Speculation over Kylian Mbappe's future is finally over as he will be staying at Paris Saint-Germain.

The 23-year-old had widely been expected to join Real Madrid as a free agent, but it was confirmed on Saturday that the France forward has signed a new three-year contract with PSG.

Mbappe joined the Ligue 1 champions from Monaco, initially on loan, in 2017 and has become the capital club's leading light, despite playing alongside Neymar and, as of the 2021-22 season, Lionel Messi.

PSG were desperate to keep hold of the World Cup winner and have now got their wish.

Here, Stats Perform breaks down the key numbers and records behind Mbappe's PSG career to date.

The headline numbers

217 - As he featured in PSG's starting XI against Metz, he has now made 217 appearances so far, more than any other player in the period since he joined the club. Of those appearances, 190 have been starts.

168 - Before the Metz game, the forward had scored an incredible 168 goals for PSG, 72 more than Neymar, who was second on the list since Mbappe made his PSG bow.

77 - Prior to the Metz game, he was also the leading assister since he joined PSG, creating 77 goals. 

775 - As expected, he also topped the PSG squad for shots, having had 775, with 398 of those hitting the target. Magnifique.

42 - No player had contributed to more goals across Europe's top five leagues this season heading into Saturday's match than Mbappe, who has been involved in 42.

The records

15 - This season, Mbappe became the first player to score at least 15 goals and provide at least 15 assists in a single Ligue 1 campaign since Eden Hazard did so for Lille in the 2011-12 campaign.

100 - When he scored against Lyon in March 2021, Mbappe became the youngest player to rack up 100 goals in Ligue 1, at the age of 22 years and 91 days. He is also the youngest player to net a century of goals in the top five European Leagues in the 21st century.

2 - Mbappe is already the second-highest Ligue 1 scorer since the turn of the century, having scored 132 times in the competition before Saturday's game. Only PSG great Edinson Cavani, with 138, has netted more.

1 - He is hoping to become the first player to finish as the highest goalscorer and the leading assist provider in the same Ligue 1 season since Opta began collecting such data in 2008.

8 - Ever consistent, Mbappe had scored at least one goal and delivered at least one assist in eight different Ligue 1 games this season, the highest tally of his career in the same top-flight campaign, prior to the final match of the 2021-22 campaign.

3 - Mbappe is aiming to be the third player to finish as the highest goalscorer in four consecutive Ligue 1 seasons, after Carlos Bianchi (four in a row with Reims and PSG) and Jean-Pierre Papin (five in a row with Marseille). 

50 - It is not just domestically that Mbappe has thrived. Since Opta collected such data, starting in the 2003-04 season, he is the fastest and youngest player to have reached 50 goal involvements in the Champions League, doing so in 51 matches, by the age of 22 years and 352 days.

32 - As of kick-off against Metz, Mbappe was 32 goals shy of matching Cavani's club record of 200 for PSG.

Miami. That's where this started. Where Carlos Alcaraz and Iga Swiatek were both champions at the same tournament for the first time.

Expect it to become, if not the norm, a regular occurrence over the coming years. Like Serena and Roger, and like Pete and Steffi before them, Carlos and Iga could well become the tennis royalty that reign above all others on the tour.

The 19-year-old Alcaraz heads to Roland Garros with four titles on the ATP tour this season, while 20-year-old Swiatek has five on the WTA circuit. Those are both tour-leading figures, with Alcaraz triumphing in Rio de Janeiro, Miami, Barcelona and Madrid, while Swiatek has won in Doha, Indian Wells, Miami, Stuttgart and Rome.

It is a global game, and these two are world leaders, based on their recent form. The Miami Open was as recently as April, and now the French Open awaits.

Swiatek has shown she can win big in Paris already, storming to the title without dropping a set as the world number 54 in October 2020, against all expectations. Nobody, Swiatek included, saw that coming, but the emergence of Alcaraz has been longer heralded, and now that is happening too.


"Practically unstoppable". "An overwhelming favourite". What the greats say about Swiatek and Alcaraz

Martina Navratilova, who landed the French Open singles at the height of her career in 1982 and 1984, won 74 consecutive tour matches in the latter year. That puts Swiatek's current streak of 28 into some perspective, albeit the young Pole is just seven away from matching the longest run on the WTA circuit since the start of the year 2000.

According to Navratilova, the Roland Garros tournament starts with an obvious prime contender.

"It's Swiatek against the field," she said, describing the Polish player as an "overwhelming favourite".

"Clearly, the pressure is not bothering her," Navratilova added, as quoted by the WTA website. "She’s just embracing that. It's great to see – when you are the favourite, and you keep on winning."

When Novak Djokovic lost to Alcaraz in the Madrid semi-finals, the disappointed Serbian said: "He held his nerves very well. For somebody of his age to play so maturely and courageously is impressive."

This is greatness recognising potential greatness.

Rafael Nadal had been beaten by Alcaraz in the previous round and accepts there is a changing of the guard in motion.

"When adrenaline goes up, he's practically unstoppable," Nadal said of his fellow Spaniard, "but then in some moments he commits errors, but it's logical because he plays with a lot of risk. It's his way of playing, and in that sense I think he has the level to be able to win against anyone in the world."


Handling the pressure, in their own words...

Swiatek, a natural introvert, travels with psychologist Daria Abramowicz, and is learning on the move how to handle the pressures of life at the top. Winning her last five tournaments points to a remarkable mentality, with Swiatek now firmly established as the WTA number one.

"I already know that I did some great stuff this season, so I feel like I can just play freely and not think I have to win some tournaments, or I have to win some matches, or I have to save some points," Swiatek said in Rome.

"This year, the pressure that I always put on myself, it's a little bit lower. For sure the expectations around are higher, but I never had a problem to cut it off and not to think about it. Also I'm gaining experience at that. I think with more and more tournaments, it's going to get better and better for me to cope with all of that."

Alcaraz, who has become physically mightier in the past 12 months, appears to have the mental steel that a champion requires, albeit he has yet to win one of the four majors.

He is embracing the hype around his French Open prospects by encouraging title talk.

In Miami, he said: "This year, I think that people are going to think that I'm going to be one of the favourites to win Roland Garros, but I always said that I have a different view. I don't have it as tension; I have it as a motivation. I really look forward to going to Paris, to fighting for the grand slam, and I am really looking forward to showing my great level in a grand slam too."

After triumphing in Madrid, he went a step further, telling Tennis TV: "Yes, I think I'm ready to win a grand slam."


What can they achieve?

Alcaraz and Swiatek would not be the youngest champion duo in a single edition of the French Open – Michael Chang was 17 years and three months when he triumphed at Roland Garros in 1989, and women's champion Arantxa Sanchez was only three months older.

They would be the youngest champion pairing this century, however. Currently, the youngest winners at the same French Open in the 21st century are Nadal and Henin, who turned 19 and 23 respectively during the 2005 tournament.

World number six Alcaraz is a long way off number one in the ATP rankings, but at the start of the year he sat 32nd, an awful long way from sixth spot. He is skipping steps as he races up the ladder and seems destined for the top.

He sits third in the Race to Turin, which ranks performances in the calendar year rather than on a rolling basis and decides the line-up for the end-of-season ATP Finals. There, Alcaraz is closing on leader Nadal and just a sliver (3,490 to 3,460 points is the margin) behind second-placed Tsitsipas, who has played 11 tournaments to Alcaraz's seven.

For Swiatek to be champion, she must break the run that has seen eight different women crowned in the last eight years: Maria Sharapova, Serena Williams, Garbine Muguruza, Jelena Ostapenko, Simona Halep, Ash Barty, Swiatek and Barbora Krejcikova.

The men's singles has been rather more predictable over the same period, with Nadal winning five times, Djokovic twice and Stan Wawrinka once. Nadal in 2005 was the last teenager to scoop the men's title.

The last woman to truly dominate at Roland Garros was Justine Henin, who won four years out of five from 2003 to 2007.

Swiatek can make it two from three, and if she reaches the title match, it would be a brave person to back against her given she has won 16 consecutive sets in finals.

With her five titles already this year, Swiatek is one away from becoming the first woman to beat that total in a season since Serena Williams won seven in 2014.

She is a red-hot favourite, while Alcaraz is a serious contender. A repeat of Miami would shock nobody who has been paying attention.

As the Big Three of the men's game begins to break up, and the Williams sisters dot the i's and cross the t's of their careers, the future of tennis looks to be in secure hands.

