Aymeric Laporte and several of his Manchester City team-mates have expressed frustration over Gabriel Jesus seeing a late strike against Tottenham disallowed by VAR.

City and Spurs were drawing 2-2 at Etihad Stadium on Saturday when Jesus struck in added time, firing into the bottom-right corner from inside the box.

But celebrations were cut short by VAR with replays showing the ball hit Laporte on the arm during the build-up - and the goal was duly disallowed.

A frustrated Pep Guardiola told Sky Sports "they need to fix" VAR, City having seen video replay decisions go against them in a game with Spurs for the second time this year following April's Champions League drama, when Raheem Sterling had a goal disallowed for offside.

And Guardiola's players steadily followed suit on social media following the game, led by Laporte.

"Tough game! Learning to get used to external factors! Keep working!" the centre-back posted on Twitter.

Jesus was visibly upset by the call, despite referee Michael Oliver attempting to calm him down on the field.

"Great game, lads. Well played, but unfortunately we didn’t get the win," the Brazil striker said. "We scored the goal we needed, but....."

Kyle Walker was at fault for the second Spurs goal, losing Lucas Moura in the City box, but he also pointed a finger of blame at the technology.

"Vary frustrating today. But both teams fought well," he said on Twitter, with a deliberate typo. "Well done to Spurs. Always good to see the boys and fans."

Ilkay Gundogan, meanwhile, agrees with Guardiola's suggestion that rules involving VAR need to be amended for the good of the game.

"Today's VAR decision is really hard to take," the midfielder wrote on social media.

"Any attacker that commits handball, intentional or not, is now ruled a free-kick?? And if you’re defending it’s fine?? It only disadvantages the attacking team.

"In my opinion, this rule needs to be changed."

Mauricio Pochettino accepts Tottenham remain vulnerable to losing players while the European transfer window remains open.

Although the deadline to sign new players has passed for Premier League clubs, teams on the continent can still add to their squads.

September 2 is the last day clubs from Europe can buy players, with Christian Eriksen among the Spurs stars linked with exits.

Eriksen is into the last year of his contract and is reportedly a target for Real Madrid, while Jan Vertonghen's deal is also expiring.

Pochettino, though, is unwilling to blame uncertainty over his squad for Spurs being outplayed at Manchester City on Saturday, his side claiming a 2-2 draw at the home of the champions after Gabriel Jesus' late goal was disallowed by VAR.

"I think it's not an excuse. I am not complaining about the situation, only explaining it," he told reporters. "Of course, we still need to wait to see what happens with our squad. Maybe some players are still in a situation where things can happen.

"We are not a closed squad where nobody is going to move. Maybe nobody will move. The circumstances are that things are still open. The market in Europe makes things difficult in the way that we work and this type of situation doesn't help the coaching staff to create a good dynamic.

"Of course, we are going to start our sixth season at Tottenham and I think we're world champions at adapting ourselves to different circumstances. It's a great experience. We are going to be one of the best coaching staffs in the world at adapting to circumstances.

"Today when you play against a team like Manchester City, with all the circumstances we have inside our team, I think 2-2 and a point is massive.

"Credit to the team and everyone who is working hard, trying to keep going, working, trying to not be focused on the circumstances, just positive, faith and hope. That is massive.

"I don't know if people realise or not. I don't care about that. Only that the circumstances are not the best and the challenge is massive. So happy because the will of the players, their commitment and with all the circumstances we're trying to get a good result for the club and for our fans."

City thought they had claimed all three points in added time when Jesus finished well, but the goal was ruled out after a VAR check found the ball hit Aymeric Laporte on the arm in the build-up.

"I accept now that the VAR is in football. I was a little bit critical in the past," Pochettino added. "That wasn't nice for the people to hear from me. I love football that was 30 years ago or more.

"Still I am watching football from the past. I love it and the way the referee was the boss. It's not another person who can make a decision. It's up to him if he sees it or not, not whether it was wrong or right.

"Now we give it to technology and the new era in football. We're going to accept the rules. I will accept in the future because for sure in the future some decisions will be against us. I'm going to accept it in the same way with the same face. The rules are the rules and the VAR is here."

