Liverpool fans are sure to already be feeling sufficient hurt from Saturday's 2-0 defeat to Everton.

The Reds came into this Merseyside derby having not lost to their rivals in over a decade, while you had to go back as far as 1999 for a loss at Anfield.

But this is a result that held significance beyond local bragging rights - it could well be the one that condemns Jurgen Klopp's side to Europa League football next term.

It is not necessarily that the gap is too big, with Liverpool still just three points behind fourth place despite their recent woeful run.

Nor is it that the opposition are too good - Chelsea also dropped points on Saturday, Everton still trail their neighbours, and Leicester City showed last year that they are capable of a late-season collapse.

Yet it is almost impossible to imagine the reigning champions making any of that pay as they contend with injury problems that simply refuse to ease.

Klopp started this game with his 17th different centre-back partnership of the season in defence, none of whom had made it through three consecutive games.

And that dreadful record was extended in the first half as Jordan Henderson limped off to be replaced by Nat Phillips.

The long-term absences of Virgil van Dijk, Joe Gomez and Joel Matip have not just left a hole in the defence, they have also put too much demand on their replacements.

It is no coincidence that two of them - Henderson and Fabinho - are both now sidelined with muscle problems. 

Throw in the fact they are also being desperately missed in midfield and that the acquisition of the inexperienced Ozan Kabak now looks like little more than desperation and it does not add up to a solid foundation.

Of course, the problems don't just stop there, as one goal in almost nine hours of football at Anfield underlines.

The loss of Diogo Jota as a rotational option during a season more relentless than any other is no doubt part of that - again, it comes back to injuries.

Things may ease slightly on that front in the coming days, with Jota, James Milner and Fabinho close to returning, though Klopp must now wait nervously on Henderson.

Still, these players will come back into a Liverpool team that has just lost four on the bounce in the league at home for the first time since 1923 and is well short of confidence.

Only a huge change in fortunes on the fitness front will allow the Reds to put together the sort of turnaround in form that would make a top-four finish a possibility.

But supporters won't be holding their breath, and the consequences of that are sure to be far-reaching.

The reluctance of the club's owners, Fenway Sports Group, to spend during a pandemic was evident in the buy-now-pay-later deals agreed for Jota and Thiago Alcantara over the summer.

There was a notable lack of risk, too, attached to the mid-season loan of Kabak, who arrived from Schalke only with an option to buy attached.

And the Americans are unlikely to be willing to sanction any big-money deals if Champions League money is not present on next season's accounts.

If there is one upside for Liverpool, it is that clubs across Europe who might covet the likes of Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane are unlikely to be able to finance such moves themselves.

But either way, it is likely that more pain awaits, not just across the remainder of this season, but into the summer as well.

Liverpool suffered a fourth straight Premier League defeat as Everton ended their miserable run at Anfield with a 2-0 victory on Saturday.

In a match that Liverpool went on to dominate after a lacklustre first-half display, Richarlison's third-minute goal and Gylfi Sigurdsson's late penalty proved enough for Everton to claim a first away win over their Merseyside rivals since September 1999.

Liverpool's efforts were not helped by the loss of Jordan Henderson to injury, with Sadio Mane missing two presentable chances that might have made Everton pay for profligate finishing from Seamus Coleman and Richarlison.

The centre of derby drama in recent meetings, Jordan Pickford also played a pivotal role, making a wonderful save from Mohamed Salah, setting the stage for Sigurdsson to condemn Jurgen Klopp's champions to a fourth successive home reverse.

Everton made a blistering start in the blustery conditions – James Rodriguez sliipping a pass through to Richarlison, who finished crisply across Alisson and into the left corner to put the Toffees ahead in a Merseyside derby for the first time since 2010.

Henderson had a winner disallowed by VAR in October's reverse fixture, and his wicked volley would have restored parity if not for Pickford's finger-tip save, with Everton's goalkeeper then denying Trent Alexander-Arnold.

Liverpool were dealt a blow on the half-hour as Henderson succumbed to injury, and Coleman should have compounded the hosts' frustration when he met Lucas Digne's cross, only to head straight at Alisson.

