A couple of days on, Manchester City's 1-0 defeat at Southampton – their ninth loss of a limp and unsuccessful Premier League title defence – still appeared to be irritating Pep Guardiola.

How had it happened again? Such wastefulness.

Guardiola warned his players their FA Cup and Champions League hopes will go up in smoke if they remain so profligate, with his suggested remedy sounding more like exasperation than a practical solution.

"The only solution when you create 26 chances [and don't win] is to do 35," he said, recalling the precise number of attempts City had without scoring on England's south coast last weekend.

"And if 35 is not enough, 40. And if 40 is not enough, 45."

The City manager stopped before his chances to minutes ratio ran away from him entirely, but his team do create a phenomenal amount of opportunities.

In a Premier League table compiled using results from each game returned by Opta's Expected Goals (xG) metric, City would be top and not a mammoth 23 points in arrears.

Put simply, if fairly absurdly, the division's top scorers have a goalscoring problem.

NO SALVATION FOR JESUS

Sergio Aguero's knee-injury absence means Gabriel Jesus is City's only fit senior striker. This is certainly not the best time for the Brazil international to be enduring a nine-match goal drought.

Speaking ahead of Wednesday's home game against Newcastle United, Guardiola made a point of praising Jesus' performance at Southampton, but his numbers make for grim reading.

Of the five opportunities Opta classified as big chances to pass the visitors by at St Mary's, Jesus spurned three of them. His xG figure for that barren showing was 1.36.

In 29 Premier League appearances, the 23-year-old has scored 10 times in 2019-20. This is a significant under-performance of his 14.7 xG.

Jesus' big-chance conversion rate is 25 per cent. No City player has enjoyed more than his 28 opportunities of that sort, yet just seven have ended up in the net.

However, as noted above, this is a team-wide problem for which Jesus is currently – albeit somewhat understandably – the main scapegoat.

THREE AND NOT SO EASY

As of Monday, there had been 24 occasions this Premier League season when a team registered an xG in excess of three during a single match.

City have done so six times, more than any other club. However, their xG of 3.25 against Southampton means they are also the only team to have lost when racking up such a dominant statistic.

Burnley's 3.15 xG only amounted to a 1-1 draw at home to Tottenham, but in the other 22 instances, the team creating such a high volume of quality chances prevailed.

City also had an xG of exactly three during their 2-2 draw at home to Spurs last August - an outcome Guardiola still frequently references when assessing where the campaign went awry.

AGUERO LEADS THE WAY

City's all-time leading goalscorer, Aguero turned 32 last month and is out of contract at the end of next season.

The team's recent struggles arguably give an uncomfortable insight into the not-too-distant future. None of Guardiola's other main forward options are as reliably clinical or prolific.

Aguero' 16 Premier League goals this season arrived at a frequency of one every 91 minutes. In contrast to Jesus, he out-performed his xG of 14.6. The Argentina international converted 13 of 25 big chances (52 per cent).

Raheem Sterling was on target during the recent comprehensive wins over Arsenal and Liverpool, but his haul of 13 dips below an xG mark of 14.8, in part due to 10 of 26 big chances being finished off (38 per cent).

MAHREZ AND FODEN OFFER HOPE

Elsewhere, Opta's numbers show not all City players should despair when confronted with a sight of goal.

Riyad Mahrez has an xG projection of six Premier League goals this term, but is up to nine in reality.  The former Leicester City winger isn't entirely immune to the jitters, however, with four of his six big chances missed.

Perhaps the situation calls for bold belief of a special young talent.

Phil Foden's provides a smaller sample size in terms of minutes played, yet the England Under-21 star has four goals despite an xG figure of 1.3.

All of those goals – a brace against Burnley in between strikes versus Arsenal and Liverpool – have come since lockdown and Foden is two from two when it comes to big chances.

Bernardo Silva accepts Manchester City cannot afford to drop points away from home with such regularity if they are to compete for the Premier League title again next season.

Deposed champions City thrashed title-winners Liverpool 4-0 at the Etihad Stadium in midweek but came unstuck on the road at Southampton, losing 1-0 to a stunning Che Adams goal on Sunday.

It was a third consecutive defeat away from home in the league for City, manager Pep Guardiola's worst such run of his coaching career.