Pep Guardiola insists the use of VAR must be more consistent after Manchester City were denied a late winner in the 2-2 draw against Tottenham.

Gabriel Jesus thought he had slammed in a last-gasp third goal for City, only for VAR to chalk the strike off due to a handball from Aymeric Laporte - in scenes similar to those from the epic Champions League clash against Spurs last season.

While the video review system came to Spurs' rescue, it did not aid City earlier in proceedings, when Erik Lamela clearly man-handled Rodri from a corner.

Guardiola was swift to point out the discrepancy, joking VAR was taking a break during the incident. 

"In the first half, the penalty? Ask the two referees around the corner. Then go to London to ask the VAR," he said in a news conference.

"Go to London, ask the big bosses. I'm not VAR. They make an example to Premier League manages, which I saw. But what can I say?

"It was a penalty. Lamela goes over Rodri, and it was a penalty. Maybe in that moment, VAR was taking a coffee.

"Why is it not handball with [Fernando] Llorente in the Champions League quarter-final last season, but why is it hands today? Why?

"That is what needs to be clarified. Why is [Andreas] Christensen not hands, and the Wolves game is hands? 

"It's a pity because it's the last minutes. We lived through the Champions League and today it's the last action and we scored a goal. But ask the VAR guys."

Jesus replaced Sergio Aguero, who appeared to argue with Guardiola as he left the pitch, but City's boss shrugged off any suggestion of a serious dispute.

"He believed that I was unhappy with him for the goal we conceded," Guardiola said.

"But it was just the fact that I wanted movement in that moment and Aguero could not do that. But it's part of our game, it's emotions and we talked after and talked during. I love him a lot."

Pep Guardiola said the use of VAR has to change after Manchester City dramatically drew 2-2 at home to Tottenham in the Premier League.

Gabriel Jesus seemed to have struck an injury-time winner for the champions on Saturday but a VAR check ruled Aymeric Laporte had handled the ball in the build-up.

For City, there were clear parallels with the Champions League quarter-final against Spurs in April, where Raheem Sterling's late winner was also cancelled by VAR as Mauricio Pochettino's side progressed on away goals.

Guardiola feels changes have to be made to the way VAR is used in football, particularly when it comes to applying updated rules such as hand ball and goalkeepers needing to stay on their lines for penalties.

"Deja vu. I thought we left that situation in Tottenham in the Champions League last season. But it is the same," Guardiola said to Sky Sports. 

"The referee and VAR disallow it. It's the second time [it's happened] - it's tough. It's honestly tough but it's the way it is.

"They have to fix it. The whistle inside matches now isn't quite clear. But they believe it's hands. Sometimes it's not - against [Spurs striker Fernando] Llorente in the Champions League.

"It was incredible it wasn't a penalty in the first half [when Erik Lamela tussled with Rodri in the box] but VAR said it wasn't and then at the end they did [disallow Jesus' goal]."

Expanding on his theme in a post-match news conference, Guardiola added: "It was hands for the Llorente goal in the quarter-finals in the Champions League.

"At Wolves it was hands, but [Andreas] Christensen in Liverpool v Chelsea [the UEFA Super Cup] was not hands. And then the goalkeepers must stay on their lines in penalties, and the last penalty Adrian was not on the line.

"Always we will have these types of situations, so that's what it is, accept it."

Guardiola and opposite number Pochettino were engrossed in conversation during the VAR ruling and the Spurs boss was more accepting of the technology's use.

"I'm very pleased with a point and but also knowing we need to improve," Pochettino told BBC Sport. "We are in a process where we need to improve in all areas and the team is going to improve step by step, but we need time.

"It was an unbelievable goal [Lucas' equaliser]. Always when you play a team like Manchester City, you have to play your best.

"We need to accept that [VAR]. I was a little bit critical of VAR but now we have to accept the rules. Now it benefits us. No doubt it won't benefit us at other times. It's a rule we need to accept."

Manchester City are not perfect after all. VAR can stop them.

