Sergio Aguero became the Premier League’s leading foreign goalscorer by hitting a hat-trick in Manchester City’s 6-1 thrashing of Aston Villa on this day in 2020.

The Argentina striker surpassed Frenchman Thierry Henry as the competition’s top overseas marksman at Villa Park after taking his tally to 177 goals in 255 matches.

Aguero also claimed the record of the most hat-tricks in the league’s history, with his 12th treble seeing him move past former Blackburn and Newcastle striker Alan Shearer.

“I’m so happy for the record,” said the then 31-year-old, who joined City from Atletico Madrid in 2011.

“But I thank my team-mates because they helped me this year. I’m so happy.

“I want to keep scoring more goals, but it all depends on my team-mates. If they pass to me, then it’s fine.”

Aguero went on to score 184 Premier League goals for City, placing him fifth on the all-time list, before moving to Barcelona in 2021.

He held the record for the most Premier League goals scored for a single club until it was overtaken by former Tottenham captain Harry Kane.

City boss Pep Guardiola said of Aguero: “He will die scoring goals. He is one of the best, no doubt. The best is (Lionel) Messi but the rest? Sergio is absolutely one of them.

“It’s an honour to be here the day he achieved that.

“There are players through the incredible history of English football and he is one of them, he helps to make the Premier League and English football better.”

Pep Guardiola hailed Kevin De Bruyne as exceptional and unique after his impressive return to action in Manchester City’s FA Cup stroll against Huddersfield.

The Belgian playmaker appeared as a 57th-minute substitute and set up a goal as the holders breezed past the Championship strugglers 5-0 in a one-sided third-round tie at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday.

It was De Bruyne’s first outing in five months after a long lay-off following hamstring surgery and his comeback is timely as City step up the intensity for the second half of the campaign.

City manager Guardiola said: “He played really good minutes. We thought it was better to play the second half than from the beginning when the game was tighter.

“It was so difficult to find space. They defended so so deep and were really well organised, compact.

“It was really good and now, as I said before, he needs to accumulate training sessions and more training sessions, more than games. Still he is not ready for 90 minutes.

“Kevin helps to win games and there are few (like him) in the world. We can play good football-wise but Kevin, (Erling) Haaland, Phil (Foden), Julian (Alvarez) – these guys win games.

“That’s why it’s so important to have him back. Kevin is exceptional, he is unique.

“He was a long time out with surgery. His first minutes, the quality of the assist for the Jeremy (Doku) goal – it’s really good to have him back.”

De Bruyne put the seal on City’s performance by teeing up City’s fifth goal for Doku, who was also making his return from injury.

Foden had already struck twice with Alvarez also on target and City benefiting from a Ben Jackson own goal.

Haaland was again absent through injury but, with a lighter schedule this month, Guardiola is hoping to get all his top names back as treble winners City again chase glory on three fronts.

He said: “What I want is to arrive in the second part of the season with everyone fit. I want Erling back, Kevin back, Jeremy and John (Stones). When they are back we have a team that can compete in different competitions until the end.”

Huddersfield manager Darren Moore hopes his side will learn from a difficult experience.

Moore said: “It was always going to be a tough game. We tried to come here and nullify the areas where Man City are excellent in and thought we did that to start off with.

“You have to try and start on a positive note and disrupt their passing rhythm, but when the first goal goes in and then there is quickfire second one, the game runs away from you a bit.

“The boys were just talking about the quality they were coming up against. Sometimes in moments of defeat it about the learning perspective and that is what we have taken from today.”

Kevin De Bruyne made an eye-catching return and Phil Foden struck twice as holders Manchester City thrashed Huddersfield 5-0 in the FA Cup third round.

Julian Alvarez and Jeremy Doku were also on target as City – further aided by an own goal – swept aside their Championship opponents in a one-sided third-round tie at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday.

The impact of the in-form Foden was again impressive but De Bruyne’s comeback, after five months out, was arguably of greater significance.

The Belgian was given just over half an hour at the end of the game and he marked the occasion by teeing up a goal for fellow returnee Doku.

