Jurgen Klopp insists Liverpool cannot pin all of their hopes on Virgil van Dijk shutting down Erling Haaland when the title rivals Manchester City visit Anfield.

There are no shortage of subplots when the Premier League pacesetters square off on Merseyside on Sunday, not least the possibility of Klopp’s final head-to-head battle against Pep Guardiola.

Away from the managers’ dugouts it could be tempting to view the game as an arm wrestle between the irrepressible Haaland – who has 29 goals this season and seven in his last three outings – and the commanding Van Dijk.

But when it comes to City, Klopp believes there is too much quality and too many alternate options to rely on an old-fashioned man-marking exercise.

“Football doesn’t work like that any more. If Haaland is not scoring that is good but they have other options to do that,” he said.

“If Virgil van Dijk would be able to nullify Haaland then (Phil) Foden fires the ball in from 30 yards into the far corner, or Kevin De Bruyne does exactly the same, or Rodri is arriving, or Bernardo Silva is doing it.

“I don’t think for a second like that, that they are playing against each other. Yes, there are moments it definitely will happen, 100 per cent, and hopefully we will be at the better end that, but this football game is about so many aspects.

“When you watch the movement of Erling Haaland he is incredibly smart putting himself in positions. He’s smart enough not to all of the time be around the one he might consider the best one.”

Liverpool had planned to have Ibrahima Konate alongside Van Dijk to help manage the free-scoring Norwegian, but saw their plans dented when the former was injured in Thursday’s Europa League thrashing of Sparta Prague.

While awaiting the result of scans Klopp did not appear optimistic about Konate’s chances, but made it clear he would have no qualms throwing rookie Jarrell Quansah into the biggest game of his career if required.

A year ago the 21-year-old was lining up against Forest Green during a loan spell at Bristol Rovers but circumstances have allowed him to progress further and faster than anyone expected. Injuries across the backline thrust him up the pecking order and his response has earned the manager’s trust.

“Massive, massive development. He just stepped up,” said Klopp.

“He came back (from Rovers) and it wasn’t that everybody in the club was saying, ‘yeah, he will be the next one’. We knew he is a real talent, we knew he has massive strength, especially on the ball, stuff like this. But how will he deal with the next-quality Premier League strikers? How is that physicality?

“We thought the situation in the squad is right to do so. If you want (he was) centre-half number five in that moment. But he showed immediately that he wants to be in the team in each session and it’s a joy, a pure joy, to have him.”

Jurgen Klopp has defended Trent Alexander-Arnold’s right to claim it would “mean more” for Liverpool to win their title battle with Manchester City.

Alexander-Arnold will miss Sunday’s huge clash between the Premier League front-runners through injury but his recent claims about City’s financial muscle sparked a pointed response from Erling Haaland.

The Norwegian striker referenced his side’s treble success last year, insisting that was “a nice feeling” the England international had no comparison for.

Klopp, who appeared perplexed that Alexander-Arnold’s comments could be perceived as inflammatory, said: “I am not sure how often in this club that we have to say how much we respect City.

“Trent respects that but he is born in Liverpool, he stood on the bins (as a child, watching training). What would you think in that situation?

“One of our slogans, that I love, is “this means more.” It means more to us. This club is special to us. So if we feel it, why shouldn’t be allowed to say it?’. You love these kind of interviews where somebody says what he thinks and the whole world tells you it’s not right, what you think.

“It’s just how he feels, how we feel, and I have absolutely no problem about that. I am pretty sure he showed total respect (to City) as well. In the last decade, Man City is the most successful team in English football and maybe Europe. It’s a ridiculous record they have. It means a lot for their people I am sure.

“Maybe it’s just for the fact we didn’t win that many. We are not in situation winning five league titles in a row and realising number five was better, we’ve never had that situation so we don’t know 100 per cent, but that’s it.”

Pep Guardiola has backed his players to perform on the pitch after refusing to get drawn into their war of words with Liverpool’s Trent Alexander-Arnold.

The Liverpool defender has added spice to this weekend’s crunch Premier League title clash against Guardiola’s City by claiming that winning trophies means more to the Merseyside club.

