Everton’s hopes of a top-four finish in the Premier League were dented by Michy Batshuayi’s 86th-minute equaliser to salvage a 1-1 draw for Crystal Palace at Goodison Park on Monday.
The Toffees were made to rue a string of missed chances either side of James Rodriguez’s opener as they only narrowly closed the gap on fourth-placed Chelsea to four points.
Rodriguez’s return from injury for the first time since Everton ended a two-decade wait to beat Liverpool away in the Merseyside derby in February sparked a far more enterprising performance from Carlo Ancelotti’s men.
Vicente Guaita was forced into fine saves from Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Richarlison in a dominant first-half display from the home side.
Rodriguez finally broke the deadlock 11 minutes into the second-half when he fired home Seamus Coleman’s cut-back for his 100th goal in European football.
That would mean winning the Champions League for the first time and Guardiola showed that competition remains the priority with his team selection ahead of Borussia Dortmund’s trip to the Etihad for the first leg of their quarter-final tie on Tuesday.
John Stones, Joao Cancelo, Ilkay Gundogan and Raheem Sterling were among the star names left on the bench after their exertions on international duty over the past 10 days.
Yet, the visitors were still dominant against a Leicester side that had lost just twice in their previous 16 Premier League games.
Sergio Aguero was given a rare start up front just days after the Argentine announced his glorious 10-year stay in Manchester will come to a close at the end of the season.
However, his presence denied City an early opener when Fernandinho’s long-range strike arrowed into the bottom corner only for the goal to be disallowed as Aguero was standing in an offside position in front of Kasper Schmeichel.
Leicester are one of only three teams to beat City in the league this season, having romped to a 5-2 victory at the Etihad in September.
Jamie Vardy scored a hat-trick that day and thought he had added to his excellent record against City in first-half stoppage time when he rounded Ederson to slot into an empty net, only to also be denied by the offside flag.
City’s dominance of possession and patience was finally rewarded just before the hour mark from an unlikely source.
Riyad Mahrez stung the palms of his former teammate Schmeichel, but from the rebound, the ball fell at the feet of Mendy at the back post, who cut onto his weaker right foot and scored just his second goal in four seasons as a City player.
Guardiola could then afford the luxury of introducing Sterling as Leicester had to open up and chase an equaliser.
And the England international created the killer second goal as he was released in behind by a brilliant pass from Kevin De Bruyne before squaring for Jesus to score on his 24th birthday.
Thanks to Chelsea’s shock 5-2 thrashing by West Brom earlier on Saturday, Leicester still enjoy a five-point cushion over the Blues and seven-point advantage over fifth-placed West Ham in the race for a top-four finish and Champions League football next season.
But Brendan Rodgers’s men will be looking over their shoulders anxiously over the next few days as the Hammers, Tottenham, Liverpool and Everton all have the chance to close in on the top four.
Among the many eyebrow-raising comments made by Juventus chairman Andrea Agnelli recently was the suggestion that clubs involved in the Champions League would no longer be allowed to buy or sell players among themselves.
In his role as head of the European Club Association, Agnelli is at the forefront of plans to reshape the Champions League which include the likely expansion of the group stage to 36 teams, each playing 10 group games against 10 different opponents in a so-called ‘Swiss system’.
The discussed reforms are widely seen as a compromise between European football’s governing body UEFA and the continent’s most powerful clubs, preventing the threat of a breakaway ‘Super League’ but entrenching the positions of the richest teams.
Agnelli’s Juve are one of those, but they will be absent from Friday’s quarter-final draw following their shock last-16 defeat by Porto.
Yet rather than the transfer of a player between two clubs, it is a coach who started the season in charge of one of Europe’s elite before joining another who made the biggest impression in the Champions League this week.
Thomas Tuchel was sacked by Paris Saint-Germain in December despite winning a Champions League group also containing RB Leipzig and Manchester United.
