Erling Haaland needs to "play with passion" against defenders who attempt to unsettle him, according to Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola.

Haaland scored his 21st Premier League goal since arriving from Borussia Dortmund during the 1-1 draw with Everton on Saturday.

But images emerged after the game of the Norway international arguing with Toffees centre-back Ben Godfrey, while James Tarkowski and Conor Coady were also involved in confrontations with the striker.

Guardiola was pleased with how the 22-year-old Haaland handled himself against three experienced Premier League defenders trying to wind him up, although he stressed he had to draw a line somewhere.

"I like it," Guardiola told reporters ahead of City's league visit to Chelsea on Thursday. "He just needs to limit his behaviour, not him [but] everyone.

"The decisions, you have to use here [points to head] but play with this passion. It is necessary. I prefer that than to be flat.

"Strikers have to handle tough central defenders. Tomorrow he'll have a battle with [Kalidou] Koulibaly, Thiago Silva. That's why the Premier League is so special."

Haaland has taken the Premier League by storm since joining City in June, becoming the fastest player to score 20 goals in the competition, doing so in just 14 games, seven fewer than previous record-holder Kevin Phillips.

However, Guardiola feels Haaland can become even better, saying: "A lot of things he has to improve.

"As much as he continues scoring goals, he still has margin to improve on many things. Of course, he's young, and he'll be better in the future."

Guardiola left it until the 87th minute against Everton before making a change, with substitutes Ilkay Gundogan, Phil Foden and returning World Cup winner Julian Alvarez unable to steal three points late on.

Asked whether this was an error looking back, Guardiola replied: "Yes, definitely. What was the result? Yeah, a mistake.

"But even with substitutions 15 minutes earlier, maybe we would've lost. Maybe I should've done it earlier, but in that moment I took a decision."

Arsenal took advantage of City's draw with Everton by beating Brighton and Hove Albion to extend their lead at the Premier League summit to seven points, although a goalless draw at home to Newcastle United on Tuesday means Guardiola's men can close the gap to five points with victory at Stamford Bridge.

The Gunners may have missed the opportunity to momentarily open a 10-point gap, but Guardiola was still impressed with their performance – albeit he is also pleased with how his team have played since returning from the World Cup.

"The way they [Arsenal] played yesterday impressed me a lot," Guardiola added. "They dropped two points, but not in the quality they played.

"The way we played the last games, the feeling is good. My target always as a manager is try to do better than the opposition. First of all, be yourself, [but] if it doesn't happen, it's football.

"What I want to see is we still want to fight. We don't give up, until the last chance we can fight and win the Premier League."

Manchester City must be "almost perfect" between now and the end of the season if they are to catch Premier League leaders Arsenal, according to manager Pep Guardiola.

Arsenal dropped points for just the third time this season in Tuesday's goalless home draw with Newcastle United, but they are still eight points clear of second-placed City.

The reigning champions play their game in hand away at Chelsea on Thursday, though Guardiola accepts Arsenal may well be uncatchable on current form.

"The way you have to reduce the gap is to play good and win games," Guardiola said at Wednesday's pre-match press conference.

"They have an average and they're going to do 100 points or more if they carry on, and we won't catch them. We will have to be almost perfect. 

"We'd expect from here to the end of the season they'd drop a little bit in terms of their performances, but they were excellent against Newcastle, so we'll see what happens."

City were held to a 1-1 draw by Everton on Saturday and have taken only four points from the past nine on offer either side of the World Cup break.

However, Guardiola's side have won their past three games against Chelsea without conceding a goal, including a 2-0 win in November's EFL Cup third-round tie.

"It is always difficult when you travel to Stamford Bridge," Guardiola said. "It is a tough game against a tough side who are well managed.

"It doesn't matter the position you are when you travel there – it's always difficult. At the same time, we're looking forward to it and the next few weeks in different competitions."

City face Chelsea twice in the space of three days, first in the Premier League at Stamford Bridge and then at the Etihad Stadium in the third round of the FA Cup on Sunday.