Last weekend's 5-0 demolition of West Ham at London Stadium led to some suggestions the 2019-20 Premier League title race could become a procession, with Pep Guardiola's side in irrepressible form and Raheem Sterling hitting a hat-trick.

But despite being completely outplayed at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday, Tottenham were able to claim a 2-2 draw that may offer hints as to how this City team, winners of an unprecedented domestic treble last term, can be halted.

It is fair to say City could and probably should have been out of sight with a rampant first-half display, the 2-1 scoreline hardly a fair reflection of their total dominance in the opening 45 minutes.

Kevin De Bruyne ran the game, as he did in spectacular style in that remarkable Champions League quarter-final second leg against the same opposition in April, when VAR also came to the fore in memorable fashion.

But Erik Lamela cancelled out Sterling's headed opener by converting the only shot Spurs managed before the break, the visitors displaying a clinical edge Guardiola's men lacked.

City retook the lead before the interval, De Bruyne providing his second assist by laying a low cross on a plate for Sergio Aguero, but Spurs could expose defensive weaknesses in the champions even though they were mainly camped in their own half.

Set-pieces have been City's soft underbelly throughout Guardiola's reign but the arrival of Rodri, a club-record signing from Atletico Madrid and a towering presence at the base of midfield, was supposed to help them defend corners better.

A mere 19 seconds after his introduction for Harry Winks, though, Lucas Moura rose above Kyle Walker in City's problem near-post area to flick home the equaliser for Spurs.

It was the first corner the champions had conceded, and they defended it dreadfully. Walker turned to look for someone to blame but it was the right-back who did not properly track the run of Lucas as City's preferred zonal marking system failed.

Mauricio Pochettino's side rarely looked like going on to win the match but they managed to keep City out despite some erratic goalkeeping from captain Hugo Lloris, who was making his 300th appearance for the club.

And a flashpoint on the sidelines when Guardiola hauled off Aguero after 65 minutes, the striker replaced by Gabriel Jesus, perhaps indicated everything is not quite rosy in the City garden.

Aguero made his displeasure clear and, while it is never a surprise to see a player unhappy to be withdrawn, the dissent he showed to a clearly annoyed Guardiola was notable. Such rows are typically kept to the dressing room rather than played out in front of the world's watching media.

Guardiola put the incident down to "emotion" and something of a misunderstanding, but the pair have seemingly had an uneasy relationship. Guardiola often preferred to use Jesus in attack during his first season with City before Aguero's increased work rate and continued weight of goals convinced his manager he should be first choice.

It was Jesus who forced a late winner only for VAR to rule Aymeric Laporte handled the ball in the build-up to his cool finish. City fans, who had to watch VAR cancel out a late Sterling goal for offside in the European tie between the sides four months ago – a moment that sent Spurs into the semi-finals – could hardly believe it.

In the first half City, could also have easily been given a penalty when Lamela appeared to drag Rodri down in the Spurs box. Guardiola will hope VAR decisions even themselves out over the course of the season.

With an element of fortune, Spurs held out despite allowing the champions 30 shots to their own meagre haul of three, with City now already two points behind last season's title rivals Liverpool.

That heavy win over West Ham never really proved anything new, but the title race is certainly alive now.

Tottenham winger Lucas Moura made an instant impact by scoring 19 seconds after coming off the bench against Manchester City.

The Brazil international was brought on for Harry Winks in the 56th minute and glanced home Erik Lamela's cross with his first touch of the ball to make it 2-2 at the Etihad Stadium.

But Lucas is still some way short of the eight seconds it took Sammy Ameobi to score for Newcastle United as a second-half replacement against Spurs in 2014.

Below are the quickest ever goals by substitutes in Premier League history, using data supplied by Opta.

