Riyad Mahrez's love of the ball is starting to pay dividends, says Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola.

City signed Algeria winger Mahrez from Leicester City for what was then a club-record fee of £60million in July last year.

Although the 28-year-old netted the pivotal third goal in City's 4-1 final-day win at Brighton and Hove Albion to seal the Premier League title, he spent much of his debut campaign on the periphery of Guardiola's first XI.

But Leroy Sane's knee injury and a comparatively slow start this time around from City's player of the year for 2018-19, Bernardo Silva, has handed Mahrez a more prominent role.

He opened the scoring in Wednesday's 3-0 Champions League win at Shakhtar Donetsk – an authoritative response following last weekend's shock 3-2 loss at Norwich City – and Guardiola finds something of a kindred spirit in the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations winner.

"When he played last season he played good, except maybe the first few games, but it's normal," he said ahead of Saturday's home game against Watford.

"We knew the quality and especially the mentality. How competitive he is, it surprised me a lot.

"There is one detail - he loves to play football, he loves the training sessions, he loves to be in contact with the ball.

"I like this type of player. He goes to the training session on the pitch and immediately takes the ball to have fun with the ball. That maybe is a stupid detail but I like it."

Despite failing to win too many plaudits last season, Guardiola insists Mahrez has never lacked for self-belief – to the extent he is not always the most receptive member of the City squad when it comes to regular rotation.

"He is a guy who I think doesn't feel too much pressure. It doesn't matter where he plays, he has a lot of confidence in himself.

"If he makes two bad actions, he goes 'give me the ball, give me the ball – I am going to try again'. That is the best detail for the players on the big, big stages. It is the most difficult to find.

"The only thing he has to improve is to be a bit more relaxed when he doesn’t play. The rest is top."

In that regard, Guardiola suggested Mahrez should follow the example of Gabriel Jesus.

The Brazil striker grasped his opportunity to start versus Shakhtar by completing the scoring, although the presence of club great Sergio Aguero means the bench if never too far away.

"It's difficult to find in Europe, in the world, a striker like Gabriel," Guardiola said. "How important he is, a number nine for Brazil.

"He's an incredibly top player, a young player. His behaviour in the training sessions is outstanding.

"He has to handle fighting in his position against a legend – one of the best strikers I have ever seen in my life, Aguero.

"It is not easy to accept this role and he accepts it. That's why I am over the moon with him.

"In the last two years Sergio has been incredible how he fights for the team, but I know when [Jesus] plays he does absolutely everything.

"He is a young, young striker. The future for this club is incredible."

Pep Guardiola has declared Liverpool "the strongest opponents I have faced in my career as a manager" after Manchester City shipped an early lead in this season's title race.

City are pursuing a third consecutive Premier League crown but a shock 3-2 loss at Norwich City last weekend – their first top-flight loss since January – left them five points shy of Jurgen Klopp's men, who have won five out of five in 2019-20.

As the two sides engaged in a titanic battle last season, City eventually prevailing on 98 points to Liverpool's 97, Guardiola said the Reds ranked alongside the Barcelona side of 2014-15 and their forward line of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar when it came to considering his strongest foes.

Speaking ahead of Saturday's home game versus Watford, the former Barca and Bayern Munich boss stated Klopp's Liverpool were now out on their own.

"You have to understand what we have done in the past does not ensure you can do it tomorrow or the day after," Guardiola said.

"The opponents we have, I've said many times, are the strongest opponents I have faced in my career as a manager – Liverpool.

"These are not weak words. I said it when they were in front, I said it when we were in front; when we won and we lose.

"They have absolutely everything in terms of a positional game, counter-attack, set pieces, transitions, offensive, defensive and mentality. Anfield the stadium – many things.

"I know how difficult it was, how difficult it is and how difficult it will be.

"But that is the challenge. The same with the central defenders. We go, 'Okay, let's find a solution to keep the team stable and good'."

Guardiola has limited options in the heart of defence following injuries to Aymeric Laporte and John Stones, the latter set to return in around a month from a thigh problem.

It meant defensive midfielder Fernandinho beginning a transition to defence alongside remaining specialist Nicolas Otamendi against Shakhtar Donetsk and the Brazil international impressed throughout a 3-0 win.

