Manchester United lost further ground to Premier League leaders Manchester City as they played out a 0-0 draw with Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on Sunday. 

The Red Devils are now 12 points behind Pep Guardiola's seemingly unstoppable side, who are well on their way to a third title in four seasons. 

Elsewhere, Liverpool returned to winning ways against Sheffield United and Arsenal came from behind to beat Leicester City at the King Power Stadium. 

A Gareth Bale-inspired Tottenham cruised past Burnley 4-0, while Crystal Palace and Fulham played out a dour 0-0 draw.

Chelsea 0-0 Manchester United: Red Devils' 'big six' struggles continue

While this result stretched United's unbeaten away run in the league to a whopping 20 matches – the joint-fifth-longest run in top-flight history – there was still a sense of disappointment at full-time. 

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side have now failed to score in their last six league meetings with Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City or Tottenham, with each of their last four such matches finishing goalless. 

This fixture has now finished 0-0 in both matches in a single league campaign for just the second time, the other occasion coming back in 1921-22. 

It marked the first time Chelsea have drawn 0-0 against an opponent home and away in the Premier League in the same season for the first time since 2008-09 against Everton, while United last did so against Aston Villa in 1996-97.

Thomas Tuchel can at least toast becoming just the second coach to not concede a single goal in his first four home matches in the Premier League after Brendan Rodgers in 2011-12 with Swansea City. Including his final two such matches in charge of Paris Saint-Germain, Tuchel has gone six games without conceding at home in league competition.

Sheffield United 0-2 Liverpool: Klopp's men get back on track

After four consecutive top-flight defeats champions Liverpool got their top-four bid back on track at Bramall Lane. 

Curtis Jones opened the scoring with his second goal for the Reds. In doing so, he became the youngest Liverpool player (20 years and 29 days) to score an away Premier League goal since Raheem Sterling in December 2014 against Burnley (20y 18d).

Their second – an own goal by Kean Bryan – was their 7,000th in the English top-flight, becoming only the second team to reach that tally after Merseyside rivals Everton (7,108).

Adrian was in goal for Jurgen Klopp's men and the Spaniard has now been on the winning side in 10 of his 12 Premier League starts for the club, although this was only his third clean sheet. 

The Blades, meanwhile, have now lost 21 games this season. They are the first side since Newport County in the fourth tier in 1970-71 to lose as many as 21 of their first 26 matches in an English Football League season.

Tottenham 4-0 Burnley: Brilliant Bale torments sorry Clarets

Bale was at his best as Tottenham registered their biggest Premier League home win since they thumped the Clarets 5-0 in December 2019. 

His first came after just 68 seconds, which was the fastest goal Burnley have ever conceded in a Premier League match. The previous quickest was a Yerry Mina effort after 99 seconds for Everton in December 2018.

Harry Kane doubled Spurs' advantage to continue his fine run against Sean Dyche's side. No player has scored more Premier League goals against Burnley than Kane (eight, level with Riyad Mahrez), with the England striker involved in 10 goals in his last six league appearances against them (seven goals, three assists).

Lucas Moura added a third before Bale wrapped up the scoring to take his goal involvements to seven in his last four appearances in all competitions. 

At the back, Hugo Lloris celebrated his 100th clean sheet in the competition. He became the 16th goalkeeper to reach that landmark, while he is the ninth quickest to reach it (285 games).

Burnley, meanwhile, have now lost 12 of their last 15 away top-flight matches against Spurs, shipping 48 goals and conceding at least four goals in seven games.

Leicester City 1-3 Arsenal: Gunners storm back to end 'top three' hoodoo

Arsenal ended a four-game winless run against the Foxes in the Premier League, securing their first victory against them in the competition since October 2018. 

It started poorly for Mikel Arteta's side, though, with Youri Tielemans scoring his sixth goal of the season early on. That is as many as he had scored in his first two seasons at the club combined. 

