Fernandinho signed off from Manchester City with a fifth Premier League title under his belt as the club captain declared: "It's like we came back from the dead."

From 2-0 down to Aston Villa after goals from Matty Cash and Philippe Coutinho, City roared back in the final 15 minutes and snatched a 3-2 win with a double from Ilkay Gundogan and a fine strike from Rodri.

Brazilian Fernandinho has decided his time is up at City, after nine successful years in which he established himself among the best defensive midfielders in the history of the Premier League.

At the age of 37, the skipper played the first half of Sunday's game before a tactical switch saw Oleksandr Zinchenko take his place after the break.

That was a shrewd move as the younger legs of Zinchenko gave City a little extra energy, with Fernandinho having been deployed out of position at centre-back.

The outcome delighted Fernandinho, who watched on anxiously from the bench before City roared back to snatch the silverware. He then lifted the trophy, the perfect finale to his City career.

"It's a great experience for me," Fernandinho old Sky Sports. "It's like we came back from the dead today and won the league – an amazing feeling.

"At 2-0 down, playing at home, and we were a little bit nervous. We struggled a little bit to find the spaces. We had so many set-pieces [in the first half], but it wasn't enough to score the goal."

The likes of Kevin De Bruyne and substitutes Gundogan and Raheem Sterling drove City forward late on, and Fernandinho said such players "made the difference for us.".

"I think this is Manchester City's spirit. We never give up, we always believe until the end," Fernandinho added.

He joined the club a year after their first Premier League title in 2012, when a 3-2 comeback win over QPR on the final day was clinched by Sergio Aguero's stoppage-time strike.

"It happened 10 years ago and today is a little bit different, but it's quite the same," Fernandinho said.

"It's a really emotional day for me. It was a really nice experience for me, a beautiful journey, and for sure they will be always in my heart.

"It's unforgettable emotions for me."

The Premier League witnessed drama at both ends of the table on an absorbing Saturday, as Manchester City and Liverpool continued to trade blows in the title race.

Jurgen Klopp's men downed in-form Newcastle United thanks to Naby Keita's first-half strike, before City responded by cruising to a 4-0 thrashing of Leeds United at Elland Road.

At the other end of the table, Norwich City were condemned to a record sixth Premier League relegation at Aston Villa, and Watford look destined to join them after Burnley continued their incredible upturn in form at Vicarage Road.

After another frantic day of action, Stats Perform looks at some of the key Opta facts from Saturday's contests.

Newcastle United 0-1 Liverpool: Keita continues Reds' run

Liverpool's bid for a remarkable quadruple faced a tough test when they travelled to Eddie Howe's in-form Newcastle in the first clash of the day.

However, Naby Keita's 19th-minute goal proved the difference in a competitive encounter, and was Liverpool's earliest winning goal in a 1-0 Premier League victory since December 2016, when Georginio Wijnaldum netted after eight minutes against Manchester City.

Klopp's side had chances to extend their lead, with home goalkeeper Martin Dubravka making nine saves, his highest tally in a single Premier League match. Since 2003-04, when Opta data began, the only Newcastle goalkeepers to make more saves in a Premier League game are Tim Krul (14 against Tottenham in November 2013) and Karl Darlow (11 against Tottenham in September 2020).

However, a 21st clean sheet of Liverpool's league campaign was enough to move them to the top of the table - only in 2005-06 (22) have the Reds kept more shutouts in a single Premier League campaign.

Liverpool have now picked up 40 points from the last 42 on offer in the competition, and the win turned up the pressure on City ahead of their trip to Leeds later on Saturday.

Leeds United 0-4 Manchester City: Visitors draw on set-peice prowess to reclaim top spot

The Reds were not top of the table for long, however, as City claimed a 4-0 win over relegation-threatened Leeds at Elland Road. Goals from Rodri and Nathan Ake both came from set pieces, meaning City have now scored 18 set-piece goals (excluding penalties) this season, their most in a Premier League campaign since 2013-14 (22).

Pep Guardiola's men have also kept five consecutive away league clean sheets, the best such sequence in the club's history.