Guardiola confirmed Ruben Dias remains absent for at least the first of those games, while a late decision will be made on fellow centre-back Aymeric Laporte.

Bernardo Silva is line to retain his place in attack, despite again suggesting this week that his future lies away from City beyond this season.

Asked about Silva's latest comments, Guardiola insisted the Portugal international – under contract until June 2025 – remains an important part of his plans.

"He's a key player, so important on and off the pitch," said Guardiola, who has lost just seven of his 34 Premier League games in London, three of those against Chelsea.

"He's a guy who can talk, always with a nice conversation and always you learn about his humanity, his vision for the club and the league. 

"He's an incredible player against top sides, in decisive games he's always there. Nothing has changed about his future."

City have won their first Premier League game in each of the past 10 calendar years, stretching back to a 1-0 loss at Sunderland in 2012.

Graham Potter says Raheem Sterling's "challenging" start at Chelsea is understandable but he expects the forward to improve as he prepares to face former side Manchester City.

Sterling has come in for criticism since ending a successful and trophy-laden seven-season spell at Man City to join Chelsea in a reported £50million deal ahead of the 2022-23 campaign.

That is despite the England international having scored and assisted more goals (nine) than any team-mate this season in his 21 appearances, while only Mason Mount has created more chances (32 to 28).

He was on the scoresheet in Sunday's 1-1 draw with Nottingham Forest, which extended Chelsea's disappointing run of form to just one win in five either side of the 2022 World Cup.

With plenty of focus on Sterling ahead of Chelsea's double-header with City in the Premier League and FA Cup third round this week, Potter has called for more from the 28-year-old.

"It's been a challenge for him, I think. But it's been a challenging period for everybody," Potter told reporters. "There has been a lot of change here and a lot of things have happened. 

"In that regard, it's never easy to completely settle and completely hit the ground running. There's more to come from Raheem, I'm sure, but he gives his best every day. We need to help him get to the level that we know we can get to."

Sterling scored 91 goals in 225 Premier League appearances for City, who trail leaders Arsenal by eight points with a game in hand, despite the incredible form of striker Erling Haaland.

The Norway international has found the net 27 times in 21 games this season – seven goals more than any other player across Europe's top five leagues – including seven strikes in his six away league matches.

Rather than focus on Haaland's obvious strengths, however, Potter is focusing on the damage his Chelsea players can do to City's defence in Thursday's match at Stamford Bridge.

"Haaland's obviously had a fantastic season; the goals there are amazing," Potter said. "It's a top team, but we have to think about ourselves, and think about how we can do better.

"We need to think about how we can take steps forward in terms of our game. That's the approach we'll have. Playing well ourselves is the key.

"Then you have to understand the quality they have and try to stop it. It does sound simple when I articulate it now but obviously in reality it's not so straightforward. 

"They're a top team, but we can cause them a problem. We can be ourselves and try to play well and try to put them under pressure. We need to use Stamford Bridge to our advantage and then see what happens."

City boss Guardiola has lost eight times against Chelsea in all competitions, with that the joint-most defeats suffered against a single opponent in his coaching career alongside Liverpool.

However, Guardiola's City have won their past three matches against Chelsea without conceding a goal, most recently prevailing 2-0 in November's EFL Cup third-round tie when the Catalan exchanged words with Potter at full-time.

Asked about that conversation ahead of their latest encounter, Potter said: "It was a general football conversation. He understands the challenges that we have here and he's faced some similar ones himself. 

"It was just a conversation after a game you have with football coaches. It's nice, I think it's good. It's good that managers can speak because it's complicated when you're out there.

"There are always emotions, and we're all fighting for the points, but afterwards it's nice to be able to speak as human beings and talk about the game.

"I think if you did the research on football, and not just Pep but the people within the game that played against my teams and have watched the work that I've done, I think there's a general level of respect. 

"There certainly is from my perspective to him, because he's fantastic. He's a fantastic person. But also, what he's achieved as a footballer and was achieved as a coach is amazing."

Erling Haaland and Julian Alvarez playing together could help Manchester City to break down teams who sit back against them, according to Pep Guardiola.

