Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola has urged Jack Grealish to seize an opportunity to finish the season strongly.

The England midfielder has so far this term been unable to reproduce the influential form he played in last year’s treble success.

The 28-year-old’s campaign has twice been interrupted by injury and there was also an unsettling off-field incident when his house was burgled while members of his family and girlfriend were in the property.

His latest setback came when he suffered a groin injury during City’s Champions League game at FC Copenhagen earlier this month but, after a speedy recovery, he was an unused substitute at Bournemouth on Saturday.

He could come back into the reckoning for Tuesday’s FA Cup fifth-round tie at Luton and Guardiola hopes he can make the most of it.

Guardiola said: “He started a bit late but (in) the last month Jack is back in terms of many things.

“That’s why he played an important game in the Champions League in Copenhagen. Unfortunately there was a setback after 10-15 minutes but he’s recovered quick and he is back.

“Hopefully (he can have) the impact he had last season. It depends on him.

“I try to be fair with my decisions. If he played a lot of minutes last season and this season a little bit less in the beginning, he is the same player. It’s the same manager, the same way we want to play. Nothing has changed.

“It is just how how we perform, that is the difference. We need him. I’ve said from day one we need him. He has a special quality for our team. Hopefully he can do a good last three months.”

With other players in good form, however, Guardiola admits Grealish will have to hit the ground running when the chance arises.

Grealish must compete with the likes of Phil Foden, Jeremy Doku, Julian Alvarez and Bernardo Silva, all of whom have been in better form this season, for a place.

Guardiola said: “I cannot give three or four games in a row in order to get the rhythm.

“They have to take a rhythm to play 20 minutes, 90 minutes, in the high level. You cannot wait.

“I’m going to give you three or four (games) for you be fit and the other 10 players don’t play?

“They don’t deserve the same? Of course they deserve it but that’s not how it works.

“You have to see in the training session, every moment all details.

“He’s the same lovely person, lovely guy, same qualities, skills. He has even more years to improve.

“So the players don’t have to convince me. They have to convince themselves that they deserve to play.”

Jack Grealish has been ruled out of Manchester City’s clash with Chelsea on Saturday.

The England international was forced off with a groin injury in the first half of City’s Champions League win at FC Copenhagen on Tuesday.

Manager Pep Guardiola is still to learn the full extent of the 28-year-old’s problem but this weekend’s Premier League visit of the Londoners comes too soon for him to feature.

Guardiola said: “Jack will not be ready. I don’t know (how long he will be out). I didn’t speak with the doctors. I only know he’s not available for tomorrow.”

The game will see the return of Cole Palmer to the Etihad Stadium.

The 21-year-old City academy graduate, who moved to Stamford Bridge last August, has been one of Chelsea’s standout players this season.

Guardiola insists he pleased to see Palmer, a member of last season’s treble-winning squad, making such an impact and can understand why he chose to move on.

“Of course (we’re pleased for him),” said Guardiola. “He is a lovely lad and he helped us to achieve what we achieved.

“We didn’t have any doubts about his quality. The way he is playing, he’s a star player. He’s already an exceptional player.

“He moved on to get the minutes he has. It was just a matter of time and he has shown his quality.”

City drew 4-4 with Chelsea, with Palmer scoring a late equaliser from the penalty spot, when the sides met in November.

Chelsea’s form has been inconsistent this term and they remain in mid-table but Guardiola knows it is not a game his title-chasing side can afford to take lightly.

He said: “It’s an exceptional team in all departments, (it’s) one of the toughest games we have until the end of the season.

“They’ve been playing really good in the last games. They have everything – intensity and quality.

“Most teams are defined by if they don’t lose the ball and it’s difficult to find a player who loses the ball. They are a really good team, it’s a tough one tomorrow.”

City, chasing a fourth successive league crown, are the firm title favourites but they are currently in a tight battle with Liverpool and Arsenal.

Guardiola said: “When you arrive at the last eight to 10 games we will see how many teams will be involved.

“I think these three will be there but the distance between fourth and fifth is also so minor.

“It doesn’t matter if there are two, three or four as long as we win our games. Win our games and do our job – the rest doesn’t matter.”

