Manchester City have full focus on winning a maiden Champions League title, Raheem Sterling explained ahead of Tuesday's meeting with Real Madrid.

City were beaten by Chelsea in last season's final, but remain in contention to end their European drought after overcoming Atletico Madrid in a tense quarter-final tie earlier this month.

Next up for the Premier League leaders is a semi-final clash with Los Blancos, against whom Pep Guardiola's side are unbeaten in their last three home Champions League meetings (one win, two draws).

Among City players, only Riyad Mahrez (six goals, one assist) has bettered Sterling's five Champions League goal contributions this season (three goals, two assists), and the England winger is highly motivated to make up for past failures in Europe.

"Every season we are a club looking to challenge for all the big trophies," Sterling told a media conference on Monday.

"The Champions League is the one we haven't got our hands on and is the one we are focused on.

"It's a special competition, it's a competition every young player wants to be in, and it was no different [for me] growing up. The music and atmosphere on the night is always special."

This will be the seventh meeting between the two teams in European competition, with each of the previous six coming in the Champions League. After failing to win the first four, City defeated Madrid home and away in a last-16 tie in 2019-20, albeit the second leg was played behind closed doors due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sterling, however, insisted those past meetings will count for nothing as Guardiola looks to become the first manager to eliminate Madrid in three separate Champions League knockout ties.

"We know – not just from this season but from previous seasons and history – how good they are in this competition," Sterling said.

"They have scored late goals but we have players who have been in high-pressure games and we know how to deal with it. I think come tomorrow, we will be fine. 

"What's happened previously doesn't really matter. All that's in the past. All we can control is making sure we are prepared right. It's a game over two legs, we can't focus on their previous games, we focus on tomorrow at the Etihad."

Sterling has netted 24 goals for City in the Champions League. Among English players, only Wayne Rooney (30) has scored more times in the competition's history.

It is a record Sterling has an eye on.

"When you make your debut, then it's the next thing: score your first goal, and you always look to be better and improve," he added.

"As a forward, to be scoring and making assists is a massive thing. It's where you get your confidence from. That's what I am out there for.

"It's a team full of competition. It's the competition that makes you thrive. When you are performing you want to keep scoring and making assists. Sometimes you have to understand there's a lot of great players in the team. 

"I'm playing and contributing a lot more [compared to last season]. I am in a good mood, good spirits. The team is in the semi-finals of the Champions League and fighting for the title. I couldn't ask for much more. I am in good spirits.

"If I can get the English record, that's what I will do."

Sterling has recorded 20 goal contributions for City in all competitions this season (14 goals, six assists).

Manchester City will relish the "incredible test" of facing Real Madrid in the Champions League semi-finals as Pep Guardiola reminded his players they require two "exceptional" performances to reach the final.

Having eliminated Madrid from the Champions League in the 2010-11 semi-finals as Barcelona boss and in a 2019-20 last-16 tie with City, Guardiola could become the first coach to have knocked Los Blancos out of the competition three times.

City have also remained undefeated in their previous three home Champions League matches against Real Madrid (one win, two draws) ahead of Tuesday's crucial first leg at the Etihad Stadium.

However, while City are still awaiting their first European title after falling at the final hurdle against Chelsea last season, Madrid are aiming to be crowned kings of Europe for a 14th time this term, but Guardiola says his team will relish the "incredible test" of facing the Spanish champions-elect.

"If we had to compete with their history, we wouldn't have any chance – they are better," he said. "Their history speaks for itself. We have the desire to compete against them. For us, playing against them is an incredible test and we want to try it. We'll have to suffer, stick together, and try to do as best as possible.

"It would be the same against Bayern or Barcelona. They are a team many times in this position [the latter stages]. In the last decade we were almost never here, and now we are, which is good.

"The history's there, we cannot change it, but tomorrow we play 11 against 11, with one ball moving, and the players will decide. Of course, we'll play against players that have been in this position many times, even beyond, reaching finals and winning.

"We can imagine or plan what is going to happen but it's a game of 11 against 11. The players will make the difference, I don't think Carlo [Ancelotti] or myself will win this semi-final."

This will be the seventh meeting between City and Real Madrid in European competition, with each of the previous six coming in the Champions League since 2012-13. After failing to win the first four (two draws, two losses), the Premier League champions won both legs in the last-16 against them in this competition in 2019-20.

