Champions Manchester City moved back to the top of the Premier League with an emphatic 5-1 victory over relegation battlers Luton on Saturday.

A fortuitous early own goal from Daiki Hashioka set the hosts on the way at the Etihad Stadium before a Mateo Kovacic screamer and Erling Haaland penalty effectively secured victory after the break.

Plucky Luton defended stoically throughout and earned consolation through Ross Barkley but Jeremy Doku and Josko Gvardiol wrapped up the scoring.

The result took City above Arsenal and Liverpool at the summit, putting pressure on their title rivals ahead of Sunday’s fixtures.

Victory was almost as routine as it comes, with City not getting anywhere near top gear in a one-sided cruise.

Rodri got his wish for a rest as Pep Guardiola made six changes following Tuesday’s pulsating draw at Real Madrid.

With the Spanish giants visiting the Etihad next week, Phil Foden, Jack Grealish, Bernardo Silva and John Stones also sat out – the latter not even in the matchday squad – while goalkeeper Ederson replaced Stefan Ortega.

Kevin De Bruyne returned after illness while Kyle Walker was on the bench after recovering from injury.

Luton’s task was daunting enough without the outrageous slice of misfortune that saw them concede the opener inside two minutes.

Thomas Kaminski did well to save after Haaland had been played through by De Bruyne and Doku’s follow-up was also blocked.

Haaland had City’s third attempt as the ball looped up but his acrobatic volley was heading well wide until it took a huge deflection off Hashioka’s head and ended up in the net.

With the luckless Hashioka requiring treatment from the forceful blow, it was apparent the Hatters were facing a long afternoon.

Yet, to the battling visitors’ credit, they defended with great determination.

Kaminski parried a powerful effort from Gvardiol before saving comfortably from Matheus Nunes, De Bruyne and Ruben Dias.

Haaland put over a chance at the back post and Nunes shaved the upright with an effort that ran across goal.

De Bruyne forced a good save from Kaminski just before the interval and Dias sent a long-range effort narrowly wide early in the second half.

Julian Alvarez also missed the target with a shot on the turn but City finally doubled the lead with a Kovavic thunderbolt just after the hour.

The Croatian had a first strike deflected wide but made no mistake from the resulting corner, hitting an unstoppable effort as the ball bounced along the edge of the area.

Luton responded with their first meaningful attack, and Fred Onyedinma pulled the ball back for Cauley Woodrow, but the substitute fired against the bar.

It proved a short-lived foray into City territory, with normal service soon resumed and Doku winning a penalty after tricking and being brought down by Onyedinma.

Haaland calmly sent Kaminski the wrong way to register his 31st goal of the season but only his second in six outings.

Barkley robbed Nunes to pull one back but City, despite taking off a frustrated-looking De Bruyne, finished with a flourish.

Doku claimed their fourth after weaving through the area in the 87th minute and Gvardiol followed up his fine strike against Real with another stunner in time added on.

Khadija Shaw became Manchester City’s all-time leading goalscorer for Manchester City Women as Gareth Taylor’s side ran out 3-1 winners over Manchester United Women in Saturday's derby.

Shaw netted her 68th goal in just 81 appearances for the club early in the second half to help ease the Citizens to their 11th straight league win, taking them top of the WSL.

Jessica Park's first-half double had put the hosts in control at the Etihad Stadium, as she took advantage of slack United defending.

An own goal from Kerstin Casparij gave United hope in the latter stages, but the Red Devils' comeback attempt proved fruitless.

City weathered United's early pressure well in a cagey start, with Khiara Keating making two vital saves to deny Nikita Parris and Lucia Garcia before the hosts found their rhythm.

Their 37th-minute opener was Park's first-ever goal in the WSL – a composed finish that she slotted into the bottom-right corner.

Park then found the same spot with a close-range volley to double City’s lead on the stroke of half-time.

It could have been 3-0 at the break, but Shaw was denied her record-breaking goal by the offside flag.

The Jamaican did take the next opportunity that fell to her feet, just 35 seconds after the restart.

Having latched onto Park’s throughball, the 27-year-old curled a low finish around Mary Earps and into the far post, bringing up her 17th goal of the WSL season.

