Samuel Eto'o has said he wants to become the first coach of colour to win the Champions League and vowed to emulate the style of former Barcelona boss Pep Guardiola.

The former striker, who retired from playing this month, twice won Europe's elite competition with Barca – under Frank Rijkaard and then Guardiola – before lifting it again with Inter in 2010.

The 38-year-old has now set his sights on winning the tournament as a coach, using the same possession and attacking style of football adopted by Guardiola at Camp Nou.

Eto'o also hopes such a triumph would blaze a trail for non-white coaches, the ex-Cameroon star having become wearied by recent incidents of racism in the sport.

"I want to be the first coach of colour to win the Champions League, by playing with a team like Guardiola does," he told Cadena SER.

Eto'o was speaking in the wake of the alleged racist abuse of Inter striker Romelu Lukaku by Cagliari fans during a Serie A match in Sardinia. Cagliari avoided punishment from the Italian Football Federation (FIGC).

On Monday, television pundit Luciano Passirani was sacked for making a comment about Lukaku that, although apparently meant as a compliment, was considered by many observers to be racist.

"These have been very sad moments and the worst thing is it keeps repeating itself," Eto'o said. "I ask on my knees for you to help us so that football in the stands is cleaner, with more education.

"Yellow, black, orange... in the end, we're all the same, and our children should know that. They shout at you like a monkey and then ask you for a photo. They have a photo with a monkey."

Eto'o scored in Barca's Champions League final win over Arsenal in 2006 and then broke the deadlock when the Catalans beat Manchester United 2-0 in Rome three years later.

He celebrated the opening goal by slapping his exposed forearm, something he says was fuelled by the fact that "nobody talked about me" prior to the match.

"It meant, 'I am black and that is why they don't talk about me'," he said when asked to explain the celebration. 

"I was the only one from the two teams to have scored in a Champions League final [apart from Cristiano Ronaldo in 2008] and nobody talked about me.

"They talked about Cristiano, about my boy [Lionel] Messi, who had not yet arrived... but the one who had scored in a final before was me. And I scored again."

Most recently at Qatar SC, Eto'o has called time on his playing career but is already plotting a return to Barca, saying: "I'm sure I'll come back. How? I don't know, but I'll come back!"

For now, though, Eto'o says his post-playing plans are simply: "To relax and have fun with my wife."

Barcelona great Xavi believes Raheem Sterling is on course to emerge as the world's best player when Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo leave centre stage.

Manchester City star Sterling has started the new season in scintillating fashion, scoring eight times for club and country.

His goal return and overall effectiveness has markedly improved with Pep Guardiola's guidance and the 24-year-old is now one of the first players chosen for the Premier League champions.

Sterling won Europe's Golden Boy award in 2014 - given to the continent's brightest young talent - and Xavi thinks the England international is on course to replace Messi and Ronaldo at the front of the queue for further honours.

Xavi told The Mirror: "Messi is the best ever for me, and even though they're both still playing at a very high level, there will come the day not so long away when somebody else must step into those shoes.

"You look at young players who can be crowned the future best in the world and you still think of Neymar, [Kylian] Mbappe, [Mohamed] Salah and of course Sterling. I look at the moment and Sterling is winning that race.

"He's always been a good player, a dangerous player, but under Pep he [has] become one of the best in the world.

"I know how Pep works - he would have worked closely with him since his arrival - where he needs to improve and what he needed to work on.

"We're now seeing the results of that. He's still young and can be the world's best."

Barca captain Messi, 32, and Juventus forward Ronaldo, 34, have dominated the game's top awards for the past decade, winning the Ballon d'Or five times apiece since 2008.

John Stones has been ruled out for a month with a muscle injury, Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola has confirmed.

City's defensive options had already been hit by Aymeric Laporte being ruled out for six months by a knee injury, while no replacement was signed for departed club captain Vincent Kompany.

That left Stones and Nicolas Otamendi as City's only senior centre-backs and the pair looked shaky last time out as the champions went down to their first Premier League defeat since January, losing 3-2 away to promoted Norwich City.

