Kevin De Bruyne has signed a new contract extension at Manchester City through to 2025, the club announced on Wednesday.

The Belgium playmaker moved to the Etihad Stadium in August 2015 for a reported £55million from Wolfsburg and has established himself as one of the most gifted talents in world football during that time.

In his spell at City, De Bruyne has won two Premier League titles, an FA Cup, four EFL Cups and was named PFA Player of the Year in 2020.

"I could not be happier," De Bruyne told the club's official website.

"Since joining City in 2015, I have felt at home. I love the fans, my family are settled here in Manchester and my own game has developed really well.

"This football club is geared for success. It offers me everything I need to maximise my performance, so signing this contract was a straightforward decision. I am playing the best football of my career and I honestly feel there is more to come.

"Pep [Guardiola] and I see football in the same way. Having that relationship with a manager is so important to me because our objectives are totally aligned and we want the same things.

"My focus now is on ensuring we have a successful end to the current campaign. Our results and performances so far have been excellent, but we need to make sure we end the season with the silverware we deserve."

At the time of his arrival in Manchester, several pundits questioned City's decision after the Belgium international had previously struggled to establish himself in the Premier League at Chelsea.

But the move has been a hugely successful one for De Bruyne, who has 65 goals and 101 assists across 255 City appearances, according to Opta data.

De Bruyne was the catalyst of City's 2017-18 campaign when they achieved an unprecedented 100 points in the Premier League, with the 29-year-old playing 52 times in all competitions, scoring 12 and assisting 21.

The following campaign was disrupted by injury but De Bruyne still scored six and assisted 10 in 32 games as City completed a historic Premier League, FA Cup and EFL Cup sweep in English football.

De Bruyne is almost certain to add to his medal haul this term with City 14 points clear at the top of the Premier League, while they are in the EFL Cup final, the FA Cup semi-finals and the Champions League quarter-finals where they hold a 2-1 lead over Borussia Dortmund after Tuesday's first leg – a match in which he scored and played a crucial role in Phil Foden's late winner.

Director of Football Txiki Begiristain added: "This is a very significant moment for this football club.

"Kevin is, without question, one of the best players in world football. His performance level has been remarkably consistent since coming to City, and in the last few years he has developed into one of the game's elite players.

"His talent is unquestionable – but he is also a consummate professional whose dedication to Manchester City during his time here has been nothing short of extraordinary. He constantly seeks to improve, and his approach is the perfect blueprint for any young player looking to carve out a career.

"We are delighted he is our player and I look forward to watching him during his peak years here at Manchester City."

Kevin De Bruyne has signed a new contract extension at Manchester City through to 2025, the club announced on Wednesday.

Lionel Messi's future is a popular topic.

Messi wanted to leave Barcelona at the start of the season but opted to remain at Camp Nou.

With his contract expiring at the end of 2020-21, the Barca superstar is continuing to make headlines.

 

TOP STORY – MESSI WAITING ON BARCA

Barcelona have yet to make a move to re-sign superstar captain Lionel Messi, according to the front page of Wednesday's Marca.

Messi is out of contract at the end of the season and his future is far from certain, having been tipped to join either Paris Saint-Germain or Manchester City.

Led by new president Joan Laporta, Barca are determined to retain the six-time Ballon d'Or winner.

 

ROUND-UP

- Mundo Deportivo reports Ousmane Dembele wants to continue with Barca, but speculation is mounting that Paris Saint-Germain star Neymar could return to Camp Nou. Neymar – who left Barca for PSG in a world-record €222million deal in 2017 – has been negotiating a new contract in the French capital. Dembele has previously been linked with Manchester United.

Manchester City are eyeing a new striker but they are unwilling to spend "crazy" money, claims Fabrizio Romano. With Sergio Aguero – linked with Chelsea, Inter, PSG and Barcelona – leaving on a free transfer, Borussia Dortmund's Erling Haaland has emerged as City's prime target, while Tottenham star Harry Kane is another option.

- Goal says Milan captain Alessio Romagnoli and Juventus' Federico Bernardeschi could swap clubs. Both players have struggled this season and they could reportedly be involved in an exchange deal. Romagnoli has attracted interest from Barca and Chelsea.

- Eurosport reports United and Liverpool could go head-to-head in a battle to sign RB Leipzig defender Ibrahima Konate. The 21-year-old has been heavily linked with Liverpool, but United are also interested. Sevilla's Jules Kounde, Madrid captain Sergio Ramos and team-mate Raphael Varane, Villarreal's Pau Torres and Napoli star Kalidou Koulibaly are also reportedly being monitored at Old Trafford.

- Romano claims there are "huge chances" for Hector Bellerin to leave Arsenal. The Spaniard was previously linked with PSG and Barca.

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola promised his semi-final hopefuls will not sit back against Borussia Dortmund in the second leg of their Champions League quarter-final tie.

City will take a slender advantage into next week's return leg away to Dortmund after Phil Foden's 90th-minute winner secured a 2-1 victory in Manchester on Tuesday.

