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Fernandinho: Manchester City won't ease up until the title is won

Fernandinho: Manchester City won't ease up until the title is won

ESPN

David Silva's year hasn't been as easy as Manchester City's despite the midfielder playing such a pivotal role in helping them to a 16-point lead at the top of the Premier League.

The Spaniard scored both goals in Monday's victory against Stoke City with yet another brilliant performance of flair and grit on what had the potential to be an awkward night.

But, though his teammates flew out to Abu Dhabi for a warm-weather training break immediately after the match, Silva headed straight back to Valencia to be with his family. For the past three months, Silva has been making regular trips back to Spain following the premature birth of his son Mateo.

It gives an extra element to his remarkable form this season, although the 32-year-old admitted that continuing to play football is a welcome release from his off-the-field worries.

"I think, when I play football, I forget everything. It's good for me to play," he told Sky Sports after the Stoke victory. "I know in my private life it is not a very happy moment. But my son is fighting, you know, and I am very happy because he is getting stronger, getting better, so it is okay."

But that shouldn't take away from what has been an extraordinary personal contribution for a player who is just one of many in the City squad to have improved even further under Pep Guardiola's management.

Silva has been in out of Manchester and in and out of the team with the blessing of the club and his manager, but has never fallen below his high standards on the pitch. The former Valencia player is almost the epitome of a Guardiola player -- floating between the lines, with perfect touch, passing and vision but also a tigerish willingness to win the ball back as quickly as possible.

Despite being a quiet man off the pitch, eschewing the limelight, Silva has developed a leadership quality in the dressing room and helped to develop a closeness among the squad that Guardiola sees as so important. It's no surprise with these qualities that Guardiola wanted to take him to the Camp Nou when he was in charge at Barcelona, only to miss out to City.

Guardiola recalled last April: "Unai Emery, who is now the PSG trainer, was at Valencia with Silva. After we played them, he told me: 'David Silva is the player for you, for Barcelona. Believe me, that is a player for Barcelona by far.' And he was so right. He's a special player. But he was so expensive."

Guardiola's loss was City's gain. Since his 2010 switch from Valencia, Silva has won two Premier League titles, three League Cups and an FA Cup, while with Spain he has a World Cup winners' medal and two European Championships.

It would take an unlikely turn of events to see him not secure a third Premier League, but the one major omission from his collection is the Champions League and Silva admits he prays of winning the competition.

It is a happy consequence that Guardiola and Silva have finally been united at the Etihad Stadium, and this season is potentially the best chance he's ever had to add that missing medal from his collection. City and Silva have been curiously underwhelming in Europe, with only one Champions League semifinal appearance since he joined the club.

Guardiola is determined to challenge for the Champions League, and Silva is key to his hopes. Former Spain boss Luis Aragones said in 2010 that Silva had "the biggest balls" in his national team squad and his bravery and battling quality are equally recognised by the City boss.

"Normally people talk about his skills and technical ability and after that, he cannot be an aggressive competitor. And he has both," the City boss said after the win at Stoke.

Not that this season will be Silva's last chance for European success. He signed a new two-year contract in November, and Guardiola sees him as the perfect mentor for his young squad, particularly academy product Phil Foden, who is seen by many as Silva's heir.

But even the 17-year-old acknowledges they will be difficult boots to fill.

"David is just a magician," he said. "To watch him every day, and watch what they do, you learn a lot."

Jonathan is ESPN FC's Manchester City correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @jonnysmiffy.

Manchester City are being hailed as one of the greatest Premier League sides of all-time even before Pep Guardiola has landed his first title in England.

City have the most points of any side after 30 games (81, from W26, D3, L1) and have the opportunity to write their name in Premier League history by breaking some of its records.

Here are 13 records that City could (and some cases, have already) own by the end of the season.