City will be further stretched for the upcoming period after Guardiola told reporters ahead of a Champions League trip to Shakhtar Donetsk that Stones was injured in training on Tuesday.

"A month, four or five weeks," Guardiola said when asked how long Stones would be out.

Guardiola previously indicated full-back Kyle Walker and defensive midfielder Fernandinho - an unused substitute against the Canaries - could be options in the heart of City's defence.

The City boss said he could also turn to teenage duo Eric Garcia and Taylor Harwood-Bellis to address the growing injury crisis at the back.

"[It is a] Big challenge. For me as a manager, it's an incredible challenge: just one central defender in Nico," he added.

"But I believe a lot. People don't know the spirit and resolve to solve this problem. The players are going to come back with Fernandinho, Garcia, Harwood-Bellis.

"It's happened, but what we are not going to do is complain. If they are not able, they are not able. We have to have 11 players on the pitch, and I like it, finding a solution."

Stones will likely miss Premier League games against Watford, Everton and Wolves at least as well as an EFL Cup trip to Preston North End and a Champions League home game against Dinamo Zagreb.

City will also be without Phil Foden against Shakhtar, with Guardiola confirming: "He has a virus, a problem with the stomach. He's not able [to play] this game or I think the next."

John Stones has been ruled out for a month with a muscle injury, Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola has confirmed.

City's defensive options had already been hit by Aymeric Laporte being ruled out for six months by a knee injury, while no replacement was signed for departed club captain Vincent Kompany.

That left Stones and Nicolas Otamendi as City's only senior centre-backs and the pair looked shaky last time out as City went down to their first Premier League defeat since January, losing 3-2 away to promoted Norwich City.

City will be further stretched for the upcoming period after Guardiola told reporters ahead of a Champions League trip to Shakhtar Donetsk that Stones was injured in training on Tuesday.

"A month, four or five weeks," Guardiola said when asked how long Stones would be out.

Jesus Navas says years of covering for Dani Alves at Sevilla made it easy for him to become a full-back for Manchester City.

Having spent his earlier career as a winger, Navas was deployed as an emergency right-back in Pep Guardiola's first season in charge at the Etihad Stadium due to injuries.

Navas returned to Sevilla after the 2016-17 season and has mostly been used in defence for club and country since, including in all four LaLiga appearances this season and the 2-1 Euro 2020 qualifying win over Romania on September 5.

The 33-year-old says it was a natural progression for him to become a defender, partly because of his experience of covering for the marauding Dani Alves during the Brazilian's time at Sevilla between 2002 and 2008.

"There were players injured [at City] and he [Guardiola] asked me if I could play there," Navas said, courtesy of LaLiga. "I told him that I could do it without a problem because when I played with Dani Alves he used to attack a lot, so I normally covered him in the defence.

"I did not have any problem doing it. Everything went well."

Navas won six trophies in his first spell with Sevilla before helping City to one Premier League and two EFL Cup triumphs.

However, his crowning achievement came when his burst forward from his own half led to Andres Iniesta's winning goal in the 2010 World Cup final.

"Thinking about that play, for me to have won a World Cup is the biggest thing ever as a player," he said. "You dream of that from when you're a child. It was a dream that became true. It was incredible. The greatest moment for me.
 
"My next dream would be to win another title with Sevilla and with our fans. That would be something big."

Navas twice won the UEFA Cup with Sevilla before it was rebranded as the Europa League and he now wants to lift the trophy for a third time this season.

He also predicts a Spanish team can triumph in the Champions League - as well as former club City.
 
"Manchester City, Real Madrid, Barcelona or another team that's always on top can win the Champions League," he said. "The Spanish teams always fight for this title.
 
"[The Europa League] is very special for us. We have won it on various occasions and feel very comfortable playing it. We know that it is difficult and a long tournament, so we have to go game by game. The truth is that this competition has given us a lot of happiness."

 

Pep Guardiola believes his "prestige" in England is down to Manchester City's players, as he defended his squad in the wake of their shock defeat to Norwich City.

The champions were beaten in the league for the first time since January on Saturday, losing 3-2 to a patched-up Norwich side at Carrow Road.

