Erling Haaland has revealed that Riyad Mahrez told him to sign for Manchester City last year, and the striker is also looking forward to playing with Phil Foden.

The Premier League champions announced on May 10 that an agreement was in place to sign Haaland from Borussia Dortmund after triggering his reported €60million (£51.2m) release clause, and Haaland has now officially put pen to paper on a five-year contract at the Etihad Stadium, with the deal to go through on July 1.

Haaland scored 86 goals in 89 games for Dortmund upon joining from Salzburg in January 2020, averaging a goal every 84 minutes across all competitions.

The 21-year-old was pictured with Mahrez while on holiday in Greece in 2021, and Haaland told City's official website that the Algeria international had spoken to him about moving to Manchester at the time.

"He told me to come to City!" he said in the interview published on Monday. "He was right about that. He said some good things about the club."

Haaland also expressed his excitement at the prospect of linking up with another highly-rated young player in Foden.

The England international recorded 11 assists in 45 games in all competitions for City last season, while creating 63 chances overall and 18 big chances, which is an opportunity from which a goal would normally be expected.

 

"I have been watching a lot of City games for as long as I can remember. Of course, then I also watched Phil and he is an amazing player," Haaland said.

"He is still a talent because he is still young, but he is an amazing player.

"He still has to develop and then we can really talk."

Mohamed Salah has been named the PFA Players' Player of the Year, while Phil Foden has successfully defended his Young Player of the Year award.

Manchester City edged out Liverpool by a point in a thrilling Premier League title battle, but Salah again claimed a plethora of the individual awards after another fine campaign.

The Egypt international scored 23 top-flight goals to share the Premier League Golden Boot accolade with Son Heung-min, while also securing the Playmaker of the Season award for most assists.

Salah added the Premier League Goal of the Season trophy to his haul, alongside both the FWA and PFA Fans' Player of the Year awards.

Indeed, no player in the English top flight could match the Liverpool forward's 36 goal involvements (23 goals, 13 assists), setting him a class above his competitors.

Kevin De Bruyne was widely expected to be the frontrunner alongside Salah for the PFA Players' Player of the Year title, but the latter has pipped the Belgium international to yet another personal accolade.

Salah becomes the seventh men's player to win the PFA award twice, along with Mark Hughes, Alan Shearer, Thierry Henry, Gareth Bale, Cristiano Ronaldo and De Bruyne.

De Bruyne, Harry Kane, Ronaldo and Salah's club-mates Virgil van Dijk and Sadio Mane were also in the running to land the award, with Tottenham's Son surprisingly overlooked.

"It's a great honour to win a trophy, individual or collective and this one is big so, very happy and very proud of that," Salah said after winning the award.

"This one is a really good one to win, especially because it's voted by the players. It show you that you've worked really hard and you get what you have worked for.

"I have my room with trophies in a cabinet and I made sure that I had another space for one more. I always keep space and just try to imagine that the trophies are going to come."

Foden became the fifth men's player to win the PFA Young Player of the Year award in consecutive seasons, meanwhile, joining a list that includes Ryan Giggs, Robbie Fowler, Wayne Rooney and Dele Alli.

The City midfielder played an integral role as Pep Guardiola's side lifted their fourth Premier League title in five seasons under the Catalan coach.

The 22-year-old ended the league campaign with nine goals and five assists from his 28 outings.

"I'm really honoured to be honest, especially to win it back-to-back, it shows that I've come a long way this year with the consistency of my game, and I'm really pleased to win it again," Foden said. 

"All the best players in the world have got to show consistency and keep performing at a higher level, and this year I've just tried to do that and try and help my team as much as possible.

"I've been really happy with my performances this year. Hopefully, I can win the main award in the future, but it's all about taking small steps and improving.

"I always love winning individual awards, it's just nice to look at and how far you've come."

Kylian Mbappe, Vinicius Junior and Erling Haaland are the three most valuable players in world football, according to research group CIES Football Observatory.

Mbappe comes in as the most valuable having had a stellar season with Paris Saint-Germain, with 60 goal involvements (39 goals, 21 assists) in 46 games in all competitions.

