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.

Christian Eriksen says he is "enjoying the moment" at Brentford, but refused to commit to his next steps ahead of a reunion with former club Tottenham on Saturday.

The Denmark international will face his old club for the first time since he linked up with the Bees in January, a move which came seven months after his cardiac arrest at Euro 2020.

The playmaker has defied expectations to make a full return to football after his collapse in Copenhagen last summer, and has been at the heart of Brentford's revival since arriving. 

He will reunite with Spurs for the first time since he left for Inter in 2020 this weekend, as well as with former Nerazzurri boss Antonio Conte.

Those close links have fuelled speculation he could return to his former North London home at the conclusion of the season, but for now, Eriksen is focused on enjoying his time with the Bees.

"When I signed here in January, it was actually [about] coming back and showing I was a football player and could play football," he told Sky Sports ahead of the Bees' clash with Spurs.

"There was also the six months of a test trial. By now, it feels good. But for the future, I don't know.

"I'm just enjoying the moment, every game is really fun to play in. What happens in the summer will be a decision for me as a footballer and as a family man.

"Everything is open. I've been taken good care of at Brentford, they've really shown me a lot of love and [I'm] trying to repay them for what they've showed me.

"Every option is open, either at Brentford or anywhere else."

Spurs captain Hugo Lloris, meanwhile, says his side are looking forward to seeing their old team-mate, who helped them to the 2019 Champions League Final during his time with the club.

"After what happened to him, it's always nice to see an ex-team-mate but even more, a player who was special for the club," he told Tottenham's official website.

"He spent more than six years at the club and he had a great time, we had a great time as team-mates.

"Then after what happened last summer… for most of us, it's going to be the first time that we’ve seen him.

"Obviously the most important thing for us right now is the game and the three points. We will have time after the game to enjoy the moment with him."

Thanks to the FA Cup semi-finals, matchday 33 in the Premier League is a bit more spread out, with just six games taking place at the weekend.

A further six games are scheduled for midweek, so there is a chance to get some of those pulling double duty in your fantasy team.

Whether your interests lie in the title race, the top-four scuffle or the relegation battle, there promises to be entertainment for everyone.

Therefore, it is time for Stats Perform to give you some suggested picks for your team using stats from the wonderful people at Opta.

HUGO LLORIS (Tottenham v Brighton and Hove Albion)

As odd as it sounds after a 4-0 win, had it not been for Lloris' heroics between the sticks last time out, Spurs could very well have lost against Aston Villa.

The Spurs captain made seven saves in the first half at Villa Park to keep Steven Gerrard's team out, with the visitors scoring four from their five on target in an afternoon of ruthless efficiency that had Antonio Conte smiling.

Only Alisson and Ederson (both 17) have kept more clean sheets in the Premier League this season than Lloris (12), while the Frenchman last recorded more shutouts in a single campaign in 2017-18 (15).

JOAO CANCELO (Manchester City v Brighton and Hove Albion)

This feels like we're picking on Brighton, but the fixture computer has not been kind to them, pitting them against two of the league's most in-form teams this week.

Only Gabriel Jesus (seven) has more assists for City in the Premier League this season than Joao Cancelo (six), as many as in his previous three league seasons combined.

As well as that, Cancelo is part of a staunch City defence that has conceded the fewest goals in the league this season (20), and against a Brighton side that has scored fewer goals (28) than all except Burnley (25) and Norwich (20), will be confident of a clean sheet on Wednesday.

JAMES MADDISON (Newcastle United v Leicester City, Everton v Leicester City)

Maddison is somewhat of an enigmatic player and, not that long ago, was struggling to start in Brendan Rodgers' strongest line-up.

However, he has already equalled his goal involvements tally for the entirety of last season in the Premier League (13), with the former Norwich man only bettering that in 2018-19 (14).

Indeed, he has either scored or assisted in each of his last three league appearances (one goal, two assists), last doing so in four such games in January 2021 (three goals, one assist).

CHRIS WOOD (Newcastle United v Leicester City, Newcastle United v Crystal Palace)

It has hardly been an electric start for life on Tyneside for Wood since his January move, though goals drying up for his former club and relegation rivals Burnley has been a positive added factor for the Magpies.

The New Zealander scored a crucial penalty in the 1-0 win against Wolves last time out, though, and he is looking to bag in consecutive league games for the first time since May 2021 (run of three).

Also, only against West Ham (seven) and Wolves (six) does Wood have more Premier League goals than he has previously managed against Leicester (four).