His presence brought some of the biggest cheers of the afternoon from the home fans, whose noise was drowned out by that of the 6,000-strong visiting support early on.

Yet Huddersfield, not surprisingly given their struggles in the second tier this season, could not match the intensity of their fans as City, without hitting top gear, comfortably outplayed them.

The visitors resisted well for the opening half an hour, limiting Alvarez to a long-range shot which was comfortably saved by Lee Nicholls while Oscar Bobb had an effort unwittingly blocked by team-mate Rico Lewis.

The visitors showed some spirit by launching a handful of counter-attacks but the final ball was generally lacking.

Sorba Thomas did get through on goal on one occasion but he failed to beat Stefan Ortega and the offside flag indicated it would not have counted anyway.

City suffered a blow when Manuel Akanji limped off after a heavy challenge from Alex Matos, who was booked, but they soon began to step up the pressure.

Huddersfield were pegged back as Sergio Gomez had a low ball turned behind and a Foden shot was deflected to safety.

The opener came on 33 minutes as Mateo Kovacic slipped in Alvarez and his firm pass was well taken and rifled in by Foden at close range.

The second followed just four minutes later as Matheus Nunes linked with Foden and then found Lewis, who squared for Alvarez to stretch and poke home.

Bobb went close early in the second half as he cut inside but dragged his shot wide.

De Bruyne was introduced on 57 minutes in a double change that also saw Doku make his return from injury.

City claimed their third goal moments later as Nunes controlled a high ball and played wide to Bobb, whose attempted cross to De Bruyne at the far post flicked off Ben Jackson and looped into the net.

Huddersfield had a brief flurry as Thomas forced Ortega to save with his feet when through one on one but City’s fourth was not long in coming.

Again Foden did the damage, calmly stroking the ball into the bottom corner from the edge of the area from a well-worked short-corner routine.

De Bruyne created the fifth as he surged upfield, played a one-two with Bobb and then pulled the ball back for Doku to thump in on the half-volley.

Pep Guardiola has raised the tantalising prospect of unleashing Phil Foden and Kevin De Bruyne together in the centre of Manchester City’s attack.

Foden has hit a rich vein of form in recent weeks playing in the central attacking midfield role that De Bruyne had previously made his own.

That has raised the question of how the pair will be deployed once the inspirational De Bruyne returns from the hamstring injury that has sidelined him since August.

City manager Guardiola said: “They are different players but it’s true that in the final third, in the decisive moments, both are incredible. The impact in goals, in passes is a lot.

“Phil is playing unbelievably lately in that position, in the threats, and he feels comfortable.

“In certain games, of course we can play both together in that position, in the pocket, in the middle, close to the box.

“In certain other games for the stability, maybe not. So we have to see day by day.”

The issue may not need to be resolved just yet with Guardiola not intending to rush De Bruyne back into action.

The Belgian was an unused substitute for last week’s Premier League victory over Sheffield United and any return to action is likely to be incremental.

“Right now I don’t ask to Kevin to play his best level,” said Guardiola, whose side host Sky Bet Championship club Huddersfield in the FA Cup third round on Sunday,

“We cannot force a player with a long injury in this kind of situation. From my experience as a football player, it happened quite similar. I was one year with hamstring problems. When you come back you need time.

“It’s not, ‘OK play, it’s the best Kevin’. You have to be relaxed, enjoy the minutes he’s going to play, try to win the games.

“Kevin maybe in 20 minutes can help us more right now than 90 minutes. After that his body will dictate how many minutes more he can get.”

City are the holders of the FA Cup and Guardiola has no intention of giving up the trophy lightly, even as they pursue further glory in the Premier League and Champions League.

Guardiola, twice a winner of the cup, has a strong affinity with the competition and does not want to see it marginalised as other events grow in importance.

He said: “Since day one here I’ve been asked about but it is not going to happen, reduced competition. Accept it.

“It is really, really important. It’s not friendly games here. We train every day for Huddersfield. We prepare incredibly well.

“The FA Cup is the FA Cup. You will not find one person in this club, in the locker room, who doesn’t love it.”

