Riyad Mahrez and Roberto Firmino were both on target as Al-Ahli tightened their grip on third place in the Saudi Pro League table with a 4-1 win over Damac on Thursday.

Matthias Jaissle's team were four goals up within just 25 minutes as Damac folded, Ziyad Al Johani and Feras Al Brikan netting their first two before Franck Kessie was felled by Dhari Al Anazi for a penalty, converted by Mahrez.

Firmino then tapped home a fourth after being teed up by former Newcastle United winger Allan Saint-Maximin on the break, but Al-Ahli took their foot off the gas from there, Domagoj Antolic's second-half consolation rounding off the scoring.

Elsewhere, 10-man Al-Riyadh scored two stoppage-time draws to earn a dramatic 2-2 draw with Al-Fateh in Al-Mubarraz. 

Goals from Djaniny and former Columbus Crew star Lucas Zelarayan put Slaven Bilic's hosts on the brink of victory, with Al-Riyadh playing almost half the game a player down after Khalid Al Shuwayyi's 54th-minute red card. 

An astonishing collapse denied them, however, with Mohammed Al Shwirekh halving the arrears one minute into stoppage time before Didier Ndong headed in a left-wing cross three minutes later.

Thursday's other game saw Al-Hazm and Al-Akhdoud play out a goalless draw, keeping the hosts bottom of the table while Al-Akhdoud inched two points clear of the relegation zone.

Algeria crashed out of the Africa Cup of Nations as Mohamed Dellahi’s first-half goal proved enough to earn Mauritania a shock first-ever 1-0 win in the tournament and a ticket to the last 16.

Dellahi punished some lax defending in the 36th minute and – despite a second-half onslaught – two-time tournament winners Algeria could not find a response as they finished bottom of their group for a second consecutive AFCON, while Mauritania go forward as one of the best third-placed teams.

After two successive draws had left them in trouble, Algeria coach Djamel Belmadi dropped Riyad Mahrez to the bench as he tried to freshen up his side but it did not work as Mauritania proved stubborn opponents.

Algeria dominated possession and Adam Ounas tried to catch out Babacar Niasse, shaping to cross and hitting a vicious inswinging shot the goalkeeper did well to claw behind.

But Mauritania stunned Algeria late in the half. Anthony Mandrea pushed away a stinging shot from Souleymane Anne, but Algeria could not clear the resulting corner and when Omare Gassama’s shot was blocked, the ball fell for Dellahi to fire in, giving Mauritania their first ever lead in AFCON play.

Mahrez came on at the break as Algeria tried to turn up the heat but Mauritania remained a threat, and Aboubakary Koita wriggled his way past three defenders in the box before sending an off-balance shot over.

At the other end, Niasse came tearing off his line to cut out Ramiz Zerrouki’s long ball forward, but needed Ibrahima Keita to scramble back and block Youcef Belaili’s shot at his unguarded goal.

Algeria were looking desperate but it was Mauritania who had the late chances to score, with Lamine Ba hitting the crossbar before Guessouma Fofana was denied by the goalkeeper.

Eleven minutes were added on and Algeria went agonisingly close again, with Baghdad Bounedjah poking the ball inches wide after Aissa Mandi’s shot was blocked by Niasse, but it was Mauritania’s night.

Retiring playmaker David Silva should be remembered as one of the best players to grace the Premier League, according to his former Manchester City team-mate Joleon Lescott.

Real Sociedad midfielder Silva announced his retirement at the age of 37 last Thursday, having suffered a serious knee injury in pre-season training.

Prior to joining La Real in 2020, Silva won four Premier League titles and seven domestic cups during a memorable spell at the Etihad Stadium, where he has since been honoured with a statue. 

Silva – who also won the 2010 World Cup and two European Championship titles with Spain – led all Premier League players for assists (89) and chances created (768) during the decade between 2010 and 2020.

Having played alongside Silva between 2010 and 2014, former City defender Lescott believes Silva deserves to be seen as a Premier League great. 

"When he joined he was obviously a World Cup winner and a Euros winner, and he turned out to be an iconic Premier League player, one of the best to ever grace the Premier League," Lescott told Stats Perform.

