Riyad Mahrez only joined Manchester City in 2018 but the Premier League champions are already reportedly willing to cash in on the Algeria international.

With City's looming UEFA ban – the Manchester giants are appealing a two-season suspension – Mahrez could depart the Etihad Stadium.

And Paris Saint-Germain are a possible destination.

 

TOP STORY – PSG AN OPTION FOR MAHREZ

Manchester City attacker Riyad Mahrez is open to moving to Ligue 1 champions Paris Saint-Germain, according to Calciomercato.

Premier League giants City are reportedly prepared to sell Mahrez and PSG are believed to be the Algeria international's preferred destination.

Mahrez, who arrived at City in 2018, has started 15 of his 23 Premier League appearances this season.

 

ROUND-UP

- Is Paul Pogba out of the picture? Juventus have been linked with a move for their former midfielder, however, Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer claimed the disgruntled star will be at Old Trafford next season. With that in mind, Calciomercato says Juve are targeting Lyon's Houssem Aouar as an alternative.

- The Daily Star reports Barcelona have decided on their salary for target and Inter forward Lautaro Martinez. Real Madrid, United and Chelsea have also been linked to the Argentina international.

- Fiorentina and Italy star Federico Chiesa is wanted by PSG, Juve, Inter and United, Le10Sport claims.

Angelino to Barca? The City left-back – who is on loan at Bundesliga outfit RB Leipzig – has impressed the LaLiga champions, according to Mundo Deportivo.

- Sport Witness says Napoli are ready to sell striker Arkadiusz Milik after failing to agree a new deal. Inter, Arsenal and Tottenham have all been linked.

- While Milik could leave, Torino's Andrea Belotti could arrive in Naples. La Gazzetta dello Sport reports Napoli, who signed Andrea Petagna in January before loaning him back to SPAL, could include the striker in a deal for Belotti.

Kai Havertz to Juve is not a possibility, says Calciomercato. The Bayer Leverkusen sensation is a player in demand but Juve have ruled out a move due to the €80million price tag. Havertz has been linked to the likes of Bayern Munich, Liverpool, United and others.

Gabriel Jesus dispatched an unfussy left-footed finish to put Manchester City 4-0 up before half-time at Villa Park but knew this was no time to bask in his own achievement.

Beaming in a giggling grin, the Brazil forward made straight for Kevin De Bruyne, City's playmaker extraordinaire who had made it virtually impossible for him not to score the 14th goal of a quietly impressive season.

De Bruyne collected possession just inside the Villa half and strode purposefully away from Danny Drinkwater, who was enduring the sort of debut the director of a slasher horror movie might have found a little on the nose.

Soon enough he was in the position. The Kevin De Bruyne position.

You know the one – just on the edge of the final third, a little wide of the right-hand side of the penalty area. The perfect angle for De Bruyne to wrap that delectable right foot around the ball and arc it towards and then tantalisingly away from goal.

The sort of cross that screams "score me". All of Villa's back three heard the cries, with right-sided centre-back Ezri Konsa flinging himself in an ungainly heap in a futile attempt to stop the inevitable.

It was De Bruyne's 14th assist of the Premier League season and plenty of those have been similarly picture perfect. Number 13 also featured Drinkwater in the rear-view mirror for a simple pass to Sergio Aguero, who rifled in spectacularly from 20 yards to set himself on the way to a hat-trick.

Aguero's part in this scintillating 6-1 spree saw him pass Thierry Henry as the Premier League's top-scoring overseas player and Alan Shearer as the man with the largest collection of trebles (12) in the competition.

But there is no doubt De Bruyne is the beating heart of this City team, something that has become abundantly clear over recent weeks in the face of a new reality established by Jurgen Klopp's relentless and ravenous Liverpool.

Without wishing to underplay Guardiola's achievement in marching an intricate, high-end team to back-to-back Premier League titles, the past two seasons largely consisted of him sending out his favoured 4-3-3 formation and watching the marvellous Mancunian machine take flight.

Compromised by form and fitness problems for key players this time around, and with Liverpool disappearing over the horizon, the City manager has shuffled his pack into a range of tactical shapes over the past month.

A fluid 4-2-3-1 was rolled out for a 3-0 triumph at Arsenal in December – the second victory in a run of 10 wins from 11 in all competitions, where City began a recent theme of doing decisive damage before half-time.

De Bruyne ran the show as a number 10, scything a bouncing ball into the top corner with outstanding technique and curling home a more controlled effort either side of bursting through the right-hand side of the Gunners defence to set up Raheem Sterling.

There were similar antics the following weekend, from the right this time, as the Etihad Stadium bellowed De Bruyne's name after another assist that relegated a Jesus finish to a role in the supporting cast. High-flying Leicester were condemned to a 3-1 defeat.

