Jose Mourinho will join Roma as head coach for the 2021-22 season, the Serie A club have announced.

Tottenham defender Eric Dier has questioned the "unfair" criticism he has received since shifting to centre-back but accepts he can still improve in that position.

The England international, formerly deployed in holding midfield, was dropped towards the end of Jose Mourinho's tenure for what the ex-Spurs boss put down to "a lack of confidence" following some high-profile errors.

Dier returned to the side for Mourinho's final two games in charge, however, and has retained his place in the heart of defence for interim manager Ryan Mason's first three games, including the EFL Cup final loss to Manchester City.

He impressed in Sunday's 4-0 win over Sheffield United by making more clearances (five) than any player on the field, while he was involved in four times as many aerial duels (eight) as any other Spurs player, 75 per cent of which he won.

After looking more commanding since being recalled to the starting line-up, Dier feels that he has been harshly judged in the past.

Asked if Tottenham fans have seen the best of him since moving into a deeper position, Dier said: "I think they've seen it in periods. I've got mixed emotions towards it really. 

"At times, I feel like it's a bit unfair and a bit – I'm trying to think of the right words – sometimes I've made a mistake or something has led to a goal and one mistake is talked about like it's four or five.

"I've felt that at times. As defenders, you're always going to make mistakes at times and the most important thing is how you react to them."

While Dier has not made any errors that directly resulted in a goal this term, he has conceded two penalties in the Premier League, the joint-most in the division.

This is likely partly to blame for criticism of Dier, though he has also proven himself ready to put his body on the line for Spurs.

Dier has made an average of 1.1 blocks per 90 minutes in the Premier League this term, with only Japhet Tanganga averaging more among Tottenham players – but he has only featured four times.

The 27-year-old's tackle-success rate of 65 per cent is similarly high in the context of the Spurs squad, with Moussa Sissoko (72.7 per cent) and Giovani Lo Celso (81.8 per cent) the only individuals to have made more than four appearances to post a better record.

"I'm really happy to have played the last few matches. I've felt good in those games. I want to be playing, I want to be performing to a level I know I can," Dier added.

"I think I had a very good first six months and it dropped a little bit for a few games, but I feel like I've been back to a good place for a couple of months now.

"I believe I can still perform to a much higher level. I'm happy to be playing, obviously, and I've just got to keep working hard and improving."

Gareth Bale's future is uncertain as his loan spell at Tottenham from Real Madrid draws to an end.

Bale has said he intends to return to Madrid for the final year of his contract.

Spurs' interest in keeping the Wales star beyond this season is not clear as they are in the market for a new head coach after Jose Mourinho's dismissal.

 

TOP STORY – NEW SPURS BOSS TO DECIDE ON BALE

The Daily Mail reports that Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy will let the club's new head coach decide whether or not to re-sign Bale.

The option remains for a second loan deal for the Welshman to re-join Spurs from Madrid next season.

Spurs have first option on a second loan but they would require Bale's agreement, although he appears out of favour in Madrid.

Triggering the clause will cost Tottenham £12million.

 

ROUND-UP

- Borussia Dortmund's asking price for Jadon Sancho is down to £87m (€100m) according to ESPN, which may interest Manchester United and Liverpool. Dortmund previously demanded more than £100m (€115m) for the England midfielder.

- Arsenal are interested in signing Rangers midfielder Glen Kamara, with a five-year deal on the table, according to Football Insider.

- The Athletic claims Brentford striker Ivan Toney is drawing interest from Leicester City and Everton as well as a "host of clubs" preparing bids for his services.

- Newcastle United are considering a move for Vitesse defender Danilho Doekhi, reports De Telegraaf.

- Bayer Leverkusen are in the mix to sign Santos' teenage forward Kaio Jorge, claims Kicker.

It was another Premier League weekend where off-the-pitch (well, sort of) matters dominated the headlines, with Manchester United's home game against Liverpool postponed as a result of anti-Glazer protests.

That also meant Pep Guardiola had to put the Cava back on ice for another week, with Manchester City's title celebrations on hold.