Look away Liverpool, this may make for painful reading. Manchester City are not quite home and hosed in the Premier League title race, but all signs point to them brushing off Aston Villa on Sunday to clinch the trophy.

Another gripping race for domestic dominance culminates in City hosting Villa, while rivals Liverpool face Wolves at Anfield.

If City drop points, a Liverpool win would make Jurgen Klopp's team the champions. Yet recent history shows us that City rarely stumble against Villa, so a slip-up in the clash with Steven Gerrard's side would be a monumental shock.

A sixth title in the Premier League era beckons, which would rank City outright second behind Manchester United's haul of 13 championships.

Stats Perform takes a look here at key Opta numbers ahead of the final-day showdown

Saving the best for last

Pep Guardiola has repeatedly denied City lost their nerve against Real Madrid, when they remarkably surrendered what should have been a match-winning lead in the Champions League semi-finals.

Such wild things happen in football, Guardiola has reasoned, which is why he will take a meticulous approach to preparation for the Etihad Stadium clash with Villa. There could yet be an extraordinary finish to the season, but not if Guardiola can help it.

City have kept running through the tape in each of Guardiola's seasons in England, winning all five of their final league games under the former Barcelona and Bayern Munich boss. That ranks as the best such 100 per cent record for a manager in the competition's history.

Going back even further, to the start of the Abu Dhabi ownership era, City have lost just one of their final league games in the last 13 campaigns (W10 D2). That loss came when they went down 3-2 at home to Norwich City in 2012-13 when Brian Kidd was in caretaker charge for the last game. A year previously, they famously beat QPR by that same scoreline to clinch a first Premier League title.

This season, City have lost just one of their last 27 Premier League games (W22 D4), and are unbeaten in 11 since losing 3-2 at home to Spurs in February.

 

What it would mean for Guardiola

The City manager, who reports have claimed is ready to extend his contract until 2025, stands on the brink of Premier League history.

Should his side keep Liverpool at arm's length, Guardiola will become the outright leader for English top-flight titles among non-British managers, going one clear of both Arsene Wenger and Jose Mourinho.

This would be his fourth such Premier League title success in England, with only Manchester United's Alex Ferguson winning more. Guardiola has no intention of staying long enough to match Ferguson's staggering stack of 13 titles.

City have won 168 of the 227 Premier League games they have contested in the Guardiola era, scoring 562 goals in that time. Those are inevitably league-best figures, and it would be hideously out of character for them to crack against Villa.

A one-sided rivalry

It was not always this way, of course. Villa finished ahead of City as recently as the 2008-09 season (finishing sixth to City's 10th), but the tables turned in the dynamic between the teams when the Abu Dhabi investment began at the Etihad Stadium.

In recent years, this has been almost a formality victory for City, who have won nine of their last 10 Premier League games against Villa (D1), including the last six in a row.

City's last defeat to Sunday's opponents was a 3-2 loss at Villa Park in September 2013.

It is even more of a grim story when the focus falls solely on the games in Manchester. Villa have lost 15 of their last 16 away league games against City, losing each of the last 11 in a row since a 2-0 win in April 2007. This run of 11 is Villa's longest away losing streak against an opponent in their league history.

What's more, Villa's record when facing any league-leading team is unimpressive. They have won just one of their 21 Premier League away games against league leaders (D3 L17), beating Leeds United 2-1 in January 2000, and have lost the last seven by an aggregate score of 21-1.

Villa pulled off a shock of sorts when beating fourth-placed finishers Chelsea on the final day of last season, but they have not won their last game of a league campaign in consecutive seasons since the 1996-97 and 1997-98 seasons. The second of those wins came against champions Arsenal, but that is almost a quarter of a century ago.

 

Doubling up on the last day?

City will have Erling Haaland on board next season, so a flip of tactics seems inevitable to accommodate the prolific striker. This term, City have tended to rely on their midfield and attacking wide players to deliver in front of goal, and three players have reached double figures: Kevin De Bruyne (15 goals), Raheem Sterling (13) and Riyad Mahrez (11).

Now it could be Phil Foden's turn.

Foden has scored nine Premier League goals this season, and if he scores against Villa it would make this season the first for City with two English players (Foden and Sterling) scoring at least 10 goals in a league campaign since 2004-05, when Robbie Fowler and Shaun Wright-Phillips were the pair.

We are at the final gameweek of the Premier League fantasy football season, and the moment of truth has arrived – not for Manchester City and Liverpool, but for the fantasy players out there.

Balancing between premium players and those who can provide particular value could be the difference at this time of the season, whether you need to consolidate or make up ground.

Stats Perform has you covered with some Opta-powered recommendations below, so here are our suggestions for this week's picks.

HUGO LLORIS (Norwich City v Tottenham)

A good start at this point of the season is determining which teams have something to play for, and with Champions League qualification on the line, Tottenham are one of the more relevant examples this weekend.

Sitting on 15 for the season so far, Hugo Lloris is one clean sheet away from recording his most in a single Premier League campaign, with only Alisson and Ederson ahead of him on 20.

The 35-year-old has made a solid 2.65 saves per 90 on the way to his 15 clean sheets, holding that bit of extra motivation coming into the final round.

ANDREW ROBERTSON (Liverpool v Wolves)

Liverpool need to win to keep their Premier League hopes alive, and they will likely have the majority of the ball against Wolves on Sunday. Expect crosses and dead balls.

As a result, expect as ever for Liverpool's full-backs to be prominent, and Andrew Robinson is just one shy of recording 50 assists in the Premier League. He would become only the second defender to do so, after Leighton Baines.

He is averaging more assists per 90 (0.37) and chances created per 90 (2.02) for Liverpool this season than in any of his previous campaigns.

CHRISTIAN ERIKSEN (Brentford v Leeds United)

Granted, Brentford have little to play for aside from professional pride, but Christian Eriksen's return to the Premier League has reinforced his transformative quality as a footballer. They're also playing Leeds.

The 30-year-old has either scored or assisted in five of his nine Premier League starts this season, while only Kevin de Bruyne has created more chances than him per 90 this term. 

While Eriksen also trails De Bruyne for assists since the 2013-14 season on 66, this season has seen him create a chance every 32 minutes on average.

MICHAIL ANTONIO (Brighton and Hove Albion v West Ham)

Despite West Ham's elimination in the Europa League at the hands of eventual winners Eintracht Frankfurt, the season is not over. The Hammers still need a win to stand a chance of taking that last Europa League spot from Manchester United.

Another goal for Michail Antonio would see him score at least 10 goals in three consecutive seasons, which would also make him the first West Ham player to do so in the Premier League. 

He also has 17 goal involvements for the season, his most in the competition.

Three of Manchester City's five previous Premier League triumphs have gone right to the wire, where margins are so fine the title battle can be settled by a single man in a single moment.

Sergio Aguero of course set the standard in 2011-12 with surely the most iconic goal of the Premier League era, defeating QPR at the death and clinching a first City championship in 44 years.

Then, in 2018-19, it was Vincent Kompany's turn. Although the departing City captain made only 17 league appearances that year, he will forever be associated with the title win after his thunderous strike secured a vital late-season victory over Leicester City.

"Where do you want your statue, Vincent Kompany?" asked Sky Sports' Gary Neville. Both Aguero and Kompany – and those celebrations – have since been committed to steel structures outside the Etihad Stadium.

The City hero was perhaps not quite so clear-cut in 2013-14, when Liverpool's collapse took centre stage, but Yaya Toure's 20 goals from midfield kept his side in touch. While City spent only 15 days of the season at the summit, the win that put them there in the final week perhaps provided the defining image of the champions' campaign, as Toure charged through the Aston Villa defence to score a goal that BBC Sport's Alan Shearer considered "like watching a 15-year-old against under-12s".

Three City legends have had seasons to call their own. Kevin De Bruyne, until now, had not.

De Bruyne was the PFA Players' Player of the Year in consecutive years, but the 2019-20 campaign in which he equalled Thierry Henry's 20-assist, single-season record ended with Liverpool on top. The 2020-21 season played out largely without fans and ultimately without a serious challenge to City, robbing their leading man of his platform.

Consistent excellence had for so long characterised the midfielder's career rather than any particular peak.

Now, however, 2021-22 might be remembered as the De Bruyne season – a most unexpected conclusion given how the campaign started, as perhaps his worst in a City shirt.

'Difficult physically and mentally'

The player of the year he may have been, but De Bruyne's 2020-21 season did not finish in the manner he would have wished.

