Manchester City midfielder Rodri is amazed by the intensity of Liverpool's play under Jurgen Klopp, saying his teams attack their opponents "like animals".

Defending Premier League champions City trail last term's runners-up Liverpool by eight points after eight matches following shock early defeats to Norwich City and Wolves.

Rodri has started seven times in the league since arriving from Atletico Madrid in July and also played a full part in August's Community Shield clash with Liverpool, which City won on penalties following a 1-1 draw.

The Spain international was immediately struck by Liverpool's breathless brand of football, but City are still preparing to pounce on any slip-ups.

"I touched down [in England] to find one of the best teams I've seen in recent years," Rodri told the Guardian.

"Liverpool get seen as a counter-attacking team, but they dominate, score from set-plays, the attacking mechanisms are well-worked, they have variety.

"Klopp's teams are tough, physical. They go at you like animals. They're like a knife - one comes at you, then another.

"But every team has their bad moment and we have to be there [if they do]."

City travel to Crystal Palace on Saturday, while Liverpool take on bitter rivals Manchester United at Old Trafford the following day.

Pep Guardiola admitted "the broadcasters are the bosses" in response to Manchester City's rearranged festive fixture list - but again called for players to receive greater protection amid punishing schedules.

City were initially set to travel to Wolves on Boxing Day but that game has been pushed back by 24 hours for live coverage, with the Sheffield United home game moved to December 29.

Still, they have less than 48 hours of rest between those two fixtures - with the reigning Premier League champions then starting 2020 by hosting Everton on January 1.

While a fan of playing during the Christmas period, a custom that he has become used to since moving to England, Guardiola fears the desire to squeeze in so many matches is a major concern.

He used the example of Neymar - who suffered a hamstring injury while playing for Brazil in a friendly against Nigeria last week, ruling him out for up to four weeks - as an example of the risks of playing too often.

Asked for his thoughts about City's fixture changes announced this week, Guardiola told the media: "It is what it is. Since I came here, every season it happened the same.

"The broadcasters are the bosses in this situation. I love to play Boxing Day and winter time when everybody stops, when families and kids go the stadiums and enjoy the games. I like it.

"The problem is the same. So now Neymar is injured again, but they travel for friendly games in Nigeria or Abu Dhabi, or wherever far away, then come back.

"We don't protect the players – the system doesn't protect them. It's too much. Honestly, it's too much."

Guardiola was speaking ahead of Saturday's trip to Crystal Palace - a game that could see both Kevin De Bruyne and John Stones return from injury.

While stopping short of confirming the duo will be available to feature at Selhurst Park, the City boss was upbeat over their outlook.

"Some of them are better. Kevin is back and John trained in the last two days and is good," he said. "[Benjamin] Mendy as well, maybe later, but as well."

Sergio Aguero was involved in a minor car crash in midweek, but Guardiola had positive news on the striker's status: "He is fine. The car is not fine."

Virgil van Dijk insists matches against Manchester United are no longer the most important of Liverpool's season.

The Premier League leaders will be looking to protect and potentially improve their eight-point advantage when they travel to Old Trafford on Sunday.

Eight straight league victories have given Jurgen Klopp's men control of the title race and firm favouritism against a United side languishing in 12th.

Previous meetings between the bitter rivals might have been viewed as season showpieces but, with European champions Liverpool now challenging for trophies on multiple fronts, defender Van Dijk said other occasions deserve greater billing.

"It's massive, but it's more massive for the fans," the Netherlands international told Sky Sports.

"I think all of the Champions League games are as big as this.

"The whole atmosphere and leading to the actual game is bigger than some other games but I don't think it's the biggest of the season.

"The big ones are [in] the Champions League and the ones that are hopefully going to win us the Premier League title."

United are set to be without first-choice goalkeeper David de Gea and star midfielder Paul Pogba through injury, compounding a poor run of form that involved a 1-0 loss to Newcastle United last time out.

"They're not in the best way, they're not fully confident and they're not in the situation they want to be in," Van Dijk said.

"But the good thing about football is you can bounce back in any game. They might think this is the best occasion to bounce back from it, but we know that.

