Manchester City will do all they can to help Raheem Sterling get to the same level as "absolute legends" Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, says Pep Guardiola.

The England international has been in outstanding form in the early stages of the 2019-20 season, following on from two highly productive campaigns that saw him score 35 league goals as City won back-to-back Premier League titles.

Sterling also found the net in Euro 2020 qualifying wins over Bulgaria and Kosovo while away on international duty, though Guardiola played down comparisons to superstars Messi and Ronaldo ahead of his side's clash with Norwich City.

Still, the Spaniard sees no reason why the former Liverpool forward, 24, should not have ambitions to match the lofty standards set by the duo.

"Right now he is not in that level, I wish maybe in the future," Guardiola told the media.

"It would be a dream for him, for all of us and for him, but right now these two guys the last decade have scored 50, 60 goals every season and I don't know how many assists.

"They have won the Ballon d'Or and all the individual prizes every single season, except maybe last season.

"So the consistency of these two guys – they are legends, they are something unique in world football. And if Raheem can target that level, wow.

"We will be here to help him and of course he can do it, I will not be the guy to say don't think about that. No, absolutely not, I want it.

"But right now, nobody, not in this club but in all the clubs in the world, nobody can compare to what they have done every single week for 10 years. They [Messi and Ronaldo] are absolute legends and nobody can compare, nobody."

England manager Gareth Southgate said after the win over Bulgaria that the biggest change in Sterling's attitude had been his desire to score goals.

"I think with Brendan Rodgers in Liverpool, he played incredibly well, and with the national team he's played incredibly well," Guardiola said.

"So, I think his style, his desire, I think, the most I saw from the beginning is the fact he has an incredible mentality, he's a winning player.

"Before he made good actions but didn't finish too much. And now he's a player who can win games for himself."

Pep Guardiola is delighted with Raheem Sterling's form but has urged the Manchester City attacker to ignore comparisons to Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi.

The England international has starred for club and country this season with eight goals and three assists in seven matches.

Sterling earned plenty of plaudits following his man of the match display against Kosovo on Tuesday, with former City and England winger Trevor Sinclair claiming he is on the same level as Ronaldo and Messi.

Guardiola has played down the comparisons, however, believing that nobody can match the two players who have battled it out to be the world's best for more than a decade.

"I'm so happy for him, for the way he's playing here and national team, but hopefully he won't read or listen to these kind of things," Guardiola said at Friday's news conference. 

"Nobody can compare with Cristiano or Messi. 

"I don't know if he's the best in England. Since we're together, not just now, he's been incredible with his work ethic. He's a nice guy. I'm delighted for him."

Sterling has been responsible for five of City's 14 goals in their opening four Premier League matches, the reigning champions collecting 10 points from their opening run of fixtures.

Liverpool are two points better off with a perfect return but Guardiola insisted it is too early to call it a two-horse race at the summit, especially with the games now coming thick and fast.

Speaking ahead of City's trip to Norwich City on Saturday, Guardiola told reporters: "I'm not predicting. Every week there are incredible predictions - there's a tendency for that but we've played four league games and that's nothing.

"We start the real competition, we play Saturday, then travel, play Wednesday, land Thursday, Saturday we have Premier League and then we go to Preston to play in the EFL Cup. 

"Of the next five games we've got four away, so many things can happen. We've had two terrible injuries with Leroy [Sane] and Aymeric [Laporte]. 

"It's too early to say what is going to happen. Chelsea, United, Tottenham, Everton doing well, everything can happen, but it's four games. In February or March we can say better. Now it's just four games and it's nothing."

Gareth Southgate has welcomed Raheem Sterling becoming a star player for England and hailed the forward's increasing influence on and off the pitch.

Sterling initially struggled to turn his club form for Manchester City into high-level performances for the Three Lions, regularly facing strong criticism over his performances.

He branded himself "The Hated One" in a post on social media while enduring a difficult time during England's unsuccessful Euro 2016 campaign.

Since then, however, Sterling has grown to play a key role for England with a stunning run of eight goals in his past eight appearances demonstrating his importance for Southgate's side.

Sterling equalised in Tuesday's 5-3 Euro 2020 qualifying win over Kosovo and created a further three goals, including providing assists for both of Jadon Sancho's maiden international goals.

