Chelsea maintained their position at the Premier League summit as they thumped sorry Norwich City 7-0 at Stamford Bridge on Saturday.

Manchester City remain two points behind after cruising past Brighton and Hove Albion 4-1 at the Amex Stadium.

Watford produced a stunning comeback to thump Everton at Goodison Park, while Leeds United left it late to snatch a point against Wolves.

Using Opta data, Stats Perform takes a look at the pick of the fixtures from the day.

Brighton and Hove Albion 1-4 Manchester City: Foden inspires City's latest win over Seagulls

Phil Foden was at the heart of City's big win at the Amex Stadium as Pep Guardiola's side sealed an eighth win in nine Premier League games against the Seagulls.

Ilkay Gundogan put the visitors ahead before Foden scored just his second brace in the Premier League, previously doing so against Burnley in June 2020.

Alexis Mac Allister pulled one back for Graham Potter's side to became the first player to score a Premier League penalty as a substitute for Brighton.

Riyad Mahrez added gloss to the scoreline in stoppage time, though, after being teed up by Foden. The Algerian has scored more goals in all competitions (16) than any other City player so far in 2021.

The result meant Brighton conceded four goals for the first time in 43 Premier League games, since a 4-2 loss against Everton in October 2020. Indeed, the Seagulls conceded as many goals as they had in their previous seven league games combined.

Chelsea 7-0 Norwich City: Mount puts Blues in seventh heaven

Chelsea made light work of Romelu Lukaku and Timo Werner's absences, winning a Premier League game by seven or more goals for the fourth time and the first time since an 8-0 win over Aston Villa in December 2012.

Mason Mount was the star man, the England international becoming the 20th different player to score a Premier League hat-trick for Chelsea. Only Arsenal (21) have had more hat-trick scorers in the competition.

Ben Chilwell was on the scoresheet as well, the former Leicester City left-back becoming the first Englishman to score in four consecutive Premier League appearances for Chelsea since Frank Lampard in February 2013.

The defeat was Norwich's joint-heaviest in Premier League history, the Canaries also losing 7-0 to Manchester City in November 2013.

Their haul of just two goals after nine league games this season is the joint-lowest tally ever at this stage of an English league campaign, and just the third time a team has registered such a low return at this stage in the Premier League (Crystal Palace in 2017-18 and Everton in 2005-06).


Everton 2-5 Watford: King comes back to haunt Toffees

Watford scored four times in the final 12 minutes to complete a remarkable fightback at Goodison Park.

They were indebted to a superb hat-trick from former Toffees striker Josh King, who became just the third player to score a Premier League hat-trick against a side he has previously played for in the competition, after Andy Cole (for Manchester United vs Newcastle) and Marcus Bent (for Wigan vs Blackburn). 

It was just the second time Watford had scored five goals in an away Premier League game (also vs Cardiff in February 2019), becoming just the seventh newly promoted side in Premier League history to score five or more goals in an away game.

The result also marked the first time the Hornets had come from behind to win an away Premier League game since January 2019 vs Crystal Palace, having lost each of their previous 21 such matches in the competition.

Leeds United 1-1 Wolves: Rodrigo leaves it late for Bielsa's men

Despite earning a late point thanks to Rodrigo's stoppage-time penalty, seven points from nine games marks Leeds' worst start to a top-flight campaign since 1981-82 (six points), a season in which they were relegated to the second tier.

Wolves had looked destined for all three points thanks to another goal from Hwang Hee-chan. The South Korean has scored four goals from just four shots on target in the Premier League this season, the best such 100 per cent conversion rate in the competition so far this term.

Rodrigo stepped up late on to salvage a point, though. His equaliser from the spot was just Leeds' third penalty goal scored in the final minute of a Premier League match, after Gary McAllister against Coventry City (October 1995) and Ian Harte against Derby County (December 1999).

Phil Foden scored twice as Manchester City eased to a 4-1 win over Brighton and Hove Albion to keep pressure on Chelsea at the top of the Premier League.

Chelsea sent out a message with a thumping 7-0 win against Norwich City earlier on Saturday, but City responded with a convincing win of their own to close the gap on the leaders to two points.

Foden's double at the Amex Stadium came after Ilkay Gundogan opened the scoring as the visitors went three goals ahead inside 31 minutes in a dominant first-half showing.

Brighton improved in the second half and pulled back a deserved consolation nine minutes from time through substitute Alexis Mac Allister's penalty, though City had the final say when Foden played in Riyad Mahrez for a late fourth.

Lewis Dunk produced an acrobatic goal-line clearance to deny Gabriel Jesus early on, but Gundogan tapped in two minutes later after Robert Sanchez failed to take a routine catch and Bernardo Silva hooked the ball into his City team-mate's path.

Sanchez initially did well to keep the scoring down with a couple of good saves, only for Foden – under pressure from Brighton defender Dan Burn – to double his side's tally by converting Jack Grealish's unselfish pass at the end of a swift counter.

Foden was credited with the goal after some initial uncertainty over whether he or Burn got the final touch, and he had a second soon after, the England international getting in the way of a Jesus shot to help deflect it past a wrong-footed Sanchez.

Brighton recovered from two goals down to beat City 3-2 at this ground in May and they grew into the game in the second half, with Pascal Gross and Leandro Trossard finally calling Ederson into action.

City could not hold on for a seventh clean sheet in nine league games this term as Ederson caught Enock Mwepu and fellow Albion substitute Mac Allister made no mistake from the penalty spot, but there was still time for Mahrez to lash in his seventh of the season at the other end when played in by Foden.


What does it mean? City keep pace with Chelsea

City may not have racked up the seven goals Chelsea managed against Norwich in Saturday's early kick-off, but Brighton are far stronger opposition than the doomed Canaries and this was a performance equally as impressive.