Aymeric Laporte's absence through injury was certainly felt, with Norwich's third goal coming as a result of a mix-up between John Stones and Nicolas Otamendi.

City's defeat leaves them five points behind leaders Liverpool after five matches, but Guardiola – whose style of play was questioned at times during his first season in England – jumped to the defence of his players, claiming he will only be concerned if his side stop caring after a defeat.

"They [the players] gave me all the prestige I have in England, when the first season when it was 'fraud' Guardiola, 'Fraudiola'," Guardiola told a news conference.

"This kind of game here in England – it's not possible to play because you need to have tackles and you have to play like that – these players gave me the prestige that I have.

"And now all around the world people say how good a manager I am. So, it's for them, not for me.

"In the moment where they don't care about losing the game, when they don't care about absolutely anything, that would be a problem.

"But I know how they suffer, because in the past when we don't win, they haven't done that. What do we have to do? Work harder, work more, talk more, be more precise.

"Start winning games and winning games and winning games and in the end, if we are not able [to win the title], then we will congratulate the opponent."

Guardiola elected to start with Kevin De Bruyne on the bench against the Canaries, despite the playmaker's excellent start to the season.

Although Liverpool already hold a commanding lead at the top, De Bruyne has issued a reminder that City were seven points behind the Reds deep into last season.

"Last season we were seven points behind – it happens. Of course, we want to win every game, but it is difficult," De Bruyne said.

"It will be tough, the next seven months, like last year. It never stops. It is our job and sometimes it is hard, but you have to take it on the chin.

"We lost four games out of 38 last season and that is a good record. We can still win this season with the same points at the end of this season."

Pep Guardiola congratulated Norwich City after they inflicted one of the biggest shock results in Premier League history on champions Manchester City.

Norwich were without 11 players due to injury and head coach Daniel Farke had to include two goalkeepers as substitutes in order to fill his bench, but they pulled off a stunning 3-2 home win.

The Canaries led 2-0 thanks to goals from Kenny McLean and Todd Cantwell and held their nerve despite Sergio Aguero halving the deficit before half-time.

Nicolas Otamendi's error led to Teemu Pukki making it 3-1 and although Rodri's late strike set up a nervous finale, the promoted outfit were able to hold on for a famous victory.

City's first loss in the Premier League since January leaves them five points behind Liverpool, who have won all five of their games in the 2019-20 campaign, as Guardiola's men seek a third consecutive title.

"Sometimes games like this happen – we had our chances to score but didn't, so congratulations to Norwich," Guardiola said. "It is football – we had many opportunities today, they had three or four and scored three goals.

"The first one was a set-piece we didn't defend, the second we were caught on the counter-attack and the third came from a mistake, but we know what we are as a team, we know what we have done and we know what we are going to do.

"I love my players and it's a pleasure to be with them. They didn't create so many chances, but they got three goals – we played Bournemouth and they had more chances than Norwich did today, but we won that game – football can sometimes do this."

Guardiola sprang a surprise by starting with Kevin De Bruyne on the bench and while he introduced the Belgium star in the second half, along with Gabriel Jesus and Riyad Mahrez, City could not find an equaliser.

"Even at 2-0, we knew we were still in it because we can create a lot of chances in a short space of time," Guardiola added.

"But the third goal hurt us because we had started [the second half] well and we were there, but in the end it didn't happen. In football you can't always avoid mistakes.

"They are a really good team with good players who have quality, we saw that in the Championship last year, they were clinical today.

"We did not have urgency in the final third that we normally have. Even at 3-2 we had chances to make it 3-3 – this team never gives up and that's why we have done what we have done."

Pep Guardiola insists he does not need to bring in defensive reinforcements in the January transfer window despite Manchester City's surprise 3-2 loss at Norwich City. 

Aymeric Laporte is expected to be out until the new year after undergoing surgery on a knee injury, with the Premier League champions losing at Carrow Road in his absence on Saturday.

Goals from Kenny McLean, Todd Cantwell and Teemu Pukki earned the injury-hit Canaries a famous win, while Sergio Aguero and Rodri were on target for City.