The attacker has also become a social figurehead, drawing praise for speaking out over racism and going viral for his interactions with supporters, with manager Southgate delighted to have a front-row seat to Sterling's continued rise to superstardom.

"For me, it's lovely to see the shift in the public opinion of him," Southgate said of the 24-year-old.

"That's still a brave thing to decide that: 'Right, I'm going to own that space and I'm going to put my own views across'. But those views represent many as well, so I think he's aware of the power of his voice, but he also doesn't waste it.

"I think he was very forthright in his social media posts [about racism]. I think he raised everybody's awareness and made us all think, which was very mature and impressive. And, at the same time, he rose to the challenge with his club, with new signings coming in.

"You know, when you are at a club like that, to keep fighting off the quality of players that he has; and straight away with us, got the goals in Spain - first game after the World Cup for him, really. Croatia away, Spain. I think it was such a huge weight lifted for him, he almost jumped six foot in the stadium, didn't he? 

"So I think from that moment - because he did come home a bit sad after the World Cup, there's no hiding from that. He didn't deserve to feel that way, but that's as he was, so it's lovely to see the recognition he's getting and how much extra I think that's bringing out of him.

"If there are things that he thinks can be better with the mentality of the players or the way that we've set the week out, he'll thoughtfully put ideas across; he doesn't just sit and complain.

"But then you see his interaction with the players. I noticed, over the last 24 hours especially [prior to facing Kosovo], he spent a lot of time with Jadon, I think that was probably quite a comfort.

"He can pass things on that I can speak [about] as the coach, but there'll be more depth to that if your fellow winger who has been at the same club as you, and has been through what you’re going to go through can talk to you. I think that's far more powerful. You can't quantify what that will have meant for Jadon."

Asked how Sterling will have felt to have been made a scapegoat earlier in his international career, Southgate said: "Difficult for me to say. I can only imagine. Everyone wants to be liked, don't they?

"Everybody, players give their all. He's a player that has always given his all… You know how much it means to him, how much he wants to do well.

"So, I think it's for him to reflect on how he might have felt then and, for me, it's just lovely to see a young man establishing himself, at the real top table in the game."

Southgate indicated he also sees an England future for Chelsea striker Tammy Abraham, who qualifies to play for Nigeria in addition to the Three Lions.

"Tammy is a young player that we’ve always liked, we know he'll score goals," he said. "We felt it was a bit early this time to call him up, but we really can see that he can offer us something moving forward.

"We gave him a cap back in November of 2017. For sure, we need to make certain that he feels that the opportunity is going to be there. I'm pretty sure he does, he knows us well enough."

Raheem Sterling acknowledges he cannot be compared to Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo until he has performed at the highest level for a number of seasons, but that is his aim.

The Manchester City forward was in irrepressible form in England's 5-3 win against Kosovo on Tuesday, scoring an early equaliser and then laying on three assists in a stunning first-half display.

Sterling's performance continued an outstanding start to the new season, with eight goals to his name for club and country already.

The 24-year-old scored 35 times in the Premier League across the previous two campaigns, but he concedes he is still some way short of the standard set by all-time greats Messi and Ronaldo.

"The most remarkable thing about these players is not that they've been doing it for two or three seasons," said Sterling. "They've been doing it for pretty much their whole career, season after season.

"This is my third season at a high level, I would say, and I just have to keep continuing. I have full belief in myself.

"I have goals and they've been goals of mine since I was a child, and I'll keep thriving and keep learning and try to get all the way to the top, for sure."

Sterling had scored just twice for his country prior to visiting Spain last October but doubled his international tally with a brace in that away win and now has 10 goals in England colours.

"When I first put on the England shirt, I wasn't looking at my stats too much," he said. "It wasn't until I saw how bad they were I put extra pressure on myself to score.

"But I said to myself that once my first goal goes in, I know that the goals will come after that. That's all I was waiting for.

"That night in Spain when I scored two, from then I knew I'd kick on and keep scoring goals."

Gareth Southgate believes Raheem Sterling has been close to "unstoppable" after his dazzling display in England's entertaining 5-3 win over Kosovo in Euro 2020 qualifying.

Sterling scored and set up three others as England came from a goal down at St Mary's Stadium to preserve their 100 per cent record in Group A on Tuesday.

England conceded inside 34 seconds but Sterling restored parity before the Manchester City star teed up Harry Kane and providing the assists for Jadon Sancho's brace.