After Gabriel Jesus had made the points safe, Fernandinho stuck a superb fourth goal late on, becoming the club's oldest ever Premier League goalscorer at 36 years and 361 days old, overtaking Frank Lampard in 2015 (36 years and 338 days old).

Leeds, meanwhile, are looking over their shoulders after another heavy defeat. They have conceded a remarkable 20 league goals against the two Manchester clubs this season (11 against City, nine against Manchester United) – a new top-flight record for goals conceded against the duo in a single season.

Watford 1-2 Burnley: Clarets' revival continues after Cork ends barren run

Elsewhere, Burnley continued their incredible revival by coming from behind to defeat Watford, making Mike Jackson the first Clarets boss to win three of his first four league games in charge since Jimmy Mullen won his first four in 1991.

After James Tarkowski's own-goal put Watford ahead, Jack Cork ended his run of 84 Premier League games without a goal with his first strike since December 2018 (against Liverpool), before Josh Brownhill scored a late winner.

The Clarets are now five points above the bottom three after winning three consecutive Premier League games for the first time since April 2019, having won just three of their previous 21 games.

Roy Hodgson's Watford, meanwhile, look destined for relegation after becoming the first side in English top-flight history to lose 11 consecutive home league matches.

Aston Villa 2-0 Norwich City: Canaries suffer another relegation at Villa Park

Burnley's win had other ramifications, contributing to Norwich suffering their sixth relegation from the Premier League – the most of any club in the competition's history – after the Canaries were beaten at Villa Park.

Remarkably, Norwich have been relegated in each of their last four Premier League seasons (2013-14, 2015-16, 2019-20 and 2021-22). They are only the second side in English league history to suffer relegation in four consecutive campaigns in the top-flight, after Crystal Palace (1992-93, 1994-95, 1997-98 and 2004-05).

 

Dean Smith's men saw their fate sealed after becoming the first team to concede 70 Premier League goals this season after just 34 games, representing the earliest point in any league campaign they have reached 70 concessions since 1956-57 (in their 34th game in the old Third Division South).

Ollie Watkins set the tone for Villa's win with his first-half strike, and he has now scored at least 11 more goals than any other Villa player since his September 2020 debut (25 goals in all competitions).

Pep Guardiola says Manchester City cannot be "tired" as they continue to compete on multiple fronts for silverware, with the prizes too big for them to falter in the final weeks.

The Premier League champions travel to face Atletico Madrid at Wanda Metropolitano on Wednesday in the second leg of their Champions League quarter-final, with Kevin De Bruyne's goal having given them a 1-0 aggregate lead.

It is a match that comes sandwiched between two encounters with domestic rivals Liverpool.

The Premier League title challengers played out a thrilling 2-2 draw on Sunday and will meet in the FA Cup semi-finals at Wembley on Saturday.

That hectic schedule is more of a badge of honour for Guardiola however, who explained that his side will not be sluggish when there are a trio of trophies at stake in the final few months of the campaign.

"We are close to the end of the season, where you have to be grateful to be here," he told his pre-match press conference on Tuesday.

"I would love to have more time, but in that moment, you are not tired. When you are so close to reaching the semi-finals of the Champions League, or the FA Cup, you are not tired."

Atleti failed to attempt a shot in the first leg. Since 2003-04, when Opta began collecting such data, the fewest shots recorded by a team across two legs of a Champions League knockout tie is four, by Shakhtar Donetsk against Bayern Munich in 2014-15. 

However, Guardiola knows his side will likely need to remain on the offensive and expects to face a different proposition to the defensively taut team that visited the Etihad Stadium last week.

"It will be slightly different," he added. "They play at home, and they create momentum.

"With the passion [that] all the fans [and] all the history that they have, there will be moments they will be aggressive and create problems."

Guardiola has faced Atleti away from home on six previous occasions as a manager (W3 L3), with the most recent of those being a 0-1 defeat in the Champions League while in charge of Bayern Munich in 2015-16.

It will be City's 100th game in the Champions League – they have won 55 of their first 99, which is already the most by an English side through a century of games in the competition. Overall, only Real Madrid have won more of their first 100 games in the competition (57).

Pep Guardiola was caught off guard after Fernandinho said he will not renew his Manchester City contract.

Fernandinho has been a pivotal figure for City since his arrival from Shakhtar Donetsk in 2013.

