” Guardiola added. “He can be a contender for sure.”

Pep Guardiola is unsure about whether to restore Erling Haaland and Kevin de Bruyne to his Manchester City line-up at Crystal Palace on Saturday with Real Madrid looming next week.

The pair were unused substitutes in midweek as City stayed three points behind Premier League leaders Liverpool by brushing aside Aston Villa 4-1, with Phil Foden bagging a sensational hat-trick.

But as a visit to Palace at lunchtime on Saturday is followed by a mouthwatering trip to the Spanish capital to face Real on Tuesday in the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final, this season’s leading goal-scorer Haaland and key playmaker De Bruyne might be kept on ice once again this weekend.

“I don’t know yet,” Guardiola said, when asked about the prospect of Haaland and De Bruyne returning to face Palace. “Playing at 12:30pm and playing two days ago, I have to think. There are so many games.

“We play less than two and a half days after our last game. Some players recover quicker than others. A long week is completely different but a short week, you have to talk with doctors, physios and staff.

“We are used to playing every three days over many months and months. For many, many years it has happened that way.

“We play 12:30pm, it’s perfect. More time to recover for the next game in Madrid. We then play on Saturday against Chelsea in the FA Cup afterwards, it’s not fair but we are going to do it.

“We take one game at a time and don’t give up. We are not new to European competitions so the players know how to handle it, not all the time but most of the time.”

City, who could welcome back goalkeeper Ederson at Selhurst Park but are still without defenders Kyle Walker and Nathan Ake, have dropped just six points in an unbeaten 13-match league run.

But with both Liverpool and Arsenal ahead of them, Guardiola reiterated that all City can do to keep alive hopes of a fourth successive league crown is win all of their eight remaining fixtures.

“I hope so but it doesn’t solve the problem if we don’t do our job,” Guardiola said after being asked about whether he expects their title rivals to drop points.

“If we were at the top of the league it would be in our hands, that’s not the case, so what we have to do is win our games. I hope it happens but we cannot control it.

“The quality of the opponent is why we have to keep going and at the end we will realise which team is there.”

Guardiola, who said he had “no opinion” on rumours of a luxury tax being imposed on Premier League clubs to help regulate on overspending, admitted he is wary of upcoming opponents Palace.

The Eagles have taken points in six of their last 12 meetings with City, winning in December 2018 and October 2021 along with four draws – most recently coming from 2-0 down in December with goals from Jean-Philippe Mateta and Michael Olise.

“They’ve always been tough,” he added. “I think (manager Oliver) Glasner is doing a really good job.

“The quality is there with (Eberechi) Eze, (Jordan) Ayew and Mateta. They have good structure, strong defensively with (Joachim) Andersen leading the back five, the physicality is always there. Selhurst Park is always difficult.”

Phil Foden’s stunning hat-trick against Aston Villa stirred up memories of a young Wayne Rooney as the Manchester City midfielder continues to impress this season.

The 23-year-old starred on Wednesday night, restoring City’s lead just before half-time with a free-kick and adding a second in the 62nd minute before completing his treble shortly after.

His performance drew comparisons with Rooney post-match, with TNT Sports host Laura Woods saying: “The third goal, especially. We were chatting about this a second ago, Rio (Ferdinand) was saying it was almost like your Wayne Rooney moment, that something doesn’t go right, you get angry, and you bang in a goal.”

Foden replied: “You know it’s funny you said that because as I was celebrating I was walking with Jackie (Grealish), he also said about the Wayne Rooney goal, said ‘that’s what it reminded me of’.”

Here, the PA news agency takes a look at how the two players compare.

Goals

Wednesday night’s discussion about the two players came following the similarity in the type of goal scored.

Foden’s third goal sparked the conversation as he secured his hat-trick in sensational style with a thumping top-corner finish just moments after losing the ball outside the box.

The comparison to Rooney’s goal against Newcastle in 2005 followed, where the forward smashed an incredible volley from outside the area into the top corner just moments are complaining to the referee about a foul that was not given.

