Pep Guardiola feels Manchester City playmaker Bernardo Silva is one of the best three players in the Premier League and Portugal's star performer.

Former Monaco favourite Silva joined City in May 2017 and has taken his game to new heights this season, staring in both central midfield and wide attacking roles.

Cristiano Ronaldo has not featured for his country since the 2018 World Cup but remains in prolific form for Juventus, meaning Guardiola's observation that Silva is now his country's main man might raise some eyebrows.

Speaking at a news conference ahead of Wednesday's Champions League last-16 meeting with Schalke, Guardiola was asked whether the 24-year-old would be the next big star of Portuguese football.

"He is the biggest star already," he replied.

"He's a lovely person. I love to work with him, he never makes a bad face when he doesn't play. Always the biggest smile. He is the guy in the locker room who is most loved.

"He is one of the most talented I've ever seen in my career as a manager and a football player. He can play three or four positions, he's always eight or nine [out of 10] but know when he doesn't play well it doesn't matter because he runs the most.

"You cannot play every single game every three days at the top level, but he runs and runs. Maybe this season he's been one of the best two or three players in the Premier League.

"Look at how he celebrates the goals with his team-mates, he's a joy.

"I'm an incredibly lucky guy to have him in my hands, I enjoy every training session and every single game.

"Portugal is fortunate to have him, the manager [Fernando Santos] will use him every time more and more. He is a lovely guy -  I love him, it's simple like that."

The presence of stars such as Silva in Guardiola's first-team squad has acted as a contributing factor to some of City's brightest academy products seeking opportunities elsewhere.

The Premier League champions will come face to face with Rabbi Matondo on Wednesday, less than a month on from the 18-year-old Wales international swapping the City Football Academy for Schalke.

He follows Jadon Sancho into the Bundesliga, while Brahim Diaz moved to Real Madrid last month.

Guardiola underlined his previous insistence that he wanted all of the trio to stay at City alongside England Under-21 Phil Foden, who scored a brace in Saturday's 4-1 FA Cup fifth-round win at Newport County.

"I said with Jadon, Brahim, Phil, Rabbi the same - young players, it depends. Playing for Manchester City is like playing for Barcelona, it's not easy," he said.

"[Youngsters] can compete with [Raheem] Sterling, [Leroy] Sane, Bernardo, [Riyad] Mahrez, it's not easy.

"You fight for the place and the others compete. We trust them. The others go because they have not had the opportunity.

"I won't say it's a bad decision, [Matondo] is going to play more minutes, maybe he needs more time, the future will tell if it's a good or bad decision, but he decided.

"I saw him play against Freiburg, [he is] so fast and with minutes he will learn and we are going to see. Not all the players around the world can play for Manchester City. The space [in the squad] is the space."

Guardiola confirmed John Stones and Gabriel Jesus did not travel to Germany due to respective groin and hamstring complaints.

"It is not a big one for both, according to the doctor, but enough for them not to be here," he explained.

Gabriel Jesus and John Stones missed the open section of Manchester City's Tuesday training session ahead of the Premier League side's trip to Schalke in the Champions League.

Striker Jesus and centre-back Stones played the entirety of Saturday's 4-1 win at Newport County in the FA Cup but are reportedly suffering from hamstring and groin complaints respectively.

Stones featured in every match as City topped their group, with Jesus netting a hat-trick in the 6-0 win over Shakhtar Donetsk.

There was better news for Pep Guardiola ahead of Wednesday's match in Gelsenkirchen as club captain Vincent Kompany and left-back Benjamin Mendy trained for the second successive day following their latest spells on the sidelines.

Kompany has not featured since his troublesome calves flared up again during last month's 2-1 win over Liverpool, while Mendy suffered swelling following his return from knee surgery against Burton Albion in the semi-finals of the EFL Cup.

City face Chelsea in the final of the latter competition at Wembley on Sunday.

Liverpool are favourites against Bayern Munich in their Champions League last-16 tie, according to Joshua Kimmich.