David Luiz pulled the Gunners level before Alexandre Lacazette put them ahead from the penalty spot. The France international has converted all five of his penalties for Arsenal across all competitions, while only Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (13) has now netted more goals for the Gunners than Lacazette (11) this term.

Nicolas Pepe sealed the three points and has now equalled his Premier League goal tally from last season, scoring five this campaign in 13 fewer appearances (18 this term, 31 last season).

The result marked Arsenal's first away victory against a team starting the day in the top three of the Premier League since January 2015 (2-0 v Manchester City) – they were winless in their last 14 such games ahead of this clash (D3 L11).

Crystal Palace 0-0 Fulham: Lucky Eagles escape with a point

It should come as no surprise that this game ended goalless given Fulham's penchant for draws this season. 

Just one of the Cottagers' first 21 Premier League games under Scott Parker ended level, but the stalemate at Selhurst Park was their 10th draw in their last 15 top-flight matches. 

They were comfortably the better side and attempted 16 shots. Fourteen of those came in the second period – the most they have had in the final 45 minutes of a Premier League away game since 2003-04 without scoring.

Palace, meanwhile, have somehow managed to pick up four points from their last two league games despite attempting just six shots (facing 41), having only nine touches in the opposition box (compared to 70 by their opponents), and completing just 442 passes (compared to their opponents' 1065).

Indeed, they managed just 33 attempts in their five Premier League matches in February – the lowest recorded by a team in a single month of at least five games since the start of the 2003-04 campaign.

What does the future hold for Andre Silva?

Silva has scored 18 Bundesliga goals this season, second only to Bayern Munich's Robert Lewandowski.

He could find himself at Manchester United if Eintracht Frankfurt reportedly pursue a permanent deal for Luka Jovic.

 

TOP STORY – SILVA BOUND FOR MANCHESTER?

Manchester United could be offered the chance to sign Eintracht Frankfurt star Andre Silva if Edinson Cavani leaves Old Trafford, according to The Sun.

Silva is taking the Bundesliga by storm this season, but Eintracht are reportedly looking to raise funds to re-sign Luka Jovic – who is currently on loan in Frankfurt – permanently from Real Madrid.

Portugal international Silva could become available if veteran forward Cavani departs after the former Paris Saint-Germain star arrived on a one-year deal at the start of the season.

 

ROUND-UP

- Eurosport claims Chelsea are growing increasingly confident of winning the race to sign Borussia Dortmund star Erling Haaland. The Norway international forward has been linked with Madrid, BarcelonaManchester City, Liverpool and United, as well as Paris Saint-Germain and Juventus.

Everton have joined United and Bayern Munich in trying to sign Norwich City full-back Max Aarons, reports Fabrizio Romano.

Tottenham will target Burnley goalkeeper Nick Pope if PSG make a move for Hugo Lloris, says the Daily Mail.

- The Sun claims United veteran Juan Mata is being tracked by Serie A trio, Juventus, Inter and Roma.

Jose Mourinho has offered his backing to Tottenham captain Hugo Lloris, who he believes ranks among the finest goalkeepers in the world.

Lloris shipped eight goals last week, with his performance in a 3-0 defeat to Premier League leaders Manchester City coming under scrutiny after Spurs came out on the wrong side of a 5-4 FA Cup thriller at Everton.

Joe Hart is expected to return for Thursday's Europa League round-of-32 meeting with Wolfsberger, although Mourinho does not feel Lloris' status as first choice is under immediate threat from the ex-England number one.

"When a player is a top player, one or two or three mistakes does not make him not a top player. That is the most important thing," Mourinho told a pre-match news conference before highlighting some of Alisson's recent struggles at Liverpool.

"I shouldn't speak about it because he's not my goalkeeper, but I don't think he will take it on the wrong side: for me Alisson is one of the top five best goalkeepers in the world and in the previous matches he made big mistakes.

"But he is one of the top five in the world, in my opinion, and Hugo is the same. He is an amazing goalkeeper who is performing super consistently since he recovered from that fracture.