Sammy Ameobi, 8 seconds: (Newcastle v Tottenham at White Hart Lane, 26/10/2014)
Antoine Sibierski, 15 seconds: (Wigan Athletic v Derby County at Pride Park, 12/01/2008)
Andrew Johnson, 17 seconds: (Fulham v Wolves at Molineux, 23/04/2011)
Gerard Deulofeu, 17 seconds: (Watford v Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium, 09/03/2019)
Yakubu Aiyegbeni, 18 seconds: (Everton v Blackburn Rovers at Ewood Park, 17/04/2010)
Apostolos Vellios, 18 seconds: (Everton v Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, 15/10/2011)
Lucas Moura, 19 seconds: (Tottenham v Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium, 17/08/2019)
Andre Bikey, 19 seconds: (Reading v Chelsea at the Madejski Stadium, 15/08/2007)
Stelios Giannakopoulos, 19 seconds: (Bolton Wanderers v Tottenham at White Hart Lane, 26/04/2008)
Matt Derbyshire, 22 seconds: (Blackburn v Middlesbrough at the Riverside Stadium, 11/08/2007)
Shane Long, 22 seconds: (Reading v Newcastle at the Madejski Stadium, 27/10/2007)
Chris Smalling, 22 seconds: (Manchester United v Burnley at Old Trafford, 11/02/2015)
Sam Vokes, 22 seconds: (Burnley v Watford at Vicarage Road, 07/04/2018)

Manchester City were denied a last-gasp winner by VAR as Lucas Moura's goal secured a 2-2 draw for Tottenham, ending the Premier League champions' winning run.

Lucas scored 19 seconds after coming on from the bench to level things up at 2-2, but Gabriel Jesus thought he had settled Saturday's thriller in stoppage time. 

In scenes reminiscent of April's Champions League epic, however, City were denied a 16th straight league win when VAR spotted a handball by Aymeric Laporte.

City had hit the front through Raheem Sterling, with Sergio Aguero nudging the home side back ahead after Erik Lamela's equaliser.

And, with Bernardo Silva having hit the crossbar and Danny Rose making a goal-line clearance, City's misery was compounded when Jesus' would-be winner was chalked off.

John Stones missed out on Manchester City's squad to face Tottenham due to a thigh injury, the Premier League champions have confirmed.

England international Stones lost his starting place during the closing months of last season but was selected by Pep Guardiola for the Community Shield triumph over Liverpool and the 5-0 thrashing of West Ham last weekend.

Nevertheless, Nicolas Otamendi will partner Aymeric Laporte at the heart of the City defence against Spurs on Saturday, with Stones on the sidelines.

"John Stones has suffered a rectus femoris strain and will miss today's game at home to Tottenham Hotspur," read a club statement.

"The defender will be assessed and a prognosis is likely next week."

Otamendi comes in as one of four changes made by Guardiola, with club captain David Silva, Riyad Mahrez and Gabriel Jesus making way for Ilkay Gundogan, Bernardo Silva and Sergio Aguero.

Christian Eriksen starts for Spurs after his telling impact from the bench during the 3-1 win over Aston Villa last time out. Lucas Moura drops down to take his spot among the replacements.

Gareth Bale looks set to get another chance at Real Madrid after he was named in their starting XI for the opening LaLiga game of the season at Celta Vigo.

Bale seemed certain to depart Madrid after six seasons with coach Zinedine Zidane, whom the Wales star has a rocky relationship with, making it clear during pre-season he wanted the forward to leave.

But, after a move to Jiangsu Suning in the Chinese Super League collapsed and no other realistic suitors emerged, Bale has been reintegrated into the Madrid squad.

The Cardiff-born forward has consistently delivered across a trophy-laden spell, but he often lived in the shadow of the imperious Cristiano Ronaldo – who was worshipped above all others at the Santiago Bernabeu before his departure to Juventus last year – and suffered with injuries.

There is no club in world football with higher expectations of its players than Madrid and Bale has at times been forced to toil under what many would consider unfair scrutiny and criticism, but an examination of his record in the Spanish capital shows his value.

Goal return to rival Ronaldo 

Bale left Tottenham as a once orthodox winger who had blossomed into a goal-scoring force on the flank and has continued that development in Madrid.

He scored 22 times in all competitions during his first season and added another 80 over the next five to join an exclusive club of players to have hit a century of goals for Los Blancos.

Among that group is Brazil legend Ronaldo, a beloved figure but one who finished his Madrid career with only two more goals (104) than the oft-maligned Bale's 102. Just 12 others have struck more for a club with a glittering 117-year history.