The Bundesliga champions meet Jurgen Klopp's side at Anfield in the first leg of the contest on Tuesday.

Liverpool finished second in their group behind Paris Saint-Germain, but their form in the Premier League has been hugely impressive, with 20 wins, one defeat and just 15 goals conceded in 26 matches.

By contrast, Bayern have struggled in the defence of their title and sit two points behind leaders Borussia Dortmund, having played a game more.

And Kimmich accepts his side are some way short of Europe's best this season.

"Liverpool are the favourites," the full-back told The Telegraph. "They have lost one league game all season and have let in only 15 goals. But when you look at us, we are not as consistent as before.

"Now, it's a bit different. It's a chance to develop, to find new ways to success. We are close to Dortmund, in the quarter-finals of the DFB-Pokal, and still in the Champions League. So, not everything's bad. But we need to improve our style of playing before we can compare to the best teams in Europe."

Kimmich believes Klopp has helped to transform Liverpool due to his influence on the players at his command.

"It's amazing, the emotion he has, on the field, with the fans," he said. "You can see how he pushes his players to another level. Every player is better with this coach."

However, for Kimmich, former Bayern boss Pep Guardiola remains the most inspirational figure.

"When I came to Bayern, I was a second-division player," he said. "For me, it was a new world. The coach showed me a lot, showed me the spaces on the pitch. I improved just from training.

"He was amazing. Soon, I was a national player, competing in the European Championship. He changed me. He inspired me."

Chelsea assistant Gianfranco Zola insisted Maurizio Sarri needed more time to make changes at the club, comparing his situation to when Pep Guardiola arrived at Manchester City.

Sarri's side have fallen to sixth in the Premier League and the Italian is under growing pressure at Stamford Bridge.

Speaking ahead of Chelsea's fifth-round FA Cup clash against Manchester United, Zola said there were also initial questions over Guardiola, who went trophy-less in his first season at City in 2016-17.

"How do you know that we are not making changes?" Zola told UK media.

"We are adjusting a few things but without changing where we want to go. The direction is always the same.

"Two years ago you were probably asking the same questions to Pep Guardiola. I do remember you asking him, 'Is that the case that you keep playing from the back?'

"And I remember the answers of Pep, saying, 'This is not in discussion, this is part of my game, I know I am going through this difficult moment, and I don't change it'."

Chelsea responded to their 6-0 humiliation at the hands of Guardiola's City by edging Malmo 2-1 in the first leg of their Europa League last-32 tie.

Olivier Giroud, who was on the scoresheet in Sweden, said the Chelsea squad were still together.

"I think and I believe that it is the case that there's the criticism of the coach, but I haven't felt anything about them dropping the coach. I don't have much to say about that. We stick altogether, the staff and the team," the striker said.

"We want to look forward and be positive. That's it. We will work on the same path and the same targets."

Sergio Aguero feels Manchester City have "the capacity to win everything" and backed his team-mates to make history by winning four trophies this season.

Pep Guardiola's men returned to the top of the Premier League table after they strolled to a 6-0 victory over Chelsea, and they subsequently avoided an FA Cup upset by beating Newport County 4-1 in the fifth round on Saturday.

Ahead of a week in which City travel to Germany to face Schalke in the Champions League and then to Wembley to play Chelsea in the EFL Cup final, Aguero had his sights set on winning everything.

"If you get to this stage in the season with a chance to win four titles it means you are doing well," the Argentine striker told The Mirror.

"And I wish it would happen. I'm ­ambitious and you have to aim high.

"I know that nobody has ever done it before and I would like us to go down in history. For me, too, I want to be the one who scores goals in all the finals.

"I see this City team as having the ­capacity to win everything – and so that is our challenge."

Aguero's treble against Chelsea drew him level with Alan Shearer's record of 11 Premier League hat-tricks and took his goal tally for the campaign to 17 in 23 appearances.

At 30 years of age, the question of whether Aguero will finish his career at City or return to his homeland continues to surface but the club's record goalscorer said he has no plans to leave.