City players Erling Haaland and Ruben Dias hit back by pointing out Alexander-Arnold has not won the treble – therefore suggesting he could not know how the Manchester club feel – but Guardiola does not want to add fuel to the fire.

Instead, he will simply encourage the champions to do their talking on the pitch in an encounter that could have a huge bearing on the destiny of the Premier League title.

The City manager said: “I’m so happy with my players, all the time, over many, many years.

“Do you think we’re not going to fight because Erling and Ruben talk? Without these talks we will not fight?

“We are there and, after what happened over the last years, we are going to try again tomorrow and do a good game.

“They defend the club not by responding to this guy but what they have done for many years on the pitch every three days. That is the best way.

“I could answer him (Alexander-Arnold), but why? It is what it is.

“I’m incredibly proud of what we have done and I don’t need that to prove to me what my players really feel and are trying to do it.”

Guardiola was asked further about Alexander-Arnold’s comments as he held his pre-match press conference on Friday but simply wished the England international well.

Alexander-Arnold has been sidelined with a knee injury for the past month and is not expected to feature on Sunday.

He said: “I wish him well. I wish him a speedy recovery and to come back to the pitch as soon as possible.”

The match renews one of the great managerial rivalries of recent times as Guardiola comes up against Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp, but what will be their 30th meeting could be the last for some time.

Klopp is standing down at Anfield at the end of the season and Guardiola has acknowledged the role the German has played in driving him on.

The Spaniard said: “From the way he makes his teams play football, you always learn. It was always a pleasure to play against him and it will be on Sunday too.”

Guardiola is not sure it will be the last time the pair face each other but, regardless, hopes they can meet socially at some stage in the future.

Guardiola has a rare losing record against Klopp, with 12 defeats and 11 victories against the Reds boss and added: “We might play in the FA Cup and, the future, nobody knows. He’s young, I’m young, so I don’t know.

“Sometimes (we meet) in the corridor before press conferences but when we were honoured in the Hall of Fame years ago we spent time with families but, in terms of lunch or dinners, it never happened.

“We have to decide who pays, that’s why we didn’t do it! I think it’s going to happen sooner or later, I would love it but we’ll see.”

Erling Haaland netted his 29th goal of the season as Manchester City eased into the Champions League quarter-finals with a 3-1 victory over Copenhagen as Real Madrid battled past RB Leipzig.

The Norway international found the net after early strikes from Manuel Akanji and Julian Alvarez at the Etihad Stadium to ease the holders to a 6-2 aggregate win.

Defender Akanji volleyed City into a fifth-minute lead from Alvarez’s corner and it was 2-0 within four minutes when, after Rodri’s header had come back of the crossbar, Copenhagen goalkeeper Kamil Grabara palmed Alvarez’s follow-up into his own net.

Mohamed Elyounoussi reduced the deficit with 29 minutes gone when he fed Orri Oskarsson and then ran on to his back-heeled return to fire past Ederson but Haaland restored the home side’s cushion in first-half stoppage time.

Willi Orban ensured Real Madrid suffered a nervous conclusion at the Bernabeu Stadium as they edged into the last eight after a 1-1 draw with RB Leipzig.

Leading 1-0 from the first leg in Germany, the Spaniards had to wait until the 65th minute for Vinicius Junior to put them ahead on the night.

However, Orban levelled within three minutes and then went close with a header as the LaLiga leaders eventually made it through 2-1 on aggregate.

Holders Manchester City eased into the Champions League quarter-finals for a seventh successive season with a routine 3-1 win over FC Copenhagen.

Early Manuel Akanji and Julian Alvarez goals put City on their way and the prolific Erling Haaland netted his 29th of the season as Pep Guardiola’s side completed a 6-2 aggregate success at the Etihad Stadium.

Copenhagen showed some spirit and pulled one back through former Southampton player Mohamed Elyounoussi but there was never any doubt City would be going through to the last eight.

It was a game played largely at a slow tempo as City, bidding to win unprecedented back-to-back trebles, conserved energy for bigger challenges ahead.

Guardiola made seven changes from the side that beat Manchester United in Sunday’s derby with match-winner Phil Foden, Kevin De Bruyne, Kyle Walker, John Stones and Bernardo Silva among those on the bench.