Before the game Guardiola indicated City would not enter the market to replace Laporte despite being left with only two senior centre-backs, John Stones and Nicolas Otamendi, after the departure of club captain Vincent Kompany.

Stones and Otamendi were both at fault in a dreadful defensive performance as City lost in the league for the first time since January, with McLean's headed opener coming from a corner.

Asked if City have a problem defending near-post corners in particular, Guardiola said: "In four seasons, yes. Our quality of play is different but we defended incredibly well in the past."

Guardiola, who surprisingly left talisman Kevin De Bruyne on the bench, feels Stones and Otamendi can still form a reliable partnership in the wake of their error-strewn display, while Kyle Walker was involved in conceding a cheap second goal to Cantwell.

"It's football," he added. "We talk and improve from this, Kyle knows it and this happens sometimes, try to improve for the next time.

"They [Stones and Otamendi] play how many times together? A lot, they are the centre-backs we have. Maybe Fernandinho or Rodri can play there. I'm not worried, it's football. How many games John and Nico played in more than three games together? A lot.

"Normally I count their chances and I think they didn't create too much, three goals, I don't know from how many shots on target but I don't have that feeling they had many, many chances, but sometimes this happens."

An injury crisis left Norwich without 11 players and Daniel Farke could not even fill his bench of seven substitutes without including two goalkeepers.

"Of course it is special day for us and for the club," he told BBC Sport. "Against one of the best teams in the world and when we have so many injuries.

"We had to be special in our plan for City because they are the best team in the world, but we had setbacks too with our injuries.

"We deserve the win, we were exceptional."

Manchester City fans experienced that rare feeling of Premier League defeat under Pep Guardiola as Norwich City overcame the odds in sensational style at Carrow Road on Saturday.

Many were suggesting the heavily depleted Canaries' best hope was to avoid a cricket scoreline against the defending champions.

But a clinical performance, coupled with some questionable Man City defending, saw Daniel Farke's side secure a memorable 3-2 victory, with Kenny McLean, Todd Cantwell and the in-form Teemu Pukki on the scoresheet for the hosts.

The loss marked an end to a 25-match unbeaten streak against promoted sides for Man City, while Norwich had lost 11 of their previous 12 encounters against the team defending the Premier League title – their last such victory coming against the same opponents in May 2013.

It was an unlucky 13th Premier League defeat for Man City since Guardiola took over ahead of the 2016-17 campaign and their first since January.

We look at their most surprising top-flight reverses under the former Barcelona and Bayern Munich coach.

Leicester City 4-2 Man City (10/12/2016)

It is easy to forget Guardiola's maiden campaign at the Etihad Stadium was not all sunshine and roses. A week on from a 3-1 home reverse to Chelsea, City were turned over by a Jamie Vardy inspired Leicester. The Foxes were three to the good inside 20 minutes as Vardy scored twice either side of an Andy King effort, with the ex-England striker completing his hat-trick in the 78th minute. Late goals from Aleksandar Kolarov and Nolito did little to ease the disappointment.

Everton 4-0 Man City (15/01/2017) 

Just a month later, Guardiola was left accepting his side's chances of defending the title were over after a shambolic performance at a rampant Everton. Romelu Lukaku and Belgium team-mate Kevin Mirallas assisted each other to put the Toffees 2-0 up by the 47th minute and late goals from Tom Davies and Ademola Lookman compounded the visitors' Merseyside misery.

Man City 2-3 Crystal Palace (22/12/18)

A 2-0 loss at Chelsea a couple of weeks previous had put paid to City's chances on going unbeaten in the Premier League, but this was an altogether more shocking defeat. Ilkay Gundogan's 27th-minute opener suggested a routine win was on the cards but two goals in as many minutes from Jeffrey Schlupp and Andros Townsend – the latter an unbelievable 30-yard volley – put Palace ahead at the break. Luka Milivojevic's penalty cemented the lead and not even Kevin De Bruyne's late strike could salvage a point for City. Eagles boss Roy Hodgson would describe the result as "one of those bonanza days".