Dortmund captain Marco Reus had cancelled out Kevin De Bruyne's 19th-minute opener with six minutes remaining, before Foden restored City's lead at the death.

City have suffered consecutive quarter-final exits in the past three seasons – eliminated by Liverpool, Tottenham and Lyon – but Guardiola insisted the Premier League leaders will continue to attack against Dortmund.

"Listen, when you play a game after 26 victories in the last 27 games and they are not winning in the Bundesliga and are seven points behind the Champions League places, the pressure is on our shoulders, not them," Guardiola told reporters.

"Everything is guaranteed for us. In this competition it's so tough and the opponents are so good, I've said in the news conference. Everybody believed and our players as well that we would win. We have an incredible commitment and desire to go through. Now we fly there at 2-1.

"We know that we have to score goals because they have the quality to score goals and always they score. We will adjust a few things we could not do today. We are going to reflect in a calm way, the best way possible, the game we played and see what we can do better and we are going to go there like we have done in the last four, five, six months – going there to win the game.

"I asked the players 'just win the game, I don't want anything else', we did it. Now we are going to Dortmund to absolutely not defend, we are going to adjust our high pressing, adjust our build up, control the runners and try to play 90 minutes to reach the semi-final."

Only Real Madrid (26) and Barcelona (20) have won more Champions League matches against German sides than City (13), winning 11 of their last 12 games against such opposition in the competition.

Since their first season in the Champions League in 2011-12, no side has scored more 90th-minute goals in the competition than City (17 – level with Madrid).

Guardiola – who refused to talk about the referees after City had a penalty overturned, while Dortmund were unfortunate to be denied a goal via Jude Bellingham – added: "I want to congratulate the players for a real Champions League match. How they stuck together. The quality of the opponent, not because we were not able to do it, how much we fought and stuck together to the end.

"We won the game, now we know each other quite well. They know us, but we know them. First Leeds, and then we will take time to see them and go there to win the game and get the result we need. Of course the victory is the best result we can do."

As for interim Dortmund head coach Edin Terzic, he said: "The second leg is in eight days. We know that Man City plays this kind of football in every game. Their principles won't change and therefore we will also find spaces to become dangerous again.

"We definitely believe now that we can move to the semis."

Jude Bellingham was frustrated to be denied a goal to crown a superb display during Borussia Dortmund's Champions League clash at Manchester City.

Premier League leaders City will take a 2-1 quarter-final advantage to Signal Iduna Park next week after Phil Foden struck in the 90th minute, shortly after Dortmund captain Marco Reus cancelled out Kevin De Bruyne's first-half opener.

But a major talking point came shortly before half-time when teenage midfielder Bellingham caught City goalkeeper Ederson in possession to be presented with an empty net, only for referee Ovidiu Hategan to penalise him for a perceived high boot.

Given the Romanian official blew his whistle before the 17-year-old slotted home, recourse to VAR was not on the agenda.

"I definitely think I won the ball fairly It's a bit frustrating at a time when they’ve got so many cameras watching the game that they don't wait for me to put it in the net and then check it," Bellingham told BT Sport.

"But it's football, it’s life and you've just got to get on with it.

"All I got told is I'd been booked and it was a free-kick to them. Apparently I had my studs up and caught the goalie and it was a foul."

Bellingham was also involved, alongside Erling Haaland, in the slick build-up for Reus' well-taken equaliser and he believes Edin Terzic's Dortmund have reasons to be optimistic ahead of the return clash against City, who have gone out at the quarter-final stage in each of the past three seasons.

"I think we frustrated them well when we had the ball. At times they found it quite hard to break us down and we used the ball quite well, quite efficiently," he said.

"For our goal I think it's a brilliant but of play to put Marco in and it's a great finish.

"We're disappointed to concede so late but we'll use that away goal in the second leg and see what we can do."

Bellingham conceded it was an exhausting experience being pitted against the sublime De Bruyne, whose cross towards Ilkay Gundogan led to Foden's winner in Manchester.

"I'm knackered now. They're brilliant. They're one of the best teams in the world, if not the best," he added.

"The way they move the ball and the way they go to regain the ball after they lose it is world class.

"If you give De Bruyne that much room in the box he's going to score and if you give him that much time around the box he's going to put in a ball that damages us.

"I've got a bleeding knee from chasing him around!"

Pep Guardiola conceded Manchester City felt pressure from their previous Champions League failures in a nervy 2-1 quarter-final win over Borussia Dortmund.

Phil Foden struck in the 90th minute to ensure the Premier League leaders will take a slender advantage to Signal Iduna Park for next week's second leg.

Marco Reus had equalised four minutes from time for Dortmund, with City struggling to find their fluent best with any consistency after Kevin De Bruyne's first-half opener.

"We felt the pressure today for this competition at home. We don't know how we are going to play," Guardiola told BT Sport.

Liverpool, Tottenham and Lyon have ended his team's involvement at this stage over the past three seasons.

"Now we know each other better," Guardiola said. "We are going to analyse what we have to do, like we have done for five or six months, playing every game to try to win."

