Time is ticking down on the 2021-22 Premier League campaign – and indeed on your chances of making up those valuable points in your fantasy football league.

While certain players are a must for any manager with serious prospects of finishing top of the pile (hello, Mohammed Salah), others often go under the radar.

And with a real rarity of all 10 gameweek 28 fixtures taking place across the same weekend – at the time of writing, at least! – it is important you get your selection spot on.

So why not let Stats Perform, led by Opta data, pick out four players – one for each position – that can help propel you up the standings. Come on, trust us.

FRASER FORSTER (Aston Villa v Southampton)

Five games without defeat, including back-to-back victories over Everton and Norwich City at St Mary's, have helped propel Southampton back into the top half of the division.

What makes those successive home wins all the more impressive is that Saints kept two clean sheets, having failed to record a single shutout in their previous 13 league matches.

Forster was in goal for both games and, while he only had to make one save across the 180 minutes, he has prevented the fourth-most goals in the Premier League this term.

Having conceded only 10 times, excluding own goals, from shots worth 13.5 expected goals on target, he has limited opponents to 3.5 goals fewer than expected.

Only Aaron Ramsdale (4.0 goals prevented), David de Gea (7.5) and Jose Sa (7.8) have fared better in that regard in the English top flight this term.

MATT DOHERTY (Tottenham v Everton)

Tottenham may be struggling for consistency, but right wing-back Doherty finally appears to be finding his feet under Antonio Conte – in the league, at least.

The former Wolves defender scored and assisted in the same Premier League game for the first time in Tottenham's most recent outing in the competition against Leeds United.

Doherty now has three goal involvements in his past five league games, also supplying an assist at Leicester City, where he created four chances.

PHILIPPE COUTINHO (Aston Villa v Southampton)

Okay, okay – we know we have already selected Southampton goalkeeper Forster, but hear us out here.

By putting Aston Villa midfielder Coutinho in your side, you are hedging your bets, because if the Villans are to score then they need their Brazilian playmaker on top form.

He has four direct goal involvements in six games since returning to the Premier League in January – only Harry Kane (six) and Bruno Fernandes (seven) can better that return.

That should be of particular concern to Southampton as Coutinho has been involved in as many Premier League goals against them (five – four goals, one assist) as against any other side.

EMMANUEL DENNIS (Watford v Arsenal)

Long gone are the days of Watford being unable to keep a clean sheet for love nor money – the Hornets are now shutout kings under that up-and-coming boss Roy Hodgson.

Well, not quite, but Watford's three Premier League blanks since Hodgson's first game is the joint-most of any side, along with Liverpool, Manchester City and, eh, Burnley.

Now they just need to work on becoming more prolific at the other end of the field, and in Dennis they have a player potentially capable of firing them to safety.

The Nigeria international has scored nine goals and assisted five more in the Premier League this term – only five other players have been directly involved in more.

World champion Max Verstappen has extended his contract with Red Bull until the end of 2028.

The new deal, confirmed on Thursday, was hailed as a "real statement of intent" by team principal Christian Horner.

Verstappen now has the longest contract of any driver on the Formula One grid and will spend what should be his peak years with Red Bull.

On the back of claiming his maiden world title in the most dramatic of circumstances last season, the 24-year-old is out to make more history in the 2022 campaign.

With the aid of Opta, Stats Perform takes a look at the numbers behind Verstappen's impressive career.

 

- At the age of 24 years, two months and 12 days at the time of the eventful 2021 season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in December, Verstappen became the fourth-youngest driver to win an F1 world title, behind only Fernando Alonso, Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel.

- Should he hold off Mercedes' Hamilton – and indeed any other contenders – by coming out on top again this year, the Dutchman would become the second-youngest driver to win multiple world titles after Vettel (24y, 3m, 6d).

- The 10 race victories recorded by Verstappen in 2021 were as many as he managed in his previous seven seasons combined – five years with Red Bull and two with Toro Rosso – with his three victories in 2019 a previous season's best prior to last year.

- On top of his 20 victories across eight years with Red Bull and Toro Rosso, spanning some 141 grands prix, Verstappen has finished on the podium 60 times – 18 of those coming last season alone. That set a new F1 record as he went past the previous mark of 17 podiums, jointly held by Michael Schumacher, Hamilton and Vettel, albeit Verstappen benefited from having more races than in previous seasons.

- The six fastest laps recorded by Verstappen in 2021 was another career high, double his previous best from 2019 and 2020 when finishing third in the drivers' standings on both occasions. 

- Verstappen is the first Dutchman to hold claim to being F1 world champion, making the Netherlands the 15th different nationality for a winning driver. He is Red Bull's second world champion, meanwhile, following Vettel's four-year reign on top between 2010 and 2013.

Roman Abramovich has decided to sell Chelsea.

In a statement released on Wednesday, the Russian-Israeli businessman announced his decision to sell the London club, which he purchased in 2003.

Abramovich has said his decision is "in the best interest of the club", as it comes against the backdrop of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, which has put him under intense scrutiny.

The 55-year-old oligarch has been photographed with Russian president Vladimir Putin in the past, and while it was claimed last week that Abramovich has no involvement in politics, a spokesperson for the Blues' owner suggested to the Press Association on Monday that he was "trying to help" achieve a peaceful resolution to the conflict.

Russian businesses and high-profile individuals have been hit with crippling financial sanctions by nations all over the world since the attack began last Thursday, and there have been calls in the United Kingdom for Abramovich to be targeted next.

Should Abramovich secure a sale, he leaves Chelsea as a footballing superpower...

The trophies

Chelsea have won 19 major trophies since Abramovich bought the club, with the Blues succeeding in every single available competition at least once.

Their haul includes five Premier League titles (2004-05, 2005-06, 2009-10, 2014-15, 2016-17) and two Champions League triumphs (2011-12, 2020-21).

The Blues have won the FA Cup on five occasions since 2003, last doing so in 2018, while they have added a further three EFL Cup titles to their honours list, too.

Chelsea's success in Europe has not just been restricted to the Champions League. They won the Europa League in 2012-13 and 2018-19, and the Super Cup last year.

February brought Club World Cup glory for the first time, completing the set under Abramovich.

Since the owner arrived in 2003, Chelsea have accumulated 1,449 points in the Premier League, more than any other side.

Of the 709 top-flight games during Abramovich's ownership so far, they have won 432, drawn 153 and lost 124, scoring 1,309 goals and conceding 621 for a hugely impressive goal difference of 688.

The managers

Chelsea have flitted through managers during Abramovich's tenure. Indeed, current incumbent Thomas Tuchel is the 15th different coach (including caretakers and interims) to work at Stamford Bridge since 2003.

After dismissing Claudio Ranieri in 2004, Abramovich landed a superstar manager in Jose Mourinho, who would go on to lead Chelsea to their first top-flight crown since 1955 and defend the title the following season.

Mourinho's first stint really was special. He won 124 games, losing just 21 times, and turned Chelsea from pretenders into a true superpower. Of any permanent manager during Abramovich's ownership, the Portuguese's first spell produced the best win ratio (67 per cent).