"I think we all are aware of what his qualities were on the pitch, but what a guy. What a human being. My biggest compliment to David is that he's equally as good a person as he is a player."

City have lost two further club icons during the current transfer window, with Ilkay Gundogan joining Barcelona on a free transfer and Riyad Mahrez signing for Saudi side Al Ahli in a £30million deal.

Lescott believes the duo will be missed by Pep Guardiola's treble winners, adding: "The qualities they'll bring to their new teams are obvious. 

"They have superior technical ability. Ilkay is recognised as one of the best leaders in the squad. Riyad is obviously one of the most skilful. 

"They'll bring that to their new teams but they'll be sorely missed, not just because of their ability on the pitch, but [because of] what they brought to the dressing room and what they were to City's fanbase."

Having delivered the Premier League, Champions League and FA Cup trophies last term, Guardiola is looking to lead City to a fourth successive top-flight title this season.

Asked about Guardiola's impact on English football, Lescott said: "He's obviously changed the game, he's revolutionised different positions, the way we look at it and the way we view it.

"Every country he's managed in, I think they've tried to adapt throughout the leagues, and that's the biggest compliment for Pep. 

"Now in England there are multiple teams in multiple leagues that want to play the way they see Man City play."

Riyad Mahrez has completed his move from Manchester City to Saudi Arabian club Al-Ahli, the Premier League outfit have announced.

City agreed a fee understood to be worth up to £30million with Al-Ahli for the Algeria international last week.

Mahrez, 32, spent five years at the Etihad Stadium and helped the club win 11 trophies, including four Premier League titles and the Champions League.

Mahrez told the treble winners’ website, mancity.com: “To play for Manchester City has been an honour and privilege.

“I came to City to win trophies and enjoy my football and I achieved all that and so much more.

“I have had five unforgettable years with this football club, working with unbelievable players, fantastic supporters, and the best manager in the world.

“Manchester City will forever be a huge and happy part of my life.”

Manchester City have accepted a bid worth up to £30million for Riyad Mahrez from Saudi Arabian club Al Ahli, the PA news agency understands.

The Algeria international has consequently been given permission to miss the treble winners’ pre-season tour of Asia.

Mahrez, 32, is now set to discuss terms ahead of a potential move to the Jeddah-based Saudi Pro League outfit. Reports have suggested he has been offered a three-year contract.

The former Leicester winger was not included in the 25-man City squad due to leave for Japan and South Korea on Wednesday.

Mahrez had two years remaining on a contract which he extended last summer but had reportedly been frustrated with a lack of game time in the treble-winning 2022-23 campaign.

Mahrez made just 22 Premier League starts last term and was an unused substitute in the finals of both the FA Cup and Champions League.

He joined City in a £60million deal from Leicester in 2018 having helped the Foxes to win the Premier League two years previously. He went on to win the title four more times with Pep Guardiola’s side.

Riyad Mahrez's Wembley treble was the highlight of Manchester City's 3-0 FA Cup semi-final victory over Sheffield United, but he was more focused on avenging a different sort of hat-trick.

City had suffered defeat in the semi-finals of the competition for the past three years, part of a sequence that had seen them lose four out of five at Wembley – as many as they had in their first 18 at the ground since it reopened in 2007.

A cagey first half saw City head into the break just one goal ahead, with Mahrez on target, and he stole the spotlight in the second half to send the Championship promotion hopefuls packing.

His goals ensured he became the first player in history to score an FA Cup semi-final treble at Wembley and the first overall since Alex Dawson for Manchester United against Fulham in 1958.

However, the most important aspect for Mahrez was ensuring a previous City treble did not become an unprecedented quadruple.

"It's very good [to score a hat-trick] but the most important thing, after two or three years in a row where we always came here in the semi-final, we always lost and we didn't really play good. Today, we wanted to make sure we put in a good performance and got to the final," he told ITV Sport.

"It means a lot. Every season we start, with the team we have got and the coach we have got, we really want to go as far as we can in every competition.