City will also assess Bernardo Silva after the Portuguese suffered an ankle knock in Denmark but Mateo Kovacic is back in contention.

Manchester City are waiting for updates on Jack Grealish after an injury to the England midfielder took the shine off an impressive Champions League return in Denmark.

Grealish was forced off with a groin problem after 21 minutes of the holders’ largely straightforward 3-1 victory over FC Copenhagen on Tuesday.

Bernardo Silva also left the action before the end of the first leg of the last-16 tie after a blow to the ankle but it was Grealish pulling up that caused the most concern.

“He wanted to continue but we didn’t want to make the damage even worse,” said manager Pep Guardiola after the game. “We’ll make tests tomorrow (Wednesday).”

Grealish was making his first start in six games in what has been a difficult campaign for him.

The 28-year-old had a spell out with a dead leg earlier in the season and has been kept out of the side at other times by the good form of team-mates, notably Jeremy Doku in the first instance and latterly Phil Foden.

Another lay-off would be a blow for City as they chase a repeat treble, restricting attacking options soon after Kevin De Bruyne and Erling Haaland had returned from their own injuries.

Silva could be doubtful for Saturday’s Premier League clash with Chelsea while it has also emerged that Josko Gvardiol and Mateo Kovacic have been nursing knocks.

Neither featured in Denmark and although midfielder Kovacic should be back in contention for the weekend, defender Gvardiol faces two to three weeks out with an ankle injury.

Fitness issues aside, City were dominant at the Parken Stadium, controlling in all aspects as they eased to a win that was far more convincing than the scoreline suggested.

The Danish champions, still in their winter break and clearly rusty, struggled to live with City and fell behind to an early De Bruyne strike.

City spurned several chances to increase their advantage before an Ederson error gifted Copenhagen debutant Magnus Mattsson an unlikely equaliser.

Silva restored the lead with a fine flicked finish and Foden wrapped up the win in stoppage time. The second leg takes place in three weeks’ time.

“I think getting the early goal helped us,” said Foden. “It is such a difficult place to come.

“We’re delighted with the performance and we take the 3-1 back.

“I thought the way we controlled the game and we picked the right times to attack was brilliant.

“I think we have a great group of lads. We’re all determined and the hunger is just the same from last year, to keep on and keep pushing.”

De Bruyne, who has quickly found top gear since returning from a five-month lay-off in January, provided the assists for both goals.

“He’s playing very well,” said defender Nathan Ake. “I think everyone expected him to come back a bit slower because he’s been out for five months or so, but straight away he hit the ground running and he’s been top. Hopefully he can continue like this.”

Pep Guardiola was left to rue injuries to Jack Grealish and Bernardo Silva after Manchester City returned to Champions League action with a 3-1 win at FC Copenhagen on Tuesday.

Grealish, handed his first start in six matches, lasted just 21 minutes of the holders’ largely straightforward last-16 first-leg success at Parken Stadium before being forced off with a groin injury.

Silva, who put City into a 2-1 lead just before the break with a fine flicked finish, took a knock to the ankle late in the game.

The double blow comes after Josko Gvardiol missed the game with an ankle injury and Mateo Kovacic was also unavailable.

City manager Guardiola said: “It’s something muscular with Jack, his groin.

“He felt it on the grass, started to complain. The players can feel it immediately if it’s muscular. It’s a pity, he’s gutted.

“He wanted to continue but we didn’t want to make the damage even worse. We’ll make tests tomorrow.

“Bernardo has a big knock in his ankle and Josko is out two to three weeks. Kova is ready to come back.”

The injuries took the gloss off what was a mainly comfortable night for City.

They took an early lead through Kevin De Bruyne and, dominant in all departments, should have led by more before Magnus Mattsson levelled after an Ederson error.

Silva restored the lead and Phil Foden gave the scoreline a more realistic look in stoppage time.

Guardiola said: “It was really, really good. I’m so proud we played at that tempo. It was perfect.

“We were patient in the right moments but it’s not done. I know how difficult it is.

“It’s not decisive but a good result. Hopefully we can finish at home in front of our own people and go to the next round.”