The former Chelsea man lasted only an hour of City's Champions League final defeat to the Blues last May, suffering facial fractures that impacted his preparation for Euro 2020. De Bruyne found form again at the finals, only to hobble out of Belgium's last-16 win over Portugal with an ankle issue.

Although De Bruyne played in the next round, as Belgium lost to Italy, he continued to be hampered by the injury at the start of this season, appearing in City's Premier League opener but then not again for almost four weeks.

"It's been a bit difficult physically and mentally," the 30-year-old told the MIDMID podcast in November, revealing he had played through "some serious pain".

"It's going to be a little more difficult this year than usual," De Bruyne suggested, and that seemed a fair prediction.

The City superstar, who also missed time with COVID-19, made his 10th league appearance of the season in a 1-0 home win over Wolves on December 11. At that stage, he had scored only twice in the competition and failed to provide a single assist – averaging a goal involvement every 246 minutes.

The only comparable De Bruyne season in a City shirt was in 2018-19, when two knee ligament injuries meant his 10th league appearance did not come until early February. Over 465 minutes up to that point, he scored once.

That is the sole other example of De Bruyne not contributing an assist through his first 10 league outings in a season for City; in fact, he had tallied at least four assists and six goal involvements by that point in each of his other five campaigns prior to 2021-22.

A week before De Bruyne's podcast appearance last year, Belgium coach Roberto Martinez was also asked to address his star man's form, acknowledging the "scrutiny" he faced while underperforming in a team as talented as City's.

"I'm not worried at all," Martinez said. "We feel that his best football is coming back."

De Bruyne added: "I just needed more time than expected."

'Now he scores a lot'

De Bruyne's 11th game of this campaign was very different. In a 7-0 City win over Leeds United, the team's talisman doubled his seasonal tally by scoring twice, including a thunderous 25-yard drive for his second.

"For the whole team, it's a booster," De Bruyne told NBC Sports – although that surely applied more to the two-goal star than his team-mates, with City moving four points clear at the top of the table with the victory.

"There's been a lot happening this year, a little bit out of my control, so the only thing I can do is try to work hard and come back as quick as possible," he said.

It was clearly a turning point for De Bruyne, who has scored 13 goals and provided seven assists in 19 matches from the Leeds game onwards. A goal involvement every 81 minutes over this period just beats his single-season best from 2019-20 (85 minutes per goal involvement).

Yet De Bruyne's role has altered in the past two years. He will not match his outstanding 33 goal involvements from the year Liverpool won the title, but 15 goals already represent a career high with one game still to play on Sunday.

The reason for that change perhaps has more to do with De Bruyne's City team-mates than the player himself.

In 2019-20, six of De Bruyne's 20 assists were for record goalscorer Aguero – more than for any other player. Of course, Aguero has since departed.

The retired striker was City's leading marksman in six of his 10 league campaigns in Manchester, including each of his first four playing alongside De Bruyne.

With Aguero gone and Erling Haaland not arriving until next term, City needed someone to fill the void in front of goal. De Bruyne, whether used in midfield or attack, has done that in the second half of the season.

Despite the slow start, City's top scorer has scored with 20.3 per cent of his shots in 2021-22; his previous high, in his debut 2015-16 season, saw a shot conversion rate of 14.3 per cent.

"I like it a lot," Pep Guardiola said in April after De Bruyne had netted four in four games – including two against Manchester United and one against Liverpool.

"He is not just a player to make assists – now he scores a lot of goals. I've said to him many times, 'I know you enjoy making a lot of assists, for you and your team-mates, but you have to score goals to reach another stage'. Now he is doing that, a lot of goals and chances."

'We have to move on'

De Bruyne has either scored or assisted in 13 of his past 19 games, but he saved his best performances for when it mattered most – at least in the league.

There were suspicions City's season might fall apart when Real Madrid's remarkable semi-final recovery eliminated Guardiola's side from the Champions League at the start of May. With Liverpool in hot pursuit in the Premier League, the leaders were afforded little time to regroup as they headed straight into matches against Newcastle United at home and Wolves away.

"We are going to play against Newcastle thinking about [the Madrid defeat], for sure," said Guardiola in an enthralling news conference, revealing two days before the Newcastle match: "We didn't speak. No words can help what all of us feel. It's just a question of time."

Time, and Tottenham drawing at Liverpool, as it turned out.

A rare slip-up at Anfield on the eve of City's game against Newcastle eased the pressure on the champions. Then De Bruyne got to work.

Briefly restored to his 2019-20 vintage, De Bruyne attempted only a single shot at the Etihad but created six chances in a 5-0 win – his most in a single game this season – including an assist for Rodri's goal.

That performance prompted Jamie Carragher in the Sky Sports studio to declare De Bruyne "the greatest player to ever play for Manchester City", "the best midfield player in the world right now" and "the best player in the Premier League for the past three or four years".

Yet better was still to come at Wolves, where City became the first team in English top-flight history to win five consecutive league games by a margin of at least three goals. De Bruyne alone outscored Wolves by three, netting four in a 5-1 victory.

The first hat-trick of his City career was completed inside 24 minutes – the third-fastest in Premier League history – to blow away a Wolves team who had briefly threatened to cause their visitors some problems.

"It should have been five, to be honest," De Bruyne told Sky Sports, before conversation turned back to the Madrid match.

"It's very difficult to explain because it was just a mad five minutes," he said. "It's not that we played bad or something, it was just five minutes that you can't explain as a player. I don't know what happened. I was out of control on the bench anyway, so you feel a little bit in shock. It's not nice and the feeling is still not nice.

"But you need to move on. We're trying now to win the title and whatever happened unfortunately happened. We have to move on."

The Wolves display would have been fresh in Carragher's mind on Monday when he named De Bruyne his personal player of the season. Whether established individual end-of-season honours beckon for De Bruyne is another matter, though. He was nominated for the official Premier League prize, but many such awards are voted on well in advance of the final weeks of the campaign – before De Bruyne had done his best work.

Mohamed Salah is the FWA Footballer of the Year; he has scored three goals in his past 10 games – fewer than De Bruyne managed on one night in Wolverhampton.

A Premier League title, defined by his clutch performances, would not be a bad consolation.

It may not have been the electrifying classic some might have anticipated given the pre-match hysteria, but Eintracht Frankfurt won't care even a little.

Forty-two years after their last success on the European stage, Die Adler are Europa League champions; defeating Rangers on penalties in Seville after a 1-1 draw that saw both teams show a degree of desperation not to lose, rather than to win.

It's easy to understand that mentality as well. Eintracht's decades of underachievement may not have crippled them, but there was a sense it was playing on their minds.

Yet, ultimately it was they who held their nerve in the crucial penalty shootout – Aaron Ramsey's missed spot-kick prolonging Rangers' own European trophy dry spell.

In that regard, it didn't really matter which way the contest went – either way, one club was going to enjoy one of the all-time great nights in their history.

Neither had won a European trophy since Eintracht were victorious in the old UEFA Cup in 1980. Eight years before that, Rangers won the Cup Winners' Cup.

The Europa League may be looked down upon by some, but such barren runs and the generally surprising fact either team made it so far was what helped this contest resonate with so many.

And the Europa League's ability to inspire dreams of European success in fans who without it would likely never enjoy such a continental triumph is the true ethos of the competition.

Local police estimated 150,000 supporters were in Seville for the game, which was seemingly dubbed the 'fans' final'.

It was undoubtedly an apt moniker given the unequivocal impact the two sets of supporters have had on the teams' respective routes to Seville. Rangers had the 'Ibrox factor'; Eintracht turned the Camp Nou into a sea of white.

At times during the early stages on Wednesday, it felt as if Rangers were trying to stay afloat in a similar expanse of whiteness, such was the greater composure of Eintracht almost all over the pitch.

Eintracht were more effective with clever steals of possession and appeared to have considerably greater confidence receiving the ball under pressure, allowing quick transitions through the lines.

Chances flowed at first. Daichi Kamada danced through the Rangers defence and forced a point-blank save from Allan McGregor; Djibril Sow brought a stop from 20 yards on the rebound; and Ansgar Knauff looked destined to score after driving into the box.

But as Rafael Borre struggled to impose himself physically up top against what coach Oliver Glasner on Tuesday described as a "robust" Rangers, Eintracht's bizarre persistence to smash the ball long to him started to work against them.

This perhaps went some way to explaining how Frankfurt completed just seven passes to their opponents' 54 in the attacking half between the 22nd and 43rd minutes.

The Scots' confidence visibly grew as their grip on the contest improved.

Joe Aribo curled just wide. Ryan Jack drilled just over. Clear-cut chances they may not have been, but they were notable evidence of having settled after a shaky start.

