Roses are red, violets are blue, have we got the perfect Valentine's Day content for you!

Questionable rhymes aside (okay, very questionable), love is in the air as long-standing couples and newly formed relationships celebrate the day of romance on Sunday.

The world of football is certainly no stranger to the language of love, so before you crack open a bottle of red and exchange cheap knock-off gifts with your significant other why not get some inspiration for love with our Valentine's Day facts with some help from Cupid!

(Well not Cupid, Opta – but the team at Opta are full of love!)

MATT LE KISS-IER LOVES TO SCORE ON VALENTINE'S DAY

Valentine's Day is of course a day for love (and overpaying for those last-minute flowers and cards you forgot to buy…).

Two players have been particularly good at spreading the joy on February 14th with Southampton legend Matt Le Tissier and ex-Liverpool striker Michael Owen each scoring three times in the Premier League on this date – the most of all players.

Here's something even more interesting about that stat, though – each man's tally is a result of scoring a Valentine's Day hat-trick.

Le Tissier registered three against the Reds back in 1994, while Owen took home the match ball with a treble versus Sheffield Wednesday four years later.

Owen's three goals are part of 12 Liverpool have tallied on the day of love – comfortably the most by a team. Arsenal follow on seven, with Aston Villa and Southampton on four.

A ROSE FOR THE LADY?

Flowers are synonymous with Valentine's Day but none more so than the rose.

Two players named Rose have plied their trade in the Premier League – Danny (194 appearances) and Matthew (five appearances). The former, of course, is an England international who with his marauding runs from full-back has often been a, ahem, thorn in the side of opponents…

There are other love-themed names to have featured in the top flight. Valentino Lazaro played 13 times in the Premier League for Newcastle United on loan last term, while Valentin Roberge made 10 appearances for north east rivals Sunderland.

The Black Cats also had Donald Love on their books, the defender having previously represented Manchester United once in the top flight.

FOXES RACK UP THE CARDS

Whether from a partner or a secret admirer, it's always nice to receive a card or two on Valentine's Day.

Unless of course you're playing in the Premier League, in which case you want to see the referee keep their cards in their pockets.

In this regard, Leicester City have not been overly successful – the seven yellow cards representing the most received by a team on Valentine's Day. Arsenal follow closely behind with six, with Manchester City on four.

The Foxes also fare badly when it comes to red cards, having picked up two on February 14th – Danny Simpson and Hamza Choudhury account for those dismissals. The only other player to have been sent off on Valentine's Day is Everton hero Duncan Ferguson ... no, we weren't shocked either.

THE BEST BROMANCES

It goes without saying that we don't need to confine our love sharing to one manufactured day of the year…

No, we should be spreading the joy in our hearts all year round and these strike partnerships certainly succeed in that category.

Going back to the start of the 2015-16 season, no two players have combined for more goals than Spurs duo Harry Kane and Son Heung-min (33).

In fact, Kane features three times in the top-five – also ranking third with Christian Eriksen (19), and sharing 18 with Dele Alli.

Manchester City pairing Sergio Aguero and Kevin De Bruyne are second with 20, while Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez (18), who fired Leicester to shock title glory in 2015-16, also feature.

Liverpool lost a third successive top-flight game under Jurgen Klopp for the first time and Manchester City extended their record winning run in Saturday's Premier League action.

The Reds conceded three goals in a seven-minute spell as they went down 3-1 to Leicester City - managed by their former boss Brendan Rodgers - at the King Power Stadium.

Klopp's men are now 13 points adrift of City, who brushed aside Tottenham 3-0 at the Etihad Stadium later in the day for their 16th win in a row in all competitions.

Burnley also scored three unanswered goals at Crystal Palace to move further clear of the relegation zone, while Brighton and Hove Albion and Aston Villa played out a 0-0 draw.

Leicester City 3-1 Liverpool: No Vardy party for Klopp after latest setback

Liverpool's trip to Leicester marked Klopp's 300th game in charge of the club, though the German had little to celebrate come full-time after his side capitulated late on.

Klopp became the ninth manager to reach that landmark figure for the Reds and the day initially got off to a good start for his side.

Mohamed Salah gave the visitors the lead with his 10th away league goal of the season - the first player in the division to reach that mark - but then came a Leicester onslaught.

James Maddison made it eight goal involvements in his last nine league outings, before Jamie Vardy put Rodgers' side ahead.

It was the former England international's eighth Premier League goal against Liverpool - only against Arsenal (11 goals) has he found the net more times.

Harvey Barnes then rounded off the scoring with his eighth Premier League goal of the season, making him the highest-scoring English midfielder in the division this term.

The last time Liverpool lost three league games in a row was in November 2014 under Rodgers, who is the first ex-Reds manager to beat his former side since Roy Hodgson did so with West Brom in April 2012.

Manchester City 3-0 Tottenham: Goal-crazy Gundogan shines again for Guardiola's juggernaut

After setting a record for the number of successive wins for an English top-flight club in all competitions with their midweek FA Cup win at Swansea City, the Citizens picked up from where they left off in a straightforward victory against Tottenham.

City have now won 16 games in a row and are unbeaten in 23 in all competitions since losing 2-0 to Spurs in November's reverse fixture, conceding just six goals during that record-breaking run.

