Raheem Sterling was the focus of Pep Guardiola's praise after the Manchester City attacker netted a hat-trick in the 4-0 win at Norwich City.

Having opened the scoring with a superb long-range strike, Sterling headed home a Ruben Dias cross, then scored left-footed after seeing a weak penalty parried away by Canaries stopper Angus Gunn, giving the England international a perfect hat-trick as City moved 12 points clear at the top of the Premier League.

Sterling has now racked up 10 goal contributions (eight goals and two assists) in his last eight Premier League games against Norwich, and has scored five Premier League hat-tricks since joining the club in 2015.

He is the third City player to score a perfect hat-trick in the Premier League, after Edin Dzeko and Sergio Aguero (twice), though no player has netted more away hat-tricks in the competition than Sterling, with each of his last three coming on the road.

The former Liverpool winger averages a goal or assist every 66 minutes in the Premier League against Norwich – he only has a better record against Watford (64 minutes) – and Guardiola was full delighted.

"He made a fantastic game," the 51-year-old said of Sterling, who is City's top scorer in the league with 10 goals so far this season despite reportedly being open to leaving the club last year.

"Especially after the [first] goal, he was so aggressive and direct. 

"He made a fantastic goal [the opener], and for the second one he was there.

"He has been an incredibly important player in all these seasons, with the amount of goals and assists [he gets]. He always creates something.

"When he has confidence, he is a really important player."

Sterling was on fire at Carrow Road, scoring his three goals from chances equating to 2.09 expected goals, and attempting more shots (five) than any other player on the pitch.

Phil Foden also got on the scoresheet, though fellow England attacker Jack Grealish missed the match through injury, and Guardiola was uncertain when asked about the timescale of the 26-year-old's return.

"I hope [the injury is not serious]. We will see," Guardiola explained.

"I don't know if he will be ready for Tuesday [against Sporting in the Champions League]. After [the] Brentford [game] we trained and he was uncomfortable.

"He was not able to play today, but hopefully in the next days [he can]."

Manchester City stretched their lead at the Premier League summit to 12 points, as Raheem Sterling's perfect hat-trick helped them to a comfortable win over struggling Norwich City.

Pep Guardiola shuffled his pack ahead of the resumption of Champions League football, resting the likes of Kevin De Bruyne, Rodri and Joao Cancelo, but the champions produced an assured performance as their England stars fired them to a ninth win in their past 13 league games against the Canaries.

After Sterling struck a stunning opener, Phil Foden tapped home a second and Sterling doubled his own tally with a close-range header, before the winger tapped home a rebound after missing a late penalty.

Guardiola's men now have a 12-point lead over second-placed Liverpool, albeit having played two games more than Jurgen Klopp's men, while Norwich's mini-revival was halted by their dominant visitors.

City almost took the lead five minutes in, when Bernardo Silva danced through the home backline before hitting the post, before Grant Hanley headed against the woodwork at the opposite end during a frantic start to the contest. 

Angus Gunn produced a strong save to deny Sterling on 25 minutes, but the England man was not to be denied five minutes later, as he beautifully curled home his first goal of 2022 from the edge of the area.

Norwich were reduced to chasing the ball for the remainder of the first half, with Ikay Gundogan spurning a good opportunity as the champions monopolised possession and avoided conceding in the opening half for the 22nd time in their 25 league games this term.

City needed fewer than three minutes to strike after the break, as Foden tapped across the line at the second attempt after a bizarre goalmouth scramble.

The visitors further extended their lead when the fantastic Sterling nodded Ruben Dias' cross home, recording his ninth league goal of the season on 70 minutes.

City's man of the match crowned his terrific performance by tapping home for a hat-trick after Gunn spilled his late penalty, awarded for Hanley's foul on young substitute Liam Delap.

What does it mean? Away form carrying City towards title

Guardiola's quest to bring a fourth title in six years to the Etihad Stadium remains firmly on course, with the help of a fantastic away record.

After losing at Tottenham on the opening day of the season, City are now unbeaten in their past 12 on the road, winning on 10 of those trips.

Sterling torments Canaries again

Norwich's supporters must be sick of the sight of Sterling, whose treble took his tally to 10 goal involvements in his past eight Premier League matches against the Canaries (eight goals, two assists).

Sterling has now netted 10 Premier League goals this season, more than any other City player.

Foden remains an eager traveller

Foden's scrappy finish gave his side a deserved two-goal cushion within moments of the restart and maintained his great goalscoring record in away matches. Only Mohamed Salah, with 10, can beat Foden's tally of five away Premier League goals this season, while no Englishman has scored more on their travels in the Premier League this term.

Meanwhile, Harry Kane (68) is the only English player to rack up more goal involvements than Foden since the start of last season, with the City man recording 40 in all competitions (24 goals, 16 assists).