That suggested Guardiola already had half an eye on this weekend’s crunch Premier League trip to Liverpool and his selection was vindicated inside five minutes as Akanji volleyed them ahead.

The defender went forward for a corner and was almost nonchalant in the way he swung out his boot to meet Alvarez’s cross with a sweet strike.

Alvarez doubled the lead four minutes later after a calamitous error by goalkeeper Kamil Grabara, who had been one of the Danes’ stand-out players in the first leg.

Alvarez first picked out Rodri, who thumped a header against the bar. The ball was half-cleared and the Argentinian picked up possession again but this time curled in a shot.

Grabara should have claimed but the ball slipped through his fingers and into the net.

After completely dominating the meeting between the sides in Denmark last month without putting the matter beyond doubt, City appeared to have finished the job in quick fashion.

Yet for all their dominance and control of possession, the hosts were caught out by a rare Copenhagen break on the half-hour.

Defence was turned into attack as Elyounoussi broke down the left, found Orri Oskarsson inside the box and then took his backheel return to slot a fine goal beyond Ederson.

That at least gave Copenhagen’s vociferous following something to savour but City were hardly unsettled.

Haaland restored a two-goal advantage on the night on the stroke of half-time when he controlled a lofted Rodri pass, cut inside and then buried a low shot inside the near post.

City eased off in the second half and cruised towards the final whistle.

To their credit, Copenhagen, as manager Jacob Neestrup had promised, refused to throw in the towel and, despite seeing little of the ball, did manage to piece together some attacks.

Substitute Magnus Mattsson even tested Ederson with a sharp shot on the turn and Elyounoussi blasted over.

City almost added another in stoppage time when Rico Lewis hit the bar.

Erling Haaland plundered five goals as holders Manchester City powered into the FA Cup quarter-finals with a 6-2 victory at Luton.

The Norwegian notched a first-half hat-trick at Kenilworth Road to put City 3-0 up, with Kevin De Bruyne providing the assist for each of the goals.

After Luton replied with efforts from Jordan Clark just prior to and just after the interval, Haaland notched his fourth – De Bruyne again registering an assist – and then a fifth, before Mateo Kovacic completed the rout.

Championship leaders Leicester pulled off a 1-0 win at Bournemouth thanks to an extra-time effort from substitute Abdul Fatawu.

Fatawu sent a fine shot past Cherries goalkeeper Mark Travers in the final minute of the first half of the additional period.

Newcastle are also through after getting past Blackburn 4-3 on penalties after a 1-1 draw over 120 minutes at Ewood Park.

The contest went to spot-kicks after Sammie Szmodics’ 79th-minute equaliser for the Championship hosts cancelled out Anthony Gordon’s effort eight minutes earlier.

In the shootout Martin Dubravka made saves to deny Szmodics and Dominic Hyam as the Magpies prevailed.

Pep Guardiola praised the “generosity” of Kevin De Bruyne after he set up four of Erling Haaland’s five goals as Manchester City thrashed Luton at Kenilworth Road to reach the FA Cup quarter-finals.

Haaland, who returned at the end of January from nearly two months out, grabbed the headlines with his finishing but this 6-2 win owed every bit as much to De Bruyne, the architect of four of his team-mate’s haul and a devastating creative presence throughout.

The pair combined for City’s opener inside three minutes. Matheus Nunes fed the Belgian with a clever reverse pass, releasing him into a channel down the left, and the cutback came to the left foot of Haaland who wrapped his boot around it for 1-0.

The same combination created the second, this time a pass threaded through the middle ended with Haaland fending off defender Teden Mengi and crashing it through the legs of Tim Krul.

The third arrived before the break, with VAR required to adjudicate that the Norwegian had successfully stayed onside as he set off to reach De Bruyne’s through-ball, chipping his finish over the goalkeeper.

Luton fought gamely in spite of the Haaland onslaught. Jordan Clark curled one brilliantly beyond Stefan Ortega at the end of the half, offering Rob Edwards’ side hope, before thumping in another at the near post after the break as the home fans sniffed a famous fightback.