Introduction to senior football

Both players had slightly different introductions to senior football, with Rooney quickly making a name for himself in the top flight.

The striker made his senior debut for Everton in 2002 aged 16 against Tottenham and scored his first Premier League goal for the Toffees in October that year with a long-range curling shot past England goalkeeper David Seaman which bounced in off the underside of the bar.

Rooney netted 17 goals in 77 appearances before moving to Manchester United in 2004, but compared to Rooney’s breakthrough, Foden has gradually eased into the senior team at Manchester City.

After impressing in City’s youth set-up and for England in the Under-17 World Cup, Foden was included in several matchday squads before making his senior bow as a substitute for City in their Champions League clash against Feyenoord in November 2017.

He earned his full debut in the competition the following month before making his Premier League bow against Tottenham 10 days later and Foden made five league appearances in total for the club in the 2017-18 season, gradually cementing his spot in the City line-up over the following seasons.

Style of play

Although Rooney was deployed as a striker for the most part, he was able to play across the forward line and used his pace well to score and create goals.

As well as being involved in wider positions, towards the end of his time with United Rooney dropped into midfield, especially under manager Louis van Gaal.

Foden displays a similar versatility and the left-footed midfielder can play out wide or in attacking midfield.

His best performances seem to come from a more central position, which is where he played against Villa and admitted post-match that he prefers playing in the middle.

Manager Pep Guardiola also believes playing centrally benefits Foden and said: “When Phil plays in a central position he has a sense for goals and he proved it again.”

Stats

After bagging his second hat-trick of the season, Foden now moves onto 21 goals in all competitions, a career best for him.

His first senior treble came in the Manchester derby last campaign where Foden and Erling Haaland both scored three times in City’s 6-3 hammering of their neighbours.

Foden now has three Premier League hat-tricks to his name at the age of 23 and only needs another four to draw level with Rooney, who scored seven in the league.

His total Premier League tally adds up to 49 goals, with 81 in his Manchester City career overall, but he still has plenty of catching up to do with Rooney, who scored 208 times in the top flight and bagged a club-record 253 for Manchester United.

Pep Guardiola said Phil Foden can “do whatever he wants” in football after watching him fire Manchester City to a 4-1 Premier League victory over Aston Villa with a brilliant hat-trick.

With Erling Haaland and Kevin De Bruyne dropping to the bench, Foden moved into a central position and orchestrated the demolition of Villa with an outstanding display, playing a hand in Rodri’s opener and then taking the game away from the visitors after Jhon Duran had levelled.

Foden restored City’s lead with a free-kick in first-half stoppage time when he found the gap that Nicolo Zaniolo left in Villa’s wall, then won it with two excellent goals just after the hour, the last of them a shot into the top corner after he had lost the ball but quickly regained it.

His second hat-trick of the campaign moved Foden on to 21 goals for the season and kept the pressure on in the title race, with the champions one point behind new leaders Arsenal and level with Liverpool who host Sheffield United on Thursday.

“What can I say? Three goals,” Guardiola said. “He didn’t start well but I think the goal helped him a lot for the mood. When Phil plays in a central position he has a sense for goals and he proved it again.

“He can do whatever he wants. He’s a real top-class player. We know it. But he is still open-minded, he has to understand the game, he has to focus on things, sometimes he’s a bit distracted in exactly what you have to do offensively, defensively, but he has a natural talent – a gift – which is special.

“The work ethic is unbelievable and he has an incredible sense of goal. When he has the ball and he’s attacking the back line he is going to score, you had that feeling. It is not easy to find it and that’s why he’s so special when he’s playing these central positions.”

De Bruyne and Haaland got a breather with next week’s Champions League trip to Real Madrid looming, but without them City turned in one of their better performances of the season and a vast improvement on Sunday’s goalless draw against title rivals Arsenal.