Brighton had lost just one of their opening eight games and entered this match only two points behind City, yet they were completely blown away by the reigning champions, especially in an incredibly one-sided first half.

The nine shots on target managed by City in the first half is the most by a team in a Premier League game before the interval this term.

Brighton rocked

City's lack of an out-and-out striker has been a topic of discussion since the moment the transfer window closed, yet once again that was not a problem as they made it 37 goals in 14 matches this season.

Each of City's five attackers – Silva, Gundogan, Jesus, Foden and Grealish – either scored or assisted a goal in the first half. Gundogan now has 13 Premier League goals this calendar year – only Mohamed Salah (16) and Harry Kane (15) have more.

Ed rush

City were closing in on another clean sheet when Ederson rushed off his line and took out Mwepu, allowing Mac Allister to convert from the penalty spot.

The Brazilian goalkeeper will be doubly disappointed as he even managed to get a hand to the penalty without keeping it out. He has now conceded 15 of the last 16 spot-kicks he has faced in the Premier League.

What's next?

Both sides are in EFL Cup last-16 action next Wednesday, with City travelling to West Ham and Brighton away at Leicester City.

Manchester City can solely rely on goals from their wingers and midfielders in the absence of a true number nine in the Premier League this season, according to former striker Paul Dickov.

City regained their domestic crown last term, finishing 12 points clear of second-placed Manchester United in the Premier League, while scoring 83 goals along the way, though just 13 of those came from recognised centre-forwards.

Gabriel Jesus scored nine goals, while Sergio Aguero – who has since joined Barcelona – contributed with just four having missed much of the campaign through injury.

Ilkay Gundogan top-scored with 13 goals in midfield, with winger Raheem Sterling notching 10 and Phil Foden and Riyad Mahrez each netting on nine occasions as Ferran Torres added seven of his own.

Similarly this term, just two of City's 14 Premier League strikes have come courtesy of Brazil international Jesus – Torres has played in a forward role and scored twice but the Spaniard is not a true centre-forward.

Following Aguero's departure to Camp Nou, Tottenham striker Harry Kane was heavily linked with a move to City but a transfer did not materialise, while the likes of Fiorentina's Dusan Vlahovic and Borussia Dortmund sensation Erling Haaland have been linked.

Nevertheless, Scotsman Dickov is confident his former club have the credentials to cope without a main marksman once more.

"The answer at the minute is yes because we've seen that last season," Dickov, who spent two spells with City between 1996-2002 and 2006-2008, told Stats Perform. "I know Sergio Aguero was still at the club, but he missed the majority of it. 

"But Manchester City went on to win [the Premier League title] really quite easily playing without an actual number nine, and they've shown again this season that they can do it. 

"If Manchester City don't win the league this season, everybody's going to be saying it's because they've not got that number nine and the reliance has been on the midfielders and the false number nine to score the goals. But at the minute, you've got to say that they're not missing one.

"I think if Manchester City comes to January and they're still fighting for the top of league and still in the Champions League, people can say that Pep's been right again."

Dickov believes City's decision not to continue their pursuit of Kane demonstrates their own belief in the current quality of the squad.

"Knowing Manchester City as I do – as a club and as a board and how they do their transfers – they will identify players or a player and they will do what they can to get them," the 48-year-old added.

"They will not – especially over recent seasons – be held to ransom and pay over the odds. 

"I think when the new owners first came in, to get Manchester City onto a level they had to pay more money to get the players.

"But over the last few years, they now feel as though they don't have to. I think with the Harry Kane one, he was obviously the player that they wanted.

"If they didn't get him, they weren't going to settle for second best because they believe that the players within the squad – after what happened last season and the addition of Jack Grealish – were good enough to take them to the next level, and for them to retain the title this year."

Riyad Mahrez turned in a dazzling display as Manchester City swept aside Barnsley 4-0 in a friendly at the Etihad Campus on Saturday.

Mahrez was City's record signing when he joined from Leicester City in 2018 and Jack Grealish is reportedly close to taking that distinction for himself, with the Premier League champions rumoured to have tabled an offer worth £100million for the Aston Villa star.

Some observers have predicted Grealish could experience the sort of slow start to life under Pep Guardiola that Mahrez endured three years ago, but the Algeria winger showed himself to be in full flight against City's overmatched Championship opponents.

Mahrez charged down the right flank to retrieve Ruben Dias' raking ball and crossed for Samuel Edozie to tap in a 23rd-minute opener – the teenage forward having also netted during the midweek win over Preston North End.

Another youth teamer, Ben Knight, doubled the advantage after Mahrez released an underlapping Joao Cancelo and the right-winger got in on the act himself in the 34th minute when he clipped home a wonderful half-volley from Benjamin Mendy's centre.

It could have been worse for Barnsley before half-time when Cole Palmer wriggled away from Cauley Woodrow to win a penalty, although Bradley Collins guessed correctly to save the young playmaker's spot-kick.

Mahrez was inevitably involved again when Nathan Ake made it 4-0 midway through the second-half, while Ilkay Gundogan and Oleksandr Zinchenko came off the bench to enjoy their first action of pre-season after returning from Euro 2020 duty.

City will face Blackpool on Tuesday in their final friendly before next weekend's Community Shield meeting with Leicester at Wembley.

Manchester City's ambitions are showing no end after missing out on the Champions League title.

City have been linked with star England pair Harry Kane and Jack Grealish to further bolster the Premier League champions.

But the price tags on the duo from Tottenham and Aston Villa may be their stumbling blocks.

 

TOP STORY – CITY SALE TO FUND KANE AND GREALISH MOVES

Manchester City will offload several fringe players to raise £70million in order to fund their moves for Tottenham star Harry Kane and Aston Villa captain Jack Grealish, claims the Daily Mail.

With Sergio Aguero departed, City manager Pep Guardiola wants a frontline striker and those surplus to requirements will reportedly be let go.