Vinicius won the LaLiga and Champions League double with Real Madrid, while Haaland is soon to make a lucrative move from Borussia Dortmund to Manchester City after scoring 86 goals in 89 games during his time in Germany.

Mbappe turned down a move to Madrid to sign a new three-year deal with PSG last month, and the France international and World Cup winner is valued at an estimated €205.6million (£175.7m) by the CIES.

 

Vinicius is second at €185.5m (£158.3m), while Haaland supposedly has a value of €152.9m (£130.4m) despite costing City just €60m (£51m) thanks to a release clause.

The rest of the top 10 includes Barcelona trio Pedri, Frenkie de Jong and Ferran Torres, City's Phil Foden and Ruben Dias, Dortmund's Jude Bellingham and Liverpool's Luis Diaz.

CIES' research is based on a range of measures such as age, value of club, level of player performance and inflation.

The CIES report states: "The statistical model to estimate the transfer values for players from teams of the five major European leagues was built from a sample of 1,790 paid transfers carried out between July 2012 and January 2020.

"The correlation between the sums paid and estimated is greater than 80 per cent. This shows that the variables taken into account explain more than four-fifths of the gaps in the level of fees paid for transfers included in the model."

 

Top 10 valued players in world football (according to CIES Football Observatory)
1. Kylian Mbappe (PSG) - €205.6m (£175.7m)
2. Vinicius Junior (Real Madrid) - €185.5m (£158.3m)
3. Erling Haaland (Borussia Dortmund) - €152.9m (£130.4m)
4. Pedri (Barcelona) - €135.1m (£115.4m)
5. Jude Bellingham (Borussia Dortmund) - €133.7m (£114.2m)
6. Phil Foden (Man City) - €124.0m (£105.9m)
7. Frenkie de Jong (Barcelona) - €112.5m (£96.1m)
8. Luis Diaz (Liverpool) - €110.1m (£94.0m)
9. Ruben Dias (Man City) - €109.6m (£93.6m)
10. Ferran Torres (Barcelona) - €109.5m (£93.5m)

Phil Foden will miss England's UEFA Nations League trips to Hungary and Germany after testing positive for COVID-19, Gareth Southgate has announced.

England will face Hungary at the Puskas Arena on Saturday in their Nations League Group A3 opener before meeting old rivals Germany in Munich on Tuesday, but Foden will play no part in those contests after being forced to leave the Three Lions' camp.

Foden enjoyed a stellar club campaign as Manchester City won their fourth Premier League title in the last six seasons, racking up 25 goal involvements (14 goals, 11 assists).

He was one of just three City players to record double figures for both goals and assists in all competitions (also Kevin De Bruyne with 19 goals and 14 assists, and Gabriel Jesus with 13 goals and 11 assists).

Southgate is hoping to have the 22-year-old back and available when his team return to England to host Italy and a return contest with Hungary, both to be played at Wolves' Molineux Stadium.  

"Phil Foden, unfortunately, has tested positive for COVID-19, so he's had to leave," Southgate told reporters on Friday.

"Hopefully he'll be able to meet up once we get back from Germany. 

"That very much depends on symptoms and how his breathing is when he gets back into training. Of course, it affects everybody differently. I think every team in the world is getting used to dealing with this kind of situation, really."

Elsewhere, Southgate will assess Raheem Sterling's fitness after the winger suffered from an illness, and will definitely be without young defenders Fikayo Tomori and Marc Guehi for the trip to Hungary, but hopes to have both available later this month. 

"Fikayo and Marc Guehi both arrived with injuries but they're progressing well. They won't be involved in tomorrow's game but there's a chance for some involvement against Germany," he added.

"They should be fine for the games from there on. Other than that, Raheem has missed a couple of days' training with an illness, so we'll assess whether we involve him tomorrow, but everyone else is fully fit."

Son Heung-min can count himself unlucky after the Tottenham star missed out on a nomination for the PFA Player of the Year.

Spurs forward Son scored 23 Premier League goals in the 2021-22 season, sharing the competition's Golden Boot award with Mohamed Salah.

