Manchester City's brilliant energy and passion were the reasons for their victory over Real Madrid, according to Raheem Sterling.

City booked their place in the Champions League quarter-finals with a 2-1 defeat of Madrid at Etihad Stadium on Friday, securing a 4-2 aggregate triumph.

Sterling netted the opener – his 100th goal for the club – following Raphael Varane's error, with Gabriel Jesus then pouncing on another mistake from Madrid's beleaguered centre-back in the second half after Karim Benzema had restored parity.

Sterling believes the difference between City and Madrid came down to effort.

"Just energy, passion. It's one of those competitions which we want to do well in – we want to play football but if we run our socks off, the result will follow," Sterling told BT Sport.

"The important thing today – we know how good they are and know how good we are – the difference was going to be who ran the most and who was willing to put the extra yard in. I thought we were brilliant today.

"That was part of the plan. To be on the front foot, aggression and be right on them. From our pressing we got two goals from it.

"With the players we've got, there's no inferiority. We played really well. They've got some great players but the energy and performance we showed, we were brilliant."

Lyon edged past Juventus on away goals despite a double from Cristiano Ronaldo in Turin, and will be City's quarter-final opponents on August 15 in what will be a straight knockout competition in Lisbon.

"It's going to be more like an international scene," said Sterling, who would have been playing in Euro 2020 with England in June and July if not for the coronavirus pandemic.

"It'll be interesting, but I'm just grateful that we're there."

Real Madrid defender Raphael Varane took the blame for this side's Champions League exit at the hands of Manchester City on Friday.

Pep Guardiola's side won 2-1 at the Etihad Stadium to claim a 4-2 aggregate victory and reach the quarter-finals, where they will face Lyon.

Raheem Sterling put City ahead after Varane lost possession to Gabriel Jesus in just the ninth minute of the game.

Karim Benzema equalised but Jesus restored City's advantage after Varane made a mess of a header and then failed to nod the ball back to Thibaut Courtois.

It was a rare poor performance from the France international, who was without usual centre-back partner Sergio Ramos due to suspension, and he was prepared to accept responsibility.

"This defeat is mine. I have to assume that. This defeat is my responsibility," he told Movistar.

"We prepared well for it, but mistakes cost you. I can't explain the mistakes - it can happen in football.

"I'm sad for my team-mates. Until the 1-1, we had a chance to go through and today it didn't go well.

"This has not happened to me very often before. You have to have character to come back stronger."

The defeat marked the first time Zinedine Zidane has lost a Champions League knockout tie as boss, but he maintains Madrid's LaLiga title triumph means their season has been positive.

"Unfortunately, he [Varane] made a couple of errors, we can't be happy, obviously," Zidane said.

"We've lost a game and we're knocked out. We're proud of what we've achieved throughout the whole season. This is football. We've lost this game against a good side. You have to accept it.

"We had chances to score. The second half, we were a little bit better. Ninety-five per cent of what we've achieved this season has been excellent. Today, we've played against a good team and we have to accept it."

Raheem Sterling and Gabriel Jesus sent Manchester City into the Champions League quarter-finals as a 2-1 defeat of Real Madrid on Friday sealed a 4-2 aggregate win.

Leading 2-1 from the first leg of their last-16 tie in February, City hit the front early on at the Etihad Stadium when Raphael Varane gift-wrapped Raheem Sterling his 100th goal for the club.

Karim Benzema's fine header restored parity in the 28th minute, only for Varane to again cost Madrid midway through the second half.

Jesus was the benefactor of the centre-back's second calamity of the game, with a quarter-final clash against Lyon the reward for City.

Varane's nightmare started in the ninth minute, with the France international playing himself into trouble, Jesus robbing possession and teeing up Sterling for a simple finish.

Sterling very nearly had his 101st goal in sky blue moments after, but his chipped effort dropped just over the bar.

Ederson had to make two fine saves as Madrid fought back, but City did not heed the warning, and the visitors were on level terms when Benzema headed in from Rodrygo's cross.

