Kevin De Bruyne insisted nothing has changed at Manchester City and said the players have "all trust" in the club after they were hit with a Champions League ban.

City were handed a two-season ban from European competition by UEFA last week after being found to have committed "serious breaches" of Financial Fair Play (FFP) regulations.

The Premier League champions have denied any wrongdoing and intend to appeal, but speculation has mounted over manager Pep Guardiola and their star players' futures.

De Bruyne starred in a 2-0 Premier League win over West Ham on Wednesday and the playmaker said there was no change at City despite off-field events.

"Obviously we were on holiday when the statement happened. We came back and played football. The situation is what it is," he told Sky Sports.

"We came back and trained like normal and in the end nothing really changed. We just play the games we have, like today when we gave a good performance.

"We still have a lot to play for and let's hope we can find our rhythm as soon as possible and win some titles."

De Bruyne added: "The team give the statement. I don't know what else we can do other than play football. In the end the situation will show what it will show.

"The club is doing its thing and we have all trust in them."

Goals from Rodri and De Bruyne helped City consolidate second place and close the gap to Liverpool to 22 points in their first game since February 2.

De Bruyne felt the break impacted Guardiola's side, who travel to third-placed Leicester City on Saturday.

"It was okay. I think we saw it's been three weeks without football and we felt a little bit of rustiness, but we played a good game," he said.

The Financial Fair Play rain clouds that have been lingering for so long over Manchester City finally burst on Friday.

And yet, through the uncertain, murky gloom – which was not completely at odds with the Manchester weather earlier on this cold February day – there shined a familiar ray of hope.

Just as the rain subsided physically, so too can the storm pass – at least for this season – if Wednesday's evidence in City's 2-0 beating of West Ham is anything to go by. 

The full repercussions of the bombshell of a two-season ban from European competition and a €30million fine administered by UEFA for what the organisation's Club Financial Control Body (CFCB) deemed "serious breaches" of its FFP are still some way from being felt.

Not least because it is a ruling that barely starts the war, let alone ends it. City offered an immediate rebuttal, a denying of any wrongdoing and an intention to take their appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

More battle lines were drawn when chief executive Ferran Soriano insisted allegations that City broke the rules "are simply not true" alongside an insistence the club had provided "irrefutable evidence" to the CFCB they had committed no wrongdoing. 

It is a scenario that will rumble on for some time. 

But here's the thing. Ultimately, you can have questions around City's financial conduct. You can feel uncomfortable about City's main means of defence throughout the process being to attack the validity of UEFA's investigation. You can even question the morality of football clubs being funded by oil-rich states.

It is fine to harbour those legitimate concerns and still be completely in awe of the slick machine Pep Guardiola has built, one many suggested would not be possible in English football. 

Sure, the Premier League trophy is headed to Liverpool this season and City's on-pitch shortfalls owe much to Guardiola's nonsensical decision not to replace Vincent Kompany, leaving City's defence low on numbers - the consequent re-positioning of Fernandinho after a serious knee injury to Aymeric Laporte in turn weakening his midfield.

But there were moments against the Hammers that reminded us of what has made City so utterly joyous during the previous two all-conquering title-winning seasons.

The intent was plain to see with a starting line-up blessed with City's wealth of attacking armoury. David Silva and Kevin De Bruyne pulling the strings from midfield, Bernardo Silva employed further forward and Gabriel Jesus utilised wide in a front three – an intriguing subplot given it is a role he may have to fulfil against Real Madrid should Raheem Sterling not be fit and one in which he excelled as Brazil earned Copa America glory.

Indeed, had it not been for Jesus' dalliance, City twice would have been in front inside 15 minutes. West Ham clearly came with the intention to pack the defence and the midfield. The timeless David Silva unlocked that plan after just six minutes, playing an intricate sliderule ball into the path of Jesus who opted to try and round Lukasz Fabianski rather than take the favourable option of shooting. He was guilty of similar wastefulness when, after admittedly more fortuitous play, he was found by De Bruyne.

There was a delightful simplicity about the way City made the breakthrough. A De Bruyne corner, a front-post run by Rodri and a flicked header to the far post. 

But the second was much more a trademark of City under Guardiola. The intricate build-up play, the link-up between De Bruyne and his fellow creative genius Bernardo Silva, and the unerring finish from the former – who continues to be the beating heart of this team.