Sterling's performance came after he scored and supplied two assists for Kane in England's 4-0 rout of Bulgaria last week, and manager Southgate heaped praise on the in-form 24-year-old.

"Our attacking play from Raheem, Jadon and Harry was outstanding," Southgate said. "Raheem's two performances have been of the highest level. 

"I think he's been almost unstoppable, his awareness of where defenders were, his ability to ride challenges, his vision and desire to get in on goal, and unselfish play as well, so I couldn't speak highly enough of the way he played."

It was a memorable outing for Sancho in Southampton, where the Borussia Dortmund sensation scored his first England goals.

"Jadon – you know we were talking about the three on Saturday – Jadon's performance was at that level as well. He worked really hard for the team without the ball and showed the ability he has to go past people, to be calm in tight areas," Southgate said.

"So, that part of our game was absolutely outstanding. We continued that threat for most of the game."

While England made it four wins from four games to be three points clear atop Group A, the Three Lions were far from convincing defensively against Kosovo.

Errors saw England concede three goals to the visiting minnows and Southgate added: "It was bizarre. The outstanding features and the poor features are apparent to everybody, so we don't need to get the video out and go back through it.

"Poor individual mistakes, a poor start to the game. I like the way we showed the composure to recover from that initial mistake and our use of the ball throughout the first half was excellent, right the way through the team.

"The small period after half-time: ridiculous mistakes, poor decisions, lack of covering back. So, we made the game really uncomfortable for ourselves. There were obviously mistakes that were concerning. Whether it was the intensity of the game, whether it was the pressure, I don't know. We've got to reflect on that but they were such basic errors, really, that you have to learn from. We just made some crazy errors."

Raheem Sterling scored and recorded a trio of assists while Jadon Sancho hit his first England goals as Gareth Southgate's side came from behind to beat Kosovo 5-3 in Southampton. 

Kosovo led after 34 seconds of the Euro 2020 qualifier at St Mary's Stadium on Tuesday, Valon Berisha giving the Three Lions a scare, but they roared back to lead 5-1 at half-time thanks to Sterling's inspirational display.

He levelled the scores with a header and set up Harry Kane to make it 2-1 before Mergim Vojvoda's own goal, Sterling then providing assists for Sancho's two strikes in an action-packed Group A clash.

England lost their focus after the interval with Berisha netting again and Vedat Muriqi converting a penalty - a feat Kane failed to match soon after - to make the final scoreline closer than Sterling's superb showing deserved.

Kosovo were gifted an early opener when Michael Keane's loose pass allowed Fidan Aliti to tee up Berisha for his second international goal since changing allegiance from Norway.

The hosts responded well and drew level in the eighth minute, Keane heading a right-wing Ross Barkley corner back across goal for a leaping Sterling to profit from close range.

Sterling then created England's second, brilliantly turning into space on halfway and feeding Kane for a powerful finish through the legs of Kosovo goalkeeper Arijanet Muric.

England opened up a four-goal advantage before the break. Vojvoda turned a low Sancho cross into his own net before the Borussia Dortmund winger opened his international account with a quickfire double.

Sloppy play allowed Kosovo to net first after the restart. Declan Rice lost the ball on halfway and Berisha curled home his second of the game, then Harry Maguire's clumsiness enabled Muriqi to reduce the deficit further from the spot.

England should have restored a three-goal cushion but captain Kane saw his penalty pushed away by Muric while the goalkeeper - on Manchester City's books - later deflected a Sterling shot on to the post.


What does it mean? England closing on qualification

Reaching the Euro 2020 finals always looked on the cards for England but they have made light work of their competition in Group A, scoring 19 goals already and winning all four of their games, although defensive weaknesses were exposed here. 

Kosovo are still occupying second spot in the group and have every chance of reaching their first international tournament given the impressive way they carried the fight against their lauded opponents.


Unplayable Sterling at top of his game

Kosovo's open tactics played into England's hands but Sterling made the most of the time and space he was routinely given in the opposition half. On current form, few players in the world are as dangerous as the City star, who it is easy to forget is only 24 years old.


Keane at risk of losing his place

Bernard Challandes' side pressed ferociously from the first whistle and it did not take them long to force an error from Everton defender Keane. With John Stones expected to be fit for England's next fixtures Keane will likely drop out of the team, partly due to his latest mistake.