City star Silva could not explain the disappointing streak but recognised the team must improve before the 2020-21 campaign.

"I don't know. I don't have the answer to that," the Portugal international said. "Of course, it's always better to play at home, a place where we're used to being.

"But there's no excuse for that. We need to improve next season if we want to win again the Premier League."

However, after mustering 26 shots and forcing Southampton goalkeeper Alex McCarthy into six stunning saves, Silva felt City had performed well in defeat.

"I honestly think we played well today," explained Silva, whose City are second and 23 points behind Liverpool with five games remaining. "We created plenty of chances but couldn't score them. Then little mistakes cost us the game.

"Overall, I think 88 minutes of the 90 of this game were spent in the Southampton half of the match. But congratulations to them.

"We didn't play a bad game. I thought we started well in the second half especially - we put a lot of pressure onto them - but we couldn't finish our chances.

"I think we need to improve. We need to check the mistakes that we made today, the little mistakes that, for example, cost us the goal and the few chances they had.

"But overall, the way we played, I honestly thought it was good."

Manchester City were merely reigning Premier League champions from around the turn of the year. Any meaningful title defence ended a long time ago.

After amassing an astounding 198 points over the course of consecutive championship-winning campaigns, Pep Guardiola's men were unable to summon an adequate response in the face of Liverpool's relentless onslaught.

City's 2-1 defeat to Chelsea at Stamford Bridge last week completed the formalities, meaning Guardiola's plans over how to wrest back control should already be well underway.

Ahead of Liverpool's trip to City on Thursday, we look at the areas where he and the Etihad Stadium's brain trust should be focusing their attention.

 

ADDRESS OBVIOUS GAPS IN THE SQUAD

Guardiola's suggestion at the end of last week that he might not seek a like-for-like replacement for Leroy Sane if the Germany winger completes his long-mooted switch to Bayern Munich understandably caused consternation among City fans. Vincent Kompany's influence and aura were irreplaceable when he called time on his career in Manchester in May 2019, but a new centre-back would certainly have come in handy.

The cruciate knee ligament injury that decimated Aymeric Laporte's campaign left Fernandinho simultaneously learning a new position and standing in as City's most reliable option in central defence, as Nicolas Otamendi and John Stones laboured. A high-quality partner for Laporte must be the number one transfer market priority.

A natural left-winger is also needed. Sane has been another long-term injury victim this term and, without that option, City's attacks have sometimes become narrow and predictable. On the subject of cruciate knee ligament injuries, Benjamin Mendy looks to have put a nightmarish two years behind him, although he endured a game to forget against Chelsea. It would be foolish to count on the France international's fitness holding for long and links to England left-back Ben Chilwell are understandable.

RECHARGE AND REPLENISH STAR MEN

The three positions above are likely to be the limit of City's ambitions in an uncertain market, with the depth of coronavirus' impact upon football finances yet to be fully realised. Whether or not the Court of Arbitration (CAS) for sport overturns or reduces their two-season Champions League ban must also be factored into any plans.

The good thing for Guardiola is the fact that plenty of room for improvement lies within. Aside from the imperious Kevin De Bruyne and the ever-prolific Sergio Aguero, it is hard to identify a senior City player who can be wholly satisfied with their efforts this term. Ederson's three errors leading to a goal are second only to Newcastle United goalkeeper Martin Dubravka (five) in the division, while Bernardo Silva and Raheem Sterling have at times appeared burned out following the exertions of a triumphant 2018-19.

UNLEASH PHIL FODEN

David Silva's departure at the end of this season was expected to usher in Phil Foden to blossom as the master's apprentice. This has been muddied slightly by the England Under-21 star's best performances coming in a wide attacking role, most notably his man-of-the-match outing in the EFL Cup final and his two-goal showing in the recent 5-0 demolition of Burnley. He was badly missed at Chelsea.

Guardiola loves players who are adept in a number of roles and Foden has thrived regardless of what his brief is on any given stage. The academy product has long looked a player at home in this City team; he now seems like one who could significantly elevate it. It is time to let him fly.