Hannah Blundell, who was perhaps fortunate to stay on the pitch having escaped a second booking for a foul on Shaw in the first half, orchestrated the visitors' consolation after City failed to clear their lines, with her cross deflecting off Casparij and out of Keating's reach at the near post.

It could have set up a nervy finish, but City got over the line with the minimum of fuss.

Shaw spearheading City's title charge

Heading into the weekend, City had gone toe-to-toe with Chelsea in the title race this season, with both sides having identical winning records, and Emma Hayes' team only sitting top due to their superior goal difference, but with the Blues not in action until Sunday, Taylor's team took the advantage.

Key to their sustained pressure at the top has been the form of Shaw, who now tops City's all-time scoring chart as well as leading the race for the Golden Boot.

Georgia Stanway held City's record before her, with 67 goals in 186 appearances between 2015 and 2022, but Shaw has surpassed that haul in 105 fewer outings.

Shaw had chances to double her tally, with a header shortly before the hour and then two great opportunities following United's goal, but she had to settle for one.

United's Champions League hopes slip away

United have struggled to hit the heights of last season, which saw them finish second after taking the title race to the final day, as well as reaching the FA Cup final, which they also lost, going down to Chelsea.

This defeat surely means United will not be playing in the Champions League next season, as they remain six points adrift of Arsenal in third with just five games remaining.

United's away form has caused them problems this year, and they are winless in four on the road for just the second time in their history, having last gone on such a run between November 2019 and February 2020.

Pep Guardiola hopes to have the Jack Grealish of last season back for the closing stages of Manchester City’s latest push for silverware.

Grealish, a key part of City’s treble success last season, has endured a frustrating campaign this time around.

He missed a month early in the season with a dead leg and a groin problem has limited him to just one appearance in City’s last seven games.

The 28-year-old also had a spell out through illness and had personal matters to deal with after a high-profile burglary at his home.

His form has suffered and, with other players excelling in his place, he has not been able to get a consistent run in the side.

Yet he could return as City take on Newcastle in the FA Cup quarter-finals at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday and Guardiola believes the player can get back to his best.

The City manager said: “We’ll see. We have this game and then two weeks where he will work hard and as clever as possible to be ready when we come back.

“He’s trained the last two or three days really good. He feels good and positive.

“Saturday maybe we’ll need him and then he has these two weeks especially to work well and come back.

“Then we can have the Jack that unfortunately this season we had few, few times – and he can help us.

“Always we dream of arriving at the last international break of the season in all competitions.

“Jack has helped us but not like last season. That’s why the most important thing is to recover well from this minor injury and take a good condition in case we need him.

“I’m not going to say how important Jack is – of course he is. But he has to be ready.”

City will come up against one of world football’s standout players in Jude Bellingham when they face Real Madrid in the quarter-finals of the Champions League next month.

The holders have been drawn against the Spanish giants for a third successive season and Guardiola recognises they are a tougher proposition with the Englishman in their midfield.

City overpowered Real in last year’s semi-finals with a 4-0 win in the second leg at the Etihad Stadium.

Guardiola said of Bellingham: “His impact has been massive. It’s a different team from last season. His influence is obvious, and we have to try to discover what he does to control it.

“Facing Real Madrid is always a tough challenge, nobody can deny it. They are an exceptional club, and in this competition can control many things with the experience they have had in the past.

“We have made steps in the last few years but it could be so difficult.”

Erling Haaland netted his 29th goal of the season as Manchester City eased into the Champions League quarter-finals with a 3-1 victory over Copenhagen as Real Madrid battled past RB Leipzig.

The Norway international found the net after early strikes from Manuel Akanji and Julian Alvarez at the Etihad Stadium to ease the holders to a 6-2 aggregate win.

Defender Akanji volleyed City into a fifth-minute lead from Alvarez’s corner and it was 2-0 within four minutes when, after Rodri’s header had come back of the crossbar, Copenhagen goalkeeper Kamil Grabara palmed Alvarez’s follow-up into his own net.

Mohamed Elyounoussi reduced the deficit with 29 minutes gone when he fed Orri Oskarsson and then ran on to his back-heeled return to fire past Ederson but Haaland restored the home side’s cushion in first-half stoppage time.

Willi Orban ensured Real Madrid suffered a nervous conclusion at the Bernabeu Stadium as they edged into the last eight after a 1-1 draw with RB Leipzig.