City lost ground in the title race on Saturday after drawing 1-1 at home to struggling Everton, with leaders Arsenal then extending their advantage at the Premier League summit to seven points with a 4-2 victory at Brighton and Hove Albion.

Haaland had given City the lead against the Toffees, but Demarai Gray scored a superb strike to peg the champions back and hold them to just a point, putting another dent in their title hopes after losing at home to Brentford in the final game before the World Cup break.

In his attempts to win the game, Guardiola brought on World Cup winner Alvarez up top with Haaland in the 87th minute, and though it did not reward him with three points on this occasion, he says he may have to start the pair if they are to improve their results at home.

"You have two strikers who are going to score goals," City boss Guardiola said after the game.

"To create the chances you have to make the process and for the process sometimes you need other types of players to create these chances.

"But of course they can play together - especially in defence against five at the back they can play together.

"In the last minutes when it is 1-1, we needed people in a central role, in and around the box, and that's why he [Alvarez] played."

Phil Foden has come off the bench in all three of City's games since returning from the World Cup, with England team-mate Jack Grealish preferred to start over him in the last two league matches.

Asked whether Foden needs to adapt to be included in his starting line-up, Guardiola replied: "No, Phil can play in a thousand, million positions.

"When I am in the pitch and in the training sessions, I see something with my intuition and I decided to play with Jack for these games because Jack give us extra, extra, extra passes.

"When it is more vertical, Phil is better, so both can combine, both can play together but this time I decided on this line-up."

Pep Guardiola remains optimistic about Manchester City's performances despite Demarai Gray's stunning equaliser denting the champions' title hopes on New Year's Eve.

Gray picked out the top-right corner with Everton's first shot of the game after 64 minutes at the Etihad Stadium, cancelling out Erling Haaland's opener in a stop-start 1-1 draw.

Having lost to Brentford before the World Cup, City have now failed to win in back-to-back home league games for the first time since May 2021 and remain without a Premier League victory on December 31 (D4 L1).

While City's dropped points handed Arsenal the initiative in an intriguing battle at the top of the table, Guardiola saw no reason to criticise his team's performance.

"Great game. We've played really well in the last three games and it makes me feel optimistic," he told BBC Sport.

"Dropping points at home is always tough, but I'm always trying to make our game good, and we have continued to do it.

"I would say they had eight at the back. In that situation, it's about movement and attacking at the right moment. In general we did it. We didn't allow them transitions. 

"They made a fantastic goal and when that happens you say congratulations, but in general we did really well."

However, defender John Stones was less positive, bemoaning City's failure to find a second goal against a resilient Everton side.

"I don't really know what to say. I feel like we've lost two points," the former Toffees centre-back said. "That's football. 

"We controlled the game for the majority of the time and had a lot of chances, but we couldn't seem to get that goal.

"It's difficult to take after the game. We showed great character to keep fighting and pushing. It was a bit of a scrappy game.

"We conceded two shots all game, but it's overlooked because of that incredible goal. On reflection, we'll be more positive when we look back, I'm sure."

Demarai Gray's stunning equaliser dented Manchester City's Premier League title bid and eased the pressure on Frank Lampard as Everton claimed a 1-1 draw at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday.

Lampard's struggling team looked set for more misery when Erling Haaland continued his incredible goalscoring form in the first half, sweeping home to hand City the lead.

Everton failed to register a single shot until the 64th minute, but they only needed one chance as Gray whipped a brilliant effort into the top-right corner to cap a devastating break.

Pep Guardiola's men looked startled by Gray's intervention, as their failure to find a winner handed Arsenal the initiative in the title race on New Year's Eve.

Haaland went close early on when he hit the side-netting from a tight angle after rounding Jordan Pickford, but he was not to be denied 24 minutes in.

Jack Grealish's neat work down the left allowed Riyad Mahrez to square for Haaland, who finished beyond Pickford in a crowded penalty area to put City ahead.

Former Everton defender John Stones hit the post with a diving header as half-time approached, and City appeared destined to add to their lead as they pinned the Toffees back. 