"We don't have many other options," Guardiola said. "Rodri can play there and of course two young players who we trust a lot, especially Eric [Garcia].

"Last season he was training all season with us. Taylor Harwood-Bellis was with us in the pre-season and we were impressed.

"It is not a problem, it is a challenge. I don't take these situations like a problem.

"It is important to be positive in your mood. If we do it we will be happy; if we don't do it we will work harder."

Guardiola also offered reflections on City's stunning reverse at Norwich, which did not displease him to the same extent as the previous time they lost in the Premier League – a 2-1 defeat at Newcastle United that looked to have given Liverpool a decisive title advantage.

"After watching the game against Norwich, I was not really upset for the way we played. I was upset after Newcastle [last season] – after 1-0 after one minute we forgot to play," he added.

"Against Norwich we shot more than 15 times and we could have one. In Newcastle I don't have that feeling after one minute."

Inter Miami have found their star signing, set to land Manchester City playmaker David Silva.

The MLS side, set to start playing next year, have been linked with numerous big names, with Barcelona star Lionel Messi among them.

But they appear to have found the man to lead them into their debut campaign.

 

TOP STORY – DAVID SILVA SET TO JOIN MLS SIDE INTER MIAMI

David Silva is likely to join Inter Miami at the end of the 2019-20 season, according to the Independent.

The 33-year-old has previously said this campaign would be his last with Manchester City, the club he arrived at in 2010.

David Beckham is a co-owner of Inter Miami and it seems they are set to land the star they have been chasing.

ROUND-UP

- Unsurprisingly, Erling Haaland's Champions League exploits have led to interest from a couple of Europe's biggest clubs. The RB Salzburg forward, 19, scored a hat-trick against Genk on Tuesday. Barcelona have watched Haaland previously, according to Mundo Deportivo, while The Sun reports Manchester United have also joined the race for the Norway international.

- Barcelona may be busy in January, but only with departures. Marca reports the LaLiga giants are not planning to make any signings despite continued interest in Paris Saint-Germain star Neymar, but are considering selling first-team players Ivan Rakitic, Samuel Umtiti and Arturo Vidal.

- Mason Greenwood is set to re-sign with Manchester United. The Sun reports the forward, who scored his first senior goal for the club in the Europa League on Thursday, will sign a new contract before his 18th birthday on October 1, taking his wages from £800 to £25,000 per week.

- Antoine Griezmann made the move from Atletico Madrid to Barcelona in the close season and the forward received quite the bonus. The France international landed a €14million commission to sign for Barcelona, according to El Mundo.

- Like Haaland, another RB Salzburg player is being chased by a Premier League club. Arsenal have made a fresh approach for playmaker Dominik Szoboszlai, according to The Sun, having also chased the 18-year-old Hungarian during the close season.

- There appears to be some tension at Inter. Romelu Lukaku and Marcelo Brozovic exchanged words in the dressing room and had to be separated by team-mates after a 1-1 Champions League draw at home to Slavia Prague on Tuesday, according to La Gazzetta dello Sport.

Bernardo Silva insisted Manchester City have nothing to prove to their critics and has backed his side to cope with their defensive crisis.

City have won back-to-back Premier League titles and enjoyed a clean sweep of domestic honours in a memorable campaign last time out.

But Pep Guardiola's men find themselves five points behind Liverpool with five matches of the 2019-20 league campaign played following last weekend's shock 3-2 error-ridden loss at Norwich City.

The reigning English champions returned to winning ways on Wednesday with a 3-0 victory at Shakhtar Donetsk in the Champions League and Silva is taking little notice of the criticism he and his team-mates have faced in recent days.

"People can criticise and say what they want," he told reporters after the victory in Kharkiv. "We don't need to prove anything to anyone, after what we've done the last two seasons. We're relaxed.

"Of course we're not happy, because we want to do better and we know losing against Norwich isn't ideal, but all teams have good and bad moments.

"It's impossible to stay three seasons, only with good moments.

"Sometimes you will have bad moments and it's the way you react to those bad moments that shows and proved how good a team you are and that's what we'll try to do.