Bale has laid on 55 more - more than the talented Isco - during his time in Madrid, and has been responsible for the sixth-most goal involvements in LaLiga, even as the club stuttered to three third-place finishes and a single title.

Standing tall on Europe's grand stage

Madrid's success under Zidane has come largely in Europe, for which Bale can take a good portion of credit.

The Wales international fired his team ahead in the 2014 triumph over rivals Atletico Madrid, notched an assist and a successful spot-kick against the same opposition two years later, and then returned from injury in time for the crushing victory over Juventus in Cardiff in 2017.

That is all without mentioning his match-winning impact in Kiev.

Bale scored twice off the bench in 2018, the first a bicycle kick that dented Liverpool's nascent comeback and the second a speculative long-range shot that smashed it into pieces.

The brace elevated him to what is now a selection of seven players - including Ronaldo - to have struck two goals or more in a Champions League final.

 

Breaking new ground for British footballers

Criticism of Bale for failing to communicate with the media in Spanish dwarfed the plaudits directed his way for venturing where few of his compatriots had gone before.

Then aged 24, the Southampton academy product spurned reported interest from Premier League heavyweights Manchester United to become the third Welshman - and first in more than 25 years - to play in LaLiga.

He is the leading British scorer (78 goals) and appearance maker (155) in the competition's history, relegating David Beckham to second place in the latter category.

Yet, while Bale has struggled to gain Zidane's acceptance, reportedly in part because of his reluctance to assimilate to life in Spain, the France legend praised Beckham for being a "truly great professional" as recently as 2013.

That was despite him once admitting his "friendship with David is little. On the pitch, we understand each other perfectly, but as I don't speak English and he doesn't speak Spanish we are a little bit lost."

Bale might justifiably feel his efforts deserve greater affection - but now he has another chance to win supporters and Zidane over.

Mauricio Pochettino says winning a trophy this season is a purely personal objective and not a barometer for Tottenham as a club.

On the eve of his sixth campaign in charge, Spurs boss Pochettino admitted the time had come for him to deliver silverware.

The comments contrasted with his previously held view that a trophy was less important than cementing a place in the Premier League's top four.

Tottenham achieved that top-four aim last term while reaching the Champions League final, which they lost 2-0 to Liverpool.

Pochettino claims his goals have not changed since that result and are not necessarily an accurate measure of success.

"Of course it was always my priority [to win trophies], but it was a big priority to help the club," Pochettino told Sky Sports.

"It doesn't change that. Always my priority is to win, to win games and trophies.

"I think a few days ago someone asked me what my aim was for this season.

"My personal objective is to win a trophy, but that doesn't mean that winning a trophy is compulsory, or that it will be an unsuccessful season if we do not win a trophy.

"But personally, if at the end we do not win a trophy, for myself that is going to be an unsuccessful season.

"But that does not mean that it will be unsuccessful for the club. That is for myself, not the collective."

After his third incredible assist of the night, Kevin De Bruyne's raw emotion spilled out in an outburst part-gladiatorial and part, well… odd.

"This is our house, our house! This is our house!" he exclaimed repeatedly, pointing at the Etihad Stadium turf after Sergio Aguero put Manchester City ahead on aggregate for the first time in a helter-skelter Champions League quarter-final.

Unfortunately for De Bruyne and City, Fernando Llorente snuck in through the back door before Aguero triggered the hyper-sensitive alarm that is VAR, meaning Raheem Sterling's apparent last-gasp winner was ruled out.

The heartache continued in that weekend's Premier League rematch as the Belgium midfielder hobbled out of a knife-edge 1-0 win – a result pivotal in them claiming back-to-back Premier League titles.

While De Bruyne performed "beyond the normal situations", in the words of Pep Guardiola, during City's dominant 2017-18 campaign, last term failed to get off the ground. He seemed to be at full flight during that undulating Tottenham clash, only for a fourth injury of the season to bring him back to earth.

The table beside Messi

Guardiola has never been short of warm words for the player he inherited as a record signing from Manuel Pellegrini in 2016.