"We want to go out and fight for every metre on the pitch and try to take the three points back to Liverpool."

Injuries also plagued United when the teams drew 0-0 at Old Trafford in February, a result that proved costly for Liverpool as a solitary point ultimately separated them and champions Manchester City.

While shock losses to Norwich City and Wolves have left the holders with plenty of catching up to do, Van Dijk denied the title pressure has now shifted to Anfield.

"I don't think we have anything to lose," he said.

"Man City are the champions, they're defending their title and we want to get it. In my point of view, we just have to go for it."

The Premier League returns this weekend after the international break, with leaders Liverpool travelling to Manchester United in the pick of the fixtures.

Manchester City trail Liverpool by eight points and cannot afford another setback when they make the trip to Crystal Palace, while Chelsea host Newcastle United and Tottenham take on Watford.

The last of the 10 games takes place in Yorkshire on Monday as Sheffield United welcome third-place Arsenal, who have played more Premier League games at Bramall Lane without victory than they have any other ground in the competition.

Ahead of this weekend's action, test your top-flight knowledge with our Opta-powered big Friday Premier League quiz!

Answers are at the bottom of the page.

 

1. Newcastle United are seeking just a second win in 26 away league meetings with Chelsea when they head to Stamford Bridge. Who was in charge of United when they picked up that previous victory in May 2012?

2. Manchester City striker Sergio Aguero has failed to find the net in six previous Premier League visits to Selhurst Park. At which other ground has he failed to score at more often?

3. Watford travel to Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on Saturday, meaning their last three meetings with Spurs in all competitions will have taken place in different stadiums. Name the other two...

4. Liverpool have won five previous Premier League away meetings with Manchester United. Can you name the only two sides to have won at Old Trafford more often?

5. Everton will be looking to return winning ways when they host West Ham on Saturday. Which Toffees player has scored (once) or provided an assist (twice) in each of his three Premier League appearances against West Ham?

 

Answers:

1. Alan Pardew
2. Anfield (seven times)
3. Stadium MK (September 2018) and Wembley (January 2019)
4. Chelsea (six) and Manchester City (seven)
5. Gylfi Sigurdsson

The transfer window may be shut, but Paul Pogba's future is still making headlines.

Pogba – who is set to miss the Premier League showdown against Liverpool due to injury – reportedly eyed a Manchester United exit and a move to Real Madrid.

A switch to the Santiago Bernabeu could be on the horizon after Pogba was snapped with Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane in the United Arab Emirates.

 

TOP STORY – POGBA MEETS ZIDANE IN DUBAI

Pogba has been linked with a fresh move to Madrid after the United star was pictured with Zidane, reports The Mirror.

Pogba wanted to leave United during the previous window, with LaLiga giants Madrid and former club Juventus the two favourites to sign the Frenchman, but a move did not materialise.

However, Pogba – recovering from a foot injury – was seen with Madrid head coach Zidane during his trip to Dubai, fuelling fresh speculation over his future at Old Trafford.

 

ROUND-UP

- According to 90min, United are monitoring Paris Saint-Germain forward Edinson Cavani. The 32-year-old Uruguay international is out of contract at this season's end and has been linked to Juve, Atletico Madrid and Inter Miami.

- Inter are chasing Brescia sensation Sandro Tonali and Atalanta's Dejan Kulusevski, says Calciomercato. Both players are 19 years of age and attracting interest in Serie A.

- Calciomercato also reports Tottenham are ready to send Christian Eriksen to Juventus in exchange for Adrien Rabiot. Eriksen's contract expires at the end of the season and has been linked to the likes of Madrid and United, while Rabiot only moved to Turin from PSG at the end of 2018-19.

- Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund, United, Spurs and Inter have been credited with interest in Borussia Monchengladbach midfielder Denis Zakaria, according to Bild.

- Manchester City have emerged as favourites to sign Hearts teenager Aaron Hickey, claims the Daily Star.

Manchester City and Liverpool have been fined by UEFA for incidents that took place during Champions League matches this month.