That such a performance came against a toothless, expensively assembled West Ham side shambling their way through a relegation battle should only partly detract from the credit City's performance deserves.

Sterner examinations are obviously on the horizon. Namely Madrid in what is a crucial last-16 Champions League tie, where you sense the atmosphere will be significantly more hostile towards UEFA and there will need to be more vibrancy on and off the pitch, though credit should be given to those game fans turning out for a hastily rearranged Premier League fixture with little riding on it.

Save for the brief, and somewhat unsavoury, "f*** UEFA" chants, and the self-deprecating singing of "City's going down with a billion in the bank" – a nod to a song rivals Manchester United used to taunt their blue neighbours with – the stands were understandably sedate and sparse.

But for now this was the sort of riposte City required on the pitch amid the uncertain turmoil off it. 

The FFP storm may still be gathering but with Guardiola, who has signalled his intent to stick around regardless of the outcome of the club's CAS appeal, there remains a feeling the light can shine through the dark clouds.

Manchester City put their off-field issues to one side by easing to a 2-0 win over West Ham in Wednesday's rearranged Premier League fixture at the Etihad Stadium.

The build-up to the game was dominated by talk of a two-year ban from European football imposed on City by UEFA for breaching Financial Fair Play regulations.

But it was business as usual on the pitch for City as Rodri made a breakthrough in the first half with his first home goal for the club and Kevin De Bruyne added a second just after the hour.

That proved enough for Pep Guardiola's men, who bounced back from their 2-0 loss at Tottenham earlier this month to open up a four-point gap on third-place Leicester City.

The original game was called off 10 days ago due to Storm Ciara which, combined with the competition's inaugural mid-season break, meant a 17-day rest for City's players.

It did not take long for the hosts to get going, Gabriel Jesus spurning a glorious chance by taking one touch too many in front of goal and allowing Ryan Fredericks to get back.

The Brazil striker again delayed the shot too long from City's next big opening, but Rodri opened the scoring with a looping header at the near post after half an hour.

Guardiola's men toiled for large parts of the contest but had a second goal after 62 minutes through De Bruyne, who exchanged passes with Bernardo Silva and fired home.

Jesus was denied by Lukasz Fabianski 13 minutes from the end, though it mattered little as West Ham - in the relegation zone after collecting two points from the last 18 on offer - failed to muster any sort of response.


What does it mean? City do their talking on the pitch

The threat of a two-year ban from the Champions League has led to talk of a string of City's first-team stars, as well as boss Guardiola, moving on at the end of the season.

Guardiola challenged his players to focus on each game as it comes and this was a welcome win, 17 days on from losing at Tottenham in their most recent outing.

De Bruyne delivers again

De Bruyne sent in a delightful corner for Rodri's opener and blasted in a second to make it a combined 151 goals and assists for the playmaker in Europe's top five leagues.

Since making his City debut in September 2015, only Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi (62) has assisted more goals in Europe's top five leagues than the 61 De Bruyne has managed.

Hesitant Jesus lets West Ham off

Guardiola started Aguero and Jesus together in the Premier League for just the 12th time and West Ham struggled to cope with the pair.

Both players should have got on the scoresheet, though, with Jesus guilty of missing three gilt-edged opportunities.

What's next?

City will be looking to preserve their four-point lead on Leicester when they head to the King Power Stadium on Saturday, while West Ham have a daunting trip to league leaders Liverpool in five days' time.

Manchester City chief executive Ferran Soriano insists allegations the club broke UEFA Financial Fair Play rules "are simply not true".

Last week, UEFA issued the Premier League champions with a two-season ban from European competition and a €30million fine after its investigation found them guilty of breaking FFP regulations.

UEFA's Club Financial Control Body (CFCB) said City had "committed serious breaches" of FFP rules by overstating sponsorship revenue between 2012 and 2016 and added the club had failed to cooperate in its investigation.

City said they were "disappointed but not surprised" by the outcome and promised to appeal against the decision at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).

Soriano, City CEO since September 2012, spoke on Wednesday to deny the club have received funds from owner Sheikh Mansour that were not "properly declared" and said City did cooperate with the CFCB, delivering "irrefutable evidence" that they committed no wrongdoing.