Incredibly, Pep Guardiola's men have not trailed for a single minute in any of their 15 league games since that loss at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium - only Arsenal, 19 games between December 1998 and May 1999, have embarked on a longer run.

Ilkay Gundogan has been City's star performer across their perfect streak, with his brace here taking him to nine Premier League goals in 2021 - the most of any player across Europe's top five major leagues since the turn of the year.

Rodrigo had earlier given the home side the lead from the penalty spot after getting the nod over goalkeeper Ederson, who may not have got on the scoresheet but did at least register an assist - the third goal he has set up for City in all competitions.

On the back of their 5-4 extra-time loss to Everton in the FA Cup last 16, Spurs have now shipped eight goals in their last two games - the most a Jose Mourinho-managed side has conceded in a two-game period in all competitions.

Crystal Palace 0-3 Burnley: Zaha-less Eagles fail to fly

The result at Selhurst Park had a sense of inevitability about it before a ball was even kicked due to Wilfried Zaha being ruled out with a hamstring injury.

Palace have now lost 18 of their last 20 Premier League games in which star man Zaha has been absent, failing to score in 16 of those 18 defeats.

What was surprising, though, is the fact Burnley netted three times, matching their tally from their previous 10 away league matches combined.

Johann Berg Gudmundsson opened the scoring after five minutes - the first time he has netted in back-to-back Premier League appearances in what was his 108th game in the competition.

Jay Rodriguez's fifth league goal against Palace - only against Nottingham Forest (six) has he bagged more - had Burnley two up and Matt Lowton rounded off the scoring.

It was the right-back's first top-flight strike since April 2013, a run spanning some seven years and 313 days.

Brighton and Hove Albion 0-0 Aston Villa: Martinez repels Seagulls in stalemate

Brighton were held to a goalless draw by Villa but it was not for the want of trying as they attempted 26 shots, which is the most they have ever managed in a Premier League game.

Villa keeper Emiliano Martinez had another inspired game with nine saves in total on his way to keeping a seventh away clean sheet in the Premier League this season - only Brad Friedel in 2009-10 (eight) has kept more in a single campaign for the club.

Brighton continued to push for a goal right until the end and were helped in their pursuit of an opener by substitute Adam Lallana, whose four chances created was the highest of any player on the pitch, despite only playing 28 minutes.

A point for Brighton does at least extend their unbeaten run to six top-flight matches, something they last achieved in November 1981 with a run of eight.

This is perhaps a fixture the neutrals should steer clear of in future, given that the last seven league games in which Brighton have hosted Villa have seen just eight goals scored, with neither team netting more than once in a match.

Manchester United matched their own record for the biggest home win in Premier League history as Southampton suffered the unprecedented ignominy of 9-0 defeats in consecutive seasons.

Ralph Hasenhuttl's men saw their outing at Old Trafford unravel from the moment Alexandre Jankewitz was shown a second-minute red card for an ugly lunge on Scott McTominay.

Aaron Wan-Bissaka began the rout and efforts from Marcus Rashford and Edinson Cavani either side of a Jan Bednarek own goal made it 4-0 at half-time.

Anthony Martial and McTominay made it 6-0 inside the final 20 minutes before a Bruno Fernandes penalty, Martial's second and a closing goal from Daniel James left Southampton – who also saw Bednarek sent off – in an unsightly heap.

From nine goals to nine men, Arsenal had David Luiz and Bernd Leno dismissed as they lost 2-1 at Wolves.

That scoreline was repeated in victories for Sheffield United and Crystal Palace that could have repercussions at the bottom of the table.

Manchester United 9-0 Southampton: Record-equalling joy and despair at Old Trafford

James' goal deep into stoppage time meant United won 9-0 for the first time since thrashing Ipswich Town in March 1995. It is only the third instance of this scoreline in the Premier League, following Southampton's thrashing on home turf against Leicester City in October 2019.

This fixture is not always anything like as kind to United. In fact, they have won home and away against Saints for the first time since 2012-13 – the last time they lifted the title.

Southampton's fourth consecutive Premier League defeat is also their biggest ever away loss in any competition.

United's efforts to share the goals around, with only Martial hitting a brace, means they are the second side to have seven different scorers in a Premier League match following Chelsea against Aston Villa in December 2012.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has seen his side utterly transform their home performances. They won only one of six at Old Trafford at the start of this league season, scoring three times. A run of four wins out of five, with one defeat, has yielded 19 goals.

The late flurry was aided by Bednarek adding a red card to his own goal, while it could have been so different were it not for Jankewitz's rash tackle. The teenager is the first player to be sent off on his first Premier League start since Serge Aurier for Tottenham in September 2017 and the fourth man to be dismissed inside two minutes in a Premier League game.

Wolves 2-1 Arsenal: David Luiz and Leno leave Arteta's men short

Arsenal took a deserved lead at Molineux through Nicolas Pepe, who now has three goals in his past four league starts – as many as he managed on his previous 16 starts.

Mikel Arteta says he will appeal David Luiz's punishment but the Brazilian defender's foul on Willian Jose means he has been sent off three times and conceded six penalties since his Arsenal debut in August 2019, more than any other player in the division during that time.