They were given all of three minutes to dream. Haaland and City’s fourth was another tap-in from yet another De Bruyne set-up. The fifth cruel on Krul, the ball squirming through the goalkeeper’s body as the cup holders’ top scorer finally declared.

Mateo Kovacic hit a sixth, and Luton could breathe for the final few minutes after Haaland was withdrawn.

“The players read the game perfectly,” said Guardiola. “The connection of Kevin with Erling was great but everyone contributed. Happy to be in the quarter-finals, one game away from Wembley.

“Erling needs a guy with the vision, the quality, the generosity. Kevin is the less selfish player in front of goal. Kevin needs the movement from Erling. We know how aggressive they are.

“Every pass was good. The finishing from Erling was good. We could have scored more, we had two or three more chances, one against one with Krul. But the players read (the game) really well. They did it perfectly.

“My only concern was that Erling had been two months stopped, he couldn’t walk, couldn’t make anything. When you lose two months, that rhythm is not easy to get back.

“Every game he’s getting better. Kevin as well. Step by step, they are coming back.”

The game was only marred for City by the loss of a visibly upset Jack Grealish just before half-time to injury.

“I didn’t speak to the doctor but I think he was complaining a bit about his groin,” said Guardiola. “He felt really good but unfortunately was injured again.

“It’s been a tough season for him. He’ll have to recover well and help us when he’s able to come back.”

Luton boss Edwards reflected on a masterclass from De Bruyne and Haaland.

“There’s no doubt about it, they were incredible,” he said. “The played in the space we gave them and did it very well. But our lads were incredibly brave and bold, and stuck to the task.

“We’re not going change, we just need to get better, to keep improving.”

Erling Haaland scored five of Manchester City’s six goals in a superb individual display as the FA Cup holders thrashed Luton at Kenilworth Road to progress to the quarter-finals.

City’s top scorer made it 27 for the season despite having missed almost two months with a foot injury, driving his team on to a ruthless 6-2 victory, though the win owed as much to the excellent Kevin De Bruyne, architect of four of his team-mate’s goals.

Mateo Kovacic also scored with a worthy strike of his own late on after Jordan Clark had netted either side of the interval to haul Luton from three down to within a single goal. In truth, though, they never really got close to City.

Pep Guardiola’s side were irresistible in the first half, ripping through Luton from all angles with De Bruyne and Haaland at their electric best. It took under three minutes to make their breakthrough.

Manuel Akanji brought it out of defence and fed Matheus Nunes ahead of him on the left. Nunes stood up Amari’i Bell and played a clever reverse pass that split Luton’s back line and ran through to De Bruyne, and he raised his glance to see Haaland waiting to wrap his left boot around the ball and thump it home from 10 yards.

Luton’s Teden Mengi had competed well with Haaland, matching him for power and strength in one-on-one duels, but after 18 minutes the City striker won out and doubled his side’s lead. De Bruyne again was the creator, receiving it from Haaland on halfway and returning it into the Norwegian’s stride. He burst beyond Mengi and crashed it through the legs of Tim Krul with unerring cool.

His hat-trick nearly arrived soon after, a ball threaded through at pace by John Stones finding his run, but this time Krul raced out and blocked. Nunes was next to go close, thrashing wide at the near post after finding space inside the box.

City threatened to run riot. De Bruyne hit a low volley brilliantly beaten out by the right arm of Krul, who was rewarded with good fortune on the rebound when Haaland’s follow-up landed in his gloves.

Luton wanted offside for Haaland’s third, but VAR showed he had timed his run off the shoulder substitute Joe Johnson expertly. The finish, chipped over Krul as he advanced, oozed confidence.

It looked like being a near-perfect half for Guardiola, marred only by the loss of Jack Grealish just before the break to injury.

Then out of nothing, Luton brought a roar from home fans on the stroke of the interval, a brilliant finish sent spinning into Stefan Ortega’s top corner from 25 yards by Clark.

They came at City at the start of the second half with the same ferocity with which the holders had begun the match, and they were rewarded similarly early. Clark was closer to goal this time though the angle was devilish. A shot across the goalkeeper looked to be on, but instead he lashed it towards the near post and beyond Ortega for 3-2.