He also accused the CFCB adjudicatory chamber of being more concerned about "politics" than justice and criticised its reliance on "out-of-context stolen emails" in their investigation. UEFA has declined to respond to Soriano's comments.

"The most important thing I have to say today is that the allegations are not true. They are simply not true," Soriano told City media.

"The owner has not put money in this club that has not been properly declared. We are a sustainable football club, we are profitable, we don't have debt, our accounts have been scrutinised many times, by auditors, by regulators, by investors and this is perfectly clear.

"We did cooperate with this process. We delivered a long list of documents and support that we believe is irrefutable evidence that the claims are not true and it was hard because we did this in the context of information being leaked to the media in the context of feeling that every step of the way, every engagement we had, we felt that we were considered guilty before anything was even discussed, but at the end, this is an internal process that has been initiated and then prosecuted and then judged by this FFP chamber at UEFA.

"Of course, a lot of people come now and say, 'Well, what were you expecting? This is the way it works. You should have expected a negative outcome the way the system is designed'. But we didn't believe that.  We worked very hard. We provided the evidence but in the end this FFP investigatory chamber relied more on out-of-context stolen emails than all the other evidence we provided of what actually happened and I think it is normal that we feel like we feel. Ultimately, based on our experience and our perception, this seems to be less about justice and more about politics.

"We went to CAS mid-process because it was clear to us that we were not having a fair process and we were concerned. We were specifically concerned about the leaks, the constant leak of information. CAS said there was merit in our complaint, they said that the leaks were 'worrisome' and they said they would judge it when process has finished. The process has finished now; we are going to CAS again.

"We are looking for an early resolution obviously through a thorough process and a fair process so my best hope is that this will be finished before the beginning of the summer and until then for us, it is business as usual.

"The experience with this FFP investigatory chamber has been negative for us, more than what I would have imagined. But this is not UEFA. We are not talking about the whole of UEFA, which is an association of associations. I personally know many people that work at UEFA, very hard for the benefit of UEFA, but also for the benefit of the clubs of UEFA like ours, but also for the benefit of football.

"All we are looking for is a proper adjudication in an independent and impartial body that is going to take the time to look at all the evidence and look at it without preconception. I am also looking for the end of this process maybe to put an end under this undertone that we are hearing all the time that anything that we do, any result that we get, is based only on money and not on talent and effort. The hundreds of people that work at this club know this is not true, that it is about effort and talent, so maybe, in the end, this is an opportunity."

The looming Champions League ban has prompted speculation over the futures of City's star players and manager Pep Guardiola, who has only a year left on his contract, but Soriano insists their focus is solely on football.

"Obviously, he has been kept informed about this process but this is not something for him to respond to," he said of Guardiola. "He is focused on the football, he is focusing on the game, the game at hand, the game today, tomorrow and the next weeks. As well as the players. They are calm, they are focused and this matter is more a business matter, a legal matter than a football manner.

"The fans can be sure of two things. The first one is that the allegations are false. And the second is that we will do everything that can be done to prove so. We know the fans are supporting us. We can feel it. Manchester City fans have gone through challenges over the decades. This is just another challenge."

LaLiga champions Barcelona are a club in crisis.

From public rows to allegations that say the current board were involved in hiring a PR firm to spread negative narratives about Barca legends, a claim the club have denied.

It has been a turbulent time at Camp Nou and MLS powerhouse LA Galaxy have looked to capitalise.

 

TOP STORY – GALAXY ENQUIRE ABOUT MESSI

LA Galaxy enquired about Barcelona captain Lionel Messi's interest in moving to the United States, according to Radio Continental.

Messi was involved in a public row with director of football Eric Abidal, raising doubts over his Barca future amid links to Manchester United, Manchester City, Inter and Paris Saint-Germain.

Galaxy head coach and former Boca Juniors boss Guillermo Barros Schelotto reportedly reached out to Messi's father to see if the six-time Ballon d'Or winner was open to swapping Barcelona for Los Angeles.

ROUND-UP

Paul Pogba is confident he will finally be granted an exit by Manchester United, reports the Evening Standard. Pogba – still recovering from an ankle injury – has been linked with a return to former club Juventus as well as LaLiga giants Real Madrid.