The Liverpool talisman is included on the list of six nominees, alongside team-mates Virgil van Dijk and Sadio Mane.

Son's strike partner Harry Kane does make the cut, while Kevin de Bruyne is the sole representative of champions Manchester City.

His team-mates Bernardo Silva and Rodri may also consider themselves hard done by, having both enjoyed wonderful campaigns.

Cristiano Ronaldo could not take Manchester United into the Champions League on his return to the club, but his 18 league goals have seen him receive a nomination.

The PFA also confirmed the list of nominees for the Young Player of the Year award, with City attacker Phil Foden joined by Arsenal winger Bukayo Saka and his club-mate Emile Smith Rowe.

That trio will go up against Chelsea pair Conor Gallagher, who shined on loan at Crystal Palace this season, and Reece James, as well as Aston Villa's Jacob Ramsey, for the award.

Manchester City's Phil Foden has been named the 2021-22 Premier League Young Player of the Season.

The England international, who was awarded the gong last term after helping Pep Guardiola's side to the title, picks it up for a second time after another fine season.

Foden is the first man to win the award in successive campaigns, and is feted for a season that saw him establish himself as a mainstay of the City squad.

Only Rodri, Bernardo Silva and Kevin De Bruyne have featured for more minutes among the team's midfielders than the 21-year-old, who beat off stern competition for the prize.

Arsenal duo Aaron Ramsdale and Bukayo Saka were among those also shortlisted, as was Liverpool full-back Trent Alexander-Arnold.

Crystal Palace pair Conor Gallagher and Tyrick Mitchell, alongside Chelsea's Mason Mount and West Ham's Declan Rice, completed the eight-man nominee list.

Foden won the award after receiving the most combined votes from the public and a Premier League panel. 

He has scored nine goals and assisted a further five in 27 top-flight outings this term, with 23 of those being starts.

Look away Liverpool, this may make for painful reading. Manchester City are not quite home and hosed in the Premier League title race, but all signs point to them brushing off Aston Villa on Sunday to clinch the trophy.

Another gripping race for domestic dominance culminates in City hosting Villa, while rivals Liverpool face Wolves at Anfield.

If City drop points, a Liverpool win would make Jurgen Klopp's team the champions. Yet recent history shows us that City rarely stumble against Villa, so a slip-up in the clash with Steven Gerrard's side would be a monumental shock.

A sixth title in the Premier League era beckons, which would rank City outright second behind Manchester United's haul of 13 championships.

Stats Perform takes a look here at key Opta numbers ahead of the final-day showdown

Saving the best for last

Pep Guardiola has repeatedly denied City lost their nerve against Real Madrid, when they remarkably surrendered what should have been a match-winning lead in the Champions League semi-finals.

Such wild things happen in football, Guardiola has reasoned, which is why he will take a meticulous approach to preparation for the Etihad Stadium clash with Villa. There could yet be an extraordinary finish to the season, but not if Guardiola can help it.

City have kept running through the tape in each of Guardiola's seasons in England, winning all five of their final league games under the former Barcelona and Bayern Munich boss. That ranks as the best such 100 per cent record for a manager in the competition's history.

Going back even further, to the start of the Abu Dhabi ownership era, City have lost just one of their final league games in the last 13 campaigns (W10 D2). That loss came when they went down 3-2 at home to Norwich City in 2012-13 when Brian Kidd was in caretaker charge for the last game. A year previously, they famously beat QPR by that same scoreline to clinch a first Premier League title.

This season, City have lost just one of their last 27 Premier League games (W22 D4), and are unbeaten in 11 since losing 3-2 at home to Spurs in February.

 

What it would mean for Guardiola

The City manager, who reports have claimed is ready to extend his contract until 2025, stands on the brink of Premier League history.

Should his side keep Liverpool at arm's length, Guardiola will become the outright leader for English top-flight titles among non-British managers, going one clear of both Arsene Wenger and Jose Mourinho.