What's next?

England have an away double-header against Czech Republic and Bulgaria next month, while October's international break sees Kosovo travel to Gibraltar and host Montenegro.

Gareth Southgate does not believe England had any issues with attitude or complacency in their 4-0 victory over Bulgaria.

Harry Kane scored a hat-trick – with two goals coming from the penalty spot – and set up Raheem Sterling to tap home as Southgate's side made it three wins from three in Euro 2020 qualifying Group A.

England made a subdued start, however, with Jordan Pickford having to make an early save, and the goalkeeper came to the hosts' aid again when he denied Wanderson after the restart.

Southgate acknowledged his side's display was not a complete performance, but insisted he saw no signs of complacency.

"I don't think it's attitude, certainly not complacency," Southgate told ITV Sport.

"Every team is going to have some moments, you've just got to make sure you see it through. Generally pleased and some of our attacking play was very exciting.

"We can do better but of course a comprehensive win in the end. In a game like this you've got to make sure the concentration is 100 per cent right, I always thought we'd have enough firepower to win it, but we can improve on what we did

"I think it improved as the game went on. We didn't need to over complicate things really.

"A few too many touches, a few times a bit sloppy on the ball and credit to them, their formation caused us a few issues out of possession as well."

While Kane will take the headlines, Sterling played a typically crucial role in England's attack, teeing up the opener following a defensive mix-up from Bulgaria, before helping himself to a simple finish to make it 3-0.

"He'll be disappointed he hasn’t got the hat-trick [instead of Kane] because he thrives on scoring goals," Southgate said of the Manchester City forward.

"He was electric, right from the first whistle, a real danger all game."

England continue their qualification campaign against Kosovo in Southampton on Tuesday.

England continued their 100 per cent start in Euro 2020 qualifying as Harry Kane's hat-trick helped them to a resounding 4-0 win over Bulgaria at Wembley on Saturday.

Gareth Southgate's side were far from their fluid best in the opening stages, but a third straight win in Group A never looked in doubt after Kane's opener in the 24th minute.

The Three Lions captain added a second from the penalty spot three minutes into the second half, before teeing up Raheem Sterling for a third.

Kane added another from the spot in the 73rd minute as England warmed up for Tuesday's visit of the group's surprise package, Kosovo, in style.

After a subdued start, Kane thought he had given the hosts a 19th-minute lead. The Tottenham striker had strayed into an offside position, however, before tucking away Raheem Sterling's pass from close range.

He was not to be denied five minutes later, though, taking full advantage of slapstick goalkeeping from Plamen Iliev to score his 23rd international goal.

After a short goal-kick, Iliev's attempted pass to Vasil Bozhikov was cut out by Sterling, who teed up Kane to stroke home from six yards.

Kane went close again shortly before the interval, heading straight at Iliev from Kieran Trippier's teasing right-wing cross.

Jordan Pickford kept out Wanderson's close-range effort a few moments after the restart, before a surging run from Marcus Rashford led to England's second.

The Manchester United forward was brought down in the area by Nikolay Bodurov, with Kane coolly stroking home the resulting spot-kick.

Kane turned provider for England's third in the 55th minute, crossing for Sterling to bundle home his ninth international goal from point-blank range.

The 26-year-old added gloss to a superb individual display 17 minutes from time, whipping in from the penalty spot after he had been clumsily brought down in the area by Kristian Dimitrov.

 

 

What does it mean? Southgate's side in rude health

They might have fallen one short of the five goals they plundered in each of their opening two group games, but England once again enjoyed themselves against limited opposition. They are top of Group A after three games and you would not back against them qualifying for next year's tournament without dropping points.

Kane proves he is more than able

The talismanic striker made light of suggestions he has started the season short of full fitness, delivering a masterclass in how to lead the line. Not only did he find the back of the net three times, but he also superbly picked out Sterling for England's third.

Iliev's lapse proves costly

Bulgaria will be left to rue Iliev's moment of madness. They were holding England at bay with something approaching relative ease, but their goalkeeper's misplaced pass was ruthlessly punished to set Southgate's side on their way to a comfortable win.

What's next?

England will hope to continue their fine start to qualifying when Kosovo – who have picked up eight points from their four games – visit Wembley on Tuesday, while Bulgaria's attentions turn to a friendly against the Republic of Ireland in Dublin on the same day.