"City are a champion team with a champion coach," he said. "What else am I going to want?

"I'm very happy at City and for now I don't even think about leaving.

"It's a great club that always looks after its players. I saw it from the very first day I arrived and it’s continued ever since.

"I still don't know what I will do when I finish ­playing, but I will continue in the football world, that's for sure.

"For now I just dream of winning titles with City every season, that is my main challenge."

Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola lauded David Silva for playing "like Phil Foden" during the 4-1 victory over Newport County in the FA Cup fifth round.

The Premier League champions failed to find the net throughout the first half at Rodney Parade as the fourth-tier hosts initially frustrated their more fancied opposition.

Leroy Sane broke the resistance in the 51st minute, while England youth international Foden scored a brace - either side of Padraig Amond's reply for Newport - and Riyad Mahrez was also on target.

Veteran midfielder Silva, one of many City regulars who started in south Wales, completed 82 minutes in difficult conditions and earned praise for his professionalism.

"Incredible," Guardiola told reporters when asked to describe the World Cup winner's performance.

"[He is] 33 years old, fights, wins duels. Really, really good.

"David is a fantastic player. He played here at a League Two club like an 18-year-old, like Phil Foden."

City's hard-earned progression to the quarter-finals keeps them in hunt for four trophies at home and abroad.

They visit Schalke in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie on Wednesday before a date with Chelsea in the EFL Cup final at Wembley Stadium four days later.

Pep Guardiola felt his Manchester City players "showed everybody how incredible they are" as they beat Newport County 4-1 to reach the quarter-finals of the FA Cup.

The Premier League champions were unable to find a breakthrough in the first 45 minutes at Rodney Parade and could even have fallen behind to their League Two opponents despite dominating possession.

However, Leroy Sane broke the deadlock six minutes into the second half and a flurry of late goals saw Phil Foden score twice either side of Padraig Amond's strike, before Riyad Mahrez added a fourth for City.

Guardiola told BT Sport: "It was a real tough game. We believed it was done [at 2-0] and then they scored, which is typical of this sort of game.

"Then Phil scored an incredible third goal and they softened in the last few minutes.

"My players showed everybody how incredible they are. I have a big compliment for all the guys today who played.

"The first 15 to 20 minutes was difficult. They were better than us in long-ball situations, but in the second half we adjusted with some movement."

Newport, who are 15th in England's fourth tier, put in a superb display against their illustrious visitors and Guardiola added: "I was really impressed. The home crowd was amazing. I am surprised they are in the position they are.

"Here I realised English football better than ever and why the cup is special for a team in those conditions - they use their strength points and that's why the cup always has big surprises."

Next up for City is the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie against Schalke, before an EFL Cup final meeting with Chelsea next Sunday.

"We are still in four competitions and we accept all the challenges," said Guardiola. "Today it was League Two and in four days we play on the biggest stage. We have to change mentality."

"The big mistake is believing you are better than the other ones. Look at what happened between [Manchester] United and PSG, and also Ajax having an incredible game against Real Madrid."

Newport boss Mike Flynn said: "It's no disgrace to lose to City, no matter the score. I said to the lads, 'I'm so proud of you, you deserve all the plaudits.'"

Manchester City averted an FA Cup upset and clinched a place in the quarter-finals as Phil Foden scored a brace in a 4-1 win over Newport County.

The League Two side frustrated the Premier League champions throughout a goalless first half at Rodney Parade and came agonisingly close to taking the lead despite City dominating possession on an uneven surface they initially struggled to adjust to.

Newport's admirable resistance was broken when Leroy Sane fired home from close range early in the second half, the winger scoring his 12th goal of the season on an afternoon when his customary flair was in short supply.

Foden then scored a brace either side of an 88th-minute Padraig Amond goal that gave Newport brief hope and extended his record of netting in every round of the competition.

Riyad Mahrez added a fourth in second-half stoppage time to secure a scoreline that somewhat flattered City, who survived some nervous moments in South Wales but will fancy their chances of going all the way after avoiding a potential banana skin.