Guardiola, however, said City's most recent encounter with Madrid will count for nothing, highlighting the "tight" nature of that tie and cautioning that City need two "exceptional" performances to progress.

However, the 51-year-old also said competing with Madrid in the final four was an "honour" and praised his team for making it this far, telling them to enjoy the moment.

"When we went through against Real Madrid, it was tight, two tight games. We went out in the quarter-finals in other seasons when it was tight too," Guardiola added. "I always had the feeling, with Barcelona, with Bayern Munich and then here, of how nice it is being there in the latter stages with the best teams in the world.

"Now we have to try to be ourselves. We'll need two exceptional games to reach the final, and hopefully we can do it. It's not necessary to say how much we respect Real Madrid and how good they are. It's an honour.

"We want to reach the final and win the final, but I could never underestimate what we have [already] done and the fact that we are here.

"Two times in a row being in the semi-finals is so good. Many teams are not here, good ones. One day we will not be here because it is so demanding, and you have to be so precise. So I told the players to enjoy this moment, I don't know what's going to happen, you never know if we will ever be back in this position."

Guardiola has faced Ancelotti on six previous occasions, winning four and losing two. However, all four of his victories came when Ancelotti was at Everton, with the Italian winning their two Champions League meetings, both in the 2013-14 semi-finals (Real Madrid's 5-0 aggregate win over Bayern Munich).

Manchester City and Liverpool will put their epic Premier League title race on hold for a few days, as they have the small matter of the Champions League semi-finals to think about.

City are hoping to go one better than last year after losing in the final to Chelsea. Standing in their way in the last four are Real Madrid, who eliminated the holders in the quarter-finals and boast a striker in Karim Benzema who has 12 goals in nine Champions League appearances this season.

Also facing LaLiga opposition are Liverpool, though Villarreal are unlikely to be a team they expected to meet at this stage of the competition.

Led by a knockout football specialist in Unai Emery, Villarreal cannot be taken lightly by the Reds, even with Emery's men historically struggling in games in England.

Ahead of the first legs, Stats Perform digs into some of the best Opta numbers around the two semi-final ties.

Manchester City v Real Madrid

Madrid might just be beginning to feel it is their year after progressing from remarkable knockout ties against Paris Saint-Germain and Chelsea.

However, the omens are against them ahead of their first leg with City. Los Blancos haven't won on any of their previous three trips to face Manchester City in European competition (two draws, one defeat), with the most recent two coming in the knockout stages of the Champions League – a 0-0 draw in the 2015-16 semi-final first leg and a 2-1 loss in the 2019-20 last-16 second leg.

Pep Guardiola won't need any additional motivation as he looks to finally end his wait for a Champions League triumph with City, and the Barcelona legend can complete a historic hat-trick by overseeing an elimination of Madrid.

Indeed, Guardiola has eliminated Madrid from the knockout stages of the Champions League on two previous occasions, beating them 3-1 on aggregate in the 2010-11 semi-finals with Barcelona and 4-2 on aggregate in the 2019-20 last-16 with City. He is looking to become the first manager to eliminate Madrid from the competition on three occasions.

Madrid won away from home in the first leg at Chelsea in the quarter-finals, their only victory in their last six away games against English teams in the Champions League. No team has ever beaten two different English sides away from home in the knockout stages in a single Champions League campaign.

Champions League history between the two managers, however, is with Madrid's Carlo Ancelotti. He and Guardiola have faced each other six times, with the City boss claiming four wins to Ancelotti's two.

However, all four of Guardiola's wins came with City against Ancelotti's Everton, while the Italian saw his Madrid side beat Guardiola's Bayern Munich in both legs of the 2013-14 Champions League semi-finals, claiming a 5-0 aggregate triumph. Such a one-sided tie is unlikely this time around.

Liverpool v Villarreal

Villarreal are arguably the story of the 2021-22 Champions League, having sensationally knocked out Juventus and Bayern Munich to reach this stage.

However, games in England have historically been a problem for the Yellow Submarine. Since a 2-1 victory over Everton back in August 2005, Villarreal haven't managed to win any of their last eight away games in England in all competitions (three draws, five defeats), tasting defeat to Manchester United at Old Trafford in the group stages earlier this season.

Despite Villarreal's well-organised defensive set-up, a high-scoring game could well be in the offing. During his managerial career, Villarreal boss Emery has faced Liverpool five times (once with Sevilla and four times with Arsenal), with those matches producing 26 goals (5.2 per game on average), and both teams netting in each.