His first season in Manchester was one of struggle, in terms of bringing a squad in need of an overhaul in certain positions up to speed with his demands. De Bruyne was never a concern.

"Messi is on a table on his own. No-one else is allowed. But the table beside, Kevin can sit there," he said after watching his star turn open the scoring in a 4-0 win over Bournemouth in September 2016.

De Bruyne's exploits over the next two years lived up to that lofty status until he was halted by medial knee ligament damage in August last year. A further knee setback before the turn of the year gave way to muscular problems during his subsequent returns.

Guardiola seems keen not to apply too much pressure upon what essentially amounts to the third act of his City career.

"I think Kevin has the same motivation as always. What happened last season, it does not mean it will happen this season," he said before Tottenham's latest visit to the Etihad Stadium on Saturday.

"Every midfield player has his own qualities. Of course, Kevin has special qualities that [other players] don't have."

Mentally done

De Bruyne has rarely lacked confidence in those qualities, to the extent he was unfairly labelled as a troublemaker during formative years with Gent and Genk.

But the 28-year-old conceded his seemingly unshakable belief was tested by last season's trails.

"After the Tottenham injury, mentally I was done," he told BBC Sport. "Four injuries in a year is a lot."

Those comments came after De Bruyne re-announced himself with a blistering cameo in the 6-0 FA Cup final demolition of Watford in May.

"I feel somewhat blessed to end the season in this way and show everyone that I am still the same and hopefully next season will be better," he added, having scored City's third at Wembley before cutting their beleaguered opponents to pieces.

Boring, boring City

There were complaints over the perceived sterility of City's domination following the cup final, with a similar tone accompanying some reaction to a comparatively emphatic opening Premier League win at West Ham last weekend.

Such an analysis obviously gives little weight to the suffocating pressure of last season's title race, where three clutch 1-0 wins in the final five games helped to get City over the line. It ignores the beguiling brilliance of the Silvas, Bernardo and David, Sterling's blossoming into a world-class talent, Vincent Kompany's piledriver and that Tottenham game.

However, look at the Gabriel Jesus goal disallowed for a marginal offside at London Stadium last time out and you will find the nub of frustration.

It featured slick, quick exchanges of passes, a burst towards the byline, a cutback and a tap-in. One of those City goals. A Guardiola goal. Wonderfully crafted but also somewhat formulaic.

Key creator

Expect to see plenty more of those, potentially this weekend if Mauricio Pochettino elects to expose Tottenham's flanks with a midfield diamond. But De Bruyne is the man who brings something more urgent, more direct and more visceral to the most talent-stacked creative department in world football.

According to Opta numbers, De Bruyne averaged 5.8 long passes per 90 minutes in 2017-18, with the number climbing to 6.1 last season. All the other players frequently selected in Guardiola's playmaking positions attempted fewer than three in each match of the 100-point campaign.

Bernardo Silva hit 3.6 in 2018-19, with Ilkay Gundogan's return of 4.3 owing much to his deployment in the holding role when injuries hindered Fernandinho during the second half of the season.

De Bruyne's successful long passes in each match (3.8 for 2017-18 preceding 4.2) are also the highest figures for every midfielder in the past two seasons.

Since August 2017, he and David Silva are level in creating 2.2 chances from open play per 90 minutes, although the Belgian's 218 minutes per assist leave him out in front. His "big chances" created in each match reads 0.7, with the elder Silva next on 0.5.

Those numbers are illuminated by every scything, rapier throughball and each driving run with bad intentions.

Such special qualities will be Tottenham's concern when De Bruyne returns to his house for the first time this season. It will be reasonable to ask, "are you not entertained?".

Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino joked he would like to face Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola in the boxing ring.

Pochettino's Tottenham will travel to Manchester for Saturday's Premier League blockbuster against reigning champions City at the Etihad Stadium.

Spurs boss Pochettino has enjoyed success against Guardiola after dramatically knocking out City in the Champions League quarter-finals last season.

Pochettino said he is ready to go head-to-head with Guardiola, though he insisted football is a collective sport.