He has helped the club win four Premier League titles, one FA Cup and the EFL Cup six times.

However, at the age of 36, he is now back-up to Rodri in Guardiola's midfield, while the Brazilian is also able to fill in at centre-back if required.

Fernandinho has made 23 appearances across all competitions this season, though only 12 of those have been starts and on Tuesday, he suggested he will not be signing a new deal, with his contract due to expire at the end of 2021-22.

"I don't think so," he told a news conference when asked if he would be extending his stay in Manchester.

"I want to play regularly. I will go back to Brazil. I decided with my family, which is the most important for me."

Guardiola, however, was taken by surprise.

"Oh, I didn't know. You give me the news," City's manager said when it was his time to face the media.

"I didn't hear it. We will see what happens. I don't know what will happen. He is so important. I'll ask him.

"At the end of the season we talk, maybe it's because of his family. I would love it. We will talk."

Expanding on his appreciation of Fernandinho, Guardiola added: "The role he plays this season, I like the people who behave behind the scenes.

"I know what he has done, he handles many of our players and stars for the benefit of the team. I praise him and he was here when I arrived.

"We know him well, from day one to now always here. An incredible player for Man City. There are things nobody knows but I know exactly."

City face Atletico Madrid on Wednesday, holding a 1-0 advantage from the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final tie.

Pep Guardiola is still "so angry" with Kyle Walker over the full-back's three-match Champions League suspension.

Walker was sent off for lashing out at Andre Silva in the 82nd minute of City's 2-1 defeat to RB Leipzig in the group stage, with the Premier League champions having already secured qualification into the last 16.

City appealed against the England international's suspension, but it was upheld, with Walker missing the last-16 tie against Sporting CP and the first leg of the quarter-finals, with Guardiola's side surely heading for the last eight after winning the first leg 5-0.

The Premier League leaders are short of options in defence for the second leg at the Etihad Stadium on Wednesday. Ruben Dias is set to miss the next month due to a hamstring problem while Nathan Ake is not yet ready to return from injury, and Joao Cancelo is unwell.

John Stones and Aymeric Laporte are Guardiola's senior options at centre-back, while Oleksandr Zinchenko would seem the most viable option at left-back.

Guardiola said he does not know who will fill in at right-back, as he vented his frustration at Walker.

"He deserved it. Kyle Walker deserved the three," Guardiola said during a news conference when asked about City's failure to win their appeal.

"When one player does this stupid thing he deserves the three games, I'm sorry. I'm not so kind to Kyle in this kind of action.

"I'm still so angry with him, so angry. He knows it. It's not necessary to discuss that [with him].

"He's so important, Kyle for us. Did you see the game he played against United? But in Leipzig, we've qualified already, 75, 80 minutes to make this kind of action? So he deserves the three games.

"The club appealed, I did not agree. They had to do it because in other cases that were quite similar it was just two games but he deserved it. Hopefully he learns for the future."

One academy option who could be called upon is Luke Mbete, with the 18-year-old defender set to be included in City's squad.

"He's trained with us for a long time, the application is so high, a guy who wants to learn," Guardiola said.

"Still young but tomorrow he'll be with the squad and maybe we will need him, we will see."

Fernandinho, however, was namechecked as a possible option to slot into the defence, either at right-back or centre-back.

There has been talk of Fernandinho moving into a coaching role, yet Guardiola still wants to keep the Brazilian in his squad if possible.

"I would love [to offer him a new contract]," Guardiola said. 

"I'm so glad to have him he's an incredible captain and player. I have a feeling now at 36, 37, he struggled a little bit coming back from holidays but now he's getting his rhythm.

"For him he doesn't care, he will play against Peterborough. Other players his age wouldn't want to play there in cold weather, but he wants to help to give rest to Rodri. At the end of the season Txiki [Begiristain, City's director of football] and the club have to decide."

Kevin De Bruyne, meanwhile, is risking a suspension should he play and Guardiola may omit the midfielder.

"He's maybe not [going to start]," Guardiola said with a laugh. "We will see."

Oleksandr Zinchenko was to captain Manchester City at Peterborough United on Tuesday in his first appearance since Russia invaded Ukraine.