Mane twice missed from close range early in the second half, before Michael Keane's last-ditch tackle denied Liverpool's number 10.

A rare Everton attack resulted in Richarlison racing behind Liverpool's defence, only for the Brazilian to hesitate when one-on-one with Alisson.

Salah seemed set to punish Everton when Liverpool carved out another chance, but Pickford rushed out to smother the angle.

And that proved vital, with Calvert-Lewin soon adjudged to have been fouled by Alexander-Arnold at the other end of the pitch after Alisson's fine save.

After a long wait for a VAR check, Sigurdsson slotted in the resulting penalty as Carlo Ancelotti masterminded the Toffees' first derby victory in over a decade.

Jordan Henderson suffered an apparent groin injury in the Merseyside derby as Liverpool's injury woes continued.

With Liverpool trailing to Richarlison's early strike at Anfield, captain Henderson was forced off in the 30th minute. That was shortly after he went close to equalising with a superb volley which was well saved by Jordan Pickford.

Henderson pulled up while tussling with Abdoulaye Doucoure and, though he attempted to carry on, he had to make way for Nathaniel Phillips.

It resulted in another makeshift, untested centre-back pairing of Phillips and Ozan Kabak for Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp, who was already unable to call on Fabinho, himself a stand-in for Joe Gomez, Joel Matip and Virgil van Dijk.

Van Dijk sustained a potentially season-ending knee injury in October's reverse fixture at Goodison Park.

Liverpool's defence was immediately tested after Henderson's departure, with Alisson keeping out Seamus Coleman's close-range header.

Jurgen Klopp named an unchanged starting XI for Liverpool's meeting with Everton at Anfield.

With James Milner, Fabinho and Diogo Jota still sidelined, the Reds boss had few rotational options available to him ahead of Saturday's Merseyside derby.

And that was reflected in Klopp naming the same team that earned a 2-0 win over RB Leipzig in the first leg of the sides' Champions League last-16 tie on Wednesday, which meant skipper Jordan Henderson once again was named as the partner for Ozan Kobak in the centre of defence.

There was, though, one new face among the squad, with Naby Keita sufficiently fit to claim a place on the bench after his recent injury.

As for Everton, they were able to welcome back the influential Dominic Calvert-Lewin from a two-game absence necessitated by a muscle problem, though he was only fit enough for the bench.

The same goes for midfielder Allan, who has been out since mid-December due to a hamstring issue.

With Yerry Mina ruled out due to injury, Carlo Ancelotti named Seamus Coleman in starting XI, with Ben Godfrey moving inside to the centre of a three-man defence.

Carlo Ancelotti dismissed rumours James Rodriguez could leave Everton, insisting the playmaker was "happy" at the club.

A report suggested James, who joined Everton from Real Madrid in September last year, was unhappy and could consider a switch to Atletico.

But Ancelotti played down that talk ahead of Saturday's Merseyside derby against Liverpool.

"He is okay, he has no problem. I talk to him every day, he is happy here, confident, motivated," the Everton manager told a news conference.

"He had a little problem in the last few games with his calf. But now he is in good condition. He really feels good here because everyone takes care of him, and that's it.

"I don't know if he complains about the weather, but the weather we know that it is not the best weather ever, but there are a lot of things good in this area."

James has scored five goals and provided three assists in 17 Premier League games this season.

No Everton player has created more chances than his 30, 22 of which have been in open play, or his eight big chances.

Everton are seventh in the table and three points behind sixth-placed Liverpool, although they have a game in hand.

Jurgen Klopp hopes Liverpool can have a little more luck with regards to injuries next season, believing a full-strength squad would see them sitting much closer to runaway leaders Manchester City. 

Liverpool finished 18 points clear of second-place City in the 2019-20 Premier League season as they ended a 30-year wait to be crowned champions again. 

However, while they have struggled in the defence of their title, Pep Guardiola's squad are once again the team to beat. They set a new record with Wednesday's 3-1 triumph at Everton, becoming the first top-flight team to start a calendar year with 10 straight league victories. 

The Reds' focus has switched to finishing in the top four - they sit in fifth place ahead of Saturday's Merseyside derby, 16 points behind City - but Klopp feels such a huge gap would not have existed if he had key players available. 

Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez have been long-term absentees, with fellow centre-back Joel Matip now out for the rest of the season. Diogo Jota, meanwhile, has not featured since December 9, while Naby Keita is only just nearing a return having yet to make an appearance in 2021. 

Asked in his pre-match media conference about what it will take to be closer to City next season, Klopp replied: "We don't have to think about that now.

"We don't play them this year anymore - probably not, maybe the Champions League. For next year, then we have a little bit more time.  

"It's never the case that we thought, 'How can we overtake City and become the finest team in English football?'. We never saw it like this – we wanted the best version of ourselves.  

"We have that chance again, then if that's good enough, it's good enough. If another team is better, then that's how sport works. You cannot do more than be the best version of yourselves.   

"That's what we really try again, as a team especially. We need a little bit more luck, then a few other things as well.  

"But, in the beginning, slightly more luck with injuries would help. Then we can come closer to them.  

"I think we can all agree if I would say, probably Pep would say it too, that a full season for both teams and we wouldn't be 16 points away. But we are. That's how it is, we accept that.  This season, though, it is not about how close we can come to Manchester City."

Van Dijk has been out of action since the previous Merseyside derby at Goodison Park, back in October 2020.  

The defender was hurt early in proceedings following a challenge from goalkeeper Jordan Pickford, while team-mate Thiago Alcantara also suffered an injury in the game after a wild tackle from Richarlison that saw the Brazilian sent off. 

Klopp, however, made clear the game takes on no extra importance because of what happened in that 2-2 draw last year, as Liverpool look to avoid suffering four consecutive Premier League defeats for the first time since December 2002.  

"We play the way we play. It's very emotional but we are always emotional, to be honest," Klopp - who confirmed on Friday that Fabinho will not feature at Anfield - said. "That's our way to play.  

"What the other teams do I don't know, because I have no influence on that. I can imagine that after the first game you try to create some stories around that, but we will be prepared for a football game, for a derby, like we always do.  

"Nobody can say about his team that they are not ready for derbies, from an attitude point of view, from an understanding point of view over how important it is.  

"This team always was [ready] and will be tomorrow. Obviously, there are stories around, all these kind of things, but I have nothing to say."

It turns out all Liverpool needed was a short midweek break to Budapest to reconnect, restore some confidence and rediscover their ruthless streak.

Tuesday's 2-0 triumph over RB Leipzig in the Hungarian capital was a much-needed boost for Jurgen Klopp's squad, as the Champions League seemingly holds their only hope of silverware.

Before the second leg, though, they resume a Premier League campaign that has seen the focus switch from retaining the title to finishing in the top four. With no club spared from feeling the financial impact of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the Reds can ill-afford to miss out on the monetary benefits that come from playing in Europe's premier competition.

Next up: the Merseyside derby on Saturday. Liverpool welcome their neighbours to Anfield having lost three league games on the spin for the first time in Klopp's reign, though the European trip helped quickly lift the gloom that had engulfed them following the disheartening 3-1 defeat to Leicester City.

Mohamed Salah scored against Leipzig, meaning the Egyptian now has 24 in all competitions. There was also a goal for Sadio Mane, who – unlike his fellow forward – has not quite hit the same heights as he reached previously.

A one-on-one finish lifted Mane's tally for the season to 11 in 31 appearances, though just seven of those goals have come in league action. The Senegal forward finished level for the Golden Boot with Salah and Arsenal's Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in 2018-19 on 22 goals, while last term he managed 18.

It will take a strong finish down the stretch to get close to those figures again, but is there a clear reason for Mane's dip in productivity?


ISSUES UP FRONT - AND AT THE BACK

After 24 games in 2019-20, runaway leaders Liverpool had scored 56 goals and let in 15. At the same stage this season, they have conceded 32. Without a solid foundation to build on, the sense of invincibility has disappeared, replaced instead by a vulnerability that offers opponents hope, provided they repel what comes their way.

The attack could help mask some of those defensive deficiencies. While they have managed fewer goals this season (45), the numbers have remained relatively consistent with previous years.