REMAIN BANNED FROM THE CHAMPIONS LEAGUE

From having to scale down more ambitious transfer targets to tackling some awkward conversations with star players over their immediate futures, the seismic blow of City's exclusion from the Champions League holding firm should not be underplayed. However, if we are looking at this purely in terms of their chances of winning a third Premier League title in four seasons, a coach of Guardiola's calibre getting free midweeks to hone his side to his version of perfection is something of which Liverpool and others would be right to be wary.

DON'T ACTUALLY CHANGE TOO MUCH

Under Roberto Mancini and Manuel Pellegrini, City compiled deplorably meek title defences. The clear daylight between themselves and Liverpool this time around makes it tempting to lump their 2019-20 efforts in with those other failures. But there is an important wider context. The Manchester United and Chelsea sides that unseated Mancini and Pellegrini were not a patch on Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool machine. This City had won six of the previous seven domestic honours on offer and could conceivably finish 2019-20 with the FA Cup and that elusive Champions League nestled alongside the EFL Cup in the trophy cabinet.

Also, it is not a slight on the Reds' brilliance to note most things that could have fallen in their favour this season have. That is inevitable. City sealed their 100-point season with a last-minute winner at Southampton, having beaten Saints, Bournemouth, West Ham and Huddersfield Town in similar fashion before the turn of the year. Mind-boggling deeds require a certain level of fortune.

Heading into their game at Chelsea, City were still ahead of Liverpool by five points with a game in hand in Opta's Expected Goals league table (Yes, yes… when's the parade?!?!). Liverpool's brutally clinical efforts are to be admired, but the underlying numbers suggest such a gulf will not become the norm.

Manchester City were merely reigning Premier League champions from around the turn of the year. Any meaningful title defence ended a long time ago.

After amassing an astounding 198 points over the course of consecutive championship-winning campaigns, Pep Guardiola's men were unable to summon an adequate response in the face of Liverpool's relentless onslaught.

City's 2-1 defeat to Chelsea at Stamford Bridge completed the formalities, meaning Guardiola's plans over how to wrest back control should already be well underway.

Here, we look at the areas where he and the Etihad Stadium's brain trust should be focusing their attention.

 

ADDRESS OBVIOUS GAPS IN THE SQUAD

Guardiola's suggestion at the end of last week that he might not seek a like-for-like replacement for Leroy Sane if the Germany winger completes his long-mooted switch to Bayern Munich understandably caused consternation among City fans. Vincent Kompany's influence and aura were irreplaceable when he called time on his career in Manchester in May 2019, but a new centre-back would certainly have come in handy.

The cruciate knee ligament injury that decimated Aymeric Laporte's campaign left Fernandinho simultaneously learning a new position and standing in as City's most reliable option in central defence, as Nicolas Otamendi and John Stones laboured. A high-quality partner for Laporte must be the number one transfer market priority.

A natural left-winger is also needed. Sane has been another long-term injury victim this term and, without that option, City's attacks have sometimes become narrow and predictable. On the subject of cruciate knee ligament injuries, Benjamin Mendy looks to have put a nightmarish two years behind him, although he endured a game to forget against Chelsea. It would be foolish to count on the France international's fitness holding for long and links to England left-back Ben Chilwell are understandable.

RECHARGE AND REPLENISH STAR MEN

The three positions above are likely to be the limit of City's ambitions in an uncertain market, with the depth of coronavirus' impact upon football finances yet to be fully realised. Whether or not the Court of Arbitration (CAS) for sport overturns or reduces their two-season Champions League ban must also be factored into any plans.

The good thing for Guardiola is the fact that plenty of room for improvement lies within. Aside from the imperious Kevin De Bruyne and the ever-prolific Sergio Aguero, it is hard to identify a senior City player who can be wholly satisfied with their efforts this term. Ederson's three errors leading to a goal are second only to Newcastle United goalkeeper Martin Dubravka (five) in the division, while Bernardo Silva and Raheem Sterling have at times appeared burned out following the exertions of a triumphant 2018-19.

UNLEASH PHIL FODEN

David Silva's departure at the end of this season was expected to usher in Phil Foden to blossom as the master's apprentice. This has been muddied slightly by the England Under-21 star's best performances coming in a wide attacking role, most notably his man-of-the-match outing in the EFL Cup final and his two-goal showing in the recent 5-0 demolition of Burnley. He was badly missed at Chelsea.