Pep Guardiola insists he has complete faith in Riyad Mahrez despite offering sparing first-team opportunities to the Algeria winger of late.

Last January, City launched a deadline-day bid to bring in Mahrez from Leicester City – falling short but eventually getting their man in a club-record £60million deal during the close season.

The 27-year-old has nine goals in 34 appearances across all competitions for the reigning Premier League champions but has not started a top-flight game since the 3-1 win at Southampton on December 30.

Two appearances from the bench, four games as an unused substitute and a missed squad altogether at Huddersfield Town have followed, although he has been an ever-present for Guardiola during domestic cup games in 2019.

On the eve of Saturday's FA Cup fifth-round trip to League Two Newport County, Guardiola explained superb form from the likes of Bernardo Silva and Raheem Sterling was making life difficult for Mahrez.

Asked why he was not playing the City boss replied: "I have a reason. I am the reason. He is absolutely not guilty.

"I am sad because he is training incredibly, he is an incredibly talented player. But in this moment we have five strikers. For example the last games [home wins over Arsenal and Chelsea] Leroy [Sane] hasn't played.

"We have incredible players, like for example Bernardo and Raz in top, top form and that is the only reason why, there’s no particular reason, like [me] being upset or something like that.

"He is a guy we are happy with, but unfortunately I am not kind with him. In fact, I cannot give him the minutes he deserves, so I'm sorry. That's all I can say."

Mahrez coming in to bolster an already stacked City forward line during a period when gifted youngsters such as Jadon Sancho, Brahim Diaz and most recently Rabbi Matondo have left the club has not helped his standing among some sections of the Etihad Stadium fanbase.

There have also been suggestions the 2015-16 Premier League winner does not have the requisite quality to compete with the likes of Sterling, Sane and Silva, but Guardiola gives those the short shrift.

"He has a level, but give him five or six games in a row playing he is going to play at the level of Sterling or Bernardo or the players who play," said the former Barcelona and Bayern Munich boss.

"Because in two months, when we played four or five games in a row he was incredible, outstanding.

"I don’t have any doubts about his quality. Just keep going, not complain too much, move forward and fight more and more and more. His time is coming. It's coming and I'm pretty sure he is going to play good."

After taking on giant killers Newport, City visit Schalke in the Champions League before facing Chelsea in the EFL Cup final next Sunday.

Having such attractive fixtures on the horizon will not serve as an excuse, however, if their manager finds focus waning at Rodney Parade.

"I expect the best performance by each one of them. Focus on all the details," Guardiola added.

"That is the best way to prepare for Schalke and the Carabao Cup final. When you have a final in a week, or a tough game in the Champions League, then you concentrate, you train on the set-pieces, the pressing, those details in tough conditions.

"That is good, we need it. If not, you arrive there a little bit relaxed and then you’re out. Maybe Newport will help us for the final and Schalke."

Pep Guardiola believes Manchester City's FA Cup defeat to Wigan Athletic last season serves as a warning ahead of Saturday's fifth-round trip to Newport County.

City won the Premier League and EFL Cup last term but missed out on a shot at an unprecedented domestic treble when Fabian Delph was sent off and Will Grigg scored the only goal at the DW Stadium.

Wigan were on their way to promotion from League One at that stage, while their round-five foes this time around are languishing 15th in League Two.

But Mike Flynn's Newport have been a team transformed in the FA Cup, dumping out Premier League Leicester City before goals from Robbie Willmott and Padraig Amond saw off Middlesbrough in a fourth-round replay.

Asked how City would approach a match that comes ahead of a Champions League trip to Schalke and the EFL Cup final against Chelsea, Guardiola told a news conference: "With a lot of respect. They have done incredibly in this competition. What they do, they do really well. We have watched as much of them as possible.

"Always we try to understand the opponents but in cup competitions, what happened last season with Wigan, one game, especially away. Everything can happen.