Manchester City secured a battling 3-1 win at Bournemouth to bounce back from last week's frustrating draw against Tottenham and climb to second in the Premier League.

The champions' latest VAR woe saw them slip two points off the pace at home to Spurs, but a display of character and quality on the south coast on Sunday ensured that setback was swiftly forgotten.

It had even looked as though City would enjoy a comfortable outing when they took a two-goal lead through Sergio Aguero and Raheem Sterling, who now has nine goals in eight league games against Bournemouth.

But after Harry Wilson struck a wonderful riposte just before half-time, Pep Guardiola's men were required to dig in for a time before Aguero netted again - his 400th goal for club and country - and City eased home.

City had needed just 15 minutes to forge the opener, with Kevin De Bruyne - inadvertently reaching 50 Premier League assists - miskicking Oleksandr Zinchenko's cross into the path of Aguero for a cool finish.

Aaron Ramsdale dealt with David Silva's volley as City chased a swift second, before Bournemouth were dealt a further blow as Charlie Daniels - just back from injury - was taken off on a stretcher.

The hosts should have levelled when Nicolas Otamendi chested the ball into the path of Adam Smith six yards from goal, but Ederson blocked and City were clinical at the other end.

Silva swept a gorgeous pass into Sterling's feet and the England man's instant control allowed him to poke beyond Ramsdale.

Six minutes of stoppage time granted Bournemouth the opportunity to hit back before the break, though, and Wilson's sensational 25-yard free-kick kissed the top of the right-hand post on the way in.

A lively start to the second half saw Ederson alert to keep out the speedy Callum Wilson, before De Bruyne was surprisingly wasteful on his favoured right foot inside the area.

A VAR review did not result in a penalty for Silva when he appeared to be felled by Jefferson Lerma, but the City captain soon weaved into the box and created space for Aguero to poke in the decisive third.

 

What does it mean? City up for the fight

While perhaps not as dazzling as the display against Tottenham, which had Guardiola purring despite the result, this was a show of why City are champions. Bournemouth were much improved from an aimless outing in this fixture last term, but the visitors would not shirk the battle, relied on their goalkeeper when needed and finished ruthlessly.

Ederson busy, brave and brilliant

De Bruyne assists and Aguero and Sterling goals are common currency, but so too are match-saving turns from Ederson. The goalkeeper started shakily, going into the book for clattering Callum Wilson, before making vital stops from Smith and the England striker, as well as commanding his box as City overcame the Bournemouth challenge.

Another injury blow for Bournemouth

The Cherries were hit by injuries in the full-back position last season, with Daniels out following an April training-ground incident. He had only made his competitive return from a kneecap operation at Aston Villa last week but immediately looked in real trouble as he stayed down after delivering a cross against City. Howe will hope for better news.

What's next?

A seemingly favourable run of fixtures sees City face Brighton and Hove Albion before the international break, with games against Norwich City and Watford to come. Bournemouth have Forest Green in the EFL Cup on Wednesday and then visit Leicester City.

Pep Guardiola appreciates Raheem Sterling's willingness to listen but insists the Manchester City star's development into a world-class player is entirely of his own making.

England international Sterling has blossomed into one of the Premier League's most dangerous attackers under Guardiola's stewardship.

The former Liverpool winger scored 18 and 17 goals in successive title-winning campaigns and boasts four in two appearances this term, including a hat-trick against West Ham on the opening weekend.

Guardiola believes it will be tough for Sterling to beat out-and-out strikers to the Golden Boot but praised his appetite for improvement.

"I think he's a better player, like I said last season. It's all [to] his credit, his desire to be better," Guardiola said.

"I think every player is good when they understand what we want to do as a group... he's a guy who is incredibly receptive when we have our talks, when Mikel [Arteta, City first-team coach] speaks with him or myself.

"It's nice, when they don't get that feeling like 'oh, always pushing me or criticising me'.

"He's open. From day one since we arrived. That's why he's becoming an incredible, exceptional player.

"After that his physicality [is excellent], he plays every three days and no injuries. He runs a lot and his genetics are so strong. It's good."

Sterling's injury free run could not contrast more sharply with the difficulties faced by Benjamin Mendy.

The France left-back has suffered two serious knee injuries since joining the club in 2017 but is now back in training and, according to Guardiola, can still realise his potential.