Nevertheless, there was still plenty to keep us occupied, with Mike Dean adding another to his red card haul for the campaign and Gareth Bale proving he can cut it against the best with a hat-trick against *checks notes* relegated Sheffield United.

Using Opta data, we look at some of the quirky facts from the latest Premier League matches…

 

Crystal Palace 0-2 Manchester City: Guardiola's men unrivalled going forward

City and Guardiola being rather good is nothing new, but in terms of how effective they are going forward, you may not know how much better than everyone else they really are.

During Saturday's 2-0 win at Crystal Palace, which put them within one win of the title, City reached 700 goals under Guardiola across all competitions.

To put that into context, over the same period Liverpool have scored the second most among English clubs – 543. Then it's Tottenham (532) and – perhaps surprisingly so – Arsenal (522).

The only club among Europe's top five leagues to have outscored City over this time is Paris Saint-Germain (712), a club that spent roughly €400million on just two forwards back in 2017 and have – for the most part – dominated Ligue 1.

Of the 700, Sergio Aguero – who scored against Palace – has the most with 122, followed by Raheem Sterling (102) and Gabriel Jesus (81).

 

Chelsea 2-0 Fulham: Tuchel has Blues switched on at the back

Ever since Thomas Tuchel replaced Frank Lampard in January, Chelsea have been better almost across the board.

Arguably their greatest improvement has been at the back, where suddenly the Blues look incredibly strong despite Tuchel having the same pool of players to pick from as Lampard.

Under the former England international they had conceded 23 goals in 19 Premier League games this term, but they've let in just eight in 15 with Tuchel at the helm.

People might be keen to suggest it's just luck, but the fact the Blues' xGA (expected goals against) is 7.8 shows their eight concessions is bang on.

Granted, Lampard's xGA figure of 18.4 was a fair bit lower than the 23 let in, so they were perhaps conceding to particularly remarkable finishing.

Nevertheless, the xGA per game of the two coaches are significantly different: Tuchel's 0.5 is exactly half Lampard's 1.0, but why? What's changed?

One potential explanation is that Tuchel has Chelsea pressing more intensely from the front, as shown by PPDA data. PPDA is the number of opposition passes allowed outside of the pressing team's own defensive third, divided by the number of defensive actions by the pressing team outside of their own defensive third.

Under Lampard they had a PPDA of 11, whereas it's 9.4 under Tuchel, the lowest in the Premier League over that time. Chelsea are now facing fewer shots (7.4 per 90 minutes, compared to 10.1), and this could be down to the greater off-the-ball intensity implemented by the German.

 

Newcastle United 0-2 Arsenal: Mike Dean loves a red

Few referees in the modern game have fascinated and infuriated fans quite like Mike Dean, who is – for want of a better phrase – absolutely box office.

From his self-assured facial expressions and body language, to his frankly baffling mannerisms and showmanship: when Dean is in charge of a match, you're virtually guaranteed a talking point of some description.

But above all, it's his eagerness to pull out that red card that is the most noteworthy aspect of his officiating.

He was the man in the middle as Arsenal beat Newcastle 2-0 on Sunday and had his say right at the end as he showed Fabian Schar the red card for a nasty lunge on Gabriel Martinelli.

It stretched his record as by far the most red-card-happy referee in Premier League history. It was his 112th, 45 more than any other official.

Remarkably, it was the eighth he's shown this season alone, which is at least double the next strictest referee in the Premier League, with Graham Scott and Peter Bankes next on the list with four each.

 

Tottenham 4-0 Sheffield United: Bale makes a statement

Bale was in inspiring form on Sunday as Tottenham smashed Sheffield United 4-0, with the Wales international scoring a hat-trick – his first in a league competition since January 2016 when he put Deportivo La Coruna to the sword.

Granted, netting a treble against the Blades might not be quite as impressive as doing so against… well, any other Premier League side for that matter.

However, his overall performance coupled with his "I play well when I'm happy" comments at full-time seemed almost directed at former Spurs boss Jose Mourinho, who had Bale in and out of the team for much of the season.