Ukraine international Zinchenko was on the bench at Everton on Saturday and pictured in tears as both teams showed their support for his nation at Goodison Park.

And further gestures were set to follow before the FA Cup fifth-round tie against Peterborough.

Zinchenko was to be at the forefront of those after he was named as City's skipper on the teamsheet, despite the club initially suggesting regular captain Fernandinho would lead the side.

Fernandinho, who spent eight years in Ukraine with Shakhtar Donetsk before joining City, offered the armband to Zinchenko in a sign of solidarity.

"Our captain decided to give the armband to him to show how important the situation is," Pep Guardiola told ITV Sport. 

"We are all the club behind this gesture, behind our captain, who represents his country."

Zinchenko and Fernandinho were among six changes to the City side, with Jack Grealish also brought in after a spell out through injury.

Guardiola had confirmed on Monday that Zinchenko would be involved, saying: "I think it would be good for him to play and show the reason why he is here – he is a magnificent player – to play football."

Kieran Trippier has long been linked with a move back to England.

The 31-year-old full back has plied his trade in Spain for the past two-and-a-half years.

Trippier spent time with Manchester City, Burnley and Tottenham before joining Atletico Madrid, but seems set for a Premier League return next month.

 

TOP STORY – ATLETICO TO PERMIT TRIPPIER MOVE

Atleti are set to allow England international Trippier to join Newcastle United in January according to the Daily Mail.

The report claims that Atleti are hoping for £15million (€18m) from cashed-up Newcastle, who need reinforcements in their bid to avoid relegation.

Atleti will let the deal progress if they can find a suitable replacement for the defender during January.

ROUND-UP

- Tuttosport claims Juventus will switch their attention to signing an attacking player in January to boost their Champions League qualification hopes, with Manchester United pair Edinson Cavani and Anthony Martial, Paris Saint-Germain's Mauro Icardi and Arsenal's Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in their sights.

- AS reports that Eden Hazard does not want to leave Real Madrid in the January transfer window, despite struggling for impact with Los Blancos.

Chelsea are set to make a move for Wolverhampton's Ruben Neves according to TodoFichajes. Thomas Tuchel wants to reinforce the midfield with Saul Niguez having underwhelmed since joining in August.

Real Madrid are plotting a move to sign Internazionale's Netherlands international Denzel Dumfries reports Defensa Central.

- Veteran Brazilian midfielder Fernandinho is set to extend his stay with Manchester City, scuppering interest from Atletico Mineiro, reports Sport Witness.

Manchester City had a "considerable chance" of signing Cristiano Ronaldo before he re-joined Manchester United, according to Fernandinho.

Premier League champions City were strongly linked with Ronaldo last month after it emerged he had asked to leave Juventus, where he had spent the previous three seasons.

However, United pulled of a stunning coup by agreeing a deal worth up to £19.67million (€23m) for the five-time Ballon d'Or winner, 12 years after he had departed for Real Madrid.

Ronaldo has made a fine start to his second spell at United with three goals in two games, but Fernandinho has suggested the Portugal captain could well have been a City player.

Asked how close his side came to signing the superstar forward, Fernandinho told ESPN Brasil: "I think they had a good, considerable chance. 

"I think his agent [Jorge Mendes] was here at the club renewing the contracts of Ederson, Ruben Dias, seeing the situation of Bernardo Silva and Joao Cancelo. 

"Obviously, if you're there at the table, you can talk about everything and every possible player."

Shortly after putting pen to paper on an initial two-year deal with United, Ronaldo revealed the part former boss Alex Ferguson had on his decision to opt for a return to Old Trafford.

And given the media attention surrounding the prospect of Ronaldo agreeing to join City, Fernandinho believes other factors played a part in the 36-year-old's decision.

"I think that a lot of expectations were also raised with the possibility of him coming here," the Brazilian said. "No doubt this ends up affecting not only the fans, but also the people inside the club. 

"But in the end, things didn't work out, he didn't close the deal, and ended up going to the red side of town. Life goes on."

After scoring twice on his second Old Trafford debut in last weekend's 4-1 win against Newcastle United, Ronaldo was again on target in the Red Devils' surprise 2-1 Champions League loss to Young Boys on Tuesday.