What's next?

City now face an important week in their quest for silverware: they will follow up Tuesday's Champions League trip to Sporting CP by hosting Tottenham in a weeks' time. Earlier that day, Norwich face another tough assignment when they travel to Anfield to face Liverpool.

Pep Guardiola applauded the patience demonstrated by Manchester City during their 2-0 victory over Brentford on Wednesday.

The runaway Premier League leaders moved 12 points clear at the summit thanks to goals from Riyad Mahrez and Kevin De Bruyne at the Etihad Stadium.

However, Guardiola’s side were made to work hard for their 10th successive home win in all competitions.

Indeed, they found it difficult to break down a stubborn Brentford despite enjoying over three-quarters of the possession and registering 15 shots.

Nevertheless, Guardiola was pleased by the resilience of his players, who took their points tally for the campaign to 60 with 14 matches remaining.

"[Brentford] are so difficult to attack; aggressive, high pressing. We build up; they drop and defend so deep," he told reporters after the match.

"[We had to] be patient, make no mistakes and in the end we got the result.

"[I am] very satisfied with the performance. We conceded two shots [on target], a few corners and were patient. [It is] difficult when they defend deep with 10 players in their 18-yard box.

"It is impressive at this stage to have 60 points - we have done incredibly well so far."

Raheem Sterling also praised City's persistence as they completed the league double over the Bees for the first time since the 1936-37 season, when they collected their maiden top-flight crown.

"They defended well, they're a tight unit. We had to keep going, probing the ball and finding the gaps, and we did," the England forward added.

"They made it really difficult; the game at their place was really difficult too. They were hard to break down. We stuck to it and got two goals."

Raheem Sterling feels England's commitment to taking a knee at Euro 2020 and thereafter shows the gesture can still be powerful in the fight against racism despite certain fans voicing discontent.

In 2020, the Premier League lent its support to the Black Lives Matter movement after the death of George Floyd, an African American man murdered by a white police officer in the American city of Minneapolis.

Clubs wore Black Lives Matter badges on their jerseys, while players, officials and staff began to take a knee at the start of every match.

In 2021-22, clubs are generally continuing to take a knee, though there are examples of individuals opting against it – Crystal Palace's Wilfried Zaha became the first Premier League player to say he was no longer going to kneel back in February 2021, the Ivory Coast international suggesting the gesture had lost meaning.

Ever since fans began returning to stadiums after the initial lockdown in the coronavirus pandemic, taking a knee has been a topic of debate.

Some supporters have gone as far as booing players for taking part, with the justification of such reactions being that some perceive it to be a "political" gesture despite what players and authorities say.

England players were jeered before Euro 2020 and it was confirmed they would continue to kneel during the tournament – the online abuse of Bukayo Saka, Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho after their penalty misses in the final showed there was still a fight to be fought.

The Three Lions' commitment to taking a knee highlighted how this generation will not stand for such matters being swept under the carpet after a few days of outrage.

Speaking with manager Gareth Southgate to BBC Radio 4, Sterling said: "How us as a team took a stance, I think the big question was, 'Are we going to continue doing it through the Euros?'.

"And I think a lot of the time when the racism comes up or something has happened, a lot of the time in football and in the majority of society, we tend to address it for that period, for that five days or that week and then we brush it under the carpet and [pretend] things are all fine now.

"When the next scenario happens. that's when we go again. But us as a country, players that have been in those scenarios face some of that racist abuse, on a whole, we just want to keep highlighting that.

"Yes, there have been times that we've sat down and said, 'Is the message still powerful?', and we've said yes and as a group and as a collective we've tried to keep that going."

Sterling has been vocal in calling out racism for years, having routinely brought to attention the conduct of the British media.

Arguably the most famous such incident saw Sterling highlight how a newspaper reported on the spending habits of his young Manchester City team-mates Tosin Adarabioyo and Phil Foden back in 2018.

While Foden was covered in a positive light for buying his mother a new £2million home, Adarabioyo – who is of Nigerian descent – was said to have paid a similar amount for a "mansion…despite having never started a Premier League match", the headline seeming to suggest he was not worthy.

The unity and social consciousness of the current England squad has often been put down to Southgate's management of the team, though he pointed to Sterling's stance as helping him to open his eyes.

Continuing on the subject of taking a knee, Southgate said: "At the very least, this had to be a team where we were united on how we saw it and we could send a message to young kids watching that I think the lads maybe didn't realise how powerful that would be going into a tournament because they wanted to concentrate on the football.

"They want to be judged primarily on the football but what Raheem has done, in this space, in particular…. I remember you [Sterling] put the two articles out on how Tosin had been reported on as a young player and a similar sort of story with Phil, and the difference, and it was clear the way those things had been reported.