Leading 1-0 from the first leg in Germany, the Spaniards had to wait until the 65th minute for Vinicius Junior to put them ahead on the night.

However, Orban levelled within three minutes and then went close with a header as the LaLiga leaders eventually made it through 2-1 on aggregate.

Holders Manchester City eased into the Champions League quarter-finals for a seventh successive season with a routine 3-1 win over FC Copenhagen.

Early Manuel Akanji and Julian Alvarez goals put City on their way and the prolific Erling Haaland netted his 29th of the season as Pep Guardiola’s side completed a 6-2 aggregate success at the Etihad Stadium.

Copenhagen showed some spirit and pulled one back through former Southampton player Mohamed Elyounoussi but there was never any doubt City would be going through to the last eight.

It was a game played largely at a slow tempo as City, bidding to win unprecedented back-to-back trebles, conserved energy for bigger challenges ahead.

Guardiola made seven changes from the side that beat Manchester United in Sunday’s derby with match-winner Phil Foden, Kevin De Bruyne, Kyle Walker, John Stones and Bernardo Silva among those on the bench.

That suggested Guardiola already had half an eye on this weekend’s crunch Premier League trip to Liverpool and his selection was vindicated inside five minutes as Akanji volleyed them ahead.

The defender went forward for a corner and was almost nonchalant in the way he swung out his boot to meet Alvarez’s cross with a sweet strike.

Alvarez doubled the lead four minutes later after a calamitous error by goalkeeper Kamil Grabara, who had been one of the Danes’ stand-out players in the first leg.

Alvarez first picked out Rodri, who thumped a header against the bar. The ball was half-cleared and the Argentinian picked up possession again but this time curled in a shot.

Grabara should have claimed but the ball slipped through his fingers and into the net.

After completely dominating the meeting between the sides in Denmark last month without putting the matter beyond doubt, City appeared to have finished the job in quick fashion.

Yet for all their dominance and control of possession, the hosts were caught out by a rare Copenhagen break on the half-hour.

Defence was turned into attack as Elyounoussi broke down the left, found Orri Oskarsson inside the box and then took his backheel return to slot a fine goal beyond Ederson.

That at least gave Copenhagen’s vociferous following something to savour but City were hardly unsettled.

Haaland restored a two-goal advantage on the night on the stroke of half-time when he controlled a lofted Rodri pass, cut inside and then buried a low shot inside the near post.

City eased off in the second half and cruised towards the final whistle.

To their credit, Copenhagen, as manager Jacob Neestrup had promised, refused to throw in the towel and, despite seeing little of the ball, did manage to piece together some attacks.

Substitute Magnus Mattsson even tested Ederson with a sharp shot on the turn and Elyounoussi blasted over.

City almost added another in stoppage time when Rico Lewis hit the bar.

Manchester United can learn from Manchester City’s success but will not try to copy their methods, according to manager Erik Ten Hag.

United head to the Etihad Stadium on Sunday for the Manchester derby once again a long way adrift of their neighbours in the Premier League.

A restructuring of United’s football hierarchy is under way following the investment made by Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s Ineos Group, with their first move to bring in Omar Berrada from City as chief executive.

Ten Hag said: “I think you can always learn from opponents who are successful and you have to do it if you want to go to high levels but, at the same time, we have to do it in a United way.

“This is a different club with a different environment, with a different DNA. But you pick up things that can be successful and you integrate it in your own model.”

Ratcliffe wasted no time setting out his ambitions for United, arguing they can knock City and Liverpool “off their perch” in three years.

United went into the weekend sitting 15 points below City and 16 adrift of Liverpool but Ten Hag insists he welcomes Ratcliffe setting public targets.

“It helps,” said the Dutchman. “We have to show ambition. We want to be the best and that is what United stands for. But, at the same time, we know also where we are now.

“We also have seen that there are moments where we go toe-to-toe. That’s the belief we have as a team. We have to pick up these moments and we have to prove it in every game. I think we are able to with this squad we have.”

United have lost five of their last six matches against City, including a 6-3 defeat at the Etihad last season and a 3-0 home loss in October.

“At this moment I have a lot of respect for them but not the respect that we think we can’t win this game,” said Ten Hag.