City's only defeat in this prolific sequence came amid Ederson's early red card at Wolves. Guardiola substituted De Bruyne – whose throughball created Sterling's second of the game – and watched a 2-1 lead become a 3-2 loss.

A 3-4-3 reboot followed a lacklustre first half against Sheffield United. Guardiola deployed De Bruyne as a deep-lying and roving midfield general, who tore forward to make the points safe having set up Aguero to break the deadlock.

That configuration remained for a 2-1 win over Everton before De Bruyne excelled as one of Guardiola's false nines in a beguiling besting of Manchester United in the EFL Cup. He left Phil Jones twisted and bereft on the turf for the third goal in a 3-1 semi-final first-leg win.

It was back to old faithful and 4-3-3 at Villa Park, with De Bruyne lurching low and high into those pockets of maximum destruction. He even managed to create Riyad Mahrez's opener without touching the ball thanks to a delightful dummy.

City's newfound flexibility bodes well for when their Champions League campaign resumes with a mouth-watering last-16 clash against Real Madrid. Opening up these new shape-shifting possibilities would have been impossible for City and Guardiola without their Belgian master key.

Pep Guardiola hailed Sergio Aguero as "a legend" after the Manchester City striker broke two records in Sunday's 6-1 win over Aston Villa.

Aguero netted three times as he surpassed Thierry Henry as the Premier League's top-scoring non-Englishman, while he is now the division's leading scorer of hat-tricks after completing his 12th at Villa Park.

Although the hosts were charitable in their defending, Aguero's opener showed his clinical finishing ability as he lashed home from outside the box.

A jinking run and finish doubled his tally before an emphatic close-range effort secured the matchball and the warm praise of his manager.

"He's a legend and the legend rises tonight," Guardiola told Sky Sports after a match in which Riyad Mahrez scored twice and Gabriel Jesus also netted.

"Thierry Henry is one of the most incredible players to play in this league and he will be proud that Sergio is the guy who breaks his record. He was a legend and Sergio is the same.

"We congratulated him in the locker room because to score this amount of goals means you have done for many, many years a lot of good things.

"He's been consistent for many, many years, so an incredible compliment for him.

"The most important thing is he is an incredible person. You cannot achieve this without being a guy who loves to play football and in the final third he is the guy who has the goal in his head."

Villa boss Dean Smith was left to reflect on a one-sided contest in which his side were second best throughout, a late Anwar El Ghazi penalty providing scant consolation.

"It was a chastening experience," he conceded. "We know they are a top-class team but some of the goals we have given away were dreadful. The third one probably summed it up.

"They had 15 or 16 passes and we hadn't laid a glove on them. They have been allowed to pass the ball too easily and Aguero sticks it in the top corner from 20 yards.

"Mahrez got into the penalty box and under no pressure passes into the bottom corner. It is hard when you are three goals down against a team of this quality. The three players that scored today are worth more than my whole squad.

"They kept going but we shouldn't be sitting here happy with ourselves and we're not. We are embarrassed."

Manchester City thrashed Aston Villa 6-1 as Sergio Aguero netted a hat-trick to break two records, Riyad Mahrez scored twice and former Leicester City team-mate Danny Drinkwater endured a debut to forget.

The contest was settled in a 10-minute spell at Villa Park in which Mahrez grabbed a double and Aguero equalled Thierry Henry as the Premier League's top-scoring non-Englishman, later surpassing him and grabbing a record 12th hat-trick in the process.

It was a particularly harsh introduction to life at his new club for Chelsea loanee Drinkwater, who might have prevented the opener and effectively supplied the second.

Mahrez broke the deadlock after easily shrugging off Drinkwater's dithering presence, while the three-cap England international gave the ball away in his own box to allow his former Foxes team-mate to double his tally.

Aguero's rasping drive put City in control and Gabriel Jesus made it 4-0 before the break, with Villa's punishment extended by two more goals for Aguero after the break – Anwar El Ghazi's late penalty a minor blemish for the champions.

Having seen Liverpool continue their apparently unstoppable march to the top-flight title with a 1-0 win at Tottenham on Saturday, City – fresh from a 3-1 EFL Cup semi-final first-leg victory over Manchester United – were initially a little lacklustre before Mahrez injected some much-needed quality with his 18th-minute opener, which came at the end of a fine solo run. 

Drinkwater, having failed to make an impact in a previous spell with Burnley, looked off the pace and was caught by David Silva, who found Jesus to set up Mahrez for the Algerian's second soon after.

Aguero's record-equalling goal was more eye-catching, his vicious strike from outside the box getting the better of Orjan Nyland to leave Villa reeling. 

Worse was to come in first-half stoppage time, Jesus steering home from Kevin De Bruyne's superb pinpoint cross from right. 