Those three goals took him to 11 goal involvements (nine scored and two assisted) in 16 Premier League games this term, an average of one every 66 minutes.

That is the best such record in the league this term. The next best (among players with more than two involvements) is his team-mate Harry Kane (34 involvements, one every 80 minutes).

Bale's future is uncertain for the time being, but such a record must have club officials contemplating keeping him around for another year.

Erling Haaland and Romelu Lukaku appear to be the top forwards on English clubs' shopping lists this off-season.

But Bayern Munich forward Robert Lewandowski may enter the frame amid rumours about his future.

Manchester City and Chelsea are known to be eager to bolster their attacking options and have the funds to finance a major move.

 

TOP STORY – ENGLAND ON LEWANDOWSKI'S RADAR

SportBild reports that Robert Lewandowski's likely next destination will be the English Premier League, if Bayern Munich opt to sell their Polish forward.

The report claims that Lewandowski's agent Pini Zahavi is trying to put pressure on Bayern for a lucrative contract extension or to sell him to one of England's financially powerful clubs.

Lewandowski still has two years to run on his Bayern contract and the Bavarians are believed to not be ready to negotiate.

 

ROUND-UP

- Fabrizio Romano claims that Romelu Lukaku is not planning to leave Inter amid interest from Manchester City, Chelsea, Real Madrid and Barcelona, pointing to comments he made following the club's Serie A title triumph on Sunday.

- Romano also claims that Watford, who have won promotion to the Premier League, have begun talks with Inter's Ashley Young who may be available as a free agent.

- Marca reports that PSG are increasingly concerned that Neymar will not sign a contract extension with the club amid talk of a Barcelona move.

- Celtic defender Kristoffer Ajer is being tracked by Premier League club Newcastle United, claims the Daily Record.

- Tottenham are interested in Brazilian teenager Rodrigo Varanda who is currently with Corinthians, says The Sun.

Tottenham interim head coach Ryan Mason reiterated any talks between the club and loanee Gareth Bale will not take place before the end of the season following his hat-trick performance.

Bale – on loan from LaLiga giants Real Madrid – improved his scoring run to eight goals in eight Premier League games with a treble in Sunday's 4-0 rout of relegated Sheffield United.

The Wales star forward has had an indifferent campaign, having been largely under-utilised when fit by former boss Jose Mourinho, who was sacked last month.

Bale has previously indicated he will return to Madrid next season where he is contracted until mid-2022 but performances like Sunday may sway Spurs to push harder to retain him.

"I think that is a conversation at the end of the season between Gareth, the club and his parent club, our main focus and priority should be the next game," Mason said.

"It sounds a cliche but it is true. I am glad he is happy, he should be because he has another match ball to add to the collection. It was an excellent performance as well.

"I think the decision at the moment and the priority is Gareth is ready to train and he is happy in training.

"We have got another big week of training because we have got a massive game next weekend and hopefully we can have a happy Gareth next weekend."

Bale scored the seventh hat-trick of his club career, three of which have come at Tottenham (four for Madrid). The Welshman's other trebles for Spurs came against Aston Villa in December 2012 in the Premier League, and in October 2010 against Inter in the Champions League.

He became the sixth Welshman to score 50 Premier League goals, and the first since Craig Bellamy reached this total back in December 2006.

All nine of Bale's Premier League goals this season have come at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium – the most goals by a player with 100 per cent of them coming at a single venue in the competition in 2020-21.

Mason, who is unlikely to have any say in the final decision, added he felt Bale was "outstanding" and "world class" against the Blades.

Gareth Bale says the key to his improved form is down to playing more regularly since Ryan Mason replaced Jose Mourinho as Tottenham boss.

The Wales international scored his second Premier League hat-trick, and first since December 2012, in Tottenham's routine 4-0 win over Sheffield United on Sunday.

He was a second-half substitute in last week's EFL Cup final defeat to Manchester City, but the forward has started both league games under Mason, scoring four times in total.

That compares to five goals in 14 appearances under Mourinho in the Premier League this season, just six of those being starts.