Yet past success means little as soon as things turn sour for Abramovich, and Mourinho was replaced in 2007-08. His successor, Avram Grant, led Chelsea to their first Champions League final, but John Terry's penalty shoot-out slip proved costly.

Luiz Felipe Scolari proved a bust but Guus Hiddink, in his first, more successful interim spell, subsequently delivered FA Cup joy in 2009, and a 72.7 per cent win rate from his 22 matches in charge (16 victories). 

Carlo Ancelotti was next through the door. He claimed a Premier League and FA Cup double in 2009-10, while Roberto Di Matteo secured the club's first Champions League title with a penalty shoot-out defeat of Bayern Munich.

Mourinho's return yielded a fourth Premier League success, but the Special One's second spell deteriorated quickly and he was sacked in December 2015 with Chelsea sitting 16th. Hiddink came in for a second interim spell but won just 10 out of 27 matches (a 37 per cent win ratio).

Chelsea won a trophy in each season under Antonio Conte and Maurizio Sarri. Club great Frank Lampard was given the job in 2019 but lasted just 18 months, finishing with the lowest win ratio of any permanent Chelsea boss under Abramovich (52.4 per cent). Tuchel took the same side to Champions League glory.

The players

Superstar managers must have superstar players to manage, and Chelsea have certainly had their fair share of those during Abramovich's time at Stamford Bridge.

Lampard made 354 league appearances from 2003 to his departure in 2014, scoring 136 goals, but John Terry tops the top-flight appearances list during Abramovich's reign, with 411.

Petr Cech was arguably the best goalkeeper in world football in his prime, and he ranks third on that list (333), while current captain Cesar Azpilicueta will go down as a club great, even if he will never be considered among world football's true elite.

Eden Hazard scored 85 league goals in 245 games across his seven years with the Blues. Michael Essien was a superb player for Chelsea after joining in 2005, while Claude Makelele, signed in 2003, was crucial to Mourinho's initial success.

Only Lampard scored more goals than Didier Drogba (104), though Diego Costa was brilliant in Mourinho's second spell. Jorginho, Antonio Rudiger, Edouard Mendy and N'Golo Kante have proved superb signings in recent years.

There have been flops, perhaps none more so than Fernando Torres, while the world-record fee for a goalkeeper splashed out on Kepa Arrizabalaga does not seem so wise and Timo Werner has struggled since his move from Germany in 2020. Romelu Lukaku could well be added to that list if he does not discover his best form.

Will they? Won't they?

Real Madrid's own stuttering form over the past few weeks has at least helped to retain a hint of unpredictability at LaLiga's summit, but it's difficult to not think Sevilla keep blowing their opportunities.

It's not likely to get any easier on Sunday, either. They headed into this matchday six points behind Madrid, which in itself certainly isn't insurmountable.

But then Madrid beat Rayo Vallecano, and Sevilla's visitors are local rivals Real Betis, who are absolutely flying and chasing a victory that would lift them to within just two points of their neighbours.

Prior to Sevilla's slender – and ultimately irrelevant – 1-0 defeat to Dinamo Zagreb on Thursday in the Europa League, the only side to have beaten them this year is Betis, who were 2-1 victors in the Copa del Rey in mid-January.

Since then injuries have played a significant role for Sevilla and they could conceivably be without Gonzalo Montiel, Diego Carlos, Jules Kounde, Lucas Ocampos, Erik Lamela, Suso, Anthony Martial and Karim Rekik on Sunday.

Several of those have been absent for other games in the last few weeks, and in the cases of Lamela and Suso, for much of the season. As such, since that defeat to Betis, Sevilla have won only two of seven games in all competitions.

But to many, a potential obstacle for Sevilla in their quest for an unlikely title triumph had long been identifiable, and it will only be made even more obvious against Betis.

Replacing the irreplaceable?

In 2020, Sevilla saw Ever Banega bring his second spell at the club to an end. Across his total six years at the club, either side of a single season with Inter, the Argentinian playmaker had been a fundamental part of the team.

A feisty competitor, excellent dribbler and possessor of wonderful vision and passing abilities, Banega's presence meant Sevilla always had a viable creative option in the middle of the pitch, even if using the flanks was a key concept for both Unai Emery and Julen Lopetegui.

Since Banega departed for Saudi Arabia's Al Shabab, Sevilla simply haven't replaced him adequately. Ivan Rakitic, while still capable, isn't the same kind of player; Papu Gomez hasn't had consistency in any one position; and Oliver Torres has been unable to step into his former team-mate's shoes.

 

That creative role in midfield would be considered by most Sevilla fans as the final piece of the puzzle. The other two central positions are filled ably by Joan Jordan, an effective facilitator, and Fernando, who sits deeper to sweep up and help out with Diego Carlos and Kounde, something he's done to great success since joining.

But from a creative standpoint, Sevilla need only glance across town to see what they are missing in that area of the pitch.

Now, of course, the make-up of a midfield can have a major impact on other parts of the team, so were Sevilla to have a more penetrative central trio, there's every reason to suggest they'd not be as solid at the back.

But with Sergio Canales and Nabil Fekir strutting their stuff for Betis, it's difficult to not at least wonder where Sevilla might be with a more positive outlook in midfield.

Sevilla's glaring weakness is Betis' biggest weapon

It cannot be overstated just how good a job Manuel Pellegrini is doing at Betis. Since the end of 2019-20, they have paid a transfer fee for just one player at €3.8million – in the same period, they've lost roughly €60m of talent, yet here they are, looking certainties for a Champions League spot.

Undoubtedly essential to Betis are Canales and Fekir, both of whom were exceptional and scored in the January Copa defeat of Sevilla.

Their influence makes Betis a real danger through the middle of the pitch, an area they are heavily reliant on.

We managed to isolate their key passes that have been played from the central column of the attacking third, and the outcome is impressive.

 

Betis are hugely active in this area, with as many as 36.7 per cent of their key passes being made from the zone in question. Only Real Mallorca (40.2 per cent) are busier here than Betis.

Sevilla, on the other hand, create just 25.2 per cent of their chances from the middle third, which is the lowest proportion of all 20 teams in LaLiga.

In fact, no Sevilla player has managed more than seven key passes in this section of the pitch – four Betis players have more than 10, with Fekir (14), Canales (21) and holding midfielder William Carvalho (12) accounting for 47 between them. That's only 11 fewer than Sevilla's entire squad.

 

Of course, a key element of Sevilla's setup is that they attack from the flanks, but it should be pointed out that Betis' proportion of touches out wide in the attacking half is only 2.2 per cent less, so they cannot be accused of neglecting the wings.

The difference is Sevilla are massively (too?) reliant on attacking from wide positions because they don't possess players with the kind of incisiveness that Betis do in midfield, both in terms of passing and ability on the ball.

 

It all comes back to an inability to replace Banega.

Failure to win at the Ramon Sanchez-Pizjuan on Sunday will surely end Sevilla's title hopes as they would be left nine points adrift of Madrid.

While injuries have many fans pessimistic anyway, few would be surprised if it's in midfield where Sevilla's dreams are crushed.

It was another frustrating day for Manchester United against Watford on Saturday, while their rivals – and next opponents – Manchester City left it late at Everton.