Liverpool will be the clear favourites to do the majority of that goalscoring. Of the 12 sides to have reached the semi-finals of the European Cup/Champions League on at least five occasions, only Benfica (seven wins from eight) and Milan (10/12) have a higher ratio of progressing to the final than Liverpool (82%), who have managed to reach the final on nine of their previous 11 semi-final appearances.

Although Liverpool possess serious depth in attack with Diogo Jota and Luis Diaz playing significant roles, Mohamed Salah is still the obvious candidate to be their talisman.

Only in 2017-18 (10) has Salah scored more Champions League goals in a single campaign than the eight he has scored this season, moving his tally for the club onto 33. The Egyptian is just three behind both Didier Drogba (Chelsea) and Sergio Aguero (Man City) for the most goals netted in the competition for an English side (both 36).

Yet Emery's track record in Europe should have Liverpool fans nervous that he could be the man to dash their quadruple dreams.

The only European meeting between Emery and Liverpool was the 2016 Europa League final, in which Emery's Sevilla side beat Klopp's Reds 3-1. On top of that, since the start of the 2009-10 season, the year of the inaugural UEFA Europa League campaign, Emery has progressed from 84 per cent of his Europa League/Champions League knockout ties (31/37).

That is second-best ratio of any manager to have taken charge of at least 10 ties, after only Zinedine Zidane (14/16 – 88%).

Manchester City forward Gabriel Jesus wants to solely focus on this season amid ongoing speculation surrounding his future and the possible arrival of Erling Haaland.

Jesus' contract does not expire until June 2023, but there are suggestions he could make way for the in-demand Haaland to sign from Borussia Dortmund.

Pep Guardiola's reigning Premier League champions have repeatedly been linked with Norway striker Haaland, with a €75million release clause reportedly coming into play at the end of the season.

While talk persists around the future of Jesus, who is said to be a target of Arsenal, the 25-year-old delivered on the pitch against Watford, finding the net four times and assisting the other in a 5-1 rout on Saturday.

That made him the fifth Brazilian hat-trick scorer in the Premier League, after Afonso Alves, Robinho, Roberto Firmino and Lucas Moura, but the first of those to score four times in a single match.

Jesus was also just the second City player to be directly involved in five goals in a single Premier League game, after Sergio Aguero netted five against Newcastle United in October 2015.

However, the former Palmeiras attacker refused to commit his future to City amid questions of whether he will stay and fight for his place should Haaland be brought in.

"It's not time to think about this," he told reporters. "You expect me to say this, but it's true.

"This is no time to think about this. Now is the best moment of the season. I want to enjoy, to keep focused on my team, with my team-mates, to fight for the Premier League. I won it with my team-mates three times.

"And I know how that feels, and I want to have that feeling again. And then of course we also have the tough game on Tuesday against Real Madrid [in the Champions League] and that is my focus."

City's wealth of attacking riches has them in contention for the Premier League, leading Liverpool by a point with five games to play, and the Champions League, where they face Madrid in the semi-finals.

But that plethora of creative and goalscoring talent is often what has kept Jesus on the sidelines, with Guardiola preferring to utilise the likes of Phil Foden, Raheem Sterling and Kevin De Bruyne as forwards after missing out on Harry Kane before the 2021-22 season.

Indeed, out of City's attacking group – which also includes Jack Grealish and Riyad Mahrez – only the Algeria international has played fewer minutes (1,332) in the Premier League than Jesus this season (1,545).

"It's not just me, it's [all] the players. If you ask, everyone's going to say 'I want to play' and the season that I arrived here I played a lot, I think," Jesus responded when asked if he would like more regular chances.

"I know what I expect of course, but I know we have very good players who can play every game as well.

"Sometimes it's not just me, it's Riyad, sometimes Raz [Sterling], and Grealish arrives this season and sees how it is here. We have a lot of good strikers, wingers and forwards."

After becoming the third player to score four goals in a Premier League match for City – after Edin Dzeko and Aguero, who did so on three occasions – Jesus will hope to get the opportunity to deliver again at home to Madrid on Tuesday.

A 10th Ligue 1 title for Paris Saint-Germain has evidently left a bitter-sweet taste.

Their devastating elimination at the hands of Real Madrid in the Champions League made for a fourth last-16 exit in the past six seasons, following final and semi-final defeats to Bayern Munich and Manchester City respectively.