Sterling could have done better with a shot into the side netting following the restart, before Thibaut Courtois denied Kevin De Bruyne direct from a corner.

Courtois was in action again with 25 minutes remaining, tipping Jesus' effort over, but City had their second soon after.

Having messed up his initial header, Varane put nowhere near enough power on his nod back to Courtois, with Jesus nipping in to prod home cleverly from a tight angle.

Handed an Etihad farewell in the final stages, David Silva was inches away from making it 3-1 with a dipping free-kick, but City ultimately settled for what they had as they knocked out the 13-time European champions.

 

What does it mean? Jekyll and Hyde City must sharpen up to break Champions League duck

Sterling's opener was City's 150th Champions League goal, in their 76th appearance in the competition, yet they then conceded their 100th goal in the tournament under 20 minutes later.

If they are to end their wait for Europe's top club trophy this season, City's defence must give more support to their stellar forwards.

Century up for Sterling

Though the goal was gaping, Sterling still showed real composure to nudge City ahead early on, and in doing so he became the 17th player to reach a century of goals for the Citizens and the first Englishman since Dennis Tueart in 1981.

Varane horror show proves decisive

With Sergio Ramos suspended, the pressure was on Eder Militao heading into Friday's clash, yet it was his experienced defensive partner Varane who was left red-faced after his two errors resulted in both of City's goals.

What's next?

Lyon, who knocked out Juventus on away goals after a 2-2 aggregate draw, are next up for City on August 15 in Lisbon, while Madrid's focus will switch to the new season.

Raheem Sterling moved on to 100 goals for Manchester City after he put Pep Guardiola's side ahead against Real Madrid in the Champions League.

Sterling opened the scoring nine minutes into Friday's last-16 second leg, finishing in composed fashion after Gabriel Jesus pounced on Raphael Varane's mistake.

It put City 3-1 up on aggregate and took Sterling to a century of goals for the club.

The 25-year-old is the 17th player to achieve the feat for City, though he is the first Englishman to reach triple figures since Dennis Tueart in 1981.

Sterling, who went close to a second moments after his opener before Karim Benzema equalised, is also the sixth English player to score at least 20 Champions League goals – following Wayne Rooney, Paul Scholes, Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard and Harry Kane.

Only Rooney – aged 24 years and 157 days – reached the total at a younger age than the City forward.

Wilfried Zaha is proud to see the likes of Raheem Sterling and Marcus Rashford being vocal in the fight against racial discrimination but believes social media platforms must do more to tackle abuse.

Crystal Palace winger Zaha has long been targeted by racist trolls online, revealing he was first sent abusive messages approximately 10 years ago.

With social media platforms growing in popularity over the past decade, it has become something of a regular occurrence to see top-level athletes sharing screenshots of abuse they have received.

England internationals Sterling and Rashford have both found themselves in such scenarios, while Zaha took similar action earlier in July – with a 12-year-old boy arrested on that occasion.

The current generation of players are taking a stand, highlighting abuse in hope of creating change, and Zaha is glad to be witnessing such action.

"Yes, we are [aiming to effect change]," he told CNN Sport. "I'm so happy when I see these other young black players just not having it anymore.

"I'm proud to see it because it's been too long. You can't just sit back and accept it. Enough is enough.

"How are you cheering me when I'm scoring? Then if I'm not doing what you're happy with, I'm a monkey again? How does that make any sense?

"So, I'm proud to see Raheem and Marcus speaking up and making a change."

But Zaha is convinced social media companies must take greater responsibility with respect to eliminating racist abuse.

"Even after the 12-year-old, I reported 50 accounts that I was racially abused from that week," Zaha added. "What happens? Those accounts get blocked then they just make a new one straight afterwards?

"With everything that we register for these days, we have to give some sort of I.D. Why is it not the same for Instagram, or Twitter? Because that's where people tend to say what they really feel about people, no matter how hurtful or racist it is.