First-team players Raheem Sterling, Gabriel Jesus, Ilkay Gundogan, Bernardo Silva and Riyad Mahrez all have admirers and could move on.

But also fringe talent like Yangel Herrera, Ivan Ilic, Jack Harrison, Pedro Porro and Lukas Nmecha, who have had loan spells elsewhere, could be cashed in.

Bernardo Silva has been linked with a move to Atletico Madrid in exchange for Saul Niguez, while Juventus are reportedly eyeing Gundogan.

 

ROUND-UP

Chelsea and Paris Saint-Germain are both keen on Inter's Achraf Hakimi and have lodged €60m (£52m) offers, reports Gianluca Di Marzio. Inter's asking price may be higher, while Chelsea may utilise Emerson Palmieri or Andreas Christensen as part of a swap deal.

- Bild says Borussia Dortmund will sell Jadon Sancho to United if they receive a suitable offer by the end of July. Sancho has long been tipped to swap Dortmund for United.

- Arsenal full-back Hector Bellerin is being linked with LaLiga champions Atletico and Real Betis by CBS Sport, while Sport have also claimed Juve are interested in the Spaniard, utilising Aaron Ramsey in a swap deal.

Liverpool are looking to replace Georginio Wijnaldum, lining up Roma skipper Lorenzo Pellegrini, according to Corriere dello Sport.

- The Sun claims West Ham are ready this month to step up their bid to sign Jesse Lingard permanently from Manchester United after his excellent loan spell.

- Fabrizio Romano reports Arsenal are set to finalise the details on a new contract for young talent Emile Smith Rowe.

Crystal Palace are closed to appointing former Wolves boss Nuno Espirito Santo as their new manager to replace Roy Hodgson, claims The Telegraph.

Stade Michel d'Ornano in Caen is a long way from Porto's Estadio do Dragao. To be precise, it's 1,573 kilometers in the unlikely event you ever have the urge to drive across Portugal and Spain, then all the way up to Normandy in northern France.

In terms of staging posts within a career, second tier French football in 2013-14 and the 2021 Champions League final are a million miles apart. But this is the journey Riyad Mahrez and N'Golo Kante have taken, almost stride for stride, as they wait to contest the European club game's greatest prize.

A look at Ligue 2's YouTube highlights from the first time the Manchester City winger and Chelsea midfielder faced one another on September 27, 2013, when Caen hosted Le Havre, reveals a few very familiar traits.

Kante can be seen bustling around with intent from the right of Caen's midfield three, although three-minute condensed match clips are obviously not the best medium for showcasing his qualities.

Mahrez created Le Havre's best first-half chance with a cute throughball, almost snuck in a cheeky free-kick at the near post and then did that first touch. You know the one – kills a cross-field ball stone dead with the outside of his left boot, twists the defender inside out and gets a shot off.

That attempt was saved, however, and a Faycal Fajr penalty after Le Havre's Zargo Toure was sent off gave Caen a 1-0 win. They would go on to secure promotion, beginning a remarkable mid-decade run of success for Kante, irrespective of which team he happened to be representing.

But Mahrez was the first to escape Ligue 2, joining Leicester City midway through the campaign and similarly earning promotion from the Championship.

After an improbable escape from relegation in 2014-15, Leicester parted company with manager Nigel Pearson and appointed Claudio Ranieri. Kante was one of his close-season signings, with Caen pocketing £5.6m, and the rest is gloriously improbable history.

That was a hefty outlay compared to the £400,000 Leicester sent Le Havre's way for Mahrez, who finished the Foxes' Premier League-winning campaign in 2015-16 with 17 goals, 11 assists and the PFA Players' Player of the Year award.

 

While the Algeria winger won the approval of his fellow professionals and Jamie Vardy's astonishing rise from non-league to the top of the English game earned him the FWA Footballer of the Year prize, the biggest revelation was arguably Kante.

"This player Kante, he was running so hard that I thought he must have a pack of batteries hidden in his shorts," Ranieri told the Players' Tribune.

"I tell him, 'One day, I'm going to see you cross the ball and then finish the cross with a header yourself!'."

A run to the final of Euro 2016 followed with France, and Kante was the one jewel of the Leicester triumph to depart in its immediate afterglow. He joined Chelsea for £32m, helped to drive Antonio Conte's men to the Premier League title and cleaned up at the end of season awards.

Twelve months later, he was a world champion as France romped to glory at Russia 2018. Kante was football's sure thing, at club or international level. And yet, in hindsight, the full palate of his qualities were perhaps a touch under-appreciated.

All eulogies came back to that insatiable work-rate, that battery pack in the shorts. Maurizio Sarri's installation as Antonio Conte's successor at Stamford Bridge, bringing with him his cerebral deep-lying playmaker Jorginho, would mean a change of pace.

In his two seasons under Conte, Kante made 127 and 113 tackles. This was down from terrifyingly relentless 175 (winning 71.4 per cent – his best success rate in the Premier League) in that season at Leicester, which does much to explain how his reputation was established and remained in the popular imagination.

 

In 2018-19, his tackles number fell to 74 and it has never returned to previous levels under Frank Lampard or Thomas Tuchel. But as a shuttling midfield presence under Sarri, his 73 touches in the opposition box that season were more than in his entire Premier League career up until that point, with four goals and four assists his reward.

Where some feared Jorginho's arrival would shove Kante out of his preferred position, they now operate very effectively in tandem and will probably do so against City. For all that the former Napoli man is charged with setting the tempo, Kante remains tidily efficient in possession. His pass completion in every season at the Bridge tracks between 85 and 89 per cent.

The 30-year-old stamped his presence all over the Champions League semi-final against Real Madrid and was named man of the match for both legs in a 3-1 aggregate triumph. During the second encounter in London, Kante made five interceptions – only bettered by six from Jorginho – but also made more passes in the opposition half (25) and created more chances (three) than any other Chelsea player.