“On the contrary, we will show we can win this game. In the (FA) Cup final, we showed we were very close. Also first half at Old Trafford in the home game before that crazy VAR moment changes the game completely.

“The second half we didn’t play well and they played very well, so don’t let them come into the game, that is I think what we have to take with us for Sunday.”

Ahead of the last derby, City boss Pep Guardiola said Liverpool rather than United were his side’s biggest rivals, and Ten Hag added: “The last decade, that is the way it went.

“I think it’s a fair assessment. But we can’t accept this as a club. We have to bounce back. As Sir Jim says, we have to show ambition, we want to be the number one. I think that’s a good ambition.”

Pep Guardiola feels having four clear days ahead of a Manchester derby is a “dream” at this stage of the season.

Guardiola’s Manchester City host arch-rivals United at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday in what could be a key match in their bid to win a fourth successive Premier League crown.

It is a crucial month for City with games against title rivals Liverpool and Arsenal to come, as well as the second leg of their Champions League last-16 tie and an FA Cup quarter-final.

City were last in action on Tuesday when they thrashed Luton 6-2 in the cup fifth round and Guardiola believes the derby preparations since have been ideal.

“Tuesday to Sunday is enough (time), it is a dream,” he said. “We will recover well.

“The problem is Saturday to Tuesday with trips, that is less recovery, but the players were extraordinary against Luton.

“We had two days off with rest, not seeing each other, and then two days to prepare for United.”

Yet despite opportunities for rest being minimal as last season’s treble winners again pursue glory on three fronts, Guardiola admits this time of year – with all its intensity – is what he relishes most.

He said: “Absolutely, (these periods) are the best. How nice. I prefer that than the opposite.

“It is so nice to have this fixture against United, to have the chance to qualify for the quarter-finals of the Champions League, then we have Anfield and then before the international break we have the chance against Newcastle to reach the semi-final of the FA Cup.

“We worked so hard since we arrived here to live these kind of moments.”

United’s form throughout most of the season has been unconvincing and they face a tall order to finish in the top four.

Manager Erik ten Hag’s future has been the subject of recurring speculation but Guardiola refused to offer an opinion on the reasons for United’s failures to sustain momentum.

The Spaniard said: “I expect the best from United but I don’t talk a word about what they do because I respect them too much and I don’t want my words to be misunderstood.

“When I make comments people always say, ‘Pep jibe’ and it’s never my intention. That’s why it is better I don’t say anything.

“I have a lot of respect for the institution, United, and the players and Erik, and when I see what we have to do my players will know it.”

Pep Guardiola admitted his side needed the killer instinct of Erling Haaland after they edged out Brentford 1-0 in a nervy encounter that left his side one point behind Premier League leaders Liverpool.

Haaland settled the contest in the 71st minute when he punished a slip from Kristoffer Ajer, running from the halfway line to slot the ball under the unfortunate Mark Flekken, who had another outstanding match against the reigning champions.

After a week in which Guardiola had to answer questions about the Norwegian star, whose misses proved costly in Saturday’s 1-1 draw with Chelsea, Haaland made no mistake with one of the very few clear chances a well-organised Brentford side afforded City on the night.

“If I had to choose one (player), I choose this one,” Guardiola said of the moment.

It was Haaland’s third goal in seven games since returning from the foot injury that sidelined him for two months. Last week, he mourned the death of his grandmother Tone Rascal, mother of his father Alf-Inge, at the age of 80.

Asked if he had needed to speak to the striker, Guardiola said: “We spoke about the moment and I realised this later, but he didn’t say anything about the passing away of his grandmother. We talked about how he feels and of course for his father.

“In this type of game like Brentford, you need Erling. With not much space, you can play with a typical striker.”

City struggled to break down a determined Brentford side. Kevin De Bruyne was kept on the bench throughout the night, not even emerging to warm up with the game in the balance, and Guardiola revealed the Belgian playmaker had a hamstring issue, having already missed five months of the season.

“Today we could not use Kevin because he had niggles in his hamstring and I didn’t want to take risk,” he said, adding: “He’s okay. It’s just a precaution but he didn’t feel comfortable and so after five months off we didn’t take any risk.”

Brentford had defended doggedly before the goal, more than once having all 11 players inside their own box in open play. Bernardo Silva headed a glorious chance wide before Oscar Bobb created space only to shoot straight at Flekken, but otherwise there were few real opportunities.