"Every time we've had bad moments in the past, we've always reacted well, and that's what we'll try to do again."

Nicolas Otamendi was City's only established centre-back for their trip to Shakhtar after John Stones joined Aymeric Laporte in the treatment room.

Fernandinho filled in alongside Otamendi and looked comfortable as City kept a clean sheet, giving Silva confidence that his side can deal with the double blow.

"We saw last season that Fernandinho's able to play in that position," the Portuguese said. "He's very intelligent and when you understand the game and you're intelligent like he is, it's easy.

"Obviously it's not the ideal situation, because we don't have a lot of centre-backs right now, but it's what we have and we have no complaints."

He added: "In the Premier League we're five points behind. We want to do better, we want to try to close the gap a little bit, but in the Champions League it was a great way to start the group stage.

"We want to keep going this way, keep improving and try to win games."

Manchester City return to Premier League action with a home match against Watford on Saturday.

Ilkay Gundogan welcomed the return to fitness of Benjamin Mendy as "a big boost" for Manchester City at a time when the club are without two key defenders.

Aymeric Laporte and John Stones missed City's 3-0 Champions League Group C victory over Shakhtar Donetsk on Wednesday with injuries and Pep Guardiola moved Fernandinho into central defence alongside Nicolas Otamendi.

Mendy came on as a second-half substitute to make his first appearance since City's Champions League quarter-final elimination to Tottenham in April and Gundogan highlighted the importance of his return.

"It was great to see Benjamin back and it is a big boost for us," Gundogan told the club's official website.

"Having him available again will be great for the team because we have missed him for the past five months and it's also good for him.

"His fitness will improve as he gets some more game time and last night was an important step forward for him.

"We have lost a number of players recently, so having an important member of the squad return is just what we needed.

"We are competing in so many competitions and every player has a part to play so I'm really happy to see him return."

Gundogan made his fourth start of the season against Shakhtar and put in an impressive performance as he played the full 90 minutes of the win.

After playing a role in Riyad Mahrez opening the scoring, Gundogan got City's second and spent the game pulling the strings alongside Kevin De Bruyne and Rodri in midfield.

He gave a modest assessment of his own performance while looking ahead to City's clash with Watford on Saturday, when they will hope to bounce back from a 3-2 defeat at Norwich City in their last Premier League outing.

"I'm happy but I know I can still improve," said Gundogan. "It was good to get a goal and also play the full 90 minutes because I think I needed that.

"It helps me, it helps the team and it helps everyone because we wanted to respond quickly.

"As you can imagine, the defeat at Norwich was very hard to take for us, that's why beating Shakhtar was even more important and we can take this win into Saturday's game against Watford which is already very close."

Manchester City midfielder Fernandinho says he felt fully prepared to play in defence against Shakhtar Donetsk after training as a centre-back all season.

The Premier League champions overcame fitness issues to commence their Champions League campaign with a comfortable 3-0 victory in Ukraine.

Aymeric Laporte and John Stones missed the match due to knee and muscle injuries respectively, forcing Fernandinho to shuffle backwards in a makeshift central-defensive partnership with Nicolas Otamendi.

The pair performed admirably at Metalist Stadium, recording a clean sheet to temporarily ease Pep Guardiola's headaches.

"It was easier at the back because we played as a team and the guys up front closed down the space," Fernandinho told BT Sport.

"I've been training in this position since the start of the season.

"Of course, Pep knows everything about our squad, our team and when he needs you. I think every player should be ready.

"Today was my time, my opportunity and I hope I can get better and improve a little bit more."

City expect to regain England international Stones, a starter in last weekend's Premier League loss to Norwich City, in around a month.

Laporte will not return until next year after damaging cartilage and the lateral meniscus in his right knee in the win over Brighton and Hove Albion on August 31.

Guardiola's men have five matches to battle through before the next international break and the City boss accepts it will be impossible for Otamendi, 31, and Fernandinho, 34, to play without rest.

"For one or two games it's okay, but for three or four months, I don't know what's going to happen," Guardiola said.

"Both were incredible [against Shakhtar]. Nico showed incredible personality. Maybe Kyle [Walker can play at centre-back], I don't know, but these two cannot play every three days.