Amid protests that culminated in fans walking out of the Parc des Princes as PSG claimed the domestic title at the weekend, the remedy reportedly appears to be a new coach.


TOP STORY – CONTE TO REPLACE POCHETTINO AT PSG

Paris Saint-Germain appear set to dismiss Mauricio Pochettino as their head coach and have lined up Antonio Conte as his replacement, Le Parisien is reporting.

Pochettino's exit is reportedly imminent and all that is left for the club is to come to a financial settlement, with another season left on the contracts of Pochettino and his staff.

PSG's preferred choice as Pochettino's replacement is apparently Zinedine Zidane, but he appears more intent to replace Didier Deschamps as France's national team coach if he leaves after the World Cup.

Tottenham boss Conte would be brought in on a two-year deal. 


ROUND-UP

Lucas Paqueta has told Lyon head coach Peter Bosz he will let the club know of his desire to stay or leave at season's end, according to the Chronicle.

- Manchester City's Gabriel Jesus is also yet to commit to his future beyond the end of this season, the Guardian reports.

Real Betis are keen to sign Real Madrid's Isco, who will be leaving at the end of the season, per Marca.

- Mundo Deportivo is reporting Barcelona are considering a bid for Ajax centre-back Lisandro Martinez.

Real Madrid should be worried by the prospect of facing Manchester City in the Champions League semi-finals, according to former Etihad Stadium hero Carlos Tevez.

City beat Atletico Madrid 1-0 on aggregate to tee up the last-four meeting with Carlo Ancelotti's men, who edged past Chelsea to move one step away from the final.

Madrid visit Manchester on Tuesday for the first-leg clash, having failed to win on any of their previous three trips to face City in European competition (D2 L1).

The most recent two clashes came in the Champions League knockout stages, with Madrid drawing 0-0 in the 2015-16 semi-final first leg and losing 2-1 in the 2019-20 last-16 second leg, and Tevez believes Pep Guardiola's side are in a strong position.

Madrid have won the Champions League/European Cup on 13 occasions, while City are chasing their first such title, but the Premier League side cannot be considered underdogs given their current strength.

"Nowadays it is completely different. Today, Real Madrid are the one that have to be concerned about facing City," former Argentina international Tevez told City's official website.

"This is the advantage that City now have. Today, the opponents have to look at what City are capable to do.

"With the players we have now and the infrastructure City have been building during the years we can fight as equals against any team in Europe."

Tevez scored 58 times in 113 outings for City between 2009 and 2013 after swapping Manchester United for the blue side of the city, and he is delighted to see his old team competing at the highest level in Europe.

"It's a 50/50 tie," he said of the clash with Madrid. "I'm very happy to see City in this position, fighting against the greatest teams in Europe.

"It has not been possible to win the Champions League yet, but I think the most important thing is that after 10 years City are playing as equals against teams like Real Madrid and as it did on the last tie against Atletico."

Tevez said such progress was "very gratifying".

"We have gone from fighting in the middle of the league table to doing on an equal footing with the biggest [in Europe]," he said. "It is an achievement that we all must feel proud."

Guardiola will be aiming to become the first manager to eliminate Madrid from the Champions League on three occasions, having previously done so with Barcelona in the 2010-11 semi-finals and at City in 2019-20.

Pep Guardiola described Gabriel Jesus as "fantastic" after the striker hit four goals in Manchester City's 5-1 rout of Watford.

Jesus scored his first Premier League hat-trick on his 155th appearance in the competition. It made him the fifth Brazilian hat-trick scorer in the competition, after Afonso Alves, Robinho, Roberto Firmino and Lucas Moura, but the first of those to score four times in a single match.

The 25-year-old also assisted Rodri for a brilliant 25-yard strike in the first half, meaning he recorded five goal involvements as City kept the Premier League title race in their own hands.

City moved four points clear of title rivals Liverpool with the resounding victory, ahead of Jurgen Klopp's team hosting Merseyside rivals Everton on Sunday.

Guardiola, who has won all of his 11 managerial clashes with Watford by a combined score of 47-5, said City could still improve upon their five-star display, but he was full of praise for his versatile Brazilian forward.

"We didn't defend well, we were not aggressive enough," Guardiola told Sky Sports. "But the players up front, not just Gabriel for his incredible four goals, all of them were brilliant.

"If there's one person who deserves the best in life for him, his family and his friends, it's Gabriel.