Guardiola loves players who are adept in a number of roles and Foden has thrived regardless of what his brief is on any given stage. The academy product has long looked a player at home in this City team; he now seems like one who could significantly elevate it. It is time to let him fly.

REMAIN BANNED FROM THE CHAMPIONS LEAGUE

From having to scale down more ambitious transfer targets to tackling some awkward conversations with star players over their immediate futures, the seismic blow of City's exclusion from the Champions League holding firm should not be underplayed. However, if we are looking at this purely in terms of their chances of winning a third Premier League title in four seasons, a coach of Guardiola's calibre getting free midweeks to hone his side to his version of perfection is something of which Liverpool and others would be right to be wary.

DON'T ACTUALLY CHANGE TOO MUCH

Under Roberto Mancini and Manuel Pellegrini, City compiled deplorably meek title defences. The clear daylight between themselves and Liverpool this time around makes it tempting to lump their 2019-20 efforts in with those other failures. But there is an important wider context. The Manchester United and Chelsea sides that unseated Mancini and Pellegrini were not a patch on Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool machine. This City had won six of the previous seven domestic honours on offer and could conceivably finish 2019-20 with the FA Cup and that elusive Champions League nestled alongside the EFL Cup in the trophy cabinet.

Also, it is not a slight on the Reds' brilliance to note most things that could have fallen in their favour this season have. That is inevitable. City sealed their 100-point season with a last-minute winner at Southampton, having beaten Saints, Bournemouth, West Ham and Huddersfield Town in similar fashion before the turn of the year. Mind-boggling deeds require a certain level of fortune.

Heading into their game at Chelsea, City were still ahead of Liverpool by five points with a game in hand in Opta's Expected Goals league table (Yes, yes… when's the parade?!?!). Liverpool's brutally clinical efforts are to be admired, but the underlying numbers suggest such a gulf will not become the norm.

Pep Guardiola has taken Bernardo Silva's game on to another level at Manchester City, according to former Portugal great Nuno Gomes.

Silva joined City from Monaco for £46.3million in May 2017 with a Ligue 1 winners' medal in his possession.

He has since been an integral part of the side that Guardiola has guided to six of the past seven major domestic honours on offer, including back-to-back Premier League titles.

Silva was voted City's player of the year in 2018-19 and went on to inspire Portugal to glory on home soil in the inaugural Nations League Finals.

Gomes told Stats Perform News he is a keen admirer of the 25-year-old.

"Bernardo is, for me at the moment, one of the best players that we have in Portugal," he said.

"With Pep he's improved a lot. I believe that Guardiola has said a lot of times that he is a massive fan of Bernardo Silva, and I believe Bernardo Silva, knowing that he has the trust and the confidence of the coach, he goes onto the field and he plays naturally, because he has a talent that is natural."

As he did during Monaco's run to the semi-finals of the Champions League in 2016-17, Silva has excelled roving in from the right flank at City.

However, injury problems for Kevin De Bruyne last term meant he also spent a lot of time operating on the right of a central midfield three and Gomes feels the defensive side of the playmaker's game has come along considerably.

"He has improved also in terms of defending, the way that he pushes the opponent, [as well as] the way he can compromise [opposition] defensive situations, because with the ball he is one of the best," he added.

"I believe with Pep Guardiola, he has already improved a lot in his style of play, and I’m a big fan of Bernardo Silva."

Guardiola's men host Arsenal on Wednesday when the Premier League resumes from the coronavirus shutdown.

Liverpool are poised to end City's reign as champions, but Silva and his team-mates remain in contention in the Champions League and FA Cup.

Manchester City star Bernardo Silva warned Real Madrid could not be written off despite his side's strong position in the Champions League last-16 tie.

The Premier League giants stunned Madrid 2-1 at the Santiago Bernabeu in the first leg of their matchup in February.

Amid the coronavirus pandemic, officials are reportedly hoping the Champions League can return in August.

Despite City's good position, Silva is wary of Madrid, who have won three of the past four Champions League titles.

"You can't write any team off, far less Madrid who have won 13 European Cups," the midfielder told AS.