In January he joined Chelsea and the impact the German has had in seven weeks has been remarkable. On Wednesday they saw off La Liga leaders Atletico Madrid 2-0 at Stamford Bridge to win their last-16 tie 3-0 on aggregate.
Tuchel took over a side struggling for consistency under Frank Lampard and immediately turned them into a supremely disciplined unit that has conceded just two goals and remains unbeaten in his 13 games in charge.
They made Diego Simeone’s Atletico look thoroughly ordinary in both legs and few teams will relish the prospect of facing Chelsea in the last eight.
“We feel that we deserve this. We are in the last eight which is already a big step. From there on we go, there is no need to be afraid, we will take what we get and will prepare in the best way possible,” Tuchel said on Wednesday.
– Pressure on Man City? – Chelsea’s 2012 Champions League triumph came after they changed manager mid-season and Tuchel will be determined to go one better than last season, when PSG lost to Bayern Munich in the final.
A reunion with PSG in the next round would be fascinating, and not one the French club would likely welcome as they struggle to impress under Tuchel’s successor Mauricio Pochettino, their 4-1 win in Barcelona aside.
There are six former winners in the last-eight draw, with a total of 29 European Cups between them.
Only Manchester City among the quarter-finalists have never reached the final, but they look formidable: Pep Guardiola’s team have won 24 of their last 25 games and are chasing an unprecedented quadruple.
Perhaps the only thing counting against them is the growing pressure to win the trophy after quarter-final exits in the last three years.
“Since the first year I arrived they told me that you have to win the Champions League,” Guardiola admitted after his side beat Borussia Moenchengladbach.
– Money talks – With Liverpool also still alive, England have three representatives in the draw, yet Bayern — with 18 wins and one draw in 19 Champions League games since the start of last season — remain the team to beat.
Defeats for Juventus and Atalanta mean there is no Italian team in the last eight for the first time since 2016, and Porto, despite eliminating Juve, are surely the side most teams would prefer to face.
The Portuguese champions have lifted the trophy twice before and are regulars on Europe’s biggest stage, but given how much money talks at this level it would be a huge surprise if they went any further.
Porto are way down the list of the continent’s richest clubs and a recent KPMG Football Benchmark report put their income last year at 87.3 million euros ($104m), less than a quarter that of Dortmund, the club closest to them financially.
Chelsea cemented their grip on fourth place in the Premier League as Kai Havertz finally delivered an influential display in their vital 2-0 win against top-four rivals Everton on Monday.
Havertz has endured a disappointing first season following his £70 million ($96 million) move from Bayer Leverkusen last year.
But the Germany midfielder was given a rare start by Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel and he responded by playing the key role in both goals at Stamford Bridge.
Havertz’s shot was deflected into the Everton net for a Ben Godfrey own goal in the first half.
The 21-year-old hasn’t scored in the league since October, but Tuchel entrusted him with an important role as Chelsea’s false nine and his intelligent movement put him in position to earn the second-half penalty that Jorginho converted.
Chelsea are now four points clear of fifth-placed Everton, although West Ham would close the gap to two points if they beat Leeds later on Monday.
The west Londoners are unbeaten in 11 games in all competitions — winning eight times — since Tuchel replaced the sacked Frank Lampard in January.
Their renaissance under Tuchel is a credit to the former Paris Saint-Germain boss, who is the first manager to see his side keep a clean sheet in each of his opening five home Premier League games.
On current form, Chelsea look a good bet to qualify for next season’s Champions League via a top-four finish, while they still have aspirations to win this season’s competition after beating Atletico Madrid 1-0 in the last 16 first leg.
Everton’s first away league defeat since November was a significant blow to their hopes of top-four place.
Tuchel made five changes from the 1-0 win against Liverpool last Thursday as Havertz and Callum Hudson-Odoi came in.
Making way for Havertz was Mason Mount, whose superb performance and clinical finish had inspired the victory at Anfield.
But Tuchel’s tinkering didn’t unsettle Chelsea and they dominated possession from start to finish.
