Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola is taking a safety-first approach with John Stones despite the defender being a crucial part of his tactical plans.

The England international has played just 393 minutes of football for his club – and 91 for his country – due to a hip injury and while he was named in the squad for the 1-1 draw with Liverpool after a muscle injury Guardiola had no intention of using him.

Stones has played a vital role in the continuing evolution of the side as the centre-back who steps forward in possession to allow midfielders to play higher up the pitch.

Other players have been tasked with doing the same – the latest Manuel Akanji – but Stones remains the premier exponent of Guardiola’s game-plan but his manager wants to avoid more false starts after two failed comebacks already.

“He feels good but we are going to give him one, two weeks to do proper strength training sessions,” said the City boss.

“John is so important for us I let him play when maybe his muscles weren’t completely ready. He will train with us, either partial or completely, and the rest he is going to have strength training sessions in his legs to be sure when he comes back he feels stronger.

“We need him because there are a lot of games. I know the man of the match (against Liverpool) was Jeremy (Doku) but at Stamford Bridge and yesterday Manu (Akanji) was believable.

“What a signing the club has made with that guy; he can play full-back, central defender, now holding midfielder and when arriving in the final third he has the ability to make passes.”

The game against Liverpool was the first of a scheduled 10 – but likely to be 11 – in 36 days until the end of December as it includes a trip to Saudi Arabia for the Club World Cup where they are expected to progress from their semi-final.

That means Guardiola has to manage all his players, not just Stones, and he claims their training sessions will not last much longer than half-an-hour.

“Maximum 30-35 minutes. Until Tuesday (the Champions League game with RB Leipzig) it will be 10 minutes on the pitch moving the ball and that’s all.

“We cannot train. If we train we won’t have players for the next game.

“We have learned from the past and you just understand what you have to do, the places you have to move, the press.

“We have TV images and we talk individually in specific ways and after they make mistakes it is just about understanding what you have to to do.”

Winger Doku put in the stand-out performance against Liverpool and Bernardo Silva hopes the 21-year-old, a £55million summer arrival from Rennes, can continue the form which saw him score and provide four assists against Bournemouth earlier this month.

“He’s a very good signing and he’s been playing very well for us. Hopefully he can keep going, keep learning and improving and help us win titles,” said the Portugal international.

“You cannot give him limitations, otherwise he loses his magic. We have to let him be himself and do his thing, whilst knowing he has a responsibility to help us when he doesn’t have the ball – but I think he’s been doing really well.”

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp believes his side passed an important test coming back to draw 1-1 at Manchester City but stressed there will be bigger challenges to come.

The title rivals could not be separated as City failed to capitalise on a number of chances after Erling Haaland’s record-breaking 50th Premier League goal and Trent Alexander-Arnold scored an 80th-minute equaliser.

“For us I think we passed a test today, I am not sure if it was – the – test,” said Klopp.

“Last year with a team that played long together we got completely under the wheels here (losing 4-1) and had no real chance. Today we had a chance.

“I am not silly, I see the game, and if you ask who was more likely to win the game it was City, obviously, but we had our moments and we won games with lesser chances against City.

“We don’t check if we are as good as City but it is not that I look at our side and say ‘That’s the finished article’ because I saw a lot of performances I was not overly happy with.

“It is a super-difficult week (after the international break) so how can you judge that?”

Liverpool were unusually passive in the opening hour and when Haaland brought up his Premier League half-century in only his 48th appearance – 17 quicker than anyone else – the hosts were in full control.

But the visitors improved after the break and after their opponents missed a number of chances Alexander-Arnold equalised with a sweetly-struck shot from the edge of the area.

“I didn’t like the body language too much in the first half,” added Klopp.

“I know it is part of the circus; preparing the most difficult of the season away at the Etihad with just one session is really a challenge.

“Maybe I am just not good enough, that is absolutely possible, but it is really tricky to do it in 30 minutes on the pitch and 45 in a meeting.

“We needed the first half to understand even more about that and we improved in details, which makes a difference, and scored a goal and brought it over the line and I’m very happy with that.”

Injuries to Diogo Jota and, potentially more significantly, goalkeeper Alisson Becker were of some concern, however.

“I hope it is not that serious but I have not clue what it is. He said he only felt a little bit but we have to wait for the scan,” said Klopp of his Brazil international.

The Liverpool manager also played down a post-match confrontation between Darwin Nunez and City boss Pep Guardiola.

“This situation on the pitch is nothing to do with the historical fierce rivalry, I don’t think Darwin Nunez knows anything about it,” said Klopp.

“Just emotions. I was not involved – surprisingly – but I love them both so I just tried to calm the situation down without knowing 100 per cent what happened as I didn’t understand a word.