Danish champions Copenhagen had not played competitively for two months due to their league’s winter break and their rustiness was evident.

Coach Jacob Neestrup admitted it will now take something spectacular to progress but will not give up.

He said: “Of course it’s going to be difficult, but now we have three games in the Danish league where we need to get results. Then we take the away game, where we try to do our very, very best.

“The players did everything they could. I can’t blame them for anything. We played against a top, top team who know exactly what to do in every situation.

“I think City came with a very, very professional mindset. They took control of the game from the first second.”

Manchester City resumed their Champions League defence with a comfortable 3-1 win at FC Copenhagen on Tuesday.

Kevin De Bruyne and Bernardo Silva netted either side of an unexpected Magnus Mattson equaliser as City dominated a last-16 first leg they could have won far more convincingly.

Pep Guardiola’s side dominated in every aspect at the Danish capital’s famously atmospheric Parken Stadium and Phil Foden completed a deserved success late on.

With close to 80 per cent possession, the holders were hardly troubled and will be confident of wrapping up a place in the quarter-finals when the sides meet again in Manchester in three weeks.

The only real downside for City was the loss of Jack Grealish through injury in the first half.

Despite having almost complete control, one thing City could not do was silence the home fans.

As anticipated, Copenhagen’s raucous following produced an intimidating atmosphere and greeted every City attack with loud whistles and even a siren.

Yet it appeared to have no effect on City, who immediately imposed themselves and should have taken the lead when De Bruyne fluffed a header from a Nathan Ake cross.

Ruben Dias also forced a save from Kamil Grabara and Ake fired the rebound over, although a raised flag suggested neither might have counted.

Copenhagen, their rustiness amid Denmark’s long winter break evident, were struggling to live with City and it came as no surprise when De Bruyne hit his 11th-minute opener.

The Belgian, who has quickly eased back into gear after a long injury lay-off, timed his run onto a Foden pass superbly and finished clinically with a low shot.

City looked hungry for more and Erling Haaland was inches away from meeting a De Bruyne cross before a Silva ball was deflected onto the woodwork by Denis Vavro.

City suffered a blow when Grealish, making his first start in six games, was forced off after 21 minutes soon after a challenge from Diogo Goncalves but his replacement Jeremy Doku added more energy to City’s attack.

Within moments of coming on Doku set up Haaland for what would have been a spectacular goal with a volleyed cross but the Norwegian’s overhead kick flew over.

City looked capable of running up a huge score but remarkably found themselves level when Ederson gifted the hosts an equaliser on 34 minutes.

The goalkeeper passed straight to Mohamed Elyounoussi and, although the former Southampton forward’s shot was blocked, debutant Mattson followed up with a fine finish.

Mattson, a recent signing from NEC Nijmegen, almost added another soon after but blazed over.

The home fans were animated but their excitement was not to last.

Silva restored normal order before the break with a fine flicked finish after De Bruyne got the better of Mattson to pick out the Portuguese.

De Bruyne almost added to the lead early in the second half when he tested Grabara before Haaland headed tamely at the keeper and Foden had an effort deflected wide.

Grabara also pushed away a long-range Doku strike and Haaland was twice denied by the keeper in stoppage time before Foden wrapped up the win after exchanging passes with De Bruyne.

Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola has dismissed talk of a repeat treble by saying he is “99.99” per cent certain it will not happen.

The champions are favourites to win a fourth Premier League title in succession and are also in strong contention to retain the Champions League and FA Cup.

Winning those trophies in back-to-back seasons would be unprecedented and therefore Guardiola, whose silverware haul in the past year also includes the European Super Cup and Club World Cup, feels it is unlikely.

The Spaniard said at a press conference: “Sextuple, ‘seventuple’? It’s a fairytale. It’s more complicated than that.

“We have 99.99 per cent possibility that we are not going to win the treble because it has never ever ever been done. The chances to do it again are like this (shows tiny gap between thumb and index finger) – minimal.

“If it was easy, another team – (Manchester) United in that time – would have done it again. It’s not easy.

“Everything is so difficult in this business. What we have done in the past is absolutely no guarantee of anything.

“What I like is that we are still there. We are close to the top of the league, we are in the other competitions.