Antonio Conte hailed the killer instinct of his bloodthirsty Tottenham front three after a clinical 4-0 win at Aston Villa boosted hopes of Champions League football next season.

Son Heung-min hit a hat-trick, taking him to 17 Premier League goals for the season, and winger Dejan Kulusevski was also on target at Villa Park.

Harry Kane had two assists, meanwhile, as Tottenham's front three ran Villa ragged in the second half.

Son has the most goals in the Premier League this season when penalties are removed from the count, given none of his strikes have been spot-kicks. Mohamed Salah's league-leading 20-goal haul includes five penalties.

Villa finished the game with a higher expected goals figure than Tottenham, 1.71 to Spurs' 1.02. That reflected the golden chances Villa spurned, particularly in the first half when Danny Ings, Ollie Watkins and Philippe Coutinho all threatened.

The statistic also spoke of Tottenham's ability to sniff a half chance and snatch a goal, which is something that delights Conte.

Earlier defeats for Arsenal and Manchester United meant Tottenham had a great opportunity to tighten their grip on fourth place, and Conte said: "We have to look to ourselves. I said this to our players: a strong team, a big team, doesn't depend on the others.

"We have to understand the moment when you have to kill your opponent. Today was an important moment, especially because of other results. It was good for us, but it was good because we won. If you don't win, the result of the other teams is not useful.

"The players know very well what I said. The winner has to feel when there is blood, the blood of your opponent, and then you have to kill your opponent.

"I think we are working very hard in many aspects. I'm lucky because I have a group of players that deserve the best because they show me great commitment, great behaviour every day.

"They want to improve, and to get these kind of results in a short time makes me very happy because I know that they are very happy."

Tottenham have won six of their last seven games in the Premier League, after a previous rocky spell of results.

They have seven games remaining, including a big derby against Arsenal next month and a trip to title hopefuls Liverpool.

Tottenham appear to be growing all the time, and being able to set aside a sketchy opening 45 minutes, when Son's early goal gave them a lead they scarcely deserved by the break, showed a particular quality that pleased Conte.

Son, Kane and Kulusevski were unaffected by the battering Tottenham had taken, and came out for the second half determined to stamp a greater mark on the game.

"I think that the task of the coach is to try to exploit the characteristic of the players, to put the players in the best situation," Conte told Sky Sports.

"I think this formation is sweet for the characteristics of these players, and it is working very well. We're starting to work about the details. This is very important because don't forget that I arrived in November, not in pre-season. I think we have grown in an important way, and now we're showing that it's tough to play against us."

Son also spoke of the dynamic between the front three. Since Kulusevski's Premier League debut on February 9, only Kane (13) and Son (12) have been involved in more goals in the competition than the former Juventus winger (nine), taking all teams into account.

"It's all about understanding," said Son. "The first time we played together it wasn't perfect. We're still not perfect, but we improve every single day and enjoy playing together."

Hugo Lloris hailed the work of Antonio Conte for inspiring Tottenham to make "real progression" and putting them in contention for European football.

The France international's future in north London was doubtful in January with just six months left on his contract and the option to negotiate with foreign clubs for an end-of-season free transfer.

However, Spurs captain Lloris committed his future to Conte's project by signing a new two-and-a-half-year deal to keep him at the Premier League club until the end of the 2023-24 season.

While Spurs' form nosedived initially in the wake of Lloris' extension announcement, losing four of their following five Premier League matches, things had started to look up again prior to the international window.

Spurs went into the break having won four out of their past five games in the league, form that has seen them climb up to fifth place with nine fixtures left.

While they remain three points behind fourth-placed Arsenal, who have played one match fewer, Lloris credited Conte for restoring belief at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

"I extended a month and a half ago. Things were done fairly quickly with the leaders, with a lot of respect and consideration," Lloris said in an interview with Europe 1, as quoted by FootMercato.

"It's been two and a half years that we've known ups and downs, irregularity in terms of results. But since the arrival of Conte, we feel a real progression.

"We have the feeling that we are crossing a plateau. I think we will be ready to go for the European places."

The 35-year-old will be hoping Spurs can continue their push for a place in the top four after the international break when they host Newcastle United on April 3.

Antonio Conte wants to see Tottenham stars Harry Kane, Son Heung-min and Hugo Lloris to step up and carry them to a top-four finish.

Kane was on target on Saturday against Manchester United but Spurs fell to a 3-2 defeat at their fellow Champions League contenders, leaving them six points behind fourth-placed Arsenal, who have played a game fewer.