Leicester City 2-1 Man City (26/12/18)

Four days later, an unhappy festive season was completed with another defeat thanks to familiar Foxes foes. Marc Albrighton cancelled out Bernardo Silva's 14th-minute strike and a late stunner from Ricardo Pereira gave Leicester a late Christmas present. Fabian Delph received the one card he would not want to get in December when he saw red for a late tackle on Pereira in the closing stages.

Newcastle United 2-1 Man City (29/01/2019)

Sergio Aguero, as he always seems to, scored against the Magpies with a first-minute goal and he saw a second soon chalked off for offside. However, a couple of defensive errors enabled Salomon Rondon and Matt Ritchie to score – the second netting from the spot – and City slipped to defeat at St James' Park.

Norwich City 3-2 Man City (14/09/2019)

Norwich and boss Daniel Farke drew plenty of smiles for the light-hearted way they dealt with a grim-looking injury list prior to a visit from the champions. Pre-match odds of 22-1 underlined the task the home side were facing, but McLean took advantage of City's slack defending at a corner to head Norwich into an 18th-minute lead. More sloppy work at the back led to Pukki brilliantly teeing up Cantwell to double the lead, before Aguero nodded home before the break to bring the champions back into the game. Comical work from Nicolas Otamendi led to Emiliano Buendia teeing up Pukki for Norwich's third. Rodri's drilled strike late on set up a nervy finish, but Norwich held on for the win.

Norwich City shocked Premier League champions Manchester City 3-2 at Carrow Road despite the Canaries coping with a massive injury crisis.

The visitors' first league loss since January was self-inflicted as defenders made regular errors, but Norwich, whose goals came from Kenny McLean, Todd Cantwell and Teemu Pukki, fully deserved their second home win since sealing promotion.

Rodri drilled home with two minutes to go to give City hope of a point but defeat on Saturday leaves them five points behind Liverpool in the table, with the Reds holding a 100 per cent record after five Premier League games.

Norwich were without 11 players due to injury and had to name two goalkeepers on the bench, but Daniel Farke's men took a shock lead in the 18th minute.

City's weakness from near-post corners is well known and when Emiliano Buendia floated Norwich's first set-piece into that area, McLean ran into space to power home a superb header.

It got worse for the champions 10 minutes later. Rodri lost a 50-50 on halfway and City were immediately exposed with Pukki able to easily advance and square for Cantwell to score.

Raheem Sterling's header hit the post as City aimed to respond and Sergio Aguero halved the deficit before the break by nodding home a perfectly placed left-wing Bernardo Silva centre.

Nicolas Otamendi's moment of madness presented Norwich with a gift of a third after the restart, Buendia robbing the defender and feeding Pukki for an easy finish - his eighth goal of the season for club and country.

Pep Guardiola sent on Kevin De Bruyne, Gabriel Jesus and Riyad Mahrez from the bench but the cavalry could not rescue the champions, although Rodri's 20-yard drive flew past Tim Krul to leave Norwich to see out a nervy finale.


What does it mean? City must enter transfer market after Laporte news

The news Aymeric Laporte could miss six months was a huge blow to a squad still missing the steady leadership of Vincent Kompany, who was not replaced when his contract expired.

John Stones has been out of sorts for some time and Otamendi also feels like a player who always has a mistake in him, with Guardiola possessing no specialist cover for either centre-back.

Guardiola told reporters before this game that City would not buy a defender in January but he has to reconsider after this shambolic defensive performance, although take nothing away from Norwich. They were huge outsiders and produced one of the league's biggest ever shocks.


Prolific Pukki cannot stop scoring

Since May 5, Finland forward Pukki has played 10 games for either Norwich or his country, failing to find the net in only one of those appearances. At 29 his career has taken the long way round to reach the Premier League but Pukki looks at home.

Goals are often the biggest problem for promoted sides but in Pukki, the Premier League's player of the month for August, they have a striker they can rely on, while he showed an unselfish streak to set up Cantwell for the Canaries' second.