Dortmund were understandably furious to have had an initial equaliser ruled out before half-time, when the impressive Jude Bellingham was harshly adjudged to have fouled City goalkeeper Ederson before rolling the ball into an empty net.

Guardiola suggested City's struggles that led to that let-off were part of a wider issue with their usually smooth build-up from deep failing to click – highlighting a tough outing for holding midfielder Rodri and full-back Joao Cancelo.

"To play good in the areas that we want, we need to make a good build-up and today was not good," Guardiola said.

"Joao and Rodri were not clever to receive the ball in positions to contact for the other ones. But it’s normal, Dortmund are strong. The quality that they have makes it difficult to do what we want to do.

"We are going to watch the game, now we know exactly what they do and now we are going to adjust a few things to go there to Germany and try to win the game."

Foden shone for his boyhood club throughout and was relieved to atone for a pair of missed chances that preceded Reus' leveller.

"Second half he was a threat for them. He played really well one-against-one, arriving in the final third," Guardiola added.

"He had two or three clear chances to score and finally he scored the goal."

Phil Foden gave Manchester City a slender 2-1 Champions League quarter-final advantage over Borussia Dortmund after Marco Reus snatched an away goal in a frantic finish at the Etihad Stadium.

Kevin De Bruyne started and finished a rapid move to put City ahead in the 19th minute, but Dortmund were unfortunate to be behind at half-time after referee Ovidiu Hategan inexplicably penalised Jude Bellingham for a fair challenge on Ederson.

City belatedly hit their stride in the final quarter of the game, although Foden looked like being the villain as he missed two golden opportunities before Bellingham and Erling Haaland combined for Reus to coolly equalise six minutes from time.

Fortunately for the home team, England youngster Foden kept a cool head when Ilkay Gundogan knocked down De Bruyne's majestic cross in the 90th minute.

Manchester City have announced losses of £126million in their 2019-20 financial results as the Premier League leaders count the cost of the coronavirus pandemic.

Overall, City's revenues were down 11 per cent to £478.4million from the previous 12 months.

The year in question runs up until June 30, 2020, taking in the period when the Premier League was suspended due to the COVID-19 crisis and meaning deferred revenues for the 2019-20 campaign have impacted the figures.

Nevertheless, City's matchday revenue was down by £13.5million, UEFA broadcast revenue fell by £18.5m and all other television money dropped by £44.5m, although money raised from commercial streams was up by £19.5m.

Leroy Sane's move to Bayern Munich for an initial £44.7m is not included, and the report also points to "some planned player sales deferred until the following season", which could be a reference to Angelino – the full-back who re-joined RB Leipzig on loan before the Bundesliga club triggered a £16million obligation-to-buy clause this February.

"Clearly, the 2019-20 accounts in isolation are not the best representation of the reality of the season with delayed player trading and numerous games being played after June 30 2020, the revenues from which will be accounted in the 2020-21 period," said City chief executive Ferran Soriano.

"A better financial picture of the COVID years will be provided at the end of the 2020-21 season, when the two seasons are combined and normalised."

Last July, City had a two-season ban from UEFA competitions overturned by the Court of Arbitration for Sport, with a €30million fine for contravening Financial Fair Play (FFP) rules reduced to €10m.

In the report, the club said: "For full context, the 2019-20 results should be viewed alongside the 2020-21 results. This has been recognised by UEFA and exceptional changes to their licensing and regulatory approach will assess the combined results of both seasons.

"The directors remain confident that the club’s results for the two-year period will fall within UEFA’s Financial Fair Play requirements."

City continue to be linked with big-money moves, such as one for Borussia Dortmund striker Erling Haaland, and chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak says he remains confident in the club's overall financial strength despite the reported losses.

"Like most organisations, we did not have a business strategy for a global pandemic. What we had, and still have, is a business that is fundamentally strong, with committed shareholders and with significant assets, built carefully over a decade and upon more than a century of history," the City chairman said.

"Over time, our income streams have been deliberately shifted and diversified – our fan base and audiences are global as well as local, our physical and digital infrastructure strategies are mature, and our commercial partnerships are diverse in terms of regions, industries and structures.

"Our long-term approach has meant that we are now not wholly dependent on those income streams that have been most vulnerable to the ongoing impact of COVID-19."

City are closing in on a third Premier League title in four seasons. They faced a clash against Dortmund in the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final at the Etihad Stadium on Tuesday.

Ilkay Gundogan is concerned Bayern Munich's continued dominance of the Bundesliga will make German football less appealing to an international audience.

Manchester City midfielder Gundogan won the Bundesliga with Borussia Dortmund in 2012.

But Dortmund – who face City in a Champions League quarter-final first-leg on Tuesday – have not won the title since.

Bayern are closing in on a ninth consecutive domestic crown after beating closest challengers RB Leipzig 1-0 on Saturday, a result that came even as star striker Robert Lewandowski was injured.

Dortmund are usually among Bayern's closest challengers but this season they sit seven points outside the top four despite having prolific striker Erling Haaland in their ranks.

"In the Bundesliga I wish that Dortmund or RB Leipzig could at least compete with FC Bayern in the medium term," City star Gundogan said to Funke Media Group.