Manchester City could be without midfielder Rodri for Sunday’s FA Cup tie against Huddersfield following the death of his grandmother.

The Spaniard has been granted compassionate leave and is currently back in Madrid.

Manager Pep Guardiola says the player has not definitely been ruled out but he seems unlikely to feature as the holders begin their defence of the trophy in the third-round tie at the Etihad Stadium.

Guardiola said at a press conference: “Rodri, unfortunately, his grandmother passed away yesterday and he is in Madrid. Today and tomorrow he will not be here.

“Hopefully he will come back for the game but, if he needs to stay, family issues are the most important thing.”

Guardiola has also revealed a number of his players have suffered from fever this week and are also doubtful.

He said: “Four players have problems. Bernardo (Silva), Scotty (Carson), Kalvin (Phillips) and Matheus Nunes are, like many people at this time, suffering.”

The match could give Kevin De Bruyne the opportunity to get some minutes as he continues his comeback from a hamstring injury but Guardiola insists the Belgian will not be rushed.

De Bruyne, who was an unused substitute for last week’s clash against Sheffield United, has not played since August.

Guardiola said: “Kevin has been (out for a) long time so we have to be patient and give the right minutes for him.

“It was a big injury. What I am concerned with the most is to try and avoid a repeat. This is what we have to be careful with.”

Star striker Erling Haaland and winger Jeremy Doku are still out after injuries but are nearing a return.

Guardiola said: “For Erling, it’s a bit better. He has done two training sessions and he feels good.

“They are improving. I don’t know for Sunday, I don’t know for Newcastle, but for the rest (of the games) they will be ready.”

Defender John Stones is City’s other notable absentee with an ankle injury.

Guardiola said Jack Grealish’s state of mind was improved after a burglary at the England international’s home over Christmas.

Thieves reportedly stole jewellery worth £1million after breaking into the midfielder’s Cheshire mansion while his fiancee and members of his family were present.

Guardiola said: “He’s much better. He’s had time to fix so it won’t happen again and the burglars have to know that there is no more jewellery at home.

“Our chief security man is handling it with Jack, his family and his (fiancee). They’re impacted, which is normal. When you’re at home and you have people come inside, it’s scary.”

The January transfer window is now open but Guardiola would give no clues as to any potential arrivals or departures.

Asked specifically about Phillips, whose future has been the subject of speculation, Guardiola said: “I don’t know, I don’t talk about the transfer window.

“I don’t know if we are going to sign 10 players, get (rid of) 10 players. Maybe one – I don’t think it will happen, but you never know.”

Pep Guardiola played down the significance of his side’s victory over Sheffield United on Saturday despite it increasing the pressure at the top of the Premier League.

Goals from Rodri and Julian Alvarez at the Etihad Stadium saw the champions wrap up a memorable 2023 – a year in which they won five trophies – with a comfortable 2-0 victory over the struggling Blades.

The result lifted City within two points of leaders Liverpool at the end of a draining month in which they played nine matches, including two in Saudi Arabia at the Club World Cup.

That could be viewed as ominous for the rest of the competition but City manager Guardiola did not want to be drawn into such talk.

Guardiola said: “What we have done in the past doesn’t mean it is going to happen in the future. The future is happy New Year and three days off, and after that it is Huddersfield. No further than that.

“Except for two or three games, we were better than the opponents and could not get the results we deserved – but it is business and you have to win games.

“Today we did it and I’m really pleased for the guys. It was an intense month.”

Guardiola felt City were initially below their best but was pleased with the way they roused themselves.

He said: “The first half was a little bit flat. The body language of the players – they didn’t communicate, didn’t talk, didn’t laugh, didn’t shout.

“It was ‘OK, I have to play a football game’, but football games cannot be played in that way.

“At half-time, for the first time, I didn’t talk one word about tactics. I took a chair and sat and said, ‘Guys go out with a smile on your face and with another rhythm in terms of enjoying what you’re doing. We are not going to do what happened against Crystal Palace’.”

“In the second half, the first 15 minutes were the best minutes that we did.”