"Fernandinho can play many positions with a good personality and that's why it's so important for us."

Manchester City made light of their defensive crisis as Fernandinho filled in adeptly at centre-back and captained the Premier League champions to a 3-0 victory over his former club Shakhtar Donetsk.

Hampered by the absences of John Stones and Aymeric Laporte due to injury, City boss Pep Guardiola named Fernandinho alongside Nicolas Otamendi at the heart of his defence and was able to celebrate a clean sheet despite the odd shaky moment.

Riyad Mahrez scored his first goal of the season to settle City's nerves after 24 minutes and his interplay with Ilkay Gundogan produced the visitors' best moments at Metalist Stadium.

Gundogan, ably assisted by Rodri and Kevin De Bruyne, ran the show from midfield and surged forward at every opportunity, getting himself on the scoresheet thanks to Mahrez's assist seven minutes before half-time.

Guardiola warned of the danger Shakhtar posed on the counter-attack in his pre-match comments and Luis Castro's men did manage to set Moraes free on a number of occasions, but the Brazil-born striker failed to carry his impressive domestic form onto Europe's biggest stage.

City rounded off a highly satisfying Group C opener when Gabriel Jesus rolled a third goal home 14 minutes from time to secure a repeat result of last season's clash between these teams on this ground.

City pressed Shakhtar from the outset and Rodri should have done better when De Bruyne's cross hit the back of his head.

Marlos sent a thundering drive flashing past Ederson's net as Shakhtar countered, but City's pressure paid off when Gundogan curled a shot onto the post and it bounced into the path of Mahrez, who guided it into the empty net from close range.

Moraes had a gilt-edged chance to equalise from the corner of the six-yard box but his shot hit Ederson in the chest and City punished his wastefulness.

Rodri's cross-field ball found Mahrez and the Algeria international played in Gundogan, who fired a first-time shot just inside the post with deadly accuracy.

Moraes made a poor attempt to chip Ederson when the City keeper got caught outside his box early in the second half but Raheem Sterling missed an even better chance at the other end, hitting the outside of the post after Sergey Krivtsov gifted him possession 12 yards out.

Jesus made no such mistake when De Bruyne capitalised on sloppy Shakhtar passing and released the Brazilian, who rolled a shot into the bottom-right corner of the net and made certain of his side's winning start in the Champions League.

 

What does it mean? City reign in Ukraine

After becoming the first English team to beat Shakhtar away from home when they triumphed here by the same scoreline last season, City earned a repeat result without a number of key players.

Gunning for a regular place

Ilkay Gundogan has only started three of City's five domestic games this season but when he is on this kind of form he looks undroppable.

The 28-year-old covered a huge amount of ground, gathered loose balls and ensured Guardiola's men turned defence into devastating attacks with remarkable efficiency.

Shakhtar need more from Moraes

Shakhtar went into this game knowing chances would be few and far between, but Moraes had more than enough opportunities to get on the scoresheet and squandered them all.

What's next?

After their shock loss to Norwich, City will hope to get back to winning ways in the Premier League when they entertain Watford on Saturday, while Shakhtar look to extend their seven-game domestic winning streak at Desna.

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.

One of the more interesting subplots of any Premier League season is the race for the Golden Boot.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah were joint recipients of the title last season after all finishing on 22 goals.

That figure could be comfortably exceeded this time around, with a number of familiar names – such as Aubameyang, Sergio Aguero and Raheem Sterling – starting the campaign in prolific form.

They are joined at the top of the scoring charts by two players who excelled in the Championship last season: Tammy Abraham and Teemu Pukki.

Using Opta data, we take a closer look at the records of those five in the opening five games of the season and compare their stats from the same period in the 2018-19 campaign.  

 

SERGIO AGUERO (MANCHESTER CITY) - SEVEN GOALS

Aguero has started the season in blistering form and sits atop the scoring charts with Abraham on seven goals.

It is a marked improvement on his tally of three at the same stage last season; a period in which he played an additional 32 minutes.

It is little surprise that Aguero is finding the net regularly, given his superb record since joining City in 2011, but it is his ruthless efficiency this season that has caught the eye. The Argentina international's seven goals have come from just eight shots on target.