Otamendi loses the plot

One mistake in a game can be forgiven but Otamendi made two awful errors in incredibly quick succession. Having played a poor pass to the similarly sloppy Stones that Norwich failed to capitalise on, he switched off immediately to allow Norwich to net the goal that effectively killed the game.

Although the Argentina defender started 14 league games last term, Stones and Otamendi does not look like a partnership that will help City to win the Premier League title again.


What's next?

City will want a better defensive display when they open their Champions League campaign away to Shakhtar Donetsk on Wednesday. They then take on Watford at home next weekend, when Norwich travel to Burnley.

Manchester City will do all they can to help Raheem Sterling get to the same level as "absolute legends" Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, says Pep Guardiola.

The England international has been in outstanding form in the early stages of the 2019-20 season, following on from two highly productive campaigns that saw him score 35 league goals as City won back-to-back Premier League titles.

Sterling also found the net in Euro 2020 qualifying wins over Bulgaria and Kosovo while away on international duty, though Guardiola played down comparisons to superstars Messi and Ronaldo ahead of his side's clash with Norwich City.

Still, the Spaniard sees no reason why the former Liverpool forward, 24, should not have ambitions to match the lofty standards set by the duo.

"Right now he is not in that level, I wish maybe in the future," Guardiola told the media.

"It would be a dream for him, for all of us and for him, but right now these two guys the last decade have scored 50, 60 goals every season and I don't know how many assists.

"They have won the Ballon d'Or and all the individual prizes every single season, except maybe last season.

"So the consistency of these two guys – they are legends, they are something unique in world football. And if Raheem can target that level, wow.

"We will be here to help him and of course he can do it, I will not be the guy to say don't think about that. No, absolutely not, I want it.

"But right now, nobody, not in this club but in all the clubs in the world, nobody can compare to what they have done every single week for 10 years. They [Messi and Ronaldo] are absolute legends and nobody can compare, nobody."

England manager Gareth Southgate said after the win over Bulgaria that the biggest change in Sterling's attitude had been his desire to score goals.

"I think with Brendan Rodgers in Liverpool, he played incredibly well, and with the national team he's played incredibly well," Guardiola said.

"So, I think his style, his desire, I think, the most I saw from the beginning is the fact he has an incredible mentality, he's a winning player.

"Before he made good actions but didn't finish too much. And now he's a player who can win games for himself."

Aymeric Laporte's long-term knee injury has hurt Manchester City, Pep Guardiola has conceded, but he does not expect the club to sign a replacement in January.

Guardiola confirmed on Friday that Laporte would be out for up to six months after he damaged cartilage and the lateral meniscus in his right knee during City's 4-0 win against Brighton and Hove Albion on August 31.

The centre-back, who received a long-awaited France call-up prior to his injury, has undergone surgery but like team-mate Leroy Sane is now set for a lengthy spell on the sidelines.

John Stones – who has not featured since the opening fixture – and Nicolas Otamendi are now City's only fit senior centre-backs, with midfielder Fernandinho seemingly set to provide a third option.

But despite City's lack of depth at the heart of their defence, Guardiola does not foresee the club pursuing a January signing.

"It is hard, the same as Leroy. We are disappointed for him, for both of them," Guardiola told a news conference ahead of Saturday's game against Norwich City.

"Leroy is important. Aymeric in that position is important too, for his left foot and his personality. Unfortunately he is injured. So we're going to live without him for a long time and we have enough resources to move forward and see what we can do.

"My advice to you is not to write too many names about the winter transfer window, because you are going to make a mistake. I don't think it's going to happen.

"I heard already we are interested in this player or the other player. I would like to say to all the clubs in the world don't be nervous, because we are not interested in any players or central defenders in Europe.

"We are going to wait with the players we have, with the two central defenders, with Fernandinho, with Eric Garcia and Taylor Harwood-Bellis, even some players in different positions we can use there. We're going to move forward."

Stones was not in England's latest squad as he continued his comeback from a thigh strain, while the 25-year-old was sidelined as Vincent Kompany was preferred as Laporte's partner in last term's run-in.

Guardiola, though, has no doubt in Stones' ability to fill the void left by Laporte.