It gave Kenilworth Road all of three minutes to dream. That was all it took for Haaland to score his and his team’s fourth, De Bruyne again the provider as he squared for a simple tap-in.

His fifth was harsh on Krul, a left-foot drive squirming through the goalkeeper as though bamboozled by City’s dizzying onslaught. Haaland had scored five in under an hour.

Kovacic added his name to the scoresheet, rifling one in in the 72nd minute to deepen Luton’s misery.

There was at least late respite when Haaland was brought off in the closing stages. It had been his and City’s night.

Erling Haaland’s goal against Brentford means he has scored against every opponent he has faced in the Premier League.

Here, the PA news agency looks at the prolific Norway international’s Manchester City record.

Full house

Chelsea, Liverpool and Brentford were the only teams not to concede to Haaland in his astonishing debut season in England, when he won the Premier League Golden Boot with 36 goals in 33 games.

He ticked off Chelsea and Liverpool in successive league games either side of November’s international break and, having failed to score in this season’s first meeting with the Bees, has had to wait until Tuesday’s postponed return fixture to complete the set of 21 opponents he has faced.

He has yet to play against Luton, having missed December’s fixture while injured, so April’s game at the Etihad Stadium will bring the chance to add a 22nd name to his perfect record.

Tuesday night’s effort means Haaland now has 53 goals in 55 Premier League appearances.

Favourite opponents

Haaland’s best Premier League scoring record is against derby rivals Manchester United as well as Fulham, with five goals in three games against each.

He hit a hat-trick at home to United last season and a double at Old Trafford this term, while scoring in both of last season’s meetings with the Cottagers and adding a treble in September.

He has four goals against each of Crystal Palace, in two appearances, and Nottingham Forest, West Ham and Wolves in three apiece and Everton in four, with hat-tricks against all but the Hammers and Toffees.

He has three against both Brighton and Southampton while he has scored in every game against Fulham, Everton, West Ham (three games each), Palace, Saints (two), Leicester and Sheffield United (one).

Aston Villa, Brentford, Bournemouth, Newcastle and Tottenham, in three games each, Liverpool in two and the Blades in one have conceded only once to Haaland.

Record books

Harry Kane also scored against every Premier League opponent he faced, a total of 32 clubs, during his time with Tottenham – a brief loan at Norwich early in his career did not yield any of his eventual 213 goals in the competition.

Frank Lampard holds the record for scoring Premier League goals against the most clubs overall, with his 39 one more than Andy Cole, but neither player scored against every opponent they faced.

Third on that list with 37 opponents is the league’s record scorer Alan Shearer, whose 20 goals against Leeds is the most by one player against a single opponent.

Pep Guardiola admitted his side needed the killer instinct of Erling Haaland after they edged out Brentford 1-0 in a nervy encounter that left his side one point behind Premier League leaders Liverpool.

Haaland settled the contest in the 71st minute when he punished a slip from Kristoffer Ajer, running from the halfway line to slot the ball under the unfortunate Mark Flekken, who had another outstanding match against the reigning champions.

After a week in which Guardiola had to answer questions about the Norwegian star, whose misses proved costly in Saturday’s 1-1 draw with Chelsea, Haaland made no mistake with one of the very few clear chances a well-organised Brentford side afforded City on the night.

“If I had to choose one (player), I choose this one,” Guardiola said of the moment.

It was Haaland’s third goal in seven games since returning from the foot injury that sidelined him for two months. Last week, he mourned the death of his grandmother Tone Rascal, mother of his father Alf-Inge, at the age of 80.

Asked if he had needed to speak to the striker, Guardiola said: “We spoke about the moment and I realised this later, but he didn’t say anything about the passing away of his grandmother. We talked about how he feels and of course for his father.

“In this type of game like Brentford, you need Erling. With not much space, you can play with a typical striker.”

City struggled to break down a determined Brentford side. Kevin De Bruyne was kept on the bench throughout the night, not even emerging to warm up with the game in the balance, and Guardiola revealed the Belgian playmaker had a hamstring issue, having already missed five months of the season.