"Should Bayern continue to set themselves apart from the competition even further in the next few years, then we can assume that the league will unfortunately become less appealing and interesting to the international audience."

Gundogan and City are cruising to the Premier League title in England, but he feels the competition has a clear advantage on Germany.

He added: "I think that here in England we have more quality in the league.

"Not only at the top, but above all in the middle of the table for teams that don't play in Europe.

"The top teams have also been playing with the best coaches in the world for a long time."

City go into the last-eight tie as favourites, having won 10 of their last 11 Champions League matches against German opposition (D1).

But City have lost four of their five matches at the quarter-final stage of the Champions League under Pep Guardiola, going out at this stage in each of the previous three seasons.

And despite their domestic struggles, Dortmund have gone unbeaten in their past seven Champions League games (W5 D2).

It is their longest streak without defeat in the competition since a run between 2012 and 2013, when they went 11 games without defeat under Jurgen Klopp.

Haaland has 21 Bundesliga goals this season and has also netted in each of his last six Champions League appearances.

Should he find the net in this game, he will become just the fifth player in the competition's history to score in seven straight matches.

Tuesday heralds the start of the Champions League quarter-finals and there are two mouthwatering clashes in store.

With the Premier League title surely wrapped up, Manchester City's attention turns to Borussia Dortmund and the formidable threat posed by Erling Haaland. 

The 20-year-old is in demand, with City one of the clubs reportedly interested in his services, and he could join an illustrious group of goalscorers if he finds the net at the Etihad Stadium. 

The other game sees a repeat of the 2018 final, with Liverpool travelling to face Zinedine Zidane's Real Madrid. 

The Reds have endured a torrid Premier League title defence, but a resounding win over Arsenal at the weekend could provide them with the impetus to produce an eye-catching result in the Spanish capital.

 

Manchester City v Borussia Dortmund: Can Guardiola's stubborn defence keep Haaland out?

City's hopes of making the semi-finals could rest on keeping Haaland quiet. 

The Norway striker Haaland is the Champions League's top goalscorer this term, finding the back of the net 10 times.

If he scores in this game, he will become just the fifth player in the competition's history to score in seven matches in a row, after Cristiano Ronaldo (twice), Robert Lewandowski, Edinson Cavani and Ruud van Nistelrooy.

A goal on Tuesday would also take him to seven in his first five Champions League knockout matches for Dortmund, overtaking Lewandowski's record of six in his first five matches in the latter stages of the competition for Bayern Munich. 

He will come up against a defence in fine form, however. City have not conceded a goal in any of their last seven games in the Champions League – only Arsenal in 2005-06 have ever had a longer run of consecutive clean sheets in the competition (10).

City will also be buoyed by their excellent record against Bundesliga opposition, winning 10 of their last 11 Champions League matches against German sides. 

They will need to improve on a poor quarter-final record, though. City have lost four of their five matches in the last eight under Pep Guardiola, with the Premier League leaders going out at this stage in each of the last three seasons.

Prep done for Dortmund! 

  @marathonbet
  #ManCity   |   https://t.co/axa0klUGiM   pic.twitter.com/H85QRGPXxi

— Manchester City (@ManCity)   April 5, 2021

Real Madrid v Liverpool: Klopp's men hoping to halt losing streak against Los Blancos

This will be the first Champions League meeting between the two sides since Madrid beat Liverpool 3-1 in the 2018 final. 

That was the Reds' third consecutive defeat to Los Blancos in the competition. They have only suffered four losses on the spin against the same opponent across all European competitions once before, with Benfica putting together such a streak between 1984 and 2010. 

The LaLiga champions will be in confident mood, having won the first leg in eight of their last nine Champions League knockout ties. 

Karim Benzema is likely to lead the line and the Frenchman has a stellar record against the Premier League outfit. In the history of the Champions League, no player has more goals against them than Benzema's four – level with Didier Drogba.

Reds boss Jurgen Klopp will hope to continue his fine recent record at this stage of the competition, the German winning each of his last five quarter-final games, including all four of his games at this stage while in charge of Liverpool.

Central to their hopes of taking a lead back to Anfield for the second leg will be Sadio Mane. The Senegal international has scored 19 goals in 40 games in the Champions League and could become just the third player in the club's history to reach 20 goals in the competition after Mohamed Salah (24) and Steven Gerrard (21).

With the Premier League back following the international break, in many ways it was essentially business as usual.

Manchester United were underwhelming but came from behind yet again, while Harry Kane provided his customary reminder that he's probably a bit too good for Tottenham – or this Tottenham, at the very least.

Liverpool showed signs of having their mojo back in a 3-0 win at Arsenal that was inspired by Diogo Jota, though Manchester City moved another step closer to taking the Reds' crown.

At the other end of the table, Sheffield United – who have long looked doomed – are closing in on a Premier League record… Not that it's one they'll want to brag about.

Using Opta data, we look at some of the more quirky facts from the weekend's top-flight action…

Diogo's Jota lot going for him

How much better off Liverpool would be now had Jota not missed a large chunk of the season is impossible to know, but it's a fair assumption they'd be in a stronger position than they are.