To Villa's credit, they limited the damage in the second half, albeit Dean Smith's side were often pinned back by a fluent and strutting City outfit.

Aguero's fancy footwork in the box created the space for him to coolly slot in the fifth, making history in the process, but he was not done there.

An emphatic close-range finish ensured Aguero has now scored more hat-tricks than any other player in Premier League history.

El Ghazi took out his anger on a last-gasp penalty that did little to paper over the cracks for Villa, with City jumping above Leicester into second.

 

What does it mean? City shine, even in the shadows

Liverpool's stunning form has left City somewhat in the Merseyside club's shadows, but even now they continue to shine.

This was a display of champions, which is what City officially remain for the time being. Villa can take solace in knowing they will not face this quality every week in their quest for survival.

Mahrez makes his mark

Several City players underlined their class in this one, not least of all the likes of De Bruyne, Aguero and Silva, but it took Mahrez to bring the game to life.

He was a willing runner at an ailing Villa defence who failed to limit his influence.

Drinkwater's maiden outing a harsh lesson

As debuts go, this was up there – or down there – with the worst. Drinkwater's lack of game time had readily apparent consequences in a contest where Villa were already huge underdogs.

He will need to dust himself down after this one and hope the only way is up.

What's next?

City welcome Crystal Palace to the Etihad Stadium next Saturday, having lost the same fixture last season in a five-goal thriller. Villa, meanwhile, head to the south coast to take on Palace's bitter rivals Brighton and Hove Albion.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bernardo sets tone with blockbuster

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

Pereira out of his depth

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

What's next?

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

Sadio Mane has beaten Liverpool team-mate Mohamed Salah and Manchester City's Riyad Mahrez to the CAF African Player of the Year award for 2019.

Mane was a standout player as Liverpool went all the way in the 2018-19 Champions League, while he has also enjoyed a strong start to the 2019-20 Premier League campaign.

The Senegal international placed in the top three in each of the previous three years, finishing runner-up to Salah in 2017 and 2018, and third in 2016, when Mahrez came first.

But this time Mane claimed the prize, ahead of Liverpool team-mate Salah and Mahrez, who won a domestic treble with City and captained Algeria to glory at the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations.

It is the first time since 2002 that a Senegalese player has claimed the award, with El Hadji Diouf winning it shortly after switching Lens for Liverpool.

While Liverpool's Champions League success undoubtedly helped Mane's chances, he also enjoyed a wonderful year individually.

In 36 Premier League outings in 2019, Mane scored 24 times and got six assists to leave Salah (18 goals and five assists from 34 matches) and Mahrez (seven goals and seven assists from 24 games) trailing in his wake.

Mane, Salah and Mahrez also formed part of CAF's star-studded Team of the Year.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was selected to lead the line, with Hakim Ziyech and Idrissa Gueye chosen in midfield, while Andre Onana takes the place in goal.

Kalidou Koulibaly, Joel Matip, Serge Aurier and Achraf Hakimi – who won the Young Player of the Year award – were the back four and Algeria's Djamel Belmadi was crowned Men's African Coach of the Year.

Kevin De Bruyne encouraged Manchester City to stay true to Pep Guardiola's principles as they seek to disrupt Liverpool's path to the Premier League title.

Champions City beat second-placed Leicester City 3-1 on Saturday to close back to within 11 points of leaders Liverpool, who have a game in hand following their successful trip to the Club World Cup.

Guardiola thanked City's players for "following" him after the come-from-behind victory and midfielder De Bruyne urged his team-mates to uphold the standards of the past two title-winning campaigns.

"We need to go game by game," De Bruyne said. "We dropped some points along the way, but I think the reaction of the team has always been really good, the way we play has always been the same and we have played good football.

"This is the way to go forward. This is the way we have played four seasons with Pep Guardiola and this is not going to change. We work hard and we dedicate a lot to playing well and if this is the way we play, people will enjoy it.

"We just try to win game by game and at the end of the season we will see what happens.

"If we don't win it we don't win it, but we work and play hard every day and this is the way to go forward."

De Bruyne shone against Leicester after starring in a 3-0 victory over Arsenal the previous weekend and will be central to City's hopes of causing anxiety for Liverpool.

"I think the first thing I do is try to set an example for the rest of my team-mates by working hard, giving a lot of energy and fighting for the team," he said.

"Afterwards, the talent and the dedication can make the difference. This is the way to go forward. The first thing we need to do is to work as a team and afterwards we have enough quality to make the difference."

Riyad Mahrez, who scored the equaliser against his former employers, praised De Bruyne's input.

"He is very good," the winger said. "He has a lot of quality so he helps us a lot. It's great to have a player like him in the team.

"Every game he contributes to the team, so I'm happy to have him with us."

Jose Mourinho's impressive run at home to his former clubs was ended as Tottenham lost 2-0 against Chelsea on Sunday.