However, the visitors silenced the Etihad with their first attempt of the game after the hour mark, with Gray breaking clear and recovering from a stumble to arc a terrific effort into the far corner from the left of the area.

Pickford denied Mahrez from close range as City threw players forward in desperation late on, but Everton stood firm through 11 minutes of stoppage time to claim a huge point towards their survival bid – much to the delight of Arsenal.

Pep Guardiola says he would not have signed his new deal at Manchester City if he felt the players were not showing enough "desire and hunger."

The former Barcelona head coach penned a two-year contract extension in November, keeping him at the Etihad Stadium until 2025.

Guardiola has lifted the Premier League four times, as well as five domestic cups, since arriving at the club in 2016, though the Champions League has so far eluded him with the Citizens, including a final defeat to Chelsea in 2021.

However, the signing of Erling Haaland has given Guardiola's side renewed vigour, with many feeling the Norway international could be the final piece of the puzzle as City bid to win European football's top prize for the first time.

Guardiola's new deal put an end to rumours his time at City may be coming to an end, with some suggesting he may seek new challenges or even take a sabbatical similar to the one he did after leaving Barcelona in 2012.

But Guardiola feels City's two displays since coming back from the World Cup break - a 3-2 EFL Cup win over Liverpool and a 3-1 league victory at Leeds United - have exemplified why he decided to stay on.

"It is the results [that matter]," Guardiola told reporters. "If we are tired of each other then I will not finish this contract. The contract is just paper.

"If I extend, it's because I have the feeling that we can still play good, like the last two games. We did many good things [in those games] and still have the desire and hunger to do it.

"The moment I feel something is broken, I will resign or not extend."

City's players totalled 4,572 minutes on the pitch at the World Cup in Qatar, nearly 1,000 more than any other Premier League team.

Yet, City have picked up a pair of important victories since their return to action, and Guardiola is delighted with how his players have resumed the season.

"You have no idea how people are going to come back from the World Cup," he added. "They are in 25 degrees.

"And then you come here with this weather, immediately to Elland Road against the most intense team in the Premier League. But they reacted really well. The commitment made me feel that 'let's try to do it again.'

"If we don't do that against these opponents then it won't be possible. That is the challenge, to do it again. What I'm proud of the most is that we are still there."

Despite the victory over Leeds, City remain five points behind leaders Arsenal, who are looking to lift their first Premier League title since the 'Invincibles' did so in 2004.

But Guardiola is confident his team are capable of catching the Gunners, managed by his protege Mikel Arteta, adding: "Arsenal have done brilliantly and have been better than us so far. Their lead is not 15 or 20 points, we are close.

"Winning four in five years and seeing the way we played at Leeds, after the contenders all won, I see the desire."

Pep Guardiola has no doubt Pele would have dazzled in any era as he paid tribute to the late Brazil great – but Lionel Messi remains his choice for the greatest of all time.

Manchester City manager Guardiola said Pele's legacy "will be eternal", remembering how as a young boy he was told all about the Brazilian by a physio at Barcelona.

When Guardiola watched clips of Pele in his prime, he was wowed by the all-round ability of the Santos superstar, who won three World Cups with his country, in 1958, 1962 and 1970.

Pele toured the world with Santos, as teams lined up for the chance to play against him, and he resisted offers to play for European teams, including Real Madrid.

Following his death at the age of 82, announced by family on Thursday, tributes have poured in for Pele, and Guardiola offered condolences to loved ones from himself and City.

"Football is football thanks to these types of people, players and human beings," Guardiola said.

"What he has done for football is there and always will remain. He didn't just win three World Cups – it was a new thing when he came up. I was not born when he was playing, but it's like a good movie, no?

"The legacy after many years is still there. We are still talking all these years later. Pele, Maradona, Cruyff, Messi, Beckenbauer, Cristiano Ronaldo – these players will be forever, will be eternal.

"They have done many things for many years, and these types of players make our business, our work, our job a better place. What he produced; we have seen with the World Cup one team can change everything for a country of millions of people."

