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Manchester City winger Raheem Sterling said prolific striker Sergio Augero has to be "cherished" after equalling Alan Shearer's record of 11 Premier League hat-tricks as the champions demolished Chelsea 6-0 at the Etihad to go top of the table.
It was another scoring masterclass from the Argentinian as he took his tally to a staggering 25 goals in his last 16 league starts while netting in his last seven games.
"He's a player we depend on," said two-goal Sterling. "Moments like the first goal, out of nothing, he can put the ball in the top corner.
"Players like this you have to cherish."
And it was a Champions performance from a City side who continue to ramp up the pressure on Liverpool.The Reds had a chance to go seven points clear at the start of the month but now trail on goal difference, though they do have a game in hand.
With the league hotting up, Guardiola called this the "real final" even though these sides will meet again in two weeks' time in the Carabao Cup final.
The message got through to his players who had the points done and dusted in a barnstorming opening 25 minutes.
It was the returning Raheem Sterling who broke the deadlock after just three minutes. The Chelsea rearguard were undone down the right and Bernardo Silva's deflected cut-back was pounced on by the England international from eight yards.
The second was not long in coming and came just moments after Aguero had poked wide from just a yard out. Typically, he made amends with a 30-yard rocket. Kevin de Bruyne wrestled possession inside the Chelsea half and when the ball broke Aguero let fly with Kepa Arrizabalaga only able to get fingertips to it as it sailed into the top corner.
Chelsea had enough on their plate without contributing to their own downfall. David Luiz failed to clear with a header and then Ross Barkley's headed back pass was short allowing predator Aguero to scuff a shot into the net from six yards.
The visitors were shell-shocked and it was to get even worse shortly later. Once again they were culpable with Antonio Rutiger this time failing to clear and Ilkay Gundogan curling an effort into the corner from the edge of the box.
Aguero did not have to wait long after the break to bag his hat-trick, calmly slotting home from the penalty spot after Cesar Azpilicueta had tripped Sterling.
Gabriel Jesus replaced Aguero with 25 minutes remaining and was involved in the build-up that saw Oleksandr Zinchenko's cut-bck rifled home by Sterling.
"It was a terrific performance from the team," added Sterling. "Straight after the Everton game he was getting us already for this game.
"It took a lot of preparation. It was just a win, another three points. We scored a lot of goals, but the most important thing was to put in a good performance and get three points and that's what we've done."
Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri stormed down the tunnel at the final whistle without shaking the hand of his opposite number. It was left to his assistant Gianfranco Zola to apologise to Guardiola on his behalf.
The Blues were left to ponder their worst league defeat in 26 years, which leaves them sitting sixth in the table, a point behind fourth-placed Manchester United..
By Russell Stoddart
Images: Getty Images/ Michael Regan
Manchester City play Schalke in the Champions League last-16 first leg on Wednesday, 20 February live on BT Sport on the eir sport pack [kick-off 7.30pm]. Subscribe here