“Hopefully we will arrive in March and April with the same feeling and if we have the same feeling, we will fight for the titles in May. This is the target.”

City have won their last nine games in all competitions and appear to be gathering familiar momentum at the right time.

Yet while the likes of Phil Foden and Julian Alvarez have earned praise for their form, and Erling Haaland and Kevin De Bruyne have returned from injury, Jack Grealish’s levels have dipped.

The England international was one of the key players in last season’s treble success but has not hit the same heights this term and has not started City’s last four games.

His most recent subdued form comes after an unsettling incident in December when his home was burgled, while his fiancee and members of his family were in the property, as he played in a game at Everton.

Guardiola accepts that could have affected him.

He said: “I’m pretty sure (it did affect him). After a few days hopefully he forgot it but I’m pretty sure. I was affected too and I would have been affected too.

“It is not easy what happened with him, his girlfriend and family, so I’m pretty sure (it affected him).

“But he handled it really well. He is an incredible person with incredible humanity.

“Here, with security and people at his disposal, we have tried to help him but it happened. We haven’t spoken lately about that subject so hopefully it is fine.”

Guardiola pointed out Grealish’s lack of action was largely due to the form of other players.

He said: “It’s not a big, big problem – completely the opposite. He is competing with players at a high level. He is making steps to get his best (form). We need everyone and we need Jack.”

Gareth Southgate insists he is keeping an open mind about staying with England beyond Euro 2024 this summer.

The 53-year-old is under contract until December and accepts it is possible he may not even be in charge by the time England play Nations League matches against the Republic of Ireland, Greece and Finland in the autumn.

However, he insists his decision is not yet made either way and remains open to the possibility of staying on and working with England’s exciting crop of players, led by Real Madrid superstar Jude Bellingham.

“There’s a fair chance half the coaches won’t be here after the Euros. That’s international football,” he said at the draw in Paris.

“You’ve got to see how the summer goes. It’s as simple as that. In my view, I know what we’re capable of achieving in the summer, I know what my own benchmark of success would be, after that I’m not really thinking about anything else.

“Without a doubt it’s exciting to take the team, it’s always been exciting to take the team, whatever the strengths of the squad. In the end, we’ve got to deliver a performance and you’ve got to make the best decisions for everybody. I won’t be in a position to make that decision before the tournament.”

While Bellingham’s place in the squad appears certain barring injury, others seem to have a much bigger fight on their hands.

Manchester United forward Marcus Rashford has hit the headlines recently after an unsanctioned trip to Belfast and Southgate insists all his players are being monitored on and off the field.

“We’re five weeks away from picking a squad, although so much happens to players over the period between November and March that we’re always sitting and observing everything on and off the pitch.”

The last competitive encounter between England and the Republic was a Euro 92 qualifier at Wembley, where a Niall Quinn goal cancelled out Lee Dixon’s opener.

A friendly match in 1995 at Lansdowne Road had to be abandoned due to crowd trouble and the teams’ most recent meeting was a November 2020 friendly.

England midfielder Declan Rice played three senior matches for the Republic before switching allegiance to England, while Manchester City star Jack Grealish also played for the Republic at under-age level.

Southgate said: “I have to say that I don’t know where we would have been without them. If we hadn’t had Declan over the past four years then I don’t know what we would have done.”

Football Association of Ireland director of football Marc Canham said of the draw: “It’s tough, but exciting, some amazing games and obviously we’re playing England for the first time in a while.

“It’s a great opportunity for our players and team and our amazing fans, an experience they can really look forward to.”

Wales will be up against Iceland, Montenegro and Turkey in Group B4.

Wales boss Rob Page said: “We know what Turkey are about (having played them in the Euro qualifiers last year). There are no easy games in international football but, with regards to the opposition, if we could have handpicked them we probably would have picked them.

“That’s no disrespect to them, but we want to give ourselves the best opportunity.”

Steve Clarke’s Scotland are up against Croatia, Portugal and Poland in Group A1.

Michael O’Neill’s Northern Ireland were drawn in Group C3, where they will take on Luxembourg, Bulgaria and Belarus.