Biggest title-winning margin: Manchester United won the 1999-2000 season by 18 points from Arsenal. City currently have a 16-point gap over United and a win over their neighbours in the Manchester derby at the Etihad Stadium on April 7 alone would move them 19 points clear. Possibility: 8/10

Earliest title success: United's 2000-01 team hold the record, winning the league with five games remaining. If City win their next two matches -- away to Everton and home to United -- they will break the record by winning the title with six games left. Possibility: 8/10

Most points in a season: A long time before Jose Mourinho gained his reputation for defensive tactics, he guided Chelsea to 95 points in 2004-05 at a rate of exactly 2.5 points per game. City have 81 points from 30 matches so far, averaging around 2.7 points per game, and need 15 from their last eight. Possibility: 9/10

Most team goals in a season: Carlo Ancelotti was in charge of Chelsea when they scored 103 goals at a rate of just over 2.7 goals per game. City have 85 goals from 30 matches so far at a rate of more than 2.8 per match. Possibility: 7/10

Most wins in a season: Antonio Conte's Chelsea set the record only last year when they won 30 of their 38 games -- a winning percentage of 79 percent. City this season have won 26 of their 30 games at a rate of 87 percent. Five wins from their last eight matches would see them set a new record. Possibility: 8/10

Most consecutive wins: Arsenal (2001-02) and Chelsea (2016-17) held the record with 13 straight victories but City moved passed that with their derby day win at Old Trafford on Dec. 10 before extending the record to 18 matches. Possibility: Already achieved.

Most away wins in a season: Mourinho guided Chelsea to 15 victories from 19 matches in 2004-05. City have won 12 of their 15 away games so far this season but must win their last four -- including trips to Everton and Tottenham -- to set a new record. Possibility: 6/10

Most home wins in a season: Chelsea (2005-06), United (2010-11) and City (2011-12) all won 18 of 19 Premier League matches at home. Guardiola's side blew the chances of a perfect home record in the very first game of the season at the Etihad Stadium -- a 1-1 draw with Everton -- but they haven't faltered since and have an opportunity to equal the record. Possibility: 8/10

Highest average possession: Possession statistics only go back as far as the 2010-11 season. Guardiola's City set the record last season with an average 64 percent possession per match but they are set to smash that this season with their average possession currently standing at 70.9 percent. Possibility: 9/10

Most passes in season: Again the statistics only go back to 2010-11 and again Guardiola's City set the record during his first season with 20,506 completed passes at an average 84 percent completion. They have already amassed 20,003 passes this season at an average pass completion rate of 87.3 percent. Possibility: 10/10

Most consecutive Premier League Manager of the Month Awards: Guardiola equalled Conte's record of three successive manager of the month awards after a perfect November and then went one better when he won the award for a fourth time in December. Possibility: Already achieved.

Most Premier League assists in a season: Thierry Henry set the record for Arsenal in 2002-03 with 20 assists, but Kevin De Bruyne is putting the Frenchman's record under pressure. De Bruyne has 14 already with eight games remaining. Possibility: 5/10

Most individual Premier League hat tricks in a season: Shearer scored five trebles for Blackburn in 1995-96. Aguero has three with eight games left to equal the former England striker's record; Kane has two and Salah none. Possibility 3/10

Jonathan is ESPN FC's Manchester City correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @jonnysmiffy.

STOKE-ON-TRENT -- Ederson has told ESPN Brasil there will be no title celebrations at Manchester City's warm weather training break in Abu Dhabi this week.

City travelled to the United Arab Emirates immediately after Monday's 2-0 victory at Stoke City re-established their 16-point lead at the top of the Premier League.

Pep Guardiola's side need nine more points to be certain of winning the title but would do it in two if they won their next games against Everton and second-placed Manchester United.

They will have to wait 18 days before resuming Premier League fixtures because of a free weekend followed by the international break, and goalkeeper Ederson said they would be taking nothing for granted.

"We'll only celebrate when we really win it," he said. "Our team is very relaxed, and we know our objectives.

"We must keep focused, knowing what we have to do on the field.

"[We have] had many cold months here, so it [the heat] will be good for a change. We'll go there to work hard and to train our tactics even more, but also to rest a bit."