This week in Porto, UEFA is displaying the Champions League trophy in a public square opposite Jardim de Joao Chagas. The shimmering prize is flanked by a City shirt bearing Kevin De Bruyne's name and number. The Chelsea jersey has Kante on the back. He is unquestionably one of the main attractions and keys to victory this weekend.

The same can be said for Mahrez, although his adjustment to life in Manchester was not as seamless as Kante's in England's capital.

As his old team-mate adapted to Sarri, Mahrez struggled to take on board Guardiola's demands having got the £60m move he had long craved. However, his 2019-20 returns showed improvements, with 11 Premier League goals and nine assists – up from seven and four a year earlier. Waiting patiently on the right-wing for his team-mates to disrupt opponents and leave him with one-on-one duels was different to the freedom he enjoyed at Leicester but starting to pay dividends.

He is now one of Guardiola's go-to men, came second behind Ruben Dias in City's player of the year poll and is a scorer of heavy goals.

When the Champions League quarter-final against Borussia Dortmund was on the line, 2-2 on aggregate with his team heading out on away goals at Signal Iduna Park, Mahrez slammed home a high-pressure penalty after an interminable VAR delay. He went on to score a goal in each leg as Paris Saint-Germain were swept aside 4-1 on aggregate, including the winner through a disintegrating defensive wall at the Parc des Princes.

"Riyad always was at a good level," Guardiola said earlier this month. "Maybe at the beginning he didn’t play much in the first season because we already had a structure with Leroy [Sane] and the other ones, but step by step he regained his position.

"Lately he has been playing really good and hopefully he can maintain this level."

At the other end of the square where Kante's shirt stands alongside the trophy he hopes to lift this weekend, UEFA have installed a merchandise stall where a shirt to commemorate the all-English final will set you back €60.

That amounts to fleecing that could not be further away from the value for money Leicester enjoyed when they plucked Mahrez and Kante from France and set them on the path to Porto.

Pep Guardiola lauded Riyad Mahrez's appetite for the big occasion after the Manchester City winger's brace secured a 2-0 win over Paris Saint-Germain and a place in the Champions League final.

Mahrez's free-kick sealed a 2-1 win at Parc des Princes in last week's first leg and he netted a goal in each half on Tuesday to close out a 4-1 aggregate triumph.

The former Leicester City favourite has found the going tough at times since joining City in 2018 but he is now a go-to pick for Guardiola, his four goals and two assists in this season's competition putting the club one game away from elusive Champions League glory.

"Riyad is an extraordinary player – big talent, huge quality, especially in the big games he is always ready," City manager Guardiola told a post-match news conference.

"We know his quality quite well. He is a fantastic player.

"The players in these stages are judged how they behave in the biggest scenarios, the big tests.

"He loves it and enjoys it. He made a good goal, the first one with right foot and the finish for the second. Three goals over the tie, he deserves big compliments.

Fernandinho was a surprise selection on his 36th birthday, but Guardiola felt the club captain excelled.

"Especially in the second half he was incredible," said Guardiola. "We adjusted a little bit [at half-time] to support John [Stones] and Ruben [Dias].

"He was so good, really, really good. It was his birthday, a big present. He has been an extraordinary captain this season, leading us in bad moments and he played really well."

Guardiola conceded it was strange to play such a key game behind closed doors, even if that has now been a reality of the coronavirus pandemic for almost a year.

Before the match, a group of City fans – some with flares – gathered to welcome the team bus to the ground.

"I have to say it was socially distanced but we loved it," Guardiola said. "It's nice to be in a final but we missed them."

"Of course, it was so weird playing the semi-final of the Champions League in empty stadium.

"The club belongs to the people, that's for sure. We are here for a period but the fans always stay. I am pretty sure they are so proud."

Riyad Mahrez was delighted with the way Manchester City effectively countered against Paris Saint-Germain, although he suggested this was not their aim in their Champions League semi-final victory.

City reached the final of Europe's elite club competition for the first time with a 2-0 second-leg win that clinched a 4-1 aggregate triumph.

Mahrez had hit the winner in Paris and added both goals at the Etihad Stadium, where the pitch was covered in hail following a pre-match shower.

His first came following a long pass from Ederson – "It's something we work at all the time," Mahrez said – before Phil Foden led a stunning break for the second.

City were sloppy in possession in the opening stages but defended doggedly and soon found space in attack as PSG pressed forward.

"I don't think it was the game plan, but obviously they had to come at us," Mahrez told BT Sport.

"Sometimes, we were a bit deeper, they lose the ball and we are good at the counter as well. That's how the two goals were. We are happy."

As well as his two goals, Mahrez weighed in with a tackle, two clearances and a block. All 10 outfield starters contributed at least one clearance for City.

"When you play the semi-final of the Champions League, you have to be solid, everybody has to defend, everyone has to contribute defensively," Mahrez added.

"That's what we did. We were very solid today, didn't concede much, and that is why we're in the final."

PSG ended with 10 men after Angel Di Maria was dismissed for stamping on Fernandinho, one of many late incidents as the visitors lost their discipline.

The Ligue 1 giants only conceded 12 fouls but earned five cards and might have got off lightly.

Reflecting on the match, Mahrez said: "It was a very good game. We didn't start good again. I don't think we had a very good first half, but we scored the goal and it was more comfortable after the goal.

"Second half I think we played very good; we had a lot of chances, we could score more.

"Then they lost their nerves and started kicking us. It was good. They had a red card and after it was more comfortable for us."

For much of his pre-match news conference, Pep Guardiola stuck to a familiar mantra of recent weeks.

Manchester City were 2-1 to the good against Paris Saint-Germain, with two away goals in the bank and a first Champions League final within touching distance.