"Now our players know a little bit [about Newport] with Wilmott, with [Jamille] Matt, with [Scot] Bennet, with Amond. Both strikers have scored 14 or 15 goals, they are incredible in the set-pieces and the throw-ins.

"They go into the second balls, they use the channels perfectly to put balls into the box. Especially in our box we are going to suffer because they are taller and stronger than us.

"I saw the game against Leicester, I saw the game against Middlesbrough, away and at home. Especially in the second game they were outstanding. They were much better than Middlesbrough."

The churned-up state of the Rodney Parade pitch has come in for plenty of pre-match discussion but Guardiola insists his players can have no qualms over what greets them in south Wales.

"We have to adapt. It is what it is. Accept that challenge," he said, before offering a reminder that City's 1-0 Premier League win over Tottenham at Wembley this season hardly took place in ideal conditions.

"We played in the Premier League against Tottenham when three days before there were two NFL games

"It happened in the Premier League, so why should [a bad pitch] not happen for a team in the lower division?"

Indeed, the City boss acknowledged muddy winter pitches as a quintessential part of England's football heritage and something that might force a deviation from the slick playing style that saw Chelsea pulled apart 6-0 last weekend.

"They play at home and they can do whatever they want [to the pitch]," he added, having explained Vincent Kompany and Benjamin Mendy would once again be injury absentees.

"I saw reviews of vintage games here in England from the 60s, 70s and 80s. The big difference from football in the past to right now is the pitches.

"Most of them are perfect, which is why in England you can play in different ways.

"Before it was not possible with pitches in that condition to play on the grass. You have to play long ball, set-pieces, throw-ins, boxes.

"We will see the pitch tomorrow and have to adapt. If you have to play longer or quicker, I don't know. But you don't win absolutely anything complaining about that."

Maurizio Sarri apologised for Chelsea's record Premier League defeat and insisted he would be happy to receive a call from club owner Roman Abramovich after a 6-0 thrashing at Manchester City.

Sergio Aguero scored his 11th Premier League hat-trick to equal Alan Shearer's record, with Raheem Sterling adding a double and Ilkay Gundogan also on target in Sunday's rout at the Etihad Stadium.

Chelsea have conceded 12 goals in their last three Premier League away games, their battering at new league leaders City coming on the heels of a 4-0 thumping at mid-table Bournemouth.

Chelsea captain Cesar Azpilicueta apologised for their showing after the Blues slipped to sixth in the league and Sarri also acknowledged their performance was unacceptable.

"I am doing my best and I'm trying to get the players to do their best but at the moment I can only say sorry because in the last three away matches we played very badly," he said.

"It's very difficult to describe our performance. It's also very difficult to understand because during the week I really was very happy with the team. My feeling was very good yesterday in the meeting and the warm-up today.

"We started well but we conceded the first goal in a stupid way in the fourth minute and then everything was really very difficult because we had to stay in the match but we weren't able to do that.

"The reaction was not very good. In the 20 minutes after the first goal we made a lot of mistakes against the wrong opponents who played fantastic football.

"I am surprised because at the beginning of the season we played better away than at home. I don't know what's happened but at the moment we're in trouble.

"In the last three or four matches we have been in trouble without a reaction at the first difficulty so we need to understand."

Sarri told Sky Sports he expects to hold talks with the club's board after their historic loss and in another post-match interview he gave an insight into his relationship with Abramovich.

"If the president calls, I'll be happy, seeing as I never hear from him," Sarri said to Sky Sport Italia. "To be honest, I don't know what to expect.

"Manchester City play fantastic football and I saw an extraordinary team. We had a total blackout."

Pep Guardiola sympathised with Maurizio Sarri and urged Chelsea to give the Italian more time after Manchester City thrashed the Blues 6-0 in their record Premier League defeat.

Sarri's side have lost their past three away Premier League games by an aggregate 12-0 scoreline after they were demolished at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday.

Sergio Aguero's treble saw the City striker draw level with Alan Shearer's record of 11 Premier League hat-tricks, with Raheem Sterling contributing a brace and Ilkay Gundogan also on target.