This would be his fourth such Premier League title success in England, with only Manchester United's Alex Ferguson winning more. Guardiola has no intention of staying long enough to match Ferguson's staggering stack of 13 titles.

City have won 168 of the 227 Premier League games they have contested in the Guardiola era, scoring 562 goals in that time. Those are inevitably league-best figures, and it would be hideously out of character for them to crack against Villa.

A one-sided rivalry

It was not always this way, of course. Villa finished ahead of City as recently as the 2008-09 season (finishing sixth to City's 10th), but the tables turned in the dynamic between the teams when the Abu Dhabi investment began at the Etihad Stadium.

In recent years, this has been almost a formality victory for City, who have won nine of their last 10 Premier League games against Villa (D1), including the last six in a row.

City's last defeat to Sunday's opponents was a 3-2 loss at Villa Park in September 2013.

It is even more of a grim story when the focus falls solely on the games in Manchester. Villa have lost 15 of their last 16 away league games against City, losing each of the last 11 in a row since a 2-0 win in April 2007. This run of 11 is Villa's longest away losing streak against an opponent in their league history.

What's more, Villa's record when facing any league-leading team is unimpressive. They have won just one of their 21 Premier League away games against league leaders (D3 L17), beating Leeds United 2-1 in January 2000, and have lost the last seven by an aggregate score of 21-1.

Villa pulled off a shock of sorts when beating fourth-placed finishers Chelsea on the final day of last season, but they have not won their last game of a league campaign in consecutive seasons since the 1996-97 and 1997-98 seasons. The second of those wins came against champions Arsenal, but that is almost a quarter of a century ago.

 

Doubling up on the last day?

City will have Erling Haaland on board next season, so a flip of tactics seems inevitable to accommodate the prolific striker. This term, City have tended to rely on their midfield and attacking wide players to deliver in front of goal, and three players have reached double figures: Kevin De Bruyne (15 goals), Raheem Sterling (13) and Riyad Mahrez (11).

Now it could be Phil Foden's turn.

Foden has scored nine Premier League goals this season, and if he scores against Villa it would make this season the first for City with two English players (Foden and Sterling) scoring at least 10 goals in a league campaign since 2004-05, when Robbie Fowler and Shaun Wright-Phillips were the pair.

Kevin De Bruyne now considers Phil Foden simply "one of the guys" at Manchester City and hopes the 21-year-old can play a decisive role against Real Madrid on Wednesday.

Foden was long seen as the most promising young prospect at City but had to wait for his opportunity to feature regularly in Pep Guardiola's first team.

Although the midfielder made his senior debut in the 2017-18 season, he was kept on the fringes for his first two years.

Even in 2019-20, when making 38 appearances, scoring eight goals and assisting nine, Foden was restricted to just 18 starts.

Since then, though, the England international has gone from strength to strength, following up 26 goal involvements last term (16 goals, 10 assists) with another 24 this time out (13 goals, 11 assists).

Foden netted against Madrid at the Etihad Stadium in a 4-3 first-leg win in City's Champions League semi-final, and De Bruyne believes his team-mate can make another important contribution in the return leg.

"He's been amazing," De Bruyne said. "I've seen him from a little boy who had massive potential.

"Whenever you come up to a first team, you are a little bit shy, and it takes time and more playing time to get comfortable in that situation.

"But the last two years he has been in a very comfortable situation, and you see the difference in the way that he plays. He's not a young talent any more, he's one of the guys.

"It's a big step to make, but now everybody looks at him to make a difference because he can. He's proven that lots of times, and he probably will do much, much more for this club in the future.

"I'm hoping he does the same that he's been doing. If you're playing constantly very well, that is all you can do. He doesn't play with ups and downs, he just does what he needs to do for the team."

De Bruyne has had to rediscover that consistency himself after enduring a tough start to the season following an ankle injury that he initially tried to play through.

The Belgium midfielder did not look his usual self as he scored only three goals and provided a single assist in his first 17 club matches of the campaign.

However, since then, De Bruyne has 12 goals and 11 assists in 23 outings, including the opening goal in the first leg against Madrid.

