Raheem Sterling believes he has transformed from a player who was not "living the way I should" into a football obsessive.

Sterling heads into Saturday's derby against Manchester United at the Etihad Stadium as Manchester City's premier attacking threat, particularly in the injury-enforced absence of Sergio Aguero.

The England forward has become indispensable for club and country, converting his promise into prolific returns over recent seasons.

Under the guidance of Pep Guardiola, former Liverpool star Sterling blossomed with 18 and 17 goals respectively in City's back-to-back Premier League triumphs in 2017-18 and 2018-19.

The 24-year-old has eight in 14 top-flight outings this time around, the same number of goals he amassed during England's successful Euro 2020 qualifying campaign.

"It's all about mentality. Mentality, maturity and growing up," Sterling said.

"I think now I'm living for football. I'm obsessed with football, obsessed with scoring goals, obsessed with recovering quicker and obsessed with improving myself.

"You have every facility here so you have to use it to the best of your advantage to try to be the best you can be. I was decisive but I wasn't 100 per cent committed. I wasn't 100 per cent living the way I should be living to be a professional footballer. I realised that and changed it.

"You see the improvements on the pitch and so that's why you continue to do it. Because you see how you feel on the field and what your output is.

"You look at what your numbers are doing. It's a good thing and, as a professional, you have to learn, take it in your stride and keep learning. That’s all I do."

An uncomfortable number for City to look at right now is the 11-point gap between themselves and Premier League leaders Liverpool.

Jurgen Klopp's men won 3-1 when the sides met at Anfield last month and have only dropped two points all season, although Sterling is not giving up on three consecutive league titles just yet.

"We just need to keep winning games and hope they lose some," he said.

"It's as simple as that. They're playing some good football at the moment, but it's a long season. We have got to keep winning, keep believing.

"Football is a funny game and in one moment it can change. You have to be ready. At the moment, they're leading, and we just have to keep working and keep winning."

First of all, that means no slip ups against United, who won two and drew one of the previous three derbies at the Etihad Stadium before City ran out 3-1 winners last term.

"We're always fighting against each other to be the number one team in the city," Sterling added.

"That's always a great thing to do. Both teams have great players and great managers; I think this weekend we'll show nothing less.

"Playing against United is always difficult and we know it'll be a tough game."

Pep Guardiola conceded he is surprised by the gap between Manchester City and Manchester United since he took charge at the Etihad Stadium.

City and United – who meet in this season's first Manchester derby on Saturday - finished fourth and fifth respectively in 2015-16, separated only by goal difference after amassing 66 points apiece.

Guardiola's arrival at the same time as Jose Mourinho took charge at Old Trafford for the subsequent campaign was expected to herald an unforgettable new chapter in a century-old local squabble, while adding to the enmity the two elite tacticians built up when at Barcelona and Real Madrid.

It did not quite pan out that way, with Mourinho's EFL Cup and Europa League triumphs in 2016-17 proving to be a false dawn at United.

By the time the former Chelsea and Inter boss was sacked in December last year, City were on their way to back-to-back Premier League titles and a domestic treble that means Guardiola has lifted five of the past six major honours on offer in England.

City are 11 points better off than United heading into the match at the Etihad Stadium, the gap having been nine, 19 and 32 points at the end of each of the past three seasons.

Guardiola pointed to his team's 3-2 defeat to their rivals on their own patch in April 2018, a result that delayed a coronation as champions, as a warning of what can happen in derby matches, but he was realistic about the overall picture in Manchester

"My reflection is we were better. In the time we were here, we were better than United at the end of the season," he said.

"The points show that. Our consistency was incredible. It surprised myself, too.

"But in one game, another game, a derby, everything can happen."

At his own pre-match news conference, United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer joked about not always being able to enjoy Manchester derbies during his playing days as City loitered in the lower divisions – a period at the end of the 1990s in which Guardiola has become well-versed.

"We love our clubs. Each fan loves their club and that's why they support. It doesn't matter if you have a lot of success in the past, it's part of how you feel," he said.

"Normally the supporters want to see their teams win and win and win, but they support them even in the bad, bad circumstances.

"Manchester City, I learned in the history, in the bad, bad moments, always the support was higher or more louder than now.

"In the perspective of the trophy cabinet, they are better. No doubts about that. Numbers are numbers in that situation and they lift more titles than us.