Having taken six points off City last season, Brentford threatened to do damage to their title bid again this time before Haaland stepped in – he has now scored against all 21 opponents he has faced in the Premier League.

“I think throughout the game we were brilliant, I’m very proud and pleased with the players’ performance,” Bees manager Thomas Frank said. “They believed and it gives me a lot of belief in them going forwards.

“The way we defended the whole game was magnificent in terms of structure, defensive principles, urgency. Before the goal, we gave away the header to Bernardo Silva and the Oscar Bobb chance and it was two big chances. If you can limit City to two big chances, you have done a very good job.

“If (Ajer) doesn’t slip I’m convinced it would not be a goal. Haaland is quick but Kristoffer is as quick. City are good so they don’t need the margins going their way.”

Erling Haaland came to Manchester City’s rescue as the off-colour champions eked out a nervy 1-0 win over Brentford in the Premier League on Tuesday.

The prolific Norwegian, who spurned a host of chances in a frustrating draw with Chelsea at the weekend, returned to form as he broke the deadlock in a tight encounter at the Etihad Stadium after 71 minutes.

The win lifted City above Arsenal into second in the table, one point behind leaders Liverpool, having played the same number of games in what is shaping up to be a tight title race.

Pep Guardiola’s side dominated the first half, but the second period was proving a frustrating affair until Haaland broke clear of the Bees defence to slot home a fine finish.

Brentford were the last team to beat City at home in November 2022 and, having also tested them in a 3-1 loss earlier this month, again caused them problems.

City, with Kevin De Bruyne on the bench, started the brighter, with Haaland shooting at Mark Flekken after just three minutes and Phil Foden also forcing a save and having another effort blocked.

But Brentford, to their credit, were not content to sit back and did pose a threat on the counter-attack.

Yoane Wissa was denied a chance to shoot by a fine John Stones tackle and Frank Onyeka should have done better than firing straight at Ederson after being played through on goal.

Ivan Toney also shot narrowly over from a free-kick, but the hosts then laid siege to the Bees’ goal and it was remarkable the opening period ended scoreless.

Julian Alvarez twice missed the target before Bernardo Silva planted a header the wrong side of a post from close range.

Manuel Akanji had a good strike from distance tipped over by Flekken and Ruben Dias saw a header pushed away.

Oscar Bobb looked certain to score after skipping around Christian Norgaard, but Ben Mee stretched to clear off the line.

Brentford ended the first half with another chance as an Onyeka header was claimed at full stretch by Ederson and City were surprisingly slow to get going again after the break.

Guardiola tried to enliven proceedings by introducing Jeremy Doku on the hour, but the Bees responded by sending on the abrasive Neal Maupay, who clashed with Kyle Walker in the sides’ recent meeting.

After Foden blazed an attempt well over, it began to look like it might take something special to break the deadlock and that moment duly arrived 19 minutes from time.

Brentford were pushing forward, but their attack was broken up and the ball quickly moved forward, with Rodri finding Alvarez and the Argentinian releasing Haaland.

The Norwegian still had more than half the length of the field to run, but he was quickly into his stride and breezed past a stumbling Kristoffer Ajer before slotting past Flekken from the edge of the area.

The goal was greeted with much relief, but Brentford were not done and Toney shot narrowly over after Dias gave away possession.

City might have had more late on, with Haaland having a header disallowed for offside and Flekken twice saving from Foden.

Pep Guardiola refused to blame Erling Haaland for wasting chances after Manchester City were held to a frustrating 1-1 draw by Chelsea on Saturday.

The normally prolific Haaland spurned a number of opportunities, including one glaring free header from six yards out, as the champions were held in a compelling Premier League clash at the Etihad Stadium.

City ultimately needed an 83rd-minute equaliser from Rodri to rescue a point after their former forward Raheem Sterling had put the Londoners on course for an unexpected win with a 43rd-minute effort.

City manager Guardiola said: “It’s good to have nine shots and next time he’s going to score.

“I was a football player for 11 years and scored 11 goals. What stats! One goal a season. I’m not a proper man to give advice to strikers.

“We create the chances; he had the chances and next time he’s going to score. I don’t blame him. It’s football, it’s human beings.”