The final Premier League game before Christmas was a cracker, with Willian in dazzling form and scoring twice, while Son Heung-min was sent off.

A big win for Chelsea came at the end of a weekend in which Manchester City toppled top-four rivals Leicester City.

There were two key victories at the bottom of the table, too, with Southampton triumphant at Aston Villa and Watford upsetting Manchester United.

Read about the weekend's biggest games with our Opta-powered review.
 

SAINTS AND INGS PROFIT AS VILLA SLUMP CONTINUES

Aston Villa's solid start to the season has been forgotten as they spend Christmas in the relegation zone, having been handed another convincing home defeat on Saturday, going down 3-1 to Southampton.

The promoted side lost their previous league game at Villa Park 4-1 against Leicester, meaning they have conceded as many goals (seven) across their past two such matches as they had in their first seven this term.

Southampton took advantage and scored three goals in an away league game for the first time in 364 days, going back to last December's victory by the same scoreline at Huddersfield Town.

Danny Ings' brace took his 2019-20 tally to 11 – the joint-best pre-Christmas Premier League haul from a Saints player, along with James Beattie in 2002-03 – and Jack Stephens also netted, with Southampton's past 16 Premier League goals scored by English players.

MAHREZ HAUNTS FOXES AS JESUS ENDS DROUGHT

It appeared for a time as though the latest chapter of Leicester's sublime season would see an away victory at the champions, as the counter-attacking Jamie Vardy netted against Manchester City for the fifth time in the Premier League – the joint-most, along with Sadio Mane, since his 2014 bow.

But the scoreline had been turned on its head by half-time after Riyad Mahrez rewarded the hosts' dominance by becoming the fifth man to play for and later net against Leicester in the Premier League, before Ilkay Gundogan scored a penalty won by Raheem Sterling – the 17th such award in favour of the winger, a league-high since his debut.

Gabriel Jesus then secured the points, ending a home drought that went back to March, with his 14 goals in the interim scored away from the Etihad Stadium.

It gave Man City their 250th Premier League win of the 2010s, making them just the second team to hit that milestone in a single decade – along with rivals Manchester United in the 2000s.

DE GEA GIFTS BASEMENT SIDE MUCH-NEEDED BOOST

Watford ended a 12-game winless run at home in the Premier League with an unlikely 2-0 victory against Manchester United on Sunday following a David de Gea error.

De Gea failed to make a routine save from Ismaila Sarr, before conceding a Troy Deeney penalty as United lost by more than a single goal to a team starting the day bottom of the table for the first time since April 2005 – also 2-0 against Norwich City.

If the nature of the first goal was surprising, the same could not be said of the second. De Gea has failed to save the past 15 spot-kicks he has faced in the league.

And Deeney netted from 12 yards against United at Vicarage Road again, now having done so in four of the past five seasons.

MOURINHO RUN ENDS IN CONCERNING SPURS SHOW

Mourinho had not lost in 13 previous home matches against former clubs, winning all but one, but Chelsea got the better of Spurs at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

Willian's second goal – from the penalty spot – was the 100th Chelsea have scored against Tottenham in the Premier League, while they have now won three consecutive games against their London rivals in all competitions for the first time since January 2008.

There are concerns at both ends of the pitch for Mourinho. Spurs mustered just five shots in total – their third lowest haul at home in the league since Opta records began in 2003-04 – while they have conceded the joint-most goals (14, along with Arsenal) in all competitions of all Premier League clubs since the Portuguese took charge.

They will have to do without Son for the next three matches after his dismissal, too. He is the first player to be shown three red cards in a calendar year in the Premier League since Lee Cattermole in 2010.

Mohamed Salah faces competition from Liverpool team-mate Sadio Mane and Manchester City's Riyad Mahrez in his bid to be named African Player of the Year for the third time in a row.

The Premier League stars have been named as the final three contenders for the award, which has belonged to Egypt international Salah for the past two years.

Algeria winger Mahrez won it while still at Leicester City in 2016 but Mane looks to be Salah's closest competitor after twice finishing as runner-up to his fellow Anfield favourite.

Mane has scored freely throughout 2019 and helped Senegal reached the Africa Cup of Nations final, which they lost to Algeria.

Cameroon's Ajara Nchout, Nigeria and Barcelona forward Asisat Oshoala, and last year's winner Thembi Kgatlana of South Africa are shortlisted for the African Women's Player of the Year award.

The winners will be announced at a ceremony in Hurghada, Egypt on January 7.

Manchester City winger Riyad Mahrez says it was emotional for Pep Guardiola's assistant Mikel Arteta to leave the club to take over at Arsenal.

Arteta, who was linked with the Gunners vacancy in 2018, was appointed as Unai Emery's successor on Friday.