“Pep wants to win, we want to win and then both didn’t win so no-one is really happy and these things can happen.”

Guardiola also dismissed the incident, noting that Nunez was “stronger than me”, and preferred to praise his side despite failing to close out victory.

“I’m incredibly pleased with the performance because in seven years we know exactly how tough they are and how good they are,” he said.

“We played really good because I know against which team we are playing. They are excellent. I admire Jurgen a lot, he knows that. That’s why after many years, we are able still to do it and be hungry.

“How many chances did we create? Seven, eight, nine? We were incredibly good in all departments. It’s a pity but I said to them (the players) we’re not going to win or lose the Premier League today.

“They (Liverpool) are happy, we are a little less happy. I’m really pleased and so proud of my team.”

Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola has called Liverpool counterpart Jurgen Klopp the biggest managerial adversary of his career.

The Reds visit the Etihad Stadium on Saturday lunchtime for the latest instalment of a classic rivalry that has so often gone a long way to deciding the destination of the Premier League title.

City go into the game one point ahead of Klopp’s side, who look their most realistic title challengers, even if Guardiola says Arsenal and Tottenham are also in the race.

Guardiola has had some battles over the years, notably with Jose Mourinho, but says Klopp has made him a better manager.

Asked if the German was his biggest rival, he said: “Yes, by far. Because we have faced each other a thousand million times.

“Absolutely, he made me better, he helped me reflect on a lot of things with the problems they have created for us, it’s part of when you are many years in this business, him and his teams, here and Dortmund have always been big rivals, good games for both, both teams have a positive approach to the games and always attractive.

“I’m pretty sure he made me a better manager through his teams, and of course, the way we play for them is good with the transitions, they have a lot of space in behind, they are fantastic with the runs, they are a fantastic team, fantastic legs, a top side, no doubt.”

After a poor season last year, where they missed out on Champions League qualification, Klopp’s side look back to their best and are clear challengers for the title.

“Absolutely,” Guardiola said. “Arsenal will be too, I see them as so, so solid. Spurs even, the two defeats they had lately, the feeling when I see the way they are playing and with one game a week, I think they will be there.

“Chelsea start to recover and have one game a week. I think the four or five contenders are there. I don’t know if Newcastle will join, maybe United will join us but many things can happen.”

Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola insists he would stay at the club even if they were relegated to League One should they be found guilty of breaking Premier League financial rules.

City’s fate has been brought back into focus following Everton’s 10-point deduction last week, but Guardiola insists the two cases are completely separate.

The Toffees were docked 10 points for breaching rules over a three-year period, while City are awaiting a ruling after being charged in February with more than 100 alleged breaches of the competition’s financial fair play regulations between 2009 and 2018. The club denies all the charges.

Asked whether there could be any severity of punishment which would make him consider his position, Guardiola replied: “It’s a good question. I will answer when I have the sentence.

“You are questioning like we have been punished. And in the moment we are innocent until guilt is proven. I know the people want it. I know, I feel it. I will wait.

“Wait and see it and after the sentence has been done we will come here and explain it. But absolutely I will not consider my future (if) it depends (on) being here or being in League One. Absolutely.

“There is more chance to stay if we are in League One than if we were in the Champions League.”

Guardiola claims people have already decided that City are guilty and are already clamouring for them to be relegated, especially after the severity of Everton’s punishment.

“I know when people are saying, ‘OK, City, why don’t they go to the Conference?’ Wait. Wait,” he said.

“And after what’s going to happen is going to happen.

“When you read [what is said] then we should be relegated, relegated, relegated, yeah, of course, but nobody knows exactly. All the people who say that didn’t read the statements, don’t know exactly what happened. Not even myself, I didn’t read all the breaches, I didn’t read our defence.

“But wait. What I said a month ago – OK, if we’ve done something wrong we’ll be punished. But wait – we can defend ourselves can’t we?

“What people accuse us of we do not agree with what they say, we are going to defend [ourselves] and after the resolution is done, I will be here, like a spokesman for my club.

“I want to say the case for Everton, and I don’t know what happened, but only I know from the lawyers and people at my club and the lawyers is that they are completely different cases. That’s why you cannot compare because every case is completely different.

“The other one is longer because it is more complicated because it’s 115 breaches. So wait. Then after with the lawyers from both sides present their cases in front of the judge and the verdict and after I will say in front of you and you can ask me the question.”

The topic overshadowed the build-up to one of the blockbusting Premier League fixtures as City welcome rivals Liverpool on Saturday lunchtime.