An Eintracht flurry just after the interval promised greater entertainment, but the Bundesliga side showed no desire to heed the warnings of their only major area of concern, and it proved their undoing.

Borre was once again comfortably beaten in the air as Kevin Trapp hoofed the ball aimlessly up the pitch. Calvin Bassey's header was flicked on by Sow and Aribo took full advantage of Tuta pulling up injured to slide beyond the goalkeeper.

It's unclear if Eintracht reverted to type – by focusing on wing play – as a result of the shock of conceding, but it worked, with Borre finally allowed to showcase his best attribute: movement.

Filip Kostic played 140 more corners/crosses (519) than any other player from the top five European leagues this season before Wednesday, but this was arguably the sweetest.

Played low into the 'corridor of uncertainty', the Rangers defence didn't know what to do and Borre nipped in front of his marker to prod home.

As early as that point in the 69th minute, penalties appeared the most-likely outcome in the sweltering – even at 23:00 local time – conditions, though Rangers certainly did their best to ensure that wasn't the case, with Ryan Kent and James Tavernier almost nicking the win right near the end of extra-time.

From there, it came down to composure. Perhaps, given the way they eased into the game itself a little better, we shouldn't be surprised Eintracht prevailed even in the face of thousands of Rangers fans, with each one of their five penalties brilliantly precise.

Ramsey looked to the floor as Eintracht players, staff and officials swarmed onto the pitch in the wake of Borre's decisive kick.

Rangers' tale of rebirth has already been an extraordinary one. Ten years after finding themselves back at the bottom of the pile in Scottish football, they were in a second European final of the century.

But for a club deemed the third-biggest in Germany by virtue of support, it was high time a European trophy made its way back to Frankfurt.

In a pre-match news conference lacking much talk of the opposition, there was one question that stood out in that regard ahead of Rangers' Europa League final clash with Eintracht Frankfurt.

Gers captain James Tavernier was pointedly asked for his opinion on Eintracht wing-back Filip Kostic, given the pair are likely to see a lot of each other on the flank they'll share.

"Obviously I respect how he's been playing, he's a top player," Tavernier said. "But, I've just got to bring the best version of myself when the game starts and try to cause him all the problems, try to make him deal with me for the majority of the game. That's all I can really do."

Tavernier's response didn't offer any particularly great insight, but his mentality of wanting to cause Kostic as many problems was at least another identifier of how their duel could be such a key battle.

Of course, it's worth pointing out that Tavernier, a right-back, remarkably heads into Wednesday's game as the Europa League's top scorer on seven goals, and realistically – or, unrealistically – only a hat-trick from Eintracht's Daichi Kamada can prevent the Englishman from at least ending the season with a share of the competition's golden boot.

Further to that, he netted 19 times over the course of the 2020-21 season and could yet match that figure this term – he also has an impressive assists haul of 17.

If it needs reiterating, he's a huge contributor for Rangers in the final third.

So, given he's technically a right-back, there's obviously an element of Tavernier needing to be solid defensively on Wednesday, but some might suggest it's even more essential he's as sharp as ever going forward as that would not only give Rangers a credible threat on the right, but it would potentially keep Kostic occupied in a deeper position.

Granted, Eintracht's set-up with a back three should always ensure they have an extra man to cover for Kostic's runs forward, while the two attacking midfielders supporting Rafael Borre up top often occupy narrow, deeper berths in order to maximise the space out wide for their biggest threat.

Yet there's always the possibility of an overload in behind Kostic if the conditions are right, such is his attacking influence.

 

After all, the frequency at which Kostic delivers into the box is frankly astonishing. This season, he has been the executor of 519 crosses and corners, 140 more than any other player in the top five leagues – Trent Alexander-Arnold is second with 379.

Kostic's 78 successful crosses from open play is also a season-high. Of course, you would expect him to lead the way given he's attempted so many more than anyone else, but his 26.8 per cent accuracy (crosses/corners) is right in line with the average (among players with at least 100 attempted). That in itself is impressive given his greater frequency.

Another way of looking at it is, he is producing one accurate open-play cross every 45.4 minutes. While that may not sound incredible on the face of it, his 12.4 expected assists (xA) is the 10th highest among players in the top five leagues, highlighting just how much of a weapon he is in terms of his creative quality.

So, while he may be classed as a wing-back in terms of his position on a team line-up graphic, the Serbian is there for his attacking tendencies.

A cursory glance at his map of open-play chances created proves that point.

 

But Rangers must also be aware of the danger posed on the opposite flank.

Ansgar Knauff has been one of the stars of Eintracht's journey to the final, with the 20-year-old becoming something of a revelation in the past few months.

As recently as mid-January he was turning out for Borussia Dortmund's second team in the third tier. Then he joined Eintracht on loan and has since scored important Europa League goals against Barcelona and West Ham.

His impact on the road to Seville has been significant, with his brilliant athleticism, bravery and confidence on the ball making him a real asset on the right-hand side.

Before Knauff's arrival, Eintracht were rather lopsided, with their other options on the right far from convincing. Sure, Kostic remains their main outlet, but Knauff's emergence has provided them with another – albeit stylistically different – threat on the other side, giving them greater balance.

 

Across all competitions since his Eintracht debut in early February, only Kostic (5.6) and Jesper Lindstrom (2.6) have amassed better xA records than Knauff, who is also fifth to those two, Borre and Kamada in terms of xA and xG (expected goals) combined.

He may not be their deadliest weapon, but he's proven he can offer them a lot, and his team-high 61 dribble attempts in that period proves he's happy to make his markers work for their money.

Oliver Glasner's team is full of neat, technical players and is also blessed with fine work ethic, as it would need to be to play their high-pressing football.

But their width and desire to attack from the flanks is fundamental to how they play – while it may be easier said than done, limiting their effectiveness out wide would go a long way to ending Rangers' 50-year European trophy drought.

While quarterback-needy teams grappled with the decision over whether to bet on a member of an underwhelming 2022 draft class at the position, those teams who were astute enough to select a signal-caller from the loaded 2021 class spent their offseasons attempting to stack the deck around the player they handpicked as the future of the franchise.

The 2022 season will be a significant one for Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson, Trey Lance, Justin Fields and Mac Jones, with questions sure to be asked of the five first-round picks if they do not show signs of vindicating their respective franchises for selecting them last year.

Jones arguably already proved himself as the most pro-ready QB of the quintet in an impressive rookie campaign, but 2022 may well reveal how high the ceiling is for the least physically gifted of the bunch. The rest are all aiming to prove they have the skill sets to join the league's expanding and increasingly youthful elite at the NFL's most important position. 

Indeed, the first four quarterbacks off the board in 2021 were all regarded as players with the potential to elevate those around them and take their offenses to new heights. But a quarterback, regardless of his athletic and mental gifts, cannot do it all himself. So who among the 2021 first-rounders has the best supporting cast to help them excel?

To help us answer that question, we at Stats Perform have gone back to look at our post-free agency positional unit baselines that inform our team rankings.

The baselines were produced for seven different units: quarterback, pass blocking, run blocking, route runners/pass catchers, pass rush, run defense and pass defense. The units are comprised of projected playing time for players on the roster combined with the player baselines linked to each of those units.

An individual player has a year-over-year baseline for a unit input (i.e. pass blocking for a team's projected left tackle). His baseline is combined with those of his team-mates and then adjusted for the importance of the position to that unit to produce an overall unit baseline.

The six non-quarterback baselines, plus a look at some of the moves made in the draft by each quarterback's respective team, provide a picture that reveals which of the second-year signal-callers have the talent around them to thrive.

5. Justin Fields, Chicago Bears

Even though the numbers are not impressive, there were clear flashes of promise in Fields' rookie season with the Bears.

While he only finished with a 70.9 well-thrown percentage – seven percentage points below the average for quarterbacks with at least 50 throws – and had a pickable pass rate of 5.36 per cent that was the eighth-worst among that group, Fields did display the upside that led the Bears to trade up for him.

Only two quarterbacks averaged more air yards per attempt than Fields' 10.02 and his three passing plays of 50 yards or more were the most of all rookie quarterbacks and as many as Josh Allen and Justin Herbert managed all season.

You would think, therefore, that the Bears' focus this offseason would be on giving Fields the weapons to produce further explosive plays in 2022. Not so, the Bears waited until the third round to add a wide receiver in the draft – 25-year-old return specialist Velus Jones Jr.