"For me, the best thing to see who is the best is to go there, brave managers, put like [heavyweight boxer] Anthony Joshua and create a ring and fight," Pochettino said.

"I don't know [who would win]. He is strong. You don't know. That is a joke. But it is not me with another coach.

"It is not me and Pep. I am so brave on the touchline because I know that is never going to happen, so I shout and everything.

"That is the point – I love to compare my team with another team. Football is a collective sport. It's not a personal competition.

"Maybe another way is to put the ball in the middle with two goals and play one-on-one. Maybe we need a competition between the 20 managers."

 

 

 

Pep Guardiola sees no reason why Raheem Sterling cannot break through the 30-goal barrier for Manchester City this season.

England winger Sterling has started the new campaign in sparkling form, opening the scoring against Liverpool in the Community Shield before netting a hat-trick in last weekend's 5-0 demolition of West Ham.

The 24-year-old hit 17 Premier League goals last season and 25 in all competitions as City won an unprecedented domestic treble.

Sterling's West Ham treble brought up 50 top-flight goals in City colours, 38 of which have come since the start of the 2017-18 campaign.

Guardiola has no desire to set targets for his forward line but has no doubt the ex-Liverpool man's numbers can improve further.

"Yeah, hopefully. It will be good for him and for the team," he said, ahead of Saturday's keenly anticipated home game against Tottenham.

"When he's in front of the goal, he puts it in the net. So, he can do it, yeah. He scored 25 [last season] and 25 to 30 is only five goals. He can do it.

"But I don't know. I never spoke with Sergio [Aguero] or Gabriel [Jesus] or Raz, with any of the people up front, about what are their dreams and targets and these kinds of things. I don't know, honestly. They are happy when they are scoring goals.

"I think goals are a consequence of the way we play - their mood, how the team's playing, no injuries. 

"I wouldn't judge him if he scored 30 goals, or 35 or 20. When he scores goals, I'm happy. But if he does what he has to do for him and the team, it's enough."

 

Guardiola has experienced a number of enjoyable tussles with Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino, dating back to the Argentinian claiming his first senior coaching win at Espanyol with a victory over mighty city rivals Barcelona in 2009.

When that rivalry transferred from Catalonia to the Premier League in 2016, new City boss Guardiola won his first six straight top-flight games before his side were ransacked in a 2-0 defeat to Spurs at White Hart Lane.

City have not lost a league game to Tottenham since, winning the past four, but were dumped out of the Champions League in April when Pochettino's men prevailed in a dramatic quarter-final.

"About Tottenham, I think my colleague can speak better about his team," Guardiola said. "I said from the first day when we played at White Hart Lane and lost 2-0, I never said a wrong word about the capacity, quality and possibilities of this team, the manager and the club.

"I said many times, it is not necessary to repeat again. They are a strong team, a good team."

It was not hard to detect a slightly terse tone to the praise of a man who took umbridge at Guardiola labelling Tottenham as "the Harry Kane" team in 2017.

Asked how good a job Pochettino had done in north London, Guardiola indicated his praise might fall on deaf ears.

"Overwhelming, extraordinary, I said many, many times," he added,

"I don’t know if Pochettino receives many compliments as other managers like me, I don’t think so.

"My opinion about him is high standards, even if he doesn’t believe me. He’s a top, top, top, top manager."

Manchester City take on Tottenham in an early-season Premier League blockbuster on Saturday, pitting two of English football's surest things against one another.

Harry Kane typically stepped up when Spurs needed him on the opening weekend, netting a second-half brace to see off freshly promoted Aston Villa.

The fact City's 5-0 rout of West Ham featured a hat-trick from Raheem Sterling also felt somewhat par for the course.

Two leading lights in Gareth Southgate's England team, Kane and Sterling have operated at an increasingly prolific level over recent seasons – something that undoubtedly bodes well for the Three Lions with Euro 2020 on the horizon.

Here we look at the rise and rise of two phenomenal forwards.

 

2014-15

After doing his time in the loan ranks, Kane flourished during Mauricio Pochettino's first season in charge at Spurs. His 21 goals placed him second behind Sergio Aguero in the Golden Boot standings. Add in four assists and Kane averaged a goal involvement every 103 minutes.