- Staying at Old Trafford and The Independent claims United are in advanced negotiations with former PSG technical director Antero Henrique. Ralf Rangnick is also reportedly being considered.

- RB Leipzig's head of sport Rangnick is still being targeted by Milan for the role as head coach, reports Calciomercato. However, the Italian club are split as Stefano Pioli leads a resurgence.

- According to Tuttosport, Serie A champions Juventus are interested in bringing Manchester City forward Gabriel Jesus to Turin.

- France Football says Barca are eyeing Galatasaray's teenage sensation Mustafa Kapi. The 17-year-old is out of contract at the end of the season.

Chelsea have entered the race to sign in-demand Hellas Verona centre-back Marash Kumbulla, says Calciomercato. The 20-year-old Albania international is also wanted by Inter, Napoli, Liverpool, United and City.

Pep Guardiola's agent reiterated his client "always fulfills his contracts" amid fresh speculation regarding the Manchester City boss' future following UEFA's Financial Fair Play (FFP) sanctions.

Last week City were hit with a two-season ban from European competition for "serious breaches" of FFP regulations, a suspension meted out after an investigation found the Premier League champions guilty of "overstating its sponsorship revenue in its accounts and in the break-even information submitted to UEFA between 2012 and 2016".

City have denied wrongdoing throughout the process and intend to appeal the punishments, which also include a €30million fine, yet the possibility of not playing in Europe for two seasons has led to questions about the future of their key players and manager.

Prior to the UEFA sanctions, Guardiola had stated his wish to see out his City contract and remain in Manchester until 2021, and his agent Josep Maria Orobitg suggested nothing has changed on that front.

"Guardiola always fulfils all his contracts," he told El Mundo.

"And this [contract with City] concludes in June 2021."

Guardiola left Barcelona at the end of his one-year rolling contract in 2012 after four hugely successful seasons with his boyhood club.

He then spent three seasons with Bayern Munich, again vacating the post when his contract ran out.

Guardiola was appointed City boss in 2016 and he signed fresh terms in May 2018, shortly after his team won the Premier League title with a record-breaking 100 points.

Should he complete his current contract at the Etihad Stadium, the time at City would be Guardiola's longest stint at a club.

Yaya Toure conceded he is "a little bit scared" for Manchester City in their Champions League last-16 encounter with Real Madrid.

City went through their group stage unbeaten, winning four of their six games and scoring 16 times as they topped a pool featuring Atalanta, Shakhtar Donetsk and Dinamo Zagreb.

However, Pep Guardiola's side were then handed possibly the sternest test possible as they were pitted against 13-time winners Madrid, who only finished second in Group A behind Paris Saint-Germain.

Madrid have never lost a Champions League knockout tie under Zidane, who won three successive trophies during his previous reign and returned last March, with Los Blancos' European pedigree leaving Toure fearful for his old club City.

"I wanted City to get Lyon or some club like that, but Real Madrid is going to be a tough game, a very, very tough game," Toure told Omnisport.

"But we will see - the first game is at the Bernabeu and then it is [at the] Etihad [Stadium].

"Real Madrid could knock us straight out. They could, they really could, because we expect Real Madrid to be in the quarter-finals, the semi-finals and now they face City.

"I'm a little scared to be honest."

The first match takes place on Wednesday, February 26, with Madrid then travelling to Manchester for the second leg on March 17.

Madrid were eliminated at the last-16 stage last season by Ajax, which prompted the club to turn back to Zidane.

The Frenchman has presided over a 15-game unbeaten run in LaLiga and Toure was particularly impressed by Madrid in their 2-2 home draw with PSG in November, even though Zidane's side threw away a two-goal lead late on.

"The last time I saw a game is when they played against Paris Saint-Germain, it was very good," Toure added.

"Even though [PSG] take two goals in the end, Madrid was on top of Paris Saint-Germain and Paris Saint-Germain are a good, good side.

"I think Paris Saint-Germain is going to be going forward to the semi-final or final. We never know. They are playing very good, they have a good coach.

"I hope Man City are going to pass Madrid but this is a big, big test, a big ask."

Arsene Wenger backed the ban UEFA handed down to Manchester City for breaching Financial Fair Play (FFP) regulations but acknowledged some "evolution" is needed in the rules.

