Do you want to head into the World Cup break top of your fantasy league? Well, you're running out of time!

This weekend will be the penultimate round of games before a Premier League hiatus for Qatar 2022, with real-life teams aiming to get themselves in as strong a position as possible ahead of the Boxing Day resumption.

On the fantasy football front, given how tricky and unpredictable everything is likely to be after the World Cup, this is arguably a vital couple of weeks.

That's where Stats Perform hopes to help. They have delved into the Opta numbers to identify four players who appear smart choices beyond your obvious picks such as Erling Haaland and Kevin De Bruyne.

Danny Ward (Everton v Leicester City)

This might sound like a rogue choice given he conceded 22 goals in Leicester's first seven league games this term, but the Foxes have improved defensively of late.

That's highlighted by the fact Ward has kept clean sheets in four of his past six appearances in the Premier League, with no one matching that figure since the start of October.

In his first seven games, Ward let in 4.7 goals more than he should have according to Opta, but his goals prevented since stands at 1.0 – he's certainly turned his form around.

Kieran Trippier (Southampton v Newcastle United)

Obviously, the trick to picking defenders in fantasy football is choosing those who are likely to keep clean sheets and also able to offer a threat going forward – Trippier is marking himself out as the ideal candidate.

Since his first Newcastle game in the Premier League, he is one of just five defenders to reach five goal involvements and contribute to at least seven clean sheets. Trippier's also played the fewest minutes of those players.

Six of those clean sheets have been kept this season, with Newcastle's defensive solidity impressing pundits, while his 31 chances created is a Premier League-high for defenders, highlighting his attacking threat.

Leandro Trossard (Wolves v Brighton and Hove Albion)

It's been a peculiar season in general for Brighton, though Trossard's form has been one of few constants.

The Seagulls will hope that last weekend's battering of their former manager Graham Potter's Chelsea side will bring momentum, and that could see Trossard – arguably in the former of his Premier League career – become even livelier.

After all, only four players have more goals (seven) than the Belgian this term, with his record of a goal involvement every 126 minutes roughly twice as good as his previous best over a full campaign (one every 255 minutes).

Callum Wilson (Southampton v Newcastle United)

Eddie Howe has attracted a lot of praise for making Newcastle sound defensively, but they also continue to possess a potent attacking unit and Wilson is central to that.

Not only does he have eight goal involvements to his name this term (six scored, one assisted), Wilson's record of one goal every 117 minutes in the Premier League in 2022 (936 minutes) is his second-best return over a calendar year in the top flight after 2015, when he only played 543 minutes.

He travels to Southampton with huge confidence, having had a hand in three goals against Aston Villa last time out, the first time he's managed that in over two years.

Erling Haaland's Manchester City progress will be down to Pep Guardiola's ego, says Zlatan Ibrahimovic, while the striker also thinks Kylian Mbappe made a mistake staying with Paris Saint-Germain.

Norway international Haaland arrived at the Etihad Stadium during the last transfer window from Borussia Dortmund and has thus far lived up to the hype that surrounded his signing.

With 22 goals in a combined 15 games between the Premier League and Champions League already, the sky appears to be the limit for the forward this season.

But veteran Milan attacker Ibrahimovic, while a fan of the Leeds-born striker, fears his progress could be stymied by Guardiola, a coach whom he famously failed to connect with at Barcelona.

"Can Guardiola make Haaland even stronger? It depends on Guardiola's ego, if he lets him become bigger than him or not," the Sweden international told Canal+.

"He didn't let me get bigger, me [and] others. Not only me, [but] many others [too]. I like Haaland, very much so. I think he is a very intelligent player. He doesn't do things he is not capable of."

Ibrahimovic also weighed in on the future PSG forward Mbappe, whose next step remains the subject of feverish speculation.

The France attacker penned an extension to stay with the Ligue 1 champions, turning down a move to Real Madrid, but has reportedly seen his working relationships subsequently break down at the club.

On whether he should have made the switch to LaLiga, Ibrahimovic added: "He made the right choice for Paris, not for himself.

"He put himself in a situation where is more important than the club. Then the club gave him the keys for that. But you are never bigger than a club."