"But we try to be there for as long as possible. For City fans, Manchester City always will be better, like United fans will always believe their club is better."

In terms of a competitive rivalry, Liverpool now concern the blue side of Manchester as they once did the red.

Despite an 11-point gap to Jurgen Klopp's Premier League leaders, Guardiola is satisfied with the efforts of a City team who stylishly returned to winning ways by thumping Burnley 4-1 in midweek.

"I don't know. One reason, no doubt about that, is the quality of the opponent. Their numbers are incredible," he said.

"I expected a bit [of a drop off] in the first weeks of the season after back-to-back [titles] but the players, I am not dissatisfied with how they play. I am quite happy when I review all the games we played.

"I don't believe the stats too much, but I know we are the best team by far creating chances and the best team by far [at] conceding few [chances].

"But we are 11 points behind. Something happened, I will try to discover."

A vulnerable defence without the injury Aymeric Laporte and departed captain Vincent Kompany has been frequently cited, not least after City stepped away from a close-season bidding war with United for England centre-back Harry Maguire.

"He's a United player, he decided to go there," Guardiola added. "They paid more than we wanted to pay and he is there.

"I think he's an exceptional player for United and for England."

Chelsea have hit out at FIFA for treating them "entirely differently to Manchester City" over transfer breaches after the London club had their registration ban halved by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).

The Premier League side were banned from registering new players for two successive transfer windows by FIFA in February, a punishment handed down for breaching rules related to acquiring and registering players under the age of 18.

An appeal to FIFA had been partially upheld, allowing them to sign players 16 or younger, but Friday's announcement means they will now be able to buy reinforcements for their senior team in January.

Chelsea have since taken the opportunity to lambast FIFA's treatment of them, convinced they were dealt a crueller hand than Manchester City, who avoided a transfer ban in August despite the world's governing body finding them to have breached rules on under-18 signings.

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola has urged striker Gabriel Jesus to have the belief he can be a derby day hero on Saturday.

With Sergio Aguero still absent due to a thigh injury, much of City's goalscoring burden in their clash with Manchester United will fall upon the shoulders of the Brazil international.

Jesus ended a 10-game goal drought for club and country with a brace in City's 4-1 win over Burnley on Tuesday, which has boosted his confidence.

The 22-year-old has failed to find the net in his four appearances in the Manchester derby – three of which have come from the bench - but Guardiola has confidence in the forward's ability.

"He has to be himself – we need his goals. That’s why we won the last game,” the City boss said at his news conference ahead of the clash with United.

“We need him and his goals, if he puts this idea in his head he can do it every game.

"Confidence has to be there in the heads, not because of good or bad performances, winning or losing games. Not just him, all the players."

Guardiola claimed the mental strength of his squad is still strong even though they find themselves 11 points behind Premier League leaders Liverpool.

"There are some things that are undeniable, the mentality and how strong they are," he said.

"We have to learn, with all athletes, he would not be in the high level [he is] and playing if he didn't have quality.

"They can control it, they don't need the manager to speak to them, they have to believe they are good enough and show how good they are.

"All the time it's there, if they score goals the confidence rises, if a keeper doesn't concede goals the confidence rises."

City are 11 points of ahead of sixth-placed United, who beat former manager Jose Mourinho's Tottenham side at Old Trafford on Wednesday.

Guardiola believes counterpart Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is doing a "good job" at United and will have them side fired up for the Etihad Stadium showdown.

"The history is huge and the quality of players they have has always been there and we have to try to beat them," he added.

"They are incredibly fast up front and at set pieces with Harry Maguire, they have the physicality and aggression. I have a good impression.

"It's an important game against a good rival with a big history. We play against a good team to try to follow the performance from the last game.

"It's Man United, all respect to what they have done for English, European and world football."

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola insists there have been no approaches for Mikel Arteta and he wants the assistant coach to stay with the club.

Arteta has been linked with the vacant Arsenal top job after Unai Emery was sacked. The former Gunners midfielder was also among the candidates to replace Arsene Wenger 18 months ago.

The 37-year-old is also reported to be of interest to Everton, another of his former clubs as a player, who dismissed Marco Silva on Thursday.

However, Guardiola reiterated his desire to keep Arteta in City's coaching ranks, and he is confident of him staying at least until the end of the Premier League season.

"There has been no approach," Guardiola said in his news conference ahead of Saturday's visit of Manchester United.