"No one else has the experience Madrid's players have in this competition, so we can't think we've already beaten them."

Silva added: "It's all very open. When you play a side like Madrid nothing is ever certain. We've seen a lot of ties in the last few years get turned around. Look at Barca last year, beating Liverpool 3-0 and then losing 4-0. You never know.

"It's a good result and we're in a great position to go through to the quarter-finals. It's a tough match and we'll need to play well and maintain our concentration."

Having won the past two Premier League titles amid numerous other domestic honours, City are eyeing a first Champions League crown.

Silva said Pep Guardiola's men were eager to claim the Champions League for the first time.

"In the last three years we've won everything in England, last season we won all four English titles, this year we've won the Super Cup and the League Cup, we're still in the FA Cup and we want to win that," he said.

"But the Champions League is the title the club, the players and Pep in England want to win. We know it's a tough tournament, but we'll fight for it."

Bernardo Silva paid tribute to Pep Guardiola, labelling the Manchester City boss "one of the best managers ever".

Guardiola has led City to two Premier League titles, three EFL Cups, an FA Cup and two Community Shield crowns since his arrival in 2016.

The Spaniard, who has also enjoyed success at Barcelona and Bayern Munich, is widely regarded as one of the best managers of all-time.

Silva lauded the 49-year-old for his impact at the Premier League club, saying: "Personally, I have learned a lot not only from him, but all my team-mates, since I arrived at Manchester City.

"He is one of the best managers ever. It is great to have him with us."

Silva also praised Guardiola for transforming City's playing style, with his side earning 100 points to win the 2017-18 Premier League title in record-breaking fashion.

"I know my team-mates, the influence that he has since he arrived at Manchester City is huge," the Portugal international said.

"You could see it with the results, with the titles in the last three seasons. Since I have arrived, we have won plenty of trophies.

"It is not just that, it is the way we play. We think that we make our fans enjoy the way we play – offensive football, creating chances, scoring goals, [playing] attractive football."

Bernardo Silva does not feel his Manchester City team-mates earn the sort of recognition their Liverpool counterparts do in terms of individual awards – and he has also revealed his desire to one day return to Benfica.

City accumulated 198 points over title-winning seasons in 2017-18 and 2018-19 but Mohamed Salah and Virgil van Dijk scooped the PFA Player of the Year award at the end of those respective campaigns.

Van Dijk also won the UEFA Best Player of the Year gong after the Reds won the Champions League last term under Jurgen Klopp.

Bernardo believes Kevin De Bruyne, Fernandinho and Raheem Sterling have been underappreciated when it comes to individual prizes, claiming other clubs benefit by having "more power with the media and organisations that others".

"I think plenty of players deserve a lot more than what they get," he said during an Instagram Live with Bleacher Report.

"I'll give you an example: Fernandinho, and even Raheem Sterling from last season.

"Some clubs have more power with the media and organisations than others.

"Three seasons ago, we win the league, they (Liverpool) were like 30 points behind and Kevin De Bruyne had an unbelievable season. Mo Salah scored a lot of goals – he's a great player and I admire him a lot, I'm not saying otherwise – and they give the award to Mo Salah and not Kevin De Bruyne.

"This season again, Kevin De Bruyne has another unbelievable season, we're behind, but because Liverpool are champions one of them is probably winning the award again.

"I think the individual awards are very relative."

The Portugal international was also asked about returning to play in his homeland at some stage in his career.

While in no rush to leave City, Silva hopes to join Benfica, the club he left to join Monaco before making a first-team appearance.

"I am enjoying my career a lot, I don't want to go back now but I don't want to go when I'm too old. I want to go help my team when I am in a good physical condition. I don't know the exact age - not too old but not now," he said.

"I'm a Benfica fan. I used to go to all the games with my dad, so my dream was always to play for Benfica. When I was 19 and playing for the second team, I didn't have the opportunity to play for the first team because the manager didn't want me there or think I was able to play for the first team.

"It was a huge disappointment for me to have to leave, go to Monaco to have a good career.

"Because I've never played for my team, I have this gap in my heart and I need to fill it. Not now obviously, but if they want me there, I definitely want to go back to Benfica one day."

Manchester City midfielder Bernardo Silva believes the comfort zone of their Premier League position may have contributed to a derby defeat against Manchester United that was "not acceptable".