The Bears' reluctance to add to a group of pass-catchers that prior to the draft had the sixth-lowest unit baseline in the NFL hardly suggests at a sophomore surge for Fields in 2022.

And with Chicago's offensive line among the worst in the league for pass protection and run-blocking baseline and its defense in the bottom six for pass defense and bottom three for pass rush, it appears likely to be another year when Fields is swimming against a tide engineered by his own franchise.

4. Trevor Lawrence, Jacksonville Jaguars

Simply having an adult in the room with experience of winning at the NFL level should help Lawrence's cause, with Doug Pederson a substantial improvement on Urban Meyer as head coach.

As is the case with Fields in Chicago, Pederson will hope Lwrence can build on last season's flashes of the talent that led some to label him as the best quarterback prospect since Andrew Luck in 2012. Lawrence's well-thrown percentage of 76.3 was significantly better than that of Fields, but his 26 pickable passes were the fourth-most in the league.

Unlike the Bears, the Jags invested heavily in getting Lawrence receiving help, doing so in a bemusing manner as they threw eye-watering amounts of money at players who fit best as secondary targets rather than as the leading receiver for a player dubbed a 'generational' quarterback prospect.

Indeed, the lucrative deals handed out to the likes of Christian Kirk and Zay Jones only put them 20th in pass-catching unit baseline prior to the draft. The hope will be that Kirk, who was seventh among receivers with at least 100 targets with a big-play rate of 35.6 per cent last year, can help Lawrence generate more explosives in year two.

And while much of the Jags' roster still reeks of mediocrity, an offensive line that ranked fourth in pass-block win rate in 2021 may give him the time to help justify the Jags' belief in Kirk and Lawrence's other new weapons.

3. Zach Wilson, New York Jets

The Jets received almost universal praise for their draft, acquiring cornerback Sauce Gardner, wide receiver Garrett Wilson and edge rusher Jermaine Johnson II in the first round before then adding the consensus top running back in the class – Iowa State's Breece Hall – in the second.

Their roster looks in significantly better shape than it did at the end of the 2021 campaign, but the Jets were working from a pretty low starting point.

Coming out of free agency, only six teams had a lower unit baseline among their pass-catchers than the Jets, whose offensive line was in the bottom half of the league in pass protection baseline and in the run-blocking baseline.

Johnson's arrival and the return of fellow edge rusher Carl Lawson from injury should provide a clear boost to a pass rush that was fourth in unit baseline last year while a secondary that exited free agency just outside the top 10 in pass defense baseline appears much better equipped to provide support to Wilson and the offense.

However, Wilson had the worst well-thrown percentage (66.6) of any rookie quarterback last season, with Fields (5.36) and fellow rookie Davis Mills (5.56) the only two quarterbacks with at least 200 attempts to have a higher pickable pass rate than Wilson's 5.21 per cent.

The Jets are relying on Mekhi Becton to get healthy and play a full season at left tackle and, though they have some more established options at tight end and receiver, are also putting a lot on a rookie receiver in likely leaning heavily on Garrett Wilson to elevate his second-year quarterback.

It has been a successful offseason for the Jets, but a lot needs to happen for their hopes of a second-year leap for team and quarterback to come to fruition.

2. Mac Jones, New England Patriots

Were it not for the outstanding season enjoyed by Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase, Jones may well have won NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year.

The outstanding accuracy Jones demonstrated at Alabama translated to the pros, Jones producing a well-thrown ball on 80.1 per cent of attempts. He achieved that feat while averaging more air yards per attempt (8.11) than both Lawrence and Wilson, yet there is reason for trepidation around thoughts of him progressing significantly in his second year.

Jones' passer rating on throws of 21 or more air yards was 65.4 – 31st among the 41 quarterbacks to attempt at least 10, illustrating the limited ceiling of a quarterback whose arm is not on the level of his fellow 2021 first-rounders.

Yet Jones does have the benefit of one of the best offensive lines in the NFL. After free agency, the Patriots' O-Line was tied for sixth in pass protection unit baseline and fifth in run blocking baseline.

They replaced guard Shaq Mason, who was surprisingly traded to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, by making the similarly eyebrow-raising move of selecting Chattanooga guard Cole Strange in the first round of the draft. Strange's arrival should solidify the interior of the line and allow the Patriots to stick to a formula of leaning on the run game to take the pressure off Jones.

New England's receiving corps is at best uninspiring and the Patriots' failure to address a depleted secondary may prohibit playoff aspirations, but the strength in the trenches means Jones is in a better position to achieve short-term success than most of his second-year contemporaries.

1. Trey Lance, San Francisco 49ers

The 49ers are set to step into the unknown in 2021, with all signs pointing to Lance playing his first full season since his lone campaign as the starting quarterback at North Dakota State in 2019 despite Jimmy Garoppolo's continued presence on the roster.

Handing the keys to an offense that was in the NFC championship Game over to a quarterback with only two career starts to his name represents a substantial risk, but it is a risk the Niners are in an excellent position to take.

While there remains no sign of the impasse between San Francisco and All-Pro wide receiver Deebo Samuel coming to an end, the Niners left free agency with a group of pass-catchers ranked sixth in the league in unit baseline. They added to that group in the draft by selecting SMU speedster Danny Gray in the third round.

San Francisco's pass defense was also in the top half of the league in that regard going into the draft, while its pass rush was third in unit baseline and could have an even higher ceiling in 2022 if Drake Jackson adapts quickly to the pros. The Niners' second-round pick registered a pressure rate of 24.2 that was the fifth-best among edge rushers in this draft class in 2021.

The Niners ranked in the top 10 in pass block win rate and seventh in run block win rate last season, yet their biggest issue may be maintaining that standard after losing left guard Laken Tomlinson to the Jets amid doubts over whether center Alex Mack would retire.

Lance could, therefore, be playing behind a largely inexperienced O-Line this coming season. However, the data from his small sample size last year hinted at him having what it takes to elevate those around him. He averaged 10.10 air yards per attempt – the second-most in the NFL – and no player to average at least 9.0 air yards had a better well-thrown percentage than Lance's 77.1.

His challenge will be to maintain that combination of aggression and accuracy over the course of a full season.

If the Niners can come to an understanding with Samuel, Lance will have one of the most versatile weapons in the NFL to help him build on those encouraging flashes. He'll also benefit from the support of a stout defense built on the strength of its front and a diverse running game that will likely grow even more varied with him under center.

The trump card for Lance is head coach Kyle Shanahan, who is arguably the pre-eminent offensive mind of the modern NFL. Between the talent on both sides of the ball and Shanahan's ability to draw up a running game and put receivers in space, the Niners are a high-floor, high ceiling team.

There may be doubts about Lance, but there should be no doubt he is the quarterback in the best situation to silence those concerns.

Wednesday's Europa League final is set to attract over 150,000 Eintracht Frankfurt and Rangers fans to Seville, despite well under a third of that total having tickets.

With neither club having won a continental trophy since Eintracht lifted the UEFA Cup in 1980, this final has truly captured the imagination of supporters who certainly wouldn't have had grand expectations of getting this far.

But for Rangers especially, there's an air of destiny about their journey to the final – or, more specifically, host city Seville.

While perhaps not obvious, Scottish football can claim several football links to Andalusia's capital.

Perhaps Rangers' passage – and potential victory – were meant to be…

Sevilla's Scottish roots

These links go back as far as 1890, when a group of British men in Seville celebrated Burns Night by founding Club de Football de Sevilla.

Edward Farguharson Johnston of Elgin and Hugh MacColl, from Glasgow, were among the club's founders, with the latter appointed as Sevilla's first ever captain.

Sevilla's founding and debut match were first described in The Dundee Courier six weeks after that fateful Burns Night, with Recreativo Huelva their opponents in the first official match ever played in Spain on March 8, 1890. Sevilla won 2-0.

While Recreativo were Spain's first sports club, the match against Sevilla makes Los Nervionenses – whose Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan stadium provides the setting for Wednesday's final – the oldest club dedicated solely to football in the country.

And it's partly thanks to a Glaswegian.

Betis' homage to Celtic

A Spanish man named Manuel Asensio Ramos studied in Scotland as a young adult, taking on Celtic as his adopted club while he was there.

He later returned home to Spain and became one of the founding members of Real Betis, who subsequently donned green and white stripes as a tribute to Celtic from 1911.

Celtic had changed to their famous hoops eight years earlier, but the link was set in history.

Five years ago, Betis briefly switched to hoops for a match against Malaga to celebrate Andalusia Day, with Celtic communicating their delight at the club choosing "to wear the hoops for their special day".