The first team will return to Manchester on Saturday and Ederson will then join up with Brazil along with City teammates Gabriel Jesus and Fernandinho.

Brazil travel to Moscow to face World Cup hosts Russia on March 23, and head to Germany to face the holders in Berlin four days later.

Ederson is facing a battle with Roma's Alisson for the No. 1 spot but the former Benfica keeper first wants to secure his place in the World Cup squad.

"It's really good to see your work being recognised," he added. "It shows that [Brazil boss] Tite is following me and my games.

"It's an honour to be in the last call before the definitive call for the World Cup. It's a great joy."

Jonathan is ESPN FC's Manchester City correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @jonnysmiffy.

Spanish forward Jese Rodriguez is ready to step up and deliver for Stoke City as the relegation-threatened side enters the crucial stage of the season.

The 25-year-old's main focus this campaign has been on caring for his youngest son, Nyan, who remains in hospital in Spain battling complications from his premature birth last summer.

Jese, who travels regularly back home to see Nyan, spoke of his youngest son's condition and told Cadena Ser radio:

"It's something I don't wish on anyone, it's a very difficult situation and you suffer a lot. All things considered, my boy is improving and thanks to God he is better.

"I have to fight for him and for the other two [children] that I have. But I"m certain people will return to see the best Jese."

Jese, who joined Stoke on a season-long loan from Paris Saint-Germain in August, started in Monday's 2-0 defeat at home to Manchester City.

It was his eighth league start and his first since Oct. 21.

"I've been away from the pitch for a long time because of my son's condition," Jese said. "But now that the boy is improving, I have to make the most of the remaining games we have, which are very important for me and for the team."

Monday's loss left Stoke 19th in the Premier League standings, two places and one point adrift of Southampton, who hold the last position of safety with eight games remaining.

"It was always going to be very difficult against Manchester City because they are just too good and play with a lot of intensity," Jese said. "But on Saturday we have a final against Everton, a game that we have to win at all costs. We are playing at home and we must make the most of it."

Adriana Garcia is a Valencia-based football writer who covers La Liga for ESPN FC.

Liverpool defender Dejan Lovren was questioned in Croatia on Monday as an investigation into allegations that he provided false testimony was opened.

The investigation is into the testimony Lovren gave at the trial of former Dinamo Zagreb director Zdravko Mamic, charged with embezzlement and tax fraud in connection with the 28-year-old's transfer from Dinamo to Lyon in 2010.

"I can confirm that Mr. Lovren was questioned on Monday and informed that the investigation against him had been opened," Zvonko Kuharic, the deputy county attorney for Osijek, told ESPN FC via email.

News agency AFP reported that Croatian prosecutors allege Lovren falsely said he signed an annex in his Dinamo contract that entitled him to a 50 percent share of future transfer fees shortly after signing the deal in 2007.

It also said Lovren falsely claimed he personally signed requests for payment of his share of the 2010 transfer fee and was in Croatia at the time, although prosecutors say he was in France.

Earlier this month, Lovren's Croatia teammate Luka Modric was charged with perjury for his testimony about his financial dealings with Mamic.

Glenn is ESPN FC's Liverpool correspondent. You can follow him on Twitter: @GlennPrice94.

Arsenal legend Patrick Vieira has told L'Equipe he would be interested in managing the club "one day" but it would be "out of order" to entertain the idea until after Arsene Wenger had left.

Vieira, head coach of New York City FC since 2016, said he "adores" Wenger, whose future is the subject of increasing speculation.

Arsenal are set to miss out on the top four for the second season in a row and appear likely to have to win the Europa League in order to qualify for the Champions League.

"I think that if it is the end of the story, he'll be the first to see it," Vieira said.

"And I would like to add that given all he has done for the club, what he has built and what he has won, he has sufficient legitimacy to decide himself when he should step down. He has the right to take that decision himself."

Asked whether he would be interested in the Arsenal job, Vieira said: "Let's say that, one day, it could interest me. But one day.