Guardiola also hailed an “incredible effort” from Jack Grealish, who started for City after a difficult few days following a burglary at his house.

Defeat left Sheffield United bottom of the table but manager Chris Wilder found positives in the attitude of his players.

He said: “It felt like we played football for about five hours. At the start, when you are walking out, and you see five trophies, it hits home to you and what you are up against.

“We were light in terms of Premier League experience but what we weren’t light on is fight or character, and that has delighted me since I walked through the door.

“It is incredibly difficult to come here, even for the top teams. We stuck at it and it was great experience for the young lads to learn. There is no downside from this game.”

Pep Guardiola has reminded players of the importance of personal security after the home of Jack Grealish was burgled in midweek.

The Manchester City manager has even suggested cutting back on social media use as part of any precautions.

Thieves broke into Grealish’s Cheshire mansion while he was playing in the treble-winners’ victory at Everton on Wednesday.

Some members of Grealish’s family and his fiancee Sasha Attwood were at the property at the time when they heard a disturbance and raised the alarm.

Nobody was harmed but it has been reported the raiders got away with jewellery and watches worth £1million.

The incident is the latest in a series of robberies affecting wealthy footballers in recent years.

Former City defender Joao Cancelo was attacked during a burglary at his home in December 2022 while other players targeted include Raheem Sterling, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Paul Pogba and Angel Di Maria.

Guardiola said: “They have security but unfortunately it’s happened. It’s happened many times.

“United players as well. I don’t know much about London but it’s happened (there), and not just in the UK – I know in Catalonia, where my family lives, many things happen.

“Today you have to be careful, definitely. Not much on social media – the less they know what you are doing the better. People are waiting (to see) where you are, what you are doing.

“Unfortunately it’s happened with Joao, which was so scary because the family was attacked.

“Jewellery, money, whatever – it’s tough – and the family being there is difficult to process. It’s tough for Jack, as it was with Joao before.”

It remains to be seen if Grealish will be in the right state of mind to play for City against bottom side Sheffield United in the Premier League on Saturday.

Guardiola said: “He didn’t train on Thursday, he was with the family. We are going to see how he feels.”

The visit of the Blades seems likely to come too soon for Kevin De Bruyne but Guardiola has not completely ruled out him having some involvement.

The Belgium playmaker is nearing a return after more than four months out following hamstring surgery.

Guardiola said: “He’s training with a lot of energy. Being injured is not good for anyone but I think for his mind it will have been good to have a few months off.

“What he loves is playing football but it’s been a long injury. It was major surgery and muscular so we have to be careful. It’s how many minutes he can handle and do it step by step. We have to speak to the doctors and physios as well.”

Defender John Stones is definitely out having joined Erling Haaland and Jeremy Doku on the casualty list when he suffered an ankle injury in midweek.

Guardiola said: “Unfortunately, John got injured. Hopefully he recovers. We have to be optimistic and hopefully in two, three weeks he will be fine.”

Defender Kyle Walker insists Manchester City have now drawn a line under their stellar achievements in 2023 and have set their sights on a strong second half to the season.

Capturing the Club World Cup in Saudi Arabia last week “finished the piece” in Walker’s eyes in a year when a first Champions League title followed Premier League and FA Cup triumphs, with the UEFA Super Cup added for good measure in August.

Questions have been asked about whether Pep Guardiola’s side are lacking something this season after a run of one win in six Premier League matches, but the come-from-behind 3-1 win at Everton showed they are a long way from giving up on their title defence.


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And Walker believes with 20 matches still to come, trailing leaders Liverpool by five points, now is when City will come into their own.

“On the back of winning the Champions League we desperately wanted to win (in Saudi) and finish off the piece. It was good to go and finally tick that off the list,” said the 33-year-old.

“It’s important now to draw a line under it and it’s a big end to the season when we’re in the competition we want to fight for again.

“I don’t think there was many things going wrong on the field except the results. We were playing well, but this game is about winning and we weren’t doing that.

“But that’s football and in the Premier League you can never let your guard down, you’ve got to keep going until the last minute.”