Guardiola hopes that Erling Haaland is fit after he withdrew from international duty with Norway with an injury, but there are several other injury concerns.

“He trained yesterday with some niggles, today we train and hope he can be part of it,” Guardiola said.

“We have a few problems like many clubs, we’ll see after our last training sessions, we’ll see.

“I will know at 6pm who we have available, it’s always plan A.”

Cole Palmer believes his impatience is paying off having flourished for Chelsea and earned a first England call-up since leaving all-conquering Manchester City in search of regular football.

Part of Pep Guardiola’s treble-winning squad before helping his country win the Under-21 European Championship, a more prominent role at club level looked on the cards this term.

Palmer scored in the Community Shield and another in the Super Cup, but made no secret about his desire for regular action after his man-of-the-match display against Sevilla in the European curtain-raiser.

It proved his final City appearance and a fortnight later the forward joined the glut of gems being collected by free-spending Chelsea in a deal worth up to £42.5million, signing a seven-year deal.

“It happened fast, to be fair,” Palmer said. “I spoke to someone at Chelsea and I was speaking to my dad, but I really didn’t know what to do.

“I was just thinking about it for a couple of days, like near enough every minute of the day.

“But then I just thought for my career and stuff I have to go and try and get regular game time.

“It was a big move for me. I’d never been out of Manchester, not even on loan or anything like that, so to move down there on my own was a big thing.

“When I first went down there it was difficult, like staying in a hotel and stuff, but now I have settled in more and I’m enjoying it.”

This season always felt important in promising Palmer’s career, especially after a combination of injury and competition restricted him to just seven starts last year.

The 21-year-old has already made eight in an impressive beginning to life with the Blues, leading to a first England call-up following some withdrawals from the initial selection for this month’s Euro 2024 qualifiers.

“Obviously you know how good of a manager Pep is and he gave me the opportunity and the platform to kick-start my career, so I’ll always be grateful to him,” Palmer said.

“Who knows what would have happened if I had stayed.

“Maybe I would have played more, maybe not. But I think the decision that I made to go to Chelsea so far is paying off.”

Palmer gave short shrift to a question asking him to compare Guardiola with Chelsea boss Mauricio Pochettino when he faced the media for the first time since his England call-up.

But he was more forthcoming when it came to his current manager’s ability to develop English talents, as he did with aplomb at Southampton and Tottenham.

“A lot of people told me how he is with young players,” Palmer said.

“Ever since I went to Chelsea I can see it, so I’m enjoying working with him and excited to carry on working with him.

“He has given me the confidence and licence to go where I want on the pitch, where I feel I can use my strengths, so I’m grateful for it.”

Palmer certainly does not lack confidence, which was abundantly clear along with his cheeky side in Sunday’s stunning 4-4 draw with City.

Footage went viral of the Chelsea forward pretending to listen to his former team-mates on an afternoon when he celebrated his stoppage-time spot-kick equaliser with a nonchalant shrug.

“When I saw the ref give the penalty, I just thought ‘it’s my time’,” Palmer said.

“I spoke to Raz (Raheem Sterling). He said ‘what’s happening?’ and I was like ‘I want to take it’.

“He was like ‘fine’ and then when I put the ball down I just tried to focus on a spot and put it there.”

Asked if he felt pressure or nerves, he said: “Not really, to be honest.

“I felt I was waiting for a while and obviously I did think about my old club and stuff but after that not really.

“It was a crazy game. I did feel a bit nervous before and a bit weird to see everyone from the club I’ve been at for 15 years.

“But when the game started it felt normal and it was a good game.”

More positive news awaited him when he waded through the myriad of messages on his phone after returning to the Stamford Bridge dressing room.

“I got the message near enough straightaway after the match,” he said of his maiden England call-up.

“But my phone was going crazy because I have got some City fans that are my mates and family and all that.

“I read it and then like I read it again, so it was confirmed.

“I just rang my dad straight away and he was with my mum, so I told them first.”

Virgil van Dijk is hopeful Liverpool have rediscovered what it takes to push Manchester City all the way in the Premier League title race again.

The two had epic battles in 2018-19 and 2021-22, when City pipped their north-west rivals by just a single point, while in between those campaigns the Reds clinched their first championship in 30 years.

Having experienced a huge dropoff last season in finishing fifth, Jurgen Klopp’s side have bounced back after a summer midfield rebuild and will resume after the international break with a trip to the Etihad in a first-v-second clash.

 

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It is the closest Liverpool have been to City in 18 months and Van Dijk believes with consistency in results and fitness they can mount a sustained challenge.

Asked whether he thought they were capable of running City close for the title, the captain said: “I hope so.