"During all my time here he is playing so, so well. If he had responsibility on one or another of the goals we conceded recently he is still the same goalkeeper, he is my number one choice and has all my trust and confidence.

"In Joe Hart's case I am happy he played already nine matches this season. He's a goalkeeper that I totally trust too."

Among goalkeepers to have played five or more games in the Premier League this season, Lloris ranks fifth in terms of save percentage (74) behind Nick Pope, Emiliano Martinez, Robert Sanchez and Ederson.

He has only made one error leading to a goal and is outperforming his expected goals on target (xGOT) conceded of 19.7, as per Opta, having let in 17 goals excluding penalties and own goals.

Lloris' cumulative goals prevented figure of 2.7 comes thanks to 71 saves from 88 shots on target faced in the top flight.

Dwindling form either side of Christmas left Spurs languishing ninth in the Premier League.

Yet they are still only six points shy of fourth-placed Chelsea with a game in hand and Mourinho rejected the suggestion that the Europa League represents his team's best hope of securing Champions League qualification.

 "It's difficult in any case but it's possible in both cases," he said. "Fourth position in the Premier League is, of course, very difficult but is not mathematically impossible.

"Last season we were in a very, very bad position to get in the Europa League spots. In the end we made it in the last minute of the last game, but we made it.

"Our motivation last season was that, while it was mathematically possible, we had to go. We chased it until the last game which is the same thing we are going to do."

He added: "In the Europa League there are an incredible number of matches. We are only in the last 32. It is a strong competition with very good teams.

"But it is open. We are one of the 32 teams who have a chance to win and we are going to try."

Thursday's match has been moved to the Puskas Arena in Budapest due to COVID-19 restrictions in Austria.

There was more penalty drama for Manchester City as the Premier League leaders visited reigning champions Liverpool on Sunday.

Gundogan skied his spot-kick at an empty Anfield, although it would not prove a costly miss as City ran out 4-1 winners to extend their advantage at the summit.

Pep Guardiola will no doubt be keen to correct a remarkable failing in his outstanding side's game, however.

City's record from 12 yards features in our quirky facts from the weekend's top-flight action.
 

Sterling's penchant for pens wasted at City

As Gundogan, who later scored twice, blazed over in front of the Kop, it meant City have now accounted for four of the past six Premier League spot-kicks to miss the target - including three against Liverpool (also Riyad Mahrez in October 2018 and Kevin De Bruyne in November 2020).

City are five points clear at the top of the table with a game in hand but could be in an even more commanding position if they were more clinical from the spot.

In Raheem Sterling, City boast the player who has won more penalties (21) than any other in Premier League history, the latest seeing Fabinho trip the former Liverpool forward.

Sterling is unlikely to ease his side's penalty woes, however, having scored just one of his four attempts in the competition.

Only two players in Premier League history have a worse record after taking at least four penalties, with Mike Newell and Juninho Paulista each missing all their four attempts.

Nick Barmby, like Sterling, netted one of four. No player in the competition has ever taken five or more penalties and converted fewer than two.
 

Lloris longevity leading Ronaldo and Messi

Tottenham captain Hugo Lloris made his 500th top-flight appearance in the 2-0 win over West Brom, keeping his 173rd clean sheet.

Since his Ligue 1 bow for Nice in March 2006, no player has appeared more often in Europe's top five leagues than the World Cup-winning France goalkeeper.

Second on the list over that span is another goalkeeper still going strong in Inter's Samir Handanovic on 493 games, coincidentally also registering 173 clean sheets.

And the two biggest names of all sit third and fourth, Cristiano Ronaldo on 484 appearances just ahead of Lionel Messi's 480.

Karim Benzema (463) makes the top 10, while David Silva (448), Sergio Ramos (446) and Sergio Aguero (443) are all in the top 20.
 

Saints star not quite the free-kick king

James Ward-Prowse's latest free-kick goal came in a losing effort for Southampton at Newcastle United, but he nudged further up the all-time Premier League standings.