All they had to do was "be who we are" and "be more calm". A two-time winner burnt five times at this stage of the competition with Barcelona and Bayern Munich, Guardiola exuded an authoritative air.

However, when the rampaging nature of some of City's European exits were put to him – most notably Mauricio Pochettino's previous visit to the Etihad Stadium with Tottenham – he conceded there was only so much he could do.

"Nobody can control the chaos," Guardiola said. Perhaps he'd checked the weather forecast.

Enjoying loosened COVID-19 restrictions, Manchester's beer gardens thronged with punters last weekend. A couple of hours before kick-off, a weather front blew in from somewhere near Old Testament Egypt.

Snow and hail flecked the first-half playing surface, but there was little cool about City's opening to proceedings.

Within 30 seconds, Phil Foden charged into Alessandro Florenzi. A minute later Fernandinho – Guardiola's customary flirtation with a surprise selection on these occasions – offered a similarly agricultural "Good evening!" to Angel Di Maria that apparently lingered.

Kyle Walker blocked from Neymar, Bernardo Silva blocked from Di Maria and then Walker erred to be outfoxed by Marco Verratti.

Of all the masterful playmakers on display, Verratti was the one who best retained his balletic poise despite the conditions. After half an hour, the Italy playmaker had completed 28 of his 29 passes, 18 of those probing menacingly inside the City half.

The hosts were creaking when referee Bjorn Kuipers awarded an absurd seventh-minute penalty. The ball struck Oleksandr Zinchenko's shoulder. Kuipers checked the monitor sheepishly and overturned his call while Zinchenko unloaded barrels of frustration and emotional energy in the direction of his assistant.

"Nobody can control the chaos."

Well, maybe Ederson can, high-risk/low-pulse goalkeeping replicant that he is. City finally enjoyed a period of smooth possession, moving the ball back to their Brazilian gloveman.

It might not be exactly "who we are" in Guardiola terms, but Ederson's booming 90-yard pass down the left was immaculate. Zinchenko, propelled by a mixture of shrewd positional play and righteous indignation, charged onto the pass.

Kevin De Bruyne was unable to convert, his shot blocked, but Riyad Mahrez was alert to the loose ball, becoming the second player from an English club to score in both legs of a Champions League semi-final after Sadio Mane in 2017-18.

Still, City did not completely settle. One ludicrously dicey roll out from Ederson to Silva saw Di Maria steal in and fire just wide from outside the box.

However, with Kylian Mbappe convalescing on the bench, PSG began to look a touch one-dimensional. The threat of the France star's electric pace in behind was replaced by Mauro Icardi's cloak of invisibility. By the time the former Inter striker was substituted in the 62nd minute, none of his 16 touches remained in the memory.

Mbappe's absence meant everything was happening in front of City and, although their defence had plenty of work to do, Walker, the irrepressible Zinchenko and John Stones all enjoyed stellar nights.

One exceptional Zinchenko challenge to deny Neymar early in the second half saw Stones envelope his diminutive colleague in a bear hug. At that stage in the contest, it was as valuable as any goal.

Then there was Ruben Dias. Perhaps nobody can control the chaos, but the hulking Portugal centre-back could probably block it.

No City player made more than Dias' three blocks. One of those appeared to be with his nose when Ander Herrera blasted goalwards. The former Benfica skipper bounced back up, looking convinced that there is no more fun to be had in the world than stopping a shot in a Champions League semi-final with your face.

Mahrez might beg to differ. Life in Manchester has not always been easy for the ex-Leicester City favourite, but he is now one of Guardiola's go-to men and a supplier of cutting edge within a team of whirring creators.

Two of those – De Bruyne and the now habitually brilliant Phil Foden – combined to create a wonderful second for Mahrez.

Chaos then consumed PSG, their race run. Di Maria kicked out at Fernandinho – Brazil getting one over on Argentina in that eternal battle of perpetual antagonism – and there was plenty more erratic nonsense to follow. Zinchenko was still adorably furious, but elsewhere there was a steely calm and abundant class in sky blue.

Mahrez rounded out his night of nights by doing a Dias, haring back into his own area to make a block. It nearly summarised a tale of mission almost accomplished, of chaos controlled.

Five years have passed since Leicester City stunned the football world and sealed their astonishing first Premier League triumph.

The Foxes had faced relegation the previous season before rallying late in the year but then stormed clear at the summit in 2015-16.

Leicester are now regular Champions League challengers, yet the story of that campaign remains remarkable.

With Opta data, we tell the tale of their title success through their three key performers.
 

VARDY'S GOALS

Jamie Vardy's rags to riches football fairytale story is well documented, but by this point in his career it is fair to say he had not yet made the grade in the Premier League. 

Having scored 16 times in their 2013-14 promotion campaign, Vardy scored one, created two more and won a pair of penalties for the further goals in a delirious 5-3 defeat of Manchester United in September 2014, then did not net again until March 2015.

Team-mate David Nugent provided an obvious, easy comparison, the player too good for the second tier but not good enough for the top flight.

Nugent's 20 goals in 46 games in 2013-14 improved his Championship tally to 90 in 254. He had found the net only nine times across 64 Premier League appearances, though, and would add just five more from 29 matches for Leicester.

But where Nugent's 2014-15 season followed a familiar, underwhelming theme, Vardy improved drastically over the course of a relentless run-in.

Playing a vital role as seven wins from nine games lifted Leicester from the foot of the table, Vardy ended the season with five goals and eight assists. Three of his five strikes came from fast breaks, having been involved in 11 counter-attacks – the fifth-most of any Premier League player – as the Foxes found an effective way of playing.

Leicester had fewer fast breaks in 2015-16 (21) than the previous year (34) but still led the league in this regard and scored from six such counters. Four of those goals came from Vardy among a breakout 24 for the season.