O’Neill said: “I think they will be good games for the young squad that we have at the minute. It will be a test for them as part of their development as international players.”

The league phase will be played between September and October before League A quarter-finals and promotion/relegation play-offs take place in March 2025.

Single-leg semis and a final will be played in June 2025.

Aston Villa scored a late penalty to beat strugglers Burnley 3-2 and move second in the Premier League.

Villa – who lost 3-2 at Manchester United on Boxing Day after leading 2-0 – went ahead in the 28th minute through Leon Bailey.

The Clarets were back on level terms just three minutes later when Zeki Amdouni fired home from close range following a free-kick.

Burnley had the ball in the net again, but Lyle Foster’s effort was ruled out for offside before Moussa Diaby then added a second for Villa in the 42nd minute.

The visitors were reduced to 10 men in the 56th minute when midfielder Sander Berge was given a second caution for tugging back Douglas Luiz.

Foster, though, hauled Burnley level with 20 minutes left – this time his goal allowed to stand following a VAR review.

Just when it looked like Vincent Kompany’s men would hold out for a welcome point, Aaron Ramsey fouled Jhon Duran to concede an 89th-minute penalty. Luiz sent his spot-kick on to the underside of the crossbar and into the roof of the net to secure another home win for Villa.

Manchester City beat Sheffield United 2-0 at the Ethiad Stadium to move third, above Arsenal on goal difference.

Rodri gave City the lead in the 14th minute with a low finish into the bottom corner after good hold-up play by Phil Foden.

Midfielder Jack Grealish – whose Cheshire home had been burgled while he was away playing at Everton on Wednesday night – was taken off early in the second half and replaced by Oscar Bobb.

Julian Alvarez doubled City’s lead just after the hour from close range after Bobb had played in Foden.

Earlier, Chelsea survived a spirited late fightback by Luton to win 3-2 at Kenilworth Road.

Mauricio Pochettino’s team had looked to be cruising to a first away victory since early November following a brace from Cole Palmer – his second goal showing fine close control – either side of Noni Madueke’s strike just before half-time.

Luton, though, set up a tense final 10 minutes after Ross Barkley scored against his former club before Elijah Adebayo pulled another back late on, but the Blues held out.

Michael Olise scored twice as Crystal Palace returned to winning ways after coming from behind to beat Brentford 3-1 at Selhurst Park.

Keane Lewis-Potter fired the Bees into an early lead after just two minutes, the goal given following a lengthy VAR check for a possible offside.

Palace were soon back on level terms in the 14th minute when Olise volleyed in at the back post before Eberechi Eze completed the turnaround shortly before half-time.

Olise fired in a well-taken second from the edge of the penalty area in the 58th minute as Palace ended an eight-match winless run.

Wolves maintained their good form with a 3-0 win over relegation-battlers Everton at Molineux.

Captain Max Kilman put Wolves in front in the 25th minute following a scramble in the penalty area, which was only his second goal for the club. The players celebrated by holding up a shirt in support of Mario Lemina following the death of his father.

Wolves doubled their lead early in the second half through a close-range finish from Matheus Cunha and Craig Dawson added a third on the hour.

Hwang Hee-chan and Pedro Neto both saw goals disallowed for offside as Gary O’Neil’s well-drilled went on to close out a third straight win.

Pep Guardiola has reminded players of the importance of personal security after the home of Jack Grealish was burgled in midweek.

The Manchester City manager has even suggested cutting back on social media use as part of any precautions.

Thieves broke into Grealish’s Cheshire mansion while he was playing in the treble-winners’ victory at Everton on Wednesday.

Some members of Grealish’s family and his fiancee Sasha Attwood were at the property at the time when they heard a disturbance and raised the alarm.

Nobody was harmed but it has been reported the raiders got away with jewellery and watches worth £1million.

The incident is the latest in a series of robberies affecting wealthy footballers in recent years.

Former City defender Joao Cancelo was attacked during a burglary at his home in December 2022 while other players targeted include Raheem Sterling, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Paul Pogba and Angel Di Maria.

Guardiola said: “They have security but unfortunately it’s happened. It’s happened many times.

“United players as well. I don’t know much about London but it’s happened (there), and not just in the UK – I know in Catalonia, where my family lives, many things happen.