The year after Liverpool's close-shave in a title race with City (sound familiar?), Sterling chipped in with seven goals and seven assists – a goal involvement every 218 minutes as Brendan Rodgers' Anfield tenure ran into problems and speculation mounted over the winger's future.

2015-16

Sterling sealed an acrimonious move to City and endured a mixed campaign. Six goals and just two assists meant his goal involvement average dropped to 241 minutes.

Kane, meanwhile, was going from strength to strength as he claimed the first of back-to-back Golden Boots.

He only supplemented his 25 goals with a solitary assist, however, for a goal involvement every 130 minutes. This placed him below Leicester City's title-winning heroes Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez in the overall league standings for goals and assists.

 

2016-17

Kane bolstered his all-round game and hit a sublime level as Spurs spent a large chunk of the campaign as Chelsea's most credible title challengers. He hit 29 goals and seven assists, giving him the most goal involvements in the division – two ahead of Alexis Sanchez – at an astonishing average of one every 70 minutes.

Sterling scored seven and set up six for a goal involvement every 193 minutes. But Pep Guardiola was in town and things were heading in the right direction.

 

2017-18

City stormed to the title with a record-breaking haul of 100 points, made possible by a succession of crucial late strikes by Sterling. He doubled his previous best Premier League campaign to finish with 18 goals, while 11 assists meant he was involved in a goal every 89 minutes.

That edged Kane's average of 96, but 30 goals and two assists meant the Spurs star hit greater numbers overall, before collecting the World Cup Golden Boot playing in an England attack alongside Sterling that reached the semi-finals of Russia 2018.

2018-19

Sterling and City retained their remarkable levels of consistency to go back-to-back, the 24-year-old scoring 17 and laying on a further 10. His 27 goal involvements were the fifth-best in the division.

Despite an injury-interrupted campaign, Kane also scored 17 times and assisted four. His excellent goal involvement average of 116 minutes was shy of Sterling's superb 103.

Pep Guardiola does not believe the Premier League title race will be contested between just Manchester City and Liverpool, adamant Tottenham will be challengers.

Champions City host Mauricio Pochettino's side on Saturday, with both teams having got their respective campaigns off to a winning start on the opening weekend.

Phil Foden's early goal handed City a 1-0 win in their last meeting with Spurs, which came three days after Tottenham – with the help of VAR – had edged their way past Guardiola's side in the Champions League quarter-finals.

City's 5-0 triumph over West Ham last time out has led some critics to suggest the back-to-back champions will dominate once more this season, though Guardiola does not buy into the argument, insisting Spurs are among those capable of mounting a challenge.

When asked at the pre-match news conference if he had learned anything from his recent meetings with Spurs, Guardiola said: "How good they are.

"I have spoken many times about Tottenham, you know my words and my opinion on them. They're the second best team in Europe. For me, that's enough.

"Since I came here to England, every season they were a real contender. First season, finish second. Last two seasons, always they were there. Always they were tough, tough games.

"All of the [big six are title contenders]. I'm impressed with how Chelsea played against tough teams like United and Liverpool.

"They didn't win but I am surprised at how well they played. Frank Lampard's team. We saw United, the quality they have up front with a new mood.

"Arsenal bought good players, with [Nicolas] Pepe, David Luiz and people in front like [Alexandre] Lacazette, [Pierre-Emerick] Aubameyang. [Dani] Ceballos is incredible. A top player, quality. Tottenham are the same. They are really good contenders."

Raheem Sterling shined in City's demolition of West Ham, scoring a hat-trick while VAR chalked off a Gabriel Jesus goal which the 24-year-old assisted.

Despite Sterling having picked up where he left off last term, though, Guardiola has demanded even more from the England forward.

"There are many [great players], he is one," Guardiola said.

"Look at the top six teams and you will find many, many players. The Premier League has incredible players.

"We have many, but Raheem still. I didn't watch all the other games but he's playing so good from the beginning, being clinical, but we want more, he wants more. It was just the first game of the Premier League season."

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