Freed by a quick, direct set-up, Vardy ranked fourth in the league for shots (115), second for shots on target (53) and third for touches in the opposition box (221). The ultimate confidence player, Vardy scored in a record-breaking 11 consecutive matches.

The tireless forward maintained his nuisance factor, too, winning possession in the final third 33 times and earning seven penalties – both league highs.

The Leicester number nine took 20.87 per cent of his chances but only marginally outperformed his expected goals (xG) total, his 19 non-penalty goals coming from shots worth a top-ranked 18.34 xG.

Vardy has since become more clinical – peaking with 28.17 per cent shot conversion in 2017-18 – but has never again been so busy in the area.

MAHREZ'S GUILE

Anthony Knockaert also fell into that Nugent group, lasting a mere nine games at Leicester in the top flight having created 2.6 chances per 90 minutes in the first of his three Championship promotion campaigns.

Riyad Mahrez, signed in January 2014, was the Foxes' other star winger and also struggled in his debut Premier League season. Having been involved in seven goals in 19 Championship outings, he could only match that tally again across an entire year in the top division.

As with Vardy, though, Leicester's late-season resurgence allowed the Algeria international to carry momentum into the new campaign; he started the final four matches of 2014-15 and netted both goals in a win over Southampton.

And the improvement in Mahrez's play was even more pronounced.

There were two more goals against Sunderland on the opening day, among 13 by Christmas alongside seven assists. That pace slowed – he finished with 17 goals and 11 assists – but Mahrez trailed only Vardy for goal involvements.

Despite this, Mahrez was far from the most prolific creator. His 68 key passes ranked eighth but made up less than half of leader Mesut Ozil's output (146). Mahrez crafted high-quality openings, however, second only to Ozil (28) in creating 20 'big chances' – situations where Opta would reasonably expect a player to score.

This was all the more impressive as Mahrez was also required to provide an outlet for a side with the third-lowest average possession (42.4 per cent) in the division. Only Wilfried Zaha (274 to 255) attempted more dribbles, while nobody completed more (131).

Mahrez has never once attempted 100 dribbles in a season since joining Manchester City, but the close control and spellbinding skill that is merely another option at the Etihad Stadium then attracted defenders and opened space for sprinters Vardy, Marc Albrighton and Jeffrey Schlupp.

KANTE'S GRAFT

Gokhan Inler was presumed to be the replacement for Esteban Cambiasso, who had led Leicester's rescue act from midfield with five goals – as many as Vardy – at the age of 34.

Inler started only three games but for good reason. Fellow new signing N'Golo Kante was perhaps the biggest game-changer for the Foxes. Opponents might have dominated possession but they could never rest.

Kante, at Caen, had led Ligue 1 midfielders in tackles (178), tackles won (146) and interceptions (110) and ranked second for recoveries (369) in 2014-15.

The transition to the Premier League was seamless. He was first again for tackles (175), tackles won (125) and interceptions (156), although he fell to third in terms of recoveries (326). The man in second was Leicester team-mate Danny Drinkwater.

What the Foxes lacked without the experience of Cambiasso, Kante's bite more than made up for.

The midfielder became more careful in possession following his move, too, losing the ball with just 18.1 per cent of his touches, the lowest rate of any Leicester player with 1,000 touches or more and an improvement on his 23.4 per cent with Caen.

Even then, it was not as straightforward as a single signing fixing every issue. Idrissa Gueye, another Ligue 1 recruit, ranked second in tackles, tackles won and interceptions and first in recoveries yet was relegated with Aston Villa.

But Kante's infectious tenacity set the standard at the King Power Stadium and only Tottenham blocked a greater share of their opponents' shots (32.7 per cent) than Leicester (30.6), contributing to a conversion rate of just 6.9 per cent.

When Kante then left for Chelsea at the end of 2015-16, struggling Leicester waited only until January before signing another tough tackler in Wilfred Ndidi, one of just two players – the other being Gueye – to have since registered 130 or more tackles in a single Premier League season (each doing so twice).

In that time, nobody has been able to match Kante's title-winning mark.

Manchester City produced a sensational second-half turnaround to seize control of their Champions League semi-final against Paris Saint-Germain, Kevin De Bruyne and Riyad Mahrez getting the goals in a 2-1 first-leg triumph.

A pulsating contest at the Parc des Princes saw PSG take a 15th minute lead when captain Marquinhos – returning to action from a groin injury – headed in at a corner.

However, having been second best during the first half, City were vastly improved after the break, an equaliser arriving when De Bruyne's curling delivery into the penalty area drifted beyond everybody to find the net.

An 18th straight away triumph for Pep Guardiola's side was secured courtesy of a Mahrez free-kick that found a gap in the wall and, having lost control of the game, PSG then lost their cool in the closing stages, Idrissa Gueye shown a straight red for a dangerous challenge on Ilkay Gundogan.

There had been little sign of the drama to come at half-time. The hosts were deservedly ahead after Marquinhos – who had not played since scoring in a 3-2 win over Bayern Munich in the quarter-final first leg – had flicked in a deliciously whipped-in delivery from Angel Di Maria.

City's best chance to equalise before the break came when the hosts gifted them possession, but Phil Foden was only able to shoot straight at Keylor Navas when afforded a clear sight of the target.

Yet Pep Guardiola's side penned PSG in to change the complexion of the tie completely. They had a 65.1 per cent share of possession after the interval, leading to them getting two crucial away goals ahead of the return fixture next week.

De Bruyne appeared to be aiming for a team-mate but ended up scoring himself, though there was no doubt Mahrez meant his strike, PSG crumbling under pressure.

While there is still work to do back in Manchester, a first-ever Champions League final appearance for the club is within City's grasp thanks to an unforgettable night in Paris.

Pep Guardiola refused to recognise the Champions League as a greater priority for his Manchester City side as they also close on the Premier League title.

City have never won Europe's premier club competition and are playing in the semi-finals for just the second time.