Goals from Anthony Martial and Scott McTominay saw City suffer a 2-0 loss to rivals United at Old Trafford on Sunday.

It ensured United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer claimed home and away league victories over City counterpart Pep Guardiola – the first time the Red Devils have done the double over their Manchester rivals for 10 years.

Second-placed City are 25 points behind Premier League leaders Liverpool but have a seven-point cushion over Leicester City in third.

"The reality is the pressure is not on in the Premier League," Silva told Sky Sports.

"We don't have much pressure because we know that our position is not changing a lot because we will not get to the title.

"I think we will be second to qualify for the Champions League. So maybe that is a thing."

After picking up 100 and 98 points in each of the last two seasons, City have suffered seven defeats this term and have just 57 points with 10 matches still to play.

"A team like ours cannot lose as many games in the Premier League as we have this season," Silva added. "So, we need to check what is not going right and try to not make the mistakes.

"We have to watch the game back and listen to what Pep has to say.

"It was a bad game for us and, in my opinion, not acceptable.

"It's a derby, it's an important game for our fans, and it is not acceptable to play the way we did and lose 2-0."

However, Silva felt the awarding of a free-kick that led to United's opening goal, after Ilkay Gundogan was deemed to have fouled Bruno Fernandes, was an incorrect decision made by referee Mike Dean.

He added: "From my point of view, and from where I was, it was clear it was not a foul. I don't know if on the television it is a foul or not.

"The referees like us, like all the players, can make mistakes. It's football."

Manchester City's Champions League ban could have some serious consequences.

While City are planning to appeal UEFA's two-season suspension from European competition after an investigation found the club broke financial fair play regulations, rivals are circling.

City's stars are reportedly attracting interest from far and wide.

 

TOP STORY – BARCA EYE BERNARDO SILVA

LaLiga champions Barcelona are targeting Manchester City star Bernardo Silva, according to the Transfer Window Podcast.

The report comes following City's Champions League suspension handed down to the Premier League giants by UEFA.

City team-mate Raheem Sterling has already been linked to Real Madrid.

 

ROUND-UP

- Marca says Madrid are ready to make a move for Rennes teenager Eduardo Camavinga. The 17-year-old has starred for the Ligue 1 outfit and is reportedly valued at €70million.

Paul Pogba has also been linked to Madrid but Goal claims he could be offered a new contract by Manchester United, who expect the Frenchman to leave at the end of the season. Former club Juventus are also reportedly tracking the midfielder.

Paris Saint-Germain are looking to either Juventus head coach Maurizio Sarri or Massimiliano Allegri amid uncertainty over the future of Thomas Tuchel, reports La Gazzetta dello Sport.

- Lille defender Gabriel is being monitored by Arsenal, Everton, PSG and now Leicester City, according to Le10 Sport.

- The Mirror says Arsenal are set to raise transfer funds through the sale of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and potentially Matteo Guendouzi as the Gunners eye Valencia's Carlos Soler and RB Leipzig defender Dayot Upamecano.

Bernardo Silva believes his Portugal team-mate Bruno Fernandes has the mentality and character to be a success at Manchester United.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer completed a major January transfer window coup by securing goalscoring midfielder Fernandes from Sporting CP.

On his debut, a goalless draw against Wolves at Old Trafford last weekend, Fernandes showed flashes of the form that yielded 28 goals in 50 Primeira Liga appearances from the start of last season.

Manchester City star Silva came through the national team ranks with the former Sampdoria player and is a huge admirer of his qualities.

"I think he is going to adapt [to the Premier League], he has already played in Italy when he was younger, so it's not his first experience abroad," he told Sky Sports.

"I'm happy for him, I'm happy that he's playing for one of the biggest clubs in the world, and I think he's going to do great at Man Utd.

"The best thing about Bruno is his mentality and the way he gives himself to the team 100 per cent and he just goes in every game. It doesn't matter who he's playing against and his mentality and character is the best thing about him.

"The first time I played with Bruno, we were 18 years old, so my first game for Portugal Under-19s was also Bruno's first game for Portugal. Then we played together for the Under-21s, the national team and now we're both in Manchester, so it's great. We're rivals but it's good to have him here.