The winning mentality of City’s players is one thing which is not in question after the consistency they have shown over several seasons and that was in evidence again at Goodison Park after falling behind to the Toffees’ first attempt on goal in the first half despite dominating.

Brilliant goals from the impressive Phil Foden and Bernardo Silva either side of a Julian Alvarez penalty turned things around to move City back into the top four and set their sights on the summit again.

“I think it shows the determination and belief in this squad. That’s what this team is all about, digging in, not quitting,” added Walker.

“We’re all good players, we can all play out there, but when the going gets tough it’s about a collective team performance that gets each individual if they’ve made a mistake or they’re doing well, to get you out of that stuff.”

Foden’s performance, playing centrally, was certainly a major factor in the turnaround and not just because of his goal.

In the extended absence of Kevin De Bruyne, who is edging closer to a comeback after a hamstring injury sustained in August, City have at times lacked that creative spark and the England international is one who can give them that.

“Phil’s unbelievable, the talent that boy possesses is incredible, but with this manager and this team and the calibre of players we’ve got, Phil needs to do it week in and week out,” said Walker.

“I think this season he’s really come into his own and took the responsibility on, where we’re missing Kevin or Gundo or Riyad (departed duo Ilkay Gundogan and Riyad Mahrez).

“But I’m not patting him on the back. He needs to keep doing what he’s doing because I think the sky is the limit for him.

“Resting on a couple of good games is not going to put you in that calibre of the best footballers in the world.

“He’s got the potential, he needs to make sure the drive is still there, he keeps concentrating, keeps putting in the performances that he is doing.”

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola believes their 3-1 victory in a “massive” game at Everton will serve as a reminder to their rivals not to write them off.

City arrived back from Saudi Arabia as Club World Cup winners looking to correct a record which had seen them win just once in six Premier League matches and drop off the pace in the title race.

But while they were away, results went in their favour which meant winning their two matches in hand on Liverpool would reduce the deficit at the top to just two points, and the first of those was achieved after they recovered from former winger Jack Harrison’s opener with goals from Phil Foden, Julian Alvarez – from the penalty spot – and Bernardo Silva.

“Really, really important. It was a massive game for us, coming from Saudi Arabia,” said Guardiola.

“We were really pleased with how we reacted and it proved again how special this group of players is and the mentality that we have in our bones.

“We want to be there. I know we are not top of the league, (but) a lot of things are going to happen.

“I never saw a Premier League where every game the teams down low and mid-table can beat everyone. There will be a lot of surprises and the thing is to be there.”

Guardiola said the Club World Cup was not only a distraction, but also helped refocus the players’ minds.

“I remember on the plane coming back from Saudi Arabia I listened to the players when they didn’t know I was listening and they started to talk about Everton,” he added.

“I said ‘wow, this is my team’. I have the feeling they still want to try.

“We play many games this season and people say we are not the same. We have lost one of the last 13 (not including the Club World Cup). We don’t talk enough about how good we are.”

The only downside to the game was an ankle problem for John Stones, who left the stadium wearing a protective boot, on only his fifth Premier League start of a season already significantly affected by injury.

“Hopefully the damage isn’t big and he can come back soon,” said the City boss, who is also hopeful Erling Haaland and midfielder Kevin De Bruyne will be available soon.

Haaland has missed six matches with a foot problem while De Bruyne has not played since August because of a hamstring injury.

“He (Haaland) is training alone and getting better, it’s a question of when the pain will disappear,” he said.

“He’s not a skinny guy like Phil Foden, he’s huge and tall so it is more difficult sometimes.

“Kevin is close, but he had fatigue yesterday and we have to be careful. If you don’t handle the timings good you can get injured again.

“I’d love for him to play the next game or Huddersfield (in the FA Cup), but what is important is keeping him fit for a long time, not for one game or another.”

Everton manager Sean Dyche was frustrated by the award of the penalty for handball against Amadou Onana that allowed City to take the lead through Alvarez, but did not use it as an excuse.

“I don’t have a clue. No-one does. Is that deliberate? Of course not. I don’t know where you are supposed to put your hands,” he said.