That was Tottenham's fifth loss in eight Premier League games, as many as they had in their previous 20 in the competition (W12 D3), and Conte's side are now outsiders in the top-four race.

Ahead of a clash at Brighton and Hove Albion on Wednesday, Conte called on his captain Lloris and attacking duo Kane and Son to lead the charge for a spot in England's top four.

"If you want to have a hope to fight until the end for this type of target, this is the moment I have to ask a lot to the big players," he said.

"To Harry, Hugo and Sonny. These players have to lead the situation to keep us until the end there.

"At the moment, experience is very important. We don't have a lot of experience in this team and it's right to ask the players with experience and big talent to give everything.

"I think they're giving everything but 100 per cent is not enough. We need to ask 120, 130 per cent to have this type of target.

"It will be very important to have people with great talent to lead us until the end and to try to be very close to reach this target."

If Kane answers Conte's calls to deliver at the Amex Stadium, with another strike he will become the Premier League's all-time highest goalscorer on the road in the competition’s history – currently sitting on 94 goals in 138 away games.

Conte also has a 100 per cent top-flight win record against Brighton, winning both games in 2017-18 with Chelsea, but he expects Graham Potter's side to pose a tough test.

"We're talking about a really good team, a really good team honestly," he said of Brighton. "This team likes to play football, they're strong physically. They're dynamic, they're strong at set-pieces.

"They are having a really good season apart from this last period when they lost [four] games in a row. Otherwise, in the table we were very close.

"We have to know that the game will be very difficult. I have watched the game against Liverpool and in the first half Brighton deserved to score goals and get another result against Liverpool.

"It's important in tough games, as a top team, with the experience you manage these games. Then you bring a difficult game on your side. It happened in the game between Brighton and Liverpool because I thought Brighton played a really good game."

Arsenal host Liverpool the following day and Conte believes that his north London rivals are currently favourites for Champions League qualification.

"I think that in this moment, Arsenal seems favourite for fourth place and United, but don't forget there's also West Ham and don't forget Wolves," Conte added. "They're having a fantastic season and they're in the same position.

"In England it's not easy, it's not simple. When you start the season normally you think it's four top clubs that at the end, these four teams go to the Champions League, United, [Manchester] City, Chelsea, Liverpool.

"But last season Liverpool struggled to reach their place in the Champions League. This season it's happening to United. This league is very difficult.

"For sure we have to be in the group of teams who stay, at this moment, behind.

"You have to stay close in the table because there are 11 games to the end of the season and everything can happen. For sure you have to win. If you don't get three points, you are talking about nothing."

Antonio Conte has confirmed Harry Kane will be fit to face Burnley on Wednesday despite suffering a minor knock against Manchester City on Saturday.

Kane starred at the Etihad Stadium, scoring a brace that included a 95th-minute winner in a dramatic 3-2 triumph over the Premier League leaders.

Victory in Manchester meant Spurs' last three top-flight wins have come courtesy of 90th-minute goals (1-0 v Watford, 3-2 v Leicester City, 3-2 v Man City), as Conte's side continue their top-four pursuit.

But there were suggestions that Kane's heroics came at a cost, with the forward reportedly nursing a back problem.

However, ahead of the trip to Burnley, Conte insisted his talisman will be available for selection at Turf Moor.

When asked on Tuesday if Kane was a doubt, the Spurs head coach responded: "No. He had a hit in his back, but he has to play! If he has one leg he has to play. 

"Harry knows very well the importance he has on the squad with his personality, with his experience. But he is good. 

"I am joking, I don't force a player if he is injured to play. I only say to tell you the importance of the player. He is good, he is ready."

Kane, who has won the Premier League's Golden Boot award on three occasions, has seven goals to his name after 22 top-flight appearances this season.

By his own high standards, those returns may be lower than expected, but Conte once again heaped praise on his striker, while also hailing the importance of Hugo Lloris.

"There is a sporting director in Italy that is my friend, Pantaleo Corvino, he says: 'You can make mistake about your wife but not about the striker'," Conte added.

"For me that is the best quote that I understand in football, no? You can make a mistake about your wife but not mistakes about your striker. 

"To build a team. We are talking about two good players, two important players for us [Lloris and Kane], also the players with more experience.

"I continue to say that to have a competitive team it's important also to match experienced players with young players because when you have players with experience, the young players learn a lot. 

"We are lucky because in our team we have these two players that for sure are top, top players."

Spurs are seven points behind fourth-placed Manchester United, who are in the final Champions League qualification spot, but Conte's side do boast three games in hand.

They will look to cut that gap to four at Burnley, though the former Inter head boss is expecting a difficult task.