"Changing is always complicated; you have to adapt to the way your new team plays, your team-mates, the way the manager wants to play, sometimes new systems, so maybe it will take him a few months.

"But I think it's good that he's here and he'll be a great asset for Man Utd - but hopefully not against Man City."

Silva and Fernandes are set to come face to face in the Manchester derby at Old Trafford on March 8.

On each City's past two trips across town, a 2-0 Premier League win last season and last month's 3-1 EFL Cup semi-final triumph, Silva opened the scoring.

Manchester City can still shrug off their lacklustre Premier League title defence and enjoy the best season in the club's history, according to Bernardo Silva.

Pep Guardiola's side are a yawning 22 points behind runaway leaders Liverpool, a virtually unassailable deficit that could be even bigger the next time they take to the field after Sunday's home match against West Ham was postponed due to the effects of Storm Ciara.

Focus will soon turn towards a mouth-watering Champions League last-16 meeting with Real Madrid, as City travel to the Santiago Bernabeu on February 26 for the first leg.

A Wembley showdown versus Aston Villa on March 1 gives Silva and his team-mates the chance to win a third consecutive EFL Cup, and they remain in the running for back-to-back FA Cups, with a trip to Sheffield Wednesday up next in round five.

The Champions League remains the final frontier, however, and the Portugal playmaker believes glory in Europe's top competition might even top last season's unprecedented domestic treble.

"People are used to Man City winning everything. If we look at the last two and a half seasons, there's not a team in Europe that has won as many trophies as us," Silva told Sky Sports.

"It's not that, because we're not winning one title, the team goes from being one of the best to an average team. If we win the cups and the Champions League, it's the best season this club have ever seen.

"So there is still a lot to fight for, knowing that we still have a difficult task ahead of us."

Nevertheless, Silva was unable to hide his disappointment at the manner in which City have failed to meet Liverpool's relentless challenge in England's top flight.

"I think we got to a point one month ago where we gave up a bit too soon and I think we shouldn't have done that," he said.

"It was not on purpose, it was in our heads. I think everyone was already a bit disappointed to be 10 or 15 points behind them and we felt a bit down. We shouldn't have done it.

"It's difficult because we're a team used to winning and last season we won everything in England. When we don't win a competition, we're upset with ourselves and always want to do better."

Silva recalled City's former knack of snatching vital late goals during his debut campaign at the Etihad Stadium in 2017-18, before adding: "In the important moments, we've not been as lucky as in the past seasons – we always concede in the last minutes, Liverpool always score in the last minutes, and these little details make the difference.

"The team has to try to find the balance. When things go well, not thinking that we're the best ever, and when things go a little bit not as well as we expect, not to think we're the worst team ever."

Bernardo Silva suggested Manchester United were lucky to only be losing 3-0 at half-time in Tuesday's EFL Cup semi-final first-leg defeat to Manchester City.

City claimed a 3-1 win at Old Trafford, with their rampant first-half display seeing them comfortably claim victory and put one foot in the final.

Silva opened the scoring with a wonderful long-range effort, before then setting up Riyad Mahrez to make it two. An Andreas Pereira own goal, engineered by Kevin De Bruyne, effectively put the game beyond United before the break.

Marcus Rashford pulled one back for the hosts in the second half, but that goal came from a rare moment of incisiveness as United were well beaten.

Silva told Sky Sports: "I think we could have gone to half-time winning by four or five because we missed a few chances, then the second half was very hard for us.

"They started pressing higher, trying to control the game and getting on the ball. We got a bit tired, but I think overall it was a good performance and we're happy with this win.

"It's never easy to come here to Old Trafford against one of the best sides in England, in Europe, and to win 3-1.

"When you play a derby and you play Man United, you cannot always win. We were disappointed because losing at home [to United in December] is not normal for us. Coming here, in a way it makes it up to our fans, who once again were unbelievable in helping us get this win."

Pep Guardiola sprung something of a surprise with his team selection, opting against using a striker and instead loading the midfield and frontline with creative players, and Silva gave the move his seal of approval.

"I enjoyed it a lot, especially because we won and because it worked," he added. "I think Pep wanted one more man in the middle and that's why he put me there. Happily, it worked."