Watford were, of course, the team that inflicted the defeat that cost Ole Gunnar Solskjaer his job at United in November, and Ralf Rangnick will have been similarly frustrated, even if he is safe in the knowledge that he will not be getting the sack.

The same cannot be said for Marcelo Bielsa, however, who looks destined to see his stay at Leeds United brought to an end after a crushing defeat to Tottenham.

Following Saturday's Premier League action, Stats Perform delves into the key Opta facts from some of the day's games.

Manchester United 0-0 Watford: Red Devils revert to type

Man Utd's 4-2 win at Leeds United last week was a little more tense than Ralf Rangnick would have liked, at least for a while, but it was also a rare example of them getting a big goals haul.

It seemed to say more about Leeds than it did United, however, as Rangnick saw his side struggle in front of goal once again despite dominating visitors Watford.

 

Chances weren't an issue: they had 22 shots, but only three were on target. Their opportunities amounted to 2.7 expected goals (xG), just no actual goals.

That was the highest xG accumulated by any side who failed to score in a Premier League game this term, and the biggest negative differential between goals and xG recorded in 2021-22.

It was the fifth time United have failed to score in 14 Premier League home games this season, their worst record since 2013-14 (six).

Up next? The Manchester derby.

 

Everton 0-1 Manchester City: Champions breathe sigh of relief as Toffees' points tally makes grim viewing

Phil Foden rescued City at Goodison Park on Saturday, scoring eight minutes from time to seal a 1-0 win over Everton.

That goal ensured Liverpool can only cut the gap behind City to three points if they win their game in hand, with Pep Guardiola undoubtedly relieved.

He surely always had faith, however, as Guardiola had won each of his previous nine games against Everton – this victory took him to 10 on the bounce, making it his joint-longest winning run against a single opponent in his managerial career.

Everton's outlook is rather bleaker.

Defeat leaves them with just 22 points from 24 Premier League games this term. It is their lowest tally at this stage of a league campaign (if we assume three points have been awarded throughout history) since 1929-30 (also 22), when they were relegated from the top tier.

Frank Lampard's men certainly showed enough spirit at times in this game to suggest their fate will not be the same, but their nine points since the start of October is the fewest of every team in the Premier League.

Leeds United 0-4 Tottenham: Defensive woes leave Bielsa on the brink

It would seem Marcelo Bielsa could well be on his way out at Leeds after another grim defeat, this time at the hands of Spurs.

This loss took Leeds to 20 goal concessions in February, which is the most any Premier League team has ever let in during a single calendar month and worst since any top-flight side since April 1986 (Newcastle United – 21).

As such, they became only the second side in Premier League history to three or more goals in five successive games – four of those have been defeats, making it their worst such run in the top tier since December 2003-February 2004.

For Spurs it was a welcome change of pace after losing to Burnley in midweek, a defeat that led to an emotional outburst from Antonio Conte that made it seem the Italian's days at the club were numbered.

A major highlight for them saw Harry Kane and Son Heung-min combine for the 37th time in the Premier League, overtaking Didier Drogba and Frank Lampard as the duo with most goal combinations in the competition's history.

 

Brentford 0-2 Newcastle United: Bees' woes continue but Eriksen return puts struggles into perspective

The form of Brentford and Newcastle could not be much more different.

Brentford are now winless in eight Premier League games, seven of which have been defeats – Newcastle are unbeaten in seven, their best such run since 2011 (14 games).

Josh Dasilva's red card certainly did not help matters for the home side, with his 11th-minute dismissal the second-earliest in a Premier League game this term after Newcastle's Ciaran Clark (ninth minute against Norwich City in November).

But the match did give all fans and neutrals a reason to smile as Christian Eriksen made his return to the football pitch.

The playmaker suffered a cardiac arrest while playing for Denmark at Euro 2020, and he came on in the second half for his first competitive appearance since his medical emergency.

It was also marked his return to the Premier League, having last appeared in the competition 766 days earlier for Tottenham.

It is not uncommon for second-choice goalkeepers to be given minutes in the early rounds of cup competitions, only for the number one to return when it comes down to the crunch.

Yet for Kepa Arrizabalaga, that will almost certainly not be the case.

Signed in 2018 from Athletic Bilbao for £71.6million (€80m), which is still a record fee for a goalkeeper, Kepa undoubtedly struggled in his first few seasons at Stamford Bridge.

Indeed, Kepa's form was so worrying that Chelsea, then managed by club great Frank Lampard, decided to sign Edouard Mendy from Rennes in 2020, just two years after shelling out that record-setting fee.

Yet since Thomas Tuchel came into the club, Kepa has been given a new lease of life.

While Mendy has solidified his place as the number one, Kepa has stepped up when called upon.

The nervous, shaky youngster has made way for a player who once again seems confident in his own ability and his right to play for the European champions.

With Mendy staying as the first choice in the Premier League and Champions League, for now, Kepa has nailed down a starting spot in the domestic cup competitions, and looks set to start against Liverpool in the EFL Cup final on Sunday.

Should he turn in another match-winning display, as he did in the UEFA Super Cup last year, then Tuchel may well have a decision to make on just who is his first choice after all.

What went wrong?

Kepa's move to Chelsea came in the same window that Liverpool had splashed out on Alisson, and there was plenty of expectation on both goalkeepers.

But while Alisson thrived under the pressure, going on to help Liverpool win the Champions League and then the Premier League a year later, Kepa crumbled.

The Spaniard also made headlines when he refused to be subbed off before a penalty shoot-out in, ironically, the EFL Cup final. Maurizio Sarri's side lost to Manchester City.

Across 36 league appearances that season, Kepa conceded 39 goals. Eight of these came from shots outside the box, with only five goalkeepers conceding more long-range efforts. His overall save percentage was 67.77, ranking him 15th in the competition.

Another way to assess the quality of Kepa's shot-stopping is by using the expected goals on target (xGOT) model to calculate the number of goals Kepa actually prevented. xGOT measures not just the quality of a chance (xG) but the quality of the attempt itself.

Kepa's Premier League xGOT figure for 2018-19 was 37.1. Minus the 39 goals he conceded, Kepa essentially allowed in just over two more goals than the numbers would suggest (-1.9).

In comparison, Alisson finished the season having prevented 5.5 goals in the league through the quality of his saves, while West Ham's Lukasz Fabianski, for example, had an outstanding figure of 12.9. 

Yet it was in 2019-20 that Kepa's form truly dropped off. He conceded 47 times from 33 league appearances, with only seven goalkeepers allowing more goals. His save percentage of 53.47 was the poorest in the league, out of shot-stoppers to play at least 10 times, while his goals prevented figure was -10.7 (including penalties, but excluding own goals).

 

Chelsea claimed a top-four place and reached the FA Cup final, yet it was Willy Caballero, not Kepa, who helped them get to a Wembley showdown and, at the start of 2020-21, they drafted in Mendy from Rennes.

Turning point

Things hardly improved for Kepa at the start of 2020-21. Across the Premier League season, no goalkeeper made more errors leading to goals than the Spain international, who committed three such mistakes in just seven appearances.

All of those mistakes came in his first three league appearances of the season, and he did not feature again in the top flight under Lampard, next playing in February. He made four saves, including an impressive stop from Joe Willock late on, as Tuchel's team defeated Newcastle United 2-0.