Though Liverpool's shot conversion rate of 17.58 per cent is slightly lower, they have done better when it comes to putting away big chances, per Opta data. At 45.31 per cent, the Reds have been more successful than a season ago (40.37), albeit their minutes-per-goal average is obviously up (48 compared to 40.24, while in the 2018-19 season it went even lower, down at 38.43).

After consistent improvement, a plateau or a dip was always going to come along at some stage. What was not expected, however, is the number of injuries Klopp has had to deal with. It should not be underestimated how the rotation behind the established forward line has had an effect, particularly with midfield regulars Fabinho and Jordan Henderson having to fill in for absent centre-backs.


TARGET PRACTICE REQUIRED

Key absences have obviously hampered Liverpool, but the established trio up top have remained relatively consistent in Klopp's line-ups. Diogo Jota did arrive to provide competition, yet his fast start to life on Merseyside was put on hold by a long-term injury. Yes, even new recruits were not safe from suffering pain.

Predominantly playing on the left side of a front three, Mane has occupied similar positions to the previous season. His total number of shots appears on course to be similar, though there has been a noticeable decline when it comes to converting them.

His success rate of 14.29 per cent with attempts is his lowest since signing for the club. There is no such regression when it comes to taking big chances, yet his average of 255 minutes per goal is not just a major rise on previous years with Liverpool, but also higher than either of his seasons spent with Southampton.

It is, therefore, hardly surprising that Mane is underperforming in terms of his xG (expected goals) rate for 2020-21, with his seven goals from 63 attempts under his expected total of 9.3. In contrast, when helping secure a long-awaited championship, Liverpool's first in the top flight for 30 years, he hit 18 goals - a total managed from 77 shots - to comfortably outperform his xG of 13.7.


DERBY DAYS PROVIDE FOND MEMORIES

Having scored against Leipzig, Mane will be aiming to once again make an impact in what looks to be a pivotal derby for both teams. 

The 28-year-old was on target against Everton in the 2-2 result at Goodison Park back in October, a game that changed Liverpool's course dramatically as Virgil van Dijk suffered a serious knee injury. There were signs of cracks appearing before then - most noticeably in the shock 7-2 defeat at Aston Villa - but the Dutchman’s absence continues to be keenly felt.

The Reds leaned heavily on Andy Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold as attacking outlets on their way to being crowned champions. The full-back pairing had 16 assists between them, the former leading the way with 10 (vastly higher than his xA - expected assists - value of 4.88).

This term, they have not quite had the same impact going forwards. They have three assists each, in line with their xA figures. Mane has also contributed the same number, having registered seven in the league in 2019-20.

Fatigue - both mental and physical - could also be an issue for Mane and his team-mates. According to former Liverpool player Vladimir Smicer, it would be understandable considering what they have been through, not just across the past few months but indeed ever since their unlikely run to the Champions League final in 2018. 

"Sometimes we are missing a bit of freshness in important moments in the game, which is the difference in regard to last season," Smicer told Stats Perform News courtesy of KIA.

"Even the VAR decisions against Liverpool this year, where last year everything was perfect, going well. 

"That might be why even Mane – a fantastic player, in my eyes one of the best players in the world – is suffering a little bit, whether it be with fewer goals, or his offensive potency."

Everton could be just the opponents to raise levels again, though. Mane has never lost a derby meeting in his Liverpool career, a record he will be keen to protect this weekend.

Jurgen Klopp has been suitably impressed by Ozan Kabak so far as the defender looks to make the most of his opportunities at Liverpool. 

Kabak moved to Anfield on the final day of the mid-season transfer window, initially joining on loan from Schalke until the end of the current campaign. 

However, the deal reportedly includes a purchase option, meaning the 20-year-old Turkey international has a window in which to prove he should be signed permanently in a deal worth £18million. 

The centre-back endured a moment to forget on his debut against Leicester City, colliding with goalkeeper Alisson to gift Jamie Vardy a goal that helped the hosts go on to seal a 3-1 triumph at the King Power Stadium. 

Yet Klopp felt Kabak was still solid despite that incident, with the new signing going on to help the Reds keep RB Leipzig at bay in a 2-0 Champions League victory in midweek. 