UEFA announced on Friday that City had been handed a two-season suspension from European competition and a €30million fine for breaching their FFP framework.

The club have since confirmed they will appeal the decision at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).

Former Arsenal boss Wenger is in favour of capping finances but believes further work is needed to ensure there can be no questioning the legality of certain actions.

However, he was in no doubt that clubs deemed to have contravened the regulations deserve punishment.

"I was always for control of the financial rules. Let the clubs work with the natural income they have," said Wenger, who now works for FIFA as its chief of global football development.

"I'm convinced that there is an evolution to be made in the way the rules are at the moment. But they are what they are and you have to respect them.

"People who don't respect them and are caught trying to get around the rules in more or less legal ways have to be punished. If it's proven that this has been done on purpose then this cannot go unpunished.

"Sport is about winning by respecting the rules. If there's no respect for the rules, it's not real sport, which is what I think is most important."

The ban imposed by UEFA has led to speculation over the future of some of City's star players, as well as coach Pep Guardiola.

However, Guardiola has reportedly told the players he will remain at the club regardless of the outcome of the appeal to CAS.

Steven Gerrard is "really, really interested" to see if action will be taken against Manchester City amid reports a Premier League punishment could see them stripped of their 2013-14 title.

On Friday, City were hit with a two-season ban from European competition and a €30million fine by UEFA for "serious breaches" of its Financial Fair Play regulations.

The club have denied any wrongdoing and immediately announced their intention to lodge an appeal against the ruling with the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

A domestic punishment is one possible outcome as the Premier League conducts its own investigation to see if its rules were broken in the four-year period in question, between 2012 and 2016.

The Citizens won the Premier League in 2013-14, finishing two points ahead of Liverpool, meaning any potential retrospective points deduction could benefit the Reds and their former captain, Gerrard.

But with the process set to be a lengthy one, Gerrard is not getting ahead of himself.

"I read that myself," the Rangers manager told reporters when it was put to him that City could face domestic action as a result of their alleged indiscretions.

"We will wait and see. From a UEFA point of view, it is obviously a real strong sentence or punishment. I'm sure they will appeal so we will wait and see what the outcome is on that.

"Then we will see whether the Premier League act from there, but if you look at the severity of the punishment from UEFA, something has gone badly wrong.

"So, I'm really interested to see the outcome of that. Until the [potential] punishment from the Premier League, I won't comment further. But I'm really, really interested in it...for obvious reasons.

"It's all ifs and buts. It is what it is. Manchester City were champions. As I sit here right now, congratulations to them. They are champions. Until things develop, if they develop, it's all ifs and buts.

"I've got nothing to say on the matter. All I say is I'm very interested because of the severity of what UEFA have put out there."

The probe into City's financial affairs was prompted by a series of allegations published by German magazine Der Spiegel in November 2018, which drew on documents purportedly obtained by whistleblowers Football Leaks.

Following an investigation, the Adjudicatory Chamber of UEFA's Club Financial Control Body found City guilty of "overstating its sponsorship revenue in its accounts and in the break-even information submitted to UEFA between 2012 and 2016", allegations the club denied.

Pep Guardiola's future at Manchester City continues to dominate discussions – and it seemingly still remains unclear.

Talk around the Spaniard has intensified after City were handed a two-season Champions League ban by UEFA for "serious breaches" of Financial Fair Play rules, although they deny wrongdoing and intend to appeal.

But will Guardiola, who is contracted at the Etihad Stadium until 2021, stay or go?

 

TOP STORY – GUARDIOLA TO STAY AT MAN CITY DESPITE BAN

Guardiola will remain at City next season whether they have their ban overturned or not, according to the Mirror.

However, Tuttosport reports the chances of the former Barcelona head coach leaving City are "70 per cent".

Guardiola has reportedly suggested previously he intends to honour his contract at City.

ROUND-UP

- Chelsea are making their move for Jadon Sancho. France Football reports the Premier League club have started talks with the Borussia Dortmund star, who has attracted interest from numerous European giants, including Manchester United.

- Staying at Stamford Bridge and Chelsea are set to pay £23million (€27.7m) for Inter midfielder Matias Vecino at the end of the season, according to the Daily Express.