“Today we could not use Kevin because he had niggles in his hamstring and I didn’t want to take risk,” he said, adding: “He’s okay. It’s just a precaution but he didn’t feel comfortable and so after five months off we didn’t take any risk.”

Brentford had defended doggedly before the goal, more than once having all 11 players inside their own box in open play. Bernardo Silva headed a glorious chance wide before Oscar Bobb created space only to shoot straight at Flekken, but otherwise there were few real opportunities.

Having taken six points off City last season, Brentford threatened to do damage to their title bid again this time before Haaland stepped in – he has now scored against all 21 opponents he has faced in the Premier League.

“I think throughout the game we were brilliant, I’m very proud and pleased with the players’ performance,” Bees manager Thomas Frank said. “They believed and it gives me a lot of belief in them going forwards.

“The way we defended the whole game was magnificent in terms of structure, defensive principles, urgency. Before the goal, we gave away the header to Bernardo Silva and the Oscar Bobb chance and it was two big chances. If you can limit City to two big chances, you have done a very good job.

“If (Ajer) doesn’t slip I’m convinced it would not be a goal. Haaland is quick but Kristoffer is as quick. City are good so they don’t need the margins going their way.”

Erling Haaland came to Manchester City’s rescue as the off-colour champions eked out a nervy 1-0 win over Brentford in the Premier League on Tuesday.

The prolific Norwegian, who spurned a host of chances in a frustrating draw with Chelsea at the weekend, returned to form as he broke the deadlock in a tight encounter at the Etihad Stadium after 71 minutes.

The win lifted City above Arsenal into second in the table, one point behind leaders Liverpool, having played the same number of games in what is shaping up to be a tight title race.

Pep Guardiola’s side dominated the first half, but the second period was proving a frustrating affair until Haaland broke clear of the Bees defence to slot home a fine finish.

Brentford were the last team to beat City at home in November 2022 and, having also tested them in a 3-1 loss earlier this month, again caused them problems.

City, with Kevin De Bruyne on the bench, started the brighter, with Haaland shooting at Mark Flekken after just three minutes and Phil Foden also forcing a save and having another effort blocked.

But Brentford, to their credit, were not content to sit back and did pose a threat on the counter-attack.

Yoane Wissa was denied a chance to shoot by a fine John Stones tackle and Frank Onyeka should have done better than firing straight at Ederson after being played through on goal.

Ivan Toney also shot narrowly over from a free-kick, but the hosts then laid siege to the Bees’ goal and it was remarkable the opening period ended scoreless.

Julian Alvarez twice missed the target before Bernardo Silva planted a header the wrong side of a post from close range.

Manuel Akanji had a good strike from distance tipped over by Flekken and Ruben Dias saw a header pushed away.

Oscar Bobb looked certain to score after skipping around Christian Norgaard, but Ben Mee stretched to clear off the line.

Brentford ended the first half with another chance as an Onyeka header was claimed at full stretch by Ederson and City were surprisingly slow to get going again after the break.

Guardiola tried to enliven proceedings by introducing Jeremy Doku on the hour, but the Bees responded by sending on the abrasive Neal Maupay, who clashed with Kyle Walker in the sides’ recent meeting.

After Foden blazed an attempt well over, it began to look like it might take something special to break the deadlock and that moment duly arrived 19 minutes from time.

Brentford were pushing forward, but their attack was broken up and the ball quickly moved forward, with Rodri finding Alvarez and the Argentinian releasing Haaland.

The Norwegian still had more than half the length of the field to run, but he was quickly into his stride and breezed past a stumbling Kristoffer Ajer before slotting past Flekken from the edge of the area.

The goal was greeted with much relief, but Brentford were not done and Toney shot narrowly over after Dias gave away possession.

City might have had more late on, with Haaland having a header disallowed for offside and Flekken twice saving from Foden.

Pep Guardiola refused to blame Erling Haaland for wasting chances after Manchester City were held to a frustrating 1-1 draw by Chelsea on Saturday.

The normally prolific Haaland spurned a number of opportunities, including one glaring free header from six yards out, as the champions were held in a compelling Premier League clash at the Etihad Stadium.