Chelsea trailed 4-0 after 25 minutes and Sarri told Sky Sports following the match that he expects to hold talks with the club's board over his future.

Guardiola, though, feels Sarri should be shown patience and drew parallels with his first season in charge of City, which saw the club fail to win a trophy.

"I know what he wants to do," Guardiola told a news conference after City leapfrogged Liverpool to reclaim top spot in the Premier League table. 

"This kind of person, these type of games, the football helps to make it better. They beat us at Stamford Bridge [in December] and against Napoli last season [in the Champions League] it was tight, they were better in moments.

 

"But people don't understand how difficult the first year can be. People need time, [it] only depends on the owners, the people in charge need to believe.

"I came to Manchester City - the bosses, chairman, [director of football] Txiki [Begiristain], he knows me. He doesn't believe I'm bad when we lose and good when we win. That's why I'm enjoying it in Manchester. We were good in all aspects and that's why we won."

Sarri stormed down the tunnel without shaking Guardiola's hand at the full-time whistle, but the City boss said it was not an issue.

"I spoke with [Sarri's assistant] Gianfranco [Zola] and it's no problem," Guardiola said. "I have a good relationship with him."

David Silva was a surprise substitute for City with Bernardo Silva, Ilkay Gundogan, Fernandinho and the fit-again Kevin De Bruyne preferred in midfield.

"I need him, I miss him when he's not playing but I took the decision and try to be honest," Guardiola said of omitting David Silva, who came off the bench. 

"Sometimes lately I don't play Kevin, Sergio, it's what I believe, I see the opponents, it's difficult. Dropping Gundogan is difficult, for the rhythm they have, Gundo and Kevin in that situation [were more suitable selections].

"But I need Silva as he's the best in the world in those small spaces, it's impossible to find it. But today I thought it was demanding, physically. It was a good decision.

"He played the last two games and was key. Especially in the second half at Goodison [Park, against Everton], we have a lot of games and we'll try to have everyone involved."

Pep Guardiola applauded Sergio Aguero for his "fantastic" consistency after scoring a record-equalling 11th Premier League hat-trick in Manchester City's remarkable 6-0 win over Chelsea.

City were 4-0 up after just 25 minutes, as Raheem Sterling and Ilkay Gundogan found the net either side of Aguero's first two goals.

The Argentina striker's opener was a 30-yard stunner and he sealed his treble from the penalty spot early in the second half.

That meant Aguero went level with Alan Shearer for the most hat-tricks in the Premier League, also taking his top-flight goals tally for the season to 16.

And Guardiola is astonished at Aguero's continued consistency in his eighth season with City. 

Speaking to BBC Sport, Guardiola said: "I have said many times, Sergio scores every single season a lot of goals.

"I admire these kind of players, the consistency. Young players come, but some stay for a long time, that is fantastic."

It was also put to Guardiola that Aguero might have surprised the coach by how good he has been in recent years, but he dismissed such suggestions.

Adding to Sky Sports, he said: "Aguero is a player that was always involved in what we want to do, he wants to help us with the structure of the team.

"Chelsea depend a lot on our pressing, but we have a lot of quality. Sometimes he is a little bit tired, but he is a special player."

Sergio Aguero equalled the record for Premier League hat-tricks as a rampant Manchester City thrashed Chelsea 6-0 at home to leapfrog Liverpool and return to the table's summit.

Chelsea were hammered 4-0 at Bournemouth in their last away league match and Maurizio Sarri's side were taken apart by the defending champions at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday, the Blues suffering their heaviest ever Premier League loss.

Raheem Sterling struck in the fourth minute and Ilkay Gundogan rapidly made it four after Aguero's first-half double, with Chelsea unable to muster any response in the face of City's incredible intensity.

Aguero, who also hit a treble in City's last home league game against Arsenal, stroked home a penalty after the break to join Alan Shearer on 11 Premier League hat-tricks and Sterling struck late to complete the scoring.

Pep Guardiola's side move above Liverpool on goal difference, with the Catalan coach enjoying a crushing victory against a side he has lost to on a record three league occasions.