- After strong links during the close season, Bayern Munich's interest in Manchester City attacker Leroy Sane has cooled, according to Kicker. Sane tore his anterior cruciate ligament in August.

- Staying at Bayern and Kicker reports the Bundesliga giants are keeping tabs on Liverpool's interest in RB Leipzig forward Timo Werner. Werner has been linked with the European giants after scoring 20 goals in 22 Bundesliga games this season.

- Alexander Isak's form for Real Sociedad this season is leading to interest, but Mundo Deportivo reports clubs wanting the forward at the end of the campaign must pay €70m. Former club Borussia Dortmund reportedly have an option to buy Isak for €30m, but that only comes into play in 2021.

- Real Valladolid defender Mohammed Salisu has impressed this season and the 20-year-old is on Atletico Madrid's radar, according to Marca.

Raheem Sterling is focused on Manchester City, according to his agent, amid reports linking him with a move to Real Madrid.

Speculation over the futures of several City players has intensified in the wake of the two-season Champions League ban handed to the club by UEFA for "serious breaches" of Financial Fair Play regulations, although they deny wrongdoing and intend to appeal.

Sterling, who is contracted at City until 2023, is reportedly a target for LaLiga giants Madrid.

But the 25-year-old forward's agent, Aidy Ward, said Sterling's focus was on the Premier League club.

"Raheem is solely focused on Manchester City and will not be distracted by any talk of transfers to any club at the moment," he told the Mirror and the Daily Mail.

Sterling, who arrived at City from Liverpool in 2015, has scored 20 goals in 35 games in all competitions this season but is sidelined with a hamstring injury.

Real Madrid and Barcelona target Lautaro Martinez is eager to play for Inter, insisted club CEO Giuseppe Marotta.

Martinez continues to be linked with a move away from Serie A side Inter – LaLiga giants Madrid and Barca as well as Manchester United and Manchester City reportedly interested.

LaLiga holders Barca have been linked to Martinez as they eye a long-term replacement for veteran forward Luis Suarez.

Marotta was asked about Martinez prior to Sunday's 2-1 loss to Scudetto rivals Lazio in Rome.

"Lautaro is improving, he is a very young lad who I think is above all eager to wear this glorious jersey and grow professionally," Marotta told Sky Sport Italia.

"As I always say, players only leave Inter when they point towards that exit."

Martinez has taken centre stage alongside Romelu Lukaku since Mauro Icardi's initial loan move to French champions Paris Saint-Germain at the start of the season.

The 22-year-old has scored 16 goals across all competitions for Inter, who are third and three points behind leaders Juventus in Serie A.

Argentina international Martinez has netted 25 goals in total since arriving from Racing Club in 2018.

Mikel Arteta insisted he is "not conflicted at all" by Manchester City's looming UEFA ban after Arsenal thrashed Newcastle United to move within sight of the European places in the Premier League.

Former City assistant coach Arteta oversaw a 4-0 defeat of Newcastle on Sunday, but the news Pep Guardiola's side are facing a two-year suspension from European competition dominated the weekend.

While City have announced an intention to appeal the ban, there is the possibility fifth could now secure Champions League qualification, with the Europa League potentially in reach for a team in eighth depending on who wins the domestic cups.

Arsenal are 10th, lifted by second-half goals from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Nicolas Pepe, Mesut Ozil and Alexandre Lacazette, but Arteta was not looking to revel in his former employers' gloom.

"We don't know anything about it," he told Sky Sports. "We will have to wait and see.

"It's very difficult. I'm not conflicted at all. I want the best for Manchester City, the best for Pep, for the players.

"I love a lot of people there and I am so grateful for the time I spent there. The only thing I want for them is positive and good things.

"I just want to do the best we can for Arsenal, to achieve ourselves what we deserve."

Arsenal were poor before half-time against Newcastle, making a slow start and surviving the occasional scare, and Arteta is not getting carried away.

"We want to go game by game because, 10 days ago, I was disappointed by the game at Burnley," he said. "A lot of things are going to happen.

"It's up to us and how consistent we can be from now until the end of the season. If we want to have a chance [of qualifying for Europe] in the last few games, we have to put wins together."

Asked what Arteta told his team after the tough first half, captain Aubameyang said: "'Just keep going'. We started not at our best.