That, perhaps, was the start of Kepa's resurgence. Chelsea again reached the final of the FA Cup, and again lost - this time to a Youri Tielemans stunner for Leicester City - but Kepa played in all six of those cup matches.

However, the true turning point came in August's Super Cup. Tuchel's side triumphed 6-5 on penalties over Europa League winners Villarreal following a 1-1 draw in Belfast, and Kepa was the hero.

In contrast to that 2019 EFL Cup final, Kepa was the goalkeeper brought on specifically for penalties this time, and he denied Aissa Mandi and Raul Albiol to ensure victory.

Back at his best?

Perhaps Kepa will need to move on to be a first-choice goalkeeper once again. After all, at 27 he can no longer be counted as a youngster, and as it stands Mendy is still Tuchel's number one.

Though Kepa will get his chance in Sunday's EFL Cup final, surely, to help Chelsea claim a third trophy of the season, following the Super Cup and the Club World Cup, in which he featured in the semi-final.

Since that Super Cup success, Kepa has been a consistent performer. In his 13 games across all competitions, he has conceded just eight goals, keeping six clean sheets.

Those eight goals have come from an xGOT of 18.5, meaning Kepa's "goals prevented" figure is now way into the black, at 10.5.

 

In fact, that figure is the best of any goalkeeper in Europe's top five leagues in all competitions, proving just how much Kepa has come on over the course of the last year.

Mendy, in comparison, has stopped just over three goals with his saves, while Kepa also holds a better save percentage (83.7 to Mendy's 77.4), and he has established himself as worthy competition.

It may not be what Chelsea had in mind when they paid that world record fee in 2018, but if he helps them to another piece of silverware on Sunday, it would be hard to argue he is not starting to prove his worth.

Scotland denied France glory in last year's Six Nations, with their dramatic victory in Paris meaning Les Bleus missed out on the title.

Now, France will be out for vengeance as they head to Edinburgh at the top of the standings with two victories from their opening two matches.

England, meanwhile, bounced back from their defeat to Scotland in round one with a hammering of Italy, and Eddie Jones' second-placed team host Wales at Twickenham. 

Wales lost convincingly to Ireland in their first game, yet defeated Scotland 20-17 last time out, though the defending champions are down in fifth place as it stands.

The final match of the weekend sees Ireland take on Italy in Dublin. The Azzurri are staring down the barrel of a 100th Six Nations defeat.

Ahead of the third round of fixtures, Stats Perform previews each match with help from Opta.

SCOTLAND V FRANCE

FORM

Scotland have won four of their last six games against France in the Championship, including the last two in a row and a first win in Paris since 1999. They have not won three in a row against Les Bleus in the tournament since 1956-1958.

This will be the 99th meeting between Scotland and France in all competitions, with Les Bleus leading the head to head with 56 wins (L39, D3). However, honours are even across the last 10 clashes, with both sides picking up five wins each.

France opened their campaign with a pair of wins, something they also managed in 2021. The only time since 2011 when they have won their opening three games was in 2020, when they missed out on the title and a Grand Slam after a fourth-round defeat to Scotland at Murrayfield.

 

ONES TO WATCH

Darcy Graham has beaten a Championship-high nine defenders so far. He is just ahead of French duo Gabin Villiere, Damian Penaud, and Marcus Smith.

France's Gregory Alldritt has made more carries (30) than any other player, while he has also gained 83 post-contact metres, the most of any forward and fourth most of any player, after Ireland's Mack Hansen (107), Scotland's Graham (86) and team-mate Penaud (84), as well as hitting 10 more defensive rucks (36) than anyone else.

ENGLAND V WALES

FORM

The last four Six Nations matches between these sides have been won by the home side on the day. Indeed, England have won their last four home games against Wales in the Championship, only once since 1930 have they enjoyed a longer such streak, a nine-game run between 1990 and 2006.

England have lost just two of their last 24 home games in the Six Nations (W21, D1), defeats to Ireland in 2018 and Scotland in 2021. Wales' last win at Twickenham in the Championship was in 2012. Since the start of the 2016 tournament, Wales have picked up just one away victory outside of Scotland or Italy, a 24-19 win in Paris in 2019.

England (49) and Wales (34) have made more maul metres than any other sides so far in this edition of the Six Nations.

ONES TO WATCH

Jones has named Ben Youngs on England's bench. If he comes on, Youngs will win his 115th Test cap, overtaking Jason Leonard as the country's most capped men's player. The scrum-half has been involved in five tries in his last six starts against Wales (three tries, two assists).

Alex Cuthbert is set to play for Wales for a 50th time.  He is looking to score his first try in the Six Nations since crossing against Italy in 2014.

 

IRELAND V ITALY

FORM

Ireland have won 21 of their 22 previous Six Nations matches against Italy, their sole defeat coming in 2013 (15-22), in what was the Azzurri's last home victory in the Championship.

Italy's next defeat will be their 100th in the Championship, they are currently on a record 34 match losing run, almost seven years since last claiming a victory (22-19 v Scotland, 28 Feb 2015).

Ireland hold a 100 per cent win rate against Italy at home in the Six Nations (W11), with the Azzurri the only side that has never won at the Aviva Stadium or Croke Park. Indeed, Ireland have scored 50 or more points in each of their last three home games against the tournament's whipping boys.

ONES TO WATCH

Hansen, Jamison Gibson-Park and Bundee Aki are three of just six players to both score and assist a try, the trio all scoring once and assisting one try after two rounds.

Italy's Federico Ruzza has won more lineouts (16) than any other player, including one steal, and team-mate Michele Lamaro has made the most tackles (41) in the tournament.

Sure, relying on Mohamed Salah every week is a decent fantasy football strategy, it's certainly good enough for most, but what happens when the Egyptian magician isn't in Premier League action?

With Liverpool in EFL Cup final duty against Chelsea, the Reds' fearsome front-line and creative full-backs are suddenly off limits to fantasy football managers across the land, while Arsenal and Chelsea are also out of league action.

However, courtesy of Opta-powered data, Stats Perform has managed to pick out some of gameweek 27's potential stars, featuring the England captain, an in-form Burnley new boy, and one of the Premier League's most lethal defenders.

HARRY KANE (Leeds United v Tottenham Hotspur)

Despite Antonio Conte's team lurching to a fourth loss in five Premier League games at Turf Moor in midweek, the England captain remains the perfect pick for managers who need a big-hitter in Salah's absence.

Kane has been involved in seven goals in his last 10 Premier League appearances, registering six goals and an assist in that time. Meanwhile, five of those contributions, including four goals, have come on the road.

If that isn't enough to make managers' minds up, Kane will be facing a Leeds team which has already shipped 56 league goals this term, and has scored 10 goals in his eight Premier League appearances in Yorkshire. 

DAVID DE GEA (Manchester United v Watford)

For those looking for an adequate replacement for the likes of Allison or Edouard Mendy between the sticks, Red Devils stopper De Gea looks to be the perfect choice, ahead of a kind home fixture with Watford.