"Have I spoken to him about his future? No. Do I want him to stay? Yes."

In an interview with Sky Sports, Guardiola acknowledged Arteta was "ready" to take a job in management but should only accept a suitable position.

"I said last game he'll be close to me against Manchester United and hopefully he can stay, but at the end of the season I don't know what will happen," Guardiola said.

"He will be here until the end of the season, yes, I think so. I'm not a guy who puts a hand on my staff to say what they have to do. We are human beings and everyone has dreams and desires.

"He's ready. It's the right time when he gets an offer, and he takes the offer. If you tell me ready about his knowledge of the game, as a human, professional, work ethic, he is ready, absolutely. He's ready."

When asked whether Arteta should succeed him as City boss, Guardiola gave a positive verdict.

"He is able to, absolutely," Guardiola added. "But it depends on him, the club, many things I cannot decide.

"When I arrived here, we are in touch to work together, I was convinced on that, and he was convinced to help us. The time we are together, it's magnificent.

"Hopefully he stays this year, next year, for as long as possible at this club, that would be my dream, but Mikel has his own life and I will never say what he has to do."

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer encouraged Marcus Rashford to maintain his impressive scoring form as he urged Manchester United to show consistency in Saturday's derby.

United head to the Etihad Stadium with renewed belief following their 2-1 midweek win over Tottenham but will again be without the injured Paul Pogba, who has not played since September.

Anthony Martial will be available, albeit potentially from the bench, as United seek to make a dent in Manchester City's title aspirations.

Rashford scored both goals against Spurs and has now been directly involved in 14 goals in his past 13 games for club and country, having found net the freely since mid-October.

His pace on the counter will be crucial to United's hopes of breaking down a side that has not kept a clean sheet in eight attempts, and manager Solskjaer backed the England international to continue blossoming as a reliable goalscorer.

"He's doing that at the moment," said the United boss.

"How he didn't get the goal against Aston Villa is beyond me but he's consistently scoring now. It's not like four in one and two or three without. It's not just in spurts and that's encouraging.

"He's consistently getting chances and getting into better positions. On Wednesday he was unbelievable and we want to see that again."

Solskjaer sought to extract the same response from Rashford's team-mates after United ended a three-match winless streak with the Old Trafford triumph over Tottenham.

United have not won consecutive Premier League matches since March.

"We're going away against arguably the best team in England, so of course it's going to be a difficult game but we need consistency," Solskjaer said.

"I said it before the Tottenham game, everyone was doom and gloom, but it's a chance to turn that doubt into belief and for us, if we can manage to get another performance, the confidence [will grow].

"The way we played against Tottenham, if we can do that at the Etihad I'm sure we can come out of it with a result.

"People say: 'Why do you not have better results in other games?' But the Premier League is hard, no matter who you play, it's margins. I think it's a compliment to the league."

Solskjaer said he hoped midfielder Pogba would return from his long-running ankle injury before the end of December.

Pep Guardiola prevailed in his maiden managerial meeting with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and would dearly love another win on Saturday to remain in sight of Liverpool.

Manchester City did that with a routine 4-1 win at Burnley on Tuesday but their bitter rivals and next opponents perhaps took more from the midweek fixtures.

In overcoming Jose Mourinho's Tottenham, Manchester United shed a poor run of results and laid down some sort of marker for what is possible for a team that was in mid-table.

But with what Solskjaer described as his side's best display for a "long time" comes the need for another step forward at the Etihad Stadium.

 

CAN UNITED MAKE IT TWO STEPS FORWARD?

"We dominated the game and could have, should have finished the game there and then," Solskjaer side of United's first half against Tottenham.

They eventually completed the job against the Champions League finalists but what lies ahead is a tougher test and a true measure of the Norwegian's tactical acumen.

Daniel James and Marcus Rashford joined Mason Greenwood in attack on Wednesday and should in theory have the pace to trouble City on the break, much as Wolves did in October.

Rashford scored twice against Spurs and has now been directly involved in 14 goals in his past 13 games for club and country, a sharp improvement on his lean start to the season.

City, meanwhile, were back closer to their best in the convincing victory over Burnley but have failed to keep a clean sheet in eight games in all competitions.

Can the ageing Fernandinho cope alongside either John Stones, who professes not to know which games he will start, or the error-prone Nicolas Otamendi?