"Getting into the final of the FA Cup is amazing in this country. Now we need to concentrate on the league and the next game against Arsenal."

City now turn their attention to the midweek tie against Arsenal in the Premier League, where victory would move them just two points behind the leaders with two games in hand.

Riyad Mahrez's hat-trick against Sheffield United in the FA Cup semi-final at Wembley ensured Manchester City's quest for a treble continued with a 3-0 win.

A resilient Blades defence was undone shortly before the break, Mahrez dispatching from the penalty spot after Daniel Jebbison's rash challenge on Bernardo Silva.

United's hopes of a second-half comeback were wiped away by the Algerian, with just six minutes separating his second and third efforts.

Also through to the Champions League semi-finals and five points behind Arsenal, whom they face on Wednesday, with a game in hand in the Premier League title race, City remain firmly in the hunt on three fronts.

The Blades had a glorious opportunity inside 90 seconds, John Egan flicking a header from a corner that found Iliman Ndiaye in space but he could only fire straight at Stefan Ortega.

Erling Haaland then had the ball in the back of the net after 15 minutes, smashing home from distance, but his celebrations were halted as the whistle had already blown for a foul, with Julian Alvarez then forcing a diving save from Wes Foderingham with his long-range curler.

An impressive defensive performance from the Championship side was undone four minutes before the break, Jebbison's clumsy challenge on Silva handing Mahrez an opportunity from the penalty spot, which he duly tucked into the bottom-right corner.

City's second came on the hour mark, Mahrez winning the ball at the halfway line from Max Lowe and marching straight through the Blades defence, which backed away and gifted him space to run into.

Mahrez completed his hat-trick six minutes later, firing home after Jack Grealish's cutback to put the result beyond any doubt and book City's spot in June's final.

What does it mean? City conquest continues

Pep Guardiola may continue to downplay City's chance of a winning the treble this season but it would take a brave man to bet against his side.

City never had to break a sweat in sealing a place in the showpiece against either Manchester United or Brighton and Hove Albion.

It caps off what has been a stellar week for City, who progressed past Bayern Munich in the Champions League and saw title rivals Arsenal slip up against Southampton in the Premier League.

Magical Mahrez

Though overshadowed by many of his attacking colleagues at City, the FA Cup is Mahrez's favoured competition with his hat-trick taking him to 11 direct goal involvements (nine goals, two assists) in his last nine matches.

Mahrez's treble was the first FA Cup semi-final hat-trick at Wembley and the first at this stage overall in the competition since Alex Dawson for Manchester United against Fulham in 1958.

Hidden Haaland

A tormenter of clubs across England and Europe this season, Sheffield United would have been relieved to have seen Haaland's involvement at Wembley heavily reduced.

The striker had just 12 touches of the ball, fewer than any starter for either team, with only one attempt, which was off target, during the game.

What's next?

City host Arsenal in what will billed as a potential title decider, while Sheffield United can seal promotion to the top-flight on the same day against West Brom.

Manchester City failed to capitalise on their early dominance as Josko Gvardiol salvaged a 1-1 home draw for RB Leipzig in the Champions League last 16.

Pep Guardiola's side piled the pressure on in the first half of the first leg at Red Bull Arena and Riyad Mahrez fired City into a deserved 27th-minute lead on Wednesday.

But City's control wavered in the second period as substitute Benjamin Henrichs missed two great chances before Gvardiol earned a share of the spoils with a thumping header after 70 minutes.

Guardiola will be left rueing what could have been after an impressive display in the opening half, leaving it all to play for in the March 14 return leg at Etihad Stadium.

City monopolised possession in the opening stages but created little without absent chief creator Kevin De Bruyne, who missed the Germany trip through illness.

That pressure soon told, though, as Ilkay Gundogan punished a wayward Xaver Schlager pass to find Mahrez, who arrowed into the bottom-right corner from outside the area.

Rodri headed narrowly wide and Jack Grealish blazed over as City threatened to further their advantage, with Leipzig fortunate to go in at half-time just a goal down.