Ronaldo's 13th-minute opener made Young Boys the 36th different side he has scored against in the Champions League, a record the Portuguese now shares with Lionel Messi.

He also equalled another record in Switzerland on what was his 177th Champions League appearance, matching the number of games player by legendary Real Madrid goalkeeper Iker Casillas.

Fernandinho's Manchester City legacy will be different to those fan favourites who have departed the Etihad Stadium over recent seasons but no less impressive.

The veteran defensive midfielder has signed a one-year contract extension until June 2022, which will take him past his 37th birthday.

Speaking after news of the contract was confirmed, Fernandinho said "the job is not yet done" in reference to City's failure to add a maiden Champions League crown to a third Premier League title in four seasons under Pep Guardiola when they lost 1-0 to Chelsea in Porto.

A haul of 12 major honours overall makes him one of the key figures in City's modern era and now the last remaining figurehead of the pre-Guardiola era.

Former City centre-back Nedum Onuoha shared a dressing room with the likes of Vincent Kompany and David Silva, who – along with the recently departed Sergio Aguero – are set to have statues erected outside the ground they graced with such distinction.

Fernandinho's arrival from Shakhtar Donetsk in 2013 for Manuel Pellegrini's maiden season in charge puts him in a slightly different category to those stars who ended a 35-year trophy drought with the 2010-11 FA Cup and a 44-year wait for a league title in 2011-12.

"He's been influential for the club, the amount of games he's played and his influence to this day," Onuoha told Stats Perform last month.

"Leagues had been won at the point [he signed] and he was being brought in to reinforce title challenges Those other people have a slightly different legacy because they weren't at City when City were dominant.

"He came in at a time to try and increase the dominance and improve the dominance. He's done it, he stayed for a long period of time and he has a huge, huge influence.

"That is something that you can't speak ill about because it's very easy for certain players to come in, see a club, feel it out, do well and go somewhere else.

"I don't think many people off the top their heads could name me a player who stayed at a club for 10 years and didn't come through their academy.

"So, for anybody who's stayed that long, it shows the performances have been great, the mentality has been great and they've been liked by the club and the fans.

"I don't think he'll get a statue but I'm pretty sure at some point people will, when he eventually leaves, people will make it abundantly clear that he was one of the most important players for City in this successful period."

Very much in keeping with the style of his club and current manager, Fernandinho's 13,896 successful passes are more than any other Premier League player since the start of 2013-14.

Over the course of that same time period, he has also won the most games (171 – one more than team-mate Raheem Sterling) and – in a nod to his penchant for the dark arts – conceded the most fouls (345) and collected the most yellow cards (52).

Although he was no longer a first-choice starter in 2020-21, Fernandinho has the third-most appearances under Guardiola in all competitions (211), while his influence after being handed the captain's armband cannot be quantified in numbers but was celebrated as a key factor in City regaining the Premier League and lifting the EFL Cup.

"I'm not sure we can disregard people like Kevin De Bruyne, who's been there for a lot years, as well Raheem Sterling who's been there for a lot of years," Onuoha said.

"There's a group of players in there who represent the core of the football club at this moment in time.

"Even though they might not necessarily be as vocal in a particular way as Fernandinho is, you know, they still have a voice because it's their club, it's their team.

"Fernandinho, because he's a bit older, he can speak in a different manner. Even if he'd been at the club for a year, he could still talk about all his years experienced elsewhere.

"When you have players who have that type of influence, who understand the game, understand the manager because they're closer in and age and things like that, it does make a big, big difference."

Fernandinho is staying at Manchester City after signing a new one-year deal with the Premier League champions.

His previous contract was set to expire this week, but the 36-year-old has decided to extend his stay with City to a ninth season.

The Brazilian midfielder has won 12 trophies, including four Premier League titles and a record six EFL Cups, during his time at the club and has his eye on more honours in the twilight of his career.

He said: "In my head and my mind, the job is not done yet.

"And so that's why I decided to stay here another year and try to help the team and the club to achieve the goals that they're looking for. In my point of view, we can do that, there's still places to improve and to get those targets. And obviously, for me and for my family it's a pleasure to stay in Manchester for one more year.