"My point of view maybe it's the worst period to play against them because in the last period they have had fantastic results and played a good game," he added.

"They drew with Manchester United, and away at Arsenal, and they beat Brighton 3-0.

"They lost only 1-0 against Liverpool, but the game was in the balance. For sure, for us they will be a really tough team, we have to know this. 

"It's never easy to play against Burnley and they have a good manager [Sean Dyche] that is showing in these years that his managing is very, very good and maybe he could deserve something more.

"I appreciate his job and what he's doing with Burnley. Remember one month ago many people said Burnley were relegated, but I'm sure they can save this season and I think Burnley are doing a fantastic job."

Hugo Lloris has committed to Antonio Conte's Tottenham project by signing a new two-and-a-half-year contract with the Premier League club.

Lloris, 35, had entered the final six months of his previous deal and was entitled to discuss an end-of-season free transfer with foreign clubs.

He was linked with his boyhood club Nice, where he came through the academy before spending three years in the first team, but will be staying in north London.

Tottenham confirmed the deal that will take Lloris past 10 years with the club, with the goalkeeper set to remain at Spurs until the end of the 2023-24 season.

The news is a huge boost for Conte, who took on the Tottenham top job in November and made it clear he saw Lloris as part of the team's future.

Conte had been optimistic a deal would be agreed, recently expressing optimism Lloris would sign "because he loves Tottenham and Tottenham loves him".

Now that has come to fruition, meaning Tottenham need no immediate strengthening in the goalkeeping department, that boxed ticked by this move.

Lloris joined Spurs from Lyon in August 2012 and helped the team reach the 2019 Champions League final under Mauricio Pochettino.

He became Tottenham captain in 2015 and has worn the armband for his country since 2012, leading Les Bleus to World Cup glory in 2018.

Since skippering France to that triumph in Russia, Lloris has underlined his status as one of Europe's premier goalkeepers.

From August 2018 to the present day, Lloris can be shown to have prevented 21.3 goals. That is based on a calculation starting with Tottenham's expected goals on target (xGOT) conceded total of 180.3 and deducting the actual number of goals, other than own goals, that they have shipped during that time (159).

Only four goalkeepers from Europe's top leagues have a better goal prevention record in this same three-and-a-half-season period, Opta data shows. Those are: Thibaut Courtois of Real Madrid (25.3), Liverpool's Alisson (22.9), Sevilla's Yassine Bounou (21.6), and Atletico Madrid mainstay Jan Oblak (21.6).

Tottenham made a poor start to the season under Nuno Espirito Santo but have been revitalised in the Premier League by Conte's arrival. They have kept five clean sheets in nine games in the competition since the former Inter and Chelsea boss arrived and have soared to fifth place, with games in hand on those ahead of them.

Antonio Conte insists Chelsea have "created the gap" in quality between his former club and Tottenham ahead of their EFL Cup semi-final second leg.

Spurs were beaten 2-0 in the first leg at Stamford Bridge last week; Kai Havertz on target for the hosts before a Ben Davies own-goal.

The Blues have progressed from each of their last 13 two-legged ties after winning the first leg, last failing to do so against Liverpool in the 2006-07 Champions League semi-finals.

Meanwhile, Tottenham are looking to become only the second side – after Aston Villa in 1993-94 – to reach the EFL Cup showpiece after losing their semi-final first leg by more than one goal.

Following the defeat, Conte conceded the gulf in class by admitting there were no comparisons between the sides.

Speaking at his pre-match press conference, the Spurs head coach clarified those comments, acknowledging his former club are responsible for their superiority.

"When I speak about the gap; to reduce the gap, it means that I am not stupid to not understand the gap between the clubs," he said.

"It means that you have to improve the squad, the work and to have a project and vision. 

"The gap is a space that you have with other teams and I think that, in this moment, we are to work a lot to reduce this gap. 

"Chelsea work well, they win the Champions League and then invest a lot of money to improve their squad. This creates a gap, this is the truth. Chelsea have created this gap."

Conte also revealed that Tottenham are in negotiations over a new deal for club captain Hugo Lloris.

Now in his 10th season with Spurs, the goalkeeper's existing contract is due to expire at the end of the campaign, but the Italian is confident he will remain with the club.

"I think they have started talking," Conte added. 

"You know what I think of him, I have said previously he is our captain and a top goalkeeper. [He] has great experience and knows the club. 

"For me, he is an important player. I am not the person who renews contracts; that is the club, and they are the people that do this, but I am confident."