The teams were charged two weeks ago and UEFA's Control, Ethics and Disciplinary Body (CEDB) met on Thursday to decide their punishments.

City have been slapped with a €15,750 (£13,000) fine for the throwing of objects in their 2-0 win over Dinamo Zagreb on October 1.

Dinamo have also been ordered to pay €20,000 (£17,300) for the same offence and acts of damages in the away end at the Etihad Stadium.

Liverpool were sanctioned to the tune of €10,000 (£8,600) after their supporters came onto the pitch during and after their 4-3 Champions League win against Salzburg at Anfield on October 2.

A group of youngsters climbed over the hoardings at full-time and ran towards Andy Robertson to collect his shirt, while another spectator entered the pitch midway through the second half and was led away by stewards. Salzburg were fined €3,250 (£2,800) over the throwing of objects.

Ajax must pay a total of €68,000 (£58,800) in fines. Acts of damages and crowd disturbances from the travelling fans at Mestalla has resulted in a ban from selling tickets for their trip to Chelsea on November 11, while they must contact Valencia within 30 days and agree compensation.

Sergio Aguero was unhurt after being involved in a minor car crash on his way to Manchester City training on Wednesday, Omnisport understands.

Aguero, 31, did not need medical attention and was able to train as normal ahead of facing Crystal Palace in the Premier League on Saturday.

He posted a photo on his Instagram account showing the damage sustained to his Range Rover in the incident.

The Argentinian striker's image shows the driver's side front wheel almost horizontal, while the wheel arch and front bumper sustained significant damage.

Aguero accompanied the image with a caption reading: "What a great morning".

Aguero was not involved for Argentina in the international break but has scored eight Premier League goals so far this season, matching Tammy Abraham for the most in the division.

Manchester City's title defence has not started according to plan, with the champions already trailing Liverpool by eight points.

Jurgen Klopp's side have won eight from eight in the Premier League, while City headed into the international break on the back of a surprise home defeat to Wolves.

For Pep Guardiola, City's defence has to be a huge concern, even though the former Barcelona boss has insisted the club will not be looking to replace the injured Aymeric Laporte in January.

Laporte is set to miss the majority of the season after sustaining an Anterior Cruciate Ligament injury in August, while Vincent Kompany has left a sizeable void in City's defence.

Nicolas Otamendi has been largely unconvincing, while John Stones has his own injury problems and Fernandinho – arguably the Premier League's best defensive midfielder – has had to fill in at the back.

Ahead of Saturday's trip to Selhurst Park to face Crystal Palace, we use Opta data to assess how Guardiola can patch up City's struggling defence.

 

RELIANCE ON OTAMENDI A CAUSE FOR CONCERN

Guardiola has not been helped by a spate of bad luck with injuries, especially with Laporte, who has been mightily impressive since his arrival from Athletic Bilbao in January 2018.

Stones, meanwhile, has been in and out of the side due to both injuries and form, with Kompany preferred for the run-in last season. Otamendi looked set to join Kompany in leaving the club in the off season, though has been a mainstay of City's back line, making seven league appearances and two more in the Champions League. 

The Argentine does boast a passing accuracy of 92.52 per cent, which is higher than Fernandinho or Laporte, while he has also lost possession 148 times fewer than the Frenchman.

While Otamendi has only featured in 25 Premier League matches since the start of last season, he does have a higher tackle, duel and aerial duel success rate than Laporte and only conceded 16 fouls.

However, the former Valencia man showed clear weaknesses in the defeat to Wolves, recklessly lunging in on Raul Jimenez in the build-up to the opener, while it was his mistake at Carrow Road which led to Norwich City's third goal in a 3-2 win for the Canaries.

Of the players who have played at the back for City since the start of 2018-19, only Otamendi (2) has made errors which directly resulted in a goal.

KOMPANY'S IMPACT UNDERESTIMATED?

City reportedly moved for Harry Maguire in the off season, only to baulk at Leicester City's asking price, which was eventually paid by cross-city rivals Manchester United.

However, the decision not to replace inspirational former captain Kompany, who scored a stunning goal against Leicester as he led City to the title last term, seemed a risky one.