"If I can keep doing the same way, leading them inside the pitch, off the pitch, to help them to improve and get better and to perform better during the games, I would be the happiest person there."

Fernandinho started only 22 games in all competitions for Pep Guardiola's side in the 2020-21 campaign as they secured a Premier League and EFL Cup double, before suffering a heartbreaking Champions League final defeat to Chelsea.

City director of football Txiki Begiristain says the veteran, signed from Shakhtar Donetsk in 2013, has been a great servant to the club and can play a big part on and off the field next season.

"Fernandinho's contribution to Manchester City cannot be overstated," Begiristain said. "He is an outstanding footballer – one of the best in the world in his position – and an exemplary professional.

"Since he arrived in 2013, his attitude and consistency have been exceptional, and he has developed into one of our most influential players.

"He is our captain, our leader and it is a position he has excelled in. There are a number of talented young players in our squad and, therefore, it is vital we have somebody with Fernandinho's knowledge and experience."

Fernandinho is staying at Manchester City after signing a new one-year deal with the Premier League champions.

Erling Haaland is the name on everyone's lips this off-season.

Haaland enjoyed a stunning campaign for Borussia Dortmund, earning admirers from Europe's elite.

As speculation mounts over his future, Dortmund are determined to keep the Norwegian.

 

TOP STORY – DORTMUND NAME HAALAND PRICE

Borussia Dortmund are demanding €200million (£172m) for star striker Erling Haaland, according to AS.

Haaland has been linked with Real MadridManchester CityBarcelona, Paris Saint-GermainManchester UnitedJuventusLiverpoolChelsea and Bayern Munich.

Dortmund previously quoted €180m (£154m) but BVB have reportedly increased their demands as they try to retain the Norway forward for at least another season.

 

ROUND-UP

- LaLiga champions Atletico Madrid are targeting Inter star Lautaro Martinez, according to AS. With Diego Simeone poised to extend his contract, the head coach is eyeing a move for Martinez, who has previously been linked with Barca.

Barca could sell Samuel UmtitiSergi Roberto and Junior Firpo to reduce their wage bill, says Mundo Deportivo. Jordi Alba could also depart for the right price as Ronald Koeman's men look to sign Lyon captain Memphis Depay.

- Fabrizio Romano reports PSG have agreed a deal to sign Georginio Wijnaldum, who had been tipped to join Barca with his Liverpool contract set to expire. As Wijnaldum looks destined for Paris, Marca claims Barca are now interested in City veteran FernandinhoPSG are also in talks with Inter to sign Achraf Hakimi.

- Staying at Camp Nou, Sport claims Barca are looking to sign City trio Aymeric LaporteGabriel Jesus and Ilkay Gundogan, having already brought Sergio Aguero and Eric Garcia in on free transfers from the Premier League champions.

- Milan goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma will decide his future in the coming days, according to Romano. The soon-to-be free agent has been linked with JuventusBarca and PSG.

Atletico are hoping to lure Arsenal full-back Hector Bellerin to Madrid, according to Marca. It comes as United reportedly try to prise Kieran Trippier from Los Colchoneros.

Thomas Tuchel was delighted to make the best possible first impression with Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich and suggested Saturday's Champions League final win over Manchester City had already secured him a longer-term stay at Stamford Bridge.

Kai Havertz scored the only goal in the 42nd minute at Estadio do Dragao, as Chelsea sealed a deserved triumph over the lacklustre Premier League champions.

Tuchel joined Chelsea with the Blues at a low ebb in January after Frank Lampard's sacking, but he has overseen a remarkable turnaround, including a run to the final that saw off Porto, Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid.

The former Borussia Dortmund boss only signed an 18-month contract at Stamford Bridge shortly after being sacked by Paris Saint-Germain.

When discussing his first meeting with Abramovich on the pitch after the match, Tuchel hinted a clause to extend his deal might have been triggered by Chelsea's second European title.

"I'm not 100 per cent sure, but maybe I have already a new contract with that win. My manager [agent] said something about it – let's check this first," he said.

"I spoke to the owner right now on the pitch, it was the best moment for a first meeting. Or the maybe the worst, because from now on it can only get worse!