Salzburg will have to do what no other Austrian side has done before at Milan to qualify for the Champions League knockout stages, while Jude Bellingham has his eyes on an achievement managed by only two players previously.

The Rossoneri need only a point from the game at San Siro and the historical facts suggest they will achieve their aim to make it out of Group E.

For Bellingham, he can put his name in the record books alongside former team-mate Erling Haaland and Kylian Mbappe by scoring for Borussia Dortmund at Copenhagen.

There is plenty to play for as the Champions League group stage wraps up on Wednesday, and Stats Perform has trawled through the data to shine a light on the most interesting angles.

Milan v Salzburg

With a win, Salzburg will advance to the knockout stages for the second consecutive season after never making it out of the group stage previously.

They will need to defy the odds on their trip to Milan, where the Italian side are undefeated in home fixtures against Austrian opponents in the competition (W4 D1), while averaging 3.8 goals per game.

Salzburg have never beaten Milan in their three previous Champions League meetings, but after losing the first two, they collected their first point with a 1-1 draw in this campaign's reverse fixture.

While Olivier Giroud became the oldest player in Champions League history to reach 20 goals (36 years old) during Milan's win at Dinamo Zagreb last time out, Salzburg boast the youngest starting XI in the competition with an average age of 22 years and 279 days.

Shakhtar Donetsk v RB Leipzig

Shakhtar have only won one game in the group stage, but sit three points behind second-placed. A win would see them through to the knockout stages for the third time in the past four seasons.

The reverse-fixture was a memorable one for Shakhtar and exciting young winger Mykhailo Mudryk, who showed why he is so in-demand with a goal and two assists in a 4-1 away win.

Unfortunately for the Ukrainian side, that was their only victory from their past 12 Champions League matches (D6 L5).

Meanwhile, Leipzig have found some form in the competition, with back-to-back victories against Celtic before making it three wins in a row when they beat Real Madrid 3-2.

Manchester City v Sevilla

City are eyeing an undefeated group stage when they host Sevilla, having only conceded one goal in total from their five games until this point.

English sides have given Sevilla trouble for years now, with their last Champions League win over a Premier League team coming back in 2007 against Arsenal. 

If Jorge Sampaoli's side are to stand any chance of a shock win, they will need to pay special attention to Jack Grealish, who has impressed in the group stage with 10 chances created from open play, the most in Pep Guardiola's squad.

Maccabi Haifa v Benfica

If Juventus can salvage even a draw in their clash with Paris Saint-Germain, then Benfica will be able to win Group H by defeating Maccabi Haifa.

It has been a special run of form for Benfica, who for the first time since 1990 have gone six Champions League games without a loss (W3 D3).

Maccabi will have their backs against the wall, as only Malmo have a worse winning percentage (17 per cent) than their 24 per cent among teams to have played at least 15 Champions League games.

Also working in Benfica's favour is manager Roger Schmidt's record in the competition. Between his time with Bayer Leverkusen (2014-2017) and Benfica in this campaign, his run of 13 games unbeaten is the most by any active manager qualified for this season's Champions League.

Other fixtures:

Juventus v Paris Saint-Germain

- Juventus are looking to avoid becoming the second Italian side to ever lose five matches in a Champions League group stage, after Roma in 2004-05.

- Paris Saint-Germain's Kylian Mbappe has six goals in the group stage. With one more he can tie Christopher Nkunku (last season) for the most by a French player in a single group stage, while with two more he can tie Zlatan Ibrahimovic's club-record of eight in 2013-14.

Copenhagen v Borussia Dortmund

60  - Despite Copenhagen still being without a win in Group G, they have kept a clean sheet in 60 per cent (nine-of-15) of their Champions League home games – the best ratio of any team with at least 10 appearances.

- With a goal, Bellingham can become just the third teenager to ever score in all three away games in a Champions League group stage, following Mbappe (2017-18) and Haaland (2019-20).

Chelsea v Dinamo Zagreb

10  - Chelsea are undefeated in their past 10 group stage games in the Champions League dating back to September 2019 (W6 D4). Over that period, they are averaging 2.3 goals per game.