"So, there were a lot of things that happened over the last few years, including the incident with George Floyd, which I think led…it educated me a lot and I wanted to represent the players in the best way I could."

Even numerous coronavirus-enforced cancellations could not stop the Premier League's Boxing Day schedule from delivering a mountain of goals.

Leaders Manchester City demolished Leeds United 7-0 earlier in December before a 4-0 thrashing of Newcastle and followed that up with a nine-goal thriller against Leicester City.

Mikel Arteta's in-form Arsenal maintained their pursuit of a Champions League spot by smashing five past struggling Norwich City, while the reinvigorated Tottenham cruised past London rivals Crystal Palace.

Staying in the capital, West Ham's poor run of form continued in a 3-2 home loss to Southampton before Chelsea came from behind to defeat Aston Villa on the road.

After plenty of festive cheer across Sunday's top-flight action, Stats Perform takes a look at the pick of the Opta data.

Tottenham 3-0 Crystal Palace: Conte's deadly trio down sorry Eagles

Spurs had lost just one of their last 12 top-flight home games against Palace and continued that impressive run of form as Harry Kane equalled another record in a dominant 3-0 win.

Kane opened the scoring in the first half after Lucas Moura's set him up, netting in his sixth consecutive Boxing Day fixture as he equalled Robbie Fowler's Premier League scoring record of nine goals on the day after Christmas.

Lucas added a second as he scored and assisted in the same top-flight game for the first time, with the Brazilian registering five goal involvements in his last five league games, as many as in his previous 23 matches in the competition.

Wilfried Zaha's first-half dismissal for two bookable offences compounded Palace's misery, the winger's fifth red card for the Eagles in all competitions - three more than any other player for the club since his debut in 2010.

Son Heung-min then scored his sixth goal in six home top-flight games against Palace, as Antonio Conte became just the third Spurs boss to go unbeaten in their first six league games after Jacques Santini in 2004-05 and Tim Sherwood in 2013-14.

Manchester City 6-3 Leicester City: Citizens defeat Foxes in Boxing Day record thriller

City went down 5-2 in this fixture last season but triumphed in a 6-3 classic this time around, despite a spirited second-half fightback from Leicester, in the first Premier League game on Boxing Day to see as many as nine goals.

Kevin de Bruyne netted first and has now scored in five of his last six league starts at the Etihad Stadium, before Riyad Mahrez scored in his fourth consecutive appearance for the first time since he moved to England in 2014 as he converted from the spot.

Raheem Sterling, who has won the most penalties by any player in Premier League history (22), rolled another spot-kick in, while Ilkay Gundogan was on target as Leicester went 4-0 down inside 25 minutes for the first time in the top flight since Watford did so against City in 2019.

Leicester reduced the deficit after the interval as James Maddison found the net for the fourth time in his last five top-flight appearances before loanee Ademola Lookman finished past Ederson.

Those two earlier goals were teed up by Kelechi Iheanacho, who assisted twice in a top-flight match for the first time before adding a goal of his own to make it 4-3.

However, Pep Guardiola's side confirmed victory with an Aymeric Laporte header and Sterling's second – City's 112th league goal in 2021, the most a team has netted in a year since Arsenal also scored 112 in 1963.

Norwich City 0-5 Arsenal: Saka at the double as Gunners equal away record

Bukayo Saka registered a brace as high-flying Arsenal ran riott in a 5-0 victory over Norwich, who have played more Premier League games on Boxing Day without ever winning than any other side in the competition (eight).

Saka struck his first after just six minutes before his second arrived after the hour mark. At 20 years and 112 days, he is the second-youngest player to score 10-plus Premier League goals for Arsenal, after Nicolas Anelka (19y 225d).

Kieran Tierney doubled the Gunners' lead in between Saka's pair of goals, with Martin Odegaard providing his second assist of the game – the Norway international has been involved in six goals in his last six league games, two more than he had in his first 25 appearances in the competition.

Alexandre Lacazette added a fourth, while Emile Smith Rowe scored after coming off the bench once again – his league-leading third goal as a substitute. No top-flight team have bettered Arsenal's five goals from substitutes this season.

Norwich were unable to find a way past Aaron Ramsdale as the Gunners registered their joint-biggest margin of victory away from home in a Premier League match, while scoring four-plus goals in consecutive away league games for the first time since 2009.

Aston Villa 1-3 Chelsea: Jorginho penalty brace seals Blues comeback triumph

Chelsea have stuttered in recent weeks but returned to winning ways as a Jorginho brace ensured they came from behind to defeat Aston Villa 3-1.

Reece James inadvertently flicked into his own net as Villa were gifted an own goal by Chelsea in the Premier League for only the second time, after Frank Sinclair also turned past his own goalkeeper back in December 1994.