"Yes, if he's fit he'll have success," the City boss said.

"He has a special quality. Right now I'm happy. I don't want to say any big words, but I'm satisfied because for two weeks, the day after training sessions, he feels good.

"He doesn't feel pain and that's good.

"I think he's training well. The people from Barcelona [where Mendy underwent surgery in November] told me he's working incredibly, like an animal. Hopefully he can maintain that because it's not one day, it's not one week. It's every day doing that."

Bournemouth's poor record against Manchester City is inspiring Eddie Howe to oversee an improvement and he believes halting Raheem Sterling will be vital to avoiding defeat.

The Cherries won promotion to the Premier League under Howe in 2015, yet they have never beaten City in the competition, losing all eight of their top-flight meetings by an aggregate score of 25-3.

But Howe says Bournemouth's dismal recent history in this fixture – with City set to visit on Sunday – does not cause him concern, instead providing a motivating factor.

"It inspires me," Howe told a news conference. "We've got to try to turn that around and use that record to inspire us in this game.

"I don't think we're the only team to suffer a bad record against Manchester City in recent years.

"They're an outstanding team and, every time we've played against them, we've come off the pitch learning more about ourselves and what we have to do to grow and become better.

"We try to embrace these challenges and not look at it fearfully.

"I think the two games against them last season were pretty strong [3-0 and 1-0 defeats]. We felt we were competitive without showing our best attributes, but we managed to limit their main strengths for spells of the games.

"They've just got quality and they can hurt you in any moment of the game and we've just come on the wrong side of the games against them, but I'd like to think we're getting closer.

"We know historically that, if we perform at our very best, we've got a chance of beating anybody and I think that's been the story of our Premier League journey."

Sterling has been a particularly problematic figure for Bournemouth, netting eight goals in seven meetings, along with a pair of assists.

The England forward hit the first Premier League hat-trick of his career in his first match against Bournemouth in 2015 and has since developed into a proven lscorer, netting four times in his opening two league games this term.

Howe said: "He's a player who's done very well against us in recent seasons and he's an outstanding talent.

"He's added a huge consistent run of goals to his game, which has made him even better, and he's certainly someone who we'll have to keep quiet.

"You look through their team though and they've got other players in the attacking positions that you're going to have to deal with, but we hope to keep him quiet and nullify his strengths. He's certainly in very good form at the moment."

Arsenal and Liverpool can boast 100 per cent records after two games of the new Premier League season, while four sides have failed to pick up a point from their opening pair of matches.

Aston Villa, Newcastle United, Southampton and Watford all suffered defeats on matchday two, while Manchester City and Chelsea dropped points at home.

With every team desperate to get into a winning habit, Opta's data helps us take a closer look at the patterns unfolding after the weekend's big games.

 

REDS WIN AGAIN TO EQUAL RODGERS' RECORD

Liverpool racked up their 11th consecutive top-flight victory with a 2-1 win at Southampton, equalling the club record set under Brendan Rodgers in April 2014.

Sadio Mane's third goal in four days sent Jurgen Klopp's men on their way just before half-time at St. Mary's and the Senegal international has scored 20 goals for the club in 2019 - eight more than Liverpool's next sharpest shooter, Mo Salah (12).

Roberto Firmino doubled the European champions' lead 19 minutes from time to ensure Danny Ings' late goal - courtesy of Adrian clearing the ball into his shin - was nothing more than a consolation as the Reds made sure they started the season with two wins for the second consecutive campaign, a feat they last achieved in 1993-94 and 1994-95.

Mane also became the first player to score in his first Premier League start of four consecutive seasons since Mark Viduka did so between 2002-03 and 2005-06.

CITY DROP POINTS DESPITE DELUGE OF SHOTS

Manchester City failed to win a Premier League match for the first time in 16 games, despite attempting 30 shots in their 2-2 draw with Tottenham at the Etihad Stadium.

The last time Spurs faced as many shots in a Premier League fixture was against Fulham (31) in November 2011, but they emerged with a point after Gabriel Jesus' late strike was ruled out by a VAR handball decision in the build-up.

Raheem Sterling put City ahead after 20 minutes with his fifth goal in four matches against Spurs at the Etihad, and, after Erik Lamela equalised for Tottenham, Sergio Aguero scored his 97th Premier League goal at the champions' home ground.