Henrichs should have levelled after the interval, first wastefully heading over before dragging a glorious opportunity wide to the right of Ederson, who denied a fizzing Dominik Szoboszlai strike soon after.

The much-improved Leipzig grabbed a deserved equaliser from Marcel Halstenberg's resulting corner as Gvardiol powered home, with City's appeals for a foul falling on deaf ears.

Janis Blaswich then denied a whipped Gundogan effort destined for the bottom-right corner, ensuring it remains all to play for in the return leg in England.

Manchester City put a difficult week behind them as they cruised to a 3-1 victory over Aston Villa.

The build-up to Sunday's meeting at the Etihad Stadium was dominated by news of the Premier League accusing City of breaking over 100 financial regulations between 2009 and 2018.

Pep Guardiola, managing his 250th Premier League game, delivered an impassioned defence of his club and his players performed as they returned to winning ways following their loss at Tottenham last week.

Rodri's header, Ilkay Gundogan's tap-in and Riyad Mahrez's penalty had City 3-0 up by the break, and though Ollie Watkins pulled one back for Villa, the champions comfortably closed the gap on Arsenal to three points ahead of Wednesday's crunch meeting between the top two.

Having jeered the Premier League anthem, City's fans had something to cheer inside four minutes, when Rodri headed in from Mahrez's corner.

Only a fine save from Emiliano Martinez prevented Gundogan – City's hero in the title-clinching comeback in last season's corresponding fixture – making it 2-0.

Martinez was fortunate to be awarded a free-kick after a collision with Erling Haaland allowed Gundogan to arrow home.

A glut of City chances went begging but their win was still all but ensured by half-time.

Gundogan got his goal after brilliant work from Haaland, with Mahrez slamming in from the spot after Jacob Ramsey fouled Grealish.

Having replaced Haaland at half-time, Julian Alvarez teed up City's first second-half opening – Martinez denying Rodri a second.

Watkins marked his 100th Villa appearance by scoring in three consecutive Premier League games for the first time, capitalising on Manuel Akanji's error.

It would prove nothing more than a consolation, with City unfortunate not to restore their three-goal cushion through Alvarez and Mahrez – who blasted over from close range late on – as they clinched a 13th straight home league win over Villa.


What does it mean? City's siege mentality a scary sign for title rivals

"I think they are going to be together and try to respond on the pitch," Villa head coach Unai Emery said of City ahead of the game. "It is going to be very difficult. It's a big challenge for us."

That challenge proved too big for the visitors, with City seemingly determined to put on a show and make a statement of intent after the Premier League's allegations came to light.

City had 17 shots, got nine on target and finished with an expected goals (xG) of 3.64 – compared to 0.25 for their opponents – and they will move top of the table should they defeat Arsenal on Wednesday.

They did offer some chances to Villa in the second half, with Watkins punishing them and Jhon Duran rattling the crossbar, but City were well worth the three points.

Pep brings 250 up in style

Guardiola's 250th league game in charge of City featured some typically scintillating attacking play, and ended in a typically convincing success.

He has won 184 of those 250 matches (73.6 per cent), with his City side scoring 621 goals in the competition and toppling countless records.

Haaland concern

Comfortably up at half-time, Guardiola had the luxury of being able to take off City's star striker, who did appear to be nursing a thigh problem in the first half.

City fans will hope it was just a precaution, with their clash with Arsenal just around the corner. Haaland, who was largely frustrated in the defeat at Spurs, was a menace in the first half, with his assist for Gundogan his 29th direct goal contribution in the top flight this season (11 more than any other player in the league).

Haaland was involved in one small flashpoint during his time on the pitch, with Mahrez seemingly taking over penalty duties against the Norway international's wishes, though the incident was swiftly brushed aside.

What's next?

City head to Emirates Stadium on Wednesday in what seems set to be the first truly pivotal clash in this season's tittle race, while the Gunners are also Villa's next opponents on Saturday.

The fixtures are coming thick and fast on multiple fronts for many Premier League teams as European football returns, meaning plenty of tinkering from managers between games.