“We were better,” Guardiola said. “It’s true we conceded a few transitions and we lost a few balls and when that happens it’s a lesson we have to learn for the next game but we had incredible energy, four-five players up front and it was really good. We created a lot of chances.”

Villa remain fourth but the defeat leaves them only two points above Tottenham, who have a game in hand.

Unai Emery was without the injured Ollie Watkins and then also lost goalkeeper Emi Martinez to a stomach problem after he had been named in the starting line-up. But the Spaniard chose to make several more changes to his side – six in total from Saturday’s win over Wolves.

“It’s clear we were motivated and excited to try to be competitive, trying to keep it consistent like we are in the Premier League, but of course we were playing against Manchester City,” Emery said.

“We were competing until the 60th minute and as well we were trying to build our team with some players who are not playing a lot, we are trying to give them chances to play.

“Even when we were losing 2-1 we had some chances to score with Douglas Luiz, but they were pushing us a lot, they showed us their potential and they deserved to win.

“We will play a lot of matches in the next weeks, starting on Saturday against Brentford, and it was important to try to be intelligent playing against Manchester City. Of course we wanted to win but with some players injured and some players suspended we wanted to get some practice with some players.”

Phil Foden scored a brilliant hat-trick as Manchester City kept the pressure on in the Premier League title race with a 4-1 win over Champions League-chasing Aston Villa.

A day after defending his star striker against criticism from Roy Keane, Pep Guardiola left Erling Haaland on the bench alongside Kevin De Bruyne, clearing the stage for Foden to grab the spotlight with an outstanding performance and his second hat-trick of the campaign.

After Jhon Duran cancelled out Rodri’s opener, the 23-year-old put City back in front with a free-kick late in the first half before two excellent strikes settled it just after the hour mark, taking Foden to 21 City goals for the season.

Pep Guardiola’s side remain third, a point behind leaders Arsenal and level with Liverpool – who host Sheffield United on Thursday – after their first win over a top-five side this term.

But while little has changed in the table, this was a far more fluid performance from the champions days after Arsenal ended their run of 57 consecutive home games with a goal.

The decision to leave out De Bruyne and Haaland was made with next week’s Champions League trip to Real Madrid looming, but neither have been at their best since coming back from injury in recent weeks.

Jack Grealish and Jeremy Doku came in to play on the wings and Foden shifted inside, from where he would orchestrate City’s win.

Villa, already without the injured Ollie Watkins, had to replace goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez due to illness just before kick-off and stand-in Robin Olsen was soon picking the ball out of his net.

Foden fed Doku on the right and the Belgian cut it back for Rodri to sweep home his eighth goal of the season after 11 minutes.

City’s lead lasted only nine minutes before Villa drew level with an excellent counter-attack. Julian Alvarez lost the ball on the edge of the Villa box and the visitors swept forward before Duran played a quick one-two with Morgan Rogers and fired across Stefan Ortega’s goal into the far corner.

After Jack Grealish – booed constantly by his old fans in the Villa end – was booked for dissent when a free-kick went in Douglas Luiz’s favour, Olsen made a fine save with his right boot to deny Alvarez.

Luiz was living dangerously late in the first half. Already booked for bringing down Grealish on the edge of the area, he then fouled Foden in an almost identical spot in first-half stoppage time.

Darren England kept his cards in his pocket but Villa were punished anyway as Foden found a gap in the wall left by Nicolo Zaniolo to beat Olsen.

There was still time for Alvarez to go close twice before half-time, with Olsen tipping a close-range header over the crossbar, and the goalkeeper was busy again at the start of the second half, denying Bernardo Silva after Foden’s neat pass left him one-on-one.

Villa threatened on the break as Luiz drove forward and hit a shot that was tipped over by Ortega, who then denied Clement Lenglet from the resulting corner.

But Foden would soon settle the match. In the 62nd minute Rodri rode Moussa Diaby’s challenge and rolled the ball inside for Foden to beat Olsen with a first-time shot into the bottom right corner.