When looking at Opta's Expected Goals on Target data, no Premier League goalkeeper has prevented more goals than the Spaniard this season, with De Gea conceding 32 Premier League goals from 39.09 xG on target faced.

Although De Gea did ship four times when Watford ended Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's Red Devils reign earlier this season, United have never lost a home league game against Watford, recording 11 wins and two draws against the Hornets at Old Trafford. They have not faced any other side in more home games during their league history without losing (also 13 unbeaten vs Hull City).

CRAIG DAWSON (West Ham United v Wolves)

The best fantasy football managers are those that find themselves looking for marginal gains, and what better way to do that than to pick one of the division's most lethal defenders?

Since the 2014-15 season, no Premier League defender can match Dawson's tally of 14 headed goals, and the big centre-back has now netted in successive games, against Leicester City and Newcastle United.

West Ham's next Premier League clash sees them take on Wolves at the London Stadium. For all their good form, the visitors are averaging under a goal per game this season, so Dawson could also be in with a chance of a clean sheet.

WOUT WEGHORST (Crystal Palace v Burnley, Burnley v Leicester City)

Finally, Burnley's towering Dutch striker Wout Weghorst stands out as an appealing under-the-radar selection, ahead of the Clarets facing two games in four days.

Since Weghorst made his move from Wolfsburg to Turf Moor, he has weighed in with a goal and two assists, meaning only Salah (three goals and one assist) has registered more goal involvements amongst Premier League players since his arrival.

Although Burnley's weekend opponents Crystal Palace have been buoyed by a 4-1 win over Watford, they then host a Leicester team which has conceded 40.61 expected goals this season, a tally worse than all but three Premier League teams, so another Weghorst contribution could be on the cards.

With another NBA All-Star weekend in the books, Thursday sees the league back in regular season action, with one of the more intriguing games taking place at Barclays Center when the Brooklyn Nets entertain the Boston Celtics.

They played in the same venue earlier this month, with Boston easing to a 126-91 victory, which the Nets will be eager to avenge this time.

Somewhat surprisingly given the strength of their respective rosters, Celtics star Jayson Tatum was the only player representing either team to play in the All-Star game, scoring eight points during his 20 minutes on court for Team Durant.

Kevin Durant missed the game in Cleveland with a knee injury and is likely to be out of this clash as well. 

Nets general manager Sean Marks recently said Durant and new arrival Ben Simmons could be ready to play in the coming weeks, but the visit of the Celtics is likely to come too soon for both.

Steve Nash's team currently sit eighth in the Eastern Conference on 31-28, having fallen away dramatically in the last month, losing 11 games in a row until beating the Sacramento Kings on Valentine's Day.

Injuries have played a big part in the dip in form, but back-to-back wins against the Kings and the New York Knicks suggested they could be about to turn things around, even with a defeat to the Washington Wizards in their last game before the All-Star break.

The Celtics, meanwhile, have been going in the other direction, winning nine games in a row before a loss to the Detroit Pistons ahead of the break, and they find themselves sixth in the East on 34-26.

Coach Ime Udoka has led his team to a five-game winning streak on the road and will be looking to make it six in Brooklyn.

He will be reliant on Tatum and Jaylen Brown to pick up where they left off. The Celtics' star duo combined for 57 points and 20 rebounds in the recent 135-87 thrashing of the Philadelphia 76ers.

The impact of guard Derrick White could also be crucial after his recent arrival from the San Antonio Spurs. He has made a respectable start to life with Boston, averaging 12.3 points per game in his four outings.

The restart of the league signals the beginning of what will no doubt be a tense run in a tightly contested Eastern Conference, and both these teams will be looking to get off to a perfect start on Thursday.

PIVOTAL PERFORMERS

Brooklyn Nets – Patty Mills

It's a home game, so Kyrie Irving (vaccination status) cannot play, and with James Harden gone and no Durant or Simmons yet, the pressure will once again fall on Mills to be his team's main man.

The Australian narrowly missed out on the three-point finals at All-Star weekend but is enjoying a career-best season for points (13.4 average per game) in Brooklyn after moving from San Antonio last year.

His three-point shooting is what has been letting him down in recent times, going five games in a row scoring single figures for points, before hitting 22 in the loss to Washington before the All-Star break, including five of seven from beyond the arc.

Boston Celtics – Jayson Tatum

Tatum has been his team's standout player this season, and the momentum from featuring in the All-Star game could see him raise that level even higher.

Only three players in the league have scored more than his 1,439 points this season (DeMar DeRozan - 1,547, Trae Young - 1,475, Giannis Antetokounmpo - 1,443), while only DeRozan (566) and Nikola Jokic (516) have hit more than his 500 field goals.

Interestingly, Tatum took more of a back seat when Boston beat Brooklyn earlier this month, with Brown and Marcus Smart (both 22) scoring more than his 19 points.

KEY BATTLES – Make a better start, Brooklyn

The recent game between these two saw the Celtics race out to a 35-16 lead after the first quarter. It was always a big ask for the Nets to do anything from there.

Where Brooklyn will likely look for success is in mid-range, where no team in the league has a higher percentage of field goals from (48.7). However, only four teams have a lower percentage of mid-range field goals allowed than Boston (39.9 per cent).

HEAD-TO-HEAD

Although the Celtics won at Barclays Center earlier this month, the Nets had won the previous four meetings between the two, including at TD Garden in November, and all three encounters last season.

The Champions League returns on Wednesday as the first legs of the round of 16 come to an end.

Manchester United travel to the Wanda Metropolitano to face Atletico Madrid, with the visitors aiming to become just the fourth team to 500 goals in the European Cup and Champions League combined.

Erik ten Hag's Ajax thrilled in the group stages with their high-scoring and free-flowing football, and they make the trip to the Estadio da Luz to face Benfica in the other first-leg meeting.

Here, Stats Perform unpacks the pick of the Opta data behind the pair of knockout fixtures in Europe's premier club competition.

Atletico Madrid v Manchester United

United and Atletico have somehow only faced each other in the same European campaign once previously, when the Spanish side were 4-1 victors on aggregate in the last 16 of the 1991-92 Cup Winners' Cup.

The Red Devils, on their only previous visit to Atletico, lost the first leg of that tie 3-0 at the old Vicente Calderon stadium against Luis Aragones' team.

Ralf Rangnick's away side will be hoping for happier returns on their next visit to Spain, where they have won just one of their last seven trips in the knockout stages of the Champions League (D4 L2).

But Diego Simeone's team have also tasted defeat in each of their last four matches against English teams in the competition, double the number of losses they suffered across their first 12 such matches (W4 D6 L2).

Atletico have won just four of their last 14 in the Champions League. Additionally, they have lost more times in their last four home games (three) than they did in across their previous 37 (two) in the competition.

The LaLiga outfit will have to contend with an old foe Cristiano Ronaldo, who has scored 25 goals in 35 matches against them, only managing more versus Sevilla during his entire career.

Indeed, four of the forward's club hat-tricks have come against the Spanish side, two of which have been netted in this competition – no other player has recorded more against a single opponent in Europe's top club tournament.

Benfica v Ajax

Benfica may have won the first European meeting with Ajax, a 3-1 win in the first leg of the 1968-69 European Cup quarter-finals, but they are winless in their six games against them since.