Antonio Conte remains hopeful that Tottenham and Hugo Lloris will be able to reach an agreement over a new contract for the Frenchman.

Lloris, 35, has entered the final six months of his contract and is now able to discuss an end-of-season free transfer with foreign clubs.

One of those he has been linked with is boyhood club Nice, where Lloris came through the academy and then spent three years in the first team before making the move to Lyon in 2008.

Lloris joined Spurs in 2012, and helped the club become a regular in the Champions League under Mauricio Pochettino, who guided them to the final of that competition in 2018-19.

The shot-stopper was made Tottenham captain in 2015, while he has worn the armband for his country since 2012, leading Les Bleus to World Cup glory in 2018.

But while Lloris has previously been maligned for being error prone, he does appear to have improved in that regard in the past few seasons.

Between 2015-16 and the end the 2018-19 Premier League season, Lloris' 25 errors leading to shots equated to 0.18 per 90 minutes – among goalkeepers to play at least 3,500 minutes in that time, only Asmir Begovic averaged more errors (0.2) each game.

Since then, he's only committed three and none of those have been this season – indeed, his eight clean sheets in 2021-22 is bettered by just Ederson (11), Aaron Ramsdale and Alisson (both nine), though Lloris' five since Conte's first game in charge is not improved on by anyone.

This season, only five goalkeepers (minimum 200 minutes played) boast a better save percentage than Lloris (71.01 per cent), and Conte is convinced an agreement can be found to take him into an 11th year at the club.

Speaking after Spurs' dramatic late 1-0 win at Watford, Conte told reporters: "You can see the level of the keeper in these circumstances, when, for the whole game, [Lloris] didn't make a save, but he continued to be focused for the team.

"For me, that's very important. The 'keeper has to follow the game and not only stay on the goal line to make saves.

"Hugo showed [on Saturday] that he's top and he's always focused.

"For us, he's very important, and I'm sure that in a short time he can find a [contract] solution with the club, because he loves Tottenham and Tottenham loves him."

Lloris is already the goalkeeper with the most Premier League appearances for Spurs (316), 76 more than Ian Walker.

January 1 ushers the start of a new year and, for many, a chance for a fresh start. That is particularly true in the world of football as it signals the day the transfer window opens and some of Europe's top talents can plot a lucrative move elsewhere.

A number of the sport's top talents, including Paris Saint-Germain superstar Kylian Mbappe and Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba, are due to be out of contract at the end of 2021-22 and can therefore open talks with teams abroad in January.

While the futures of Mbappe and Pogba will be heavily discussed in the coming weeks, other big names across the continent will also become that little more attractive to buyers given their availability on a free (notwithstanding their lucrative salaries, of course!).

Stats Perform looks at the best players soon to be out of contract and therefore available to sign pre-contract agreements elsewhere from January 1.

 

Hugo Lloris (Tottenham)

Where better place to start than with a goalkeeper potentially seeking a new destination. Lloris has spent 10 seasons with Tottenham and has captained the side for the past six years, while also skippering the France national team since 2012.

Spurs have historically been reluctant to offer long-term deals to players in their 30s and that policy could see them lose one of European football's finest goalkeepers from the past decade. He has racked up 392 appearances for Tottenham, keeping 131 clean sheets in the process.

Anthony Martial (Manchester United)

Martial did not quite transform into the superstar forward many were expecting upon joining United from Monaco six years ago, but neither has the France international been as big a flop as some would suggest.

Indeed, since making his Premier League debut in September 2015, only Marcus Rashford (57) has scored more goals for United than Martial's 56. Those goals have come from an expected goals (xG) return of 43, with that xG differential of 13 the largest of any player at the club in that timeframe.

 

Antonio Rudiger (Chelsea)

Chelsea face the prospect of losing four defenders without receiving a fee of any sort at the end of the campaign, with Andreas Christensen, Thiago Silva, Cesar Azpilicueta and Rudiger all nearing the end of their respective contracts.

Tying down Rudiger to fresh terms should be the priority, given there has arguably been no better defender in the Premier League since Thomas Tuchel first took charge of Chelsea on January 27, backed up by the centre-back's Premier League-leading 17 clean sheets over that period.

Paul Pogba (Manchester United)

No player has quite dominated the transfer column inches in the same manner as Pogba in recent years and, with no sign of a new contract being signed anytime soon, it now looks certain the 28-year-old will depart United for a second time.

Pogba may have struggled for consistency at Old Trafford, not helped by niggling injury issues, but he has averaged one assist per 90 minutes in the Premier League this season – a tally not matched by any player to have played more than once.