City made a blistering start and led 4-0 inside 25 minutes, with Aguero on target twice.

Sterling opened the scoring with a thumping drive after Bernardo Silva's cross deflected into his path, then Aguero somehow missed an open goal from three yards out.

Aguero soon made amends with a thunderous 25-yard drive after great work from Oleksandr Zinchenko and he then capitalised on Ross Barkley's abysmal header to become City's record league goalscorer.

City's fourth came from Gundogan, his placed 20-yard shot beating Kepa Arrizabalaga, with Ederson brilliantly tipping over Gonzalo Higuain's volley at the other end before the break.

Aguero's header from Kevin De Bruyne's cross crashed against the crossbar but the Argentina attacker was able to celebrate his historic treble in the 56th minute.

Sterling's pace and skill drew a clumsy Cesar Azpilicueta foul inside the box and Aguero beat Kepa once more with an excellent penalty.

Guardiola was able to rest City's hat-trick hero, De Bruyne and Fernandinho for the closing stages and Sterling tapped in a cross from the lively Zinchenko for a simple sixth.


What does it mean? City send Liverpool a message

Goal difference might yet decide the title and, in thrashing Chelsea, City gave themselves an ever larger advantage over Liverpool. For the Blues, this was their fourth consecutive loss away from home in all competitions, with the aggregate score in their most recent three Premier League trips reading 12-0.

Silva's energy drives City forward

Aguero provided City's cutting edge and took his 2019 tally to 10 goals in all competitions, but the platform for their dominance was built on Silva's boundless energy. With namesake David surprisingly on City's bench, Bernardo was brilliant.

Barkley's baffling error gifts Aguero his second

What Barkley was thinking when he headed the ball back towards his own goal from 20 yards out is difficult to understand. Chelsea already trailed 2-0 but setting up Aguero's second of the game ended any hope of a Blues fightback. Barkley looked out of his depth throughout and was unsurprisingly hooked early in the second half.

What's next?

Chelsea will try to recover some pride when they head to Malmo in the Europa League on Thursday, with City at Newport County in the FA Cup two days later. In-form Manchester United are then the visitors at Stamford Bridge on Monday in the fifth round of the cup.

Pep Guardiola is "delighted" by the strength of Manchester City's title defence and said a win over Chelsea on Sunday will ensure his side challenge Liverpool all the way for the Premier League trophy.

City entertain Maurizio Sarri's side knowing victory will bring them level on points with Liverpool at the top of the Premier League, although the Reds will have played one game fewer than the champions.

Chelsea are fifth in the table – the position they finished in last season, just a year after winning the title under Antonio Conte in 2016-17.

Guardiola expressed his pride at having seen his side avoid the fate that befell Chelsea and others, with Manchester United the last team to successfully defend the title in 2008-09.

"I know in the last five or six years what happened with the champions the year after, in which position they were," Guardiola told reporters.

"All of them, they were out. They did not have a chance in that period to win the Premier League.

"We are there. That is one the things I am most delighted about this season."

City's four-game league winning streak came to an end when they lost 2-1 at Newcastle United on January 29, but Guardiola insisted the result was not a reflection of complacency among his players.

"When the people say, 'You underestimated Newcastle.' No, no," he said.

"You don't underestimate anyone if you are in the final of the Carabao Cup again and you are in all the competitions and fighting.

"The previous seasons, Leicester [City] and Chelsea and the other ones – no chance. We are there.

"We want to be there until the end. [Sunday] will help us. If we are able to win the game I am pretty sure until the end we will be there fighting to be champions again."

Guardiola dismissed suggestions that Liverpool failing to beat Leicester and West Ham before overcoming Bournemouth on Saturday displayed that Jurgen Klopp's side had lost their edge.

"I don't know how you connect a lack of mentality with dropping four points, two draws," said the City boss. "I don't see the connection.

"Maybe they dropped points because Leicester did a good job and West Ham – it's always difficult to play against Manuel Pellegrini."

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