"All of us at the club, when he has one of these situations, we're happy for him because he's so generous. It doesn't matter what position he's going to play, we know how he fights for his mates. He's fantastic."

City also became the first English side in history to record 15 consecutive competitive wins over a single opponent by hammering the Hornets, but Guardiola insisted the victory didn't alter the Premier League title race.

"Nothing changes," he said. "When we won against Brighton we were two points behind [before the game], now we're four in front. Brighton was a 'final'. We had another 'final' today and we won it. Now we have an opportunity to play a 'final' against Leeds [next Saturday].

"Nothing changes. We have to win all five [remaining] games to be champions."

Jesus, meanwhile, was beaming after his four-goal haul, praising his team-mates' creativity after moving from three goals for the Premier League season to seven in under an hour at the Etihad Stadium.

"Today was my day," the striker told Sky Sports. "We played very good today, we created a lot of chances, that's what we need to do.

"We made passes and passes to create chances and try to score, and today we were very good on the finishing. I'm very happy with the three points. The team played so well, and we deserved it.

"It was my first hat-trick in the Premier League. I've tried. Sometimes I've scored two then I've hit a post, the defender has blocked [my shot], or the keeper has saved, but today was my day!"

Jesus is just the second City player to be directly involved in five goals in a single Premier League game (four goals, one assist), after Sergio Aguero scored five against Newcastle United in October 2015.

Saturday's City hero also became the third player to score four goals in a Premier League match for the club, after Edin Dzeko and Aguero, with the latter doing so on three occasions.

Gabriel Jesus scored four times as Manchester City kept the Premier League title race in their own hands by thrashing Watford 5-1 at the Etihad Stadium.

Jesus netted twice within 23 minutes, with Rodri drilling home a stunning third after Hassane Kamara pulled one back for the Hornets midway through an entertaining first half.

The Brazilian celebrated twice more within eight minutes of the restart as relegation-threatened Watford collapsed, Jesus first winning and converting a penalty before sweeping home from Kevin De Bruyne's pass.

All eyes will now turn to Anfield on Sunday, where title challengers Liverpool will attempt to keep pace with Pep Guardiola's men by beating rivals Everton.

Jesus needed just four minutes to give City the lead, turning home Oleksandr Zinchenko's fierce left-wing cross after the Ukrainian latched onto Joao Cancelo's overhit ball.

City almost doubled their lead 10 minutes later when Ben Foster got down well to turn away Cancelo's left-footed shot, but Jesus was soon on hand to grab his second when meeting De Bruyne's excellent right-wing cross with a firm header. 

Watford briefly halved the arrears when Kamara raced through to power a left-footed drive into the bottom-right corner, but Rodri restored the two-goal cushion in stunning fashion after 34 minutes, unleashing an unstoppable 25-yard volley into the top-left corner.

Jesus then completed his hat-trick just four minutes into the second half, rolling home a penalty after chasing down a poor clearance and being felled by Foster, and helped himself to a remarkable fourth four minutes later when he converted from De Bruyne's cut-back.

Riyad Mahrez could have added a sixth when sending a wild right-footed volley over late on, as City saw out an incredible 15th consecutive victory over Watford. 

What does it mean? Reigning champions keep title destiny in their hands

City's dominant win meant they established a four-point lead at the Premier League summit ahead of Liverpool's Merseyside Derby against Everton on Sunday.

Their bid to retain the title is gathering steam at the perfect moment, with Guardiola's team now unbeaten in seven league games (five wins, two draws).

Jesus show downs Hornets

Having been linked with a move away from the Etihad in recent days, Jesus bettered his Premier League goals tally for the rest of the season (three) in less than an hour against the sorry visitors. 

Jesus also teed up Rodri's thunderous first-half strike, meaning he has contributed more Premier League assists than any other City player this term (eight).

City dominate favourite opponents again

City made history with Saturday's victory, becoming the first English league side in history to win 15 consecutive competitive games against a single opponent.

Meanwhile, Guardiola maintained the best 100 per cent record of his managerial career; he has now won all 11 of his meetings with Watford in all competitions by an aggregate score of 47-5.

What's next?

Guardiola's men must switch their attention to Europe as they host Real Madrid in the first leg of their Champions League semi-final on Tuesday. Watford, meanwhile, host fellow strugglers Burnley next Saturday.

Rumours surrounding Kylian Mbappe's future are likely to rumble on for a couple more months yet.