“You have all these aspirations, dreams, goals and you want to compete until the very end in every competition we are in.

“That is definitely the case at the beginning of the season and then you grow into a season. It’s November and there is still so much to play for.

“It’s going well, but if we had not got a result against Brentford (a 3-0 win at the weekend) we would have been in that downward spiral – from the outside world of course – because you don’t set it up nicely for the game after the international break.

“Overall this season we have been doing well but the season is not decided in November and there could be so many twists and turns, we all know that.”

Key to that will be staying injury-free. Against Brentford, Liverpool’s options were down to the bare minimum with Alexis Mac Allister suspended and Ryan Gravenberch, Curtis Jones, Thiago Alcantara and Stefan Bajcetic – plus defenders Joe Gomez, Andy Robertson and Ibrahima Konate – all unavailable.

Klopp fielded a bench in which only one outfield player was aged over 20 but they got the job done to move into second and set up the intriguing trip to the Etihad a week on Saturday.

“I looked in the dressing room and it felt like we were the under-23s but we still we have the quality, if you are good enough you are old enough,” Van Dijk added.

“But we need to see, we need a bit of luck, we need no injuries and need consistency.

“We finished on a positive feeling and now it is time to focus on something else (internationals).

“When we come back there is a very big one away and we will see if we are ready for that test.”

Pep Guardiola has claimed Manchester City could be “in trouble” following John Stones’ latest injury setback.

The treble winners are awaiting assessments of the England defender after he was forced off with a knock in Tuesday’s 3-0 Champions League stroll against Young Boys.

Stones only returned to action in October after a two-month lay-off with hamstring and hip problems.

Manager Guardiola said he feared the 29-year-old could be out “for a while” with the muscular problem and described the blow as “deep bad news”.

Stones has been revelatory for City playing in a hybrid defence-midfield role and Guardiola feels he complements central anchor Rodri perfectly.

Much was made of the fact Rodri was suspended when City lost three successive games earlier in the campaign, but Guardiola believes the absence of Stones was equally crucial.

He said: “The problem is we play John and Rodri at the same time – now we are in trouble, because we have to play a bit differently, like happened in Arsenal.

“We do not feel comfortable still, we are not prepared to change many variations.”

City hardly broke sweat as they brushed past the Swiss champions to secure their place in the last 16 for an 11th consecutive year.

The holders have won all four of their matches in Group G and are through with two matches to spare.

Erling Haaland made light of the ankle problem that curtailed him against Bournemouth last weekend to open the scoring with a penalty and added the third goal with a powerful long-range strike.

It was yet another dominant performance from the Norway striker, who has now scored 39 goals in 34 career Champions League appearances and 15 in all competitions this season.

Opposition captain Mohamed Ali Camara even asked to swap shirts with the 23-year-old at half-time, something which drew criticism in some quarters.

“I’m a little bit surprised about that right now,” admitted Young Boys coach Raphael Wicky, whose side failed to muster a single shot and had midfielder Sandro Lauper sent off in the second half. “I’ll probably have a word with him.”

None of this worried Guardiola, whose side looked comfortable with Phil Foden also on the scoresheet.

“It’s not normal, but I don’t know the reason why it happened,” he said. “It’s not a big subject for me right now.”

City’s remaining task in the group will be to secure top spot, and a theoretically favourable draw, in the first knockout round. They face second-placed RB Leipzig at home later this month before wrapping up the stage at Red Star Belgrade.

Midfielder Matheus Nunes said: “We cannot look at those two games as spare because we want to get through as first place, and that’s what we will try to do now.

“We will focus on Chelsea now, but when those games come we will be ready because we want to win both of them.”

Manchester City defender John Stones is facing a lay-off after suffering an injury in the holders’ Champions League stroll against Young Boys on Tuesday.

The England international was withdrawn at half-time at the Etihad Stadium.

Manager Pep Guardiola described the loss of Stones as the “deep bad news” from a night when City secured their place in the last 16 for an 11th successive year with an otherwise straightforward 3-0 win.

Guardiola said: “It’s muscular, he is injured, so he’ll be a while out. It is a pity for him because he’s an incredible professional.

“He tried to do it but it’s bad news for us. It’s the deep bad news for tonight.”

The news is a further blow for Stones, who has already missed two months of the season with a hamstring problem.

Fellow defender Manuel Akanji also missed the game after a blow to the back in training but, despite looking “75 years old” in Guardiola’s words, the manager added “hopefully it will not be a big issue and he could be ready for Sunday”.

One player apparently untroubled was Erling Haaland, who made light of the ankle problem that curtailed him on Saturday to score two of City’s goals in a one-sided encounter with the Swiss champions.