The Portugal international returned following a three-month absence in March, scoring the winner against former club Wolves before then netting thrice for his country during the international break.

He was held back at the Emirates Stadium on Saturday but yet again proved he doesn't need long to make an impact, his brace helping secure a 3-0 win over Arsenal – it was 0-0 when he entered the pitch around the hour mark.

Those goals took him to eight in the Premier League this season from 730 minutes, meaning he boasts comfortably the best minutes-per-goal record (91) among players to have scored at least once this term. The next best is Gareth Bale with five from 561 minutes (one every 112 mins).

His 4.7 xG overperformance suggests either his form is not sustainable or he's developing into an elite-level chance-taker – hopefully an injury-free 2021-22 will unveil the truth.

Kane eyes Cole feat

While 2020-21 has been rather hit-and-miss for Tottenham, the same cannot be said for Kane.

The England captain is enjoying another stellar season but, perhaps more pertinently, he seems to have added another string to his bow when it comes to setting up team-mates.

With that in mind, his brace at the weekend means he now tops both the Premier League goalscoring (19) and assist (13) charts. He probably won't match his personal best of 30 goals for a single season, but in terms of goal involvements he's only four adrift of the 36 he managed in 2016-17 (29 goals, seven assists).

Therefore he's in with a great shout of being only the second player in Premier League history to finish a season with the most goals and assists.

Andy Cole is the only player to lead both outright at the end of a season, accomplishing the feat in 1993-94 when he netted 34 times and set up another 13 – this was before the competition changed from a 42-game season to 38.

Mourinho and Spurs dreaming of Man United's comeback record

It was just another weekend of Manchester United coming from behind to snatch a win and Tottenham throwing away a lead.

United netted twice in the second half to cancel out Danny Welbeck's opener for Brighton and Hove Albion, clinching a 2-1 win at Old Trafford thanks to goals from Marcus Rashford and Mason Greenwood.

It means they have gained 25 points from losing positions in the Premier League this term, a figure only ever bettered three times – West Brom (27) in 2010-11, United themselves (29) in 2012-13 and Newcastle United (34) in 2001-02.

It's been a different story for Tottenham this season, however, as they've not been able to hold on to leads – Newcastle rescuing a 2-2 draw against them on Sunday being the latest example, with the Magpies' xG of four being their highest figure since 2016-17.

They've now dropped 11 points due to goals conceded in the final 10 minutes of games, the worst record in the Premier League this term, and failed to win the six league games in which they've led at half-time. That's also a league-wide high.

As for Jose Mourinho, the 15 points he's seen Spurs surrender from winning positions in 2020-21 is already a joint-worst for him in a Premier League season.

Sheffield United on course for worst ever Premier League season

Okay, admittedly this one does depend on how you quantify "worst".

After all, Derby County hold the record for the fewest points ever won in a single Premier League season when they amassed just 11 in 2007-08, and Sheffield United already have three more.

However, Derby's 29 defeats equated to 76.3 per cent of their 38 matches, which along with Sunderland two years earlier, is the biggest proportion of losses in a solitary campaign.

Following the Blades' 2-1 loss at Leeds United on Saturday, they have lost 80 per cent of their matches this term (25 in total).

Given their form until now, few would be surprised to see them set a new Premier League record of 30 defeats.

Erling Haaland remains content amid swirling transfer rumours ahead of Borussia Dortmund's Champions League showdown with Manchester City.

Premier League leaders City are one of a host of clubs to have been linked with the 20-year-old Norway striker.

Speculation over a blockbuster close-season transfer mounted during the international break when Haaland's agent, Mino Raiola, accompanied his father – and former City player – Alf-Inge on trips to Madrid and Barcelona.

Speaking on the eve of Tuesday's quarter-final clash at the Etihad Stadium, Dortmund interim boss Edin Terzic insisted such matters could not be ones to cause him too much concern.

"It has no impact on me because I can't stop Mino Raiola and Alfie Haaland from travelling. It's up to them, they're grown-ups and they can choose whatever they want to do," he said.

"I just can have an impact on Erling and we are happy to have him in our team.

"He's been back with us since last Thursday, when he came back from the Norway national team

"The feeling we had from the start was that he was very happy to see us and we're very happy to have him around.

"He's a lovely guy, his qualities are well known all over the world and we are proud and happy he's part of our team."

Haaland has scored 33 goals in 32 club appearances across all competitions this season, although he will not have Jadon Sancho to provide service in the first leg.

Former City youngster Sancho has remained in Germany for treatment on a thigh problem and Terzic conceded next week's second leg could also come too soon for the England winger – another presumed transfer target for some of Europe's big hitters.

"He started with a bit of running for the last couple of days and we hope that it won't take a long time to get back to team training, but he won't be ready for the next week, let's say," Terzic said.

“For the future it's hard to tell. First of all, we still have seven games left in the Bundesliga to qualify for the Champions League.

"Of course it's a bit difficult now at the minute, but it's still possible. We're going to try our best to make it possible and then at the end of the season we'll see what's going to happen next."