The man tasked with screening the defence could help, particularly as he faces a key midfield battle.

HEAD-TO-HEAD: RODRI V SCOTT MCTOMINAY

Rodri's thunderous strike at Turf Moor will have done wonders for the Spaniard's confidence ahead of his first Manchester derby.

The 23-year-old close-season recruit has had a bigger part to play in his first Premier League campaign than perhaps even Guardiola would have expected, in part due to Fernandinho's move into defence.

Rodri's ability on the ball was obvious before his arrival in England and it is of little surprise that his passing accuracy (91.73 per cent) is superior to the man he is set to meet in the centre of the Etihad Stadium pitch, Scott McTominay.

McTominay's average sits at 78.74 per cent but his importance to United was obvious as he helped the Red Devils end a three-game winless streak when returning from an ankle injury.

The Scotland international offers more in a box-to-box sense and has scored three goals to Rodri's two from the same number of appearances (13), while attempting 20 shots to his counterpart's seven.

That, though, is generally where his statistical superiority ends. Despite playing 178 more minutes, McTominay has managed just one more tackle and two more interceptions than Rodri.

The latter also boasts a better duel success rate (62.41 per cent to 55.74) and has laid on an extra seven scoring chances.

FORM GUIDE

City returned to winning ways against the Clarets after drawing on the road at Newcastle United, a result that left them 11 points adrift of Liverpool.

The club's record over their past 10 top-flight matches now reads seven victories, one draw and two defeats, those coming against Wolves and leaders Liverpool at Anfield.

United head across town fresh from a morale-boosting reunion with former manager Mourinho but have issues to rectify against fellow 'big six' teams.

They have won one of their past five away to such opposition and weaknesses were evident in recent trips to Bournemouth and Sheffield United, which reaped a solitary point.

HISTORY SAYS...

Guardiola's record in the Manchester derby makes for cheery reading for City supporters.

The champions prevailed 2-0 at Old Trafford in April, the Catalan's seventh win from 11 meetings with the team across town.

Another victory would see him become the club's second manager, after Manuel Pellegrini, to notch up three in a row against United in the Premier League.

The Red Devils do, however, hold the superior head-to-head record: 21 wins to City's 15, with the points split on eight occasions.

Liverpool cruised to a 5-2 victory in the Merseyside derby against Everton as they consolidated their lead at the top of the Premier League, despite a much-changed team.

Meanwhile, Tottenham head coach Jose Mourinho endured an unhappy return to Old Trafford as his side lost 2-1 to Manchester United - the Portuguese has not won there as a visiting boss in his past five attempts.

Defending champions Manchester City thrashed Burnley 4-1 as Pep Guardiola made it eight wins in his nine games against the Clarets.

A midweek round of Premier League fixtures brought a range of milestones and telling stats, the best of which are below.

KLOPP ECLIPSES SHANKLY, PAISLEY AND DALGLISH 

Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp will likely need to deliver the Premier League title to secure his place in the pantheon of Anfield greats.

However, the German has put down a few markers suggesting he is ready to join the Kop's hall of fame by becoming the fastest Liverpool manager to 100 league victories. Klopp completed the feat in 159 games – quicker than Bill Shankly, Bob Paisley and Kenny Dalglish.

Liverpool secured the win over Everton thanks to a brace from Divock Origi, and one goal apiece for Sadio Mane, Xherdan Shaqiri and Georginio Wijnaldum.

They are now unbeaten in their past 32 Premier League games which is their longest run without defeat in top-flight history.

Marco Silva's final match at the helm saw him become the first Everton manager to concede five league goals against Liverpool in a single match since Howard Kendall in November 1982.

 

MORE OF THE SAME FOR MOURINHO 

United's 2-1 win over Tottenham, secured courtesy of two goals from Marcus Rashford – taking his tally to nine in 10 games – made Mourinho's return to his old club a miserable one.

Mourinho has won none of his past five away Premier League matches against the Red Devils (D3 L2), failing to beat four different managers in that time – Alex Ferguson, David Moyes, Louis van Gaal and current United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

It was also Tottenham 35th Premier League defeat against United – more than they have suffered against any other team. 

Spurs' defence must also be a concern for Mourinho. They have conceded twice in their four matches in all competitions under the Portuguese – they only had a run of conceding two or more goals in four consecutive games once under Mauricio Pochettino, doing so in February and March 2015.