Guardiola added, in a tribute posted on City's website: "When I was in the academy at Barcelona I had a physio who was in love with Brazil and Pele. And after when I was nine or 10, I started to watch some clips.

"Now I realise he was so strong and could do everything. These type of players, if he was playing now, he would adapt to the rhythm and the pace. He was so intuitive and in skills and mentality, he could play in every generation."

Earlier in December, Guardiola said those preferring Pele or Diego Maradona above Messi did so for "sentimental" reasons.

He is sticking to his guns on rating 2022 World Cup winner Messi above all others, having coached the Argentinian at Barcelona.

"Everyone has their own greatest," said Guardiola. "For Argentina they might say Di Stefano, Maradona or Messi. I always say Messi is my favourite because I worked with him – but I understand people choose another one."

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola joked Kalvin Phillips has "the perfect body" after overlooking the midfielder for selection last week for being "overweight".

Phillips was back among the substitutes for Wednesday's 3-1 win at former club Leeds United, six days after being left out of the squad for the EFL Cup last-16 tie with Liverpool.

Guardiola said after the Liverpool match that Phillips, who recovered from injury to play twice for England at the World Cup, was not in the right physical condition to feature.

However, Guardiola has now made a U-turn on those comments and confirmed Phillips could be involved against struggling Everton on Saturday.

"He has the perfect body now – so sexy," Guardiola said following the win at Leeds, which moved City back within five points of leaders Arsenal. "We will see for the weekend."

Phillips has made just four substitute appearances for City, playing only 54 minutes, since joining from boyhood club Leeds in a reported £42million deal.

"He has spent the first part of the season out [after] surgery to arrive for the World Cup – and did everything to get to the World Cup," Guardiola added.

"It's not just about just being fit; you also have to understand what we want to do, the movements.

"So that means, as quick as possible, because Rodri cannot play all the games, as quick as possible he will play.

"But I'm happy that Kalvin trained really well [on Tuesday] and sooner or later he will play."

Erling Haaland scored two second-half goals for City at Elland Road after Rodri had made the breakthrough shortly before half-time for the reigning champions.

Haaland has 20 Premier League goals in 14 appearances, reaching that mark in seven games fewer than any other player in the competition's history.

In a warning to Premier League defenders, however, Guardiola believes there is still more to come.

"He's an incredible threat for us and always in the right position at the right time, really good," Guardiola said.

"I think he is still not at his best because of the injury. To move his huge body is not easy for him, but as much as he can play minutes, he will be better."

Jesse Marsch credited his former Salzburg striker Erling Haaland's "infectious" hunger for goals after the Manchester City talisman tormented Leeds United at Elland Road.

Haaland made his first Premier League trip to his city of birth a memorable one by claiming a second-half brace after Rodri struck first for the champions, who moved within five points of leaders Arsenal with a 3-1 win.

The 22-year-old has now hit 20 Premier League goals in just 14 appearances – seven fewer than the player who was previously quickest to that mark, former Sunderland striker Kevin Phillips.

Having coached Haaland for half a season in Austria, Marsch is acutely aware of the Norwegian's talents and has never seen a player with a greater desire to score goals.

"Haaland has an uncanny ability to know where to be to score goals, and a hunger to score goals like I have never seen before," Marsch told Amazon Prime Video.

"When you have him in your team, it's infectious. You obviously see his quality, but it is a desire that spreads through the team."

Asked whether that hunger made Pep Guardiola's men title favourites, Marsch said: "I don't know, but it makes Haaland one of my favourite players to watch."

Haaland passed up two excellent opportunities to open the scoring before finally punishing Leeds, drawing two one-on-one saves from Illan Meslier before the break.

The striker told Amazon Prime Video he was disappointed not to have scored five times, quotes which were put to Guardiola after the game.

"I'm so upset, I'm so upset," Guardiola joked. "We are delighted with how humble and how grounded he is.

"He's an exceptional guy with his work ethic and professionalism. It's a great treat to our opponents, having him there.