The ex-Arsenal captain played a key role in City winning two consecutive Premier League titles and takes a head coach role for the first time in his career.

City were without Arteta for the first time in Saturday's 3-1 home win over Leicester City that boosted their slim Premier League title hopes and Mahrez indicated the 37-year-old will be missed.

"Mikel was an important member of staff," Mahrez said to Sky Sports. 

"So, it was a bit emotional for him to go but he had to take his chance and we are happy for him."

Mahrez's deflected strike against his former club cancelled out Jamie Vardy's excellent opener at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday.

Ilkay Gundogan's penalty and Gabriel Jesus then struck to complete the comeback and move City within a point of second-placed Leicester.

Kevin De Bruyne was in inspirational form again and he confirmed his late substitution, being replaced by returning City striker Sergio Aguero, was not down to injury.

"Yeah, it's just a little bit of cramp," he told Sky Sports. "It was a hard game between two teams that went all the way. In the end, my body said just take a rest - the grass was nice and soft.

"We put a lot of pressure on the ball from the beginning, didn't let Leicester play a lot. They lost a lot of balls, especially in the first half. They went ahead but I think it was pretty much their only chance of the game. 

"Afterwards, we had a couple of good chances and Riyad changed the game for us, so that was really important. To make it 2-1 before half-time was an important moment in the game."

Of Mahrez's terrific performance, De Bruyne added: "We have already played a lot of times together, especially this season we have played really well together. Last season was difficult because I spent a lot of time out and couldn't find my rhythm.

"But I think the moments we played together we did well, we know how to find each other and I know I can leave him one against one because he is one of the most dangerous wingers in the league - that's how he scored today."

Manchester City battled to a 3-1 comeback win against Leicester City to keep alive their slim Premier League title hopes, while Everton and Arsenal played out a bore draw at Goodison Park.

Riyad Mahrez struck against his former club to cancel out Jamie Vardy's opener in a game the reigning champions went on to win comfortably, moving them to within a point of their second-placed opponents.

Elsewhere, Miguel Almiron scored his first Premier League goal to fire Newcastle United to a 1-0 win over Crystal Palace, while Everton and Arsenal played out a bore draw at Goodison Park.

Paraguay international Almiron volleyed home late on to get off the mark on his 27th appearance in the competition and settle a match that was heading for a goalless draw.

Goals proved hard to come by in the stalemate between Everton and Arsenal, a low-quality match watched from the stands by respective incoming bosses Carlo Ancelotti and Mikel Arteta.

Everton failed to record a shot on target in a top-flight home match for the first time since January 2018, while Gabriel Martinelli went closest to scoring for the visitors.

Elsewhere, Burnley, Sheffield United, Wolves and Southampton all won away from home, the latter seeing off relegation rivals Aston Villa 3-1 to boost their survival hopes.
 

City comeback flattens Foxes

Pep Guardiola's side entered Saturday's late kick-off sitting four points behind Leicester and 14 adrift of Liverpool, meaning only victory would do if they were to keep their outside title aspirations alive.

Those hopes were further dented when Vardy got on the end of Harvey Barnes' pass and scored through Leicester's first effort at goal but, inspired by another Kevin De Bruyne masterclass, the champions roared back to claim back-to-back league wins.

Mahrez, who won the Premier League title with Leicester in 2016, fired a deflected shot past Kasper Schmeichel to pull one back and Ilkay Gundogan converted from the penalty spot after Raheem Sterling was fouled by Ricardo Pereira.

De Bruyne picked up the assist his performance deserved in the second half by setting up Gabriel Jesus - who had not previously scored on home soil this season - to seal the victory.

Arsenal's poor form continues

With Arteta not officially taking charge of his first Arsenal match until the Boxing Day trip to Bournemouth, interim head coach Freddie Ljungberg oversaw yet another below-par display from his side.

The Gunners looked the more likely side to score on Merseyside but lacked cohesion all over the field and had to settle for a point, making it just one win in 13 matches in all competitions.

Arsenal did at least manage to test Jordan Pickford - the England international doing well to keep out Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in the second half - with the Toffees rarely troubling the opposition defence.

Ancelotti was confirmed as Everton's new manager on a four-and-a-half-year deal shortly before kick-off, giving him a chance to witness up close just how big a task he has on his hands when taking the reins from stand-in boss Duncan Ferguson.

Almiron ends drought to extend Palace's winless run

A third victory in four Premier League matches for Newcastle was secured thanks to Almiron, who has had a tough time of things since arriving from Atlanta United for a reported £20million in January.

Almiron converted with a first-time finish seven minutes from time after being teed up by Andy Carroll's header, ending his long-running goal drought and sending United up to ninth place.