Jorginho soon restored parity from the spot after Matthew Cash had felled Callum Hudson-Odoi before substitute Romelu Lukaku headed the Blues into the lead with his ninth top-flight goal in 10 appearances against Villa.

Jorginho wrapped things up as he rolled in again from 12 yards, with his 17th Premier League strike from the spot. In fact, 89 per cent of his 19 goals have come from penalties, the highest such ratio of anyone with 10-plus goals in the competition’s history.

Since Thomas Tuchel's first game in charge in January, the Blues have scored more penalties than any other club in England's premier competition (12), with Jorginho netting 10 of these himself - more than any other club besides Chelsea in that period.

Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola paid tribute to Leicester City for playing their part in the epic 6-3 Boxing Day thriller at the Etihad Stadium.

The Premier League champions moved six points clear at the top of the table, but they were given a scare by the Foxes.

Guardiola’s side raced into a 4-0 lead inside 25 minutes, only for Leicester to reduce the deficit to a single goal after striking three times in the space of 10 second-half minutes.

However, further goals from Aymeric Laporte and Raheem Sterling - his second of the game - eventually sealed a ninth consecutive top-flight victory for City.

Guardiola reflected on a "weird" and highly entertaining seventh successive home Boxing Day win for the leaders.

"It was a Boxing Day game. It was a nice game to watch and three more points. We keep going," he told BBC Sport.

"The quality of players we have produced this amount of actions to score goals. No manager and tactics can solve it without the quality.

"It was weird. Even at 4-0 in the first half, every time they had the ball, they arrived in the final third delivering good passes. They have a lot of quality; they are a master of counter-attacks.

"They changed in the second half. They didn’t play to press high. They were close. 

"The game was so dangerous. We didn’t play bad in the second half. The game was not over. With set-pieces, we could win the game."

Sterling found the net for the fourth successive Premier League match; doing so for the first time since between August and September 2017.

The England international was also full of praise for the spirit demonstrated by the Foxes.

"The manager warned us at half-time," he said.

"Leicester conceded four in the first half but every time they attacked, they created chances.

"It's disappointing. We just had to control the game. At 4-0 up, you have to kill the game. 

"Leicester have some really good players. They didn't get disheartened and kept going; Credit to them."

Manchester City survived a spirited Leicester City fightback to prevail 6-3 winners in a thrilling Boxing Day encounter at the Etihad Stadium.

Though pegged back to 4-3 from 4-0 up, Pep Guardiola's men moved six points clear at the top of the Premier League table following a ninth successive victory.

Kevin De Bruyne scored the first of four goals for the hosts inside the opening 25 minutes, while a pair of penalties from Riyad Mahrez and Raheem Sterling sandwiched Ilkay Gundogan's strike.

The Foxes came roaring back after the break as James Maddison, Ademola Lookman and Kelechi Iheanacho threatened the most unlikely comeback, but Aymeric Laporte and Sterling got the Citizens back on track and secured the points.

Man City took the lead in the fifth minute following neat interplay as De Bruyne controlled Fernandinho’s lofted pass into the box before sweeping past Kasper Schmeichel.

The hosts doubled the advantage with Mahrez, who had lost in all five of his previous Premier League appearances on Boxing Day, firing home from 12 yards after Youri Tielemans bundled over Laporte.

Gundogan made it 3-0 after another lovely exchange of passes culminated in Schmeichel parrying Joao Cancelo's low cross straight to the Germany international, who made no mistake from close range.

Three became four soon after, with Tielemans the offender again as he brought down Sterling, who picked himself up and emphatically swept his penalty into the top corner.

Nevertheless, Leicester responded brilliantly after the break. The visitors halved the deficit by the hour mark with a couple of quickfire counters resulting in Iheanacho well-timed throughballs for Maddison and Lookman to finish.

Former Man City forward Iheanacho then got in on the act to reduce the arrears to a single goal, but the hosts pulled clear from two Mahrez corners, with Laporte and Sterling profiting. 

Raheem Sterling was honoured to join the 100-goal club in the Premier League on Saturday, but Wolves head coach Bruno Lage hit out at the decision to award Manchester City the decisive penalty that took him to that mark.

City winger Sterling calmly converted past Jose Sa with 66 minutes of the game played at the Etihad Stadium as the reigning champions claimed a sixth league win in a row to remain top of the table.

However, Wolves were unhappy that the spot-kick was awarded by Jon Moss, who had earlier sent off striker Raul Jimenez for two bookable offences in the space of 31 seconds at the end of the first half.

Moss adjudged that Joao Moutinho blocked Bernardo Silva's cross with his arm and stood by his decision after a lengthy VAR check, despite the ball appearing to hit the Wolves midfielder closer to the armpit.