Manchester City have one foot in a third consecutive EFL Cup final after dispatching Manchester United 3-1 in the first leg of the semi-final at Old Trafford.

Beaten 2-1 by their local rivals in the Premier League a month ago, Pep Guardiola sprung a tactical surprise by starting with no recognised striker in a strong-looking line-up.

The move proved inspired as City tore through a United defence that was missing the injured Harry Maguire, with Bernardo Silva, Riyad Mahrez and an Andreas Pereira own goal putting them 3-0 up at the break.

Marcus Rashford got a goal back to give United a glimpse of hope ahead of the second leg in three weeks, but a first final since they won the competition in 2017 already looks beyond them.

After a cagey opening, Silva put City ahead in emphatic fashion, driving away from Fred and unleashing a ferocious strike from 25 yards that left David de Gea with no chance.

United had City on the ropes in the first half-hour of the league meeting at the Etihad Stadium, but Guardiola's side were firmly in control and largely untroubled by the threat of the counter-attack.

Their grip on the tie was strengthened 33 minutes in, when Victor Lindelof could not cut out Silva's throughball and Mahrez had time to round De Gea and finish.

A miserable first half for United got worse five minutes later, when the ball deflected off Pereira and into the net after Kevin De Bruyne left Phil Jones on the turf.

De Gea had to make a smart save with his right foot to stop Mahrez from adding a fourth, although City mostly eased off after the restart, and that relative complacency did allow United a lifeline.

De Bruyne's loose pass to Rodri was closed down by Angel Gomes, Mason Greenwood raced forward and played in Rashford to slot the ball beneath Claudio Bravo, giving the Red Devils something to hold onto ahead of the second leg.

What does it mean? Final beckons for City, but there is only more scrutiny on Solskjaer

United were outthought and outplayed in the first half and only a minor miracle in the second leg will see them turn the tie around and reach the final.

The home fans stuck by their team admirably in the second half but, with arguably their best chance of a trophy this season all but gone and with performances in 2020 far from adequate, how much longer will Solskjaer be given to implement his long-term vision?

Bernardo sets tone with blockbuster

Silva's goal was spectacular, but his assist for Mahrez was of an equally high quality. United simply did not know how to keep him in check.

Pereira out of his depth

Injuries mean United's midfield options are down to the bare minimum, but Pereira may have played anyway given the trust he has been given by Solskjaer. Such was his display here, his manager's faith may not last much longer.

What's next?

These two meet in the second leg on January 29. More immediately, United host Norwich City in the Premier League on Saturday, while City head to Aston Villa a day later.

Pep Guardiola is adamant Manchester City will not prioritise cup competitions over the Premier League for the rest of the season because he worries about them missing out on European places.

City are 14 points behind league leaders Liverpool thanks to Friday's 3-2 defeat at Wolves, meaning their title defence looks beyond Guardiola's men.

Although Ederson's early red card left City in a precious position at Molineux, they found themselves two to the good just after the interval thanks to a pair of Raheem Sterling goals.

But Adama Traore pulled one back soon after and he then played a vital role in an 82nd-minute equaliser, making the most of Benjamin Mendy's woeful error to set up Raul Jimenez.

The Mexican teed up Matt Doherty late on and he secured the win that leaves City well adrift of Liverpool, who also have a game in hand.

But giving up on the Premier League is a dangerous game Guardiola is unwilling to play.

"We can't give up otherwise we won't be in Europe," Guardiola told reporters.

"I never prioritise competitions. Now we're back at home, playing another game in less than 40 hours [at home to Sheffield United]. We have to prepare, see how they are and how they feel.

"Our response is always good; we are used to being top and now we are fighting."

Friday's result meant Manchester City were unable to move back up to second above Leicester City, who lost 4-0 to Liverpool on Boxing Day.

And Guardiola reiterated that they are now City's target, acknowledging it is not realistic to continue aiming for Liverpool's lofty perch.

"We have to move on," he said. "We played the first season and we were there [near the top] all the time, in some situations we are far away. We have to catch the second one and see where we are.

"It's unrealistic to think about Liverpool, we think about Leicester. We have the chance to recover second, I know the quality of the team, but that's the situation."

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