And Bale, who is due to return to parent club Real Madrid at the end of the season for the final year of his contract, is glad to be enjoying his football again.

"You have to take your chances when they come so I'm feeling good," he told Sky Sports. 

"I just needed to play games and get a run of games and I'm doing that now. I'm happy and when I'm happy I play well.

"Winning always makes everyone happy and gives a winning mentality to the dressing room. It's not going to happen overnight but I feel we're taking a step in the right direction.

"It seems a while ago since the last hat-trick so it's nice to get it, but it is more important to get the three points."

Bale's three goals against Sheffield United came from six shots in total, five of those on target as he became the sixth Welshman to reach 50 Premier League goals.

Mason, who follows Mourinho, Mauricio Pochettino and Glenn Hoddle in winning his first two Premier League games as Spurs boss, is unsure if "world class" Bale will stay on.

"That's a conversation for the end of the season," the caretaker boss told BBC Sport. "The priority and main aim now is the next game at Leeds.

"When you score a hat-trick you'll get the headlines. Everyone who has watched football over the past 10 years knows what he can do. His finishing was outstanding."

Son Heung-min rounded off the scoring for Tottenham, having earlier had one ruled out for a marginal offside, as they moved to within five points of fourth-placed Chelsea.

Spurs have won back-to-back league games for the first time in two months and Mason was pleased with the response on the back of last week's cup final loss at Wembley.

"It was a disappointing game last week," he said. "We had a really good training week that allowed us to work with the team. The attitude and desire today was outstanding. 

"To couple it up with some of the quality, it was a really positive performance. The attitude, competitiveness, first balls, second ball, desire to fight for 90 minutes. 

"We stuck together and had some real moments of quality. It was a really pleasing performance and a positive night."

Despite the comfortable margin of his side's victory, Mason felt John Fleck was fortunate to avoid a red card for catching Giovani Lo Celso on the face with his studs early in the second half.

"I am so shocked that it wasn't a red card," he said. "I'm shocked the VAR team didn't at least tell the referee to have a look. I think it's a stonewall red card. 

"I don't think there's a clearer red card. You see the replay once and he's endangered an opponent. I cannot believe it wasn't given as a red card. It's avoidable."

Already-relegated Sheffield United have picked up just four points from a possible 51 away from home this season, losing 15 of their 17 such matches.

United have lost 27 of their 34 Premier League games this season - the most they have ever suffered in a single Football League campaign in their entire history - and caretaker boss Paul Heckingbottom is not looking for excuses. 

"Spurs were ruthless on the counter, but where we lost the ball on occasions and how we conceded the goals was poor," he told BBC Sport.

"That is not a performance that we want to see. It was so passive and I can't wait until the fans are back in because in a stadium like this it's absolutely dead. We tried to generate our own atmosphere in the second half but the game ran away from us."

Gareth Bale surpassed 50 goals in the Premier League as his hat-trick saw Tottenham keep their top-four hopes alive with a 4-0 win over Sheffield United.

With Chelsea having beaten Fulham on Saturday, the onus was on Spurs to claim three points against the relegated Blades to boost their Champions League ambitions, especially after seventh-place Liverpool saw their game at Manchester United postponed due to anti-Glazer protests by home fans.

Bale put the beaten EFL Cup finalists ahead with a deft finish in the first half before bringing up his half-century in the competition with an emphatic strike after good work from Son Heung-min.

The Real Madrid loanee completed his hat-trick with a low strike from the edge of the box before Son completed the rout with an excellent curling effort.

The visitors have now won just once in their past 26 Premier League games in London and saw goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale set a competition record of 27 consecutive away starts without keeping a clean sheet.

After a quiet opening, Son was denied by a fine Ramsdale save before Harry Kane shot low towards the right-hand corner only for Chris Basham to clear.

Sheffield United had begun to grow into the game when they were undone by a brilliant chipped pass from Serge Aurier, which allowed Bale to flick the ball left-footed over Ramsdale's head.

John Fleck was arguably lucky to escape punishment when he caught Giovani Lo Celso in the face with his studs when the Spurs midfielder was on the ground early in the second half.