"It's not a penalty for me. That's why it's very strange, both the referee decision and the VAR decision," Lage told BT Sport. "I protect VAR every time – it is good for modern football. He put his arm out, but where did it touch? Come on!"

Wolves were down to 10 men by that point after Jimenez was yellow carded for a challenge on Rodri and cautioned again almost straight after for failing to retreat when the free-kick was taken.

"He knows he cannot do that. I went into the dressing room and saw his face," Lage said. "But the first yellow, he didn't touch the man and we have 10 men behind the ball. So it is a very hard decision and cost us a lot.

"We feel if we had 11-v-11 we could do more. We move on."

Sterling's successful penalty saw him reach triple figures for goals in the Premier League – the England international becoming the 32nd player to do so, and the eighth-youngest at the age of 27 years and three days.

He was City's most attacking threat against Wolves, registering a game-high three shots on target and scoring from one of those to make it five goals in his past eight appearances in all competitions.

"Reaching 100 goals is a lovely achievement," Sterling told BT Sport. "There are some fantastic players in that list. I'm really honoured to be in it now.

"Every time we play Wolves at home it's always a difficult one. They're always a difficult side to break down. We knew we had to keep patient. They kept it tight, but we knew if we kept playing we'd get an opportunity – and we did."

City have now won 32 of their 40 Premier League games in 2021, just one short of the all-time record for wins in a single calendar year in English top-flight history set by Liverpool in 1982.

While the Citizens were good value for their win, finishing with an expected goals (xG) return of 2.75 to Wolves' 0.14, the visitors could easily have snatched a late point if not for Ederson's crucial stop to deny Max Kilman.

That came from Wolves' only attempt on target all match and took Ederson to 100 clean sheets for City in his 212th appearance for the club.

It ended a run of four games without a shutout for Ederson and boss Pep Guardiola praised the Brazil international after reaching the milestone.

"Congratulations to him. We conceded late goals against West Ham and Watford but finally he can achieve it," Guardiola told BBC Sport.

"And that's why we have Edi with his contributions in the right moment, a big save in the second half. We don't concede many chances but what chances they have, he is there."

Raheem Sterling's second-half penalty earned Manchester City a sixth Premier League win in a row and kept the reigning champions roaring along at the summit as they saw off 10-man Wolves 1-0.

City climbed to top spot for the first time this season last weekend and took full advantage of playing before Liverpool and Chelsea on Saturday with a hard-fought – if somewhat controversial – win at the Etihad Stadium.

Pep Guardiola's men were given a huge helping hand by Raul Jimenez's silly sending-off in first-half stoppage time for two bookable offences in the space of 31 seconds.

Wolves again felt hard done by when referee Jonathan Moss adjudged that Bernardo Silva's cross hit Joao Moutinho on the arm, giving Sterling the opportunity to convert the resulting penalty with 66 minutes played for his 100th Premier League goal, which proved enough for a slender victory.

Wolves were only undone by a last-gasp goal in last week's loss to Liverpool, and they managed to contain City in a first half that saw the hosts register just two attempts on target.

However, the visitors were reduced to 10 men when Jimenez was booked for a foul on Rodri and again penalised almost straight after for failing to retreat when the free-kick was taken.

Ilkay Gundogan had a header blocked on the line by Conor Coady and City's pressure eventually told when Sterling calmly converted the match-winning penalty, which Wolves' players argued should never have been given as Silva's cross appeared to hit Moutinho on the armpit, rather than his arm.

Jack Grealish blasted over a great opportunity soon after, while Silva and Sterling had attempts saved by Jose Sa, but Wolves struggled to pose a sustained threat at the other end as they went a fourth game without scoring.

 

Pep Guardiola revealed he took Raheem Sterling "back to basics" to rediscover his form and says the Manchester City forward knows he is not at the peak of his powers.

England international Sterling had gone 13 games without goal for club and country before he was on target in a 4-1 Champions League win over Club Brugge this month.

The former Liverpool man followed that up with a sublime finish in the 3-0 victory over Everton last weekend and was also on target in a 2-1 defeat of Paris Saint-Germain in midweek.

Sterling has only started eight games for the Premier League champions this season on the back of an impressive Euro 2020.

Guardiola stated it is only normal that players go through frustrating spells and the City boss says there has been no special formula behind his resurgence.

Asked about Sterling's form, he said: "I'm so glad for him, it's helped us that's for sure. Of course, he will fight to do better and better and better.

"It's good for both wingers to score and get assists, he is decisive. Still he knows he can do better, one-v-one, but this is a step to come back in his best form."

The Spaniard added: "I took him back to basics, when you're at this level it's normal.