The Bhoys from Seville

Of course, 2022 isn't the first time one of the Glasgow giants has been in Seville for a European final.

Nineteen years ago, Celtic reached the UEFA Cup final, facing Jose Mourinho's Porto at the Estadio La Cartuja on the outskirts of the city – that is also the location of Rangers' 'fan zone' this week.

'The Bhoys from Seville' was the nickname bestowed upon Celtic for the trip, with the tag a pun on their 'the Boys from Brazil' moniker.

Celtic ultimately lost 3-2 via the silver goal rule in extra time, but the occasion is still widely remembered fondly by the club and supporters, 80,000 of whom were said to be in Seville for the festivities.

Fans of the club were widely commended for their behaviour in the city, with UEFA and FIFA later awarding them Fair Play Awards.

Glasgow returns the favour

Four years after Seville played host to Celtic, Glasgow welcome Sevilla and Espanyol for the 2007 UEFA Cup final.

Hampden Park was the location of Sevilla's second successive triumph in the competition, beating their LaLiga rivals 3-1 on penalties after a gripping 2-2 draw over 120 minutes.

Despite Celtic's links to Betis, it was widely felt by Sevilla fans in attendance that Bhoys supporters were cheering on Los Nervionenses, while Rangers aficionados adopted Espanyol as their team.

Dani Alves was the only Sevilla player to miss his penalty, while Andres Palop in the Andalusians' net made three vital saves.

James Tavernier's first Europa League run appeared likely to be his last.

The right-back finally got his chance at Newcastle United in 2012-13 as Alan Pardew's first-team squad was stretched to breaking point.

However, Tavernier's chance equated to just eight appearances and five starts in all competitions, utilised right across the defence. He played 301 minutes in Europe (including qualifiers) but looked a little out of his depth.

By the time Newcastle reached the quarter-finals of the competition, Tavernier had played his last game for the club.

The following season brought the fifth and sixth loan moves of his career – all to League One or below. A permanent transfer to Wigan Athletic followed, but Tavernier was soon back out on loan again – to League One again.

This underwhelming sequence of temporary moves to the third tier for a player once seen as a potential Premier League starter was interrupted then by Rangers. Heading to the Scottish Championship, it would have taken incredible foresight to even imagine how Tavernier's career might be transformed.

Newcastle may not have had another European campaign in the past nine years, but Tavernier has enjoyed five – and now, in Seville, a final.

The right-back goal machine

Rangers hoped for goals when they struck a deal with Wigan to bring Martyn Waghorn and Tavernier to Ibrox in 2015. Waghorn delivered in the club's promotion campaign, scoring 28 times in all competitions, but Rangers surely could not have anticipated Tavernier would also chip in with 15.

While Waghorn is long gone, having not performed at quite the same level on Rangers' return to the top tier, Tavernier has since maintained his staggering standard. In 345 Rangers appearances, the defender has scored 83 goals.

This season, Tavernier has scored 18 goals and assisted a further 16 for 34 goal involvements.

Having either scored or assisted every 147 minutes on average in 2021-22, Tavernier is operating in the same sort of range as Rafael Leao (141), Dejan Kulusevski (144), Luis Suarez (153) and, incredibly, Sadio Mane (157).

Nahuel Molina, the highest-scoring defender in Europe's top five leagues, has scored just eight times, while even Trent Alexander-Arnold's leading goal involvements tally of 20 is dwarfed by the man playing north of the border.

Tavernier's status as Rangers' penalty taker boosts his numbers, of course, but he still has six goals and 22 goal involvements discounting his dozen efforts from 12 yards.

The standard of the competition in Scotland might also be counted against Tavernier, yet his 16 European appearances alone have yielded seven goals (three non-penalty goals), three assists and 10 goal involvements – again at a rate of one every 147 minutes.

Top marksman with Morelos missing

Tavernier's first goal involvement of this European campaign saw the Rangers captain lift a pass in behind the Alashkert defence for Alfredo Morelos to score what proved to be the decisive goal of their Europa League play-off, getting the then Scottish champions back on track after Champions League qualifying heartbreak.

Wednesday's final against Eintracht Frankfurt would not have been possible without that August example of this most effective assister-scorer combination.

Unfortunately, Rangers will not be able to rely on that link-up again this week, with Morelos ruled out for the season when he underwent thigh surgery last month, seemingly dealing a sizeable blow to his side's hopes of European glory.

Morelos, with 29 goals, is Rangers' all-time leading European marksman, while he this season also became their top scorer discounting qualifiers as he brought his total to 15.

"It is a big blow to us, because he is our striker and we now don't have him any more this season, so we are disappointed," manager Giovanni van Bronckhorst said.

"But we know what the problem is, how long he's out, and we have to move on. That's the only thing we have to do now."

Tavernier has since ensured the talismanic forward has not been missed. His seven goals are the most ever by a Rangers player in a European campaign (excluding qualifiers) – Morelos in 2019-20 had a share of the previous record of six – and remarkably make him the leading scorer in this season's Europa League.

The man for the big occasion, each of Tavernier's goals have come in the knockout stage, including opening the scoring in each of Rangers' four home legs.

When Kemar Roofe joined Morelos on the sidelines against RB Leipzig in the semi-finals, it was Tavernier who appeared in the centre-forward position to level the tie in Glasgow with his 15th European goal (10 excluding qualifiers).

Trent of the Europa League

The first of Tavernier's European goals came back in July 2018, by which point Alexander-Arnold had already played in a Champions League final for Liverpool.

Alexander-Arnold might be seven years Tavernier's junior, but he has been a source of inspiration in recent seasons for the Rangers skipper, who named him alongside Liverpool team-mate Andy Robertson and Brazil greats Dani Alves, Marcelo and Cafu in October 2020 as a standard-bearer in the full-back role.

And comparisons between the pair, both of whom are preparing for European finals, come easily.

Alexander-Arnold has created 19 chances in the Champions League this season, just behind Tavernier's 20 in the Europa League, with the pair each highly influential both in open play and from set-pieces.

Tavernier makes a long list of English right-backs who remain uncapped at international level due to the incredible competition in Gareth Southgate's Three Lions squad, and former Rangers captain Lorenzo Amoruso tells Stats Perform: "I showcased him in Italy, but nobody cared because, of course, it happened to me, too: the best player in Scotland, thanks to some unbelievable performances, but never a call for the national team.

"I think I deserved it – at least as a reward or out of curiosity. This Amoruso, as a defender, becomes the best player in Scotland... it is not something that happens every day. The same applies to Tavernier."

Yet even Alexander-Arnold has only turned out 16 times for England, clearly behind Kyle Walker, Kieran Trippier and now Reece James in the pecking order.

The explanations for Alexander-Arnold's limited opportunities often focus on his defensive shortcomings – the same attributes for which Tavernier has come under scrutiny.

However, neither have committed an error leading to a shot, let alone a goal, in the Champions League or Europa League this season, and Tavernier actually measures favourably next to Alexander-Arnold by several defensive metrics.

Alexander-Arnold has made 1.9 tackles and 0.9 interceptions per 90 minutes to Tavernier's 1.6 tackles and 1.2 interceptions, but the Liverpool man has been dribbled past every 54 minutes on average and won only 48.2 per cent of his duels. Tavernier has been dribbled past every 150 minutes and won 56.3 per cent of his duels.

Those numbers will perhaps regress a little next season if Tavernier is playing in the Champions League, but he has to get there first by beating Frankfurt. And Rangers will likely be more concerned by their right-back's attacking output on Wednesday than his work going the other way.

The season's second major gets under way on Thursday, as the US PGA Championship starts at Southern Hills Country Club.

Despite being included in the field for the tournament in Tulsa, Oklahoma, reigning champion Phil Mickelson will not be on hand to defend his title.

Mickelson, who became the oldest player to win a major when he triumphed at the US PGA in South Carolina last year, is continuing his break from golf, which came after criticism over his comments regarding the Saudi Arabia-backed breakaway Golf Super League.

While the GSL cloud hangs over the heads of certain players who have requested releases from the PGA Tour, the focus this week will be on claiming the huge prize of a major title.

Tiger Woods is back, after his remarkable Masters return, while world number one Scottie Scheffler is on the hunt for another major title following his success at Augusta.

Stats Perform's experts have taken a look at some of the likely candidates.