Palace, now without a win in three league outings, saw more of the ball and had the better of the chances, but Wilfried Zaha and Christian Benteke were unable to find a way past home goalkeeper Martin Dubravka.

Ings inspires Southampton to vital victory

Southampton leapfrogged fellow strugglers Aston Villa into 17th place with a Danny Ings-inspired win, the one-cap England international reaching double figures for the season before Christmas.

Ings scored either side of Jack Stephens' towering header as Ralph Hasenhuttl's charges raced into a three-goal lead at Villa Park with 51 minutes played.

Jack Grealish scored a fine goal to reduce the arrears, but Villa left themselves with too big a mountain to climb and are now in the relegation zone after a fourth defeat on the spin.

Norwich cut further adrift

Norwich City failed to make their first-half dominance count in a 2-1 home loss to Wolves that leaves them six points adrift of safety at Christmas.

Todd Cantwell pounced on a loose ball to give Norwich a deserved 17th-minute lead, but they could not build on their advantage and Wolves hit back.

After a subdued opening hour, Romain Saiss sparked his side into life with a powerful header and Raul Jimenez made it 16 goals for the season across all competitions late on to condemn Norwich - who have one point from their last five home matches - to another defeat.

Wilder's men overcome more VAR frustrations

Sheffield United continued their march up the Premier League with a 1-0 win at Brighton and Hove Albion, despite the frustration of having two goals ruled out by VAR.

John Egan's bundled finish was chalked off for handball and Jack O'Connell was denied for offside - the third and fourth goals United have been awarded on the field this term, only for VAR to intervene.

Not that it mattered, though, as Oli McBurnie's third goal of the season - a powerful strike past Mat Ryan after 23 minutes - proved enough for Chris Wilder's men to keep their unbeaten away record this season intact as they moved into the lofty heights of fifth place.

Rodriguez settles contest between shot-shy sides

Burnley edged out Bournemouth 1-0 at the Vitality Stadium in a game that saw the sides register just five shots between them - the fewest recorded in a Premier League game since records began in 2003-04.

The one and only attempt on target arrived in the final minute of the game, Jay Rodriguez heading in Ashley Westwood's cross from close range to settle a dreadful game.

Jefferson Lerma's 30-yard effort over the bar was as good as things got for a Bournemouth side that have lost six of their last seven league matches to slip into relegation danger.

"He was sad," Mikel Arteta confessed on Friday, Arsenal's beaming new head coach showing very real contrition. "The timing wasn't the best for him, but he understood."

He was speaking of Pep Guardiola, the man he also described as "incredible", "inspirational", and a guiding light in the ruthlessness of top-level management.

Arteta knew this was a hard week for his old boss. He knew it would hurt Manchester City to leave now, during a typically arduous December schedule, the champions knowing third place at Christmas was the best they could hope for regardless of the result against Leicester City.

But after Saturday's 3-1 win, Arteta can raise a glass of Yuletide spirit to his mentor knowing that, unlike the UK's railway network at this time of year, Guardiola's City are motoring along the right track.

With Leicester four points ahead of them in the table and leaders Liverpool away in sunnier climes being crowned champions of the world, defeat for City against Brendan Rodgers' side would have been a brutal blow in a difficult week. It would undoubtedly also have led to more questions about the signs of decline in 2019-20 and whether this team's relentless will to win had been further embrittled by Arteta's departure.

Those were valid concerns after 22 minutes at the Etihad Stadium. City had dominated, Riyad Mahrez giving Ben Chilwell a nightmare before Christmas as Guardiola got his attacking play entirely right by attacking entirely down the right.

Apparently, though, he didn't predict Leicester's Jamie Vardy plan. This is a striker who lives for passes over or behind the defence, playing on the shoulders of Fernandinho and Nicolas Otamendi, on a pitch where Adama Traore of Wolves and the entire Manchester United forward line caused havoc on the break, and yet City conceded from the first such attack.

Kyle Walker was dragged too far forward, Harvey Barnes' outside-of-the-boot pass was precise, and Vardy showed how even a poor touch can be devastating when you're in this kind of form, his heavy control allowing him to loft the ball over Ederson for league goal number 17 of the season.

It was an obvious tactic that still caught City cold, silencing the home crowd and perhaps leaving fans fearing their title defence all but gone before the new decade had started.

But Guardiola stuck to his guns, City persisted in their forays down the right, and it paid dividends. Mahrez skipped infield again, let fly with his left foot, and Caglar Soyuncu's obliging frame deflected the ball past Ederson.

Mahrez celebrated with gusto, his seasonal spirit apparently not reserved for his old employers. Guardiola whipped his arms up and around his head like a man drowning in eggnog, demanding more from the crowd, expecting more from his players. Mahrez then switched the play, Ricardo Pereira crumpled to the turf to trip Raheem Sterling in the box, and Ilkay Gundogan scored from the spot. "What I learned is you have to be ruthless, consistent," Arteta said of working under Guardiola. The manager's message was still loud and clear.