For a long time, it was reported the France World Cup winner was a shoo-in to join LaLiga giants Real Madrid.

But more recently there have been rumblings he could be swayed to remain at Paris Saint-Germain, and a bumper new contract offer may be on the table.


TOP STORY – PSG READY TO OFFER MBAPPE HUGE MONEY TO HOLD OFF MADRID

Mbappe will be the hottest free agent on the market should he decide not to renew with PSG and a move to the Spanish capital still cannot be ruled out.

However, Goal reports his switch to the Santiago Bernabeu has hit a snag due to a dispute over the 23-year-old's image rights.

Meanwhile, PSG are reportedly ready to offer Mbappe an eye-watering €50million annual salary, a deal that would make him the highest paid player at the Parc des Princes, should he choose to remain in the French capital.


ROUND-UP

- Mauricio Pochettino may not be headed to Old Trafford to become Manchester United boss, but his PSG future still remains unclear. Le Parisien says Antonio Conte is tempted to leave Tottenham for the French capital.

- Declan Rice has put Manchester United and Chelsea on red alert after turning down a third contract offer from West Ham, which the Guardian said was worth £200,000 a week.

- Arsenal's continuing search for a striker has apparently led to interest in Manchester City forward Gabriel Jesus. Edu, the Gunners' technical director, has been speaking to the Brazil star's representatives, according to the Athletic.

- Newcastle United are on the hunt for close-season reinforcements. Foot Mercato say Bayer Leverkusen winger Moussa Diaby and Monaco defender Benoit Badiashile are both on the Magpies' radar.

Former Liverpool forward Dirk Kuyt has said he finds the high levels reached by the Reds and Premier League title rivals Manchester City "amazing".

Kuyt played for Liverpool between 2006 and 2012, winning the EFL Cup in his final season at Anfield.

However, having already secured the same trophy this season, Liverpool have three more titles in their sights as they look to complete an unprecedented quadruple.

Liverpool sealed a place in the FA Cup final against Chelsea after beating City 3-2 at Wembley last week, have a Champions League semi-final against Villarreal on the horizon, and sit just a point behind Pep Guardiola's team in the race for the Premier League title.

Speaking to Stats Perform, Kuyt praised the levels of both title rivals, saying: "There's something changing if you play an opponent more than two or three times in a season and that's happening with Liverpool and City now.

"It's very interesting because we have already seen two very good games between Liverpool and City. In my opinion, City was a little bit the better team in the Premier League match [a 2-2 draw at the Etihad Stadium] but obviously in the FA Cup semi-final, Liverpool showed what they are capable of.

"It's just amazing what a high level these kinds of games are because I didn't see better games than the Liverpool and City games this season."

The Dutchman scored 67 goals in 281 games for Liverpool in all competitions, and enjoyed a particularly strong record in Merseyside derbies, scoring five goals in 11 Premier League appearances against Everton.

Jurgen Klopp's side entertain Everton on Sunday, with the Toffees in the midst of a relegation fight, and Kuyt says the derby is on the minds of people in the city.

"You can already feel it the week before," he said. "So we are a couple of days before the derby game, and once I landed in Liverpool, when I came from Amsterdam this morning, people are already talking about the derby game and it's massive for the city.

"You've got families, one is for Liverpool, the other one is for Everton. So yeah, it's just a great game and a really important game.

"I used to play in these games. Thankfully, I won more than I lost but for Liverpool and the city, it's very important. Liverpool will win again on Sunday.

"I was used to playing these kinds of games in Holland with Feyenoord and Ajax, and when I came to Liverpool, this game together with the Man United game was one of the most important games of the season. I loved these kinds of games the most when everyone is fully up for it, so I really enjoyed it and I was happy to score important goals."

When asked for his favourite derby memory, Kuyt pointed to the game at Goodison Park in the 2007-08 season in which he scored two penalties, including one in second-half stoppage time to win it, though he was also perhaps fortunate to avoid a red card for a challenge on Phil Neville earlier in the contest.

"If I have to go back it's when I scored two penalties, and one in [injury] time," he said. "And somewhere in between I tried to kick somebody and thankfully I didn't get a red card. [It was a] special game for me and to celebrate the winning goal in [injury] time with the fans was something I'll never forget."

Pep Guardiola says Manchester City are treating every fixture as a knockout game in their pursuit of a Premier League and Champions League double.