Phil Foden also got on the scoresheet as City won their fourth Group G game in succession to secure progress with two games to spare.

Guardiola said of Haaland, who was substituted on the hour: “Yesterday we saw how he moved and how happy he was and he felt good. I said, OK and for us he’s so important.

“After the job was almost done, he took a rest for (the game against Chelsea on) Sunday.”

Guardiola was pleased with his side’s achievement but, with RB Leipzig three points behind, maintained he would not ease up until top spot in the group was secured.

He said: “We’ve already qualified but still the job is not done because we have to finish first. It’s better to have the second leg in the last 16 at home than away because at home we feel confident.

“Still you have a job to do but the first step is done and I’m really impressed.”

It was a miserable night for Young Boys, who ended the game with 10 men after Sandro Lauper was sent off for a second bookable offence.

Coach Raphael Wicky said: “We’re obviously not happy. We’re not happy with the performance we’ve made but we know it’s very difficult to get something here.

“We knew if we want to get a point or a win, we needed to have the perfect game.

“I saw some good stuff in the first half but it’s very difficult to defend against Man City. They always have chances.”

Erling Haaland shrugged off injury to score twice as holders Manchester City reached the Champions League last 16 with a comfortable 3-0 win over 10-man Young Boys.

The prolific Norwegian took his tally for the season to 15 with a penalty and a long-range strike as City eased past the Swiss champions at the Etihad Stadium to secure their fourth successive Group G win.

Phil Foden also got on the scoresheet as City, securing their place in the knockout stages for an 11th successive season, overran opponents who failed to muster a single shot and had Sandro Lauper sent off in the second half.

Typically, it was Haaland who stole the show having overcome the ankle problem that forced him off against Bournemouth on Saturday.

Pep Guardiola could have rested his attacking spearhead with Sunday’s trip to Chelsea in mind but resisted and was rewarded with a clinical performance.

Six changes were made with Jeremy Doku, Rodri and Bernardo Silva among those dropped to the bench, but the returning Foden and Jack Grealish brought further firepower.

City, without getting anywhere top gear, were far too strong for the lacklustre visitors and dictated the game at their will.

Young Boys’ only spark came from their lively fans, who after making a colour-coordinated entrance in black or yellow depending on which tier they were seated, let off fireworks in the second half.

City should have taken an early lead after Mateo Kovavic played in Grealish with a superb through-ball and his cut-back presented Rico Lewis with a gilt-edged chance. Lewis attempted to sidefoot the ball home but Loris Benito cleared off the line.

Kovacic then linked well with Haaland, who was tripped on the edge of the area. Kyle Walker drilled the resulting free-kick at Anthony Racioppi and the keeper got up quickly to deny Foden on the rebound.

The inevitable opener came on 23 minutes after Matheus Nunes was tripped just inside the area by Lauper who – having been booked moments earlier – escaped a second yellow card on this occasion.

Haaland made no mistake as he sent Racioppi the wrong way from the spot.

Haaland threatened to grab his second as he homed in on a Walker cross but a slight deflection off a defender wrong-footed him as he shaped to shoot.

City doubled their lead just before the interval as Foden cut inside from a superb Grealish pass and brushed off a challenge from Ulisses Garcia to drill in from a tight angle.

Haaland added the third early in the second half after a storming break from Lewis, lashing home powerfully on the turn after taking a touch just outside the area.

Young Boys’ woes were compounded moments later when Lauper finally received his second booking following a bad challenge on substitute Nathan Ake.

Haaland was withdrawn just after the hour and City professionally saw out the remainder of the game with Kovacic and substitute Kalvin Phillips having further chances.

Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola will not change his habit of coaching his players on the pitch in the immediate aftermath of games despite Roy Keane’s claim that it is “all for show”.

Guardiola was seen talking to Erling Haaland after last Sunday’s 3-0 Manchester derby win at Old Trafford, going over the first-half header City’s top scorer had missed and the almost identical second-half opportunity the Norwegian buried.

It is something Guardiola has done for years – he had a similar animated chat with Haaland on the pitch at Burnley at the start of the season, and back in 2019 interrupted City’s celebrations after their 6-0 FA Cup final win over Watford to make a point to Raheem Sterling.

Former United captain Roy Keane was unimpressed last weekend, saying on Sky Sports that Guardiola was doing it for the cameras and should “get down the tunnel, enjoy your victory”, but the City boss said he often wants to make his point while it is still fresh.

“I respect a lot Roy Keane,” Guardiola said. “Sometimes I finish the game and go inside, sometimes I stay there. When I find a player we chat about the game. I know the camera is there.