"He's going to play incredible this period, while Laporte is not with us. He is going to play well. I don't have any doubts about his quality," Guardiola added of Stones.

"The same case with Otamendi. I don't know how many games they play together but I think a lot. Before Aymeric came they were a partnership and they played many games."

Pep Guardiola is delighted with Raheem Sterling's form but has urged the Manchester City attacker to ignore comparisons to Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi.

The England international has starred for club and country this season with eight goals and three assists in seven matches.

Sterling earned plenty of plaudits following his man of the match display against Kosovo on Tuesday, with former City and England winger Trevor Sinclair claiming he is on the same level as Ronaldo and Messi.

Guardiola has played down the comparisons, however, believing that nobody can match the two players who have battled it out to be the world's best for more than a decade.

"I'm so happy for him, for the way he's playing here and national team, but hopefully he won't read or listen to these kind of things," Guardiola said at Friday's news conference. 

"Nobody can compare with Cristiano or Messi. 

"I don't know if he's the best in England. Since we're together, not just now, he's been incredible with his work ethic. He's a nice guy. I'm delighted for him."

Sterling has been responsible for five of City's 14 goals in their opening four Premier League matches, the reigning champions collecting 10 points from their opening run of fixtures.

Liverpool are two points better off with a perfect return but Guardiola insisted it is too early to call it a two-horse race at the summit, especially with the games now coming thick and fast.

Speaking ahead of City's trip to Norwich City on Saturday, Guardiola told reporters: "I'm not predicting. Every week there are incredible predictions - there's a tendency for that but we've played four league games and that's nothing.

"We start the real competition, we play Saturday, then travel, play Wednesday, land Thursday, Saturday we have Premier League and then we go to Preston to play in the EFL Cup. 

"Of the next five games we've got four away, so many things can happen. We've had two terrible injuries with Leroy [Sane] and Aymeric [Laporte]. 

"It's too early to say what is going to happen. Chelsea, United, Tottenham, Everton doing well, everything can happen, but it's four games. In February or March we can say better. Now it's just four games and it's nothing."

Manchester City defender Aymeric Laporte will miss up to six months after undergoing surgery on his knee, manager Pep Guardiola has said.

The France centre-back damaged cartilage and the lateral meniscus in his right knee during City's 4-0 win against Brighton and Hove Albion on August 31 and had an operation four days later.

Guardiola on Friday confirmed the extent of Laporte's injury for the first time, with the 25-year-old not expected to play again in 2019.

Asked how long Laporte will be out, Guardiola told reporters at a news conference: "Long time. Five months, six months. Next year, sure."

Laporte's long-term lay-off leaves Guardiola short of options at the back, but John Stones is back in contention after recovering from a thigh problem that has kept him on the sidelines for the past five weeks.

Arrigo Sacchi believes the Premier League is enjoying a "golden age" of coaching with Pep Guardiola, Jurgen Klopp and Mauricio Pochettino.

Former AC Milan boss Sacchi, who won the European Cup in 1989 and 1990 with the Rossoneri, is seen as one of football's great innovators, yet he is watching English football with great admiration for the top managers.

Guardiola has guided Manchester City to consecutive Premier League titles, winning a treble last season, while Klopp's Liverpool defeated Pochettino's Tottenham in the 2018-19 Champions League final.

Sacchi told the Daily Mail: "[Guardiola, Klopp and Pochettino are] my favourites and all three have the same philosophical system, even though they are very different.

"England has a crazy, brilliant championship. It is experiencing a golden age."

The Italian, now 73, also drew comparisons between City, Liverpool and his great Milan side.

"Their football is similar to mine and I really appreciate their values, culture and mentality," Sacchi said. "My Milan team innovated, the teams of Guardiola and Klopp continue to innovate.

"They think like me. We have the duty to make the public enjoy football, to be excited by it. Making great football is more difficult than talking about it.

"I like the desire they have to dominate. Football must be domination and beauty, music and culture.

"I enjoy watching them. The problem in the Premier League is that they play too often and there is too much competition. Perhaps this is why the [England] national team never achieves great results."

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