10  - Along with City's Grealish, Chelsea's Mason Mount is the only other Premier League player from this Champions League campaign to tally at least 10 shots and 10 chances created.

Real Madrid v Celtic

20  - Since the beginning of last season's Champions League, no player has been involved in more open-play sequences that have resulted in a goal than Real Madrid's Vinicius Junior (20).

14  - Celtic's Matt O'Riley has attempted the most shots in the Champions League this season without scoring, with no goals from his 14 shots.

Julian Alvarez says it is "a privilege" to play with Erling Haaland at Manchester City, calling the Norway forward "the best in the world".

The two were among the fresh faces at the Etihad Stadium ahead of the 2021-22 campaign, brought in to fill an attacking void left by the departure of Sergio Aguero a year prior.

Despite superb form during his final months at River Plate, Alvarez has found himself playing second fiddle to former Borussia Dortmund attacker Haaland, who has been almost unstoppable.

But the Argentina international believes it is an honour to call the Leeds-born forward his team-mate, and thinks the pair will learn from each other over the course of their partnership at City.

"First and foremost, it’s a privilege playing with him," Alvarez said ahead of Wednesday's Champions League clash with Sevilla. "It is always great to play alongside the best in the world.

"I have played with him and without him and I think we can learn from each other both ways. I like he always wants to bring the best to the team.

"We’re very different players, but people have to adapt to different types of play and different styles when players line up. I like to occupy different positions on the pitch.

"In River I had other players who were big goalscorers so the same thing happened. I'm used to these types of situations.

"I trust in myself and in my own ability and know the other players trust me as well. It’s important that however way we can, we win."

Alvarez has managed just five starts across 16 appearances this term in all competitions, though three of those have come in the Champions League.

Haaland will sit out City's final group-stage game after he missed the Premier League win over Leicester, though he could return for their next top-flight game against Fulham on Saturday.

Manchester City coach Pep Guardiola is hopeful of Erling Haaland returning from injury at the weekend and feels optimistic Kalvin Phillips and Kyle Walker will be fit before the World Cup.

Haaland, who has scored 17 goals in 11 Premier League games this season, missed the weekend win over Leicester City due to an ankle ligament problem.

The striker sustained the issue during City's 0-0 Champions League draw at his former club Borussia Dortmund last week, with Haaland withdrawn at half-time.

Guardiola confirmed on Saturday that Haaland would also miss Wednesday's visit of Sevilla, with City's confirmation as group winners meaning there is no need to take risks.

But he is seemingly positive about the prospect of Haaland returning in time to face Fulham at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday.

"He feels better. Comparing to Saturday, Sunday, Monday, every day he feels better, but he's still not 100 per cent," Guardiola said.

"We don't want to take a risk, there's no sense. Hopefully we have him and he feels better. Hopefully we have him against Fulham."

Fellow pre-season signing Phillips has been a longer-term absentee after hurting his shoulder in a friendly game against Barcelona in August.

The former Leeds United midfielder – who has played just one minute of Premier League football this season – ended up requiring surgery and has been out since mid-September.

He is now getting close to a return to action, though Guardiola was unsure if he will be risked for City before the World Cup.

"I don't know, he's doing really partial training sessions with the team, I would say not contact yet," Guardiola added. "But we'll see, we'll see his evolution and of course the needs.

"I know how important the World Cup is but I don't use a player I don't think is ready, in terms of the physicality or the rhythm or whatever, it depends on the results.

"My feeling now is all the games will be tight, like at the end of the season – many thoughts will be with the World Cup, many things involved, tired for the amount of games in a short period of time, so I don't think against Fulham, just for the quality of the opponent.

"Even Brentford – these aren't games that in the first half are going to be done. They will be tight, similar to the game against Leicester, so we evaluate the conditions of every player."

Guardiola suggested Walker – who had groin surgery early last month – remains a bit behind Phillips on the comeback trail, but despite that and being unwilling to commit to playing the latter in the next few weeks, the Catalan was positive about their chances of featuring in Qatar.

"It's likely [they can be ready], the way they recover," he said. "I don't know the intentions for Gareth [Southgate, England manager], but it's likely.