Add into the mix an array of January signings being eased into the sides, selecting a team of guaranteed starters is becoming increasingly difficult. 

But fear not as Stats Perform, using Opta data, has picked out four players who not only look certain to start this weekend but – crucially – also earn plenty of points.

Keylor Navas (Fulham v Nottingham Forest)

Paris Saint-Germain loanee Navas needed no time at all to settle in at Nottingham Forest as he kept a clean sheet on his debut in last week's 1-0 win over Leeds United.

The Costa Rica international made four saves against Leeds – only Hugo Lloris and David Raya (both five) made more while keeping a clean sheet in the last round of games.

Forest have now kept four clean sheets in their past six league matches, while opponents Fulham have failed to score in any of their past three top-flight outings.

Craig Dawson (Southampton v Wolves)

Dawson is another who made a fast start to life at a new club, with the centre-back scoring and keeping a clean sheet on his debut against Liverpool in a 3-0 win for Wolves.

That was Dawson's 20th Premier League goal – always a handy asset for a defender – including at least one in each of his eight top-flight seasons.

Wolves will be hopeful of building on a return of two shutouts in their past three league games when they face bottom side Southampton, who are averaging 0.8 goals per game.

Harvey Barnes (Leicester City v Tottenham)

Leicester midfielder Barnes has scored one and assisted another in his past two Premier League outings, taking his tally to seven goals for the campaign.

The one-cap England international is only two goals short of matching his best tally in a single season in the competition, set in 2020-21 with nine.

Having found their scoring touch with six goals in their past two league games, Leicester appear good value to net against Tottenham, who will have back-up Fraser Forster between the posts.

Riyad Mahrez (Manchester City v Aston Villa, and Arsenal v Manchester City)

Whether he starts both games remains to be seen, but the fact City have two league matches in the next week means you have double the chance to score points with Mahrez.

He was unable to make a difference in the loss to Spurs, though he has still been involved in six goals in his past six league games for City (three goals, three assists).

Only Marcus Rashford (eight) and Erling Haaland (seven) have been involved in more Premier League goals since the World Cup than the City winger.

Manchester City recovered from two goals down at half-time to defeat Tottenham 4-2 at the Etihad Stadium and close the gap on Premier League leaders Arsenal.

Spurs took advantage of some poor City defending – with Ederson in particular at fault – through goals from Dejan Kulusevski and Ederson Royal just before the interval.

But City's response was just as swift as they were level eight minutes into the second half thanks to Julian Alvarez and Erling Haaland, who ended his mini goal drought.

City survived a scare when Perisic hit the post, but Riyad Mahrez put them ahead and added another late on to move his side within five points of Arsenal, who have a game in hand.

Like he did in Spurs' 3-2 win here last year, Kulusevski opened the scoring after Rodri poked the ball into his path when put under pressure following Ederson's poor pass.

Emerson headed in a second for Spurs moments later after Kane won a tackle against Rodri and had an angled drive pushed back into danger by Ederson.

Guardiola opted against making any changes at the break, but his side's response was instant, with Alvarez firing home a loose ball after Riyad Mahrez's cross was not dealt with.

City, who left Kevin De Bruyne on the bench all match, were on level terms two minutes later through Haaland's close-range header after Mahrez headed the ball back across goal.

Ivan Perisic had a shot blocked right in front of goal by Rico Lewis, with the loose ball hitting the post, and that would prove a big moment as Mahrez completed the comeback.

Mahrez first fired a low, hard shot past Lloris at the Spurs keeper's near post, before capitalising on Clement Lenglet's poor touch to race in and double his tally at the death.

Pep Guardiola has called for Graham Potter to be given more time as Chelsea manager, after Manchester City handed his opposite number a heavy FA Cup defeat.

The Blues suffered a second loss in the space of four days against the Premier League champions, losing 4-0 at the Etihad Stadium.

Potter hit out at his critics earlier this month, stressing he needs time and patience from both fans and owner Todd Boehly in order to implement his vision.

Guardiola is in agreement, believing the circumstances he experienced in leading Barcelona to the treble in his first season in charge in 2008-09 to be unique.