Dortmund's dwindling domestic form – a 2-1 defeat to Eintracht Frankfurt last time out left them seven points behind their weekend opponents in the Bundesliga's final Champions League qualification spot – has left them with nowhere to hide from criticism and Terzic was in no mood to unduly protect his players.

"We are disappointed with the performance and Saturday's result. The criticism has been justified," he added.

"We've shown before we can do better and the task now is to face that criticism, to accept it and show a reaction on the pitch.

"We have to prove we don't give up and show our quality and potential again. We are responsible for showing that.

"We haven't been able to over the last weeks and that's why the criticism is justified."

Manchester City and Borussia Dortmund's keenly anticipated Champions League quarter-final could hinge on the battle between Erling Haaland and Ruben Dias.

That is the view of former City favourite Shaun Wright-Phillips, who anticipates an intriguing contest due to the attacking firepower boasted by both sides.

Norway youngster Haaland has rattled home a remarkable 33 goals in 32 appearances across all competitions this season, averaging a goal every 82.8 minutes thanks to a shot conversion rate of 31.4 per cent.

The 20-year-old has also supplied seven assists, although he will be faced with one of Europe's most formidable centre-backs in Dias.

If speculation proves accurate, Haaland might replace the Portugal defender as City's record signing at the end of the campaign but Dias' impact has been undeniably transformative since his arrival from Benfica last September.

City have won 31 of the 39 games in which Dias has played, losing only two and conceding 18 goals – an average of 0.5 per game.

"It's going to be hard, it's going to be a great battle for me between [Haaland] and Dias," Wright-Phillips, who played alongside Haaland's father Alf-Inge during his time at City, told Stats Perform.

"Dias doesn't like to lose, let alone concede goals – he hates that as well so it will be a good competition.

"And it stands out to be a good game, with the firepower and the way Dortmund play, and the way City play.

"So it’s going to be a good footballing match and I am looking forward and am very excited to see it myself."

Another intriguing battle that fans will be denied is a face off between England youngsters Phil Foden and Jadon Sancho in each team's creative departments.

Foden and Sancho were team-mates in City's youth team before the latter moved to Dortmund in 2017, where he has scarcely looked back.

Remaining with his boyhood club, Foden had to bide his time among a talent-stacked squad but has established himself as a key man for both Pep Guardiola and England boss Gareth Southgate this season.

However, a thigh injury means Sancho will miss out on a return to the Etihad Stadium on Tuesday and faces a race to be fit for next week's return at Signal Iduna Park.

"It would be great to see them both on the field. But they’re very different players," Wright-Phillips said.

"Although [Foden] does go and dribble past people, he’s got a very good eye in seeing passes, linking up play and he presses harder.

"I think Sancho is a very, very good player as well but he's more of a dribbler, committing players, taking them on, putting the ball into the box and also scoring goals."

Along with Liverpool, who take on 13-time winners Real Madrid this week, Chelsea – another of Wright-Phillips' former clubs – complete a trio of Premier League sides in the last eight.

Thomas Tuchel's men saw off Atletico Madrid in impressive fashion in the previous round, although they must bounce back from a shock 5-2 weekend loss to relegation-threatened West Brom before taking on Porto.

"As we know it’s one of the toughest competitions," Wright-Phillips added. "And on the few times City have been on a run in it, they have not had the rub of the green.

"And Chelsea had been playing well with their defensive record, also. I would be happy if it was an all-England final, so I'll be supporting all English teams in Europe."

Pep Guardiola is primed for Manchester City's showdown with Erling Haaland and Borussia Dortmund, suggesting even a blind person could see the Norwegian's talents.

City host Dortmund in the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final on Tuesday, with Haaland unsurprisingly one of the main topics of conversation.

The Norway star has been in lethal form ever since joining Dortmund in January 2020 and boasts a remarkable haul of 10 goals in six Champions League outings this term, including two in each of their meetings with Sevilla in the last round as the German's narrowly progressed 5-4 on aggregate.

Since then, reports linking Haaland with Europe's biggest clubs have been frequent, as Barcelona and Real Madrid seemingly positioned themselves as interested parties following meetings with his agent Mino Raiola.

While City – whom his father Alf-Inge Haaland played for – have been rather more coy on the matter, few strikers have been focused on as much as Haaland with respect to potential replacements for Sergio Aguero following last week's announcement of his end-of-season departure.

After all, in the spell since Haaland scored a 23-minute hat-trick on his Dortmund debut, his 49 goals across all competitions has been bettered by only Robert Lewandowski (67) and Cristiano Ronaldo (52) among players in the top five leagues. City's leading scorers in the same period are Raheem Sterling (24) and Gabriel Jesus (22).

Guardiola appreciates Haaland is a fine talent, though he would not be lured into making any grand statements about a potential future for him at City.

When asked if Haaland was the sort of player who could command a transfer few of over £100million, Guardiola said: "I don't know, it's a question for Dortmund, his agent.

"I understand completely why people ask about Haaland, of course he's an exceptional striker, but it's not appropriate for me to talk about a player for another club.