– Revitalised Havertz- Jorginho twice fired narrowly wide in the opening exchanges and Chelsea’s pressure was rewarded with a stroke of luck in the 31st minute.
Hudson-Odoi made a purposeful burst in from the left and picked out Marcos Alonso’s run into the Everton area.
Alonso swiftly whipped a cross towards Havertz and his volley took a wicked deflection off Godfrey as it flashed past wrong-footed Everton keeper Jordan Pickford.
Sweeping forward from the left wing-back position again, Alonso eluded the Everton offside trap, but this time his shot was well saved by Pickford.
Pickford had to tip over Alonso’s swerving free-kick when it threatened to catch him out at the near post early in the second half.
The revitalised Havertz turned to fire past Pickford moments later, only to see the goal disallowed by VAR after he controlled the ball with his arm.
Everton barely troubled Chelsea goalkeeper Edouard Mendy for nearly an hour and even when Richarlison had a clear sight of goal, the Brazilian slipped and miscued his shot wide.
Tuchel’s men kept coming in waves and Reece James blasted just wide from long range before Hudson-Odoi saw his curling effort pushed over by Pickford.
A second goal looked inevitable and it duly arrived in the 65th minute.
Havertz was clattered by Pickford and Jorginho dispatched the penalty with his customary hop step.
Chelsea could easily have won by more, but Timo Werner and Mount were denied by Pickford as the hosts threatened to run riot.
Manchester City have set their sights on a clean sweep of the four major trophies as the runaway Premier League leaders prepare to host high-flying West Ham this weekend.
To have any chance of putting City under pressure, second-placed Manchester United must end Thomas Tuchel’s unbeaten start as Chelsea boss.
AFP Sport looks at some of the main talking points ahead of the weekend action in the English top-flight.
Man City flex musclesManchester City’s march to the top of the Premier League was not a surprise given their title-winning pedigree, but their record-breaking surge has fuelled belief that they can achieve greatness.
City chalked up their 19th successive win in all competitions — a record for an English top-flight side — as they eased to a 2-0 victory at Borussia Monchengladbach in the Champions League last-16 first leg on Wednesday.
Pep Guardiola’s side are 10 points clear at the top of the Premier League, face Tottenham in the League Cup final and have reached the FA Cup quarter-finals.
Bernardo Silva, who was on the scoresheet against Borussia, gave voice to City’s swaggering confidence after they moved a step closer to an unprecedented quadruple.
Unbeaten in 26 matches stretching back to November, Silva said City could set a new standard of excellence after their domestic treble two years ago.
“We know we have good momentum, but this is just the last 16 of the Champions League,” he said. “We have the Premier League, the FA Cup and the League Cup.
“It is going to be a tough season but we are going to try to win them all.”
Man Utd face Tuchel testManchester United are the closest challengers to Manchester City, but Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men will need a major collapse from their rivals if they are to win the title for the first time since 2013.
Victory at Chelsea on Sunday is essential to keep United’s faint hopes alive.
That will not be easy given the Blues’ revival under former Paris Saint-Germain boss Thomas Tuchel.
Since replacing the sacked Frank Lampard in January, Tuchel has won six of his eight games in all competitions to lift Chelsea up to fifth place.
But United are unbeaten in five league games and their forward Marcus Rashford believes they are becoming a force to be reckoned with.
“I think we’ve said all season that we’re a team that’s still improving, learning lessons about ourselves every game,” he said.
“We have to concentrate on ourselves and keep giving the best version of us. Ultimately that’s going to make us win the games.”
Alli comes in from the cold after spending much of the season cast into exile by Jose Mourinho, Dele Alli’s return to form has given the Tottenham manager a welcome selection headache.
Alli appeared close to leaving on loan during the January transfer window before the club reportedly blocked the England midfielder’s attempt to rejoin his former Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino at PSG.
The 24-year-old has since held clear-the-air talks with Mourinho and has been reintegrated into the squad.