Ruben Neves converted from the spot before fellow Portugal midfielder Joao Moutinho hammered in a fabulous 30-yard effort. Very much a collectors' item, it was the first home goal of his Wolves career at the 61st attempt.

When Leno charged from his area to handball in a wretched misjudgement, Wolves' first league double over Arsenal since 1978-79 was virtually assured and the Germany international became the second Gunners keeper to be sent off in the Premier League – and the first since David Seaman against West Ham back in 1993.

Whether largely down to indiscipline or misfortune, Arsenal have been shown nine red cards since Arteta took charge on Boxing Day 2019 – six more than any other side.

Sheffield United 2-1 West Brom: Blades sharpen survival chances

Bottom club Sheffield United are now just a point behind West Brom in 19th, even though they fell behind to Matt Phillips' close-range finish before half-time.

Phillips has now found the net in each of the past 13 seasons in English league football, a run that goes back to 2008-09.

Jayden Bogle brought the hosts level before captain Billy Sharp stepped up to net another crucial goal.

Since Chris Wilder's first game in charge of United in August 2016, Sharp has scored 76 goals in all competitions – 44 more than any other Blades player during that period.

Sam Allardyce's much-vaunted reputation for making his teams hard to beat is not doing West Brom much good at the moment. The Baggies have conceded 26 goals in nine Premier League games under the ex-England boss, as many as they let in during 13 matches under Slaven Bilic this term.

Newcastle United 1-2 Crystal Palace: Eagles soar clear of trouble

Newcastle remain eight points above the drop zone but are now seven shy of Palace, despite enjoying a dream start.

Jonjo Shelvey's long-ranger after 71 seconds was the quickest goal the Eagles have conceded in a Premier League match since Ian Taylor scored for Aston Villa inside a minute in March 1998.

Roy Hodgson's side had not won away from home after conceding first since overcoming West Ham in October 2019, drawing two and losing 12 of such games since.

But Jairo Riedewald's venomous hit saw them level in style as he ended a run of 13 games without a goal in the Premier League.

Gary Cahill then became Crystal Palace's oldest ever goalscorer in the Premier League at 35 years and 45 days. He is also the oldest Englishman to score in the Premier League at St James' Park since Alan Shearer last did so.

Sergio Ramos is reportedly set to quit Real Madrid and is eyeing Manchester United, while David Alaba is apparently not a target for Manchester City.

Ramos, 34, seems set to leave Madrid at the end of the season with his contract expiring.

With the defender appearing no closer to agreeing to a new deal, he could make the move to the Premier League.

 

TOP STORY – RAMOS TO QUIT MADRID, EYES MAN UTD

Ramos is ready to quit Real Madrid and his camp are set to target Manchester United as his next destination, according to the Mirror.

Manchester City, Liverpool, Paris Saint-Germain and Everton have also been linked with the defender.

Ramos has been at Real Madrid since 2005, winning five LaLiga titles and four Champions Leagues among numerous other honours.

 

ROUND-UP

- Another defender set to move at season's end is David Alaba, with the Bayern Munich star linked with numerous European giants as his contract comes to an end. But 90min reports Manchester City will not be making an approach for the Austria international.

- Amid an injury crisis at centre-back, Liverpool could sign a defender before Monday's transfer deadline. The Evening Standard reports they are interested in Arsenal defender Shkodran Mustafi, who is out of contract at the end of the season.

- Arsenal may not be done in this transfer window, either. The Mirror says Arsenal are considering a move for Crystal Palace left-back Patrick van Aanholt.

- Marcos Rojo is set to get a Manchester United exit. Sky Sports reports the defender will terminate his contract, which was due to expire at the end of the season, before joining Boca Juniors on a free transfer.

Manchester City are threatening to run away from the rest of the Premier League and their success has been in a large part down to the previously unsung Ilkay Gundogan.

As they prepare to face Sheffield United, who surprisingly may be relishing a second trip to Manchester in four days, we look at who else is making City tick.

A trio of Pep Guardiola's players feature among our Opta-fuelled fantasy picks, along with high performers from Chelsea, Leicester City, West Ham and Crystal Palace.

EDOUARD MENDY

One thing is for certain: Chelsea's new boss Thomas Tuchel will know all about Mendy. Tuchel's old Paris Saint-Germain side faced Mendy twice in Ligue 1 during the goalkeeper's Reims days, scoring four the first time but just once second time around in a shock defeat. Last season saw Mendy help Rennes finish third in the French top flight.

The goalkeeper conceded just three times in his first eight Premier League games for Chelsea but has shipped 11 in eight matches since that bright start.

Clean sheets in two of his past three league games, however, suggest Mendy and the Chelsea defence are getting their act together.

Ahead of a home clash with Burnley, only one goalkeeper - City's Ederson (61 per cent) - has kept a higher share of clean sheets in the Premier League this season than Tuchel's new number one, with Mendy avoiding conceding in eight of his 16 appearances.

JOAO CANCELO

Move over Andy Robertson, there's a new defensive assist king in town. City's Cancelo has created more chances from open play than any defender in the Premier League this season after setting up 30 opportunities.

Admittedly, Robertson is second on that list after making 27 chances for Liverpool team-mates, but Cancelo has played four fewer games than the Scot.