Ajax are unbeaten in their previous three away games at Benfica in the European Cup and Champions League (W1 D2), with the most recent of these coming under Ten Hag’s stewardship, a 1-1 draw in November 2018.

The reigning Eredivisie champions are unbeaten in their four meetings with Portuguese sides in the competition (W3 D1), while Benfica have won just two of their last 11 clashes with Dutch opponents across the European Cup and Champions League (D4 L5).

To reach this stage, Ten Hag's men recorded six wins from six, which is the longest winning streak by a Dutch team in the European Cup and Champions League.

Should they manage victory in Portugal, Ajax's seven-game winning run would be the longest in the history of the two competitions by a team outside of the current big five European leagues (England, France, Germany, Italy, Spain).

Sebastian Haller fired his side into the knockout stages with 10 goals in six European outings, the most by any player in his opening six matches in the competition.

Playmaker Dusan Tadic has also created more chances from open play than any other player in the competition (77) since his debut in September 2018, but Benfica will not just roll over given they have recorded clean sheets in five of their last seven Champions League games.

Manchester United have not faced Atletico Madrid in European competition since the 1991-92 Cup Winners' Cup last 16, a tie the Spanish side won 4-1 on aggregate as Luis Aragones got the better of Alex Ferguson.

That was a meeting of two teams on the up: United were a year away from their first of 13 league titles under Ferguson, while Atleti would go on to win consecutive Copas del Rey, with a LaLiga triumph coming in 1996. Twenty years on, Atleti and United meet again in the last 16 of the Champions League, a competition neither is expected to win but one that represents the only means of salvaging their respectively rotten seasons.

It's a difficult one to call. United have become more resolute and less porous under Ralf Rangnick, losing just once over 90 minutes since Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was sacked in late November, but in their 15 games under their interim manager, they have not been tested by elite opposition. Atleti, champions last season, are 15 points off the pace set by Real Madrid in 2021-22 and, in the time Rangnick has been at Old Trafford, they have won six and lost eight of 15 matches in all competitions.

These are well-matched, dispirited teams, who occasionally thrill in attack but always unnerve in defence. Neither looks favourite to win, and neither can afford to lose.

It has, therefore, become a big-pressure situation for the goalkeepers – and that's where form starts to differ wildly.

This will be David de Gea's first competitive meeting with Atleti since he left for United in 2011. He probably didn't imagine he would win fewer league titles than his old club in the decade to follow, but that's another story.

De Gea can at least step onto the pitch at the Wanda Metropolitano on Wednesday knowing he can claim to be one of the best in the business again based on form – a claim that opposite number Jan Oblak certainly can't make.

We know United have been extremely vulnerable this season. In all competitions, they have faced 465 shots, the fifth-highest tally among teams in Europe's top five leagues; 168 of those attempts have been on target, the third-highest number a team has faced. What is particularly worrying is that 21 of their opponents' shots have come directly from United mistakes, the highest number on the continent behind Sevilla (23).

Looking at expected goals on target – a way of measuring not just the quality of a chance (xG) but the quality of the attempt itself – United's figure against stands at 51.1 in all competitions, the third-worst among Europe's top five leagues. And yet, they have conceded 44 goals – far more than pretenders to trophies should be letting in, but around seven fewer than the numbers suggest they should. Much of that is down to De Gea.

In the Premier League alone, De Gea has made 96 saves from 128 shots on target faced, giving him a save percentage of 73.44. No other keeper has made as many stops and only Leeds United's Illan Meslier has faced more attempts, yet Meslier has conceded 50 goals to De Gea's 34. Using that same xGOT model and subtracting goals conceded (excluding own goals), we can work out a value for how many goals a keeper has prevented through saves. For De Gea, that figure is 7.1, the best in the league.

If you include all competitions, De Gea has faced the most shots on target (157) among top-five-league teams apart from Leicester City's Kasper Schmeichel (158), again showing just how fragile United can be without the ball. Looking at that 'goals prevented' metric again, De Gea is at 7.86 – in other words, he's prevented roughly eight goals through the quality of his shot-stopping. Across the continent, only two keepers to play at least 15 times this season can do better.

Preventing goals and high save percentages have traditionally been where Oblak thrives. Since his Atleti debut in September 2014, he has the most clean sheets (167) in Europe's top five leagues and a save percentage of 76.5, the third-highest. According to the data, Oblak has prevented just over 51 goals in that time, at least four more than any other keeper and nearly 20 more than De Gea. It makes his form this season all the more troubling.

Oblak has faced 50 fewer shots on target this season than De Gea – implying Atleti's defence is still stronger than United's, even accounting for their dip in standards – yet he has conceded five goals more than the Spain international. Oblak has saved 61, or 57 per cent, of the shots he has faced this season, which is an alarming drop from his career average of 76.52 per cent in Atleti colours.

Using that same 'goals prevented' calculation, Oblak is at -7.05, meaning he has conceded at least seven goals more than should reasonably be expected. Among Europe's top leagues, only seven keepers come off worse this season, and only four by a significant degree.

There is of course more to a keeper's value than the number of times the ball goes in his net, but these numbers give us a good indication of which ones are performing well when it comes to rudimentary shot-stopping. A 15-goal swing between De Gea and Oblak this season tells you everything you need to know about their recent standards, and why Atleti will have more cause for concern than United in this hugely important knockout tie.

Champions League holders Chelsea get their knockout campaign started on Tuesday as the defence of their crown enters an altogether more challenging stage.

Thomas Tuchel's men may feel they have dodged a bullet or two by getting this draw, with their next opponents Lille struggling to match the highs of their Ligue 1 title victory from last season in 2021-22.

Tuesday's other encounter sees Juventus travel to Villarreal, with Massimiliano Allegri looking to improve on the knockout exploits of Maurizio Sarri and Andrea Pirlo before him.

Here, Stats Perform delves into the Opta data to pick out the key statistical narratives and subplots ahead of Tuesday's games.

Chelsea v Lille

Much of the attention at Stamford Bridge will be on Romelu Lukaku, whether the Belgian plays or not.

The big-money signing's struggles this season have been well-publicised, but he hit a new low on Saturday as he touched the ball just seven times in the win over Crystal Palace – that is the fewest by any player to feature for 90 minutes in a single Premier League game since at least 2003-04.

On the other side of the contest is a striker aiming to emulate Lionel Messi. Jonathan David may not have scored a Ligue 1 goal since December but the talented Canadian impressed in the second half of the group stage.

He scored one goal in each of his last three appearances in the competitions, meaning if he scores on Tuesday he will be the second-youngest (22 years, 39 days) non-European to score in four successive Champions League games after Messi (21y, 155d in November 2008).

That is not to say Lille are a high-scoring side. Many will be wondering who let Les Dogues out of Group G, given their haul of seven makes them the lowest-scoring group winners since Leicester City and Atletico Madrid (seven each) in 2016-17. In fact, no team from that section scored more than eight.

The omens are, perhaps unsurprisingly, overwhelmingly in Chelsea's favour here. Only Manchester City (15) and Bayern Munich (14) have won more Champions League games than the holders since the start of last season, while Lille are appearing at this stage for just the second time ever.