They face Paris Saint-Germain in France on Wednesday and then host the Ligue 1 giants, last year's beaten finalists, next Tuesday.

Between those two matches, City could win the Premier League. If they defeat Crystal Palace and defending champions Liverpool win at Manchester United, Guardiola's men will reclaim that crown.

While acknowledging his club have been building towards a Champions League challenge over the past decade, Guardiola was keen to talk up City's continued domestic success.

They claimed silverware in the EFL Cup final on Sunday, a competition they have won in four consecutive campaigns.

"It's the second time we are there [in the Champions League semis]; of course we are not the elite in this competition, that's for sure, but we want to be there," said Guardiola, reaching this stage for a record-equalling eighth time.

"When the owners took over a decade ago they took steps to improve in England first of all, in the Premier League, in the cups, then this.

"The owners and managers and staff got this position right now. Every time we play this competition and we are lucky to live right now where we are.

"Right now I'm incredibly happy to travel with this club to Paris to be ourselves and play this semi-final with the target to win the game.

"And after, go to Crystal Palace to win one of the two games to win the Premier League, the most important competition. The Champions League is the nicest one but the most important is the Premier League.

"After, next Tuesday in Manchester, we play Paris to try to reach the final."

City are looking for a 10th Champions League win of the season, a mark never previously reached by an English club in the competition's current format.

Only Real Madrid in 2011-12 have previously had 10 victories in a campaign without lifting the title.

Guardiola will not get complacent and expects a tough test against PSG, who are bidding to become the ninth European Cup/Champions League team to reach back-to-back finals, but he is also determined City will enjoy the experience.

"We know we will suffer. I know the weapons they have up front," he said. "Everyone who loves football knows the quality they have.

"But we're in the Champions League semi-finals, what can you expect? PSG is not just two players, they are many situations. We have to know them and try to attack them.

"I will not play 90 minutes thinking how good this player is, just how to beat them. I learned from Johan Cruyff: you have to enjoy the game, enjoy the responsibility.

"Top players enjoy situations because they enjoy responsibility - that's why the greatest players win this competition, because they play it like a friendly game.

"The mythical sentence [from Cruyff] before the final in 1992 in Wembley was to go out and enjoy.

"I will not tell the players that - I'm no Cruyff - but enjoy the travel, the coffee in their airport, the hotel, watching the other game tonight, the walk, the training.

"We're privileged to be one of the best four teams in Europe this season. It's what I want to see in my players. That's why Cruyff had this idea.

"Once we arrive in the final, it's not to be worried or concerned in case we lose. If we lose, we try again next season.

"Once you arrive in these stages, you're nervous because you think of the consequences, not the pleasure of trying to beat them.

"This is the mindset of the greatest players in all the sports: we did it already, we try to do it the next one."

Winger Riyad Mahrez was speaking alongside Guardiola and described last season's quarter-final defeat to Lyon as "the biggest disappointment in my career".

But he and his City team-mates are not content simply making the last four.

Paris-born Mahrez said: "You have to show that you deserve to be here and deserve to be in the final. That's what we have to try to do tomorrow."

He added: "The Champions League is the thing we're missing. I don't think anyone in our team has won it before. In Europe, it's the best thing you can play for and win.

"If we can try to first go in the final, then we will see. The most important thing is tomorrow. Tomorrow we have to make a good game and try to go through."

Riyad Mahrez admitted he was "scared" Manchester City would be hit by a Tottenham sucker-punch before Aymeric Laporte's header secured EFL Cup final glory at Wembley.

A dynamic City performance lacked just one thing as the trophy match entered its last 10 minutes: a goal.

Then Laporte leapt to head Kevin De Bruyne's free-kick past the busy Hugo Lloris and all was well in City's world, a fourth successive EFL Cup triumph and the first part of a possible treble secured.

City had 21 goal attempts to earn a 1-0 win while Tottenham had only two, both from outside the penalty area. The return of Harry Kane meant Spurs could cling to the presence of their talisman, but they could not provide him with service in the penalty area.

With 62.2 per cent of possession, it felt inevitable City's pressure would pay off, and eventually that proved to be the case.

Mahrez told Sky Sports: "It was a tough game. We knew it was going to be tough. We stayed focused, we kept dominating, we kept passing the ball and then we scored and I think we deserved to win."

The prospect of Tottenham making City pay for their wasted chances was in the back of the mind though, as Mahrez admitted.

"Obviously you're always scared because it's a good team, but we were very confident again," he said. "It's a very good win. We get the trophy again and we're very happy.

"Just like the manager said, we focus on every competition we play. It was the final and in a final you have to win, whether you play good or not. I think we played good and we won."

City are now level with Liverpool as the most successful team in this competition's history, with eight triumphs.

They look bankers for the Premier League title and have the first leg of their Champions League semi-final against Paris Saint-Germain coming up on Wednesday. That is the title City want most of all.

Mahrez said having supporters at Wembley made a "massive difference" to Sunday's occasion. Only 8,000 were allowed into the stadium that can seat 90,000, as English football begins its slow crawl back to normality, with the COVID-19 pandemic having led to empty stands.

"It was so good to have the fans back," Mahrez said. "The atmosphere, even with 8,000, was amazing and we're looking forward to having more fans there."

Pep Guardiola has suggested Raheem Sterling needs to rediscover his confidence if he is to usurp Phil Foden and Riyad Mahrez from Manchester City's starting XI.

Sterling has been an important performer throughout the Guardiola era at the Etihad Stadium but has started just two of City's past eight games across all competitions.

He was in the XI for all three of England's World Cup qualifiers during the recent international break, scoring in a 5-0 win against San Marino.

Sterling started City's surprise Premier League defeat to Leeds United yet was back on the bench for Wednesday's Champions League quarter-final second leg against Borussia Dortmund, during which both Mahrez and Foden scored to seal a place in the last four.