Only Thierry Henry (114 at Highbury), Wayne Rooney (101 at Old Trafford) and Alan Shearer (97 at St. James' Park) can boast equal or better scoring records at a single Premier League stadium than Aguero, who was teed up by Kevin De Bruyne's third assist in two league games - one more than he managed in the whole of last season.

But City's hopes of extending a Premier League winning streak that began on February 3 were undone when Lamela turned provider for Lucas Moura to equalise.

Lamela has scored and assisted for Tottenham in three different Premier League matches, all of them against Manchester clubs (twice against City, once against United).

PUKKI TREBLE EXTENDS MAGPIES' TRAVEL WOES

Newcastle United have won just two of their last 29 Premier League away matches in the month of August (D10 L17) after Teemu Pukki scored a hat-trick as Norwich City beat the Magpies 3-1 at Carrow Road.

The last time Newcastle won their first away league game of the season was in 2011-12 against Sunderland and they failed to cope with the threat of Finland international Pukki as Canaries boss Daniel Farke became the first Norwich manager to win his opening Premier League home game since Mike Walker in 1992.

Norwich fans had to think back 26 years to remember the last time they had a player score a Premier League hat-trick, Efan Ekoku doing so against Everton in September 1993.

Pukki, who also scored in Norwich's opening day defeat at Liverpool, has scored 33 league goals for the club since the start of last season, more than any other player across the top four tiers of English football.

LEICESTER LEAVE LAMPARD WINLESS IN THREE

Leicester City came from behind to draw 1-1 with Chelsea at Stamford Bridge and make Frank Lampard the first Blues boss since Rafael Benitez (2012-13) to fail to win any of his first three games in charge.

After a Premier League opening day defeat at Manchester United and a UEFA Super Cup loss on penalties to Liverpool, Chelsea took the lead through Mason Mount's home debut goal only to be pegged back by Wilfred Ndidi's second-half equaliser.

Mount's opportunist strike made him the first English player to score on his first home Premier League appearance for Chelsea since Paul Hughes netted against Derby County in January 1997, while Ndidi's bullet header was his fifth goal in 90 Premier League appearances.

Ndidi scored from a corner by James Maddison, who has created 50 chances from set-pieces in the Premier League since the start of 2018-19 - at least six more than any other player in the division.

Manchester City were denied a last-gasp winner by VAR as Lucas Moura's goal secured a 2-2 draw for Tottenham, ending the Premier League champions' winning run.

Lucas scored 19 seconds after coming on from the bench to level things up at 2-2, but Gabriel Jesus thought he had settled Saturday's thriller in stoppage time. 

In scenes reminiscent of April's Champions League epic, however, City were denied a 16th straight league win when VAR spotted a handball by Aymeric Laporte.

City had hit the front through Raheem Sterling, with Sergio Aguero nudging the home side back ahead after Erik Lamela's equaliser.

And, with Bernardo Silva having hit the crossbar and Danny Rose making a goal-line clearance, City's misery was compounded when Jesus' would-be winner was chalked off.

Pep Guardiola sees no reason why Raheem Sterling cannot break through the 30-goal barrier for Manchester City this season.

England winger Sterling has started the new campaign in sparkling form, opening the scoring against Liverpool in the Community Shield before netting a hat-trick in last weekend's 5-0 demolition of West Ham.

The 24-year-old hit 17 Premier League goals last season and 25 in all competitions as City won an unprecedented domestic treble.

Sterling's West Ham treble brought up 50 top-flight goals in City colours, 38 of which have come since the start of the 2017-18 campaign.

Guardiola has no desire to set targets for his forward line but has no doubt the ex-Liverpool man's numbers can improve further.

"Yeah, hopefully. It will be good for him and for the team," he said, ahead of Saturday's keenly anticipated home game against Tottenham.

"When he's in front of the goal, he puts it in the net. So, he can do it, yeah. He scored 25 [last season] and 25 to 30 is only five goals. He can do it.

"But I don't know. I never spoke with Sergio [Aguero] or Gabriel [Jesus] or Raz, with any of the people up front, about what are their dreams and targets and these kinds of things. I don't know, honestly. They are happy when they are scoring goals.

"I think goals are a consequence of the way we play - their mood, how the team's playing, no injuries. 