The second half was less engaging and certainly less worrying for City. Leicester tried and failed to release Vardy and only the excellent Jonny Evans curtailed further City inroads from Mahrez and Kevin De Bruyne. Eventually, De Bruyne left the tiring Soyuncu for dead – having driven forward, you guessed it, down the right – and teed up Gabriel Jesus for a tap-in. Ruthless, consistent. Victorious.

Guardiola does not expect to appoint a new assistant this season and time will tell how much Arteta's absence is felt, but this was a significant test for City and their ambitions this season that they passed in exemplary fashion. A sad week, but no blue Christmas.

Manchester City came from behind to win 3-1 at home to Leicester City in a vital victory for their slim Premier League title hopes.

Leicester took the lead at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday through Jamie Vardy's 17th Premier League goal of the season.

But champions City showed grit and determination despite Leicester's threat on the counter-attack and Riyad Mahrez equalised against his old club with a deflected drive.

Raheem Sterling won a penalty that Ilkay Gundogan converted and Gabriel Jesus struck after the break to move City within a point of their second-placed visitors, who remain 10 behind leaders Liverpool.

Kevin De Bruyne was outstanding against Arsenal last time out and his low 20-yard drive rattled the outside of the post with Kasper Schmeichel scrambling, but it was Leicester who took the lead with their first shot in the 22nd minute.

Harvey Barnes sent Vardy free down the left channel and he burst away from Fernandinho with ease before expertly lifting a deft finish over the onrushing Ederson.

Mahrez had been giving Ben Chilwell a tough time and, after he beat the full-back again, the former Foxes star's shot flew past Schmeichel, clipping the unlucky Caglar Soyuncu on its way in.

City were ahead by the interval, Ricardo Pereira clumsily bringing down Sterling with Gundogan squeezing his low penalty past Schmeichel despite the goalkeeper getting a hand to the kick, though Ederson had to deny James Maddison on the stroke of half-time.

Mahrez missed two clear chances to extend City's lead early in the second half before De Bruyne tried to set up Gabriel Jesus when he had Schmeichel's goal at his mercy.

Leicester continued to post a threat on the break, Barnes failing to convert a Vardy centre, but Schmeichel had to make a brilliant save to keep out another Mahrez effort.

City clinched it in the 69th minute, De Bruyne – who later went off with apparent cramp to be replaced by the returning Sergio Aguero – evading Soyuncu to cross for Jesus to tap in, and they may yet exert pressure on Liverpool during the second half of the season.


What does it mean? Champions' defence not over yet

Liverpool will have to suffer a serious slip-up to miss out on their first title of the Premier League era, but Pep Guardiola's side are not out of contention just yet.

Leicester had emerged as the Reds' nearest challengers this term but City, who have won four in a row in all competitions since losing the Manchester derby, are building momentum again though they may be concerned about Gundogan's late injury.

Former Fox Mahrez a menace

Consistency has been an issue for Mahrez since he joined City from Leicester but he showed his former club what they are missing with a performance of style combined with end product.

Mahrez arguably should have scored more than his one fortuitous goal but Leicester could not cope with the Algeria winger.

Leicester full-backs struggle to contain City

Jonny Evans had a fine game at the heart of Leicester's defence but full-backs Pereira and Chilwell – who has consistently been linked with a move to the Etihad Stadium – had days to forget.

England international Chilwell was given the runaround by Mahrez while Pereira got in a poor position against Sterling to concede a decisive penalty. 

What's next?

Leicester have another huge game on December 26 when they host leaders Liverpool. The following day sees Guardiola's men in action away to Wolves.

Manchester City star Riyad Mahrez says he is not surprised his old club Leicester City are competing for the Premier League title again.

Brendan Rodgers' Foxes have emerged as the closest competition for Liverpool, who have a 10-point advantage at the summit.

Mahrez was one of Leicester's stars and scooped the Professional Footballers' Association Player of the Year award when they shocked the sporting world by winning the 2015-16 Premier League title under Claudio Ranieri.

The Algeria winger highlighted the form of former team-mate Jamie Vardy - five goals clear in the race for the Golden Boot - as being key for Leicester's success this term.

"I am not surprised by them; they are a good team. They have good players and Jamie Vardy is scoring a lot of goals," Mahrez said ahead of City hosting Leicester on Saturday. 

"They have a good manager. I am not surprised at all. I think [they are genuine title contenders] because they are currently second. I am so happy for them. They deserve to be successful and I am looking forward to the game. 

"We have so many good memories together from my time there. What we achieved together was unbelievable and so that club means a lot to me.” 