"I think [Southgate] spoke with them regularly, and with the doctors. They know exactly better than me, but what I hear in the dressing rooms is it's likely they can be ready. [They are desperate] you don't play a World Cup every week."

England begin their World Cup campaign on November 21 against Iran.

Erling Haaland missed Manchester City's game at Leicester City on Saturday after the Norway international's early midweek substitution in the Champions League.

The former Borussia Dortmund striker left the action at half-time against his former club, with manager Pep Guardiola subsequently stating the striker was nursing a foot problem and a fever.

Haaland, who has scored a breathtaking 17 Premier League goals in 11 games already this term, had hoped to pass a late fitness test to feature for his side's trip to the King Power Stadium.

But with the teams in, it was revealed the 22-year-old had lost the battle to feature, with Guardiola instead favouring a front three of Julian Alvarez flanked by Bernardo Silva and Jack Grealish.

Phil Foden and former Leicester player Riyad Mahrez were on the bench for visitors City, who were looking to jump ahead of league leaders Arsenal.

Victory for the visitors would see them vault to the top of the table, to increase the pressure on Mikel Arteta's Gunners, who face Nottingham Forest on Sunday.

Manchester City will assess Erling Haaland ahead of their Premier League clash with Leicester City after his half-time withdrawal against Borussia Dortmund in midweek.

Haaland's return to the Signal Iduna Park was ended prematurely on Wednesday due to a fever and a knock.

City travel to face the Foxes in Saturday's early kick-off for a game that gives them the chance to put pressure on Arsenal, who host Nottingham Forest on Sunday, by leapfrogging them at the top of the table.

But it is still unclear whether they will have Haaland at their disposal.

Speaking at a press conference ahead of the visit to the King Power Stadium, Pep Guardiola said of his star striker: "He feels better but we will train this afternoon [Friday] and we will assess in a few hours.

"We will see how he is feeling and then we will decide."

Haaland has made a blistering start to life in the Premier League following his move from Dortmund.

He has scored 17 goals in 11 Premier League appearances this season, already the joint-second most by a Norwegian player in a single campaign (Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, 18 in 1996-97). His goals have been worth 11 points, the most for a City player in a single campaign since Raheem Sterling in 2017-18 (also 11).

Should he be unable to feature against Leicester, Julian Alvarez would likely take his place at the heart of the attack.

The 22-year-old has scored twice in nine league games for City, of which he has started just one.

Despite his limited time in the XI, Guardiola has complete faith in Alvarez's ability to fill the void.

"If Haaland doesn't play, then Alvarez is the natural first option to replace him. I don't judge Julian on how many goals he has scored," added Guardiola.

"Play 90 minutes every game and he will score goals, maybe not like Erling, but he will score goals."

Manchester United rejected suggestions to pursue the likes of Erling Haaland, Dusan Vlahovic and Christopher Nkunku, claims former interim manager Ralf Rangnick.

Rangnick endured a torrid six-month spell at Old Trafford last season, leading United to their lowest points tally in Premier League history (58) after succeeding Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

United's woes were exacerbated by a lack of attacking firepower during his final few months in charge, with Anthony Martial being loaned out to Sevilla and Mason Greenwood suspended by the club.

Rangnick has now revealed he suggested several big-name transfer targets to United's hierarchy – including now-Manchester City talisman Haaland, but was overruled. 

"One Sunday, they informed me of Greenwood's troubles, and Martial was already gone," Rangnick recalled when speaking to BILD.

"We needed strikers to play three competitions, I told the board that we should figure out whether to sign some players, but I was told no. 

"I had made realistic names, such as [Josko] Gvardiol and [Christopher] Nkunku of RB Leipzig. 

"Or even [Alvaro] Morata, Luis Diaz, [Dusan] Vlahovic and even Erling Haaland, when he was still on the market. The club decided to rebuild the squad with another coach."

While United have made a decent start to life under Rangnick's successor Erik ten Hag, they will likely be ruing their failure to land Haaland, who has scored 17 goals in 11 league games for City.