"I wouldn't judge him if he scored 30 goals, or 35 or 20. When he scores goals, I'm happy. But if he does what he has to do for him and the team, it's enough."

 

Guardiola has experienced a number of enjoyable tussles with Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino, dating back to the Argentinian claiming his first senior coaching win at Espanyol with a victory over mighty city rivals Barcelona in 2009.

When that rivalry transferred from Catalonia to the Premier League in 2016, new City boss Guardiola won his first six straight top-flight games before his side were ransacked in a 2-0 defeat to Spurs at White Hart Lane.

City have not lost a league game to Tottenham since, winning the past four, but were dumped out of the Champions League in April when Pochettino's men prevailed in a dramatic quarter-final.

"About Tottenham, I think my colleague can speak better about his team," Guardiola said. "I said from the first day when we played at White Hart Lane and lost 2-0, I never said a wrong word about the capacity, quality and possibilities of this team, the manager and the club.

"I said many times, it is not necessary to repeat again. They are a strong team, a good team."

It was not hard to detect a slightly terse tone to the praise of a man who took umbridge at Guardiola labelling Tottenham as "the Harry Kane" team in 2017.

Asked how good a job Pochettino had done in north London, Guardiola indicated his praise might fall on deaf ears.

"Overwhelming, extraordinary, I said many, many times," he added,

"I don’t know if Pochettino receives many compliments as other managers like me, I don’t think so.

"My opinion about him is high standards, even if he doesn’t believe me. He’s a top, top, top, top manager."

Manchester City take on Tottenham in an early-season Premier League blockbuster on Saturday, pitting two of English football's surest things against one another.

Harry Kane typically stepped up when Spurs needed him on the opening weekend, netting a second-half brace to see off freshly promoted Aston Villa.

The fact City's 5-0 rout of West Ham featured a hat-trick from Raheem Sterling also felt somewhat par for the course.

Two leading lights in Gareth Southgate's England team, Kane and Sterling have operated at an increasingly prolific level over recent seasons – something that undoubtedly bodes well for the Three Lions with Euro 2020 on the horizon.

Here we look at the rise and rise of two phenomenal forwards.

 

2014-15

After doing his time in the loan ranks, Kane flourished during Mauricio Pochettino's first season in charge at Spurs. His 21 goals placed him second behind Sergio Aguero in the Golden Boot standings. Add in four assists and Kane averaged a goal involvement every 103 minutes.

The year after Liverpool's close-shave in a title race with City (sound familiar?), Sterling chipped in with seven goals and seven assists – a goal involvement every 218 minutes as Brendan Rodgers' Anfield tenure ran into problems and speculation mounted over the winger's future.

2015-16

Sterling sealed an acrimonious move to City and endured a mixed campaign. Six goals and just two assists meant his goal involvement average dropped to 241 minutes.

Kane, meanwhile, was going from strength to strength as he claimed the first of back-to-back Golden Boots.

He only supplemented his 25 goals with a solitary assist, however, for a goal involvement every 130 minutes. This placed him below Leicester City's title-winning heroes Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez in the overall league standings for goals and assists.

 

2016-17

Kane bolstered his all-round game and hit a sublime level as Spurs spent a large chunk of the campaign as Chelsea's most credible title challengers. He hit 29 goals and seven assists, giving him the most goal involvements in the division – two ahead of Alexis Sanchez – at an astonishing average of one every 70 minutes.

Sterling scored seven and set up six for a goal involvement every 193 minutes. But Pep Guardiola was in town and things were heading in the right direction.

 

2017-18

City stormed to the title with a record-breaking haul of 100 points, made possible by a succession of crucial late strikes by Sterling. He doubled his previous best Premier League campaign to finish with 18 goals, while 11 assists meant he was involved in a goal every 89 minutes.

That edged Kane's average of 96, but 30 goals and two assists meant the Spurs star hit greater numbers overall, before collecting the World Cup Golden Boot playing in an England attack alongside Sterling that reached the semi-finals of Russia 2018.

2018-19

Sterling and City retained their remarkable levels of consistency to go back-to-back, the 24-year-old scoring 17 and laying on a further 10. His 27 goal involvements were the fifth-best in the division.

Despite an injury-interrupted campaign, Kane also scored 17 times and assisted four. His excellent goal involvement average of 116 minutes was shy of Sterling's superb 103.

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