"Big potential, 20 years old and already pretty experienced, to be honest," Klopp replied when asked about Kabak in his pre-match press conference ahead of the derby against Everton.  

"He didn't take the easy way in his career so far, when you are in Istanbul when you can play for probably one of the biggest teams in the world [Galatasaray] and always be around at the top of the table.

"Then you go to Stuttgart and Schalke, where you have to fight really hard to win football games. That's good from an education and development point of view.

"Now he's here and looks really promising. Both games, he looked really solid.

"Yes, we all know what happened in the Leicester game, but around this situation he played a really solid game, not to forget who we played that day. They were second or third in the Premier League, a tough one with all the forwards they have.

"He did really well - long may it continue."

Kabak has swapped a Bundesliga relegation battle for a top-four fight with Liverpool and, with Fabinho ruled out again, could be set to continue in the team for the visit of Everton on Saturday.

His performance against Leipzig in the first leg of the last-16 tie certainly suggested he has adapted quickly to the change of scenery. He made twice as many tackles (four) as any of his team-mates in Budapest, also managing a joint match-high three interceptions while completing 84.3 per cent of his attempted passes.

The clean sheet on Tuesday was also a confidence boost for Alisson, as his involvement in the Vardy goal against Leicester came after two high-profile errors in the 4-1 home loss to Manchester City. 

While understanding such moments can lead to self-doubt for any player, Klopp made clear to the media that he has never lost faith in his first-choice keeper. 

"My confidence? Nothing changed. We are all human beings, Ali as well. It's not about telling him he's a world-class goalkeeper, he knows that," the Liverpool boss said.

"If you made a mistake in the game before, the previous games and it's nothing you like, humans are all the same. Ali is too smart to ignore it completely.

"Other personalities would perhaps not struggle, but in the end he can rely – and we can rely – on his quality and his attitude, plus how focused he is during a game, how much he lives in it. 

"There was not one second of doubt. Ali, for sure, did not have the best time between the two games – that's how it is. But the Leipzig game was a really good one to get back."

Liverpool are unbeaten in their previous 23 meetings with Everton in all competitions, which is their longest run against any opponent.

They go into the latest meeting with their neighbours looking to avoid a fourth successive league loss, having not suffered such a run of form in the competition since Gerard Houllier was in charge in December 2002.

Naby Keita may make his Liverpool return in Saturday's Merseyside derby but Fabinho remains absent against Everton.

Guinea midfielder Keita has not featured since the Reds' 7-0 mauling of Crystal Palace on December 19 due to an ankle injury but was back in training this week.

Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp will take another check on Keita before the meeting with the Toffees at Anfield, though the German confirmed Fabinho – who missed the Premier League loss to Leicester City and Champions League win over RB Leipzig with a muscular issue – will sit out again, meaning captain Jordan Henderson is likely to partner Ozan Kabak once more in defence.

"Naby trained yesterday with the team, so we have to see what we make of it," Klopp told a news conference.

"Fab was not in training, all the others not as well. Nothing new.

"They all get closer – Fab gets closer, Millie [James Milner] gets closer and Diogo [Jota] gets closer, but not close enough for the weekend."

Klopp explained Keita could have been in contention to face former club Leipzig in midweek, a Champions League last-16 first-leg match played in Budapest that Liverpool won 2-0, only for illness to interrupt his recovery.

"Naby could have been in the squad against Leipzig, but it didn't make sense because he'd only trained two days with the team. So, we said stay at home, train two days of proper training sessions, but unfortunately Naby got ill a little bit and couldn't train these two days," he added.

"Yesterday we reintegrated him again. I just don't know, but we don't hold him back or whatever. Of course, after the injuries he had, we don't want to force him in or something like that, but it would be nice to have him.

"Is he able to play a few minutes on Saturday? I don't know. If he's not, if we speak about it and it's better to rather not play a few minutes then it is better to stay away from the team and just train proper, proper.

"Being around, on the bench, are not the most intense things and he needs to get used to the intensity again. No decision made yet, but he is not injured anymore and now we have to figure out how fit he is to play how many minutes."