“The lawmakers are making all these mad rules. I don’t know why they don’t leave the game alone. All the managers are frustrated with it. Maybe the referees are. The players definitely are.

“If he deliberately did that he must be some keeper. His reactions were cat-like. I’ve never seen anything like it.

“But they are still a top side. We know they make chances and you have to try to stop those, which we didn’t do.”

Pep Guardiola spoke of his pride after Manchester City thrashed Fluminense 4-0 to win the Club World Cup for the first time on Friday.

It was the club’s fifth trophy of a memorable 2023 after their previous successes in the Champions League, Premier League, FA Cup and European Super Cup.

Julian Alvarez began the rout after just 40 seconds, teed up another for Phil Foden and then wrapped up a one-sided victory in the closing minutes. City also benefited from an own goal as they overran their Brazilian opponents.

City manager Guardiola, who had previously won the competition three times, told the club’s website: “I am so proud of this club. What we have done is an outstanding achievement.

“To win this trophy is to be the best team in the world and our players, our coaches, our backroom staff, all of them work hard every single day to bring us this success.

“As a manager what I am most proud of (is) that we are always there. No matter how much we win, no matter what trophies we lift, we are there again to fight for the next one.

“To win the treble was truly special but to win two more trophies and now hold these five major titles shows the unique mentality of this team, of the club and its fans.

“It is something no other English team has ever achieved and we will always remember this incredible time we spent together.”

Foden, whose cross also forced the own goal, similarly hailed a momentous night in the club’s history.

The England midfielder said on TNT Sports: “We are not used to playing in this heat so it was difficult but we are delighted with the outcome. We’re over the ‘world’.

“This one is so important for the club. It’s the first time we’ve won it. We’re delighted and it’s massive for the club.”

Foden felt Fluminense, the Copa Libertadores winners, gave City a tough night.

“It was an unbelievable match,” he said. “Fair play to them, the way they play. I love the way they play – short passes.

“They are a great side and they didn’t make it easy but I thought the lads not only showed quality but heart and determination.”

Manchester City added the Club World Cup to last season’s treble with an emphatic 4-0 win over Brazilian side Fluminense in Jeddah on Friday.

Julian Alvarez struck twice, setting them on their way after just 40 seconds and wrapping up victory late on, while Phil Foden forced an own goal and grabbed the other himself.

It was manager Pep Guardiola’s fourth triumph in the competition but one that came at a cost as influential midfielder Rodri was forced off in the second half with an injury.

City, who were again without striker Erling Haaland due to a foot problem, now face an anxious wait over the Spaniard’s fitness ahead of the resumption of their Premier League title defence at Everton next Wednesday.

Rodri, who limped off after a challenge from Alexsander, has already missed four games through suspension this season and City have lost them all.

Yet for now City can celebrate their fifth trophy of 2023, having also claimed the European Super Cup in August.

They were far too strong for the ageing Copa Libertadores winners, who repeatedly invited pressure on to themselves.

City were gifted the perfect start when veteran former Real Madrid captain Marcelo – one of seven in the Fluminense starting line-up aged 33 or over – found Nathan Ake with an attempted crossfield pass from deep inside his own half.

Ake wasted no time as he thumped a long-range shot against a post and there was nothing goalkeeper Fabio could do as Alvarez crouched to make sure the rebound bounced in off his chest.

City did have a scare when Ederson gave the ball away and then brought down German Cano but were spared by an offside flag.

Apart from that, Fluminense rarely threatened and City doubled their lead when Rodri played in Foden and his ball across the box deflected off Nino and looped into the net.

Ederson was called upon to keep out a Jhon Arias header just before the break, but City almost claimed another when Jack Grealish tested Fabio from distance.

Fabio also produced a good double save to deny Foden and Bernardo Silva in quick succession early in the second half.

City’s third came as Rodri attempted to run off his injury, with Alvarez getting free down the left and crossing for Foden to slide in after 72 minutes.

Rodri was removed moments later, but Alvarez put the seal on success with a clean strike two minutes from time.