City hold a one-point lead over Liverpool at the top of the Premier League table with six matches to play ahead of a clash with Watford at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday.

They will also have home advantage for a Champions League semi-final first leg against LaLiga leaders Real Madrid next Tuesday.

City's hopes of winning a treble were ended when they were beaten 3-2 by Liverpool in an FA Cup semi-final at Wembley last weekend, but they have back-to-back Premier League titles and a first Champions League triumph in their sights.

Guardiola knows they cannot afford any slip-ups in the hunt for more trophies.

Asked if they are taking the mindset that each game is a knockout, the City boss told reporters on Friday: "Definitely. We can't drop points, but they [Liverpool] can't either.

"The players know it, we were in this position before. We played a final versus Brighton to be able to play another one. If we win we have a chance to play another.

"We try to recover injured players, be fresh in the mind. When we finish tomorrow, another [game] in three days in Champions League. Then Leeds. Be fresh, relax, ready for the moment of the game."

Guardiola says City are relishing the challenge of trying win more silverware.

"Of course we enjoy it, prefer to be in this position than don't have chance to make back-to-back titles," he said.

"After the game, remains six games, already qualified for Champion League, big success. Now we target the Premier League.

Guardiola revealed the fitness of defenders Kyle Walker, Nathan Ake and John Stones will be assessed ahead of the visit of Watford.

Second-bottom Watford will have to pull off a great to avoid an immediate return to the Championship, but Guardiola expects Roy Hodgson's side to pose a threat.

He said: "Roy Hodgson has incredible experience as manager, we struggled to break down Palace [when Hodgson was in charge].

"Every game is the of the same importance. Watford have their quality,,their physicality up front. We have to be ourselves and get three points."

City could be four points clear by the time Liverpool face Everton in the Merseyside derby on Sunday.

Manchester United are preparing for a complete overhaul of the playing group in the upcoming transfer window as incoming manager Erik ten Hag begins to build things his way.

Ten Hag, who is arriving from Ajax, has reportedly already seen enough of a number of regular contributors at United, and they will make way for players he believes can get the club back to their former glory.

Forward, midfielders and defenders are all on the chopping block, with very few positions expected to be safe heading into 2022-23.

 

TOP STORY – TEN HAG TO SWING THE AXE AT UNITED

The Sun is reporting United "could sell" Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial, Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Eric Bailly, Phil Jones and Alex Telles at the next opportunity.

Meanwhile, Sky Sports claims United's needs include a new centre-back, two central midfielders, a winger and a striker in what could shape up as a complete rebuild.

One player who will reportedly get a chance to prove his worth at Old Trafford once he returns from loan is Donny van de Beek, who played for Ten Hag at Ajax.

West Ham's Declan Rice is also high on the Dutchman's wishlist, per The Guardian, while the Telegraph claims Benfica striker Darwin Nunez is a key target.

 

ROUND-UP

– Sky Sports Germany is reporting RB Leipzig have no interest in parting ways with Christopher Nkunku next season, despite interest from United and Arsenal.

– According to Goal, Milan are keen to sign Chelsea striker Romelu Lukaku, who spent two seasons at Inter before rejoining Chelsea this season.

Real Madrid are monitoring Newcastle United midfielder Bruno Guimaraes, per AS.

Manchester City and Newcastle United are both interested in 18-year-old Rangers academy midfielder Alex Lowry, according to Football Insider.

– Todofichajes reports that Christian Eriksen has agreed to return to Tottenham when his contract with Brentford expires at the end of this season.

Paul Scholes and Didier Drogba lead the latest slate of inductees to the Premier League Hall of Fame, it was announced on Thursday.

Former Manchester United midfielder Scholes and ex-Chelsea striker Drogba head the remaining six names of the Class of 2022.

Patrick Vieira and Wayne Rooney had already been announced as two of the eight players to be bestowed with the honour, following last year's inaugural group of players.

They are joined now by Scholes and Drogba, alongside Arsenal legend Ian Wright, ex-Red Devils goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel and Manchester City duo Sergio Aguero and Vincent Kompany.

Widely acclaimed as the greatest midfielder of his generation, Scholes – a one-club man between 1993 and 2013 – won the Premier League 11 times during his playing days.

Drogba, who spent two different spells with the Blues, proved a cornerstone of Chelsea's elevation to regular contenders in the competition.

Wright helped Arsenal to the title in 1997-98 before a brief spell with West Ham and remains the Gunners' second-highest scorer ever, behind only previous inductee Thierry Henry.