"But in the second half, we put in some more energy and we went through and scored the first, the second, the third."

On the coach's overall impact at Emirates Stadium since his December appointment, the striker added: "We feel better. We have an idea of playing that's very clear.

"We'll try to maintain this level. We are happy to keep going like this."

Jose Mourinho jokingly questioned whether Manchester City's two-season European ban for breaching UEFA's Financial Fair Play (FFP) regulations could end up giving him another Premier League title.

UEFA announced the sanction for City, as well as a €30million fine, on Friday for "overstating its sponsorship revenue in its accounts and in the break-even information submitted to UEFA between 2012 and 2016".

The reigning Premier League champions criticised the process and announced their intention to appeal the suspension at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).

It has since been reported that City could be stripped of their 2014 Premier League title but Mourinho opted against making an extensive evaluation of UEFA's decision after Tottenham's 3-2 win over Aston Villa on Sunday.

However, he quipped he would be more interested if a chance arose for the Manchester United side he led to second in 2017-18 to be retrospectively awarded the crown claimed that season by City.

Pep Guardiola's team finished that campaign with a record 100 points, 19 more than United amassed in second.

Mourinho said: "My view is that I didn't lose one single minute analysing what UEFA and FIFA have to analyse.

"If I go into that analysis I have to ask if the team that finished second in 2018 is going to be champion, yes or no? That would be interesting. But jokes apart, I just wait calmly."

Should the sanction on City remain in place it would mean the team that finishes fifth in the Premier League this season would earn Champions League qualification.

Spurs assumed that position thanks to Son's 94th-minute winner at Villa Park, but Mourinho acknowledged there is plenty of competition.

"I don't think about fourth or fifth, I just think about doing the best we can, getting the most points we can, the best position we can and at the end of the season we will see where we are," he said.

"Because maybe we are sixth or seventh and then it doesn't matter if the fifth goes to the Champions League, so we have a big fight.

"You could see [on Saturday] Liverpool first against the last [Norwich City], you could see today Villa fighting to stay in the division and us fighting for the top positions, how difficult it was.

"This is the Premier League. So when we speak about the fifth, I think Wolves, Sheffield United, Manchester United, Arsenal, Everton, everybody looks to the table and they say 'we can do it' and they can, so it's going to be very hard."

Manchester City's two-season Champions League ban could be about to reverberate through the Premier League.

Pep Guardiola's future had been a topic of discussion prior to UEFA handing down sanctions for "serious" Financial Fair Play breaches and the loss of European competition has fuelled suggestions the Catalan could quit the club.

Media reports indicate City already have alternatives in mind, and their search for a successor looks set to pose problems for Premier League rivals.

 

TOP STORY – CITY EYE PEP REPLACEMENTS

Mauricio Pochettino and Brendan Rodgers are among the contenders to take over at City if Guardiola walks, according to The Telegraph.

The report states the pair "would be in the running" to become the club's next manager in the event their current boss decides to leave at the end of the season.

Ex-Tottenham manager Pochettino recently admitted he would "love" to return to the Premier League, telling the 'In The Pink' podcast: "It's going to be difficult, I know, and for now it's a moment to wait and we'll see what happens."

The Argentinian has been heavily linked to City's cross-town rivals Manchester United, while Rodgers is tied to Leicester City until 2025.

ROUND-UP

- Juventus-linked Guardiola might not be the only big name headed for the Etihad Stadium exit. The Sun claims Real Madrid will launch an "all-out assault" in a bid to sign Raheem Sterling.

- City could potentially even be docked Premier League points for the same Financial Fair Play breaches that compelled UEFA to act, says The Guardian.

- Meanwhile, over at Old Trafford, United have set their asking price for Paul Pogba at £130million, reports the Daily Star.

- As for potential arrivals, United are interested in Norwich City pair Todd Cantwell and Max Aarons plus West Ham midfielder Declan Rice, states the Daily Mail.

- Serie A side Milan are no closer to extending Gianluigi Donnarumma's deal beyond June 2021, according to Tuttomercato, and LaLiga title contenders Madrid are monitoring the situation.

- Sky Sport Germany continues to link former Bayern Munich boss Niko Kovac to manager-less Bundesliga outfit Hertha Berlin, who saw Jurgen Klinsmann leave earlier in the week.

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