"This calendar, they have more and more games. Sometimes the guys are tired here [pointing to his head]. It's so difficult. It's just physical, physical, physical.

"So demanding a little bit less. Come back to the basics. Step by step basics will be enough when the confidence come back, you come back who you are.

"If one player [doesn't] play well their ability doesn't go. Raheem is still the same guy."

Guardiola revealed injured duo Jack Grealish and Phil Foden will be assessed on the eve of Sunday's Premier League encounter with West Ham to see if they are fit to return.

"They are training," said the former Barcelona boss. "They are much better. Especially Phil. Right now they are on a day off and in the morning we will see how they feel.

"We will not take risks but hopefully they will come back soon. For the last game [against PSG] we had just 15 players, Cole Palmer and James McAtee helped us. We need them back to help us."

Kevin De Bruyne remains in isolation following his positive coronavirus test, but Guardiola revealed the playmaker is "feeling better."

Chelsea host Manchester United in the headline game of the weekend in the Premier League, with Sunday's showdown at Stamford Bridge a lip-smacking occasion.

Will United put the misery of their five defeats in seven domestic league games behind them and start afresh after Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's sacking, or will it be the same old story for the Red Devils?

The threat comes from all quarters with Chelsea: Reece James and Antonio Rudiger may be as likely, if not more so, to score than Timo Werner, for example.

Leeds are boosted by the return from injury of Raphinha as they head to Brighton, while Raheem Sterling and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang face opponents against whom they have outstanding past records.

The pursuit of fantasy points is on, and here are suggestions for possible picks ahead of the weekend, powered by Opta data.

REECE JAMES (Chelsea v Manchester United)

Will Manchester United's Champions League victory at Villarreal be a spur for them to find a way back to winning ways in the Premier League? Not if Reece James can help it.

Chelsea's exciting right wing-back was sufficiently impressive last term to make England's Euro 2020 squad, but he has gone to another level this time around, and a midweek goal against Juventus just confirmed his progression.

In the Premier League, James has been directly involved in eight goals this season, three more than in his previous 56 appearances in the competition across the last two seasons (5 - one goal, four assists). His total of involvements is higher than any other defender in the league in 2021-22, and United will be wary of that danger. Whether they can stop it remains to be seen.

ANTONIO RUDIGER (Chelsea v Manchester United)

Another Chelsea defender who provides value as an all-rounder, Rudiger provides Premier League fantasy points possibilities at both ends of the pitch.

Among Premier League defenders, only his Blues club-mates James (4) and Ben Chilwell (3) have scored more goals in the competition this season, while only Manchester City's Joao Cancelo (8) has registered more clean sheets than the German (7).

With Harry Maguire suspended and Raphael Varane injured, United seem likely to be susceptible to crosses from set-pieces, which is where Rudiger could come into his own.

RAPHINHA (Brighton and Hove Albion v Leeds United)

Leeds are hovering just above the bottom three, heading into the weekend, so to have Raphinha available will be a major boost to Marcelo Bielsa.

After missing the defeat at Tottenham last time out, the Brazil international is expected to be involved at Brighton this weekend as Leeds target a third win of the campaign.

They missed his creative influence in north London, with Leeds having won 45 per cent of their Premier League games in which Raphinha has featured (18/40) since his debut for the club in October 2020, They have won none of their six matches when he has been absent (D2 L4) and have averaged a measly 0.5 goals per game.

His 20 goal involvements in the league over the same period (11 goals, 9 assists) is second only at Leeds to Patrick Bamford (23 - 15 goals, 8 assists).

RAHEEM STERLING (Manchester City v West Ham)

Has Raheem Sterling played himself into form for City? Three goals in his last three appearances across all competitions suggests that is the case for a player who struggled in the early weeks of the season, in the wake of his exploits at Euro 2020 with England.

Now, assuming he keeps his place in Pep Guardiola's starting line-up, Sterling gets to face one of his very favourite opponents when West Ham visit the Etihad Stadium.

Sterling has been involved in 11 goals in his last eight Premier League games against the Hammers (6 goals, 5 assists), hitting a hat-trick when the teams met in London on the opening day of the 2019-20 season.

EMMANUEL DENNIS (Leicester City v Watford)

It was Emmanuel Dennis who inflicted the final blow to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, completing the rout as Watford whipped Manchester United 4-1 last Saturday.

The Nigerian appears to have been an outstanding acquisition from Club Brugge and Leicester will be wary of his menacing form ahead of a King Power Stadium tussle.

Dennis has scored four goals and assisted five more in just 11 Premier League appearances for Watford. Should he score in Sunday's game, he would become only the sixth player in Premier League history to reach both five goals and assists in 12 or fewer games, after Eric Cantona (11 games), Jurgen Klinsmann (12), Arjen Robben (11), Andrey Arshavin (10) and Bruno Fernandes (9).