Midfielder Dele Alli has started to rediscover some of his old form, though, and his equaliser for Spurs was his third goal in as many appearances for the club in all competitions – the first time since March 2017 he has enjoyed such a purple patch.

 

CITY THREE AND EASY UNDER PEP

Gabriel Jesus' brace and one apiece for midfielders Rodri and Riyad Mahrez gave City some much-needed confidence with a 4-1 thrashing of Burnley – although they remain 11 points behind leaders Liverpool.

Jesus is now the third highest-scoring Brazilian player in Premier League history (32 goals), trailing only Philippe Coutinho (41) and Roberto Firmino (52).

It was the 36th time City have won a Premier League game by three or more goals under Guardiola – the most of any team in the competition since the start of the 2016-17 season.

David Silva's creative skills remain key for City and he took his tally to six assists from open play in the league this season – just one fewer than he managed in 33 games last season.

Burnley have now conceded 11 goals in their three home games against 'big six' opposition in the Premier League this season, compared to only two goals in five home games against the rest.

 

LJUNGBERG'S LOSS A DROUGHT-BREAKING BOOST FOR BRIGHTON

Managerless, beaten at home by Brighton and Hove Albion and now nine games without victory in all competitions – Gunners fans have every right to be gloomy.

Arsenal's 2-1 loss to the Seagulls made this their longest winless streak since a run of 10 between February and March of 1977.

Mesut Ozil registered his first assist in the league since February when his corner was met by Alexandre Lacazette, but the French forward's 25th English top-flight goal at Emirates Stadium failed to avert a first defeat for interim boss Freddie Ljungberg.

Adam Webster had opened the scoring before the interval and Brighton were able to celebrate their first Premier League away win over 'big six' opposition following Neal Maupay's 80th-minute header.

Arsenal, booed off at full-time, have faced 52 shots on target in home league games this season, four more than in the entire Invincibles campaign of 2003-04.

Gabriel Jesus credited Manchester City and Brazil team-mate Fernandinho for helping him to get back on the goal trail.

Jesus netted an impressive brace in City's 4-1 Premier League win over Burnley on Tuesday, ending a run of 10 matches without a goal for club and country that featured two missed penalties.

A pair of assured finishes suggested a return to form for the 22-year-old, who is expected to lead the line for Pep Guardiola's men once again in Saturday's Manchester derby, as Sergio Aguero remains sidelined with a thigh injury.

"I had a talk with Fernandinho. He has been helping me a lot. He has always been very important since I arrived at the club," Jesus said.

"With his experience throughout his career, he is giving me advice. The day before the game, we had a nice chat.

"He always looks after all of us, especially the young ones. As a countryman, he came to talk to me and tell me to remain calm.

"I was calm, more confident and I managed to score two goals, that was very important to me."

Following Jesus' brace, City's record signing Rodri crowned his best performance for the club with a blistering 22-yard strike.

The Spain international turned in an accomplished display in the holding midfield position Fernandinho – now operating at centre-back – had made his own under Guardiola.

Ahead of Wednesday's Merseyside derby between Liverpool and Everton, City cut the deficit between themselves and Jurgen Klopp's league leaders to eight points.

A run of one win in five matches across all competitions before their trip to Turf Moor meant it was a victory worth celebrating.

"We needed this victory,” Rodri told reporters. "It was a good performance.

"Sometimes when you lose or draw, your confidence can go down, and after this victory, we were really having a party in the dressing room because we needed it to bring up the mentality and confidence of the team.

"Everyone is human, and when you don't get the results, you need to get people's confidence up. This was an important victory. We will fight until the end because that is our mentality and identity."

Pep Guardiola thinks it is "crazy" for Manchester City to think about catching Liverpool – although his declaration that the Premier League title race was over following his side's 4-1 victory at Burnley was laced with sarcasm.

City headed to Turf Moor on a run of one win in five matches across all competitions, but last season's domestic treble winners looked something like their old selves as a fine Gabriel Jesus double set up a commanding triumph.

Rodri's blistering strike from outside the area was the pick of the bunch and substitute Riyad Mahrez also got in on the act before Robbie Brady netted a late consolation for the hosts.

The result brought City back to within eight points of Premier League leaders Liverpool before Jurgen Klopp's men entertain Everton in Wednesday's Merseyside derby.