Kylian Mbappe (Paris Saint-Germain)

PSG rejected multiple offers from Real Madrid in 2020, but as it stands they are powerless to stop one of the game's leading lights departing at the end of the season.

As well as breaking a number of goalscoring records, Mbappe's 215 direct goal involvements in all competitions since making his PSG debut in September 2017 – 147 goals of his own and 68 assists – is a tally bettered by only Robert Lewandowski (242) and Lionel Messi (246).

 

Marcelo Brozovic (Inter)

Inter have so far been able to persuade Nicola Barella and Lautaro Martinez to extend their stays at San Siro, but Brozovic's future remains unclear heading into the new year.

Brozovic was a key part of Inter's Scudetto-winning side last term, featuring in 33 of their 38 games, and has started all 19 of their matches this campaign. Only Ruben Dias (1,713), Joao Cancelo (1,803) and William Saliba (1,840) have played more successful passes than the Croatia international (1,681) among players from Europe's top five leagues in 2021-22.

Luka Modric (Real Madrid)

Gareth Bale and Isco are two high-profile Madrid players set to move on either in January or at the end of the season, but as well as trying to seal Mbappe's signing, Madrid's other priority might be ensuring Modric does not bring an end to his decade-long spell at the Santiago Bernabeu in 2022.

Proving that age is just a number, 36-year-old Modric has been as good as ever for LaLiga leaders Madrid this season. The six big chances created by the midfielder in 2020-21, leading to four assists, has been bettered by only four others in the division.

 

Ousmane Dembele (Barcelona)

Dembele has struggled to come close to justifying his hefty transfer fee, reported to be an initial €105million, but he was recently described as having the potential to be the best attacking player in the world by head coach Xavi.

Barca president Joan Laporta is also eager to keep hold of Dembele, who has managed 30 goals and 22 assists in 126 appearances since his debut in September 2017, meaning he has been directly involved in 0.6 goals per 90 minutes. For comparison, that is an identical number to Antoine Griezmann during his short-lived stint at Camp Nou.

Denis Zakaria (Borussia Monchengladbach)

Strongly touted as a target for the likes of Barcelona and Bayern Munich, Zakaria will depart Borussia Monchengladbach in 2022 after confirming to the German club that he intends to run down his contract.

The defensive midfielder averages 52.3 passes every 90 minutes and 47.1 successful ones, the latter being the ninth-most this season among Bundesliga midfielders with at least 500 minutes played. Among the same group of players, only seven average more than his two successful dribbles every 90 minutes – all of those being more attack-minded players.

Paulo Dybala (Juventus)

Dybala has indicated that he wants to remain a Juventus player beyond this season but the longer talks over a new deal drag on, the more unlikely it appears he will still be in Turin six months from now – and that would be a major blow for the Bianconeri during an already difficult period.

The Argentina international has eight goals and four assists in 17 appearances this term, without being at what many would consider his best form – at least three more direct goal involvements than Juve's next most threatening player Alvaro Morata and double that of Federico Bernardeschi in third.

Antonio Conte is "100 per cent sure" that Tottenham must improve if they are to close the gap to the Premier League's leading teams.

Conte replaced Nuno Espirito Santo as head coach on November 2, winning six, drawing three and losing two in 11 games at the helm so far. 

Spurs are sixth in the Premier League – although they have games in hand on all the teams above them – and are into the semi-finals of the EFL Cup, with Conte's former side Chelsea their opponents.

Tottenham also crashed out of the Europa Conference League at the group stage after their final game against Rennes – in which they needed a win – could not be rescheduled after the initial fixture was postponed due to a COVID-19 outbreak.

Conte knows the club will not be able to compete at the highest level if reinforcements are not brought in and believes he has worked out which players he can rely on and which need to be offloaded.

"For sure [Tottenham need new signings in January]. After only two weeks I said we needed to improve the quality of this squad and for sure we need to," said Conte. 

"I was sure after seven to 10 days about this and then I had to make the evaluation over who I can count on and who I can't.

"The gap is very large and we need to work a lot and try to build and improve our squad.

"Yes, I think [my evaluation is complete]. Not I think, I'm sure 100 per cent. I made the evaluation after two months of work with my players. For sure now the situation is more clear than before.

"I am waiting to have a meeting with the club and then also to give my opinion about the squad and what I think about our situation. For sure I am waiting for a meeting."

Spurs captain and first-choice goalkeeper Hugo Lloris' contract expires at the end of the season and Conte is hopeful the 35-year-old will choose to extend his stay in London.