Schmeichel, who remains the only goalkeeper to win the Premier League Player of the Year Award, in 1995-96, is the first shotstopper to be inducted.

Kompany, a four-time Premier League winner during an acclaimed spell at City, helped usher in the team's modern era of dominance.

Aguero, meanwhile, is the highest-scoring overseas player in Premier League history, having scored 184 goals in just 275 appearances.

The six players were inducted via a public ballot, after Vieira and Rooney had been selected as automatic picks.

Tic tac, tic tac, as it goes in the Spanish media. Real Madrid's courting of Kylian Mbappe has long avoided subtlety and discretion, but he remains their primary target.

The Paris Saint-Germain attacker has just about become the world's best footballer in the meantime, contributing an extraordinary 33 goals and 18 assists in 41 appearances across all competitions this term.

A move to the Spanish capital at the end of the season remains a possibility, and reports suggest Real Madrid will go all out to make it happen.

 

TOP STORY – MBAPPE REMAINS MADRID'S PRIMARY TARGET

Real Madrid are confident they will sign Kylian Mbappe amid the increasing likelihood of Erling Haaland joining Manchester City, according to the Daily Mail.

With the end of the season and the subsequent expiration of the 23-year-old's contract nearing, Madrid and Mbappe have yet to sign a pre-contractual agreement as a means of not disrespecting PSG.

While the club are playing the waiting game, they remain confident for the sole fact a new deal with PSG has not yet been signed and confirmed.

Mbappe has reportedly remained the club's first preference despite interest in Haaland, who appears set to join Manchester City.

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 Anthony Martial appears set to return to Manchester United with Sevilla not interested in making his loan deal permanent, claims Fabrizio Romano.

Dejan Kulusevski will join Tottenham from Juventus on a permanent basis despite another season left on his 18-month loan, reports the Evening Standard.

– According to Tuttosport, Spurs director of football Fabio Paratici has also identified Torino defensive pair Gleison Bremer and Wilfried Singo as potential targets.

Real Madrid are also keen on signing Jude Bellingham but Borussia Dortmund are intent on keeping the 18-year-old and are prepared to increase his standing at the club, Bild is reporting.

Pep Guardiola felt Manchester City were "exceptional" as they beat Brighton and Hove Albion 3-0 to return to the top of the Premier League.

Second-half goals from Riyad Mahrez, Phil Foden and Bernardo Silva at the Etihad Stadium on Wednesday moved City a point clear of Liverpool with six games to play.

Mahrez and Foden found the back of the net with the help of deflections before Silva put the icing on the cake with a clinical left-foot finish late on.

Liverpool had made a statement by thrashing Manchester United 4-0 on Tuesday, but City responded with a comfortable win of their own 24 hours later.

It was a 250th victory of his City tenure for Guardiola and the Spaniard was full of a praise for his side, knowing they can ill afford any slip-ups in the title race.

He told Match of the Day: "It was a good test and we behaved exceptional. That is why we won the game.

"We didn't let them play. Brighton have this quality. In the second half we found the goals that we could not find in the first half."

He added: "The feeling today is that we are now mathematically going to play in the Champions League. People can say it is normal, but it is not. You only have to look at the incredible teams fighting to get into the Champions League.

"Now for the Premier League, we are not stupid. If we drop just two points, Liverpool will be champions. If we win all games we will be champions. The players know it.

"We know the tough games we have and we must try to perform like today and win all the games. If we do that we will celebrate, if not we will congratulate Liverpool."

Kevin De Bruyne was outstanding on his return to the starting line-up and Guardiola says the midfielder is stepping up when City really need him.

He said: "What a signing. The club sign him before I come here so a big congratulations to the club. A special player and human being.

"When fit and happy mentally like all of us and is fit to show his potential he is unstoppable in that position, in transition especially. He is playing the last part of this season amazingly."

Ruben Diaz made his return from a hamstring injury as a half-time substitute after Nathan Ake sustained a twisted ankle, while John Stones was withdrawn late on. 

Guardiola said: "Nathan Ake has a twisted ankle. It is not perfect but it was good to give minutes to Ruben. John was a little bit tight.

"Hopefully [it is] nothing too bad but we will see tomorrow. Ruben is important. It is difficult seven weeks out to come back and pick up the rhythm. He is mentally so strong and that is why he show so many good things."

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