"I would say to Todd Boehly, it was a pleasure to meet him, but give him time," he said. "I know results are important in big clubs but I would say give him time.

"I think the second half today is what he is and what he did in Brighton was outstanding. All the managers need time and he was right. We need time in the first season.

"I had results in Barcelona in the first season but we had Lionel Messi so one season was enough. But yes, everyone is an idiot [in football management].

"To play against Man City at the level we are at in the Carabao Cup or FA Cup is not easy. Not for Graham, Chelsea or any team."

A Riyad Mahrez double, alongside goals for Julian Alvarez and Phil Foden, helped ease City's passage into the fourth round, where Arsenal or Oxford United await.

Algeria international Mahrez in particular was in fine form, and was happy to let his World Cup-winning team-mate Alvarez take an earlier penalty before he converted his own spot-kick later.

"I was going to take the first one but Julian asked me, so I said of course he could take it," he told BBC Sport. "He’s a striker, when he scores it’s good for him. I wanted to take the second.

"Every season we try to be involved in every competition, we’re still in all of them. We have to keep going, we deserve it with the way we play."

Pep Guardiola has frequently been accused of overthinking during his time as Manchester City manager, with some even putting their continued failure to win the Champions League down to this reason.

As a case in point, City lost to Chelsea in the 2021 final of that competition when Guardiola decided against fielding a naturally defensive midfielder.

Perhaps it has been a fair criticism at times, but by extension it highlights the self-belief that he can outmanoeuvre opponents before they've even set foot on the pitch.

He might even be accused of having overcomplicated plans for Thursday's trip to Stamford Bridge.

Yet Guardiola also inspired the 1-0 win over Chelsea with his own apparent recognition that he got his initial line-up wrong, his second-half changes proving key as City returned to winning ways after that disappointing 1-1 draw with Everton on New Year's Eve.

It took a while for victory to look likely, though, even with a patched-up Chelsea enduring an injury nightmare.

There was unmistakably a sense of bewilderment around the stadium as Raheem Sterling and Christian Pulisic sustained knocks that forced their withdrawal.

Only 22 minutes had been played. The double blow continued Chelsea's remarkably bad luck on the fitness front of late, with those two taking their injury list to 10 players having also lost Mason Mount in the previous 24 hours.

And if there's any team primed to capitalise on such misfortune, it's City.

Or, it usually is.

Despite Chelsea's predicament, they were the better team in the first half – quite comfortably so, some fans might even suggest.

Pulisic looked destined to score when John Stones produced the forceful – but clean – last-ditch tackle that ultimately forced the American's substitution.

Bernardo Silva made a similarly important intervention to block an attempt from Pulisic's replacement, Carney Chukwuemeka, who looked lively off the bench.

While it may not have been a case of City struggling to stay afloat, their lack of invention and control was curious, even against a team like Chelsea.

It was nothing like the City we've come to expect.

Still, though, Chelsea deserved credit. For all their problems and poor recent form, they looked sharp, up for a fight, and went agonisingly close just before the break as Chukwuemeka hit the post at the end of a rapid breakaway.

It was in moments like that, when the game was stretched, that Chelsea looked their most threatening – perhaps, then, it was no surprise to see Guardiola make changes at the interval.

City reverted to a back four. Kyle Walker and Joao Cancelo were withdrawn; Manuel Akanji went to centre-back; Rodri moved back into midfield, and Rico Lewis came on as a right-back-cum-central-midfielder.

Almost instantly City had the greater control they'd desired. Suddenly Chelsea were struggling to keep their heads above water as the visitors relentlessly poured men forward and snuffed out any counter attempts.

Chelsea survived in the 52nd minute when Nathan Ake's header hit the post and Phil Foden saw a follow-up blocked; Kevin De Bruyne then drilled wide from inside the box a few minutes later.

But while Guardiola's half-time adjustments undoubtedly played a role in altering the course of the match, it was his additional tinkering on the hour that was truly decisive.

Foden's restoration to the starting XI would have been popular among the army of supporters calling for his return, but he was largely anonymous here – the impact of his replacement will have surely drawn a smug grin from Guardiola.