"I've gone through my Instagram account and there's a section where you can block certain words.

"I've had to go and write racist words that I don't want to see on my account - the monkey sign, 'black this', 'black that'. All of it. I've tried myself because the social media platforms are obviously not doing enough.

"I know I speak for the majority of people going through this. I've seen Ian Wright and Raheem speak about it. It's not okay. Things have to be done. Words are not enough now. No more statements.

"You can register as a nine-year-old on Instagram and they [the company] wouldn't know. What age is it to register? Thirteen. The boy who abused me is 12. How does he even get on there? What checks are they making?"

Following the Premier League's resumption in June, the competition supported the Black Lives Matter movement, which gained traction after George Floyd – an African-American man – died in police custody in Minneapolis on May 25.

Club jerseys were adorned with a 'Black Lives Matter' patch, while all players and officials took a knee at the start of every match until the end of the season, but Zaha is bemused that such lengths have to be taken in 2020.

"We shouldn't have to put Black Lives Matter to show that we matter on the back of our shirts," he continued.

"It's 2020. Why is it even in dispute? We shouldn't still be sat here saying we matter and giving reasons why.

"So, yes, it's nice to see this effort now being put towards it, but I hope that pressure is sustained. There's no point me having a full-blown interview here and then going back to racial abuse on my phone again."

The Premier League season concludes on Sunday, with Liverpool completing their victory lap at Newcastle United.

A dominant campaign from Jurgen Klopp's men means the destination of the big prize has long been decided, although there are still the matters of Champions League qualification and relegation to address.

The remaining top-four berths will go to two of Chelsea, Leicester City and Manchester United – with the latter two playing each other at the King Power Stadium in Sunday's standout clash.

At the other end of the table, two of Aston Villa, Watford and Bournemouth will be joining Norwich City in the Championship next season.

However, as we examine below, there are individual awards and achievements still up for grabs.

 

Vardy leads the way in Golden Boot race

A goal from Jamie Vardy against United could represent a huge step towards Europe's elite competition for Leicester City, while it will almost certainly mean the Golden Boot for the former England striker.

Vardy is on 23 goals, in a landmark campaign that saw him being up 100 in the Premier League. Of the 29 players to have reached a century in the competition, only Ian Wright (28 years, 286 days) made his debut at an older age than Vardy (27 years, 232).

The main competition comes from Danny Ings, whose 21 goal makes him the third Southampton player to score 20 or more in a Premier League season, following Matt Le Tissier (25) in 1993-94 and James Beattie (23) in 2002-03.

Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang is next in line on 20. The Gabon international has also enjoyed a landmark campaign, becoming the sixth fastest player to 50 Premier League goals in history as he did so on his 79th top-flight outing for Arsenal.

Liverpool superstar Mohamed Salah and Raheem Sterling are the outsiders on 19 apiece. If Sterling nets against Norwich, he will become the first Englishman to score 20 times in a top-division season for Manchester City since Brian Kidd – now a member of Pep Guardiola's backroom staff – did so in 1976-77.

 

De Bryune hunting Henry's assist record

One man in particular will be keen on Sterling adding to his haul – provided it comes from one of his passes!

Kevin De Bruyne has 19 assists in the Premier League this season, placing him one shy of Thierry Henry's competition record.

Arsenal's Mesut Ozil also assisted 19 times during 2015-16.

De Bruyne has been directly involved in 30 league goals this term, scoring 11 alongside his creative exploits. This is the most for a central midfield since Frank Lampard scored 22 and supplied 14 assists for Chelsea in 2009-10.

The efforts of Sterling and De Bruyne have gone a long way to placing City close to an impressive collective feat. If Guardiola's side score three times against Norwich, they will reach 100 goals for a third consecutive Premier League season.

 

Ederson and Pope battle it out for Golden Glove

Another City player looking after number one on Sunday is their number one. Ederson is on 15 clean sheets, putting him level in the Golden Glove standings with Burnley's Nick Pope.