The spectacular effort at St James' Park was the England international's 10th direct free-kick strike in the competition, becoming the ninth player to that mark.

Ward-Prowse has scored with 13.9 per cent of his 72 direct free-kick shots, while 37 per cent of his 27 Premier League goals have come via this method.

Only Laurent Robert (11 of 23 goals for 47.8 per cent) and Sebastian Larsson (11 of 26 goals for 42.3 per cent) netted a greater share of their goals in the competition direct from set-pieces.

Ward-Prowse still has some way to go to match David Beckham's record of 20 free-kick goals, however. Thierry Henry (12), Gianfranco Zola (12) and Ronaldo (11), along with Robert and Larsson, are the others still above the Southampton star.

His tally of four this term trails only Beckham in 2000-01 and Robert the following season (both five) over a single campaign.

Manchester City are reportedly planning a bid for Harry Kane, while United are still interested in Jack Grealish.

City have been linked with numerous forwards amid uncertainty over Sergio Aguero's future.

And it seems the Tottenham star is among their targets.

 

TOP STORY – MAN CITY PLANNING £88.7M BID FOR KANE

Manchester City are planning an £88.7million offer for Tottenham star Kane ahead of next season, according to Bild.

Kane, 27, is contracted at Spurs, where he continues to star, until 2024.

The England international has scored nine goals in 15 Premier League games this season.

 

ROUND-UP

- Manchester United remain interested in signing Aston Villa star Grealish, according to the Daily Mail. The midfielder was heavily linked with a move to United in the close season, but ended up staying at Villa, who are in action at Old Trafford on Friday.

- Eric Garcia has seemingly made a decision on his future. The Guardian reports the Manchester City defender has agreed personal terms on a five-year deal with Barcelona. Garcia is contracted at City until the end of the season.

- With Mauricio Pochettino reportedly set to take over at Paris Saint-Germain, Tottenham apparently have worries over Hugo Lloris. The Sun reports Spurs fear the goalkeeper could join former boss Pochettino in Paris and they are eyeing West Brom's Sam Johnstone and Manchester United's Dean Henderson as potential targets.

- Yet to play for Arsenal this season, Mesut Ozil's future remains a talking point. Bild reports the playmaker wants to see out his contract, which runs until season's end, with the Premier League outfit.

- Also coming out of contract, Sami Khedira looks set for a Juventus exit. The Daily Mail reports the midfielder is set to hold talks with Everton over a potential move.

- Struggling for game time at Manchester United, Jesse Lingard has had the one-year option on his contract at the club triggered, according to Sky Sports. Lingard's deal now runs until 2022.

Lionel Messi's future has been the subject of much speculation but a reunion with Pep Guardiola is still very much in Manchester City's plans.

Messi has been disgruntled with his situation at Barcelona since the end of last season, despite head coach Ronald Koeman's insistence that his superstar captain is happy.

Four-time Champions League winner Messi unsuccessfully tried to force an exit in August, however there will be no legal clauses to stop him when his contract expires in June 2021.

 

TOP STORY – MESSI WANTED ON FIVE-YEAR DEAL

The City Football Group (CFG) is eyeing a 2021 swoop that will see Lionel Messi split time between their Premier League powerhouse Manchester City and MLS franchise New York City, according to the Telegraph.

A five-year contract could be offered to superstar Barcelona captain Messi, which includes three years in England, taking the six-time Ballon d'Or winner to the age of 37, followed by an additional two more in the United States.

In an interview with Spanish TV channel La Sexta, Messi admitted his desire to one day play in the United States, a hint that City's proposal may be on his mind.

The most wonderful time of the year may not be quite as magical as years gone by due to restrictions on all of our lives caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Christmas is still a special period, though, and the familiarity of a hectic Premier League schedule is sure to be a comfort to fans across the globe.

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


SANTA SLEIGHED BY SALAH

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 once upon a time a man with a festive theme in his name was responsible for the best minutes-per-goal ratio during the month of December.