Son thought he had doubled the lead after running onto a simple Toby Alderweireld long pass and blasting a shot beyond Ramsdale, but the goal was disallowed for a fractional offside.

Bale did make it 2-0, though, the Wales star rifling a strike into the top-right corner for his 50th goal in England's top flight after Son led the break from a Sheffield United corner.

His second Premier League hat-trick was completed eight minutes later as he wrong-footed Ramsdale with a crisp strike after Aurier teed him up on the edge of the penalty area.

Son added gloss to the scoreline with a superb strike that went in off the right-hand post, having earlier reached 10 league assists for the second season in a row.


What does it mean? Spurs can still believe in top-four chase

The result left Spurs five points behind fourth-place Chelsea with just four matches remaining, meaning they could yet snatch a Champions League spot.

However, with West Ham and Liverpool both able to climb above them should they win their games in hand, Spurs' chances of a return to Europe's top competition still appear slim.

For Sheffield United, who stay bottom on just 17 points, the season cannot end quickly enough.

Brilliant Bale

Bale's first Premier League treble since December 2012 highlighted the threat he still possesses in the attacking third – a threat too seldom seen for Spurs this season.

Still, if he can sustain such form over the final four games of the season and lead Spurs back into the Champions League, there will be few complaints from fans.

Brewster needs a booster

Rhian Brewster has now played 25 times in the Premier League this season without scoring, and his performance here made it easy to see why.

His only shot in a lifeless first-half showing was a speculative attempt that swerved closest to the corner flag, and he managed only 10 touches before being hauled off at the break.

What's next?

Spurs head to Leeds United and Sheffield United host Crystal Palace next Saturday.

Will Lionel Messi stay or leave?

The superstar Barcelona captain is set to become a free agent, though the LaLiga giants are determined to re-sign Messi.

Paris Saint-Germain are interested but Messi could reportedly extend his Camp Nou career.

 

TOP STORY – MESSI SET FOR BARCA STAY?

Lionel Messi is closer to staying at Barcelona than joining Paris Saint-Germain, according to L'Equipe.

Messi's future has dominated headlines, with his contract due to expire at season's end amid interest from Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester City.

Barca are keen to re-sign Messi, who is encouraged by the Copa del Rey triumph and Joan Laporta's plans, despite an offer from PSG.

 

ROUND-UP

Barca have reached out to PSG regarding a possible reunion with Neymar, however, RAC1 says the Ligue 1 holders are not willing to sell the Brazilian superstar.

Everton are plotting a bid for soon-to-be free agent and City star Sergio Aguero, reports the Daily Star. Aguero will leave the Etihad Stadium on a free transfer and the forward has been linked with Chelsea, Barcelona, Inter and Tottenham.

- Fabrizio Romano says Leicester City are working on a deal to sign Lille star Boubakary Soumare, who has previously been linked with Manchester United, Tottenham, Inter and Napoli.

- The Sun claims Borussia Dortmund have joined United and PSG in the battle sign Brighton and Hove Albion defender Ben White.

- Sky Sport Italia claims Milan ultras met with star goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma and demanded he sits out the fixture against Serie A rivals Juventus if he does not renew his contract. Donnarumma is set to become a free agent and he is yet to re-sign amid reports he is in talks with Juve. The Italy international has also been linked with United, Chelsea and PSG.

United are prepared to sell Paul Pogba if he does not commit to a new contract, according to The Sun. Juve and Real Madrid are reportedly eyeing the French star. It comes as The Sun also claims United are not willing to part ways with Donny van de Beek following a difficult first season at Old Trafford.

Jose Mourinho has vowed to wait for a club with the "right culture" to resume his managerial career after being sacked by Tottenham.

Spurs last week relieved Mourinho of his duties just 17 months after appointing the former Chelsea, Real Madrid and Manchester United boss.

The London club parted company with the Portuguese just six days before losing 1-0 to Manchester City in the EFL Cup final at Wembley.

Mourinho has signed up to media duties for the upcoming rescheduled Euro 2020 and although he will return to management, the 58-year-old will ensure he waits for right opportunity.