JOSE SA (Norwich City v Wolves)

The handover of the Wolves goalkeeper job from Rui Patricio to fellow Portuguese Jose Sa has been seamless, and the new man between the sticks has been highly effective already in the Premier League.

Only Chelsea's Edouard Mendy (3.71) has prevented more goals in the PL this season than Sa (2.18). That is based on Opta's expected goals on target (xGOT) metric, which assesses the quality of shots. On that basis, Sa would have been expected to concede 14.18 goals, but he has picked the ball out of the net just 12 times.

His 38 saves from 50 shots faced gives him a healthy 76 per cent success rate, beaten only by Mendy (88.57 per cent) and Arsenal's Aaron Ramsdale (78.95) so far this season. Norwich will do well to find a way past one of the most in-form glovesmen in the top flight.

PIERRE-EMERICK AUBAMEYANG (Arsenal v Newcastle United)

Arsenal captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has not scored or had an assist in his last three Premier League games, creating just one chance in 270 minutes.

But if there is any team he is going to score against, Newcastle would be close to the top of the list, and not merely because Eddie Howe's team are bottom of the table.

The former Borussia Dortmund striker has been involved in nine goals in his eight appearances for Arsenal against Newcastle in all competitions (6 goals, 3 assists), scoring in each of his last five games against the Magpies.

Emerging Serbian striker Dusan Vlahovic has a long list of admirers.

The 21-year-old netted 21 Serie A goals last season.

Vlahovic scored a double in Fiorentina's 4-3 win over Milan last weekend too.

 

TOP STORY – NEWCASTLE STILL KEEN ON VLAHOVIC

Cashed-up Newcastle United will still pursue hot property forward Dusan Vlahovic despite Fiorentina's €80million (£67m) asking price according to Corriere Fiorentina.

The bottom-of-the-table Premier League club are determined to land the Serbian who has also attracted interest from Juventus.

Juventus want Vlahovic in January and are still front-runners to land the 21-year-old, who has already netted 12 goals this term.

 ROUND-UP

- Sky Germany reports that Borussia Dortmund are preparing a new contract offer for Erling Haaland to keep him at the club, amid interest from Real Madrid, BarcelonaChelsea, Manchester United and Manchester City.

- Barcelona are considering moves for either of Chelsea pair Timo Werner or Hakim Ziyech as an alternative to Manchester City winger Raheem Sterling claims ESPN.

- Liverpool, Leicester City and Newcastle are all monitoring Olympiacos' 20-year-old midfielder Aguibou Camara reports The Sun.

- Milan have entered the pursuit to sign Arsenal's Alexandre Lacazette claims Calciomercato. Atletico MadridBarcelona and Newcastle are all interested.

Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola wished Ole Gunnar Solskjaer well for the future but indicated the Norwegian's sacking came as no surprise.

It was announced on Sunday that Manchester United had officially parted company with Solskjaer, one month shy of what would have been his three-year anniversary as manager of the club.

Red Devils chiefs acted on the back of Saturday's humiliating 4-1 loss to Watford, which leaves the club eighth in the Premier League and 12 points behind leaders Chelsea.

The defeat at Vicarage Road was United's fifth in seven top-flight matches, a dire run that includes a 2-0 reverse at home to City a little over two weeks ago.

Given the often brutal nature of football, Guardiola claimed he could easily have been the manager to have been sacked had City lost that recent meeting with rivals United.

"I wish him all the best, it was a pleasure to face him," the Catalan coach said following Sunday's 3-0 win over Everton.

"He beat me more than I wanted, but he knows when you're in charge of a team like United you have to win otherwise you're in trouble.

"I'm sitting here because we won, otherwise it would be another person sitting here. I hope one day we can see each other again. I wish him all the best."

City's comfortable win over Everton, coming on the back of their victory at Old Trafford a fortnight ago, moved the reigning champions above Liverpool and back within three points of leaders Chelsea.

Raheem Sterling was handed just a fourth league start of the season for what was his 300th Premier League appearance, making him the fourth-youngest player to reach the milestone at the age of 26 years and 348 days.

The former Liverpool winger opened the scoring with a first-time strike after being picked out by a sublime outside-of-the-boot pass by Joao Cancelo, having early won a penalty that was overturned following a lengthy VAR check.

That was Sterling's first league goal since August and Guardiola is hopeful it will boost the England international's confidence.

"He needed that and in the first half he was an important player," Guardiola said. "He scored a brilliant goal, from an exceptional pass from Joao again.

"He played a good game in what could have been a difficult one, because they defended really well."

With a Champions League tie against Paris Saint-Germain to come on Wednesday, Guardiola handed Cole Palmer a full Premier League debut against Everton.