"We will speak tomorrow and I'm looking forward to this. I can assure him that I will stay hungry and want the next title.

"I feel really happy as part of a really ambitious club, part of a strong group that suits my beliefs and passion about football in this moment perfectly.

"My desire is to go for more victories, to grow as a coach and to push the squad on the first day of next season to the limit.

"We have work to do, we have to close the gap and this is what it's all about. He knows what's going on for me directly and it's nice to meet him."

Tuchel's refusal to bask in success and train his eyes on the next challenge was particularly notable and a mantra to which he kept returning.

Chelsea have now beaten City three times in succession since mid-April and, despite their fourth-placed finish this season, are likely to be seen as key contenders to Pep Guardiola and his side's domestic crown next time around.

"It's about the next one, honestly," he said. "I experienced it in a lower level with my first title in professional football and I was not surprised, it was even a nice feeling that it did not do too much to me.

"When we won the cup in Dortmund I did not arrive in the next training with less hunger, less desire or less ambition.

"Now is the time to celebrate for some days, to enjoy and to let it sink in. Of course this is the time now for one or two weeks, to talk about it and reflect on it, but then it does surprisingly not a lot to you.

"Nobody wants to rest, I don't want to rest. I want the next success, the next title, the next process on the same level of quality and consistency.

"I want to be a part of it and I demand to be a part of it. This is what comes next, make no mistake about it."

Pep Guardiola insisted he "did the selection best to win the game" after Manchester City slumped to a 1-0 Champions League defeat against Chelsea in Porto.

Kai Havertz's 42nd-minute goal on the end of Mason Mount's brilliant throughball was enough to deny City their first success in Europe's top competition.

Premier League champions City lacked their usual fluency and mustered a solitary shot on target over the course of the contest, despite sending record goalscorer Sergio Aguero on for a farewell appearance late on.

The Opta expected goals (xG) figures for the match were 1.35-0.45 in Chelsea's favour.

Guardiola sprung a selectorial surprise before kick-off by omitting Fernandinho and Rodri and starting with Ilkay Gundogan at the base of his midfield.

The ploy backfired as City struggled for control throughout the match, especially in the first half, but Guardiola insisted his process was the same as the one that preceded this season's triumphs over Borussia Dortmund and Paris Saint-Germain, along with last year's similarly dispiriting quarter-final reverse against Lyon.

"I did my best in the selection. Like last season against Olympique Lyon, like it was against PSG and Dortmund," the City manager told a post-match new conference.

"I did the selection best to win the game, the players know it. I think Gundogan played good, was exceptional. We missed a little but in the first half to break the lines. In the second half it was much better.

"It was a tight game. We had enormous almost chances.

"Against Chelsea it's not easy but it wasn't for them either. They had the goal and Werner's shot in the first half and Pulisic in the second half.

"We struggled a little bit for the long balls, they used the second balls and after they run.

"In that moment, you need inspiration and quality. There were three or four moments with crosses from the byline but we did not arrive."

In City's 61 matches across all competitions in 2020-21, this was only the second time neither Rodri or Fernandinho featured in a starting line-up.

Explaining his rationale, Guardiola said he hoped Gundogan would quicken the tempo of City's play.

The Germany international completed an impressive 76 of his 80 passes (95 per cent) but the club's top scorer this season was unable to have a decisive influence as he created a solitary chance and did not attempt a single shot.

"I decided a decision to have quality players," Guardiola said.

"Gundogan played many years in this position, to have speed on the ball, find the small players, the brilliant players in between the lines and this was the decision."

Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel conceded Guardiola's gambit had led to some raised eyebrows in his camp.

"I expected Fernandinho to start," he said. "He chose a very offensive line-up, a very technical line-up, it was very hard to steal the balls and recover the balls.

"Everything else we more or less expected. We expected them to try and pin us on the sides very wide, so it was very important that we stepped out with Toni [Antonio Rudiger] and Azpi [Cesar Azpilicueta] to support our midfield.

"It was important to stay in a block in the front five to avoid diagonal switches of play for the number 10s. We had to play with a strong bond and a genuine belief and this is what we did."

City's cause was not helped by Kevin De Bruyne departing with a nasty-looking head injury following a collision with Rudiger before the hour, for which the Chelsea defender was booked.