Manchester City are counting the cost of the current financial climate and have slashed the budget assigned to lure Lionel Messi away from Barcelona.

The 33-year-old Barca captain could depart his boyhood team in the 2021 off-season after publicly trying, and failing, to force an exit from the Catalan club last August.

A reunion with Pep Guardiola at Manchester City has been the subject of much speculation, but Messi may have to compromise to make the move happen as the Premier League leaders' bargaining power has taken a hit.

 

TOP STORY – CITY FORCED TO LOWER MESSI CONTRACT OFFER

City had already tabled a five-year contract designed to tempt Messi to switch LaLiga for the Premier League – but the numbers have now changed, reports The Sun.

A package worth £600million (€693m) had reportedly been prepared in order to tie the six-time Ballon d'Or winner down for the rest of his career, should he opt to leave Barca at the end of the season.

But The Sun says City will now not match the terms set in August, and the offer has dropped to £430million (€496m), potentially opening the door for Paris Saint-Germain to swoop.

ROUND-UP

Chelsea have already made contact with winger Jonas Hofmann, according to Bild, as the Borussia Monchengladbach exodus threatens to begin following the news that coach Marco Rose is leaving for Borussia Dortmund next season. Hofmann played for Thomas Tuchel at Dortmund.

Milan midfielder Franck Kessie is also in Tuchel's sights, and the Blues could offer Fikayo Tomori to the Serie A giants on a permanent deal as part of a player-plus-cash exchange, reports Il Milanista.

- Everton loanee Moise Kean has netted 14 goals in 25 games for PSG and his parent club will not part with the Italy international for any less than £60m, says Fabrizio Romano, while Juventus want to bring the striker back to Turin, according to Le 10 Sport.

 

Everton 'will demand £70m for Moise Kean transfer' after impressing at PSG https://t.co/3PvjhBQ1rf

— Sun Sport (@SunSport) February 18, 2021

- 'If there are opportunities, I will have a look at them,' is what Wilfried Zaha told the Financial Times Business of Football Summit, reports The Sun. The Crystal Palace winger has been previously linked with Arsenal and Tottenham.

- Gunners midfielder Lucas Torreira, currently on the fringes while on loan at Atletico Madrid, is close to securing a move to Fiorentina for next season, claims Gazzetta Dello Sport.

Following Manchester City's 3-1 victory at Swansea City in the FA Cup last Wednesday, Pep Guardiola's side won their 15th successive match.

In doing so, they set a new record for an English top-flight club in all competitions, overtaking the 14-game winning runs of Arsenal and Preston North End in 1987 and 1892, respectively.

They have since extended this streak to 17 after great wins over both Tottenham and Everton in the Premier League.

Back in 2017, it was claimed by some that City had secured 20 wins on the trot, between August 26 and December 3 until they eventually lost 2-1 away at Shakhtar Donetsk in the Champions League on December 6.

The bone of contention stemmed from the 12th game in this run; a 0-0 draw against Wolves in the EFL Cup, which saw City progress 4-1 in a penalty shootout.

Here at Stats Perform, we have worked on the basis that a penalty shootout is a method to find a winner of a tie or to decide a tournament/trophy winner, rather than to decide who won an individual match.

The official Laws of the Game, which are the responsibility of the International Football Association Board (IFAB) could be interpreted in other ways, but we have always held the belief that they explain the situation as we understood it.

A high-profile example of why the winner of a penalty shootout cannot be considered the winner of a match is that of the 2011-12 Champions League semi-final tie between Real Madrid and Bayern Munich.

The two sides drew 3-3 on aggregate and it was in the second leg – which Real Madrid won 2-1 on the night – that Bayern Munich progressed to the final with a 3-1 penalty shootout victory.

Based on the assumption that the team to win the shootout wins the match, you would have two winners in a single game; Madrid won 2-1 but also lost because of a 3-1 shootout reverse to Bayern, who lost as well due to suffering a 2-1 defeat in the actual game.

City have been involved in an occasion similar to this in recent times. They won 2-0 at home to Danish club Aalborg in the first leg of their 2008-09 UEFA Cup round of 16 tie, before losing 2-0 away a week later.