Asked if City's performance showed they were not giving up on a title they have won in each of the past two seasons, Guardiola replied: "The title is over. What I read, nobody gives us a chance. It's done."

In a less acidic assessment at his post-match news conference, the former Barcelona and Bayern Munich boss added: "For the distance we have against Liverpool, it would be a little bit crazy to think about the title, honestly.

"We have to think about the derby, go game by game because it is not just the Premier League. There are other competitions, like FA Cup and Carabao and Champions League.

"The important thing is to take this rhythm in our games for the next fixtures."

City were close to their sublime best at times, passing their opponents into submission either side of half-time.

Guardiola is keen to see them double down on that familiar style, one he feels has deserted them over recent weeks, with Manchester United up next in Saturday's derby at the Etihad Stadium.

"I'm glad for the fact we passed the ball more than usual over the last games," he said.

"In the last games there is no regret, but the only [negative] feeling I have is the lack of more passes.

"We are built to have the ball and pass and pass and pass. Sometimes we start left and want to finish left and you have to move the ball more. That is the only way against a well-organised defence like Burnley.

"You have to find the spaces inside and outside. We did that really well."

Pep Guardiola insisted Manchester City's squad harbour no doubts over Gabriel Jesus' ability to step up and fill the void left by the injured Sergio Aguero.

Jesus ended a five-match scoreless run in the Premier League with City's first two goals in a 4-1 rout of Burnley at Turf Moor on Tuesday.

Aguero has missed the past two league matches with a thigh injury sustained in a 2-1 win over Chelsea, and is also set to be out for the Manchester derby on Saturday.

However, Guardiola is adamant none of City's players or coaching staff had any concerns over Jesus' form.

"Of course it's not easy [replacing Aguero] but the team doesn't have doubts about him," Guardiola told Amazon Prime.

"As a striker sometimes you score, sometimes not. We need the quality of the players up front to make the difference.

"Of course we need him. The strikers are there to score goals and we need him. His effort, commitment, which is always there, but of course, strikers like him and Sergio live for goals, it was important.

"We played a good game. Controlled them, didn't concede much, except one action in the first half and a goal in the last minutes. We played really well. The quality of our players made the difference."

Jesus got things started for City with a sensational strike midway through the first half, before the Brazil forward prodded home from Bernardo Silva's cross shortly after the break.

Rodri – who was impeccable in central midfield – slammed in a brilliant third, before substitute Riyad Mahrez helped himself to a 50th Premier League goal late on, although there was still time for Robbie Brady to snatch a consolation for Burnley.

Guardiola again stuck with Fernandinho in defence, though City's boss has no plans to change that tactic any time soon.

"We are open to accept [media] opinions, but we know the quality of the players much better than all of you, and know what the team needs in this moment," Guardiola said.

"Fernandinho for his quality, his personality and his character is an important player and I like him to play [in defence]. I said it when we lost games and I say it when we win. When we win it's a perfect decision, when we lose it's a bad decision.

"[Rodri] was incredible, in his position, offensive, defensive, so clever. He has much better, the picture of our game, a picture of the players where they are.

"Fantastic player, so young, and he's adapted perfectly to this country. He's got it. He's a guy who wants to learn, listen, every training session he's ready and that's why always we can count on him without a problem."

City's win takes them – temporarily at least – above Leicester City and into second place, though they are still eight points shy of Liverpool, who welcome struggling Merseyside rivals Everton to Anfield on Wednesday.

"We are far away [from Liverpool] so we cannot think about that," Guardiola said when asked if City had demonstrated the quality needed to stay in the title race.

"Our level was so good in most games. I don't have the feeling we played bad in any single game. Sometimes you need something more and there are situations we cannot control. In general the level of the team I am more than satisfied."

Gabriel Jesus feels the pressure is on to score in every game at Manchester City.

Brazil international Jesus ended a 10-game drought for club and country with a superb brace as City returned to winning ways with a 4-1 win at Burnley on Tuesday.

A thigh injury to the club's all-time leading scorer Sergio Aguero has granted Jesus an extended run in Pep Guardiola's first XI – an opportunity the 22-year-old knows is weighted with a burden of expectation.

"I know I can score every game but it's difficult – football is not like this," he told Amazon Prime.

"I have Sergio with me. I have to learn with him because he is a legend of football and of the club.