"I don't know about the pain he has in his face, I didn't see him or speak to the doctor because I came to speak with all of you, Hopefully it will not be a big problem," said Guardiola, who was also keen to flag the achievements overall of a campaign where City won a third top-flight title in four years and a fourth consecutive EFL Cup.

"I would like to say it was an exceptional, exceptional season for us. It is a dream being here, unfortunately we could not win," he added.

"We tried, we could not do it and we will work to come back one day."

Rumours that Pep Guardiola had gone and done a thing were whipping around Estadio do Dragao's press box long before the news was confirmed an hour and 15 minutes ahead of kick-off.

He had indeed done a thing.

In 59 of City's 60 matches in all competitions this season, at least one of Rodri or Fernandinho had started in holding midfield. It seems unlikely that a 3-0 Champions League group-stage win over Olympiacos was the tactical template for Saturday's insipid 1-0 final defeat against Chelsea.

But there it was in black and white. City's top scorer Ilkay Gundogan would start at the base of the midfield, with a slew of attacking talent to do his bidding further up the field. It was a bold strategy but one that robbed the Premier League champions of their rhythm and did nothing to dissuade the threat coming the other way.

Of course, Guardiola has previous in this regard in the decade since he last lifted the big trophy with Barcelona in 2011. Most recently, he deployed a disjointed 3-5-2 to be dumped out by Lyon in last season's quarter-final, although this probably had as much in common with the cavalier approach that saw Real Madrid dismantle his Bayern Munich side at the Allianz Arena back in 2014. 

There was none of the control he craves, the control that lay at the root of City's magnificent revival from 12 points out of their first eight games to lift a third English title in four seasons. Their best chances in the first half came from an Ederson punt down field and Kyle Walker running terrifyingly fast from right-back. Playmaker Bernardo Silva was the most notable performer in a talent-stacked City midfield for a succession of slide tackles.

What was more, this felt like the season when Guardiola had normalised his cerebral approach. City won the title without a conventional striker for the bulk of the season as false nines become the undisputed truth, he switched between a back three and a back four in-game during the side's most purple patch as Joao Cancelo – now off form and more understandably benched – roved.

In tough knockout encounters with Borussia Dortmund and Paris Saint-Germain he didn't blink and prevailed. It was the season where the concept of Guardiola "overthink" died until it was resurrected in Porto.

For all that Guardiola said City's two defeats to Chelsea recently, in the FA Cup semi-final and the Premier League with heavily rotated line-ups, counted for "zero" they were evidence of the problems Thomas Tuchel's rigorously well-drilled 3-4-2-1 could cause.

Heading into the game, since the start of the 2019-20, City's win rate against teams playing three or five at the back (P46 W32) was 69.6 per cent, down on 76.7 per cent against those using a back four – not insignificant for a club that does an awful lot of winning.

Additionally, Guardiola's respect for Tuchel is very well documented and that high esteem meant he was perhaps loathe to give his opponent something predictable.

Hard as it was to discern the plan as the men in sky blue engaged in chaosball, it was maybe designed to suffocate Chelsea's back three and Jorginho and N'Golo Kante – again, naturally, imperious on the grandest stage – and not let Tuchel's team out.

But City's disorganisation allowed Chelsea to make merry in the Fernandinho-Rodri shaped hole behind the forwards, exploiting it plenty of times before Mason Mount's delicious throughball allowed Kai Havertz to round Ederson for the decisive goal.

Fernandinho's introduction for Silva in the 64th minute meant the plan had failed. Even with Kevin De Bruyne off injured, it prompted City's most convincing spell of the match – admittedly a painfully low bar – and that should gnaw at Guardiola.

Sergio Aguero came on for Rahem Sterling, whose run of one club goal since February rarely threatened to improve, but one last act of injury-time heroism was beyond City's all-time top scorer, for whom the tears flowed after the final whistle.

Having declared himself "the happiest man in the world" on the eve of the match, Guardiola has ended a season that threatened to be remembered as his masterpiece on a note of bitter disappointment, his 10-year wait for a third European title going on and complicit in his own misery.

Page 1 of 3
© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.