The Clarets end another excellent season at home to Brighton and Hove Albion and if Ederson and Pope cannot be separated at full-time the award will be shared.

Both men have a similar save percentage, with Pope stopping 70.7 per cent of efforts sent his way compared to Ederson's 69.6, but the Englishman has been far busier.

Pope has made 118 saves from 164 shots faced, compared to Ederson's 64 from 92.

Although impressive, neither man has been flawless, with Ederson committing three errors leading to goals and Pope culpable for two.

Pep Guardiola admits he is bewildered by Manchester City's inconsistency this season, making it hard for him to lavish praise on the club's top performers.

Within minutes of the 4-0 win at Watford on Tuesday, a grim-faced Guardiola made it clear he was still irked by the FA Cup semi-final loss to Arsenal.

He accused City of playing at walking pace for the first half of the Arsenal game, and over the course of a number of interviews his consistent message was that the display at Watford met the "minimum" standard he expected in terms of effort.

The showing against Arsenal clearly did not, and Guardiola is flummoxed by why City have lost the dominant edge of their 2017-18 and 2018-19 championship-winning seasons.

Beating Watford gave City a fourth successive Premier League win, but that represents their best run in the competition this season, a far cry from the sequences they have been used to stringing together.

And although Raheem Sterling has scored 19 Premier League goals from the wing this term, Guardiola was cautious about lavishing the England star with great praise, given that collectively City have fallen so far short.

Pressed on Sterling's achievements, Guardiola told a news conference: "I don't have any complaints. I love when the players can achieve their desires and score goals and have this commitment to score goals.

"But Raheem has to know, like all of us have to know, that we are far away from Liverpool.

"I think it's the first time we've been able to win four games in a row in the Premier League.

"And we were able two seasons ago to make 18 [successive wins], last season make 14. This was the first time we were able to streak four games in a row winning.

"That means how poor was our consistency this season because we are the same people, we are the same guys.

"And it's happened because something was wrong and I have to discover what for next season."

Guardiola told BBC Sport that the player of the season awards should go to Liverpool players this term, rather than his own stars, such as Kevin De Bruyne.

Although the gap to Liverpool came down to 15 points after City's win, Guardiola's team were trounced in the title race and their Catalan manager knows it.

"It's the business of all of us, not just one player or 11 players. I never point at one player. I trust a lot with the courage, with the commitment for all the team," Guardiola said.

"It would be easy for the manager to say, 'Okay, we lost because of this player', I put it out, but this is not the situation, this is not the reality."

Pep Guardiola was relieved to see the hunger back in his Manchester City team as they won 4-0 at Watford in the Premier League. 

Losing on Saturday to Arsenal in their FA Cup semi-final came as a major blow to City, with Guardiola unhappy with the performance, particularly the first-half showing at Wembley. 

After that game, Guardiola said it was "the way we lost" that hurt him more than the result, questioning the appetite among his players for the battle. 

He was more satisfied with the display at Watford, though, as two goals from Raheem Sterling were followed by Phil Foden and Aymeric Laporte getting on the scoresheet. 

Guardiola told BBC Radio Five Live: "The minimum, we did it today." 

The City manager explained what he demands of his players, saying: "We can win and we can lose. In your career as a football player, you lose more games than you win, but also always you have to finish a game and go into a locker room and say, 'I did everything to win the game. I'm exhausted and I did everything to win the game'.

"And when this doesn't happen, we cannot be proud of ourselves."

Guardiola stressed even Sterling, after another outstanding season individually, would not be finishing the league campaign with a great sense of accomplishment. 

"He's quality. The personal achievements have always related to how we have done in the Premier League and we've finished second, far away from the champions," Guardiola said. "So that's why not even Raheem must be happy with the season we have done in the Premier League." 

Guardiola also said the Professional Footballers' Association's player of the year award must go to a Liverpool star this season, ruling out City playmaker Kevin De Bruyne as a serious contender for the honour. 