City progressed 4-3 following a penalty shootout on the night but lost the actual game 2-0.

Following City's current phenomenal run of form, the IFAB's technical director David Elleray spoke to Stats Perform and put the matter to bed, once and for all. He referred to Law 10.2 in the 2020-21 Laws of the Game.

Elleray told Stats Perform: "Law 10 makes it clear that a match is drawn, won or lost according to the number of goals both teams score in 'normal' time or in 'normal' time plus extra-time.

"'Away goals' and 'kicks from the penalty mark' (KFPM) [penalty shootouts] are not part of the match itself and are only used to determine a 'winning team' where one is required. For KFPM, this is made clear in the next section of Law 10."

"Thus KFPM (as with 'away goals') do not change the result of the match itself as they occur after the match has ended," added Elleray.

Clearly, we're not the overlords of the statistics world.

Clubs, competitions and statisticians may choose to deem 'penalty shootout' wins as match victories – we can't change that. What's important is that terminologies need to be tightened up by those that choose this way of thinking, as there is an important technical difference between a match that's won in 'normal' time (or after extra-time) and one that's drawn and then 'won' as a result of kicks from the penalty mark (penalty shootout).

For example, the latter might constitute part of a 'winning' run (general term) but, for some, not necessarily part of a 'match-winning' run.

We'd like to thank David Elleray for his time and willingness for his statements to be put on record for publication, hopefully clearing up any confusion about this subject.

It further highlights just what an incredible run of form City are currently enjoying.

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola believes Bernardo Silva is back to his "unstoppable" best after the Portuguese star shined in the Premier League leaders' 3-1 win against Everton.

After Everton forward Richarlison cancelled out Phil Foden's opener, Silva set up Riyad Mahrez to put City in front in the 63rd minute at Goodison Park on Wednesday.

Silva then turned from provider to goalscorer, collecting Gabriel Jesus' pass to extend the advantage with 13 minutes remaining and seal City's 17th successive win in all competitions.

Harking back to his outstanding form in City's 2018-19 title-winning campaign, Guardiola heaped praise on the impact Silva has made during his 28 starts this season.

"What a player. I can say that, what a player. Everything he does, he does incredibly well," Guardiola told reporters.

"The year that we won the second Premier League in a row, he was unstoppable.

"He was an important player for us and he's back.

"I'm more than pleased because, I've said many times, he's a lovely person.

"As a manager, you will dream to always have people like Bernardo. I think his mum and dad must be so proud about the son that they have."

Everton manager Carlo Ancelotti congratulated Manchester City and declared them champions-elect after the runaway Premier League leaders powered to a 3-1 win at Goodison Park.

City opened up a 10-point gap over second-placed neighbours Manchester United after a commanding display against Everton on Wednesday, with goals coming from Phil Foden, Riyad Mahrez and Bernardo Silva.

Everton star Richarlison did net a first-half equaliser but it was not enough to stop the Toffees from falling to a second consecutive loss on Merseyside in four days, following the 2-0 reverse against Fulham on Sunday.

City have won their last 12 league matches, 17 in all competitions, and Ancelotti cannot see any team stopping Pep Guardiola's high-flying side from securing a fifth Premier League trophy and seventh English domestic crown.

"I think so. It's really difficult to say another name," Ancelotti said.

"Man City, in this moment, are in a good mood. They have fantastic quality, they have belief, they are strong.

"We tried to put the game on the strong side but it was difficult against Rodrigo, against [Ruben] Dias, against [Aymeric] Laporte."

Pep Guardiola credited Manchester City for showing patience in attack as they claimed a 3-1 win over Everton to move 10 points clear at the top of the Premier League. 

Phil Foden's deflected strike put City ahead at Goodison Park but the game was level at half-time after Richarlison turned in a Lucas Digne strike that came back off the post. 

Everton, who had lost each of their previous five league games against City and conceded at least twice every time, were looking resolute in defence until Bernardo Silva teed up Riyad Mahrez to score a stunning second goal. 

Silva added a fine third 13 minutes from time as City became the first side in English top-flight history to win their first 10 games of a calendar year. 