“At that moment I was outside, wanted to (celebrate) with the fans, especially away. For the fans United is an important game.

“We chat about the second goal, the miss for the last minute (of the first half) with the (Andre) Onana action. He could be better, stronger.

“The header (could be) stronger to put the ball in the back of the net with more power. It happened with Erling in Burnley. I can avoid it.

“Maybe Roy is right but it happens. I don’t need at my age to do something for the people.

“Sometimes I go inside, sometimes say hi to the referees. It’s what I feel in the moment.

“I don’t think after the game to go to the players to do some spectacle for the people…

“I could have done it inside, of course. I’ve done it many times in the locker room – look at that image, that action.

“It’s fresh, the players have that image in the moment. Sometimes you make the impact that remains here (in the head).”

Haaland’s brace at Old Trafford took him to 13 goals in 15 games for City this season.

The 23-year-old hit 52 in all competitions last season, his first in England, when a player who had often suffered niggling injuries at Borussia Dortmund benefitted from a month off during the World Cup break.

There will be no such opportunity this time around but Guardiola said he had no concerns over his star man’s fitness at present.

“He’s so important for us, he feels really fit now,” Guardiola said. “Sometimes he had niggles, he came from Dortmund. Now it’s completely the opposite, he feels free.

“Today I saw him training with incredible energy. I don’t think about March, April, May. We try to win games to be contenders for the competitions.

“We will see, if he goes down, he takes a rest. Now, he’s feeling good. Having him on the pitch gives us confidence and is an incredible threat…

“He scored a lot of goals, every game he has a lot of chances to score more. So incredible, a lovely player for us. We use him a lot.”

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola has warned that no club is immune from the sort of crisis that has enveloped rivals Manchester United in recent weeks.

City cruised to a 3-0 derby win at Old Trafford last Sunday, and the pressure on Erik ten Hag was then ramped up further after a 3-0 home loss to Newcastle in the Carabao Cup on Wednesday made it eight defeats from their opening 15 games in all competitions.

Guardiola’s side appeared in complete control of the derby as Erling Haaland scored a first-half penalty and then doubled City’s lead just four minutes into the second half, later teeing up Phil Foden to complete the scoring.

But the 52-year-old insisted the win had not been as straightforward as many thought.

“It was not easy,” Guardiola said. “It helped us to score the second goal early (in the second half) and then we had control but it’s never easy. I have a lot of respect for Manchester United.

“The period they have now, we can have it. Nobody is away from these kind of situations. We won the game but that’s all.”

Having been knocked out of the Carabao Cup by Newcastle in September, City had a rare midweek off this week, which allowed a large delegation to travel to Paris for Monday’s Ballon d’Or ceremony, where they had seven players shortlisted after last season’s treble-winning heroics.

Haaland was beaten to the main prize by Lionel Messi but took the Gerd Muller trophy as the main striker, while City were named club of the year.

Asked if Haaland had been frustrated to miss out on the Ballon d’Or itself, Guardiola said: “I saw him so happy to be a contender, close to Messi, (Kylian) Mbappe and the rest. It was a good night for Manchester City.

“Big congratulations for Messi. Manchester City was there, it is so important because we have not been there many times. We were important there. (Haaland) has all his career ahead of him so he has to see it as a challenge and think he can be back there next year if he helps the team.”

Since returning to Manchester focus has shifted to Saturday’s match against Bournemouth, an opportunity for City to go top, at least temporarily, with Arsenal at Newcastle later in the day and current leaders Tottenham not in action until they face Chelsea on Monday night.

City start the weekend two points off the summit but Guardiola is not worrying about the table at this early stage of the campaign.

“Every season is tougher from when I arrived,” he said. “Better managers, better teams, but this is the challenge,” he said. “What is important is we are still there after 10 games. There are still 28 to play and there is a lot to happen, but the way we are playing we are getting better.”

The Cherries ended their long wait for a first Premier League win of the season with victory over Burnley last weekend and Guardiola said he enjoyed the style of Andoni Iraola’s side and the way they approached Wednesday’s Carabao Cup tie at home to Liverpool, a 2-1 defeat.

“Of course always after the win they are confident,” Guardiola said. “They competed really well against Liverpool. Andoni is an incredibly well-respected manager in Spain playing in an offensive style. They don’t sit back.

“In Spain he is one of the youngest managers and joining the Premier League is an incredible success. Hopefully he will continue with a good performance.”

Pep Guardiola believes Andre Onana’s penalty heroics in the Champions League will give the under-fire goalkeeper a confidence boost ahead of the Manchester derby on Sunday.

Guardiola is a long-term admirer of the Cameroonian, singling him out as Inter Milan’s most dangerous player ahead of last season’s Champions League final which Manchester City won 1-0 to claim a historic treble.