City ultimately needed an 83rd-minute equaliser from Rodri to rescue a point after their former forward Raheem Sterling had put the Londoners on course for an unexpected win with a 43rd-minute effort.

City manager Guardiola said: “It’s good to have nine shots and next time he’s going to score.

“I was a football player for 11 years and scored 11 goals. What stats! One goal a season. I’m not a proper man to give advice to strikers.

“We create the chances; he had the chances and next time he’s going to score. I don’t blame him. It’s football, it’s human beings.”

Haaland looked frustrated at the end of the game and pushed away a TV camera, but it has been a difficult week for the Norway international after the death of his grandmother.

The result left City four points off the top of the table in third place, after title rivals Liverpool and Arsenal won earlier in the day.

City dominated the second half, but Guardiola felt they paid the price for a poor first-half display.

Guardiola said: “As a team and a group, the first half was not like we are.

“The demands are so high because no-one is going to give it to us, we have to do everything. We are Man City, so we have to do it for ourselves all the time.

“We had to improve the first half and the second half was unbelievable, how we played and how we made transitions.

“In general, it was really good after we conceded from Raheem but when we play teams with composure and prestige of Chelsea you have to perform at your best for 95 minutes.”

Chelsea’s season has been one of inconsistency, but manager Mauricio Pochettino felt they showed their true character against strong opposition.

Pochettino said: “We tried to prepare, all the coaching staff, to make the plan for the game but football is always a game that belongs to the players and today the execution and the performance was from them. They showed character.

“It was a really important game for us to keep the momentum to realise we are in a good way and improving.

“Still we are not at the level of Man City but that is our aim.

“We need to live this type of game to improve and to create the spirit we need. We show in every single game we want to be competitive.”

Phil Foden feels he is in the form of his life as he eyes a second successive treble with Manchester City.

The England midfielder stepped up in the injury-enforced absence of Kevin De Bruyne to thrive in a central role in numerous games in the first half of the season.

De Bruyne’s return to action over the past month has seen Foden’s position vary since but his performance levels have rarely dipped.

Playing alongside De Bruyne, the 23-year-old again excelled in Tuesday’s Champions League victory at FC Copenhagen, capping a fine display with an eighth goal in 10 outings.

“I think it’s the most run of games that I’ve played in a City shirt consistently,” said Foden. “I’m in good form, scoring consistently and helping the team as much as I can and I’m delighted with that.

“I want to keep doing that, that’s the goal every game. I’d say I’m playing my best football in a City shirt.”

Foden has been touted for big things since he was in City’s junior ranks but it is now over six years since he made his senior debut.

When prolific striker Erling Haaland joined De Bruyne on the sidelines in December, Foden felt it was time he took responsibility.

“I think I had to,” said Foden, who scored a hat-trick in last week’s Premier League win at Brentford. “They are two massive players for us, so key last year for us winning the treble. It was time for me to step up.”

City’s 3-1 win in Copenhagen in the first leg of their last-16 tie was their 11th in succession in all competitions.

They are strongly fancied to defend all three of the major trophies they won last season and Foden has no doubt the team have the hunger to do so.

He said: “We’re showing that we’re still determined and playing the same football as last year and still wanting to win all the games. Hopefully that continues and we don’t drop our level or form.

“We’re focused. We stick by each other and it’s a pleasure to be a part of this team. I look around the dressing room and I still see the determination and hunger.”

Foden has made no secret of his preference to play in a central position, something which became a matter of national debate earlier this season when England manager Gareth Southgate selected him in a wide role.

Foden said: “I’ve said previously that I prefer to play in the middle but I’ll do a job wherever the manager puts me. Tuesday I was out wide, and I got a goal and an assist. I’m delighted.”

Pep Guardiola has told Erling Haaland to focus more on getting his body language right than scoring goals.

The Manchester City manager admitted to being concerned about the prolific Norwegian’s demeanour since his return to action following a two-month lay-off with a foot injury.

Guardiola feels the striker has been preoccupied with adding to his remarkable goal tally and wants him to relax more.

He thinks Saturday’s victory over Everton was a good example, when Haaland had a quiet first half before netting twice late on to secure a 2-0 success.