With City facing the Blades at the Etihad Stadium this weekend, the flying full-back will doubtless be eyeing up more forward missions.

RUBEN DIAS

If City are to succeed where neighbours Manchester United failed, by keeping out the Blades, then Dias may have a big role to play.

The Portuguese centre-back has achieved more clean sheets than any other Premier League defender this season, playing in 10 games where City have had shutouts.

He is yet to score but has an xG value of 1.4, suggesting he is getting into positions from where he might soon be due a goal.

Only James Tarkowski (1.62) and Adam Webster (1.66) have a higher xG value without scoring among Premier League defenders this season.

HARVEY BARNES

Leicester winger Barnes is enjoying a purple patch after scoring three times and claiming two assists in his past six Premier League games.

Perhaps back him while he's hot as Leicester host Leeds United on Sunday.

Barnes has six goals and three assists in the top flight this season, while he also scored six and assisted eight goals across the previous Premier League campaign.

ILKAY GUNDOGAN

It seemed unlikely that Gundogan would be the man to step up and be City's top scorer in the absence of Sergio Aguero this season.

Despite Aguero having been rarely available, the name of Gundogan at the top of City's list of Premier League top scorers might mystify many.

But his seven goals have come from some exhilarating performances, and all have come in his past eight league games. This weekend he could become the first German player to score in four consecutive Premier League appearances.

WILFRIED ZAHA

Where would Palace be without Zaha? The Championship seems a likely answer to that, as again his goals and attacking drive are propping up their campaign.

Palace are suffering at the moment, though, having won just one of their past nine league matches, so Saturday's home game with Wolves would be a good moment for Zaha to fire.

He has nine goals in 17 Premier League appearances this season – only in 2018-19, when he netted 10 times, has he managed more in a single campaign in the competition.

MICHAIL ANTONIO

West Ham are challenging for Champions League football. Those eight words are a lot to take in, but Antonio has had a big say in their success this season.

He has five goals in 12 games in the Premier League and two goals and an assist in his past three outings ahead of a home clash with Liverpool, who sit just behind the Hammers.

Antonio enjoys facing Liverpool, having scored more goals against the Reds than any other West Ham player in the Premier League era. His four goals in six appearances against the reigning champions shows Antonio should not be overawed by Sunday's London Stadium occasion.

Could he rub salt into Liverpool's wounds as Jurgen Klopp's side, and their vulnerable defence, wonder where their title challenge has gone to?

John Stones "deserves the best", according to Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola.

Stones scored twice – his first Premier League goals for City – and put in an accomplished display at the back in a 4-0 demolition of Crystal Palace on Sunday.

Alongside Ruben Dias, Stones has been in imperious form, and from the 10 games the pair have started together in all competitions, City have claimed nine wins and one draw, conceding just one goal.

Indeed, with Stones and Dias proving their worth, Aymeric Laporte, a star performer in recent seasons, has been limited to four league appearances this term.

Injuries and losses of form have marred Stones' time at City, and the former Everton centre-back had lost his place in the England squad after making just 16 top-flight appearances last season.

However, despite talk of a move away, Stones stayed put to turn his form around, much to the delight of Guardiola, whose side are up to second, two points behind Manchester United.

"If it's one guy who deserves the best, it's John. He struggled a lot but he is a fantastic human being, his parents must be so proud," Guardiola told a news conference.

"He had personal problems and injuries in the past but at the moment he is settled well. Confidence is everything and he is confident for himself.

"Managers cannot give confidence but he started playing alongside Ruben and they play really well."

STONES' GAME – BY THE NUMBERS

Stones scored from both of his attempts. While his opener was a fine header from Kevin De Bruyne's exquisite cross, his second – which came after Ilkay Gundogan had doubled City's lead in delightful fashion – was a predatory finish after Dias' header was saved.

The former Barnsley defender also topped City's distribution metrics, completing 112 out of 117 attempted passes (a success rate of 95.7 per cent) – 54 of these came in Palace's half.

With 120 touches, Stones tallied up more than any other player, four ahead of Fernandinho, while he won one of his two aerial duels. In this regard, his partnership with Dias proved particularly fruitful, with the Portugal international winning three of four aerial battles.

Stones did not have to make a single tackle, with Dias again doing the dirty work in that respect, though he did gain possession six times, behind only Fernandinho (seven) and Palace's Andros Townsend (12).

DE BRUYNE AND GUNDOGAN LIGHT UP

Sharing the limelight with Stones were midfielders De Bruyne and Gundogan, who flanked Fernandinho in a 4-3-3.

De Bruyne created a game-high three chances, including the assist for Stones' opener – the Belgium playmaker's 100th in all competitions for City, with the 29-year-old creating 32 more goals than any other Premier League player since making his debut for the club in 2015.

"What can I say? The managers can help many things but one thing is the talent up front," Guardiola said of De Bruyne.

"Managers are incredibly fortunate or lucky to be in charge with this kind of player because it makes your life easier."

Not to be outdone, Gundogan was equally as sharp. The Germany international boasted the highest pass completion rate in Palace's half (96.6 per cent) of any City player with at least 10 such passes, and scored a sensational goal to put the hosts 2-0 up, with Raheem Sterling's first career goal directly from a free-kick rounding things off late on after Stones had doubled his tally.