Aguero has been far from selfish so far this term, however, carving out seven chances for his team-mates; one of which has been dispatched.

TAMMY ABRAHAM (CHELSEA) - SEVEN GOALS

Chelsea's transfer ban might well have forced Frank Lampard to use Abraham more than he had planned, but the 21-year-old has well and truly taken his chance.

His electric beginning to the campaign is in contrast to a comparatively sluggish start to life on loan with Aston Villa in the Championship last season where he scored just twice in the club's opening five games.

He has played 80 minutes fewer in the top flight so far this season but has scored seven goals from just eight shots on target.

His hat-trick against Wolves at the weekend made him the third player in Premier League history to score two or more goals in three consecutive appearances aged 21 or younger.

TEEMU PUKKI (NORWICH CITY) - SIX GOALS

The Finland international has been one of the surprise packages of the season, plundering six goals for the newly promoted Canaries.

He scored a whopping 29 goals to help his side win promotion last season but started slowly, scoring just two goals in his first five appearances.

There has been no such slumber at the start of this campaign, however.

He took just three shots in his opening five games last season, but Daniel Farke's aggressive approach to life in the top flight has clearly benefited Pukki, who has already attempted 12 shots.

PIERRE-EMERICK AUBAMEYANG (ARSENAL) - FIVE GOALS

It is hardly a surprise that the Gunners striker is among the deadliest strikers so far this season.

Since his Premier League debut in February 2018, only Liverpool's Mohamed Salah (53) has been directly involved in more goals in the competition (37 goals and nine assists).

The bad news for defences across the country is that he might be getting even more prolific.

He scored just once in his opening five games last season, but his brace against Watford on Sunday means he already has five to his name this campaign. Given that start, it will not be a surprise to see him comfortably surpass last season's tally of 22 goals.

RAHEEM STERLING (MANCHESTER CITY) - FIVE GOALS

Sterling set his stall out this season with a hat-trick in City's resounding opening day victory over West Ham.

It marked the continuation of a stunning few seasons for the former Liverpool man, who is now firmly considered to be one of the Premier League's deadliest finishers.

With 49 touches in the opposition box already this season – 18 more than his nearest rival in the top five – it is hardly surprising that he has five goals to his name; two more than he had in the same period last term.

He has also been a consummate team player, laying on eight chances for his team-mates.

Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid begin their respective Champions League campaigns with huge tests against Paris Saint-Germain and Juventus in the pick of Wednesday's action.

Atletico will be smarting from last season's 3-2 aggregate defeat to Juve in the round of 16, when Cristiano Ronaldo – a consistent nemesis of theirs during his time in LaLiga – netted a hat-trick in a 3-0 second-leg win to see the Old Lady into the quarter-finals.

Madrid get started away to PSG, who will be aiming to continue their fine run at home in the group stage despite being without Neymar, Kylian Mbappe and Edinson Cavani.

Last term's beaten finalists Tottenham, Premier League champions Manchester City and German giants Bayern Munich are also in action.

Below, we have highlighted the key data ahead of Wednesday's contests.

Club Brugge v Galatasaray

4 - After losing their first two matches in the 2018-19 Champions League, Club Brugge remained undefeated in their final four (W1 D3) – should they avoid a loss in this match, it will be the best unbeaten run by a Belgian side in the competition took on its current format in 1992.

12 - Galatasaray's new striker Radamel Falcao has scored 12 goals in the Champions League, just one goal off the record by a Colombian player in the competition: Jackson Martinez with 13.

 

Paris Saint-Germain v Real Madrid

21- PSG are unbeaten in 21 Champions League home games in the group stage (W15 D6), not losing since December 2004 against CSKA Moscow (1-3). 

1.97 - Real Madrid have averaged the most goals per game (2.13) in Champions League history. PSG are third on 1.97, with Barcelona the only club separating them in the rankings (2.02).

Olympiacos v Tottenham

8 - Olympiacos are winless in eight Champions League matches (D1 L7) since a 2-1 win against Dinamo Zagreb in November 2015. It is their joint-longest winless run in the competition alongside a streak that ended in October 2003.