Foden, who stroked home City's third goal at Watford from close range, said: "We weren't like ourselves against Arsenal. I don't think the energy was there from minute one and we were disappointed and we wanted to be back on track today. 

"I think we did that well. You could see we were pressing from the front and back to our normal selves. 

"I feel good at the moment. I'm performing quite well. I just want to keep going and improving. 

"There's still a far way to go for me to be a regular starter. I'm going to try and take it into the rest of this year and keep going from there."

Manchester City's Phil Foden, not Harry Kane, is the best young player Kyle Walker has ever seen.

Foden, 20, is a product of City's academy and has been tipped to be the long-term successor to David Silva in midfield.

A technically gifted playmaker, Foden has made 20 Premier League appearances this season, already seven more than the 13 he made in 2018-19, while three of his six starts have come since football resumed last month after the coronavirus hiatus.

With Silva set to depart at the end of the season, Foden looks poised to take on a more integral role next term, and former Tottenham star Walker is excited to see what the England Under-21 international goes on to achieve.

"The sky is the limit [for Foden]," Walker said. "He is the best youngster I have ever seen.

"That is after playing at Tottenham with the likes of Harry Kane, Ryan Mason, Andros Townsend, Steven Caulker, Harry Winks, who are very, very good players.

"Phil is leaps ahead of them for me, just because his knowledge of the game. I don't know if it is because he is constantly watching David Silva and learning from him, or just his knowledge of the game.

"I think if he just improves on his final ball on assisting and his final decision-making on that, I think that comes with experience. As a player and as a human being, he is top class and I wish him all the best in everything that he does because he deserves it all."

Walker was similarly glowing of Raheem Sterling, applauding his England colleague's work-rate.

The former Liverpool attacker netted a hat-trick in the 5-0 win at Brighton and Hove Albion on Saturday, taking him to within one goal of his personal best for a single Premier League season of 18.

"Raz [Sterling] has proved a lot of people wrong," Walker added. "Since I have been training with him he has worked hard, devoted himself to the game and on wanting to become a better player, I think he is getting the rewards now.

"To score lucky goals like he did at the weekend is being in the right place at the right time, and before that would have probably hit his head and gone wide and now it is in the back of the net.

"I think that is a reward for the hard work he has been putting in on a weekly basis in the training sessions."

For more than a year and a half, storm clouds have hovered over Manchester City.

Monday's verdict from the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), which quashed a two-year ban from UEFA competitions for alleged violations of Financial Fair Play (FFP) rules, will certainly feel like a liberating moment for those running the show at the Etihad Stadum, who have been dogged by revelations published by Der Spiegel in November 2018.

A €10million fine – reduced from €30m – for not co-operating with the UEFA investigation amounts to a second contravention of the governing body's rulebook following City's FFP sanctions of May 2014 and means CAS has not completely cleared the Premier League club of wrongdoing.

However, given the damage that looked likely to be wrought by a two-year Champions League exile, that fairly minor punishment will feel like a footnote to a sweet victory.

Here, we assess how the future looks brighter for Pep Guardiola and his players than it has for some time.

GUARDIOLA SET FOR AN EXTENDED STAY?  

Throughout the process, Guardiola has stated his faith in the City board, which features his close friends Ferran Soriano and Txiki Begiristain as chief executive and director of football respectively, and the strength of their argument against UEFA's sanctions. The former Barcelona boss has also insisted he will see out a contract that runs until the end of next season, even suggesting he is open to a longer stay.

Any upheld ban would have felt like a test of Guardiola's unflinching loyalty. Could he have gone on without the competition he cherishes above all others, having misplaced faith in the guarantees of men he trusts implicitly? A swiftly deleted social media photo posted by one of his assistants, Manel Estiarte, showed a delighted Guardiola lapping up Monday's news alongside Begiristain and Soriano.

Indeed, Guardiola sounded stridently confident when discussing all matters CAS and UEFA over the weekend. Perhaps he knew something we didn't? Now clear to reboot his squad as he sees fit (more on that below), with trusted lieutenant Juanma Lillo recently added to the coaching staff and two more trophies to aim for this year, life in Manchester looks pretty good.