Pep Guardiola urged his Manchester City players to seize a potential “once-in-a-lifetime” opportunity after reaching the Club World Cup final.

The Champions League winners set up a clash with Brazilian side Fluminense in Friday’s showpiece in Jeddah with a comfortable 3-0 win over Japanese outfit Urawa Red Diamonds on Tuesday.

City needed an own goal in first-half stoppage time to get their campaign up and running in Saudi Arabia, but strikes from Mateo Kovacic and Bernardo Silva after the break secured a straightforward victory.

City manager Guardiola told reporters at a press conference said: “We didn’t win it (before) – it’s the first time Manchester City are here.

“This is the last step – a title the club doesn’t have, so we’ll go for it.

“To play this final you have to have done incredible things – mainly to win the Champions League.

“Once we are here, maybe it is a trophy we play for once in a lifetime.

“It’s against Fluminense, a South American team, experienced, a lot of quality. I saw yesterday how good they are.

“But we are there. Tomorrow we will start to see Fluminense and try to do a good performance and win the title.”

City were without Erling Haaland for a fourth successive game due to a foot injury but were still far too strong for the Asian Champions League winners.

They had already created numerous chances before defender Marius Hoibraten turned into his own net to give City the lead.

Reds boss Maciej Skorza said: “They are the best team in the world in my opinion, but our plan didn’t work in the perfect way.

“We expected that possession would be huge in favour of Manchester City. We had our plan for counter-attacks, but this didn’t happen.

“Maybe this is the big difference in the physical aspect between the two teams and lack of experience of playing teams like City.”

Pep Guardiola says he is “very pleased and excited” that Manchester City are taking part in the Club World Cup in Saudi Arabia over the coming days.

The treble winners go into the tournament after a slump in results, dropping points in five of their last six Premier League games to leave them fourth in the table.

Playing Club World Cup matches on Tuesday and Friday, they do not return to league action until December 27, by which time there could be a considerable gap between them and the top of the table.

Having seen his side held to a 2-2 draw at home by Crystal Palace on Saturday, Guardiola was asked if the tournament in Saudi Arabia had come at the worst possible time for City, and he said: “No – we love to go to play the (Club) World Cup.

“To go there you have to win the Champions League. I’m very pleased and excited to go there and try to win it, of course.

“The schedule is what it is, the results are what they are and you have to accept it.”

Guardiola stressed with regard to the situation in the league that City must “win games and depend on ourselves”.

Prior to Saturday’s contest, they drew 4-4 with Chelsea, 1-1 with Liverpool and 3-3 with Tottenham and lost 1-0 to Aston Villa before winning 2-1 at Luton.

The Chelsea, Liverpool, Tottenham and Palace matches saw City concede late equalisers – on Saturday, after City had led 2-0 and Jean-Philippe Mateta pulled a 76th-minute goal back for the visitors, Michael Olise levelled with a penalty in the fifth minute of stoppage-time.

And when asked why they were unable to close out games, Guardiola said “I would like to know,” adding: “Don’t give away that penalty, and the game will be over. The last minutes, 2-1…we have to control it better.”

City’s trip to Saudi Arabia will see them play Japan’s Urawa Red Diamonds in the semis on Tuesday, with the final and third-place play-off then taking place on Friday.

Guardiola said: “The Champions League is more important, absolutely.

“But to play this tournament that we have never played before – you need to be there. And we are going to fly there and see the environment, how it is, and play against Urawa the best as possible to deserve to get to the final.

“Of course, it’s nice. Years ago we could not imagine to be there and we are there.”

Pep Guardiola said Manchester City did not deserve to win after a late fightback from Crystal Palace saw them held to a 2-2 draw in a dramatic finale at the Etihad Stadium.

City dominated possession and looked to be cruising at 2-0 up following goals from Jack Grealish in the first half and Rico Lewis nine minutes into the second.

But Palace hit back with a 76th-minute Jean-Philippe Mateta goal before Michael Olise equalised in the fifth minute of stoppage time with a penalty awarded after Phil Foden caught Mateta in the box.