50 - Mauricio Pochettino's will oversee his 50th European game as manager of Spurs on Wednesday. Only Bill Nicholson (55) has presided over more for the club.

 

Bayern Munich v Red Star Belgrade

36 - Robert Lewandowski has scored 36 goals in just 52 Champions League appearances for Bayern – only Thomas Muller has scored more for the club in the competition (42 goals in 105 games).

17 -  Red Star conceded more goals in the group stage of the 2018-19 Champions League than any other team (17).

Dinamo Zagreb v Atalanta

11 - Dinamo Zagreb have lost their last 11 consecutive Champions League matches, their joint-worst run in the competition. Only Anderlecht have lost 12 successive matches in Europe's elite competition, that run coming between December 2003 and November 2005.

3 - Just three of the nine Italian clubs to have participated in the Champions League before Atalanta have won their opening match in the competition: AC Milan in 1992, Juventus in 1995 and Udinese in 2005.

 

Shakhtar Donetsk v Manchester City

79 - Excluding own goals, 79 of Shakhtar's 124 Champions League goals have been scored by Brazilians (64 per cent) – only Barcelona (85) have seen more goals scored by Brazilians than Shakhtar, while Braga (11-12 – 92%) are the only team to have had a higher proportion of goals scored by players from Brazil.

124 - Gabriel Jesus scored a hat-trick for City in their last meeting against Shakhtar in November last year, inspiring a 6-0 win. Of the 73 Brazilians to have scored four or more goals in the Champions League, Jesus has the best minutes-per-goal (124) ratio.

Atletico Madrid v Juventus

54 - Atletico will be competing in their first Champions League season without Antoine Griezmann since 2013-14. He scored or assisted 54 per cent of their goals in the competitions (19 goals, 7 assists) between September 2015 and March 2019 before leaving this year for Barcelona.

25 - Juventus star Ronaldo has scored 25 goals in his career against Atletico, having tormented them regularly in derbies with Madrid and netted a hat-trick last term for the Bianconeri. Only against Sevilla (27) has he scored more in all competitions.

 

Bayer Leverkusen v Lokomotiv Moscow

0 - Bayer Leverkusen coach Peter Bosz has yet to win a Champions League game as a manager (D2 L4, with Dortmund). Each of Leverkusen's past four managers have failed to win their first Champions League match in charge.

7 - Lokomotiv forward Jefferson Farfan will be looking to score in his seventh different Champions League campaign (2004-05, 2005-06, 2007-08, 2010-11, 2012-13 and 2018-19). The only Peruvian to have scored in more seasons is Claudio Pizarro (eight).

There could be a fight to prise Fabian Ruiz from Napoli.

Fabian has established himself as one of Europe's premier midfielders and the Spaniard is reportedly attracting interest.

Two LaLiga giants and the Champions League holders are said to be eyeing Fabian.

 

TOP STORY - THREE-WAY BATTLE FOR FABIAN

Barcelona, Real Madrid and Liverpool are chasing Napoli star Fabian Ruiz, according to the Daily Mail.

Fabian swapped Real Betis for Napoli in 2018 and the Spain international has quickly become one of Europe's most sought-after midfielders.

Now three of the biggest clubs in the world are reportedly eyeing the 23-year-old.

ROUND-UP

- The Sun reports Manchester United are preparing a January move for Bournemouth striker Callum Wilson. The Red Devils have limited options up front following the departures of Romelu Lukaku and Alexis Sanchez. Wilson, who has already scored three goals this season, fits the bill at Old Trafford as manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer eyes talented English players.

Juventus, Liverpool and Manchester City are all interested in Real Madrid playmaker Isco, claims Calciomercato.

Barcelona are set to offer 16-year-old sensation Ansu Fati a new five-year deal to fend off interest from European rivals, claims the Daily Mail.

- League One side Southend United want to hire former Celtic, Barca and Manchester United striker Henrik Larsson as their manager, says the Daily Mail. Southend are second bottom in the league after eight games, while Larsson was last in charge of Helsingborg before quitting in August.

- According to Globo Esporte, Flamengo are negotiating to bring Fredy Guarin to the club. The 33-year-old former Inter midfielder is a free agent after leaving Chinese side Shanghai Shenhua.

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."

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