"The first months [of the season] were really hard," he added. "I've never experienced the pain I had.

"I was trying to come back, but it wasn't something I enjoyed. Mentally, it was hard to overcome.

"Once the pain was gone, I started to feel more confident in myself, in my body, to get back to where I belong. Now, playing all these games, I feel back to the level I was before.

"I try to be as consistent as I can, and this year I've done that."

Manchester City kept the outcome of the Premier League title race in their hands with a 4-0 win over Leeds United.

After Liverpool claimed a 1-0 victory at Newcastle United earlier on Saturday, City needed a win to regain a one-point advantage in their hard-fought battle with the Reds.

City faced few problems in grinding out the result they needed, with Rodri and Nathan Ake converting from set-pieces in either half before Gabriel Jesus and Fernandinho wrapped up the points late on.

Pep Guardiola's men simply need to win each of their four remaining games to wrap up the Premier League title, while Leeds remain in danger of relegation after slipping to 17th.

The visitors rested several players, including Kevin De Bruyne, ahead of Wednesday's trip to Real Madrid, and could have fallen behind early on when Rodrigo Moreno delayed his pass after capitalising on Joao Cancelo's slip.

But City took the lead after 13 minutes when Rodri met Phil Foden's left-wing free-kick with a glancing header, diverting the ball into the top-right corner.

Junior Firpo fired over when presented with the hosts' best opening in a quiet first half, and Jesse Marsch's men lost Stuart Dallas to a serious-looking injury shortly before the break.

Jack Grealish bent a shot narrowly wide of the top-right corner after Raheem Sterling danced through the home defence after 52 minutes, but Ake doubled their lead soon after, prodding home after Ruben Dias met a right-wing corner. 

City made the points safe when Jesus latched onto Foden's pass to fire past Illan Meslier after 78 minutes, before Fernandinho drilled a 25-yard strike into the bottom-left corner as the visitors cruised.

New Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag has Benfica striker Darwin Nunez at the top of his shopping list in the upcoming transfer window.

The Uruguayan striker is in the midst of a breakout season in both Portugal and Europe, scoring 25 goals in 24 Primeira Liga fixtures, and a Benfica-record six Champions League goals in 10 appearances.

Darwin finished his Champions League campaign by scoring a goal in three consecutive games, including in back-to-back fixtures against Liverpool.

 

TOP STORY – RED DEVILS MAKE DARWIN NUMBER-ONE TARGET

Fichajes and Calcio In Pillole reporter Ekrem Konur claims United have made Darwin their priority target, stating he is "at the top of Erik ten Hag's short transfer list" and they are "considering paying" his release clause.

ESPN has also said United are "leading the chase" for the striker though they face competition from Arsenal, and reported along with The Sun that the 22-year-old's release clause is in the region of €150million.

As well as Darwin, Napoli's Victor Osimhen and Juventus' Paulo Dybala, who will be a free agent, are also serious targets management would like to bring to Old Trafford.

ROUND-UP

– Marca is reporting that Barcelona will turn to Chelsea striker Romelu Lukaku as their "plan C" after failing to land Erling Haaland or Robert Lewandowski.

– According to The Express, Arsenal are willing to listen to offers of £25m for Nicolas Pepe after signing him for a club-record £72m in 2019. West Ham are said to be one of the Premier League teams interested.

– Fabrizio Romano reports that Manchester City are focused on extending Phil Foden's contract until 2027.

– Leeds United midfielder and England international Kalvin Phillips will change his agent as he looks to secure a move away from the club, with the Manchester Evening News reporting that United will be in the box seat.

– Todofichajes is claiming that Arsenal have agreed a £50m deal for City striker Gabriel Jesus.

Phil Foden has warned Manchester City they must "take more chances" following their epic Champions League semi-final first leg against Real Madrid.

The England international was on target during a thrilling showdown at the Etihad Stadium, in which Pep Guardiola's side established a narrow 4-3 advantage.

City travel to Madrid for next week's second leg knowing they will progress to a second successive final if they maintain that slight edge, having lost 1-0 to Chelsea in last year's showpiece.