"Hugo is a Tottenham player, he's the captain," Conte continued. "For sure he will talk with the club to try to find a solution.

"I think [he wants to stay]. I think Hugo wants to stay in his club, he loves the club, he stays well in Tottenham. This could be his opinion."

Following a frustrating 1-1 draw against 10-man Southampton, Spurs face Watford on New Year's Day in the hopes of closing the gap to the top four.

Santa's been! Santa's been! Santa's been!

Yes, it's the most wonderful time of the year and we're all awfully excited that the big man has been.

But we're even more excited by the familiarity of a hectic Premier League schedule over the next few days!

We appreciate you may be about to tuck into your dinner or snoozing after over-indulging already, but why not digest some tasty Christmas Premier League facts before cracking on with the next beer?

Wondering where you might enjoy such a gem? Well, we have you covered below, with the help of the happy little elves at Opta.

A CRUZ FOR SANTA IN DECEMBER

We ho ho hope you don't mind a little Christmas gag to headline this section to get us cracking…

It seemed only fitting to start with a bit of a coincidence that a man with a festive theme in his name is responsible for the best minutes-per-goal ratio during the month of December (a minimum of six goals).

That man is ex-Blackburn Rovers striker Roque Santa Cruz, who netted nine times in 846 minutes for a ratio of 94 minutes per goal.

Just like Rudolph and the rest of the gang at the end of a busy Christmas Eve shift, Santa Cruz can still be reined in.

Divock Origi has eight December goals in 760 minutes for a goal every 95 minutes (just better than Mick Quinn's eight in 779 for a ratio of one every 97.4 mins). Liverpool team-mate Mohamed Salah has scored a mightily impressive 23 goals in December, with a minutes-to-goals ratio of 102.1.

MAYNOR THE KING OF THE CHRISTMAS CRACKERS?

Paper hats, Christmas jokes and cheaply assembled plastic toys…you all love pulling a cracker at Christmas!

And there have been many crackers scored in the month of December in the Premier League – not least Maynor Figueroa's 60.5-yard effort for Wigan Athletic against Stoke City back in 2009, which remains the longest of long-range goals in the competition during the final month of the calendar year.

The full-back's quick thinking with a free-kick from his own half caught Thomas Sorensen off guard and nestled in the back of the goal.

Former Portsmouth man Matt Taylor had a penchant for a long-range goal and his famous audacious volley against Everton in 2006 measured in at 40.6 yards.

Juan Mata (39.9 yards for Man Utd v Stoke), Sebastian Larsson (39.4 yards for Birmingham City versus Wigan) and Kevin De Bruyne (38.3 yards for Manchester City v Crystal Palace) all rank in the top five.

LLORIS AND THE KEEPERS GIFTING OUT THE GOODS

Christmas, at least under normal circumstances, is a time for spending time with loved ones and eating copious amounts of foods that aren't particularly good for us.

It is also, of course, if we're being honest, a time to exchange tat by the Christmas tree and say a silent prayer the generous buyer has kept the receipts.

Obviously, in football you're not supposed to be generous with your gifts – but Tottenham goalkeeper Hugo Lloris has been particularly forthcoming with presents for opposition teams at this time of year.

The France World Cup winner has committed seven errors in the month of December, a Premier League high and one more than Red Devils number one David de Gea.

SANTA'S NOT THE ONLY LAPLAND VISITOR

Santa makes his annual jolly around the globe to deliver presents to all the good boys and girls but back in 2001 there was another who heralded from Lapland to visit England.

Finland international Hannu Tihinen arrived on loan at West Ham from Norwegian side Viking and fittingly made his Premier League debut on Boxing Day!

In total he made only eight Premier League appearances, winning just once in England's top flight.

Perhaps the difference in quality was just – ahem – poles apart for Tihinen, who was nonetheless part of the side that memorably defeated Manchester United 1-0 in the FA Cup early in 2002.

RED DEVILS TOP OF THE TREE

The old cliche is that it means nothing to be top at Christmas…but for the sake of the jokes in this piece it's very important to be top of the tree come December 25!

Manchester United have sat in such a position on seven occasions, more than any other team, but Liverpool – six times – are the only side to hold top spot three seasons running having done so in 2018, 2019 and 2020.

In total, 11 sides have managed to be top at Christmas – Chelsea (5), Manchester City (3) and Arsenal (2) unsurprisingly also doing so. Norwich City, Blackburn Rovers, Newcastle United (2), Aston Villa, Leeds United and Leicester City have also achieved the honour.