City did not lose a single game in all competitions last season in which Kompany started, with the Belgian having been named in 13 Premier League line ups.

Kompany played 1,223 minutes in the top flight last term, making no errors resulting in a shot at goal, while managing an impressive pass accuracy of 93.07% behind only Stones in terms of City's defenders.

The 33-year-old lost possession 93 times, though, perhaps due to a lack of pace, did concede 17 fouls – more than Otamendi or Stones despite playing fewer games.

He was dribbled past by an opponent on only one occasion and, from the 18 matches he started in all competitions last season, City claimed 17 wins, conceding just 12 goals.

SETTLE ON STONES UNTIL JANUARY

The simple answer to City's problems is likely to get Laporte back fit and firing as soon as possible, given they have an 82 per cent win percentage with the 25-year-old starting in the Premier League since the start of last season, compared to 75% without.

However, for now Guardiola must find a defensive pairing he can stick with until January. Fernandinho and Otamendi have featured in the last three league matches, but against Wolves their lack of pace was exposed.

Stones should soon return to action and, though the England international's form has been criticised, his statistics make for promising reading.

The former Everton man has a tackle success rate of 75%, higher than any of City's other centre-backs, and has conceded just six fouls since the start of 2018-19.

If Stones can stay fit, he should be City's first-choice centre-back until the new year, with Otamendi and Fernandinho vying for the other spot.

Matthijs de Ligt could become the first player to secure the Golden Boy award twice after he was included on a 20-man shortlist for this year's prize.

The honour, established by Italian newspaper Tuttosport and awarded to the best player under the age of 21 in a European top-tier league, lists Lionel Messi, Paul Pogba and Kylian Mbappe among its former winners.

De Ligt claimed it in 2018 when on the books of Ajax and is among the nominees for 2019 after continuing to impress with Juventus. He was the first defender to win it.

Manchester City star Phil Foden is also in contention, alongside emerging Barcelona talent Ansu Fati, despite both having been afforded minimal game time.

More established youngsters such as Borussia Dortmund's Jadon Sancho, AC Milan's Gianluigi Donnarumma and Bayer Leverkusen's Kai Havertz are also on the list.

The winner is determined by an international online vote and will be announced in Turin on December 16. 

Full list of Golden Boy nominees: 

Gianluigi Donnarumma (AC Milan), Matthijs de Ligt (Juventus), Alphonso Davies (Bayern Munich), Ansu Fati (Barcelona), Phil Foden (Manchester City), Matteo Guendouzi (Arsenal), Erling Braut Haaland (Salzburg), Kai Havertz (Bayer Leverkusen), Joao Felix (Atletico Madrid), Dejan Joveljic (Eintracht Frankfurt), Moise Kean (Everton), Lee Kang-in (Valencia), Donyell Malen (PSV), Mason Mount (Chelsea), Andriy Lunin  (Real Valladolid), Rodrygo (Real Madrid), Jadon Sancho (Borussia Dortmund), Ferran Torres (Valencia), Vinicius Junior (Real Madrid), Nicolo Zaniolo (Roma)

Kevin De Bruyne and John Stones have returned to training with Manchester City.

Influential midfielder De Bruyne started this season in superb form, racing to eight assists in the Premier League.

But a groin problem kept him out of City's past two matches, including a lacklustre 2-0 loss at home to Wolves last time out that left Pep Guardiola's men eight points shy of leaders Liverpool in England's top flight.

Stones has been out with a hamstring injury since mid-September – an absence that has been keenly felt after Aymeric Laporte underwent knee surgery.

It left Nicolas Otamendi as City's only specialist senior centre-back, with midfielder Fernandinho pressed into action alongside the Argentina defender in recent weeks.

Sergio Aguero was not selected alongside his compatriot Otamendi for games against Germany and Ecuador over the international break, with Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni claiming "he's been carrying a problem and has not been training 100 per cent with his club".

However, City's all-time record goalscorer took part in Monday's session alongside Stones and De Bruyne.

City resume their Premier League title defence at Crystal Palace on Saturday before looking to make it three wins out of three in the Champions League when they entertain Atalanta next Tuesday.