Manager Guardiola felt the less-hurried approach in attack in the second half proved key against a Toffees side who have now failed to win at home in five league matches. 

"A real tough game, not perfect conditions, the winter time, and they are so physical as a team," Guardiola told Amazon Prime. 

"But a solid performance. The guys ran like we had to do and it's three points.

"We had the quality up front but it always comes through the passes. When we arrived in the final third, we wanted to attack too quickly, we needed to be patient. The second goal is an example of that. 

"Sometimes it's fine, no problem, make an extra [pass], because at the end we have to try to get the players we play up front in better conditions to make the action." 

Richarlison's equaliser was the first goal City had conceded from open play in the league since a late consolation from Callum Hudson-Odoi in a 3-1 win at Chelsea on January 3. 

For Guardiola, the most pleasing aspect was that they limited Everton – who drew 3-3 with Manchester United at Old Trafford and scored five in an FA Cup win over Tottenham last week – to just three attempts. 

"Football is not defensive-offensive. You cannot win titles if you are not solid. It's important we concede few chances. This is the most important thing," he said. 

"We cannot forget this team scored three goals at Old Trafford, five against Tottenham, so it's a team that has ability up front to create chances. And we conceded few."

Manchester City moved 10 points clear at the top of the Premier League after a 3-1 victory over Everton at Goodison Park on Wednesday. 

With in-form goalscorer Ilkay Gundogan missing through injury, it was fellow midfielders Phil Foden, Riyad Mahrez and Bernardo Silva who stretched City's winning run to 17 games in all competitions. 

Mahrez struck a sublime second for City in the second half, his fourth league goal on this ground, after a fortuitous Richarlison effort had cancelled out Foden's deflected opener. 

Silva's third 13 minutes from time – shortly before Kevin De Bruyne made a return from injury off the bench – ensured Carlo Ancelotti's side have only won twice in eight league games in 2021, and their season is in danger of unravelling. 

City controlled the first half-hour but Everton limited them to few chances, with Michael Keane covering well to deny Gabriel Jesus the clearest opening. 

The Toffees went behind in unfortunate fashion 32 minutes in, Foden's right-foot shot flying past Jordan Pickford via a big deflection off Seamus Coleman.

The lead last only six minutes, though. Coleman's cross from the right was smashed goalwards by Lucas Digne – Everton's first shot of the match – and the ball came back off the post and bounced in off Richarlison's knee. 

The second half followed a similar pattern, Jesus and Rodri each missing the target from presentable chances, although Gylfi Sigurdsson led two promising breaks for Everton that should perhaps have yielded more. 

City's pressure told 63 minutes in, Mahrez cutting in from the right and curling a superb strike in off the left-hand post after Silva had created some space. 

Silva capped a fine performance with the decisive third, collecting Jesus' lay-off, working space on the edge of the box and firing in a shot that Pickford could only parry into the net.


What does it mean? Record-breaking City continue title charge 

City's lead at the top over Manchester United now stands at 10 points after 24 games and, on current form, it is a gap that looks unlikely to be bridged. 

This was their sixth league win in a row over Everton and made it 10 consecutive top-flight victories to start the calendar year, surpassing the record of nine first set by Bolton Wanderers in 1906 and then United in 2009. 

Everton, who have lost three league games at home in a row for the first time in five years, stay seventh. 

Silva service 

Everton were just beginning to look comfortable in defence when Silva produced the telling impact, pulling apart the backline to set up Mahrez and then rifling home a goal of his own. 

The Portugal midfielder misplaced just two of his 62 passes, 43 of which were in the Everton half. 

Mina injury adds to mounting Everton worries 

Yerry Mina went off injured in the first half to leave Everton's task even more daunting, as well as give Ancelotti a selection headache ahead of the weekend trip to Liverpool. 

The Italian last lost three league games at home in a row back when he was in charge of Milan in 2006 and, with Southampton and Chelsea to play after the champions, this could be a tough few weeks for him. 

What's next? 

City head to Arsenal on Sunday, with Everton next up at the home of the champions for Saturday's Merseyside derby. 

© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.