Dropping points for the fifth time in six Premier League matches, in their last outing before heading to Saudi Arabia for the Club World Cup, leaves the champions in fourth place, three points behind leaders Liverpool, who host Manchester United on Sunday.

Boss Guardiola, whose side had drawn 4-4 with Chelsea, 1-1 with Liverpool and 3-3 with Tottenham and lost 1-0 to Aston Villa prior to last Sunday’s 2-1 win at Luton, said: “It is not bad luck, it was deserved, we gave away two points.

“When you give this penalty, you deserve it. You see the chances we created, the chances we concede, it’s quite similar, except the Chelsea game, all this season. But we are not able to close the game.

“There was a chance (for Palace) in the first half…but until the (Mateta) goal, they didn’t do anything.

“So the team was really, really good. But at the end, when you give Crystal Palace this penalty, you don’t deserve it. It’s like the penalty for Chelsea (Cole Palmer’s late equaliser).

“The games against Spurs, Liverpool, today, were excellent, but we were not able to win the game. What has happened is because we are not consistent enough to close the games, and many reasons.”

Guardiola denied City were not playing with the same intensity for the final 20 minutes, before adding: “18-yard box, you have to be careful, and we were not. We don’t deserve to win.”

Treble-winners City, who were once again without injured forward Erling Haaland, are now set to play Japanese outfit Urawa Red Diamonds in the Club World Cup semi-finals on Tuesday, with the final taking lace on Friday.

Guardiola said: “Six, seven-hour flight with the result, just three days to recover, three days for a potential final – it is what it is. Now we are down and we lift as quick as possible and go to compete there.”

Pep Guardiola has admitted Manchester City may need to seek a replacement for Kalvin Phillips in January if the England midfielder moves on.

Phillips, 28, is expected to leave the Etihad next month in search of regular first-team football, having been unable to force his way into Guardiola’s side in the 18 months since his £42million switch from Leeds.

And while Guardiola insisted he was not thinking about the January market, that might change if he was left short of numbers in midfield, where City have struggled any time their regular enforcer Rodri has been missing through injury or suspension.

“Right now I don’t have anything in my mind,” Guardiola said. “It depends if they leave or don’t leave. Some players stay, some players leave. It depends on the squad, it depends on young players and if you can rely on them or not in some moments.”

Only last week, Guardiola appeared to effectively confirm Phillips would not be able to turn things around at City, saying: “I visualise the team and I struggle a little bit to see him (in it).”

Several clubs have been linked with a January move for the Yorkshireman.

Asked specifically if Phillips’ situation could change things for City, Guardiola said: “Kalvin is a player with us, I don’t want to anticipate absolutely anything. Everyone knows the situation he has.

“It depends if it happens. If it happens we talk. The market in January is not easy…We still have incredible things to play for, and after we decide.”

Next week City will be playing for the Club World Cup for the first time in their history after last season’s treble success.

The team are due to fly to Saudi Arabia after Saturday’s match against Crystal Palace – with both Erling Haaland and the injured Kevin De Bruyne due to make the trip regardless of whether they will be fit to play.

“It’s a competition we have never won, everyone will be there,” Guardiola said.

“I want the players not to be desperate to win, (but) to play two games, win the first one and get the credit to play the final. If we don’t win it, hopefully we win the Champions League in the future to be back. Two football games, do what we have to do.

“We learn from the Champions League in the past. In life you don’t know what will happen… the motivation, the feeling we’ve never won, it’s important. Winning helps to win. Winning against Palace will help by far.”

As enticing as the prize on offer next week is, Guardiola warned against looking past Saturday’s match.

“This is my job, I will warn (the players) or let them know,” he said. “It has always been difficult with Roy (Hodgson), or Patrick (Vieira) before, Crystal Palace have always been tough.

“Everyone has to be involved to play quick, be patient, transitions, set-pieces, good on second balls, the physicality is amazing. Always we struggle.

“At Selhurst Park it’s normal, but at Selhurst Park we perform better than at the Etihad. It happened, we lost a lot of points, they do it really well.”

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