Meanwhile, Vlahovic has six goals in 10 Serie A outings for Juventus this season, and Leipzig's versatile attacker Nkunku is reportedly a target for Chelsea after recording 55 goal involvements in all competitions last campaign.

Erling Haaland was withdrawn at half-time in Manchester City's Champions League draw with Borussia Dortmund due to a fever and a knock to the foot.

City were held to a 0-0 draw at Signal Iduna Park on Tuesday, with Haaland taken off at the break after an uncharacteristically quiet first half.

Pep Guardiola confirmed after the match that the Norway striker – and Joao Cancelo, who was also brought off at half-time – had been struggling before the game with a minor illness.

Haaland also received a blow to the foot, though Guardiola did not suggest his condition was of major concern, with the striker appearing jovial as he greeted his former Dortmund team-mates on the pitch at full-time.

"Erling didn't feel good, he had a little fever before the game, Joao as well," Guardiola told BT Sport.

"[Haaland] had a knock in the feet. That's why we changed it, and in that period we struggled a lot."

The draw was enough for City to secure their progress as Group G winners, with Dortmund also confirming qualification for the last 16.

However, City should have left with all three points.

Riyad Mahrez won a second-half penalty following a clumsy Emre Can foul but his resulting spot-kick was saved by Gregor Kobel.

That was the 25th occasion of City failing to convert a penalty since Guardiola took over in 2016 (out of a possible 80), more than any other Premier League side over the same period.

"Of course it's a problem. Since I'm here it's 24 or 25 penalties [missed], most of them in the Champions League," Guardiola said.

"It's too much. I always admire the courage, the responsibility [to take a penalty], but of course we miss a lot and it's a problem.

"We have to improve otherwise these little details, these margins in this competition, it's the difference [between success and failure]."

It was also Mahrez's third penalty failure in his past four attempts, though Guardiola is not going to stop him taking future spot-kicks.

"I admire the courage. Riyad, with the last penalties scored a lot last season in important moments, so in that situation I admire the courage," he added.

"If he feels [able] next time he has a penalty, he's going to take it. But of course we have to improve."

Manchester City sealed their Champions League progress as group winners despite Riyad Mahrez missing a penalty and Erling Haaland being kept quiet on his return to Borussia Dortmund in a 0-0 draw.

Pep Guardiola's rode their luck at times on Tuesday and also wasted a glorious chance to claim victory at Signal Iduna Park, but they always knew a point would be enough to win Group G.

That did not always look a given, though. City could not handle Karim Adeyemi before half-time, the young forward teeing up team-mates three times and also missing a presentable chance of his own.

The away side looked brighter after Haaland's half-time withdrawal, but the Norwegian surely would have taken the penalty that Mahrez had saved; it had no bearing on City's main objective, however.

City's first fortunate escape came as Dortmund threatened in the 16th minute, Adeyemi hitting a feeble effort at Stefan Ortega after being released into the right side of the box.

He showed greater composure in a similar scenario a few moments later, opting to pass across the area to Giovanni Reyna, but the American's eventual shot was tame.

More good work from Adeyemi went unrewarded just past the half-hour mark, with Youssoufa Moukoko inexplicably missing the target from close range after latching on to a square pass.

Guardiola responded to City's lack of control by bringing Bernardo Silva on for Haaland.

The change had the desired effect, but it meant the lethal Haaland was unavailable for penalty duties after Emre Can clumsily fouled Mahrez, whose subsequent spot-kick was saved by Gregor Kobel.

A Julian Alvarez snapshot was also parried by Kobel, who ensured Dortmund held on to the point that takes them through.


Benfica could dump Juventus out of the Champions League, while Paris Saint-Germain and Chelsea are among the other clubs who can seal a round-of-16 spot on Tuesday.

Juve must win at Benfica to have any chance from qualifying from Group H, while a victory will be enough to see the home side through. They can also advance with a point if Maccabi Haifa are unable to beat PSG.

The Ligue 1 champions will be through with a victory at the Parc des Princes or if they draw and Juve fail to win in Lisbon.