Since moving to Manchester United in the summer, Onana has made a number of errors but he preserved an important 1-0 Champions League win over Copenhagen in midweek with a penalty save in added-on time.

Onana was mobbed by his team-mates in the aftermath and will now head into this weekend with his spirits raised, according to Guardiola, who has been well aware of the ex-Ajax shot-stopper for several years.

The Manchester City boss said: “I remember we have a common friend who spoke very highly of him but personally I met him in Amsterdam. He’s an exceptional player and now at United.

“Before the game I always expect the best of the players we are going to face. I prefer to see the strengths than the weakness they have.

“He saved a penalty in the last minute which helped Manchester United to stay in contention to qualify for the last 16. Mentally it’s a good boost for them and for him.

“Everyone needs time (to adapt to the Premier League), not just the managers but players, keepers. Everyone. Sometimes people are quicker but I have a high opinion of him as a keeper.”

Jack Grealish was restored to City’s starting XI for their 3-1 Champions League victory at Swiss outfit Young Boys on Wednesday and he stood out on the left wing before his influence waned after half-time.

The England midfielder has recently been a bit-part figure following a month on the sidelines with a dead leg and he has been on the bench for City’s four most recent Premier League matches.

But Guardiola, who will be without suspended defender Manuel Akanji for the visit to Old Trafford after his dismissal in the win over Brighton last weekend, says Grealish is still integral to his thinking.

“The plan is for him to play like he did in Switzerland,” Guardiola said. “We need him, we need everyone. I am very pleased for the game he played.

“We trust a lot in him. We know his ability and he has to fight with his mates to play a lot and play as best as possible in every single action, every single minute, every single game.”

Second-placed City are already six points ahead of their rivals after just nine fixtures but Guardiola insisted it is too soon to be making definitive judgements on the campaign.

“It’s too early,” Guardiola added. “All the teams are there and the teams behind can be there.

“When you play just nine games, many things can happen from my experience. We have been behind with few points in February and March and have been able to win at the end.”

Pep Guardiola claimed there is no pressure on Erling Haaland to score more goals after the Norwegian’s double sank Young Boys on Wednesday.

Haaland struck twice in the second half as the holders claimed a hard-fought 3-1 win over the Swiss side in their Champions League Group G encounter on the artificial surface at Bern’s Wankdorf Stadium.

The game had been in the balance after Meschack Elia had cancelled out Switzerland international Manuel Akanji’s opener with a superb strike.

Haaland’s goals were his first in six Champions League games while his effort against Brighton on Saturday ended a three-game scoreless run – relative barren spells for a player who plundered 52 in total last season.

Guardiola said: “There is the impression after last season that he has to score seven goals every single game. That is impossible.

“But he is scoring a lot of goals and if people want him to fail because he doesn’t score 50 goals it doesn’t matter. He is always there.

“The second goal was really good and he had other chances. The important thing is to create them.

“Maybe in the right moment of the season he will be there, better than now, but he has already scored a lot of goals and we are really pleased.

“I’ve told him many times I don’t judge him for scoring goals, although I know he wants to score goals. He has the desire to improve and I don’t have doubts about that.”

City’s victory, sealed with a Haaland penalty and a clever late finish, was their third in succession and took them a step closer to the knockout stages.

They could reach the last-16 for an 11th consecutive season with a follow-up win over the same opposition at the Etihad Stadium in a fortnight.

“The result was good and in general it was a really good performance,” said Guardiola, whose side had 26 attempts on goal. “We could have scored more goals but is the important thing is to create the chances.”

Guardiola added that Phil Foden did not play because of a “small problem” while Julian Alvarez, who had a goal disallowed after coming off the bench, was not able to play the full game.

Young Boys coach Raphael Wicky felt his side gave a good account of themselves.

He said: “That courage and passion, we can be proud of what the team delivered, but you need a perfect game against a team like this. We couldn’t do it.

“Perfect means taking your chances and not conceding from set-pieces. We’re disappointed with the result, but we can be proud of the team’s performance.”

Erling Haaland struck twice as holders Manchester City moved a step closer to the Champions League knockout stages with a hard-fought 3-1 win at Young Boys.

Haaland put City back into the lead on the artificial surface at Bern’s Wankdorf Stadium after Switzerland international Manuel Akanji’s opener had been brilliantly cancelled out by Meschack Elia.

Substitute Julian Alvarez had an effort ruled out by VAR but Haaland made victory certain with a smart finish four minutes from time.

The win was City’s third in succession in Group G and they could now secure their spot in their last 16 for an 11th successive year with a follow-up victory over the Swiss side at home in a fortnight.