"I have no plans," he told the Times Magazine.

"I am going on with my normal life. I feel fresh. I feel calm. I am on holiday.

"I have more time to be doing my homework and analysis. I'll wait to be back in football.

"Not just for the right club, but for the right culture. Maybe next season is premature, we will see."

Leicester City boss Brendan Rodgers is the favourite to replace Mourinho at Tottenham, with Ryan Mason in charge until the end of the season.

The Tottenham manager's job would be "appealing for anyone", according to interim boss Ryan Mason, who insists Spurs are a "big club".

Mason has been filling in since the dismissal of Jose Mourinho earlier this month and oversaw Sunday's EFL Cup final loss to Manchester City.

In Mason's short time at the helm, two supposed candidates for the role have taken up other options, with Julian Naglesmann set to swap RB Leipzig for Bayern Munich and Erik ten Hag extending his Ajax deal.

That has left Leicester City manager Brendan Rodgers as the favourite to take the job and Mason believes it is an opportunity that any coach would be interested in.

"This is Tottenham Hotspur Football Club, there's always going to be interest," the 29-year-old said.

"We have the best stadium in the world, in my opinion, and also we have the best training complex in the world, in my opinion.

"It's a fantastic group of players, a fantastic fanbase as well, so of course it's going to be appealing for anyone.

"It's a great football club. I'm probably biased because I'm very passionate about it, but it's a big club as well."

While speculation continues to swirl around the club, with rumours also rife over Harry Kane's future, Mason wants to retain full focus on the remainder of a Premier League campaign that could yet yield a top-four finish.

Ahead of Sunday's visit of Sheffield United, Spurs sit five points behind fourth-placed Chelsea with five games remaining.

"I think there's going to be speculation because of the current situation we're in," Mason added. 

"I don't want to spend too much energy talking about other managers, other people, because at this moment in time I'm the one that's leading the team, I'm the one that's preparing the team, and the players and internally as a football club and everyone associated with us has to be pulling in the same direction for these next five games. 

"We're not thinking about the next manager, we're not thinking about who's coming in, because like I say I and the coaching team at the moment are the people preparing the group of players and that's the most important thing."

Harry Kane "loves" Tottenham and there is no suggestion he needs Champions League football in order to remain with the club, according to interim boss Ryan Mason.

Rumours over the club's star striker have been rife amid another disappointing season for Spurs, whose last hope of silverware vanished with Sunday's EFL Cup final loss to Manchester City.

Kane is the leading goalscorer in the Premier League this season with 21 from 30 games, and his 125-minutes-per-goal ratio better than he has achieved in the previous two similarly prolific top-flight campaigns.

The England captain was named Premier League player of the year at the London Football Awards on Tuesday but pointedly said trophies were more important than individual honours.

"I want to be winning the biggest prizes that there is to offer as a team and we are not quite doing that," he told the Evening Standard.

Spurs' chances of salvaging something noteworthy from this campaign rest on breaking into the top four and securing a seat at Europe's top table, with a five-point gap to fourth-placed Chelsea to overturn.

But Mason, whose side host relegated Sheffield United on Sunday, insists that will not be a decisive factor in Kane's decision-making process.

"I don't think so," he said when asked if Champions League qualification was a must as far as retaining Kane's services goes.

"Harry Kane loves this football club. In the past eight or nine years he has been one of the best strikers in the world. Everyone knows that and we know that and hopefully Harry knows that.

"Harry is a constant professional. There won't be any conversations between me and him about anything other than training and the match ahead."

Regarding the various clubs linked with Kane, including Premier League rivals Manchester City and United, Mason pointed out that such talk was nothing new.

"There's always speculation about the best players in the world," he said. "Harry Kane is one of, if not the best, number nine in the world. Talk has been there for a number of years. We don't need to manage that.

"Harry Kane is one of the most professional guys I've seen in my life. That's the most important thing, the players see a leader in training every day that sets the tone, sets the example and you can only appreciate and applaud that kind of mentality."