Chelsea travel to Salzburg as the Group E leaders and are guaranteed to progress if they win, while the Austrian side also remain in the hunt to qualify. The Premier League club can also go through if they draw and third-placed Milan defeat Dinamo Zagreb, who are bottom but only three points behind the leaders.

Borussia Dortmund will be sure to join Manchester City in getting out of Group G if they secure a home win over Pep Guardiola's side, who could win the pool with a game to spare. Real Madrid are in a similar situation to City, while RB Leipzig bid to join the holders in the knockout stage.

Ahead of another tense night of action, Stats Perform picks out the standout Opta numbers for the eight matches.

Benfica v Juventus

Juve have lost all three of their European matches away at Benfica, with their most recent loss a 2-1 Europa League defeat in 2014. 

The Turin giants only have one victory home or away in the seven previous meetings between the two famous clubs, Jurgen Kohler, Dino Baggio and Fabrizio Ravanelli on target in a 3-0 UEFA Cup clash in 1993.

Benfica could qualify for the knockout stage for a second consecutive season, a back-to-back feat they have only previously achieved in the 2015-16 and 2016-17 seasons under Rui Vitoria. 

Juve could be eliminated in the group stage of the Champions League for the first time since the 2013-14 season, when Antonio Conte was in charge.

Paris Saint-Germain v Maccabi Haifa

Maccabi are winless in three away European games (including qualifiers) in France, losing two and drawing in a Cup Winners' Cup tie at PSG back in 1998.

PSG have only lost one of their past 32 group stage games at the Parc des Princes in the Champions League (W25 D6), with their lone defeat during that run coming against Manchester United in October 2020 (1-2). They have averaged 2.7 goals per game in those fixtures, scoring 86.

Since Kylian Mbappe's Champions League debut in September 2016, only Robert Lewandowski has been directly involved in more non-penalty goals (55) than the France forward (54 – 34 goals, 20 assists). 

Omer Atzili has scored twice for Maccabi in the Champions League this season. The last Israeli player to net more in a single campaign in the competition was Eran Zahav, who scored three for Hapoel Tel Aviv in 2010-11.

Salzburg v Chelsea 

Chelsea have only played two away European matches in Austria, losing 1-0 at Weiner Sport-Club in November 1965 in the Fairs Cup and drawing 1-1 against Austria Vienna in November 1994 in the Cup Winners’ Cup. 

Salzburg are winless in all seven of their European matches against English teams (D2 L5), failing to beat Blackburn Rovers (D1 L1), Manchester City (L2), Liverpool (L2) and Chelsea (D1).

In-form Chelsea have won back-to-back Champions League games, beating Milan 3-0 at Stamford Bridge and 2-0 at the San Siro. The last time they won three games in a row in the competition by a margin of at least two goals was in October-November 2013.

Salzburg have scored exactly one goal in each of their past seven games in the Champions League – only one team have ever had a longer run of scoring a single goal in the competition, with Olympiacos doing so in 10 in a row in a run ending in November 2005. 

Borussia Dortmund v Manchester City

No player has been directly involved in more goals than City's Erling Haaland (five goals) or Dortmund's Jude Bellingham (four goals, one assist) during the group stage this season.

Dortmund have won just one of their five Champions League matches against City (D1 L3), a 1-0 home victory in the 2012-13 group stage. 

No full-back has been involved in more sequences of play that have ended in shots (29) or goals (five) thans Joao Cancelo in the Champions League this season. The Portugal international has provided three assists in four games, equalling his season-best tally in a Champions League campaign (three in nine games last season). 

If Haaland scores on his return to face his former club, it will be the third time he has scored in five or more consecutive appearances in the Champions League. Only five players have achieved that feat on three occasions – Cristiano Ronaldo (five), Lionel Messi (three), Lewandowski (three), Zlatan Ibrahimovic (three) and Ruud van Nistelrooy (three). 

Other fixtures:

RB Leipzig v Real Madrid

13 – Madrid are unbeaten in their past 13 games against German sides in European competition (W9 D4), scoring at least two goals in every game during this run (31 in total). 

3 – Leipzig will be looking to win three consecutive Champions League games for just the second time – they won three in a row between February and August 2020, beating Tottenham twice and Atletico Madrid once. 