The margin of victory could have been greater but for wasteful finishing. Indeed, the hosts registered 16 shots on goal, with only six hitting the target.

And Foden knows he and his team-mates must demonstrate more of a clinical edge on the big occasions.

"For the fans watching, it was obviously a great game of football," he told BT Sport.

"We are playing a side that have won the Champions League many times and if we give the ball away, they are going to punish us. 

"It is something we need to work on in the second leg. The tie is still on.

"It was a great game; end to end. We started really well and could have killed them off. In these games, we need to take more chances."

Despite only holding a single-goal advantage, Guardiola was delighted with the performance of his side and is confident they can finish the job at Santiago Bernabeu.

"We played a fantastic game against an incredible team," the head coach added.

"All around the world and for Manchester City, we are so proud. But it is about reaching the final and sometimes, football happens. 

"We go to Madrid to try to win the game. Both teams want to attack and have the quality to play. 

"Congratulations to Carlo and his team as they are so good. At the same time, we saw ourselves that we can be there."

Second-half goals from Riyad Mahrez, Phil Foden and Bernardo Silva put Manchester City back on top of the Premier League as Brighton and Hove Albion were consigned to a 3-0 defeat.

Liverpool had moved to the summit with a 4-0 thrashing of Manchester United on Tuesday, but Pep Guardiola's side responded 24 hours later to keep their fate in their own hands in the title race.

Deflected strikes from Mahrez and Foden put the champions in command at the Etihad Stadium and Silva added a third as they moved a point ahead of the Reds with six games to play after losing to Jurgen Klopp's men in an FA Cup semi-final last Saturday.

City had been without a win in three matches, but normal service was resumed in their quest for a Premier League and Champions League double.

Moises Caicedo spared Robert Sanchez's blushes when he produced a brilliant challenge on Mahrez after the Seagulls goalkeeper gifted the City winger a chance to open the scoring early on with a terrible pass.

The hosts were not at their devastating best in the first half, but Brighton had another let-off when they made a mess of trying to play out from the back again and this time Lewis Dunk came to the rescue by blocking Ilkay Gundogan's strike.

The fit-again Ruben Dias replaced Nathan Ake at the break to make his first appearance since March 1 and the City defender was fortunate to get away with late challenge on Alexis Mac Allister soon after his introduction.

Kevin De Bruyne was the architect for the opening goal eight minutes into the second half, bursting forward from inside his own half before picking out Mahrez, who benefited from a couple of fortunate deflections before his finish struck Dunk and beat Sanchez.

Foden doubled City's lead 12 minutes later, this time Enock Mwepu sticking out a leg in an attempt to keep out the midfielder's drive from outside the box but seeing the ball flash past a helpless Sanchez.

There was concern for City when John Stones was withdrawn late on after sustaining an injury, but Silva put the icing on the cake with a clinical left-foot finish in the 82nd minute as Brighton shot themselves in the foot again trying to play out from the back.

Phil Foden hailed Pep Guardiola as a "genius" ahead of Manchester City's decisive Champions League clash with Atletico Madrid, having helped inspire his team to a 1-0 first-leg win last week.

The 21-year-old provided the assist for Kevin De Bruyne's 70th-minute winner just 79 seconds after being introduced as a substitute at the Etihad, allowing City to take a slender advantage into their second leg at the Wanda Metropolitano.

Foden's delightful ball to De Bruyne represented his seventh Champions League assist, with only Cesc Fabregas (10) ever assisting more goals for English clubs in the competition aged 21 or younger.

Looking back on a first leg in which City had to be patient after racking up 15 shots to Atletico's zero, Foden labelled his manager a "genius" for deploying him in a more central role when he entered the fray.

"It was very frustrating [watching from the bench]," Foden told the club's official media channels. "It looked like there was no space and we were struggling to create clear-cut chances like we usually do.

"It's hard coming off the bench trying to make an impact because you're coming into such an intense game. 

"He [Guardiola] kind of changed the shape a little bit, and played me more inside.

"He's a genius isn't he?