Rodri says "tactical fouls" are among the aspects of football he is learning since signing for Manchester City.

The midfielder, who joined from Atletico Madrid in July, has appeared in all eight Premier League games for Pep Guardiola's side this term so far.

Guardiola last year issued a strong rebuttal to suggestions from ex-Manchester United captain Gary Neville that City deliberately commit fouls to break up play.

"We try to play, of course sometimes we make fouls. Never my teams are focused on making something wrong for the opponents," said Guardiola.

"We try to attack, to play our game but never to do that to avoid what they do. It's never happened in my career and never will happen in my career because I understand the game in a different approach."

After City beat West Ham 5-0 in August, the club's former manager Manuel Pellegrini highlighted the number of fouls committed by Guardiola's team.

And Rodri confirmed he has been working on 'tactical fouls', as well as other aspects to playing a new position, since swapping Madrid for Manchester.

"I think it's a big challenge for me because I never used to play this position particularly," Rodri said to ESPN FC. "I didn't have this exact role in the team.

"We have lots of offensive players and many other teams try to counter-attack you and a lot of the time you're alone but it's good for me.

"I am learning new things, how to go, when to stay, when I have to do a tactical foul, when I have to jump.

"It's good for me to learn these things. And for the team it's good because we need those offensive players to be able to play our game."

Defeats to Norwich City and Wolves have left City eight points behind Liverpool, who have a 100 per cent Premier League record, in the table.

With neighbours Manchester United struggling, Rodri was asked if Jurgen Klopp's Reds should now be considered City's main rivals.

"I don't know, I had never been in the city before, I don't know how people in the city feel," he said, City having pipped Liverpool to the title by a point last season.

"But the team to beat is Liverpool now and that has been seen the last two seasons. They are the champions of Europe so everyone wants to beat them, not just us.

"They're a great team, they have improved a lot of things, they're a very good team, and they're the best team in England and in Europe."

Manchester City coach Pep Guardiola insists he would not consider selling midfielder Phil Foden for €500m (£460m) because he is the only player at the could who cannot be sold "under any circumstances".

Foden, 19, has long been championed as a star of the future for City and England, having been around Guardiola's first-team squad for almost three years already.

He played named player of the tournament after England's Under-17 World Cup success in 2017 and has steadily become a more prominent player in City's senior squad, playing 26 matches across all competitions last season.

The midfielder has featured for just 10 minutes in the Premier League this term, sparking suggestions he is being held back by City.

But, with David Silva set to leave the club when his contract expires next year, Guardiola is convinced Foden will take over from the former Spain international.

"He [Foden] is the only player that can’t be sold under any circumstances — the only one. Not even for €500m," Guardiola says in the new book Pep's City: The Making of a Superteam, which was written by Spanish journalists Pol Ballus and Lu Martin and is being serialised by in The Sun.

"Phil's going nowhere — Phil is City. We won't be signing anyone else for that position. When David Silva leaves, we know exactly who our new magician will be.

"He's grown up with us. He's one of us and he's going to be brilliant — one of the Premier League's best. One thing is clear, Foden has a place in City's first-team.

"I'd be interested to see if a different manager would have given him his chance to develop or loan him out.

"I don't like leaving him out of certain games, but I must think of the whole squad. Phil understands that."

Bernardo Silva has been granted an extension until October 21 to respond to the Football Association (FA) charge relating to his racially insensitive tweet to Manchester City team-mate Benjamin Mendy.

Silva last month tweeted – and subsequently deleted – a photo of a young Mendy and a dated image from Conguitos, a Spanish confectionary brand that has been criticised for having racist connotations. The post was captioned "Guess who?".

A week ago, the FA charged the 25-year-old playmaker with an alleged breach of FA Rule E3 on account of the post being "insulting and/or improper and/or [bringing] the game into disrepute".

It was further alleged the offence amounts to an "aggravated breach" because it included "reference, whether expressed or implied, to race and/or colour and/or ethnic origin".

Silva was given until Wednesday, October 9 to provide a response, but Omnisport understands the extension of 12 days was granted following an application to the chairman of the judicial panel.