"All I can say is he's an exceptional striker. The numbers speak for themselves. A fantastic player, that's all."

 

On those "numbers", Guardiola was pressed for an opinion on how City might be able to stop Haaland, given his conversion rate of 33.6 per cent is better than any other player in the top five leagues with 20 goals or more since his Dortmund bow.

For comparison, Bayern Munich's Lewandowski – widely regarded as the best striker around – has converted 27.8 per cent of his chances over the same period.

"The striker who scores goals, they are going to score when they are in our box," Guardiola continued. "If they're far away from our box, they have fewer chances. It's a question of mathematics.

"Not just Haaland. [Jamie] Vardy, [Sadio] Mane, Aguero, all the strikers, they want to be there [in the box] as much as possible. This is the best way is to avoid [conceding].

"In that age to score that amount of goals is not easy to find in the past, honestly, so I think he's 20 – the numbers speak for themselves.

"He can score right [foot], left, on the counter-attack, in the box when you dominate, headers. He's a fantastic striker, everyone knows it.

"A blind guy could realise he's a great striker. It is not necessary to be a manager to realise that."

Keeping Haaland quiet will surely go a long way to ensuring City finally get past the quarter-finals, having been knocked out at this stage in each of the past three seasons, losing four of their five games at this point.

The first time Pep Guardiola was drawn to face a Bundesliga team in the Champions League as Manchester City manager, the match was postponed after a torrential pre-match downpour soaked the Etihad Stadium.

Twenty-four hours later, Borussia Monchengladbach were swatted aside 4-0 but there were some other, more incongruous storm clouds hovering.

Sergio Aguero scored a hat-trick, already his second of the campaign to move on to nine goals in his first five outings under Guardiola.  A brace that weekend at Swansea City took him to 11 in six, but his manager was not completely satisfied with the bigger picture.

"Sergio just has a talent to score goals that is natural, I cannot teach him that," Guardiola said.

"What I can tell him is there is a team behind him that is going to help him. I want to convince him to help them and, if it happens in that way, he's going to score a lot of goals."

Those fraught moments in Guardiola and Aguero's early relationship at City, one that looked to be hurtling towards an early end when Gabriel Jesus arrived in January 2017 and displaced the Argentina striker from the starting line-up, were long forgotten in the glowing tributes paid last week.

Aguero will leave City when his contract expires in June as the club's all-time record goalscorer and the top scoring overseas player in Premier League history.

Bundesliga opponents are back on the agenda this week, with Borussia Dortmund in town for the first leg of a Champions League quarter-final. Erling Haaland, presumed by many to be Aguero's most suitable heir, will be the focus of much pre-match attention.

Should City emerge from the pack of European heavyweights to claim Haaland's signature, the experience of Guardiola's previous centre forwards – from those who eventually thrived like Aguero, to those who fell by the wayside – suggest there would be plenty of hard work ahead for the Norwegian youngster.

False nines and harsh truths

Guardiola's most celebrated innovation during his trophy-laden stint in charge of Barcelona was Lionel Messi's deployment as a false nine, helping Aguero's compatriot to flourish into he world's finest player.

However, more traditional centre-forwards experienced collateral damage. Samuel Eto'o and Thierry Henry flanked Messi in the 2009 Champions League final triumph over Manchester United. A year later they had both left Camp Nou, as had Zlatan Ibrahimovic after a year under Guardiola most notable for his string of subsequent withering comments about the Catalan tactician.

If the assumption was these supreme strikers were simply victims of playing second fiddle to Guardiola's star pupil, his stint at Bayern Munich suggested something more baked in to his football philosophy that meant centre forwards would adapt to the coach and not the other way around.

After a season under Guardiola in 2013-14, Mario Mandzukic stomped off to Atletico Madrid and accused the coach of a lack of respect. Robert Lewandowski took his place but the returns that now make the Poland superstar the most feared number nine in Europe were not immediately forthcoming.

A haul of 17 Bundesliga goals in 2014-15 was way below the levels he would go on to set. The breakout moment of his Bayern career came in September 2015, when he ravenously rattled home five goals in a mind-boggling nine minutes against Wolfsburg. An often-forgotten plot point of those Lewandowski heroics is they came as a substitute. Guardiola had started Mario Gotze, Thomas Muller and Douglas Costa in the sort of fluid forward line that did for the likes of Ibrahimovic and Mandzukic.

Since August 2011 – the month of Aguero's City debut and the first season Lewandowski was a regular starter at Dortmund - only Messi (483) and Cristiano Ronaldo (460) have scored more goals across all competitions among players from the top five European leagues than Bayern's star striker.

Lewandowski (380) is the only other player above 300, with Aguero seventh overall (257) behind Luis Suarez (295), Edinson Cavani (278) and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (264).

If Haaland were to link up with Guardiola, history suggests these are the sort of levels he will have to hit. The signs of the past 18 months point promisingly in that direction.

The boy wonder

There were echoes of Lewandowski's Wolfsburg heroics – and, for that matter, Aguero's "anything you can do…" efforts of five goals in 20 minutes against Newcastle United a month later – in Haaland's sensational Bundesliga debut last January 18.