There had been much talk over the synthetic pitch in the build-up to the game and heavy rain added another variable element but it proved a free-flowing encounter.

Young Boys started well with Filip Ugrinic forcing a save from Ederson before Rodri headed wide from a corner.

Jack Grealish, who ignored the persistent booing of the vociferous home crowd, teed up Jeremy Doku with a superb first-time ball but the Belgian slipped as he cut inside and Anthony Racioppi saved.

The impressive Swiss keeper denied Haaland soon after but did have a moment of alarm when he spilled a Grealish shot. Matheus Nunes could only poke the loose ball weakly towards goal, however, and Loris Benito cleared off the line.

Doku went close again after switching from the right to left wing but Racioppi brilliantly saved his curling effort and blocked a first-time Rodri shot.

Young Boys had a good spell before the break with first Cedric Itten breaking clear but failing to beat Ederson.

Itten then teed up Sandro Lauper with a neat flick but Nathan Ake got back to block before a powerful Lewin Blum effort was turned behind. Itten went close again from the set-piece as his header dropped narrowly over.

While that made for a lively end to the first half, the game truly burst into life early in the second.

Akanji and Nunes both had chances before City grabbed the lead in the 48th minute. Rodri delivered a cross into the box and Ruben Dias, still forward following a corner, had a header tipped onto the bar by Racioppi. Akanji reacted the quickest to turn the ball in.

City went in immediate search of a second but were caught out after a Haaland shot was saved by Racioppi.

The ball was quickly sent to the other end and played into the path of Elia, who caught Ederson stranded off his line with a superb lob.

Young Boys were firmly back in the game and Itten forced Ederson into an awkward save with a swerving shot.

City stepped up the intensity and were awarded a penalty when Mohamed Ali Camara, moments after being booked, caught Rodri from behind. Haaland stepped up to thump home his 10th of the season.

City thought they had claimed another through Alvarez but his low strike was ruled out for a Grealish handball in the build-up.

It fell to Haaland to complete the job, the striker wrong-footing the defence just inside the box and then lifting into the top corner.

Gabriel Jesus believes he can finally win the Champions League and has told his Arsenal team-mates to share the faith.

The Brazil forward has a love affair with Europe’s premiere club competition and was the difference-maker as Arsenal won 2-1 at Sevilla on Tuesday night.

Jesus provided a moment of magic to lay on the opening goal for compatriot Gabriel Martinelli before curling home a fine individual effort – although his celebrations were curtailed as he limped off with 10 minutes to go.

The former Manchester City striker, who came off the bench when Pep Guardiola’s side lost the 2021 Champions League final to Chelsea, has a phenomenal strike-rate in the competition – his goal at the Ramon Sanchez-Pizjuan Stadium was his 23rd in 41 appearances for City and Arsenal.

He still harbours ambitions of winning the trophy and feels it is something he and his colleagues can achieve this season.

“It’s a competition that I love,” he said after his man-of-the-match display.

“All the competitions I love, because I just love to play football. But I don’t know, since day one in the Champions League, my debut, I scored goals.

“I haven’t won it yet, so I am looking for this, for this beautiful trophy. Obviously it is not easy, but I think we have to believe. If we don’t believe, we cannot be here.”

While his goal was a moment to savour, Jesus’ role in Martinelli’s opening effort will live long in the memory as a deft touch took two Sevilla midfielders out of the game.

A perfectly-weighted slide-rule pass played in Martinelli who, having missed a golden chance to break the deadlock earlier in the game, obliged with a cool finish as the two Brazil internationals combined to great effect.

“I think for me as the type of player I am, I drop a lot more on the left side than the right side,” Jesus replied when asked about his relationship and understanding playing alongside Martinelli.

“Obviously I drop on the right as well to help B (Bukayo Saka) and to play with B, but I drop more on the left. It works.

“The wingers we have, not just Martinelli and B, but Reiss (Nelson), Leo (Trossard) and even Eddie (Nketiah) or Fabio (Vieira) when they play there, they are quality players.

“I just go out wide and I try to play short passes and give them the ball, and they try to find me as well. It worked with Martinelli and I am very happy.”

Mikel Arteta’s side return to domestic action when they welcome Premier League bottom club Sheffield United to the Emirates Stadium on Saturday afternoon.

The Gunners are unbeaten in their opening nine league games of the campaign and Jesus could yet be involved despite limping off late on in Spain.

“I felt something. Let’s see,” he said. “I did some tests with the physio, it looks not that big, but let’s see. I have a scan, maybe tomorrow. I’m pretty sure it will be nothing.”

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