Haaland looked frustrated at the end of the game and pushed away a TV camera, but it has been a difficult week for the Norway international after the death of his grandmother.

The result left City four points off the top of the table in third place, after title rivals Liverpool and Arsenal won earlier in the day.

City dominated the second half, but Guardiola felt they paid the price for a poor first-half display.

Guardiola said: “As a team and a group, the first half was not like we are.

“The demands are so high because no-one is going to give it to us, we have to do everything. We are Man City, so we have to do it for ourselves all the time.

“We had to improve the first half and the second half was unbelievable, how we played and how we made transitions.

“In general, it was really good after we conceded from Raheem but when we play teams with composure and prestige of Chelsea you have to perform at your best for 95 minutes.”

Chelsea’s season has been one of inconsistency, but manager Mauricio Pochettino felt they showed their true character against strong opposition.

Pochettino said: “We tried to prepare, all the coaching staff, to make the plan for the game but football is always a game that belongs to the players and today the execution and the performance was from them. They showed character.

“It was a really important game for us to keep the momentum to realise we are in a good way and improving.

“Still we are not at the level of Man City but that is our aim.

“We need to live this type of game to improve and to create the spirit we need. We show in every single game we want to be competitive.”

Mauricio Pochettino promised his Chelsea side would attack Manchester City when the two clubs meet at the Etihad Stadium for Saturday’s Premier League clash.

The defending champions drew a memorable game 4-4 at Stamford Bridge in November with former City player Cole Palmer scoring a penalty in stoppage time for the hosts to snatch a point.

Chelsea have endured mixed fortunes since, losing half of their 12 league fixtures, though following Monday’s 3-1 win away at Crystal Palace, they could climb to a season-high seventh place with victory against Pep Guardiola’s side.

With 14 games to go, the team have already score three more league goals than they managed in the entirety of the last campaign, when only four sides netted fewer.

Pochettino said there was no chance they would sit and wait for City – who have lost just once at home in the English top flight in almost two years – to come on to them.

“The lesson (from the first game) is that we’re going to face one of the best teams in the world, but at the same time you need to be brave enough to try to force them to defend, to run back and to face their goal,” he said.

“If we go there and wait to see what’s going on, it’s a team that can dominate you and will make you suffer.

“The most important thing we realised is that we need to attack, be able to run and to make the effort all together.

“The most important thing is to go there and be brave, to challenge them.”

Saturday’s game will be the first time Palmer has returned to the Etihad since his £40million summer move to west London.

Before making the switch, the 21-year-old scored for City in this season’s Community Shield, which was lost on penalties to Arsenal and in the UEFA Super Cup win over Sevilla.

He is currently top scorer for his new club with 12 in all competitions and has been arguably the standout success of co-owner Todd Boehly’s mammoth £1billion transfer spend.

Palmer had previously hinted that he moved as he did not believe he would get sufficient game time at City.

“He’s not the type of player that needs to prove anything,” said Pochettino.

“I think he really is very grateful for his period at Manchester City, (but) he left the club because he wanted to find another challenge and to have the possibility to play more.

“Man City have an amazing squad. (Clubs) make decisions that we think are the best for the team. It doesn’t mean someone is not a good player.

“Sometimes the circumstance doesn’t match. Players want to leave and you can’t stop them because you can’t provide the game time.

“It’s unfair to say they’re going to regret it. Man City are one of the best teams in the world and it’s not easy to find the space to play for a young guy.

“Someone here on the staff said to me ‘he’s from Manchester, but he looks like a Brazilian or an Argentinian’.

“He has the capacity to adapt so quick, because our strengths as South Americans, its that we come to Europe and we adapt very quick.”

Pochettino confirmed defender Thiago Silva would miss the game with a minor injury, though Levi Colwill and Malo Gusto were available.

Goalkeeper Robert Sanchez was fit for contention – having not played since December – but the manager would not say whether he would be selected ahead of Djordje Petrovic.

“You will see,” he said. “You never know in football what can happen.”

Pep Guardiola felt his side had come through a tough game after grinding out a 2-0 victory over Everton on Saturday.

Erling Haaland struck twice in the latter stages to secure a hard-fought Premier League success for the champions at the Etihad Stadium.

It was City’s 10th successive triumph in all competitions and Guardiola said the manner of the win would stand them in good stead as they chase a repeat treble.