"I knew when I got the ball it was very tight. As I turned, I saw Kev run off his man and it was just instinct that I managed to play the ball through.

"When I made an impact I was obviously very happy, and was just delighted we had broken them down to take a good result back to their place."

City's trip to Madrid will represent their 100th Champions League match, and the 55 wins they have managed from their first 99 outings in the competition is already the most managed by an English side throughout their first century of Champions League games. Only Real Madrid, with 57, have managed more.

Meanwhile, since Opta data began, the fewest attempts on goal ever managed by a team across two legs of a Champions League knockout tie is the four attempted by Shakhtar Donestk against Bayern Munich in 2014-15, a record which Atletico could threaten after not recording a single attempt at the Etihad.

Foden, however, believes Diego Simeone's side will eventually have to leave their defensive shape to attack the Premier League leaders, and backed his side to exploit the spaces they may leave.

"I think it’s going to be a similar game," Foden added. "Maybe, if the result stays the same, they are going to have to come a bit more aggressively out of the space and try and attack the channels a little bit more.

"If they come at us, we know we have got that footballing side that we can show as well."

City have won just three of their previous 11 away games against Spanish opponents, drawing one and losing seven, although the second-leg trip will represent the club's first European trip to Atletico.

Gabriel Jesus and Phil Foden were recalled to Manchester City's starting line-up for Sunday's Premier League clash against Liverpool, with the Reds making three changes.

Brazil international Jesus made his first league start since City's New Year's Day win against Arsenal in place of the benched Riyad Mahrez.

Foden made an instant impact from the substitutes' bench by assisting Kevin De Bruyne's winner against Atletico Madrid in midweek and was rewarded with a place in the XI.

He had scored in each of his past three top-flight games against Liverpool, including a goal in October's 2-2 draw at Anfield in the reverse fixture.

Kyle Walker was also included from the beginning, with Ilkay Gundogan and Nathan Ake the other two players to make way from City's European win against Atletico.

Ruben Dias missed out through injury as expected, meaning John Stones again partnered Aymeric Laporte in the heart of defence at the Etihad Stadium.

Liverpool also brought in three new faces from their 3-1 Champions League win against Benfica in midweek for what was billed as a likely Premier League title decider.

Diogo Jota replaced Luis Diaz alongside Sadio Mane and the out-of-form Mohamed Salah up top, while skipper Jordan Henderson took over from Naby Keita in midfield.

Salah had scored in four of his last five Premier League games against Man City, including each of his last three in a row.

The Reds' other change saw Joel Matip recalled alongside Virgil van Dijk in place of Ibrahima Konate.

Liverpool entered the contest on a 10-game winning run in the Premier League, which had seen them close the gap on the leaders to just a point ahead of Sunday's huge clash.

City had lost just one of their past 12 home league games against Liverpool ahead of their latest showdown, going down 4-1 at the Etihad in November 2015.

The Reds were also without a clean sheet in any of their past 11 Premier League away meetings with City since a goalless draw in February 2010.

Man City XI: Ederson; Walker, Cancelo, Stones, Laporte; De Bruyne, Rodri, Silva; Sterling, Foden, Jesus.

Subs: Steffen, Mahrez, Zinchenko, Fernandinho, McAtee, Lavia, Grealish, Gundogan, Ake.

Liverpool XI: Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Matip, Van Dijk, Robertson; Henderson, Fabinho, Thiago; Salah, Mane, Jota.

Subs: Kelleher, Jones, Tsimikas, Konate, Gomez, Milner, Keita, Firmino, Diaz.

Pep Guardiola proudly declared Manchester City and Liverpool have "raised the bar" in the Premier League, and on Sunday the north-west giants collide in a game that could have a telling impact on the destiny of the trophy.

It falls inconveniently between high-stakes Champions League quarter-final games, although the fact both City and Liverpool are ahead after the first legs of their ties somewhat mitigates that pressure.

Given City hold just a one-point lead over Liverpool with eight rounds of games remaining, a win for either at the Etihad Stadium would be a huge leap nearer to the title.