"I have to score when I play because Sergio scores every time. That is my ambition, to play and score every time."

Jesus's Turf Moor brace marked a timely return to form, with Saturday's Manchester derby at the Etihad Stadium up next.

City edged to within eight points of Premier League leaders Liverpool, who face their own local argument against Everton at Anfield on Wednesday.

"It was an important game. We're eight points behind now, that's good for us," Jesus said.

"That is the level of the Premier League, every time it is like this. We know Burnley has good players and they play so good with the set-pieces.

"We played good again and tonight we could score the chances."

He added: "That is the challenge. We have to fight. The Premier League is so difficult and Liverpool are having a great season."

Gabriel Jesus might have beaten Nick Pope to delight fans of both sublime finishes and easy wordplay, but it was Burnley who were truly counting their blessings after the first half of Tuesday's Premier League encounter with Manchester City.

But for Pope's point-blank stop to deny Raheem Sterling from a devilish Kevin De Bruyne cross and another reaction save with his boot when Bernardo Silva roved into the Clarets' box, Sean Dyche's men would have been playing for pride alone during the second half at Turf Moor. In the end, it mattered little.

After a sapping run of one win in five matches across all competitions, compounded by Liverpool streaking away into the distance, Pep Guardiola's champions looked something like their old selves in a commanding 4-1 win.

There was a pop and fizz to their work, as has always been the case with Guardiola's best sides. In the period between Pope thwarting Silva and the peep of Jon Moss' half-time whistle, Burnley found themselves struck on what Alex Ferguson once dubbed the "passing carousel" after his Manchester United were left discombobulated by Barcelona in the 2009 Champions League final.

Cracked confidence was being fused back together, never more evidently than when City's number nine curled a beautiful finish past the keeper's fingertips from the left-hand side of the penalty area – the ball caressing the side netting on its way in.

Feast follows famine as Jesus ends drought

When it comes to his goalscoring prowess, Jesus' form certainly moves in mysterious ways.

His opener against Burnley was his first goal in 11 matches for club and country – a run that included two comedically terrible penalty misses. If the San Siro goalposts had collapsed after he slotted wide from 12 yards against Atalanta at the start of last month, he would have recreated Diana Ross' USA 1994 opening ceremony masterpiece to perfection.

If that left self-belief dwindling, apologetically scuffing a penalty wide compounded matters when Brazil lost to their old enemies Argentina a week later.

Before that slapstick-embossed drought, the 22-year-old scored in each of his first five starts for City this season. Yet, the extended first-team run guaranteed by Sergio Aguero's thigh injury looked nothing other than a burden at Burnley until the moment Raheem Sterling and David Silva combined to release him to beat Pope.

Like enthusiastic punters at a Christmas fairground, Burnley were back on the carousel after the half-time break.

Pass, pass, pass, pass, pass… WALLOP.

City shuffled their opponents back and forth across the edge of the area, Bernardo Silva floated an inviting cross to the far post and Jesus volleyed a chance into the top corner that he might conceivably have shinned into his own face at any time in the past week.

Jesus then spun James Tarkowski and came agonisingly close to a deserved hat-trick, his self-belief resurrected in timely fashion as the Manchester derby awaits on Saturday.

Rodri provides the prime cut

Burnley were unable to assert themselves as an attacking force, with the often-maligned Nicolas Otamendi acquitting himself well against Chris Wood – the Burnley striker cutting a forlorn figure as his usual partner in crime Ashley Barnes spent the first hour on the bench.

Given the UK audience were enjoying the first Premier League fixtures to be shown live on Amazon Prime, Otamendi – a man with the stars of several Netflix dramas tattooed across his back – might have been an ill-fitting hero.

As it was, record signing Rodri crowned his most accomplished outing in City colours with the blockbuster moment.

Having broken up and distributed play with astute judgement throughout, the former Atletico Madrid player dispensed with subtlety to lash a bouncing ball high into the net with brutal force from 22 yards.

Riyad Mahrez and Robbie Brady exchanged late goals on a night when City arrived at Turf Moor with their dressing room plunged into darkness by faulty electrics. The yawning gap at the top is down to eight points for now – perhaps the lights have not gone out on this title defence just yet.

Gabriel Jesus rediscovered form in style as his double helped Manchester City to a 4-1 victory over Burnley that closed the gap on Premier League leaders Liverpool.