“Today you have to be careful, definitely. Not much on social media – the less they know what you are doing the better. People are waiting (to see) where you are, what you are doing.

“Unfortunately it’s happened with Joao, which was so scary because the family was attacked.

“Jewellery, money, whatever – it’s tough – and the family being there is difficult to process. It’s tough for Jack, as it was with Joao before.”

It remains to be seen if Grealish will be in the right state of mind to play for City against bottom side Sheffield United in the Premier League on Saturday.

Guardiola said: “He didn’t train on Thursday, he was with the family. We are going to see how he feels.”

The visit of the Blades seems likely to come too soon for Kevin De Bruyne but Guardiola has not completely ruled out him having some involvement.

The Belgium playmaker is nearing a return after more than four months out following hamstring surgery.

Guardiola said: “He’s training with a lot of energy. Being injured is not good for anyone but I think for his mind it will have been good to have a few months off.

“What he loves is playing football but it’s been a long injury. It was major surgery and muscular so we have to be careful. It’s how many minutes he can handle and do it step by step. We have to speak to the doctors and physios as well.”

Defender John Stones is definitely out having joined Erling Haaland and Jeremy Doku on the casualty list when he suffered an ankle injury in midweek.

Guardiola said: “Unfortunately, John got injured. Hopefully he recovers. We have to be optimistic and hopefully in two, three weeks he will be fine.”

Manchester City’s Jack Grealish has denied being disrespectful towards Fluminense during Friday’s Club World Cup final victory.

Tempers briefly flared after the final whistle as City captain Kyle Walker and Fluminense defender Felipe Melo grappled in a heated argument.

Melo subsequently blamed Grealish for stoking tensions, claiming the City winger had shouted ‘ole’.

Grealish insisted that was not true, writing on the social media site X, formerly known as Twitter: “Not once did I say ole.”

The situation quickly calmed down before City lifted their fifth trophy of the year following a comprehensive 4-0 win over the Brazilian side in Saudi Arabia.

Julian Alvarez scored twice, with Phil Foden also netting in the second half after a Nino own goal had put City two up.

Pep Guardiola said Manchester City did not deserve to win after a late fightback from Crystal Palace saw them held to a 2-2 draw in a dramatic finale at the Etihad Stadium.

City dominated possession and looked to be cruising at 2-0 up following goals from Jack Grealish in the first half and Rico Lewis nine minutes into the second.

But Palace hit back with a 76th-minute Jean-Philippe Mateta goal before Michael Olise equalised in the fifth minute of stoppage time with a penalty awarded after Phil Foden caught Mateta in the box.

Dropping points for the fifth time in six Premier League matches, in their last outing before heading to Saudi Arabia for the Club World Cup, leaves the champions in fourth place, three points behind leaders Liverpool, who host Manchester United on Sunday.

Boss Guardiola, whose side had drawn 4-4 with Chelsea, 1-1 with Liverpool and 3-3 with Tottenham and lost 1-0 to Aston Villa prior to last Sunday’s 2-1 win at Luton, said: “It is not bad luck, it was deserved, we gave away two points.

“When you give this penalty, you deserve it. You see the chances we created, the chances we concede, it’s quite similar, except the Chelsea game, all this season. But we are not able to close the game.

“There was a chance (for Palace) in the first half…but until the (Mateta) goal, they didn’t do anything.

“So the team was really, really good. But at the end, when you give Crystal Palace this penalty, you don’t deserve it. It’s like the penalty for Chelsea (Cole Palmer’s late equaliser).

“The games against Spurs, Liverpool, today, were excellent, but we were not able to win the game. What has happened is because we are not consistent enough to close the games, and many reasons.”

Guardiola denied City were not playing with the same intensity for the final 20 minutes, before adding: “18-yard box, you have to be careful, and we were not. We don’t deserve to win.”

Treble-winners City, who were once again without injured forward Erling Haaland, are now set to play Japanese outfit Urawa Red Diamonds in the Club World Cup semi-finals on Tuesday, with the final taking lace on Friday.