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

Alas, just like Rudolph and the rest of the gang at the end of a busy Christmas Eve shift, Santa Cruz has been reined in. The honour now goes to Liverpool star Mohamed Salah, who has a goal every 91 minutes in matches played in December (19 goals in 1737 minutes).

Mick Quinn (97 mins per goal), Divock Origi (105 mins per goal) and Demba Ba (106 mins per goal) complete the top five for December.


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.

Unsurprisingly, goalkeepers make up the top five with Petr Cech (6), Robert Green (5) and Simon Mignolet (4) all featuring. Indeed of those to have committed three or more errors leading to goals in December, ex-Newcastle United defender Aaron Hughes is the only outfield player on our list.


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 just 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 now 2020.

In total, 11 sides have managed to be top at Christmas - Chelsea (5), Arsenal (2) and Manchester City (2) unsurprisingly 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, while Steven Gerrard has 16 – the same amount as Tottenham star Harry Kane, who has Shearer's record in his sights.

In a league table of win percentages during this period, Manchester United lead the way with 64.6 per cent, while Liverpool (59.5 per cent) have brought plenty of festive cheer too.

At the opposite end, Sheffield United have won just 18.2 per cent of Premier League games for those dates over Christmas, while Crystal Palace 21.2 per cent fare little better.


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.

Jose Mourinho said "best goalkeeper in the Premier League" Hugo Lloris was not to blame for Crystal Palace's late equaliser after Tottenham were held to a 1-1 derby draw.

Spurs looked set to go clear of Liverpool at the top of the table after Palace keeper Vicente Guaita's first-half howler gifted Harry Kane a first-half opening goal at Selhurst Park on Sunday.

Kane's 15th goal of the season was not enough for Tottenham to beat their London rivals, though, as Jeffrey Schlupp finished from close range nine minutes from time.

Lloris could not deal with Eberechi Eze's dangerous free-kick and Schlupp was on hand to pounce for an equaliser.

Spurs boss Mourinho said he would never point the finger at Lloris, who he rates as the best in the English top flight.

Asked if Lloris was at fault for Schlupp's goal, he said: "My goalkeeper is the best goalkeeper in the Premier League, so I would never be critical of the best goalkeeper in the Premier League, period.

"If I had to blame anybody I have to blame ourselves, the team. The ones that win, the ones that draw and the ones that lose.

"At half-time I told the players exactly the opposite that we did in the second half, but if they didn't it was because they couldn't, they were not able to do it.

"I give credit to Palace for that, I only say that even if you want to press high, if the ball is in the air you cannot press, there is nothing to press.

"They put the ball in the air, into the box, started creating a lot of free-kicks and corners and rebounds, so the goal could arrive, like it did. So we have to blame ourselves for not doing what we did in the first half."

Of all goalkeepers to make 15 or more saves in the Premier League this season, Lloris has the highest save percentage (75.61 per cent), repelling 31 attempts.

He has saved 65.38 per cent of shots from within the penalty area and 93.33 per cent of those fired in on his goal from outside the 18-yard box.

Last season Lloris had an even higher save rate, stopping 79 per cent of shots. The Frenchman has improved significantly on that front since coming to the Premier League from Lyon in August 2012.

In the 2012-13 season he saved only 63.75 per cent of shots.

Guaita produced an outstanding stoppage-time save to keep out Eric Dier's free-kick soon after denying Kane a second goal, while Eze and Ben Davies hit the woodwork in an entertaining encounter.

Mourinho revealed Gareth Bale, who was not in the squad, should return for Wednesday's mouthwatering trip to Liverpool.

Kylian Mbappe is fit to feature in France's Nations League clash with Sweden on Tuesday but Anthony Martial is an injury doubt. 

Paris Saint-Germain forward Mbappe sat out Saturday's 1-0 win over Portugal, as well as last week's 2-0 friendly loss to Finland, because of a hamstring issue. 

However, he took part in full training on Sunday and is now in contention to play a part in the meeting with Sweden at the Stade de France. 