Dinamo Zagreb v Milan

5 – Dinamo have lost all five of their matches against Milan in European competition (including qualifiers). Against no side have they lost more games in their European history (also five v Ajax). 

100 – Milan's 100 per cent record against Dinamo – winning five out of five games against them – is their best against any side in Europe.

Sevilla v Copenhagen

29 – The average age of Sevilla's starting line-up in the Champions League this season is 29 years and 73 days, the second-oldest of any side in the competition this term after Rangers (29 years 96 days). 

13 – Copenhagen are winless in all 13 of their major European matches against Spanish teams (D5 L8), losing their last three on Spanish soil. 

Celtic v Shakhtar Donetsk 

– Celtic have lost seven of their past eight games in the Champions League (D1) and are looking for their first win in the competition since September 2017 (3-0 v Anderlecht).

0 – Shakhtar have never won a Champions League away match against a British team, losing on eight of their nine total trips. They did avoid defeat in the most recent one, however, drawing 1-1 against Manchester City in November 2019. 

Pep Guardiola says Erling Haaland will be a "genius" if he can break the Premier League scoring record, and hailed the impact of Borussia Dortmund on the striker's development.

The Norway international has scored 17 top-flight goals in 11 outings since his move from Dortmund, managing a brace in Saturday's 3-1 win over Brighton and Hove Albion.

Haaland also became the first City player to score in seven consecutive home games in all competitions since Sergio Aguero in the 2017-18 season.

Alan Shearer and Andy Cole both scored 34 goals in a single campaign, sharing the English top-flight record, with Guardiola expecting Haaland to surpass that mark if he can continue his impressive form.

"If he continues to score with this rhythm, he will be a genius, with the average every game, he's going to break the record," the City manager said.

"But football, maybe you score then a few days later you stop scoring, I don't know.

"All the strikers I have ever seen, [Samuel] Eto'o, [Lionel] Messi, [Robert] Lewandowski, [Thomas] Muller, [Sergio] Aguero, their ambitions to score goals, goals and more goals is normal, it has to be like that."

While the 22-year-old forward will eye breaking more Premier League records, Haaland's attention must first turn to a reunion at Dortmund in the Champions League.

City have already qualified for the knockout stages of UEFA's flagship club competition but will progress as Group G winners with victory at Signal Iduna Park.

Tuesday will mark a memorable return for Haaland, who scored 86 goals in 89 appearances during his two-and-a-half-year spell at BVB, and Guardiola credited the influence of the Bundesliga side on the striker's progression.

"It will be good [the reception he gets]. Salzburg in Austria, then Dortmund, he scored a lot of goals as well," the Spaniard added.

"At Dortmund, that period helped, the managers he had, the team-mates he had. In a few years, he will be a better player again from the [City] team-mates he plays with, definitely."

With a goal against his former side, Haaland would become just the sixth player to score in five or more consecutive Champions League outings on as many as three separate occasions, joining Cristiano Ronaldo (5), Messi (3), Lewandowski (3), Zlatan Ibrahimovic (3) and Ruud van Nistelrooy (3). 

Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola wants more from Kevin De Bruyne who he says is not playing at his top level despite a stunning goal in Saturday's 3-1 win over Brighton and Hove Albion.

The two-time Premier League Player of the Season fired in City's third goal with a curling right-foot shot from just beyond the box to seal the points in the 75th minute.

Since De Bruyne's Premier League debut for City in September 2015, he has scored more goals from outside the box than any other player in the competition in this period (24).

The goal was the 31-year-old Belgian's second of the Premier League season while he has also contributed nine assists, yet Guardiola is expecting more.

"He can be better. He's not playing at his top level, not yet," Guardiola told reporters.

"He made a fantastic goal but he's not playing his best. He knows. I don’t have to tell him. His dynamic still is not perfect, he knows that. I spoke with him. The goal is outstanding.

"Thanks to him we didn’t suffer in the last 15, 20 minutes when the game was more open… Kevin made a masterclass action so we win the game."

Erling Haaland continued his remarkable form with a first-half double, meaning he became the first City player to score in seven consecutive home games in all competitions since Sergio Aguero in February 2018.