Guardiola said: “Six, seven-hour flight with the result, just three days to recover, three days for a potential final – it is what it is. Now we are down and we lift as quick as possible and go to compete there.”

Pep Guardiola believes his Manchester City side face a challenge to get back to winning ways at Luton this weekend.

The champions have gone four games without a Premier League win for the first time since 2017 after successive draws against Chelsea, Liverpool and Tottenham were followed by defeat at Aston Villa on Wednesday.

They will be expected to put that behind them at Kenilworth Road on Sunday but the promoted Hatters have produced some battling performances on their top-flight return and Guardiola expects another.

The City manager said: “They are doing really well for the way they play. Top clubs like Liverpool and Arsenal have struggled to win against them and it will be no different for us.

“But at the same time we’re ready for the challenge. We’ll keep working. That’s what we have to do.

“We’ll go to Luton, adapt for the pitch, the team, the style they play. They’ve done really good things but we will try impose our game and break their dynamic.”

City’s form has raised eyebrows with some observers questioning their hunger or whether they have become complacent after all their recent successes.

Yet none of this is a concern to Guardiola, who has guided City to five Premier League titles as well as Champions League glory.

The Spaniard said: “When you are winning a lot of games you are the best team in the world, when you are not winning it’s a crisis. We know it. It’s always exaggerated one way or another.

“What is important is to face the reality. We’re not used to playing four games without winning but we played against top teams. They’re always difficult.

“It is not the first time we have been in this position. In these eight years we’ve always had periods where we don’t get results.

“We have to try to end them as soon as possible but it happens, so we face it, challenge it. That is the situation, let’s do it, let’s go for it.”

City have Rodri and Jack Grealish available again after suspension and Jeremy Doku will be assessed after missing the Villa game through injury.

Pep Guardiola believes his Manchester City side face a challenge to get back to winning ways at Luton this weekend.

The champions have gone four games without a Premier League win for the first time since 2017 after successive draws against Chelsea, Liverpool and Tottenham were followed by defeat at Aston Villa on Wednesday.

They will be expected to put that behind them at Kenilworth Road on Sunday but the promoted Hatters have produced some battling performances on their top-flight return and Guardiola expects another.

The City manager said: “They are doing really well for the way they play. Top clubs like Liverpool and Arsenal have struggled to win against them and it will be no different for us.

“But at the same time we’re ready for the challenge. We’ll keep working. That’s what we have to do.

“We’ll go to Luton, adapt for the pitch, the team, the style they play. They’ve done really good things but we will try impose our game and break their dynamic.”

City’s form has raised eyebrows with some observers questioning their hunger or whether they have become complacent after all their recent successes.

Yet none of this is a concern to Guardiola, who has guided City to five Premier League titles as well as Champions League glory.

The Spaniard said: “When you are winning a lot of games you are the best team in the world, when you are not winning it’s a crisis. We know it. It’s always exaggerated one way or another.

“What is important is to face the reality. We’re not used to playing four games without winning but we played against top teams. They’re always difficult.

“It is not the first time we have been in this position. In these eight years we’ve always had periods where we don’t get results.

“We have to try to end them as soon as possible but it happens, so we face it, challenge it. That is the situation, let’s do it, let’s go for it.”

City have Rodri and Jack Grealish available again after suspension and Jeremy Doku will be assessed after missing the Villa game through injury.

Unai Emery was trying to keep a lid on the excitement levels after his Aston Villa side outclassed stuttering Manchester City in Wednesday’s 1-0 win to move above the defending champions and into third place.

Leon Bailey’s deflected strike in the 74th minute was enough to seal a 14th straight home win for Villa and add to the growing sense of belief that something special is brewing in the west Midlands.

Pep Guardiola declared that Emery’s side should “definitely” be considered among the title contenders after watching his depleted side struggle to contain a Villa team who had 22 shots at goal to City’s two.

But Emery played down any title talk and insisted there is still much work to do in developing his side, who face leaders Arsenal at home on Saturday.

“We created lots of chances and we controlled the attack in the high press,” Emery said. “We were believing. In my career, hopefully more in the next weeks, months and years I can continue improving as a coach and with the team I am trying to build.