Asked if Gundogan was playing the best football of his City career, Guardiola said: "Ilkay, the year when we won the second title when we won 14 games in a row [2018-19], he played as a holding midfielder because Fernandinho was injured and he was incredible.

"I thought it would not be possible without his cleverness and vision. I knew him when he played at Borussia Dortmund with [Jurgen] Klopp that when he plays close to the box he has a sense of goal.

"It is not easy to find a player that can play as a holding midfielder and as a number 10."

Gundogan has scored four goals in his past six league matches – as many as he had netted in his previous 55 games in the competition.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, PEP

Guardiola turns 50 on Monday and, though he thanked his players for an early birthday present, he will now be focused on Wednesday's scheduled match against Aston Villa, who have not played in the Premier League since January 1 due to a COVID-19 outbreak.

"Thank you for the players, it was a nice present. It's good," Guardiola said of being second in the standings.

"We fought a lot to be up there like many clubs and we will have to fight a lot to still be there. It is a weird season, everyone can beat everyone, it is difficult every game but I am happy for the players for another good performance and for the three points."

John Stones has explained his decision to go "back to basics" in a bid to rediscover his form for Manchester City.

Stones scored twice – his third brace for club and country – in City's 4-0 Premier League victory over Crystal Palace on Sunday.

The win, City's fifth in succession in the top flight, sent Pep Guardiola's team into second place above defending champions Liverpool, who could only draw with leaders Manchester United at Anfield.

Though Palace, shorn of the injured Wilfried Zaha, were hardly a threat, Stones and his centre-back partner Ruben Dias were rock solid as City gave boss Guardiola an early birthday present the day before he turns 50.

City are the first team to record five consecutive victories in the Premier League this season, while in the 10 games Stones and Dias have started together in all competitions, Guardiola's side have claimed nine wins, one draw and conceded just once.

Stones, a big-money signing from Everton in 2016, appeared to be surplus to requirements after an injury-hit 2019-20 campaign, with the 26-year-old handed just 12 league starts.

However, his first Premier League goals for City – and his first in the top flight since he netted for Everton against United in April 2015 – have capped off a remarkable turnaround in fortunes.

"We knew it was a tough game today. I put a lot of pressure on myself to get goals. I need to contribute by getting those goals," Stones told Sky Sports.

"I'm just trying to keep improving, building day by day on the training pitch, give a platform for the lads to express themselves up the pitch and get some goals.

"We're taking great pride in it, keeping clean sheets, it's what we're there to do. Hopefully we can keep the run going, keep as many clean sheets as we can because we know how vital they are in big games and in games like today.

"We know what'll happen if we keep getting them. We don't have to go out and score four or five goals every week. We've done it when it's 1-0 and we've fought right until the 90th minute. We kind of take the credit at the back but we've got to give credit to the whole team."

Asked how tough it had got when he was out of the side, Stones replied: "Very. It's always tough when you're not playing and you don't get a run of games, and when you do you don't perform to what you can do because maybe you've put too much pressure on yourself.

"I've gone back to basics, looked at myself first, looked at what I can improve on in every aspect. 

"You need to look yourself in the mirror and ask if I'm doing everything for myself and for the team and I did that, kept working hard, kept the faith and grinding away, keep trying to improve and I still am now. I don't think you ever stop improving yourself."

Stones' first goal was a glancing header from Kevin De Bruyne's sensational outside-of-the-boot cross – the Belgium midfielder's 100th assist for City.

"Kevin's done it over the seasons that I've been here," Stones said.

"I remember a few, off the top of my head, to Leroy [Sane] when he was here, some outrageous passes that you just don't know how he's done it.

"As he's put the ball in I knew it was coming straight to me. It's something we can only dream of and Kev can just do it when he wants."

John Stones scored twice as Manchester City moved into second place in the Premier League by sweeping aside Crystal Palace 4-0 at the Etihad Stadium.

With league leaders Manchester United and defending champions Liverpool sharing the spoils in a goalless stalemate at Anfield, City took full advantage to move within two points of first place.

On top of another top-class defensive display alongside Ruben Dias, Stones broke the deadlock 26 minutes in with his first league goal for City – Kevin De Bruyne the creator with a sensational cross to bring up his 100th assist for the club.

Ilkay Gundogan doubled the lead early in the second half prior to Stones celebrating an unlikely second, and a classy finish from Raheem Sterling wrapped up a fifth successive league win for Pep Guardiola's ever-improving City.

In search of his milestone moment, De Bruyne attempted to tee up Sterling with a quick exchange of passes in the 26th minute, when the Belgian might have been better served to shoot.

Yet his 100th assist did not take long to arrive. His initial poor corner was cleared, but De Bruyne was found by Sterling and, with the outside of his right foot, placed a wonderful cross onto the head of Stones, who turned in his first league goal since he scored for Everton in April 2015.

Gabriel Jesus was unable to beat Vicente Guaita after latching onto Gundogan's flick-on, but the Germany midfielder took matters into his own hands 11 minutes after the restart, robbing Andros Townsend on the edge of Palace's box and dispatching a fantastic finish into the top-right corner.

Jordan Ayew mustered Palace's second shot soon after, though it was blocked by Dias, who then played a key part in City's third.