The prospect of Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp directing in their animated manner from the touchline, as their star-packed teams pull no punches on the pitch, makes this an unmissable game.

Ahead of kick-off in the biggest club game in Europe this weekend, Stats Perform has taken a look at some key pointers.

City start as favourites for a reason

English bookmakers have City as the team most likely to come away from this one with three points, and there is good reason for Guardiola's men to go in with confidence.

City have lost just one of their last 12 Premier League home games against Liverpool (W7 D4), going down 4-1 in Jurgen Klopp’s first visit in the competition in November 2015.

Liverpool had a 2-1 Champions League win at City in April 2018, but their recent successes in the league in this rivalry have been largely limited to games at Anfield. Indeed, Liverpool are winless in their last four Premier League games against City (D2 L2), regardless of the venue.

Only once in the competition have Liverpool had a longer run without a win against City, going five games without getting the better of the boys in blue between November 2011 and December 2013.

Keep it clean, lads

Liverpool have not kept a clean sheet in any of their last 11 Premier League away games against City, since a 0-0 draw in February 2010, and with Guardiola's formidable attacking resources it would surely be a surprise if this becomes the game where the Reds halt that sequence.

So goes one theory. Another way of looking at the game is to consider that Liverpool are in a stunning vein of form, and if they are ever going to halt the leakage of goals to City, it will be this weekend.

Liverpool have won each of their last 10 Premier League games, keeping eight clean sheets in doing so. It is their fifth run of 10 or more consecutive Premier League wins, Opta said.

Both Liverpool and City have achieved 18 clean sheets in 30 games this season, so could they even blunt out each other's threat?

When first and second collide

This is the 30th season of the Premier League, and Sunday's game marks the 50th time the top two sides in the division will have met.

Of the previous 49 such league clashes, the leaders have won on 20 occasions but lost 18 times, with 11 games drawn. City and Liverpool have met as the top two twice before, with a goalless draw at Anfield in October 2018 coming when City were at the summit, before Guardiola's men scored a 4-0 thrashing against Liverpool in July 2020.

The latter game came a week after Liverpool wrapped up the Premier League title, and was an ominous sign of a pendulum swing for the following season.

Liverpool can jump to first place for the first time since October 1, and they might bear in mind that battles between first and second towards the end of the season have tended to go the way of the chaser in recent times.

In fact, of the last eight Premier League clashes between the top two during the final 10 games of the season, the team in second have won seven times (L1), including each of the last five in a row.

There is just a sliver between these sides, reflected in the fact City have taken a league-high 516 points since Guardiola's arrival for the start of the 2016-17 season, and Liverpool are close behind with 488 points. Chelsea are a distant third on that list with 427 points.

The players who could make the difference

Phil Foden came off the bench to slide the pass that allowed Kevin De Bruyne to smash past Jan Oblak on Tuesday and give City a 1-0 first-leg lead over Atletico Madrid. Foden looks a sure-fire starter this weekend and has flourished in the Liverpool fixture, having scored in all three of his Premier League outings against Klopp's team, while also claiming two assists.

The 21-year-old could become just the second player to score in four successive Premier League appearances against the Reds, after Leicester City's Jamie Vardy, who found the back of the net in five straight games between 2016 and 2017.

Liverpool will know the threat could come from all angles, with Foden, ex-Liverpool man Raheem Sterling, De Bruyne, Riyad Mahrez, Bernardo Silva, Jack Grealish and Gabriel Jesus all likely menaces.

Perhaps the danger coming from Liverpool themselves is more obvious, but that does not necessarily make it easier to deflect.

Mohamed Salah has scored in four of his last five Premier League games against City, including each of his last three. The last player to score in four consecutive Premier League appearances against City was Chelsea's Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, who netted in five successive meetings between December 2000 and October 2003.

Salah is the Premier League's top scorer and might be the chief threat, but Diogo Jota, Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane and Luis Diaz will have to be guarded carefully, should they feature.

It is a guessing game as to which three Klopp will perm from his five-man pool of star forwards. The occasion itself is a guessing game too, as Klopp and Guardiola attempt to outwit one another once again.

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