Alli used Wednesday’s 4-0 Europa League win over Wolfsberger to underline his qualities, scoring a brilliant overhead kick and providing two assists.
Ninth-placed Tottenham must beat Burnley on Sunday to get back in top-four contention.
“These are the headaches that I love,” Mourinho said, referring to his selection quandaries. “The headaches that you don’t like are lots of people not performing. Lots of doubts, by negative reasons.
“These are the wonderful problems. The players they need to understand this concept of team, and the intensity of matches. If you have everybody ready or play at this level, it’s the best thing to happen to the team.”
Manchester City v West Ham (1230), West Brom v Brighton (1500), Leeds v Aston Villa (1730), Newcastle v Wolves (2000)
Crystal Palace v Fulham (1200), Leicester v Arsenal (1200), Tottenham v Burnley (1400), Chelsea v Manchester United (1630), Sheffield United v Liverpool (1915)
Ilkay Gundogan opened the floodgates by curling home from the edge of the box before Joao Cancelo’s controversial strike doubled City’s lead.
The West Brom defence was distracted by a wrongly raised offside flag before the Portuguese full-back found the net, but the goal stood after a VAR review.
Gundogan then took his tally to seven goals in his last eight league games before Riyad Mahrez and Raheem Sterling rounded off the scoring.
“There’s not really a secret,” Gundogan said of his scoring streak. “I’m just in the right spaces at the right moment. I’m in a bit more of an offensive role, if I get the chance close to the box I try to make the right decisions.”
West Brom have now conceded 17 goals in Sam Allardyce’s four home games in charge as they remain second bottom of the table, six points off safety.
– Arsenal on the rise – Guardiola’s former assistant Mikel Arteta is also enjoying a fine run of form as Arsenal have taken 16 from the last possible 18 points.
The Gunners avenged their FA Cup to Southampton at the weekend despite falling behind after three minutes to Stuart Armstrong’s sweet strike.
Nicolas Pepe quickly levelled before Bukayo Saka rounded Alex McCarthy and slotted home to give the visitors at half-time lead.
“I think we were good from the start. We conceded a goal from a corner but responded straight away,” said Arteta.
“It showed a lot of intelligent and resilience from the team in the way they managed the game.”
Alexandre Lacazette sealed a vital three points 18 minutes from time as Arsenal moved up to eighth and within five points of the top four.
– West Ham go fourth – West Ham occupy the fourth Champions League place as Tomas Soucek scored twice in a 3-2 win at Crystal Palace.
The Hammers suffered an early setback when Wilfried Zaha put Palace in front after just three minutes.
But the stronger mentality that David Moyes has lauded in West Ham this season showed as Soucek struck twice in 16 minutes to turn the game around.
Only Manchester United’s Bruno Fernandes has scored more Premier League goals from midfield than the Czech since he joined from Slavia Prague a year ago.
Craig Dawson headed in Jarrod Bowen’s corner 25 minutes from time to make it 3-1 before Michy Batshuayi scored a late consolation for Palace.
A sixth consecutive win in all competitions takes Moyes’s men above Liverpool in the table and Jurgen Klopp’s struggling Reds will be wary of their trip to the London Stadium on Sunday.
At the other end of the table, Newcastle lost 2-1 at home to Leeds to stretch their winless run to 11 games
“This league is demanding and cruel at times,” said beleaguered Magpies boss Steve Bruce.
Raphinha slotted home Rodrigo’s cut-back to give Marcelo Bielsa’s men a deserved half-time lead.
Miguel Almiron levelled with Newcastle’s first goal for five games early in the second half, but parity lasted only four minutes before Jack Harrison’s sensational finish with the outside of his left foot claimed all three points for the visitors.
Newcastle have a seven-point cushion over the bottom three, but have now played two games more than Fulham in 18th.
“There is no reason to say whether we will get back into it (the title race) or not at the moment,” said Lampard at his eve of match press conference.
“We just need to consider the games in front of us and try to win them, to push ourselves steadily up the table.