"Kylian is fine - he took part in the collective training session yesterday," France boss Didier Deschamps said at Monday's pre-match news conference. "He will also take part in the session today. 

"I will then take the time to discuss with him to see if he starts or if he comes into play from the bench. These are the two options with their advantages and disadvantages.  

"I will decide on what is best for the team and for him. He had two weeks without playing, but he really wants it. He wants to be there tomorrow, and if all goes well, he will be." 

Martial, however, may not be fit for the visit of Sweden, with Deschamps confirming the Manchester United forward trained separately from the group due to a back problem.

The 24-year-old started against Portugal and had more shots than any France player, though he failed to beat goalkeeper Rui Patricio with any of his three on-target attempts. 

He has now failed to score with each of his last 22 shots for France but captain Hugo Lloris insisted his team-mate offers a lot more to the side than just goals. 

"If he is here with us it is because the coach shows confidence in him," Lloris said. "He has adapted very well to the team thanks to his personality and his qualities as a player.  

"The coach has given him confidence. He made the defensive efforts, coming to help [Benjamin] Pavard down the right-hand side, so that means he has the right frame of mind." 

Mbappe and Martial's lack of fitness could see Olivier Giroud start, despite Deschamps recently raising concerns over the striker's lack of playing time at club level. 

Giroud has made just three appearances for Chelsea in the Premier League this term, all of them from the bench, and his national team boss has raised the prospect of the country's second-leading scorer finding a new club in the January transfer window. 

"The situation is not good for him. It is for him to sort - he will decide," Deschamps said. "But compared to the France team, psychologically and physically for him too, he has every interest in having playing time.  

"I hope that by January he will have more playing time. After that, he will stay or not. He knows what I think about it - I've told him, although I don't forget what he has done for us and might still do." 

France have already made certain of top spot in Group A3 ahead of their concluding fixture against Sweden, who are level on points with Croatia in the battle to avoid relegation.

There is one more weekend of Premier League action to go before the final international break of the year and some mouthwatering fixtures lie ahead.

Faltering Everton look to get their season back on track at home to lowly Manchester United on Saturday, while the previous two champions Manchester City and Liverpool do battle on Sunday.

But who can you trust to deliver fantasy points in these mammoth clashes? Use our Opta-powered weekly guide to find out.


HUGO LLORIS

The brilliance of Harry Kane, Son Heung-min and Gareth Bale has prompted title talk at Tottenham, but keeping goals out is just as important. For that, they – and you – can rely on Lloris.

Of Premier League goalkeepers to have played at least 500 minutes since the start of last season, the Spurs captain has the best save percentage at 75.8.

Lloris ranks second in that time, behind Dean Henderson, for goals prevented. He has conceded just 28 (excluding own goals) from shots worth 40.6 xG, a difference of 12.6.

CONOR COADY

When selecting players for a fantasy team, the first guarantee you might look for is that they will indeed play. There are no concerns in that regard when it comes to Coady.

The Wolves skipper is one of just four outfielders in the Premier League to play every minute of every match since the start of last season.

This helps Coady regularly collect points for clean sheets, too, managing more (17) than any other outfielder over the same stretch.

KURT ZOUMA

Chelsea's vastly improved recent defensive form makes a Blues defender an obvious selection, so why not opt for a man who also does the business at the other end?

Zouma has three Premier League goals already this season, the best return of any defender.

And that makes this already the Frenchman's most prolific campaign in the competition, trumping his two in 2018-19 – although he also weighed in with a pair of assists that season.

MOHAMED SALAH

Sometimes it's worth just going for the obvious option.

Diogo Jota might be Liverpool's man of the moment, but Salah has also netted in each of the Reds' past three games and has proven he can sustain this form over an extended period.

Indeed, since moving to Anfield in 2017, Salah has a competition-high 80 Premier League goals in 115 games, nine clear of next best Harry Kane over the same period.

BRUNO FERNANDES

Consistency is another key component in fantasy football, allowing you to transfer a player in and not have to worry about moving him out again the following week.