The 20-year-old came on as a second-half substitute and fired a 23-minute hat-trick to inspire Dortmund's 5-3 win over Augsburg.

In the spell from that game onwards, Haaland has 49 goals in all competitions, a haul only bettered across the top five leagues by Lewandowski (67) and Ronaldo (52). Despite being in contention for four major honours this term, City's leading scorers during the same period are Raheem Sterling and Jesus, with 24 and 22 respectively.

It seems Haaland would offer an obvious uplift, thanks in large part to his remarkable efficiency in front of goal. At Dortmund, he boasts a shot conversion rate of 33.6 per cent – better than any other player with 20 or more goals during this time.

For context, Lewandowski is back on 27.8 per cent and Romelu Lukaku and Andre Silva – each speculated alternatives should City be unable to land Haaland – convert just under a quarter of their attempts with 23.7 and 24.5 per cent respectively. Jesus (17.5) and Sterling (16.9) are about half as reliable as the man they will face this week.

A look at Haaland's expected goals (xG) figures for this season suggests judicious shot selection is a key part of his lethal makeup.

In the Bundesliga and Champions League combined, he has 29 non-penalty goals from 93 shots that have a cumulative xG value of 21.2.

By way of comparison, in 2018-19 – the campaign that will stand as his last truly great one in City colour – Aguero scored 24 times from open play in the Premier League and Champions League, outperforming an xG of 20.6 accumulated from 144 attempts.

Haaland's efficiency is again illustrated but a higher xG figure from 51 fewer efforts shows he is coldly selective when it comes to taking on shots, usually only pulling the trigger when a clear opportunity presents itself and to great success.

The speculative strike is not something he has a need to call upon too often, which holds an obvious appeal for a coach like Guardiola, who places such an emphasis on his team controlling every aspect of matches.

Attackers going rogue and firing off shots from all over the place is not high on the list of things he enjoys to see, placing a big tick next to Haaland.

Running and pressing until the end

Kevin De Bruyne's midfield masterclass to inspire a 2-0 weekend win at Leicester City was something of an archetype for what is required from City's big hitters.

Along with moments of high artistry such as his immaculate throughball to make Jesus' game-sealing goal possible, the Belgium international regained possession 14 times and contested 20 duels.

"This is one of our identities. When the most talented players in the world are able to do this kind of job," Guardiola said.

"There is no negotiation on this. You can play really badly but in terms of running and pressing for your team-mates until the end, we have to do it. Do it for your mates, because in the next action your mates are going to do it for you.

"We cannot deny that in the five years we were together the players we had run and fight every single game. That is one of the things I am proud of the most."

So, how would Haaland shape up to this non-negotiable part of the job description?

In 2020-21, the Dortmund centre-forward has won possession in the final third 31 times, made 65 recoveries overall, nine interceptions and contested 195 duels.

Even taking into account a BVB playing style that can be more chaotic than Guardiola's finely grooved City, these efforts stack up well compared to peak Aguero.

Only once under Guardiola has he won back the ball deep in opposition territory more frequently – 33 times in 2018-19, when he made his sole foray into double figures for interceptions (13) during the Catalan's tenure.

Aguero made 122 recoveries and contested 481 duels during Guardiola's first season at the helm in 2016-17, when City were some distance from their present model of efficient dominance. His recoveries/duels returns of 86 and 310 and 89 and 325 during the subsequent back-to-back Premier League triumphs are more in line with where Haaland might be at the end of the current campaign.

This begins to demonstrate that Guardiola's running and pressing until the end is not quite as advertised. Much as with Haaland's shot selection, there is an emphasis on picking your moments to lay down maximum effort. His is not the Heavy Metal Football under which the Dortmund of a previous era thrived, more Post-Rock Football laced with frequent and precise tempo changes.

In his final two seasons under Manuel Pellegrini, when City's sole major honour was the 2015-16 EFL Cup, Aguero won back possession in the final third 35 and 40 times – returns never bettered in the Guardiola era despite an improvement in his work off the ball being rightly lauded. A total of 126 recoveries in 2015-16 is one he has not topped, while 24 interceptions back in 2011-12 showed Roberto Mancini benefitting from the youthful enthusiasm of his record signing.

The idea that Guardiola strikers have to run themselves into the ground for scant reward is a horror story Mino Raiola might try to spin for his new favourite client. But Aguero's experience shows it is more of a "you scratch my back, I'll scratch yours" relationship.

In 2018-19, he averaged 8.15 touches in the opposition box per 90 minutes. This figure increased to 9.08 last season, one only bettered by 9.99 in 2013-14 during his City career. During Pellegrini's final year in charge, Aguero's touches in the area were down to 6.67 per game.

Taking some time to adapt to Guardiola's methods is neither unusual nor limited to strikers, with Joao Cancelo and Rodri's second-season improvements this time around standing as the latest examples.

If Haaland became a blockbuster signing, there is no reason to think his rewards would be anything other than plentiful after a period of assimilation. For the next week or so, however, Guardiola's only concern will be keeping his precocious talents under wraps.

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