“We are not in a bad position, we have had a bad short period of form and if we can put wins together this month then the picture will change very quickly — as it has done already this year in so many ways.”
Lampard — whose position has been the source of speculation due to the poor run — says a good barometer of their ability to restore momentum will be how they fare against the Foxes, who can go top with victory.
“Leicester are in the race for sure, the way they are playing and the results they’re getting and their position in the league,” said Lampard.
“We managed to get above Leicester at the back-end of last season, but it was a big ask for us.
“They are a very good team, with very good individuals, we know that, and a really good manager in Brendan Rodgers.”
Part of the reason for Chelsea’s recent disappointing run has been the poor form of Timo Werner.
The German international has scored just once in the last 14 games in all competitions — against fourth-tier Morecambe in the FA Cup — which is a poor return for the £52 million ($70 million) Chelsea paid for him.
“It’s something that all players experience in their careers,” said Lampard, who dropped Werner to the bench against Fulham.
“When you are a top player, as Timo has shown he is, is when all eyes are on and it becomes magnified.
“But the basics are the same and my job is to tell him that and work with him on it.”
A first defeat in six games rounded off a disappointing day for Fulham after victories earlier on Saturday for relegation rivals Brighton and West Brom.
Scott Parker’s men remain third from bottom and are now four points from safety.
Lampard responded to Chelsea’s poor run by leaving big-money signings Timo Werner and Kai Havertz on the bench.
Olivier Giroud was selected ahead of Werner up front and forced French international teammate Alphonse Areola into a smart save as the visitors started brightly.
Mount has maintained Lampard’s faith despite a club record fee being splashed out to bring in Havertz from Bayer Leverkusen and the English international was inches away from rewarding his manager with a thunderous shot that came back off the crossbar.
Fulham were posing a threat themselves on the break and should have gone in front after a brilliant team move.
Robinson’s low cross was turned back across goal by Kenny Tete, but Ivan Cavaleiro’s mishit shot spooned wide.
Moments later, Fulham had a mountain to climb when Robinson dived in on Cesar Azpilicueta and was shown a straight red card.
The hosts were forced to sit deep and doggedly defend wave after wave of Chelsea attack after the break.
Lampard’s men looked most dangerous from set-pieces, though, as Thiago Silva headed wide a golden chance from a corner.
In search of a goal, Lampard first turned to Tammy Abraham from the bench and he headed a huge chance straight at Areola with his first touch.
Christian Pulisic then failed to connect with Hakim Ziyech’s inviting cross seconds later.
A moment of madness from Chelsea goalkeeper Edouard Mendy nearly gifted the Cottagers a shock lead at the other end.
Mendy diverted Azpilicueta’s backpass as he raced from his goal into the path of Cavaleiro, who should have done better than fire straight into Silva’s chest with an empty net to aim for.
Werner was finally introduced 17 minutes from time, but it was Lampard’s trusted lieutenant Mount who made the breakthrough as he pounced after Areola flapped at Ben Chilwell’s cross.
Deep into stoppage time, Werner then wasted a great chance to end his 10-game drought without a Premier League goal as he skewed well wide when one-on-one with Areola.
Arsenal’s recent revival ground to a halt as Crystal Palace frustrated the Gunners in a scrappy 0-0 Premier League draw at the Emirates Stadium on Thursday.
Mikel Arteta’s side had won their previous four matches in all competitions, but they were fortunate to extend their unbeaten run to five games.
Palace were unable to convert several first half chances and, although Arsenal improved after the interval, they missed a chance to climb into the top half of the Premier League.
Arsenal sit in 11th place, eight points adrift of the Champions League places as they continue to pay the price for their worst start to a season since 1974-75.
Just before Christmas, Arsenal were only four points above the relegation zone, so their current position 12 points away from the bottom three affords Arteta some much-needed breathing space.
But this disjointed display underlined the attacking flaws that have stopped Arsenal’s building on last season’s FA Cup triumph.