"He's maybe the second or third player with the most minutes this season," the City boss told a media conference.

"The trust with Raheem is intact. He's only played less because Phil and Riyad are at the top level, scoring goals and being so decisive in the final third.

"The confidence, he has to have it. He has it from all of us, he has to have it because the quality is there. I cannot give the players confidence, he can have it for himself.

"Having confidence from me, for being selected, is completely the opposite. What we have done in these incredible years, with this amount of titles and records that went on, Raheem has been key.

"He was a key player and is a key player. But at this moment Phil is playing really good and Riyad is playing really good. That's the only reason. They know it. They know it and everybody plays a lot of minutes this season.

"Every day, people want to take what happened in the past and future. I could not care less. I don't care. I care about the training sessions, how you were, how you behave, about the body language, your mood, and then tomorrow, semi-final day, that's when you have to talk.

"We have excellent human beings, the relationship in the locker room in bad moments this season was fantastic and in good moments it's fantastic."

Meanwhile, Guardiola confirmed Zack Steffen will start against Chelsea ahead of first-choice goalkeeper Ederson.

The United States international has started all four of City's games in the FA Cup this season and Guardiola acknowledged it would not be fair on the 26-year-old to drop him for the clash with Thomas Tuchel's side.

"He's played really well in the FA Cup," Guardiola explained. "He's an international goalkeeper and when he has played he has played at a good level. He's training well, he deserves it. I am more than delighted to give him this opportunity."

Pep Guardiola insists Raheem Sterling is only out of the Manchester City side due to the "incredible, incredible, incredible top form" of Riyad Mahrez and Phil Foden.

Sterling has been a key performer throughout the Guardiola era at the Etihad Stadium but a scoreless outing in last month's 2-0 FA Cup quarter-final win at Everton stands as his only start in City's past six matches across all competitions.

He was in the first XI for all three of England's World Cup qualifiers during the recent international break, scoring against San Marino.

The 26-year-old was back to a substitute's role when the Premier League leaders took on Leicester City last weekend before failing to feature in the 2-1 Champions League quarter-final win over Borussia Dortmund.

Sterling might have the chance to press his claims once again when City host Leeds United on Saturday, with Guardiola expected to ring the changes.

Both men denied a reported bust-up in the aftermath of last month's Manchester derby defeat and the City manager insists the form of midweek matchwinner Foden and Mahrez – who was named PFA Premier League Player of the Month for March on Friday – is what has forced his hand.

"Raheem has been so important in our period here since we arrived, nothing would have been possible without him," he said.

"Right now, I decided because I see Riyad and Phil in incredible, incredible, incredible top form. This is the only reason why, there is not another one.

"Phil, you see the last 30 minutes he played against Dortmund, he created all the chances that we had [after] 1-0, he scored the last goal with an incredible control and assist from Gundo [Ilkay Gundogan].

"And Riyad, the last month always has been so decisive, so this is the only reason why.

"He's important for the team and the club, there's no doubt about that. That was the reason for the selection."

Mahrez and Foden more creative

Since the turn of the year, during which time City have won 24 of 25 games across all competitions, Sterling has started 15 matches compared to 16 apiece for Mahrez and Foden.

Foden leads the way with 1,480 minutes, to 1,312 for his England counterpart and 1,462 for the Algeria international.

Despite missing a couple of gilt-edged chances before his winner, Foden's eye for goal has been a notable feature of City's campaign, and his seven goals for 2021 is more than Mahrez (five), who is outscored by Sterling (six) over the period in question.

However, operating nominally as wide forwards, Foden (38) and Mahrez (34) have created considerably more chances than Sterling (19) this calendar year and are second only to Kevin De Bruyne (44) in the City squad. That output has yielded six assists for Mahrez, five for Foden – level with De Bruyne - and three for Sterling.

Mahrez's 47 crosses from open play are more than any other City player in 2021, with Foden's 28 coming in behind De Bruyne (34) and Joao Cancelo (33). Sterling is back on 13, with one completed.

The former Liverpool man's dribbling prowess remains to the fore, with the most attempted (79) and completed (38) among his team-mates during this period. Mahrez boasts an impressive dribble success rate of 55 per cent thanks to 33 out of 60, while Foden has completed 26 of 53 after tormenting Dortmund at times.

Looking after the ball

This season, Guardiola's City have often seemed to play in a more controlled fashion and the manager underlined the importance of retaining possession in all areas of the field.

"There are players who are incredible to make movements in behind, runs in behind and there are others who have the quality to not lose the ball in any circumstances," he said.

"They are good at keeping the ball and sometimes, in some games, we need this more than the other situations.

"Some players suit better the way we have to play than the other ones, just for the skills, not being on bad form or whatever."

While acknowledging Sterling, Foden and Mahrez are each very well-rounded attackers, Sterling's forte lies more with the piercing runs in behind that Guardiola identifies.

Mahrez and Foden – as you might expect for a player who came through City's ranks as a central midfielder – tend to be a little more reliable in possession and this could further explain Guardiola's recent thinking.

Creative attacking players generally rack up more instances of possession lost due to the kind of passes and dribbles they attempt, so a good measure of how well they use the ball is to calculate their giveaways as a percentage of their overall touches.

In 2021, 1,067 touches and 202 instances of giving away possession amounts to 18.9 per cent for Mahrez, making him the most judicious of the trio.

Foden has lost possession 221 times from 1,008 touches (21.9 per cent) but Sterling's percentage is a little higher at 22.3 despite only 883 touches (possession lost 197 times).

This aspect might not be to the fore if Saturday's showdown with Leeds is similarly chaotic to October's 1-1 draw at Elland Road, but it is perhaps the desire for elusive Champions League glory that has persuaded Guardiola to seek greater control, leaving Foden and Mahrez as his go-to men and Sterling with unfamiliar work to do.

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