"My first title with Leicester is one of the medals that means the most to me. As well as the Africa Cup of Nations, which was for my country and so there is a lot of emotion, it means a lot. 

"But with Leicester, it was an unbelievable achievement, and no one thought we were going to make it."

City's inconsistent form has left them 14 points behind runaway leaders Liverpool, who they pipped to the title last season.

A run of 14 successive wins to close out 2018-19 saw City edge out the Reds by 98 points to 97 and Mahrez feels that series of results indicates they champions are not yet out of the race.

"We know we are capable of doing that again," he added. "But you need to put it in on the pitch, be focused and try not to think about winning all of the games. 

"You just need to win the next one and then the next one. We are just thinking about the next game all of the time."

Liverpool maintained their stunning start to the season – and eight-point lead at the summit – with a 2-1 win over Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park.

Jose Mourinho wasted little time in making his mark at Tottenham after he was brought in to replace Mauricio Pochettino, guiding the north London club to a 3-2 win over sorry rivals West Ham.

Manchester City, meanwhile, bounced back from their damaging 3-1 defeat to Liverpool before the international break with an entertaining 2-1 victory against Chelsea – a result which saw them leapfrog Frank Lampard's side into third.

The game of the weekend came on Sunday when Sheffield United and Manchester United played out a thrilling 3-3 draw at Bramall Lane, with the visitors coming from two goals down to lead 3-2 before Oli McBurnie's late equaliser.

Here, we look at the best milestones and stats from another action-packed weekend of Premier League action.

RELENTLESS REDS MARCH ON AGAINST PALACE

Liverpool became only the fourth side in English top-flight history to have as many as 37 points from their opening 13 league games to a season after their slender win at Selhurst Park.

Sadio Mane opened the scoring shortly after half-time, which was perhaps unsurprising given his superb record against the Eagles. His deflected strike means he has now scored eight Premier League goals against Palace – more than against any other opponent.

It had looked like Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool would drop points for just the second time this season when Wilfried Zaha levelled with eight minutes remaining. That was the Ivorian's first goal in 14 Premier League games, ending a run of 1245 minutes without scoring.

Roberto Firmino had the final say, though, prodding home after a corner had caused chaos in the Palace penalty area. Since the start of last season, Liverpool have scored 38 goals from set-pieces in the Premier League (including penalties) – eight more than any other club.

The win takes the Reds' unbeaten run in the Premier League to 30 matches. Only Arsenal (49 games in October 2004) and Chelsea (40 in October 2005) have ever had longer runs without defeat in the history of the competition.

MOURINHO BACK WITH A BANG

Mourinho made a triumphant return to management as Tottenham saw off West Ham at the London Stadium.

Having lost his first ever competitive game as manager, with Benfica in September 2000, Mourinho has gone unbeaten in his first game in charge at each of his eight clubs since then.

The former Manchester United and Real Madrid boss was indebted to star duo Harry Kane and Son Heung-min, who scored other side of Lucas Moura's close-range effort.

Kane has now scored eight goals in his last nine Premier League games against the Hammers, while Son's strike means he is Spurs' leading scorer in all competitions in 2019 with 19 – one more than Kane.

GUARDIOLA SETS UNWANTED RECORD IN CITY WIN

City claimed a valuable Premier League victory over Chelsea on Saturday, despite recording the lowest share of possession any Pep Guardiola side has managed in a top-flight game.

City's possession figure of just 46.74 per cent is the lowest any team coached by Guardiola has registered in 381 top-flight matches.

N'Golo Kante gave Chelsea a 21st-minute lead but, remarkably, Lampard's side did not manage another shot on target for the remainder of the match.

City stormed back after that early setback to claim all three points thanks to goals from Kevin De Bruyne and Riyad Mahrez. The Algerian has now been directly involved in 10 goals in his 11 starts across all competitions this season, scoring four and creating six more.

BRAMALL LANE DRAMA LEAVES SOLSKJAER WITH MIXED EMOTIONS

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer gave his Manchester United players credit after they scored three goals in seven minutes to overturn a two-goal deficit against Sheffield United but condemned their display for the first hour at Bramall Lane.

Goals from John Fleck and Lys Mousset put the Blades in front and United have not kept a clean sheet on the road in the Premier League in their last 12 matches - their worst top-flight run since going 15 away games without a shutout between September 1985 and April 1986.

Fortunately for Solskjaer, his young charges rallied and Brandon Williams and Mason Greenwood struck in quick succession to make it 2-2. The last time two teenagers scored in a Premier League game for United was in October 2005, when Wayne Rooney and Giuseppe Rossi netted against Sunderland.

Marcus Rashford's goal in the 79th minute put United on course for a win that did not transpire, but the England forward continued his good record against newly-promoted opponents - he has been involved in eight goals in his last five Premier League appearances against newcomers (four goals, four assists).

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