Pep Guardiola described last season's 1-0 win at Turf Moor as being like a "trip to the dentist", though Jesus' brace ensured no pain for City this time around.

Thrust into City's line-up in the wake of Sergio Aguero's injury, Jesus scored either side of half-time to put the visitors in complete control, in the process ending his five-match scoreless streak in the league.

Jesus could have rounded off a hat-trick soon after netting his second, though his rare moment of profligacy did not prove costly – Rodri's thunderbolt making sure of the points.

Robbie Brady snatched a consolation for Burnley after Riyad Mahrez had added further gloss for City late on, as the defending champions moved, temporarily at least, into second, eight points shy of Liverpool.

Jesus thought he had flicked City ahead early on after turning in Angelino's strike, but the goal was rightly disallowed for offside.

There was no doubting City's opener, however.

Kevin De Bruyne's charge set City away and, with referee Jonathan Moss allowing play to roll on despite a hefty challenge on the Belgian from Jack Cork, David Silva took charge to supply Jesus. After cutting in on his right, the Brazilian curled a sensational finish into the top-right corner.

Nick Pope denied City a second prior to half-time, though Burnley's goalkeeper was helpless to prevent Jesus brilliantly prodding home Bernardo Silva's cross after the restart.

Jesus looked all set to complete a hat-trick three minutes later but, after an exquisite turn, the youngster failed to apply the finish from a tight angle.

Ashley Barnes' introduction handed Burnley fresh impetus, yet hopes of a comeback were extinguished when Rodri thumped in a venomous first-time strike.

The rout was complete with three minutes remaining – substitute Mahrez drilling in a low effort from the edge of the area for his 50th Premier League goal – before Brady slammed in from close-range to get Burnley on the scoresheet.

 

What does it mean? Ideal derby prep for City

Denied by Jonjo Shelvey's spectacular strike in Saturday's draw with Newcastle United, City were more ruthless at Turf Moor as they claimed a 10th win of the league campaign.

Now, Guardiola's focus will switch to United, with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side visiting the Etihad Stadium on Saturday.

Jesus resurrects stalling form

With Aguero injured, Jesus now has the chance to shine for City, though he looked devoid of confidence in the early stages. His first goal was taken with exceptional style and prowess, and his second a brilliant, acrobatic effort.

Ahead of the Manchester derby, Jesus – who has scored eight goals in his last nine starts away from home in the Premier League – looks back to his best.

Clarets offer little resistance

Guardiola has openly acknowledged how tough his side found the corresponding fixture last term, though Sean Dyche's side were rather easily swatted aside this time around.

It is now two home defeats on the spin for Burnley, and five defeats from their last seven games in total in the league.

What's next?

It is the small matter of the Manchester derby up next for City. Burnley, meanwhile, travel to Tottenham.

Real Madrid have made Fabian Ruiz their top transfer target.

According to reports, "negotiations have accelerated" as the Spanish heavyweights aim to take advantage of the disarray at Napoli.

But the midfielder also has high-profile admirers in England and France.

 

TOP STORY – MADRID STEP UP FABIAN INTEREST

Napoli midfielder Fabian is a man in demand.

Madrid appear to be in pole position, with Cadena SER claiming the Spanish giants are "very serious" about taking the 23-year-old to the Santiago Bernabeu.

Negotiations over a contract extension at Napoli are said to have stopped and the Spain international is reportedly warm to the idea of joining up with Zinedine Zidane's side.

However, Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain could look to force a three-way bidding war for the Spain international, who has previously been linked to Barcelona.

ROUND-UP

- Ex-Valencia head coach Marcelino has emerged as a left-field managerial candidate for Arsenal and Everton, according to the Daily Mail. The 54-year-old lost his job at the Mestalla in September following a reported falling out with owner Peter Lim.

- Ole Gunnar Solskjaer fears he will be sacked if Manchester United lose their next two games against Tottenham and bitter rivals City, says The Sun.

- Former Premier League striker-turned-reporter Jan Aage Fjortoft claims Liverpool are favourites to land Borussia Dortmund star Jadon Sancho – but the winger will cost the Premier League leaders €130million.

- Chelsea have offered little-used striker Olivier Giroud to Serie A sides Milan and Inter, according to CalcioMercato.

Barcelona are keeping tabs on 16-year-old PSG midfielder Edouard Michut, reports Le Parisien.

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