Jack Grealish, with his first major involvement three minutes after coming on, played the ball across the face of goal to put it on a plate for Riyad Mahrez.

He was left with a simple tap-in, opening the scoring with what was also Mahrez's first proper involvement as he got in behind Marc Cucurella.

It had been that area of the pitch where most of City's joy had previously come from, with Bernardo's substitution for Mahrez almost surprising at the time given the Portugal midfielder had been giving Cucurella the run-around in the first 14 minutes of the second period.

Yet Guardiola's decisiveness was crucial. He went back to the wide pairing that had become his favoured option lately, and they showed why that'd been the case in one simple move – and just a few moments after being introduced.

Chelsea's attempts to claw back the slender deficit were valiant, spirited, their young substitutes battling away encouragingly. It was ultimately beyond them, but there is only so much you can expect given the Blues' list of absentees.

No, this was all down to City and Guardiola.

Maybe Guardiola did overcomplicate things for himself, but if you don't have anyone good enough to play chess against, sometimes you've just got to play yourself.

Riyad Mahrez made the difference as Manchester City cut Arsenal's lead in the Premier League to five points with a 1-0 victory over Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.

The Gunners' goalless draw with Newcastle United on Tuesday opened the door for Pep Guardiola's side to take advantage, though the defending champions were far from their best in the opening period.

Carney Chukwuemeka and Nathan Ake struck the frame of the goal either side of the break, with clear-cut opportunities limited for both sides throughout.

Coming off the bench, Mahrez changed the picture with a 63rd-minute close-range finish that will leave Arsenal looking over their shoulders ahead of what is set to be a significant month.

Chelsea's injury issues were compounded in the opening 20 minutes, losing Raheem Sterling and Christian Pulisic. The latter's issue came after the Blues' first real sight of goal, with the American forward halted by an inch-perfect tackle by John Stones.

Substitute Chukwuemeka had the best opportunity in what was a subdued first half, cutting onto his right foot outside the box and beating Ederson with a low drive that bounced back off the left post.

City boss Guardiola shuffled his deck at the break, introducing Manuel Akanji and Rico Lewis in place of Joao Cancelo and Kyle Walker, which sparked life into the defending champions with Ake heading against the post and Kevin De Bruyne forcing a low save from Kepa Arrizabalaga.

Bernardo Silva's fine footwork crafted another opening, teeing up De Bruyne to fire wide, before further changes followed on the hour mark with the introduction of Jack Grealish and Mahrez.

That pair combined three minutes later, Grealish drilling a pass across the face of goal from the left for Mahrez to tap home with ease.

City held on to secure what could be a valuable win in the title race, while Chelsea were left 10 points adrift of fourth-placed Manchester United in the hunt for Champions League football.

Manchester City must make a flying start on their return to Premier League action after falling behind Arsenal in the title race, says winger Riyad Mahrez. 

City travel to Leeds United for their first league game since the World Cup on Wednesday, trailing leaders Arsenal by five points ahead of the Gunners' clash with West Ham on Monday.

Pep Guardiola's team lost 2-1 to Brentford in their last game in the competition, and are looking to avoid suffering consecutive league defeats for the first time since December 2018.

Mahrez, who was on target as City eliminated Liverpool from the EFL Cup with a 3-2 win on Thursday, is aware of the importance of Wednesday's trip to Elland Road.

"We have to hit the ground running," Mahrez told the club's website. "We are not currently top of the Premier League and that is where we want to be.

"We will take it game by game but our aim is to try to win another title.

"There are lots of strong teams in England who could still win the league so we are not just focused on Arsenal, although they have been very good so far.

"If we want to win the league, we will have to be ready as soon as the league starts again.

"Leeds are a big club and it's a hard place to go, but we know what to expect from them. We will be prepared for it and hopefully we can come away with the three points."

City won their two Premier League fixtures against Leeds last season by an aggregate score of 11-0 – including a 4-0 triumph at Elland Road. The champions are looking to win on consecutive trips to Leeds for the first time since September 2000.

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