Further to that, Tuchel boasts a fine record in Champions League knockout ties, having progressed from/won (including finals) eight of his previous 11 (73 per cent), a success rate bettered by only three managers (minimum 10 knockout ties): Vicente del Bosque (80 per cent - 8/10), Jupp Heynckes (86 per cent - 12/14) and Zinedine Zidane (88 per cent - 14/16).

Villarreal v Juventus

Sarri and then Pirlo were both tasked with establishing a new era at Juventus, but when Allegri returned after a two-year break in pre-season, he picked up the pieces of a side that had regressed significantly.

There remain plenty who feel Allegri never should have been re-hired, but this tie at least gives him an opportunity to point to a degree of progress – at least in the context of the Champions League.

After all, neither Sarri nor Pirlo got beyond the last 16. Allegri, on the other hand, was only eliminated at this stage once in five seasons, and that was to Pep Guardiola's excellent Bayern side.

His counterpart on Tuesday, Unai Emery, has something of a point to prove as well, but his has more to do with his own personal record.

While something of a specialist at Europa League level, having won the competition four times including last season, he has won only one of six knockout games in the Champions League.

Much of Emery's hope will be pinned on Arnaut Danjuma.

The Dutchman – who recently returned from two months out and scored a hat-trick at the weekend – had a hand in five goals in the group stage, which is already a joint-club record for the club in the competition.

By no means are the Yellow Submarine a one-man team, however. Young winger Yeremi Pino caught the eye in the group and is plotting to become only the fourth Spanish teenager to score in the knockout stages of the Champions League after Bojan, Cesc Fabregas and Raul.

Saturday was quite a day in the Premier League, with shock results impacting both ends of the table, and the middle.

Liverpool appear to live challengers again in the title race after their 3-1 victory against Norwich City was followed by Tottenham's dramatic 3-2 win away to leaders Manchester City.

Mohamed Salah scored his 150th goal for Liverpool and Luis Diaz bagged his first in English football, while former City target Harry Kane insisted on shoving narrative into everyone's faces with a sensational performance for Spurs at the Etihad Stadium.

Elsewhere, a late Hakim Ziyech goal secured Chelsea a win at Crystal Palace, Arsenal's youngsters earned them a 2-1 win against Brentford, while West Ham were held to a 1-1 draw by Newcastle in the early game.

Burnley produced a surprising performance to win 3-0 at Brighton, with Wout Weghorst getting off the mark for his new club, while Watford also threw a spanner in the works of the relegation fight with a 1-0 win at Aston Villa.

The other game of a busy day in England's top flight saw Southampton beat Frank Lampard's Everton 2-0 at St Mary's thanks to goals from Stuart Armstrong and Shane Long.

Manchester City 2-3 Tottenham: City Kane-d by ruthless Spurs

Pep Guardiola's City team had looked imperious since losing at home to Crystal Palace in October, until today.

City were dominant but wasteful against Spurs, finding the target with only four of their 21 shots, while the visitors made Ederson work with five of their six efforts, beating him three times to take the points.

Kane’s winner, timed at 94:25, was the latest winning goal scored against City in the Premier League since Michael Owen for Manchester United in September 2009 (95:27).

Tottenham duo Kane and Son Heung-min have now assisted one another for 36 Premier League goals, the joint-most of any pairing in the competition's history, moving level with Didier Drogba and Frank Lampard.

Son has been directly involved in 10 goals in 15 appearances against City (seven goals, three assists); only against Southampton (15) and West Ham (11) has he had a hand in more goals for Spurs.

Meanwhile, Guardiola has lost twice to Tottenham this season, and has only lost more games to Chelsea (eight) than Spurs (six) in his entire managerial career.

Liverpool 3-1 Norwich: Reds come back thanks to usual suspects, and a new one

Early in the second half at Anfield, it did not look like Liverpool would be cutting Manchester City's lead on Saturday, finding themselves 1-0 down to the Canaries after Milot Rashica's first Premier League goal.

However, a marvellous overhead kick from Sadio Mane was soon followed by a historic moment for Salah, who scored his 150th goal for Liverpool in just his 233rd appearance. Only Roger Hunt (226) has reached that total faster in the club's history.

Luis Díaz became the 16th different Colombian player to score a Premier League goal, producing a nice finish after a Jordan Henderson throughball. He was also Liverpool’s 16th different goalscorer in the competition this season (excluding own goals), the joint-most of any side in 2021-22 (Chelsea and City both also 16).

Henderson was a standout performer on the day as well, drastically improving from his showing at Burnley last weekend.

He completed just 50 per cent of passes (18 out of 36) in the 1-0 win at Turf Moor, but on Saturday produced his second-best pass success rate in the Premier League for Liverpool in a game where he made at least 100 passes, with 97.2 per cent (104 of 107), only bettering that against Hull City in 2016-17 (97.3 per cent, 108 of 111).

Crystal Palace 0-1 Chelsea: Late Ziyech strike saves Blues

Chelsea returned to Premier League action after winning the FIFA Club World Cup last week to eventually secure three points against Palace thanks to an 89th-minute Ziyech strike. The Moroccan has scored in three consecutive league matches for the first time since September 2019 in the Eredivisie with Ajax.

The Blues have now won back-to-back league games for the first time since October, when they won four in a row, and could also be looking up the table after City's wobble.

It was another clean sheet for Chelsea, who have kept 37 in 70 matches in all competitions under Thomas Tuchel, more than any other Premier League side since the German’s first match in charge in January last year.

It was not all good from Tuchel's men though, with struggling striker Romelu Lukaku managing just seven touches, one of which was at the kick-off, the fewest in a single top-flight game for a player to feature for at least 90 minutes since Opta started collecting the data in 2003-04.

Arsenal 2-1 Brentford: Young guns fire Arteta's side to victory

Goals from Emile Smith Rowe and Bukayo Saka earned Arsenal a hard-fought win against Brentford, despite Christian Norgaard's late strike for the Bees.

Smith Rowe bagged his ninth league goal this season; the only player to score more in a single campaign for Arsenal when aged 21 or younger was Nicolas Anelka in 1998-99 (17).

Saka registered his 11th goal involvement in the Premier League this season (seven goals, four assists), the most of any under-21 player and a haul bettered only by Jarrod Bowen (16), Mason Mount (13) and Trent Alexander-Arnold (12) among English players.

The Gunners netted their 600th (and 601st) Premier League goals at the Emirates Stadium, reaching the milestone in their 297th game there, with only United at Old Trafford (283) and City at the Etihad (290) doing so at a single stadium in fewer games in the competition.

Brentford are winless in their last seven league games, last having a longer run between September and October 2018 (eight games). Thomas Frank's side have also lost their last five away league games, their longest such run since February 2011 (also five).

West Ham 1-1 Newcastle: Magpies continue to rise under Howe

Eddie Howe's 500th league game as a manager (410 with Bournemouth, 77 with Burnley and 13 with Newcastle) ended with a well-earned point from the London Stadium in the day's early kick-off.

Craig Dawson gave West Ham the lead before Joe Willock's equaliser came just before half-time.

Newcastle have now taken 12 points from their last six Premier League games, two more than they managed in their previous 18 this season (10 points).