No stopping Scottie – Ben Spratt

Only three men have won both the Masters and the US PGA in the same year, with Jack Nicklaus the last to do so in 1975. That is the esteemed company Augusta champion Scheffler hopes to be keeping – and you would be bold to back against him this season. Scheffler ended 2021 ranked 12th in the world and still waiting on his first PGA Tour victory. He has since won four times, including at the Masters, to become world number one and the clear man to beat. The 25-year-old has two top-10 finishes in both entries at this tournament and played a practice round at Southern Hills earlier this month to prepare himself for another tilt.

Rahm makes timely return to form – Patric Ridge

World number two Jon Rahm will tee off in Oklahoma on Thursday on the back of winning the Mexico Open last time out. Rahm has finished in the top 15 in six of the 11 competitions he has featured in this season. Prior to his win in Mexico, the Spaniard's putting had been letting him down, but the rest of his game has been top-notch. Rahm's strokes gained off the tee is a PGA Tour-leading 1.311, while his strokes gained tee to green also ranks first (1.808). The 27-year-old finished T8 in this major last year and his best result was T4 back in 2018 – he could be celebrating back-to-back wins on Sunday.

First major to get Burns treatment – John Skilbeck

Sam Burns missed the cut at the AT&T Byron Nelson, but we should forget that; one bad round cost him and there have been very few of those this season from the 25-year-old. Besides, he followed that 73 with a gutsy 67. Admittedly, Burns also missed the cut at the Masters, but he has titles at the Sanderson Farms Championship and the Valspar Championship in the current campaign, successfully defending his title at the latter after a breakthrough win last year. He has achieved six top-10 finishes in the 2021-22 season, has banked almost $4.5million, and sits second in the FedEx Cup standings. The PGA Championship can throw up funky winners and Burns might just be ready to join the list. He has yet to challenge in a major but that surely must change soon.

Rory can end major drought – David Segar

It is eight years since Rory McIlroy won the last of his four majors at the PGA Championship, but the Northern Irishman can end that drought this week. He produced a late surge to finish second in The Masters, with a stunning Sunday 64. McIlroy is third on the PGA Tour for shots gained off the tee. His two scores of 68 over the weekend earned fifth place at the recent Wells Fargo Championship, setting him up nicely for another major challenge.

Spieth slam? Oh, it's on… – Pete Hanson

Is this the week Jordan Spieth completes the Grand Slam? A tie for 71st and 30th in his last couple of attempts don't make for particularly good omens but Spieth is a player reborn. Having slipped as low as 92nd in the Official World Golf Rankings after last year's Farmers Insurance Open, Spieth has gone about climbing back into the world's top 10 and was back among the winners' circle at the RBC Heritage last month. A missed cut at the Masters was not the start he envisaged to major season but Spieth is at his best with his back against the wall and can firmly be in contention to lift the Wanamaker Trophy come Sunday.

Pep Guardiola saw Manchester City squander a glorious chance to all but make sure of the Premier League title, and their quest could go to the final day.

City rallied from two goals down to draw 2-2 at West Ham, but Riyad Mahrez's late penalty miss might yet be a telling moment in the race for silverware.

Tottenham piled pressure on Arsenal in the battle for fourth after a narrow win over a Burnley side who would have been devastated by Leeds United's late leveller against Brighton and Hove Albion, shaking up the relegation battle.

Everton might have seen the visit of Brentford as a chance to banish their own worries about dropping into the second tier, but a home defeat keeps the Toffees on unsteady ground, as Opta data tells the story of the day.

West Ham 2-2 Manchester City: Bowen's bullseye strikes and Mahrez's miss keep title race alive

Jarrod Bowen's double carried West Ham into a 2-0 interval lead, but Jack Grealish and Vladimir Coufal's own goal hauled City level.

This match almost produced a Premier League first for City; however, Mahrez's spot-kick was saved by Lukasz Fabianski in the closing stages to mean they could not complete the turnaround.

This was only the second time City had avoided defeat from two or more down at half-time (D2 L51), but that probably felt like scant consolation, given Liverpool are back in the hunt, providing the FA Cup winners collect three points at Southampton on Tuesday.

Mahrez has missed two penalties in all competitions for City – his first was against Liverpool in October 2018. Between that and the miss at the London Stadium, the Algerian had converted nine consecutive penalties.

Bowen has scored 12 times and provided 10 assists in the Premier League this season, with his 22 goal involvements the third most in a single campaign in the competition by a West Ham player, after Paolo Di Canio (29 in 1999-00) and John Hartson (23 in 1997-98).

Fabianski, the toast of east London and large parts of Liverpool, saved a penalty for the 10th time in the Premier League. Only David James (13) and Thomas Sorensen (12) have saved more in the competition.

Leeds United 1-1 Brighton and Hove Albion: Late Struijk lifts Marsch men

Pascal Struijk headed a last-gasp leveller to negate the impact of Danny Welbeck's opener as Leeds gave themselves a relegation lifeline, climbing above Burnley to reach 17th place.

This felt significant, with Leeds avoiding defeat in a Premier League home game after conceding the opening goal for the first time since October (1-1 v Wolves), having lost each of their last seven such games.

Former Manchester United man Welbeck was looking like delivering three points for Brighton, and his first-half goal means the ex-England international has scored in both of his two Premier League appearances against Leeds. Indeed, they are the only opponent he has scored in his first two Premier League games against.

The Leeds late show has become a habit. Only Manchester City (9) have scored more goals in the 90th minute or stoppage time than Leeds (7) in the Premier League this season, with all seven of their goals in this period being scored by different players (Luke Ayling, Patrick Bamford, Joe Gelhardt, Daniel James, Raphinha, Rodrigo and Struijk).

Tottenham 1-0 Burnley: Cool-eye Kane keeps Spurs in hunt for fourth

When Harry Kane stepped up for a penalty that would have ramifications at each end of the table, the outcome was entirely predictable. Of course Kane scored, just as he now has with each of the last 21 penalties he has taken in all competitions for Tottenham, excluding shoot-outs, and each of his last 15 in the Premier League.

That match-winning spot-kick for Tottenham, after 52 minutes and 36 seconds of play, was the second-latest first-half goal scored in a Premier League game since Opta has exact times available (from 2006-07), behind only Trincao’s strike for Wolves against Leeds in March this year (55mins 11secs).

Kane has scored more Premier League goals against Burnley than any other player, with his ninth strike against the Clarets seeing him overtake Mahrez and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (both eight). Burnley are the fourth side that Kane is the outright top Premier League goalscorer against, along with Arsenal (13 goals), Leicester (17) and West Brom (nine).

Burnley, who have games against Aston Villa and Newcastle United to come, need to find at least one point to stand hope of survival. Points at Tottenham have been hard to come by for Burnley, so this defeat came as little surprise. They have lost nine of their last 10 away league games at Spurs (D1).

Everton 2-3 Brentford: Red, red, whine

Everton had Jarrad Branthwaite and Salomon Rondon sent off in this one, with boss Frank Lampard complaining afterwards: "The reality is we're on the bad end of a lot of decisions this season."

Nineteen-year-old Branthwaite became the first teenager to receive a red card in a Premier League game for Everton since a 17-year-old Wayne Rooney in December 2002 against Birmingham City. Indeed, Everton have been shown more red cards than any other side in Premier League history (104).

There are more unwanted statistics starting to emerge in Everton's dismal season. They have conceded 59 goals now, their joint-most in a 38-game Premier League campaign alongside 2000-01.

Seamus Coleman, who put the ball into his own net for a first-half Brentford equaliser, has scored more Premier League own goals (5) than any other Everton player, while the Toffees have put through their own net the most often in Premier League history (58).

Brentford, who twice trailed after Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Richarlison scored either side of Coleman's own goal, have gained the most points from losing positions in the Premier League this term (15).

This was just the fourth match in Premier League history to see a first-half red card (Branthwaite), own goal (Coleman) and penalty (Richarlison), after Coventry v Wimbledon (November 1995), Charlton v Aston Villa (April 2001) and Tottenham v Fulham (February 2003).

Of course it was penalties. It was never not going to be penalties.

Thomas Tuchel chose not to bathe the game in narrative and left Kepa Arrizabalaga on the bench this time, but it was another substitute who stepped up to deal Chelsea their second shoot-out agony against Liverpool this season.

The unlikely hero was Kostas Tsimikas, who stepped up to slot home the winning penalty and give the Reds their second trophy of 2021-22.

It meant that Jurgen Klopp became only the second manager to win the Premier League, Champions League, FA Cup and EFL Cup all with one English club, after Alex Ferguson.

He is also the first German to win the FA Cup and just the second Liverpool manager to take charge of the club in the final of four major domestic/European competitions (EFL Cup, Europa League, Champions League and FA Cup), after the great Bob Paisley. This is another golden era for the Merseysiders, no doubt about it.