Dias' header was parried out by Guaita, but the Portuguese's defensive partner Stones was on hand to drill in his second.

Sterling had the final say, the England forward – who missed a late penalty against Brighton and Hove Albion – curling a sublime free-kick into the top corner to add further gloss to a resounding triumph.

Pep Guardiola has no interest in the outcome of Liverpool versus Manchester United, with his focus only on finding a way to defeat Crystal Palace.

Manchester City host Palace in the Premier League on Sunday, by which point champions Liverpool will have taken on United.

Guardiola was asked who he thought would come out on top in the big clash at Anfield, but swiftly made it clear there was only one fixture he was focused on.

"Crystal Palace," he replied. "It's the only thing I want - I want to beat them. The rest, honestly, I don't care. 

"The last two seasons against Crystal Palace at home we got one point. We lost and we drew. Our performance in Selhurst Park was much better than the Etihad Stadium. 

"That's what the only concern I have is - winning against Crystal Palace. 

"We will play knowing the result [between Liverpool and United], because they play earlier than us, but I don't know."

No side has kept more Premier League clean sheets this season than City (eight) and they are only four points behind leaders United with a game in hand.

Despite their fine form, Guardiola is not concerned with the two sides ahead of them in the table getting all the attention.

"I didn't talk with the players about that," added Guardiola. "Teams make confidence and make a positive for the next game they are going to play by how you performed in the last one.

"I don't think the players are more optimistic or angry or upset because the people consider us not contenders this season, or maybe United or Liverpool are better than us.

"Against Brighton [in the 1-0 win last time out] we played good. In the moments we didn't play good Brighton were brilliant. 

"It is best to visualise we are in a good moment, because when you dream you want to be top of the league, you want to be in a better position when you don't play good, you are not going to achieve it. We won't get it."

City will be eyeing an eighth straight victory in all competitions and a fifth consecutive Premier League win when they take on Palace.

Only United (11) are on a longer current unbeaten run in the Premier League than City (eight), but Guardiola does not pay attention to such sequences.

He added: "When we have had incredible runs I have never thought about how many wins or how many marathons we have to do to win something. 

"When we won 18 games in a row in the season we got 100 points, after the win in the second game we said, 'okay, let's try to win the next one'. 

"Then the next, then after that the next one. I never expect my players to win a lot of games. I want to win the next one, and the next one is Crystal Palace. 

"This is the best way. I don't care how many games we are able to win or not win in a row. Absolutely zero. 

"It is just Crystal Palace, Wilfried Zaha, Eberechi Eze, Christian Benteke, Roy Hodgson, Luka Milivojevic - this is the only way I am concerned since the day after we beat Brighton."

DE BRUYNE EYES THREE FIGURES

Kevin De Bruyne has racked up four assists in his last six appearances for City and will be looking to continue a strong individual run in matches with Palace.

The Belgium international has been involved in eight goals in 10 Premier League games against Palace (two goals and six assists) – only against Southampton (two goals, seven assists) has he been involved in more in the competition.

No Premier League player has provided more assists in all competitions than his 14 this season.

In-form De Bruyne is hoping to reach a milestone against Palace, as his next assist will put him on to 100 for the club in all competitions.

Kevin De Bruyne's gesture during the closing stages of Manchester City's Premier League game against Brighton and Hove Albion was one of selflessness towards a team-mate and friend, but also one that backfired.

De Bruyne ceded his penalty-taking duties after drawing a foul from Albion goalkeeper Robert Sanchez in stoppage time at a sodden Etihad Stadium, giving Raheem Sterling the chance to step up.

Unfortunately, the England international ballooned his attempt into the deserted North Stand, leaving Pep Guardiola's side with a few more needlessly nervy minutes to see out a 1-0 win.

A key contributor as City racked up six major trophies in the three previous campaigns under Guardiola, Sterling is yet to fully hit his stride this time around, even as his colleagues in sky blue have moved their collective level through the gears over recent weeks to sit menacingly poised in the Premier League title race.

The Brighton miss means he has scored only three goals in his past 18 appearances in all competitions, a run of four in three either side of the October international break proving to be something of a false dawn.

"He’s an incredibly important player for us," Guardiola said of Sterling ahead of Sunday's meeting with Crystal Palace, which will come as the immediate dust settles on the top-two clash between Manchester United and Liverpool at Anfield.

"Everything we have done in the past, without him would not have been possible."

True as that might be, Sterling relocating his past form would certainly benefit City in an unpredictable season of ample possibilities.

In 2019-20, Sterling enjoyed the most prolific season of his career, scoring 20 goals in the Premier League and 31 overall.

His Premier League haul outperformed an xG of 17.3, coming from 97 shots, although he was even more clinical in those terms the last time City won the Premier League in 2018-19.

In that year of a domestic treble, within 25 in all competitions, Sterling's 17 top-flight goals from 77 attempts had an xG value of 13.7.

This season, he has four Premier League goals and an xG of 3.6. His 29 shots include five unsuccessful efforts from inside the six-yard box.

Close-range misses have become an unwelcome feature in Sterling's game, most gallingly when he blazed over with the goal at his mercy during City's chastening Champions League quarter-final defeat to Lyon in August.