The Norwegian showcased his pace and physicality to open the scoring in the 22nd minute, before emphatically converting a 43rd-minute penalty with a powerful strike.

"I would say that [Haaland]] has the quality in bigger spaces, he can do it and in smaller spaces he can do it," Guardiola said. "This is the reality.

"He is fantastic. The numbers and everything, the way he kicked the penalty, the quality, he did it."

Haaland's goal which made it 2-0 was City's 600th in the Premier League under Guardiola, making him the third manager to achieve that feat behind Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger.

Kevin De Bruyne warned Erling Haaland's spectacular form is "just the start" after the striker's brace helped Manchester City to a 3-1 win over Brighton and Hove Albion.

Haaland was shut out as City fell to their first defeat of the season at Liverpool last week, leaving them four points adrift of Premier League leaders Arsenal.

But normal service was resumed as City downed Brighton at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday, the Norway international latching onto Ederson's long pass to open the scoring before lashing home from the penalty spot.

The 22-year-old became the first City player to score in seven consecutive home games since Sergio Aguero in the 2017-18 season.

Haaland has now scored 17 goals in 11 Premier League appearances and team-mate De Bruyne says there is more to come.

"He is there to score the goals. He is having a really good season and helping us win games," De Bruyne told Sky Sports.

"It's just the start, he is doing what he needs to do. The team is playing well for the moment so that's all we can do."

Brighton came back into the contest through Leandro Trossard's goal before De Bruyne found the top-left corner from long range to seal the points late on.

De Bruyne has now been directly involved in 153 Premier League goals for City (59 goals, 94 assists), moving level with David Silva's tally for the club (60 goals, 93 assists) and behind only Aguero (231 – 184 goals, 47 assists).

"The first half, we had full control, we didn't let them play. We should've scored to make it 3-0 and they scored for 2-1," the midfielder added. 

"It was a bit tight in the game but obviously scoring the third finished the game. I got the ball from Bernardo [Silva], looked through the options, I was in space there, shot and it went in perfectly."

City boss Pep Guardiola, meanwhile, praised his team's resilience after they overcame a stern test from Roberto De Zerbi's men.

"We struggled a bit, it's one of the toughest games you could face at the moment, but we needed the three points after the defeat at Anfield," Guardiola said.

"With the ball they have incredible quality and the two guys in the middle – they are a really good team.

"In those moments we have to be resilient and knew the game would be tough until the end. Kevin scored a goal that was magnificent, but we would fight to the end to avoid the draw or defeat.

"Sometimes it is important to understand the game we have to play."

Erling Haaland got back on the goal trail as his first-half double helped Manchester City to a 3-1 win over Brighton and Hove Albion at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday.

The Norwegian was kept quiet as City fell to their first defeat of the Premier League season at Liverpool last Sunday, but he bounced back in convincing fashion by putting the Seagulls to the sword.

Haaland was the beneficiary of an Ederson assist when he tapped into an empty net for his first, then rifled home a penalty to double up shortly before half-time.

Leandro Trossard dragged Brighton back into contention after the break, but Pep Guardiola's champions weathered the storm before Kevin De Bruyne made the points safe with a trademark long-range strike.

City toiled as Brighton kept things tight in the opening 20 minutes, but the hosts benefitted from a more direct approach when Haaland latched onto Ederson's lofted ball before shrugging off Aaron Webster to score the opener.

Lewis Dunk denied De Bruyne with a last-ditch block following a give-and-go with Jack Grealish 10 minutes later, but the Brighton defender was at fault when Haaland extended City's lead.

After a lengthy VAR review ruled Dunk had tripped Bernardo Silva in a crowded penalty area, Haaland blasted the spot-kick into the bottom-right corner, giving Robert Sanchez no chance.

However, Brighton needed just eight minutes to half the arrears after the break, as Trossard cut inside from the left before beating Ederson at his near post from 18 yards out, Solly March with the assist.

Trossard then forced Ederson into a reflex save as Brighton continued to push, but their efforts were undone when De Bruyne picked out the top-left corner with 15 minutes remaining, having been teed up by Silva. 

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