The academy product played in a false nine position and led the way for the number of shots (four), while nobody played more than his two key passes.

"The striker position is the most difficult but as the game went on he felt more comfortable," Guardiola said.

"It was a good performance. He now already has 90 minutes in the Premier League in his mind. It is an incredible investment for the future."

Rodri added to Sterling's opener with a remarkable 25-yard drive and Bernardo Silva capped City's eighth straight win against Everton with a simple finish late on.

"It was a really good win. We're very pleased," Guardiola added. "The last times we played against Rafa Benitez at Newcastle, we always struggled.

"We were better today, we conceded few chances and were patient."

Manchester City picked up from where they left off before the international break with a 3-0 win over Everton to move back into second place in the Premier League.

Pep Guardiola's side strolled to a 2-0 victory over Manchester United two weeks ago and were just as comfortable in Sunday's contest at the Etihad Stadium.

Raheem Sterling, making his 300th appearance in the English top flight, linked up with Joao Cancelo to fire City ahead after earlier having a penalty awarded and overruled.

Rodri scored an equally impressive goal from long range and Bernardo Silva then capped a win that moves City, who handed a full league debut to Cole Palmer, above Liverpool and within three points of leaders Chelsea.

 

Ilkay Gundogan looped a header on top of the crossbar after Jordan Pickford kept out Silva in a one-sided first half that saw Demarai Gray limp off for injury-hit Everton.

City were awarded a penalty for Michael Keane's apparent challenge on Sterling, but referee Stuart Atwell overturned the decision after a lengthy wait due to a lack of contact.

But the home side made the breakthrough on the brink of half-time thanks to Sterling's first-time finish after being picked out by a sublime outside-of-the-boot pass from Cancelo.

Rodri gave City some breathing space with a rocket drive from 25 yards that flew past Pickford into the top-left corner with 55 minutes played.

Guardiola's men were beaten 2-0 by Crystal Palace in their most recent home league match, but they made certain of a fourth top-flight win in five games through a simple finish for Silva late on.

 

What does it mean? City ease past out-of-form Toffees

The pressure was on City to pick up a victory against the Toffees following wins for Liverpool and leaders Chelsea on Saturday.

From the moment Sterling deservedly opened the scoring for the Citizens, an eighth successive league win against Everton – scoring 24 times in that run – was never in doubt.

Rafael Benitez's side are now without a victory in six Premier League matches, making this their longest winless run since January 2018 and heaping pressure on the Spaniard.

Sterling stars on landmark appearance

At 26 years and 348 days, Sterling became the fourth-youngest player to make 300 Premier League appearances and marked the occasion with a superbly taken half-volley.

Cancelo deserves credit for his assist, which was his sixth of the season in 18 outings – as many as he produced in his first two seasons with the club combined.

 

 

Shot-shy Everton offer little

City may be in good form, but defeat to Palace at the Etihad Stadium less than a month ago is proof that they can be beaten with the right gameplan.

Whatever tactics Everton deployed here did not work, with the Toffees registering just two attempts on target, neither of which truly troubled Ederson.

What's next?

City turn focus to the Champions League on Wednesday, with a point required at home to Paris Saint-Germain to guarantee a place in the last 16. Everton travel to Brentford in their next Premier League outing in a week's time.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, it seems, is no longer at the wheel.

Following another drubbing, this time a 4-1 rout at Watford on Saturday, Manchester United have reportedly called time on Solskjaer's tenure.

After a lengthy meeting, the club great is set to be axed.

 

TOP STORY – SOLSKJAER TO BE SACKED

Manchester United have agreed to sack manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, according to widespread reports.

Having already been humiliated by Premier League rivals Liverpool and Manchester City prior to the international break, United's season hit a new low following Saturday's 4-1 rout at lowly Watford.

Amid a worrying slump, The Athletic, Manchester Evening News and Fabrizio Romano claim United have opted to part with Solskjaer amid links to former Real Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane, Leicester City's Brendan Rodgers and Ajax head coach Erik ten Hag.

 

ROUND-UP

- Sport says Raheem Sterling has told Premier League champions Manchester City he wants to join LaLiga giants Barcelona.

Barca and City are among the clubs interested in Arsenal forward Alexandre Lacazette, per Fichajes.

- The Sun reports Newcastle United are looking to sign Fiorentina star Dusan Vlahovic. The Serbia international, who scored twice to sink Milan on Saturday, has been linked with City, Juventus, Bayern Munich, Inter, Atletico Madrid, Tottenham and Arsenal.

Paris Saint-Germain and Real Madrid are set to go head-to-head for the signature of Chelsea defender Antonio Rudiger, says Mundo Deportivo. The Germany international is a free agent at season's end. Bayern are also believed to be interested.

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