If found guilty, Silva could face a fine and/or a suspension and be enrolled on an education course.

The FA this year increased its minimum ban for instances of racist abuse during matches to six games, although this does not automatically apply to social media posts.

Silva and Mendy are firm friends from their time together at Monaco, before each signed for City in 2017. As part of a submission to the FA, in which Silva expressed regret for any hurt unintentionally caused, Mendy issued support on his team-mate's behalf – stating he took no offence over the post.

City manager Pep Guardiola and forward Raheem Sterling are among those to have defended Silva's character in the aftermath of the tweet, which was condemned by anti-discrimination pressure group Kick It Out.

Raheem Sterling's role as the leader of England's young generation has won praise from former Liverpool forward Emile Heskey.

Sterling and England are back in action against the Czech Republic on Friday, with the formality of qualification for Euro 2020 on course to be confirmed during the current international break.

Gareth Southgate's side boast a 100 per cent record in Group A – a Sterling hat-trick against this week's opponents having set the wheels in motion at Wembley in March.

The Manchester City star has finally brought his prolific club form to the international arena, with six goals in the campaign so far.

Speaking to Omnisport about the leading lights in England's current crop of youngsters, Heskey noted Sterling remains only 24 – something his prominent stance against racism and discrimination off the field belies.

"Sterling is still young, isn't he? Even though he's played for so long he's still young," he said.

"The role that he's actually playing now, as a mentor for some of the kids, is amazing. The strides that he's taken within his game is amazing.

"Now he's on social media using that platform to help with the racism, with the bullying and it's amazing.

"Someone who has taken on so much as a young kid, I don't think I could have taken on that much as a young kid.

"What is he, 24 now? I don't think I could have taken on that much at 24. It's too much for me but he seems to have taken everything in stride, and given more."

Heskey represented England at four major tournaments between 2000 and 2010 and, with the likes of Jadon Sancho revelling alongside Sterling and captain Harry Kane up front, he feels Southgate's side might be able to go further than the so-called "golden generation" he was a part of alongside David Beckham, Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard and Michael Owen.

"I would like to think England could win the Euros," he added. "They've got flair, they've got goals, defensively they just need to be a little bit more sound and sterner.

"But they've got the ability to go all the way."

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is said to be concerned that one more significant defeat could see him sacked as Manchester United manager.

Although Ed Woodward has given his backing to the former striker and insisted the club has faith in their longer-term plan, it seems the loss to Newcastle United on Sunday has caused particular concern.

AC Milan, meanwhile, could make a change in the dugout on Tuesday, while Real Madrid are considering a Chelsea midfielder.

 

TOP STORY – SOLKSJAER FACING SACK IF UNITED LOSE HANDSOMELY TO LIVERPOOL

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer may not survive at Manchester United if they suffer a significant defeat to Liverpool.

The Daily Mail and the Mirror claim executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward was very concerned by the manner of the 1-0 defeat to Newcastle United, despite giving the manager public support.

It is suggested Woodward could choose to dismiss Solskjaer if United are beaten heavily by league leaders Liverpool on October 20 - much as Jose Mourinho was sacked after a 3-1 loss at Anfield last year.

 

ROUND-UP

- United are in desperate need of goals but one of their targets, Moussa Dembele, could be stolen away from Lyon by Everton for £40million in January, according to Football Insider.

AC Milan are another major club ready to make a change in the dugout. Gianluca Di Marzio claims the Rossoneri could replace Marco Giampaolo with former Inter boss Stefano Pioli as early as Tuesday.

- Inter, meanwhile, are plotting a bid for out-of-favour Barcelona midfielder Ivan Rakitic, according to Calciomercato.com.

Real Madrid appear to have turned a corner under Zinedine Zidane but the former France star still wants a new midfielder. Sport say he has sanctioned a possible January bid for Chelsea's N'Golo Kante.

- In France, Sylvinho paid the price for Lyon's poor form - particularly Sunday's derby defeat to Saint-Etienne - and the Ligue 1 side are considering former Valencia boss Marcelino as his replacement, according to Soccer Link.

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