Kane has been involved in 34 goals in 30 Premier League games this season (21 goals, 13 assists), only registering more goal involvements in a single campaign in 2016-17.

He has been involved in nine goals in his last six league games (seven goals, two assists), netting three braces in that run. 

Overall, he has scored 38 per cent of his team's top-flight goals this season, with only Sheffield United's David McGoldrick (39 per cent) ahead of him in that regard.

Erik ten Hag has signed a new two-year contract at Ajax, effectively ending speculation linking him to the vacancy at Tottenham.

Ten Hag had been touted as one of Spurs' preferred candidates to be the long-term successor to Jose Mourinho, who was sacked by the north London club last week.

RB Leipzig had also been floated as a possible destination for Ten Hag after Julian Nagelsmann was confirmed as Bayern Munich's next head coach, but Jesse Marsch will take over at the Bundesliga club next season.

Ajax are a point away from retaining the Eredivisie crown they won in 2018-19 as part of a domestic double under Ten Hag – they were top of the table when last season was abandoned due to the coronavirus pandemic – and ahead of Sunday's potentially celebratory home game against Emmen, the Amsterdam giants were handed a timely boost.

"We want to work on a successful and attractive Ajax,” Ten Hag told Ajax's official website after committing until June 2023. "I know what I have here and I know the people I work with here. I also know how we can take the next step with this team. I'm happy here."

Ten Hag memorably led Ajax to the semi-finals of the Champions League in 2018-19, where they suffered a heartbreaking loss to Spurs.

Roma ended their Europa League involvement at the quarter-final stage this time around but the coach is keen to re-establish them as a continental force.

"Getting somewhere is one thing, staying somewhere is another. Ajax is back on the map internationally," Ten Hag said.

"We get the recognition we deserve for that, but we want even more. We want to go even higher and challenge the top clubs in Europe."

Ajax's website noted Ten Hag had received "serious offers from teams abroad" and director of football Marc Overmars is delighted to have extended terms that were set to expire in June 2022.

"I think it is very important for Erik that he sees what is possible with the team and that there is still room for growth," the former Arsenal winger said.

The Premier League elite are playing for prizes, along with Champions League and Europa League places, and at the foot of the table there may still be dreams of a great escape.

Reality brings its rewards and regrets, and managers across England, from Pep Guardiola to Big Sam Allardyce are hoping to end the season on a high note.

For fantasy football managers, the same applies. This is the run-in and the time when marginal gains could count for so much in your own rivalries and leagues come the season's end. One masterstroke signing could make a world of difference and earn those bragging rights.

With that in mind, here is a look at some potentially shrewd picks for the weekend ahead, powered by Opta data.

EDOUARD MENDY

Chelsea goalkeeper Mendy has a long way to go before he can be defined as a Premier League great, but the September arrival from Rennes is making a terrific impact in his debut season. Heading into Saturday's derby with Fulham, Mendy has managed 15 clean sheets from his 27 Premier League games so far, with only Manchester City's Ederson keeping more (17 from 32 games).

Of all goalkeepers to have started at least 25 games in Premier League history, Mendy is the only one to keep a clean sheet in more than half of them (56 per cent). Looking down the list, Ederson has an impressive 49 per cent from 141 games, while former Chelsea and Arsenal shot-stopper Petr Cech had a nifty 46 per cent clean sheet record from 443 appearances.

LUKE SHAW

Tough love did not particularly work for Luke Shaw during Jose Mourinho's reign, but Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has found a way to unlock the brilliance within Manchester United's left-back, who was a £30million buy as an 18-year-old almost seven years ago.

Shaw, who looks likely to face Liverpool at Old Trafford on Sunday, has been directly involved in six goals (1 goal, 5 assists) in the Premier League this season. That is as many as he managed between the start of the 2016-17 season and the end of the 2019-20 campaign (also 1 goal, 5 assists). He is impressing going forward as well as when defending, so could bring valuable points to your team.

RUBEN DIAS

No Premier League defender has more clean sheets than Ruben Dias this season. With 14 so far, he is level with Aston Villa's Matt Targett. Manchester City stifled Paris Saint-Germain's Neymar and Kylian Mbappe on Wednesday, but can they keep Crystal Palace's forwards at bay on Saturday?