"Wasted opportunities are part of the game. In this stadium, against a team who have been able to play really well against top teams like Arsenal and Liverpool, it's a big compliment for the guys in their first Premier League game after the World Cup."

Haaland has now scored 26 goals in just 20 competitive appearances for City, making him the fastest player to reach 25 goals while playing under Guardiola during the coach's top-flight career.

World Cup winner Lionel Messi was the previous holder of that record, taking eight games more to reach that tally while playing in Guardiola's all-conquering Barcelona team.

Erling Haaland haunted his hometown club with a second-half brace as Manchester City beat Leeds United 3-1 on their return to Premier League action on Wednesday.

Haaland – who was born in Leeds when his father Alf-Inge represented the Whites – missed two good chances as the champions dominated the first half, but Rodri poked them ahead on the stroke of half-time.

The Norwegian striker was not to be denied after the break, tapping home following an error from home captain Liam Cooper before doubling up with a right-footed finish.

That meant Haaland reached 20 Premier League goals in record time on his 14th appearance, helping City move back into second place despite Pascal Struijk's consolation.

City almost went ahead inside 36 seconds, but Illan Meslier got a hand to Haaland's chipped effort after the striker was released Nathan Ake.

The Leeds goalkeeper made another one-on-one save from Haaland on the half-hour mark, before Jack Grealish missed two glaring opportunities to break the deadlock – the second a dire mishit from Rico Lewis' cut-back.

However, the hosts' resistance was finally broken in first-half stoppage time, with Rodri pouncing to bundle home when Meslier denied Riyad Mahrez following a flowing City move.

Leeds were masters of their own downfall five minutes after the restart, as Cooper's sloppy pass allowed Grealish to steal possession and tee up Haaland for a simple finish.

Haaland had his second of the game just past the hour, Meslier failing to keep his powerful right-footed shot out.

Leeds cut the deficit 17 minutes from time when Struijk headed Sam Greenwood's corner beyond Ederson, though City managed to see out the win despite Joe Gelhardt threatening.

Erling Haaland has struggled to shake off a foot injury, but Pep Guardiola expects him to be able to play a starring role for Manchester City at Leeds United on Wednesday.

Haaland has been in sensational form this season, leading the Premier League scoring charts with 18 goals after quickly settling into English football following his arrival from Borussia Dortmund.

However, he suffered an injury against Dortmund in October and has since been dealing with the ramifications of that problem, even with the club season pausing for the World Cup.

"The injury is completely different to last season," Guardiola said. "It was a knock in his foot in Dortmund when we played in the Champions League, and the doctor said that he has damaged his ligament in his foot.

"It's painful, it's not easy to recover, that's why he struggled, but [it is a] muscular issue. Now it is much better, and now we know it is a question of time. Of course, we need him.

"I think he will be ready [for Leeds]. Day by day, he is getting better. As much as he can train, he will get his condition."

City trail Premier League leaders Arsenal by eight points ahead of their game in hand against Leeds, with the defending champions having lost two of their previous five Premier League matches and widely considered not to have yet hit their best form.

Yet Guardiola does not expect to venture into the January transfer market in search of additions to strengthen a title charge.

"I think we are going to finish in this way," he said.

"I don't know what's going to happen, but since I arrived in Abu Dhabi with the sporting director, with Txiki [Begiristain], with everyone, there wasn't any names on the table."

Jose Mourinho is a man in demand at international level, with Brazil reportedly rivalling Portugal in pursuit of his signature.

The 59-year-old is currently employed by Serie A club Roma, having joined in 2021 on a three-year contract.

There are reports that Mourinho is not entirely happy in the Italian capital, specifically regarding player attitudes and the club's financial limitations.

TOP STORY – BRAZIL TO MAKE SHOCK MOVE FOR MOURINHO

Brazil will make a sensational swoop to make Jose Mourinho their new national team boss to replace the departed Tite, according to la Repubblica.

An intermediary of Brazil's national setup will fly into Italy to meet up with the Roma head coach – who has also been linked to the Portugal job – and begin negotiations face to face.