Palace have only won one of their past eight matches in all competitions and are one point behind Arsenal in 13th.
Emile Smith-Rowe, Arsenal’s promising young midfielder, started after scoring against Newcastle as a substitute last weekend.
But Kiernan Tierney was absent with muscle tightness and the Gunners missed the Scotland left-back’s busy presence.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has endured a difficult season and, once again, Arsenal’s captain was a diffident figure.
The Gabon forward briefly sparked into life and tested Vicente Guaita with a fierce strike that has parried by the Palace keeper.
But Palace were finding their feet on a wet evening and Granit Xhaka had to make a perfectly timed sliding tackle to stop Wilfried Zaha getting a shot away after the forward slalomed into the penalty area.
Palace broke through the Arsenal defence again when Christian Benteke scooped his shot wastefully over from 10 yards after good work by Tyrick Mitchell.
James Tomkins was inches away from giving Roy Hodgson’s men the lead as the Palace defender got above Rob Holding to glance his header against the bar from Eberechi Eze’s free-kick.
Arsenal were struggling to get out of their own half and Bernd Leno had to make a superb save to repel Benteke’s header from Mitchell’s cross.
Arteta’s half-time team talk seemed like it might have the desired effect and Hector Bellerin drilled just wide from the edge of the area in the opening minute of the second half.
Arsenal threatened again as Bukayo Saka forced Guaita to block at the near post before Alexandre Lacazette blasted into the side-netting after a flowing move.
Arteta sent on Nicolas Pepe and Thomas Partey, back after a month out with a thigh injury.
But the expected push never came and Palace were able to keep the misfiring Gunners at bay with ease.
Alexandre Lacazette scored twice as Arsenal further eased their early season struggles by thrashing West Brom 4-0 at a snow covered Hawthorns on Saturday.
After seven Premier League games without a win, the Gunners have now won three in a week to dampen talk of a relegation fight and move back into contention for the European places.
Kieran Tierney’s stunning solo goal opened the floodgates as Sam Allardyce’s men have now conceded nine times in two games.
Bukayo Saka rounded off a brilliant team move to double the visitors’ lead before Lacazette struck twice in four second-half minutes.
West Brom are yet to win in four games since Allardyce took charge and the former England manager needs to quickly instill the defensive discipline he has made his trademark at previous clubs if the Baggies are to have any chance of survival.
Just over a week ago Allardyce said Arsenal were in a battle against the drop, but Mikel Arteta’s decision to finally put faith in his crop of talented youngsters has turned his side’s season around.
Saka was again the shining light, while Tierney and Emile Smith Rowe also impressed.
Arsenal’s poor run was principally caused by a struggle to score goals, but they were a threat from the off despite the treacherous conditions.
Sam Johnstone denied Hector Bellerin and Saka inside the first 10 minutes, but he was powerless to stop Tierney’s stunning opener on 23 minutes.
The Scotland international left Darnell Furlong trailing in his wake before cutting inside onto his weaker right foot and curling into the top corner.
Arsenal’s second was reminiscent of their flowing football at the height of the Arsene Wenger era as Saka fed Lacazette, whose brilliant pass played Smith Rowe in behind the West Brom defence and he squared for Saka to tap into an empty net.
The one way traffic continued after the break and some comical West Brom defending led to the third as Semi Ajayi smashed a dangerous cross off his own post and the ball broke to Lacazette to apply a simple finish.
Moments later another raid from Tierney down the left teed up Lacazette for another finish from point-blank range.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has missed out on Arsenal’s return to scoring form over the past eight days as he turned a glorious chance from Willian’s mishit shot over before Johnstone produced another fine save from the Gunners’ captain.
However, four goals were more than enough to prove Arsenal’s return to form as they moved to within six points of the top four with two favourable fixtures against Crystal Palace and Newcastle to come.
West Brom on the other hand remain six points adrift of safety and showing little sign of life since Allardyce’s arrival.