The Premier League title is almost within City's grasp, and Dias could be a great signing this weekend, but do bear in mind that Guardiola could shuffle his team given the second leg with PSG is coming up on Tuesday.

City have a strong Premier League record against Palace, having won 13 of their last 17 matches (D2 L2) against the Eagles in the competition, earning 10 clean sheets across that run of games.

MATHEUS PEREIRA

Going down with the Baggies? Even if West Brom are relegated, which seems likely, there will surely be top-flight teams eyeing Matheus Pereira.

The Brazilian has been involved in six goals in his last four Premier League games (4 goals, 2 assists), and he enhanced his hero status among supporters when he scored twice - both penalties - in the derby against Wolves earlier this season.

West Brom won that one 3-2 and the teams meet again on Monday. Pereira is a player to keep an eye on in that game.

RAHEEM STERLING

Guardiola rhapsodised about Sterling after Manchester City's win against Tottenham in the EFL Cup final, despite erratic finishing meaning the winger again finished without a goal. He has not scored for City since February, but one could spark a flood, such is his established talent.

Facing Palace could be the ideal game for Sterling, should he be selected this weekend.

The England international has been involved in seven goals in his last seven starts against Palace in the Premier League (6 goals, 1 assist).

AYOZE PEREZ

Kelechi Iheanacho is the striker in form at Leicester City, but in horses for courses terms, Perez might be the man for Friday's clash with Southampton.

Perez has scored more Premier League goals against Southampton than he has against any other side in the competition (7). This includes two hat-tricks against Saints, including one in Leicester’s 9-0 win in this fixture last season.

HARRY KANE

Did Kane look off the pace in the EFL Cup final after his recent ankle knock? It was so hard to tell, given it felt he was constantly having to come looking for the ball, the service to him so inadequate.

If caretaker boss Ryan Mason considered him fit for that one, then it seems safe to expect the Tottenham talisman to face Sheffield United on Sunday, and surely he will find more opportunities against the blunted Blades than he enjoyed against City.

Kane has been involved in 34 goals in 30 Premier League games for Tottenham this season (21 goals, 13 assists), only registering more goal involvements in a single campaign in 2016-17 (36 – 29G 7A). The England striker has been involved in nine goals in his last six league games (7 goals, 2 assists), netting three braces in that run.

Everton have been busy in the transfer market in recent times and they are preparing for another splash.

The Toffees, who are led by two-time Champions League winner Carlo Ancelotti, brought in James Rodriguez, Abdoulaye Doucoure and Allan this season.

Everton remain in the hunt for European football with a top 10 finish looking assured but owner Farhad Moshiri's ambition still burns for more.

 

TOP STORY - EVERTON SET FOR COUTINHO SPLASH

Everton are set to land former Liverpool forward Philippe Coutinho from Barcelona in a £35million deal, according to The Sun.

The Toffees are allegedly already house hunting for the 28-year-old Brazilian, who would join countrymen Richarlison, Bernard and Allan at Goodison Park.

Coutinho has never quite settled at Barcelona since leaving Liverpool for Camp Nou in 2018, spending time on loan on Bayern Munich, while he has had injuries this term.

Barcelona are reportedly keen to offload Coutinho, who underwent knee surgery earlier this month, even for a cut-price fee.

 

ROUND-UP

- Calciomercato claims that Inter have rebuffed Manchester City's advances for Romelu Lukaku, insisting they are not willing to listen to any offers for the Belgian marksman.

- Aston Villa are monitoring Tammy Abraham's situation at Chelsea after it emerged that Blues are willing to sell him for a reported £40 million price tag, claims The Mirror.

- The Sun reports Brighton's Ben White has attracted interest from Borussia Dortmund who join the likes of Manchester United, Paris Saint-Germain and Arsenal in pursuing him.

- Tottenham are hoping to speak to Ajax coach Erik ten Hag about taking up their vacant position following Jose Mourinho's sacking, according to The Guardian.

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