Brazil had been linked with Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola, having reportedly turned to super agent Jorge Mendes to aid their pursuit of a new head coach.

 

ROUND-UP

– Journalist Bruno Andrade claims Manchester United have "overtaken" Liverpool in the race to sign World Cup winner Enzo Fernandez from Benfica. United boss Erik ten Hag is willing the trigger his €120m release clause.

Manchester United have commenced talks with PSV winger Cody Gakpo, reports The Daily Mirror. Gakpo netted three goals in three World Cup group games.

– Fabrizio Romano claims that Barcelona have no intention of selling midfielder Franck Kessie or full-back Hector Bellerin in January.

Paris Saint-Germain are interested in Real Madrid winger Marco Asensio, reports SPORT. Arsenal have also been linked with the 26-year-old, while Ara claims Barcelona are monitoring the situation and may swoop.

PSG are also interested in signing Manchester United's Brazilian midfielder Fred, claims The Sun. That is despite United recently triggering a 12-month extension on Fred's contract.

Bayern Munich have added Leeds United's French goalkeeper Ilhan Meslier to their transfer targets, reports MediaFootMercato. Bayern are looking for cover the injured keeper Manuel Neuer.

Kalvin Phillips returned from World Cup duty with England "overweight" and not ready to feature against Liverpool, according to Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola.

The midfielder has endured a frustrating season hampered by injury issues after moving to the Etihad Stadium from boyhood club Leeds United in the last transfer window.

Phillips was still selected by Gareth Southgate for Qatar 2022 but played just 40 minutes across the tournament before England suffered quarter-final heartbreak against France.

The 27-year-old, who has been restricted to just one substitute appearance in the Premier League for City, missed the EFL Cup fourth-round win over Liverpool on Thursday.

While England team-mates Jack Grealish, John Stones and Phil Foden all featured in the first game after the World Cup, Guardiola suggested Phillips' fitness was far below the standards expected.

"He's not injured. He arrived overweight. I don't know [why]," Guardiola said when asked about Phillips' omission.

"He didn't arrive in the condition to do training sessions and to play."

Guardiola is not giving up on Phillips yet, though, adding: "When he will be ready, he will play, because we need him, we need him a lot."

As for Guardiola's disappointment with him, he said: "It's a private conversation with Kalvin."

Guardiola confirmed Ruben Dias joined Phillips on the sidelines after sustaining a hamstring injury in Portugal's World Cup quarter-final defeat to Morocco.

City visit Phillips' former side Leeds on Wednesday as Guardiola's men aim to cut Arsenal's five-point lead at the top of the table.

Kevin De Bruyne showed he is "unstoppable" when playing with "this fire inside" in Manchester City's 3-2 EFL Cup win over Liverpool, Pep Guardiola said.

De Bruyne was well below his brilliant best as Belgium were eliminated from the World Cup in the group stage earlier this month.

But his first match back in City colours on Thursday provided a reminder of the midfielder's remarkable talents.

De Bruyne supplied assists for Erling Haaland and Nathan Ake in a gripping cup tie, creating a game-high five chances in all as he ran the show at the Etihad Stadium.

As well as excelling with the ball, De Bruyne led the City press out of possession, winning four turnovers in the final third. Rico Lewis (two) was the only other player on the pitch to manage more than one.

"Kevin, when he plays with this fire inside of him, he finds himself this fire... what a player," manager Guardiola told Sky Sports.

"How many years is Kevin here? Seven, eight years? I think so. There's so many things. He's an absolute legend.

"Always I push him to find this fire. In important games, when he has this, he's unstoppable."

Guardiola reserved additional praise for Lewis, the 18-year-old right-back who took 89 touches and won five duels against the Reds – trailing only Rodri among City players in both metrics.

"In a long, long time, I didn't see a performance like Rico Lewis," Guardiola said of a teenager who debuted in August. 

"He's 18 years old, playing against Liverpool with big stars up front, and the way he played with the ball and without the ball...

"We are lucky, incredibly lucky to have this player for the next decade. Hopefully the club can keep him, because he was exceptional. The game he played was exceptional."

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