There have been 15 instances of a team being in first place on December 25 and jingling all the way to the Premier League title, but nothing can be wrapped up this early in the season.

SNOW-BODY DOES IT BETTER THAN SHEARER OVER CHRISTMAS

For a man with 260 Premier League goals to his name, it should come as no surprise to hear that the player with the most goals scored in the period from December 26 to January 5 is Alan Shearer.

The Newcastle United great netted 23 times between those dates, five more than the 18 celebrated by former Liverpool striker Robbie Fowler.

Dimitar Berbatov and Jermain Defoe each have 17, the same amount as Tottenham star Harry Kane, who has Shearer's record in his sights.

JESUS RISES TO THE OCCASION

Christmas for many is mainly a secular celebration nowadays but the traditional meaning of the holiday season is to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.

In the Premier League, there have been six occasions of a player with Jesus in their name scoring a December goal – five of which were from Manchester City striker Gabriel Jesus.

The other was netted by former City winger Jesus Navas, who fittingly at this time of year often delivered for others – producing six December assists and amassing 74 crosses from open play.

New Tottenham head coach Antonio Conte reassured he is "very pleased" with Harry Kane despite the striker's lean spell of scoring form.

Spurs cruised to a 2-0 win over Brentford in the first ever top-flight meeting between the sides on Thursday, though Kane could not get on the scoresheet and has just one Premier League goal to his name so far this season.

The England international did, however, record a game-high three key passes in a creative performance that was typified by his usual preference to drop deep and look to link-up play.

As Conte prepares to host Norwich City, who the Italian has never faced before in the league, he once again gave his backing for goal-shy Kane.

"First of all, I'm sure Harry is happy if we win and he doesn't score," Conte said of Kane, who has scored five goals in three top-flight matches against the Canaries.

"Tottenham is the first thought for us and Harry. As I said yesterday, Harry played a very good game, he was in the situation that we scored and he had a good chance to score.

"It is important to have chances to score and we're improving a lot in this aspect. I'm sure Harry is going to score many goals.

"I'm sure he’s going to have a good performance in the same way he had against Brentford against every team we play.

"I'm very pleased with the way that he's playing. I know the striker wants to score but we want to give him many chances to score. I think we're on the right path to do this type of situation." Conte has won both of his opening home games in the league – only Ryan Mason and Harry Redknapp have started with three wins in the club's Premier League history.

Despite only being in charge for a short period, Conte has partly resolved some of Spurs' issues and one of his next tasks will be to sort a new contract with skipper Hugo Lloris, whose deal runs out at the end of the season.

"Yeah but I've just arrived," he responded when asked about negotiations with Lloris. "Only one month. At this moment, for sure, we have many situations to solve.

"Hugo is the captain of this team, captain of France and we're talking about a top goalkeeper. He's very focused now. He knows very well now we're trying to do our best.

"Me as a coach, Hugo as goalkeeper and every player has to perform at a high level, but for sure we'll have time to speak about him and I consider him an important player for his experience.

"He's a good goalkeeper first of all and has showed great commitment to the club over a number of years."

Hugo Lloris is planning talks with Tottenham as he attempts to map out his future beyond next June – with a return to Ligue 1 not ruled out.

Lloris' Spurs contract expires on June 30 and it remains unclear whether the 34-year-old, who joined Spurs in 2012, will extend his stay beyond a decade.

Should the goalkeeper choose to leave north London as a free agent, he could return to France, where he previously played for Nice and Lyon.

For now, Lloris is hoping to mark his time at Spurs with a trophy, with new head coach Antonio Conte seen as a catalyst as the club bid to end their 13-year silverware drought.

"I do not close any doors," Lloris said on Sunday, when asked about a potential return to French football.

"I give my priority to Spurs. We're still looking for a trophy. I want to help the club in its development. We have already experienced great things and great epics with our supporters as vice-champions in Europe and England. I want to continue calmly, always with this notion of pleasure.

"I try to take as much pleasure as possible on a daily basis. As long as I feel good, I want to make the most of it. I want to be honest with myself. I'm not necessarily worried. But the priority remains Spurs."

Quoted in L'Equipe, Lloris added: "We will have discussions in the coming weeks. We must already rectify the situation of the club and adapt to the demands of the new coach Antonio Conte and his staff. I've been there for a few years. It's still a pleasure."

Lloris and defending champions France secured their place at the 2022 World Cup with an 8-0 mauling of Kazakhstan on Saturday in which Kylian Mbappe scored four goals, and they will take on Finland in their final match on Tuesday.

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