"I can't say any more because there is nothing to say about it and I certainly do not want to upset Arsene, who I adore and for whom I have a lot of respect.

"Because I know he is suffering enormously with the current results, more than hearing what his former players have to say.

"For me, it's very difficult [to talk about], honestly. It's very difficult because of the personal relationship I have with Arsenal, and also because that is just not done.

"I find the way in which people are positioning themselves is totally out of order. After, when the question is asked, I know full well they are obliged to answer."

Thierry Henry also said he would be interested in the position when asked about it recently, while sources have told ESPN FC that Arsenal see Germany coach Joachim Low as a top candidate if Wenger were to go.

Vieira, meanwhile, said he had no interest in following the example of managers such as Low.

"Quite honestly, a national team doesn't interest me," he said. "National team coach, no, really, not at all.

"I'm a young coach, and I need to coach every day."

Mattias is ESPN FC's Arsenal correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @MattiasKaren.

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has said his side must show an immediate response after a weekend defeat at Manchester United that felt "massively rubbish."

Following the 2-1 loss at Old Trafford, Liverpool trail second-placed United by five points with eight games remaining in the battle for the runners-up spot.

Liverpool take on Watford at Anfield on Saturday before there is a short break for international fixtures.

"We have to respond, 100 percent," Klopp told the club's official website.

"But in the moment I cannot, and I don't want to, think about anything else. I still have to work to swallow this one and it's quite difficult." 

Klopp lamented the errors that led to Marcus Rashford's double inside 24 minutes at Old Trafford, but felt his side's second-half performance could have brought a draw.

"It's really difficult to take," he added. "The mistakes were obvious -- around the second balls we were not there and we cannot leave Dejan [Lovren] alone in the challenge there and nobody's around for the second ball. It doesn't work like this.

"Before the two goals, after the two goals, I thought we were dominant. We don't ignore the goals we conceded, but if you ignore them for a second you would say: 'OK, that's how you have to play.'

"I think with all the minutes around the two goals we conceded then a draw would have been deserved for us, but because we made these two mistakes we have to take the result like it is.

"It feels massively rubbish and that's not nice. We will carry on, of course, but in the moment it's a big disappointment."

Glenn is ESPN FC's Liverpool correspondent. You can follow him on Twitter: @GlennPrice94.

Fernandinho has said the Premier League title is now close for Manchester City -- but they will not ease up until it is secured.

City know victory in their next two games will be enough for them to be crowned Premier League champions.

"We cannot deny we are close to winning the league, but we have to keep working and keep focused, as we did since the first day, [going] game by game, step by step," he said.

"By working hard every day, every week, every game we are going to go get there," the Brazil international added.

Pep Guardiola's men restored a 16-point lead at the top of the table with a comfortable 2-0 victory over Stoke on Monday. They now need only a maximum of three more wins to complete the job, but just two will suffice if one of them comes against second-placed Manchester United.

With a derby coming up at the Etihad Stadium on April 7, City fans can anticipate potentially securing the title against their rivals -- providing Everton can be beaten first on March 31. But midfielder Fernandinho does not want to look that far ahead yet, even though he is sure the celebrations will begin sooner or later.

City were hardly tested by the relegation-threatened Stoke and played within themselves despite dominating possession.

They did carve out numerous chances though and well-worked goals early in each half from David Silva proved enough.

"Of course it is a tough place to come and play good football but we did it," said Fernandinho. "We are happy for that and one more step to the title."

Defeat left Stoke 19th in the table and with much to do to pull themselves out of relegation danger.

With games against Arsenal, Tottenham and Liverpool ahead, their run-in is tricky but they are still just one point behind 17th-placed Southampton and manager Paul Lambert remains optimistic.

"I am happy we never capitulated and the lads stuck to it," he said. "They are a really difficult team to play against because their movement is excellent.

"But this game is not going to define our season, not at all. There are positives to be taken from this game for sure.

"We are still well in the mix, there are plenty of points to be played for and we will be ready to go again on Saturday against Everton."

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