KEY ASSESTS DE BRUYNE AND STERLING GOING NOWHERE

A host of City's leading lights would likely have drawn advances from Europe's elite if they had been barred from the Champions League. Kevin De Bruyne told HLN a two-year absence would perhaps force him to consider his future. The Daily Mail reported on Friday that City were ready to lavish the Belgium playmaker with a bumper new contract irrespective of the outcome.

Expect talks to continue in that direction. De Bruyne is the only player to have made more than 15 assists in three separate Premier League seasons, all of which came under Guardiola's management. He makes a strong case for being the division's outstanding player.

Raheem Sterling has ambitions in that direction and beyond. The England forward was photographed with a Real Madrid shirt when he conducted an interview with Marca this year and the admiration is thought to be mutual.

Sterling is enjoying his most prolific goalscoring season and his 65 Premier League goals for City are only bettered by the club's all-time record scorer Sergio Aguero (180). At 25, he would surely have been reluctant to place a career entering its prime on pause.

KOULIBALY? A SANE REPLACEMENT? CITY SET FOR SPENDING SPREE

Two seasons without Champions League football presented a two-sided problem for City in the transfer market. They would have become instantly less attractive to prime targets such as Kalidou Koulibaly – the Napoli centre-back who is reportedly keen on a big-money switch to the Etihad Stadium, despite saying last week he is in no rush to leave – and found themselves facing a sizable financial hole.

"The figures are anything up to around £200m. That would have been the cost of no Champions League for two years," Dr Dan Plumley, senior lecturer in sport finance at Sheffield Hallam University, told Stats Perform News.

Around £90m in annual UEFA payments to English clubs reaching the latter stages of the Champions League account for this, while some sponsors would be entitled to a refund. "We've seen Manchester United, for example, their Adidas deal had performance-related bonuses linked to the Champions League," Plumley explained. "Now sponsors are looking at writing those in and they are becoming more commonplace."

A Leroy Sane replacement? A reliable left-back? Bolstered centre-back cover? A playmaker to fill David Silva's shimmering shoes? An heir to Aguero? Guardiola might have wanted all of those as he faces up to Jurgen Klopp's mighty Liverpool. Now, he might just get them.

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola said he was proud of Raheem Sterling for the way the forward has fought against racial injustice.

Sterling has enjoyed another fine season on the pitch, but the England international is also helping the fight against racism amid movements around the world.

The forward scored a hat-trick in City's 5-0 Premier League thrashing of Brighton and Hove Albion on Saturday, moving onto 27 goals this season – the most he has netted in a single campaign.

While Guardiola has praised Sterling's performances, he also lauded the 25-year-old for his work off the field.

"People forget that behind the shirt they are human beings," he told reporters.

"I've said many times to my players, 'I know for a long time you've been told you're special, but you're not. All you can do is play football, but you are not an architect, you are not a politician, you are not a doctor, you are not a thousand, million things you can do. You can just play football'. That doesn't make us special.

"But we are human beings at the same time like all the architects, politicians, doctors, journalists. They have feelings and they defend the humanitarian issues in the best possible way.

"I like it because when you have a commitment to society to make a better society for yourself and for your kids, this commitment helps to become a better player. The big athletes always make a commitment, a compromise for society.

"I think Raheem and many, many of our players, a lot of people are trying to make a better world.

"It's difficult, in the world we're living, but I'm proud. I'm really proud of what he is doing and he knows, as a club, myself as a person, we support him 100 per cent."

After back-to-back 5-0 wins, City host Bournemouth in the Premier League on Wednesday.

Pep Guardiola lauded Raheem Sterling's development after the attacker's hat-trick in Manchester City's 5-0 win over Brighton and Hove Albion.

Sterling's treble saw him move onto 27 goals this season, the most he has scored in a single campaign.