As the sun shone down on Wembley Stadium, awash in a sea of blue and red and with a noise that could make the arch quiver, Chelsea and Liverpool played out their latest edition of "No, my German coach is better!"

Both teams had already contested three stunningly close encounters this season, drawing in both league games and with the EFL Cup final having to be decided by the 22nd penalty of a shoot-out.

Why did we ever think this meeting would be different?

The FA Cup final is one of the most traditional days in the football calendar, with 'Abide with Me', the national anthem and a royal presence on show.

 

Tradition was missing from the touchline though as both Tuchel and Klopp arrived dressed in tracksuits and baseball caps, while Chelsea for some reason decided to play in their changed kit of all yellow, perhaps trying to evoke memories for Liverpool of their first-half scare in the recent Champions League semi-final against Villarreal.

The attire may have been casual, but the start from Liverpool was anything but.

It was a case of sun's out, guns out for the Reds as they set about attacking Chelsea from the off, showing more of the intense counter-pressing that saw them through their semi-final with Manchester City a few weeks ago.

As in the EFL Cup final, Luis Diaz was a nuisance on the left, putting two balls into the box that very nearly found team-mates, before the Colombian was denied by Edouard Mendy when put through one-on-one by a sumptuous Trent Alexander-Arnold pass.

But Chelsea had good chances of their own, with Christian Pulisic putting an effort wide while Marcos Alonso was thwarted by Alisson.

It was difficult for much momentum to be gained with four lengthy stoppages for injuries, including Mohamed Salah reliving his experience from the 2018 Champions League final and having to come off in the first half.

Salah's replacement Diogo Jota fired over from an Andrew Robertson cross, while Romelu Lukaku did the same as he tried to outmuscle Virgil van Dijk. Liverpool managed nine shots to Chelsea's three in the opening 45 minutes, with 42 final third entries to their opponents' 18.

Despite that, a well-organised defence from the Blues saw the score remain level, and you wondered just what would it take to separate these two seemingly inseparable entities?

It was Chelsea's turn to start brightly after the break – Alonso and Pulisic going close again. More chances spurned.

As was the case with Liverpool, that initial burst died down, allowing the Reds to have a couple of shots narrowly miss the target through Diaz and Jota.

The woodwork was struck three times in the second half as both teams continued to try, and continued to fail. 

Van Dijk going off, and he was later seen to be hobbling, presented another injury concern for Liverpool heading into extra-time and Chelsea attempted to give Joel Matip a blistering welcome. Yet Liverpool stood firm.

Diaz received a standing ovation as he left the field, his second excellent performance in a Wembley final for the club, and he only joined on the last day of January.

The former Porto man was the first player to have six shots in an FA Cup final since Anthony Martial for Manchester United in 2016, who also did not score.

 

A big rendition of You'll Never Walk Alone went up from the Liverpool end at half-time in extra time while Chelsea fans waved their flags, one last effort to give their teams the slimmest of edges. But this one was destined for spot-kicks.

An early miss from Cesar Azpilicueta meant it looked like an extra-time substitute was going to yet again be his team's downfall, only for the Spaniard to be given a reprieve when Sadio Mane drilled at compatriot Mendy. Sudden death.

But Alisson had a save in his locker, too, getting down to his left to keep out Mason Mount's timid effort, setting the stage for Tsimikas, who had replaced Andrew Robertson, to send Mendy the wrong way and spark celebrations and smoke bombs aplenty in the Liverpool end.

It was yet more domestic cup heartbreak for Chelsea, who having appeared in five of the last six FA Cup finals, have only won one of them.

Liverpool's recent FA Cup record, however, was significantly worse. Klopp had only made it as far as the fifth round on one occasion in six attempts, going out in the fourth round four times and the third round once.

In fairness to Chelsea, much like the EFL Cup final, this one could have gone either way, and it must be remembered that having been in charge of Chelsea for just one year and 108 days, Tuchel has already overseen four major finals, matching Jose Mourinho.

As it was in February, this was Liverpool's day, finding those fine margins and getting over the line to do the EFL Cup and FA Cup double. Not bad for a team that supposedly didn't care about the cups.

A quadruple might now look unlikely given City's league form, but another final, a chance for a third trophy this term, awaits on May 28 in Paris – Real Madrid the opponents.

You'd not bet against that one going to penalties, either.

Liverpool may have lost ground in the Premier League title race to Manchester City, but they could claim a second trophy of the campaign when they face Chelsea in the FA Cup final on Saturday.

A Wembley Stadium meeting between the Blues and the Reds is, of course, nothing new, with Thomas Tuchel paying the penalty – literally – for his ill-fated introduction of Kepa Arrizabalaga in February's EFL Cup final loss.

Revenge will certainly be on Chelsea's minds after substitute Kepa missed the decisive spot-kick in the shoot-out at the end of that goalless draw, and they will be desperate to avoid becoming the first team to lose both domestic English cup finals in the same season since Middlesbrough in 1996-97.

For Liverpool, meanwhile, their pursuit of the quadruple, and with it, footballing immortality, hinges on their ability to see off the Blues.

Who will be crowned the latest winners of football's oldest national competition? Stats Perform takes a look at the key Opta numbers ahead of these two rivals' fourth meeting of the season.

Wembley regulars hunting cup success

Chelsea and Liverpool have met in the final of the FA Cup on just one previous occasion, with Ramires and Didier Drogba firing the London club – then managed by Roberto Di Matteo – to victory just over a decade ago on May 5, 2012.

Both sides have significant pedigree in the competition, with Chelsea making their 16th final appearance and Liverpool featuring in their 15th – only Arsenal (21) and Manchester United (20) have made more such appearances than the duo.

However, neither side have had it all their own way when making it this far, with Chelsea losing each of the last two finals.

The Blues are the first team to qualify for three consecutive finals since Arsenal between 2000-01 and 2002-03, but another defeat would make them the first team since Newcastle United in 1998-99 to lose on their last three final appearances (1973-74, 1997-98, and 1998-99).

Liverpool, however, have lifted the trophy on just 50 per cent of their previous final appearances (7/14). Only two teams have a worse success rate having reached 10 or more finals (Everton, 5/13, and Newcastle, 6/13).

 

Fourth time lucky as deadlocked rivals meet again?

Having both made their names coaching Bundesliga sides Mainz and Borussia Dortmund, Tuchel and Klopp are no strangers to one another, and have become accustomed to head-to-head meetings this season.

Chelsea and Liverpool have already met three times this campaign, twice in the Premier League and once in the EFL Cup final, with each of those games ending level.

Having clung on with 10-men to earn a 1-1 draw at Anfield in August, Chelsea fought back from two goals down in a 2-2 draw at Stamford Bridge in January before enduring penalty heartache at Wembley the following month.

 

The last fixture between two English top-fight teams to see more draws in the same campaign was Arsenal v Chelsea in 2017-18 (four).

Fans of a penalty shoot-out, then, could be in for more entertainment on Saturday. 

The Mane for the big occasion

The electrifying form of January arrival Luis Diaz means Klopp's Reds have never had such attacking depth available, but could one of his longest-serving attackers make the difference here?

Since arriving at Anfield in 2016, Sadio Mane has scored six times against Chelsea, with no other player scoring more often against the Blues in that time.

Mane made an important contribution to Liverpool's 3-2 semi-final win over Manchester City, becoming the first player to score a Wembley brace for the club since Steve McManaman in the 1995 League Cup final against Bolton Wanderers.

Should Mane again find the net against one of his favourite opponents, he would become the first Liverpool player to score in consecutive Wembley appearances (when used as a neutral venue) since Phillipe Coutinho in April 2015 and February 2016.

 

Can Werner haunt his former suitors? 

Chelsea forward Timo Werner made headlines on Friday after claiming to have chosen Stamford Bridge over Anfield when he left RB Leipzig in 2020.

And the Germany international will hope to continue his excellent FA Cup campaign if he is chosen to lead the line at Wembley.

No player has made more goal contributions in the competition than Werner this season, with the 26-year-old recording two goals and three assists in the Blues' cup run.

While that tally is more than any Liverpool player has managed in the competition this term, it's also the most any Chelsea player has registered in a single FA Cup campaign since Pedro (six) and Willian (seven) both impressed in 2016-17.

However, Chelsea ended that season by falling to a 2-1 final defeat to Arsene Wenger's Arsenal, so Werner will be hoping any contribution he can make will prove more decisive.

 

© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.