Dawson's goal was the 11th scored from a set-piece by the Hammers in the league this season (not including penalties), a figure only Liverpool (14) and City (12) can better.

Brighton and Hove Albion 0-3 Burnley: Weghorst gets off the mark in big Clarets win

A quite remarkable performance from Sean Dyche's side in his 250th Premier League game in charge of Burnley saw them ease to a 3-0 win at the Amex Stadium, with Weghorst, Josh Brownhill and Aaron Lennon all finding the net.

Brighton suffered the heaviest defeat by a team hosting the English top flight's bottom side since Crystal Palace lost 4-0 at home to Sunderland in February 2017.

This was Burnley's first away win in the league since May 2021 (v Fulham), ending a run of 12 games without a win on the road. They also scored more goals in this game than they had in their previous five Premier League away games combined (two).

Weghorst scored his first goal for Burnley, becoming the first Dutchman to score for the Clarets in the competition. This ended a run of seven league games without scoring for Weghorst, with his previous goal coming in December for previous club Wolfsburg against Cologne.

Aston Villa 0-1 Watford: Dennis a menace to Villa

Another relegation-threatened side stepped up to secure an impressive away win as Roy Hodgson earned his first victory in charge of Watford thanks to a goal from Emmanuel Dennis.

This was the Hornets' first Premier League away win since October (5-2 v Everton), and their first away win in the competition while also keeping a clean sheet since January 2020 (3-0 v Bournemouth).

After winning two of their first three home games under Steven Gerrard (L1), Villa are now winless in their last four games at Villa Park (D2 L2). This was the first Premier League home game they have failed to score in since May 2021 (v Everton), ending a run of 12 in a row in which they had found the net.

Watford have now kept as many clean sheets in four Premier League games under Hodgson (two) as they had in their previous 36 games in the competition.

Southampton 2-0 Everton: Another free-kick continues Toon revival

The revival of Everton under Lampard was nowhere to be seen at St Mary's as Ralph Hasenhuttl's side continued their good run of form.

Southampton have now won four of their last eight Premier League games (D3 L1), as many victories as they managed in their previous 20 games in the competition (D8 L8).

Everton's total of 22 points from their first 23 games in the league this season is their worst at this stage of a top-flight campaign since 1950-51 (three points for a win), when they also had 22 and were relegated at the end of the season.

Long's goal was his first in the league since February 2020 (v Aston Villa), ending a run of 799 minutes without the Irishman scoring in the league.

Ever since Manchester City gave up on signing Harry Kane, it had looked like a decision where only the reigning Premier League champions came out better off.

They have become relatively comfortable at the top of the league, easing through the Champions League with the minimum of fuss and scoring plenty of goals along the way.

Meanwhile, Kane and Tottenham have had an under-par campaign, with the England striker managing just five Premier League goals in 21 games, until Saturday.

City were made to face every single doubt they would have had about missing out on Kane as Spurs put a dent in their title aspirations with a 3-2 win at the Etihad Stadium.

Despite largely dominating the game, City looked like a team without a natural goalscorer, and without a focal point.

For all of their play around the Spurs box, they rarely looked like carving out a clear chance against a resilient backline.

Meanwhile, Kane was biding his time, before making a significant difference on the rare occasions his team had the ball.

His pass for Son Heung-min in the build-up to the fourth-minute opener was sublime. With his weaker foot he hit a first-time pass into the path of his partner in crime, who found Dejan Kulusevski to finish.

Kane was dropping deep and spraying passes, showing the sort of ability that drew Pep Guardiola to him in the first place. The 28-year-old is a world-class striker but has developed his game to be more involved in setting up attacks.

In all honesty, that would not be all that necessary at City such is their array of creative talent. Had Kane done the same in a sky blue shirt on this occasion, he would merely have been doing as others were, playing balls into the box for Spurs to tidy up.

However, in the second half, Kane went back to what he knows and became everything City were missing.

His run and calm first-time finish from Son's ball to restore Tottenham's lead was vintage Kane, and his movement to work an opening to nearly score again minutes later, only to be denied by an excellent Ederson save, was a hint of more to come.

It almost felt like a direct comment from him to put his first shot of the day in the back of the net after seeing City be so wasteful in front of goal.

Another deadly finish appeared to have made it 3-1, only for VAR to rule it out for offside, but Kane would be the man to have the final word after Riyad Mahrez's late penalty seemed to save City. With a deft header, Kane sensationally won the game for the team he seemingly hoped to swap for City last year.

Unusually lacklustre from City

After the departure of Sergio Aguero at the end of last season, the narrative seemed to be that City absolutely needed a top-class striker or else they'd struggle.

That has very much not been the case after missing out on Kane. They have still won 20 of 26 league games this season, and only Liverpool (64) have scored more goals than their 63.

They have also scored 23 goals in seven Champions League games, including five in the week against Sporting from just six shots on target.

Guardiola's men have divided up their scoring among their attackers this season, with Mahrez (18), Raheem Sterling (13), Bernardo Silva (10) and Phil Foden (nine) all contributing.

The kind of ruthlessness they showed in Lisbon was not on show here, though. Despite having the vast majority of possession (71.5 per cent) and 21 shots to Tottenham's six, they had fewer shots on target (four to five).

It is a rare occasion that we see City fall behind, as they did here, three times.

In the 53 games in which they have trailed at any point in the Premier League under Pep, they have been beaten on 30 occasions (W12 D11), and they have now lost 21 of 44 games in which they have conceded first in the league in that time.

It would be silly for City and Guardiola to panic after this game, but they have to be wary of this becoming a template to beat them.

Then again, most opposition teams won't have Kane playing for them.

Conte's new boys come to the fore

While Guardiola will be scratching his head as to how his team lost, Antonio Conte will probably still be running round his living room cheering into the small hours of the morning.

This was a proper Conte performance, staying organised and respecting the threat of the opponent, while showing guts in possession, even late in the game when they looked to be holding on.

The Italian stirred the pot this week with comments about the January transfer window, lamenting that Spurs let go of four players he viewed as "important" while signing only two new ones, who would be perhaps more for the future than the present.

No one told Kulusevski that it seemed as the Swedish winger flourished as part of the visiting attack, grabbing a goal and an assist.

He was also unlucky to be judged offside for Kane's chalked-off goal in the second half.

Rodrigo Bentancur, who, like Kulusevski, joined from Juventus in January, had a quieter game in midfield, but still managed to make three tackles (only Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg made more for Spurs – four) and regained possession five times.

Perhaps the manager's words were meant for both chairman Daniel Levy and for the players, with Kulusevski showing he can be one for now as well as the future.

This game was all about one man though: Kane.

He received deserved words of praise from two other great England strikers, with Gary Lineker tweeting to say: "Superb from Kane. Not just the goal but his overall display. Brilliant."

Alan Shearer was similarly effusive, also saying on Twitter: "A centre forward masterclass from Kane."

If Tottenham are to finish in the top four, they will need more performances like this from their talisman.

Should Kane return to his best on a regular basis, we could come full circle at the end of the campaign with City reigniting their interest in him.

Especially so, if it turns out that the day he came back to haunt them triggered a significant tide turn in the Premier League title race.

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