Guardiola paid tribute to the England international, with Gabriel Jesus and Bernardo Silva also on the scoresheet in the convincing win on Saturday.

"All credit to [Sterling]. Not just for the three goals, it's important for what we have ahead of us," the Manchester City manager told a news conference.

"His development as a player is because he wants to improve and we are so delighted with his performance.

"Raheem himself knows exactly what he has to do. He's a huge competitor and is self-confident, aggressive, he loves to score goals.

"We have wingers with the mentality to score goals which is so important."

City's win saw them mathematically secure a top-four finish in the Premier League with three games remaining.

However, they will have to wait until Monday to learn whether their appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) against a two-year European ban has been successful.

Guardiola said he was "very" confident City would be successful, while adding they had proven they deserved their place in the Champions League.

"It's the [CAS] decision, so it's so important. Of course it is. We have done what we have done, won our qualification on the pitch. No one can doubt this," he said.

"It's been an outstanding season from Liverpool, and congratulations to them again for winning the Premier League.

"In general, the level that we played at today has been quite similar for the whole season and now we're going to wait for Monday for the decision that will be taken."

Raheem Sterling is eager to make his record scoring season count by helping Manchester City secure silverware after his hat-trick in the 5-0 away win over Brighton and Hove Albion.

City made a top-four finish mathematically certain, as well as all but wrapping up second place as a treble from Sterling, plus goals from Gabriel Jesus and Bernardo Silva, saw off sorry Brighton.

It was a welcome away win on Saturday after three consecutive Premier League defeats on their travels, with a home game with Bournemouth up next before a key FA Cup semi-final against Arsenal.

Sterling has six goals in his past five games and moved onto 27 in all competitions, making this his best scoring season.

"The most important thing for me is trying to have goals to add value to the team," Sterling said to Sky Sports.

"At the end of the day [it is most important] to try and win the FA Cup final and try to win the Champions League as well otherwise these goals don't mean anything.

"I need to try and make these goals count.

"I think the problem we have had this season is we have created a lot of chances, but last season and the season before we had finished them and buried games early on.

"This season we haven't had that slight bit of luck but we are growing, doing things right and that is we need to do, continue making chances. We can't complain.

"We were disappointed last weekend with the loss away to Southampton when we created chances but we didn’t finish them. It is great to bounce back with another away win."

Sterling moved onto 17 Premier League goals and was asked if he was eyeing a late push for the golden boot, with Jamie Vardy five ahead of him atop the scoring charts.

Sterling said: "I said to myself earlier that I'm on 14 now and I need to score a hat-trick – and I’m grateful that I scored a hat-trick."

The England international was laughing as he attempted to answer what his intentions were for his hat-trick goal, which came in unusual circumstances nine minutes from time.

He inadvertently scored a header – his second of the match – through the legs of goalkeeper Mat Ryan while he was falling to the ground having forced his way past two Brighton defenders.

Sterling said: "I tried to flick it over his head, and I've seen the keeper come out and I have headed it in! It counts!"

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.

Raheem Sterling is hoping Manchester City can reach two finals to finish the season.

With Liverpool having sealed the Premier League title, City's chances of adding to their Community Shield and EFL Cup successes this season are in the Champions League and FA Cup.

Pep Guardiola's side will face Arsenal in the FA Cup semi-finals, while they will carry a 2-1 lead into their Champions League last-16 second leg against Real Madrid.

Sterling, who scored in City's 4-0 thrashing of Liverpool on Thursday, is eyeing two finals to finish the campaign.

"Hopefully, we can finish with an FA Cup final and a Champions League final," the star attacker said, via the club's website.

"We are a team that missed out on the Premier League and we have got to go on and try to do our best as we can in all competitions and that is the FA Cup and the Champions League.

"It is difficult seeing Liverpool take the title from us, but they have been brilliant all year.

"On Thursday, it was just another game, but it was a chance to finish high. In the Premier League we need to win all our games and finish on a high in the FA Cup and the Champions League."

City are away to Southampton in the Premier League on Sunday.

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