Lewis lashed a shot narrowly wide but the killer fourth goal arrived in the 69th minute. The chance appeared to have gone when Foden lost the ball on the edge of the Villa area, but Calum Chambers scuffed his clearance straight back to Foden, and he lashed a shot into the top right corner.

Pep Guardiola labelled Erling Haaland the “best striker in the world” after the Manchester City frontman was likened to a League Two player by Roy Keane.

The former Manchester United captain made the observation in his role as a pundit for Sky Sports after Haaland drew a blank in City’s goalless draw against Premier League title rivals Arsenal on Sunday.

Keane concurred Haaland, top of the scoring charts after winning last season’s Golden Boot, is in a class of his own in front of goal but added his all-round game is “almost like a League Two player”.

Guardiola was unimpressed by the remarks, arguing Haaland was instrumental in City’s treble success last season before insisting any blame for not scoring against Arsenal should be shared by the team.

“I don’t agree with him, absolutely not,” Guardiola said. “He’s the best striker in the world and he helped us to win what we won last season. Erling is exceptional.

“The reason we don’t create chances is not because of Erling. The standards that Erling has are unbelievable and everyone expects other things.

“There are games where he could be better but I knew during the game against Arsenal that the reason why we were not creating chances was not because of Erling.

“We needed more presence in the box. If we had that Erling would have more space. It happens sometimes. If you want to score goals, bring a lot of players to the opponent keeper, it is as simple as that.”

Guardiola, whose side welcome top-four hopefuls Aston Villa on Wednesday evening, admitted he is routinely bemused by former players offering scathing views about contemporary footballers.

However, the Spaniard accepts that criticism comes with the territory of being a high-profile professional footballer.

“If you don’t want to accept that as a football player, you have to dedicate yourself to another job,” Guardiola said. “When you are a public figure, you have to accept it.

“That’s why when you are in contract talks, you have to ask for a lot of money to accept those moments.

“I’m surprised it comes from former players. With journalists I can understand because they have never been on the pitch but the former players is always a surprise (when they are critical).”

When asked if he could see himself becoming a pundit in the future, Guardiola added: “I don’t know what is going to happen but I am not the guy who is going to criticise my colleagues when I retire.”

Guardiola sarcastically quipped his “ego” was the driving factor behind a heated on-pitch exchange with Jack Grealish following the full-time whistle after the Arsenal match.

Grealish has had a reduced role this season, partly through injuries, but Guardiola believes the England midfielder could have an impact as the season reaches the business end.

“I have the feeling that he’s back – in mood and training and desire,” Guardiola added. “Now I’m pleased.

“I’ve only asked the players to be ready and be themselves, it doesn’t matter if they perform at the highest level or less. We need everyone with the title schedule.”

Former Manchester United captain Roy Keane compared Erling Haaland to a "League Two player" following Manchester City's draw with Arsenal.

City failed to score at home for the first time in 58 matches in all competitions, but it was Haaland's general play which failed to impress Keane.

The Norway international had four shots in total - the most of any player on the field - but none of those tested David Raya in the Arsenal goal.

"The level of his general play is so poor and not just today," Keane said on Sky Sports.

"I think laying his stuff off, headers, whatever it might be…. In terms of in front of goal, he's the best in the world.

"But his general play for such a player it is so poor. Not just today, he has to improve.

"He's almost like a League Two player, that's how I look at him. His general play has to improve and it will do over the next few years.

"Being a brilliant striker is fantastic, but he has to improve his all-round game."

City's stalemate with Arsenal marked the first time they had played out a 0-0 draw in the league since March 2022 against Crystal Palace.

Pep Guardiola's men have slipped to third place, three points behind leaders Liverpool after the Reds' 2-1 win over Brighton and Hove Albion.

Haaland, who has 18 goals in 24 league games this term, will hope to get the nod when City return to action against Aston Villa on Wednesday.

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