The City manager said: “I love to win this type of game. The difficulty is there. We knew it, we talked about it.

“Always Everton here at home is really complicated. We’ve lost a lot of points over many years.

“What pleased me the most is something the people cannot see – the body shape, the positivity, the body language.

“In the first half we were complaining. I know a 12.30 (kick-off) is more difficult but our body language was not good. The chemistry between the players, when they lose a ball or something is not going well, has to be better.

“But in the second half it was much better. In general it was well deserved.

“I like to win this type of game – suffering and knowing how difficult everything is – because we learn the lessons for what’s coming.”

With Haaland and Kevin De Bruyne, who have both had lengthy lay-offs this season, now back in tandem and the rest of the squad fully fit, City’s momentum could be ominous for their rivals.

After last season’s achievements, doubts were cast over City’s durability as they stuttered in the autumn but Guardiola never had any concerns.

He said: “With Erling and Kevin we are stronger, that’s obvious, but when a team loses the consistency, we have to be worried with the way they train, behave and run.

“But it (good attitude) was always there. When that happens the team is alive. I was never concerned. Since day one I didn’t have the feeling.

“There are ups and downs, it’s normal, but I still liked what I saw.”

The defeat left Everton in the bottom three and without a league win in almost two months.

Manager Sean Dyche accepted his side had been beaten by a master finisher in Haaland, who broke the deadlock on 71 minutes and then wrapped up victory five minutes from time.

Dyche said: “That’s why he is who he is. He doesn’t have many touches in some games but he scores and that is the key.

“His finish for the first one – I have been speaking to the players recently about this – footballers scoring ‘trendy’ goals – whippers, dippers, clippers.

“He doesn’t think about that. Just score a goal. That’s the trendiest thing you’ll ever do. And he showed that, a good technique. Just smash it and don’t worry about anything else.”

Julian Alvarez struck twice and Erling Haaland returned to action as Manchester City eased to a 3-1 win over relegation-threatened Burnley.

Argentinian World Cup-winner Alvarez, on his 24th birthday, netted twice in the first half and Rodri added a third as the champions went untroubled until Ameen Al-Dakhil grabbed a stoppage-time consolation at the Etihad Stadium.

City were further cheered by the sight of Haaland returning from injury as a late substitute while Kevin De Bruyne made his first Premier League start since August.

It was a miserable return to the ground for former City captain Vincent Kompany, the Burnley manager, with his side comprehensively beaten and left seven points adrift of safety.

Given their predicament and having conceded 37 goals in their previous nine visits to the Etihad, the Clarets were hardly expected to trouble the treble winners.

Yet this was an especially limp performance and City, aided by some poor defending, barely got out of second gear.

After 15 minutes of the home side calmly controlling possession, Phil Foden caught the visitors off-guard as he released Matheus Nunes with a flicked ball.

The Portuguese’s first cross was blocked but he was given all the time he needed to attempt it for a second time, and casually picked out an unmarked Alvarez to head home from close range.

Burnley were caught napping again just six minutes later as the striker doubled City’s lead from a cleverly-taken set-piece.

De Bruyne spotted a huge gap in the area as he lined up a free-kick and played a low ball in for Alvarez to turn and slot past former City youngster James Trafford.

It was a routine that had clearly been worked on in training as manager Pep Guardiola made a point of congratulating his assistant Carlos Vicens, a dead-ball specialist.

City threatened more as Nunes tested Trafford from a tight angle and a dangerous Jeremy Doku cross was turned behind.

Burnley had a rare chance when Lyle Foster curled an effort narrowly wide but City tightened their grip in the opening minute of the second half.

Foden was again instrumental as he raced onto a De Bruyne throughball and pulled back for Rodri, who nonchalantly passed into the net from the edge of the area.

Burnley had a fleeting opportunity as Zeki Amdouni blazed over and their frustration was evident as Connor Roberts got involved in a needless confrontation with Rico Lewis and Ederson.

After that the biggest cheers from City fans came as Haaland entered the fray 19 minutes from time.

He was unable to find the net despite some good runs and one air shot.

Burnley had the final say when Al-Dakhil turned in a cross from debutant David Datro Fofana’s cross but the outcome had long since been determined.

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.

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