“(The performance) was fantastic but we must keep a balance. The dressing room is happy, but the next challenge is on Saturday. (On Thursday) we are focusing again on Saturday.”

Wednesday night was Emery’s 50th game in charge. When the Spaniard arrived a little more than a year ago, Villa were near the foot of the table and fearing a relegation battle but he took them into the Europa Conference League and now the Champions League looks a genuine possibility.

Asked to reflect on his first 50 games, Emery pointed to last February, when back-to-back 4-2 home defeats at the hands of Leicester and Arsenal offered a learning moment.

“I can come back in my mind and think how we were when we started this process,” he said. “We lost against Leicester and Arsenal at home, 4-2. We couldn’t concede eight goals in two matches at home like we did.

“It was a key moment when we reacted in a meeting with the players, focusing more our idea and our style, building and being very demanding in it. I think the players, they reacted very well and the way we did, we started doing in that moment, I think we are still being very demanding and keeping it.”

City boss Pep Guardiola was full of praise for Villa’s performance but admitted he needed to change the dynamic of his own side, now winless in four league outings as they lose ground in their title defence.

The absence of Rodri and Jack Grealish through suspension, plus the loss of Jeremy Doku to injury, limited Guardiola’s options and they lost the midfield battle.

“In the first half, we struggled to follow what we spoke (about),” Guardiola said. “We adjusted something at half-time and it was much better and the team had a better dynamic but we didn’t find the players to make the assist or cross or pass.”

“We didn’t have the feeling that we are going to do something and we missed it…We have to accept it when a team is better and recognise it.

“We have to change the dynamic on Sunday at Luton.”

Pep Guardiola is confident Manchester City will retain the Premier League title if they maintain their current level of performance.

The treble winners have been held to draws in their last three games at the hands of Chelsea, Liverpool and Tottenham.

Yet in a strong message to rivals and any doubters, Guardiola has insisted his players are not lacking any hunger as they chase a fourth successive league crown.

The City manager said: “I have a feeling that if we maintain that level, we’ll win the Premier League. We will win it again.

“If we (could) maintain the level of Liverpool and Tottenham, I’ll sign for it right now. We didn’t win 5-0 – we drew – but I’d sign right now (for) my team (to) behave the way we’ve played the last two games.

“I don’t know if we can sustain that all season and that is the challenge.”

Guardiola name-checked a number of prominent football pundits, including former Manchester United defender Gary Neville, as he insisted there was no complacency within his squad.

“I don’t have anything to say about the pundits,” said Guardiola, whose side travel to Aston Villa on Wednesday.

“Maybe I’m wrong but I don’t think it’s about complacency. I know the players, I know how they run. How we behave is extraordinary.

“He knows how difficult it is otherwise Gary Neville would’ve won four Premier Leagues in the best period of Manchester United. But he didn’t do it.

“I see my team, how they fight, how they press, how they continue until the end and how upset they are after we concede.

“Maybe, maybe I’m wrong and they are seeing everything that I’m not able to see, but I don’t have that feeling.

“Jamie Carragher didn’t win one (league title). Micah Richards didn’t win four Premier Leagues in a row. Never, ever.”

Guardiola has also defended the conduct of his team after the stormy end to Sunday’s 3-3 draw with Spurs.

A number of players surrounded referee Simon Hooper in protest when Erling Haaland was denied the chance to play advantage after being fouled.

Haaland had quickly got up from a bad tackle to play a through-ball for Jack Grealish which could have led to a stoppage-time City winner.

City have been charged with failing to control their players over the incident by the Football Association.

“I would like to know how the reaction should be when that last action happened,” Guardiola said.

“We didn’t lose because of that action, maybe Jack wouldn’t have scored.

“But I would like to know from the Premier League or whoever, how should we react in that situation? We want to be there, we want to compete against the top sides. It’s a human instinct.

“Right now the players would not react in that way, but in that moment someone tell me. They want to fine (us), we’ll be fined. It’s fine, but I promise you, if you are a footballer and it happened, you would react in that way.

“It happened 20 years ago, 40 years ago. It will happen in 40 years. Of course you have to respect the referees. Tell me one player or manager who doesn’t respect the referees, but it is emotions. It is feelings.”

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