Before last season, the 26-year-old had never dipped below a 50 per cent conversion rate on what Opta rank as "big chances".  He was most efficient in this regard when he scored 18 of 31 (58 per cent) in 2018-19.

That percentage dropped to 39.6 in 2019-20, as he scored 23 big chances and spurned 35. This term, five scored and 13 missed means a further drop to 27.8 per cent within this smaller sample size.

Sterling's overall shot conversion of 14.3 per cent is its lowest since 11.7 per cent in Guardiola's first trophy-less season at City in 2016-17.

So, in a talent stacked squad, should he be fearing for his place? In short, no.

"He will score goals, he will make assists and he wants to help in all departments," Guardiola insisted.

"Normally wingers are not able do that but he can help us. I'm more than happy to have him here with us."

A player holding himself to the high standards Sterling does is unlikely to take any comfort in the old head-tousling adage of "he was there to miss 'em", but there is something to be said for his relentless desire to contribute to the cause, irrespective of where his individual form resides.

Guardiola certainly views him as indispensable. Sterling has played 24 games and completed 1,864 minutes this season, second only to Premier League ever-present Rodri in the City squad.

He has had more shots on target (27) and attempted (88) and completed (41) more dribbles than any other City player. In terms of overall shots (38) and assists (six) he is only bettered by Kevin De Bruyne.

Sterling has created 30 chances for others and, despite his struggles in front of goal, remains joint-second in the squad's goalscoring charts on seven alongside Ferran Torres, one shy of midweek matchwinner Phil Foden.

The former Liverpool youngster's previous goal, when he scored decisively at Southampton in December, made him the first player to reach 150 goal involvements for Guardiola's City.

And, although the Brighton game ended in personal disappointment, his introduction from the bench was his 220th appearance under Guardiola. No player has been selected more frequently by the Catalan tactician in his celebrated career, with a certain Lionel Messi second on that list.

It is that overall big picture of absolute trust and an unquenchable thirst to contribute to the wider cause that means Sterling will remain one of Guardiola's most trusted performers, even if his dry spell goes on a little longer.

Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta insisted there was "nothing concrete yet" regarding Mesut Ozil's reported move to Fenerbahce.

Ozil, who is out of contract at the end of the season, has been heavily linked with a move to the Turkish giants.

But Arteta said no deal was done yet for the playmaker, who last played for Arsenal in March.

"Well, I don't know how close he's been before," he told a news conference after Thursday's 0-0 draw with Crystal Palace.

"There are some conversations going on with [technical director] Edu and the club at the moment, but nothing concrete yet."

The 0-0 draw against Palace means Arsenal have failed to score in seven Premier League matches this season, as many as all of 2019-20.

Arteta accepted the draw was fair, with Arsenal sitting 11th in the table.

"I am disappointed because we wanted to win the game," he said.

"But I think a draw is a fair result because we lacked some freshness and some quality in the final third to win this match."

Arsenal are next in action on Monday, when they host Newcastle United.

Mikel Arteta could not guarantee Kieran Tierney would return for Arsenal's next match against Newcastle United after he missed the goalless draw with Crystal Palace.

Tierney has been one of the Gunners' outstanding performers in a tough season, creating more chances than any other Arsenal player in all competitions (28).

Muscle tightness meant he sat out at home to Palace on Thursday, with Ainsley Maitland-Niles asked to fill in at left-back and struggling.

The England international did not create a single chance, failed to find a team-mate with his only cross, and was replaced by Nicolas Pepe with 25 minutes remaining.

That substitution saw Bukayo Saka – another standout star this term – moved to left-back, yet he also underwhelmed, finishing with only two key passes.

After the stalemate, which ended a four-match winning run in all competitions, Arsenal did not shy away from the significance of Tierney's absence.

"He's a real threat," Arteta told Sky Sports. "In the way we're playing and the way we attack on that left-hand side, he's a really important player.

"We didn't have him, he's injured, and we have to find another solution."

Arsenal do not play again until Monday, but their manager added of Tierney's recovery: "I do not know [if he will be back].

"It depends how he evolves. He's going to have an MRI scan tomorrow and we'll see how he is."

Right-back Hector Bellerin was also quizzed on the impact of his team-mate missing the match.

"I think we do miss every single player when they're not on the pitch, but we also have great players coming back," he said.

"I think Ainsley did a great job again filling in, such a versatile player, but it's true that Kieran also was enjoying very good form.

"We did miss that probably on the left side, but we have very talented players in many areas that can come in. We're not a team that boils down to just one player.

"We need to find ways to be creative, to break down other teams, whatever the challenge they give us, and we need to keep improving on that."

Arsenal kept a first home Premier League clean sheet since July 1 but only after James Tomkins headed against the crossbar and Bernd Leno made a superb save from Christian Benteke.

The Gunners offered little going the other way, having only two shots before half-time and scarcely threatening Vicente Guaita's goal with any of their nine second-half efforts.

A disappointed Bellerin added: "We've been enjoying winning lately. We know that we're doing everything we can, we're working really hard, we're doing what the boss tells us to do.

"But sometimes football games are like this; we cannot win all of them.

"We are in part of a process, we feel like we understand each other on the pitch and the way that the coach wants us to play more and more, then sometimes it's down to the final shot or the final decision. Today we weren't as good in that situation."