Guardiola, speaking in Denmark at a press conference to preview Tuesday’s Champions League last-16 clash with FC Copenhagen, said: “Erling is young, playing in the most difficult position on the pitch surrounded by four or five players with minor space.

“In the first half maybe we didn’t have the special delivery players, like Kevin (De Bruyne) for example, who can find him.

“In that moment he has to be positive. When he scored a goal, he reacted but he doesn’t need to score because he helps us for many things.

“He is defined on goals but it is not just scoring a goal. As much it’s how he is clapping, encouraging his mates and the first intense press. This is what we need from Erling.

“But we cannot forget he has been two months out, which is a lot of time for a guy who is so tall.

“Back to the dynamic is not easy. He’s a huge competitor who wants to score goals. OK, we know that, so relax.

“If we don’t score today, or if he doesn’t score in 10 minutes, it’s OK. In the process he has to try because the team always wins when they overcome bad moments.”

Guardiola did stress this was a minor problem and he has no doubts about the 23-year-old.

“It looks like I am complaining about Erling but it was in general,” the City boss said. “How many games did Erling play and how many goals? His body language is not a problem.

“If he doesn’t score tomorrow, the day after or next week, it’s not a big issue.

“He’s so strong. It comes from nature. He’s coped perfectly because he’s so strong mentally. He scores one goal and wants a second and a third.

“You see his numbers at his age. In the Champions League not even (Lionel) Messi or Cristiano (Ronaldo) had these numbers at his age.”

City are hoping to silence a raucous atmosphere at Parken to take the initiative after the first leg of their tie against Copenhagen.

The Danes have not played competitively for two months due to their winter break but Guardiola expects a stern challenge from a side that finished above Manchester United and Galatasaray in their group.

He said: “I would say they are starving to compete and hungry and have full energy, fresh in legs and mind.

“I don’t know the rhythm but they have had lots of time to prepare for the game. Hopefully we can be in a good level to compete.

“It’s back to business in the competition but huge respect for the opponents. It was not an easy group and they did really well in all the games.”

Erling Haaland was pleased to get back on the scoresheet as Manchester City’s momentum continued to gather with a hard-fought 2-0 win over Everton.

The prolific Norwegian scored his first goals since returning to action from a foot injury as his late double finally saw off the resilient Toffees at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday.

It was the champions’ 10th victory in succession in all competitions and briefly took them back to the top of the table prior to rivals Liverpool’s defeat of Burnley later in the day.

With Haaland back in tandem with Kevin De Bruyne, who has also returned from his own lengthy lay-off, last season’s treble winners are in a strong position as they approach the decisive phase of the campaign.

“It’s a fantastic feeling,” said Haaland, whose first 19 goals of the season came before he was sidelined in early December.

“It’s fantastic to be back and it’s also good to keep on winning. That’s important and we have to keep going.

“We have already been on quite a good run. It is a good thing to start to click now. That’s never bad. It’s in the next few months when you win things, so we keep going.”

City found it tough to break down the stubborn Merseysiders, who are caught up in another relegation battle after their 10-point deduction earlier in the season.

The breakthrough came soon after manager Pep Guardiola introduced the lively De Bruyne and Kyle Walker off the bench, and it was Haaland who delivered the blow as Everton struggled to clear a 70th-minute corner.

De Bruyne then played in Haaland to secure the result five minutes from time.

“Back to normal finally,” said Haaland. “It’s good to be back to normal.

“We knew how the game was going to be and they were going to make it difficult for us.

“But we knew if we trusted ourselves it was going to be really difficult for (Everton). That’s what we did and in the end it was fantastic to win.”

Everton remain in the bottom three despite having won enough points to have been in a comfortable mid-table position.

Defender James Tarkowski insists the players are not downbeat about the situation.

“There’s no drop-off here,” he said. “We’re ready to go again. Don’t worry about us. We’re ready to go no matter what.

“It’s been a good season for us. I’m not disappointed. We’re going well. We’ve got a few lads coming back soon, so the squad’s looking strong and ready to play.

“I felt we played really well and then just a couple of minor details cost us.”

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