Arsenal's winning run came to an end in a dour Premier League goalless draw at home to Crystal Palace on Thursday.

The Gunners had won their past four matches in the league and cup to arrest an alarming slump, but their performances have still not been quite as convincing as results would suggest.

Mikel Arteta's men needed extra time to defeat Newcastle United last time out in the FA Cup and lacked any sort of imagination against Palace as the influential Kieran Tierney sat out with muscle tightness.

Indeed, Arsenal were ultimately fortunate to preserve a first home Premier League clean sheet since July 1 as they stayed 11th.

It quickly became clear the hosts would miss Tierney, their outstanding left-back, whose right-footed deputy Ainsley Maitland-Niles did not provide the same balance on that flank.

Home chances were therefore few and far between before the break and Palace instead twice came close to breaking the deadlock.

James Tomkins met Eberechi Eze's free-kick but nodded against the crossbar, then Bernd Leno was required to use the full length of his frame to reach Christian Benteke's header and claw clear.

There was marginal improvement after the break, yet visiting goalkeeper Vicente Guaita was largely untroubled, watching Rob Holding head wide as Palace extended their unbeaten run against Arsenal to five league matches.

Mikel Arteta is not ruling out David Luiz receiving a new deal at Arsenal and reminded those players on expiring contracts that they can earn an extension through their performances on the pitch. 

David Luiz made his return from a spell out with illness in Saturday's FA Cup third-round clash with Newcastle United, playing 120 minutes in what was just his third appearance since the start of December. 

The 33-year-old has also missed time due to a hamstring problem and a head injury this season, limiting him to 14 outings in all competitions. 

Among defenders to have made at least 40 Premier League appearances since the start of last season, David Luiz is among a group to have kept the fewest clean sheets (eight, along with Adam Webster, Lucas Digne and Yerry Mina). 

However, Arsenal have only conceded 47 goals while he has been on the pitch, with only Virgil van Dijk (44), Serge Aurier (42) and Kyle Walker (35) shipping fewer. 

David Luiz's contract at Emirates Stadium will expire at the end of the season but Arteta suggested he could yet play his way into an offer of fresh terms. 

"David had a really difficult season because he had three different things that have kept him away from training and games, which is unusual because he's normally he's always available," said Arteta. 

"He had to deal with that and then he had to play 120 minutes and I think he was exceptional, just the way he handled the game against a difficult number nine like Andy Carroll and to play for 120 minutes as well at his age with not much was a real test and I really like what he did. 

"He is fantastic. He's one of the leaders in the dressing room. He's one of the most experienced players and he's won everything in the game.

"He is so good with the young kids. When you look at people who can help and be a role model, he is always with them, he is always supporting them, giving them confidence and advice. It is great to have someone like him around.

"We will see what happens. There's a lot of things happening around the club. A lot of decisions to make. I don't want to rush any decisions. I just want players to be focused.

"They know they have six months left or eight months left, some of them a year, they know their contracts are like that and we can't change them right now. I think it's time to be focused.

"We've been through a difficult period in the last few weeks and I just want people to focus on football. If you do what you have to do on the football pitch you will deserve the chance to keep with us if this is what you want."

Shkodran Mustafi, Sokratis Papastathopoulos and Mesut Ozil are only contracted to Arsenal until the end of the season, while Dani Ceballos' loan deal will end at that point.

Alexandre Lacazette, Eddie Nketiah, Calum Chambers and Mohamed Elneny are on deals that run until June 2022.

Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta lauded Thomas Partey and his impact as the star midfielder prepares to return for the Gunners.

Partey has been restricted to just six matches for Arsenal since arriving from LaLiga side Atletico Madrid in a £45million deal three months ago.

Only one of those appearances has come in the last two months, having aggravated a thigh injury in Arsenal's 2-0 loss to London rivals Tottenham in December.

However, Partey is back in contention for Thursday's Premier League clash with Crystal Palace and Arteta is excited to be able to call upon one of his key men once again.

"I think he's got a different presence - he brings something different to the team," Arteta said. "It's not just about his talent, it's not just about his physicality, it's who he is as a person. 

"He makes players better around him and that's a big, big quality.

"It's incredible that we are in January, we signed him in October and we have only played him [a handful of times]."

Partey has completed 2.6 dribbles per 90 minutes in his five Premier League outings and attempted 3.25 tackles per game, which no other Arsenal player can match.

And though the north London side have won only one of those five matches, compared to six victories in 12 league games without him, Arteta admitted Arsenal have missed the midfielder's presence.

"We haven't really seen the impact he could have on the team. Obviously we have missed him. I think it's going to be a big bonus if we can keep him fit," he said.

"When you are injured you feel first of all the responsibility when the club has made the effort we made to sign him.

"He was so willing for months to be joining us. He really wants to be a part of it and knows how much he can help. 

"Then he had to deal with the injuries, with the lockdown and moving into a new place, and that's been tough for him.

"That's why sometimes he was rushing and wanted to do everything straight away, because he's so willing to come back, he doesn't want to be alone at home. 

"He's in a really good place, he's settled really well in the dressing room, around the staff. He's a special character and hopefully we can see him on the pitch finally."

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