In this regard, Fernandes is surely king. The Manchester United midfielder has been involved in 12 goals (scored eight, assisted four) in his nine away games so far in the Premier League.

In only one of those nine matches – the 2-0 win at Crystal Palace in July – has Fernandes failed to register either a goal or an assist.

TIMO WERNER

Interest in Werner might have dimmed after he failed to record a goal or assist in his first four Premier League games, but the Chelsea man is now showing he was worth sticking with.

Werner has three goals and an assist over his past three games, suddenly finding his feet in England.

After netting a brace from the spot in Chelsea's midweek Champions League game, the German also looks to now be the Blues' penalty taker, ensuring more fantasy points.

CALLUM WILSON

Reliable Southampton scorer Danny Ings might be out injured, but Friday's opponents Newcastle United have another man steadily supplying the goals.

Wilson struggled as Bournemouth were relegated last season but has already proven invaluable to the Magpies and a host of fantasy managers.

With six strikes in seven league games this term, the forward has netted more than he managed in his final 30 Bournemouth matches (five), while his goals have been worth six points to Newcastle.

This most peculiar of Premier League seasons resumes this weekend with leaders Everton facing Southampton – and a notable nemesis.

Champions Liverpool tackle an out-of-sorts Sheffield United and last season's runners-up Manchester City meet West Ham, who produced that utterly amazing comeback against Tottenham last week.

Spurs are good value to bounce back against Burnley, particularly given Harry Kane's recent record, and Hugo Lloris might fancy a first clean sheet of the season.

There's also the small matter of Manchester United versus Chelsea, where Bruno Fernandes will hope to keep racking up those fantasy points. He's just one of our Opta-powered tips for you this week.

HUGO LLORIS

Spurs will want to get that collapse against West Ham out of their system swiftly, and a trip to Burnley might just be exactly what they need.

The Clarets have only beaten Spurs twice in 12 Premier League meetings and Jose Mourinho has never lost to them in nine games as a manager.

Lloris will hope this is the moment for a first shutout of the season. He's certainly earned one: of Premier League keepers to play at least 10 games since August 2018, only Emiliano Martinez (81 per cent) has a better save percentage than Lloris (75.4 per cent). Lloris has saved 193 of the 252 most recent shots on target he has faced.

 

AARON CRESSWELL

If you're looking for full-back value, look no further than Aaron Cresswell.

Okay, West Ham are likely to concede at least one goal against Manchester City, but Cresswell has more assists (three) and more chances created (12) than any other Premier League defender in 2020-21.

And City are not exactly impregnable at the back – they have already conceded seven times this term.

 

ANDY ROBERTSON

Andy Robertson is probably the safest swap for those having to take Virgil van Dijk out of their defences.

Liverpool's left-back has more assists (three) and more overall goal involvements (he's also scored twice) since the restart in June than any other Premier League defender.

The Reds face Sheffield United, who have looked decidedly shaky of late.

 

BRUNO FERNANDES

It might be a stretch to predict another 4-0 win for United at home to Chelsea as it was at Old Trafford last season, but few would bet against Bruno Fernandes being involved in the thick of it.

Since his debut in the Premier League, Fernandes has scored 11 and assisted nine goals, and no other player has reached 20 goal involvements in the competition in that time.

Chelsea have also conceded three goals in two of their past three league matches.

RAHEEM STERLING

Simply put, Raheem Sterling loves playing against West Ham.

The City forward has six goals and five assists in his past six league starts against the Hammers, a run that includes a hat-trick in a 5-0 win at London Stadium last season.

In fact, Pep Guardiola has won all nine games against West Ham as a manager, his joint-best record against a single opponent alongside Watford and Bournemouth.

 

DANNY INGS

Everton are tough opponents for anyone right now, but that does not change the fact that Danny Ings has always rather enjoyed facing them.

The Southampton striker has scored in four of his five appearances against the Toffees in all competitions, including in both games last season.

Only against Spurs (five) has he scored more goals for Saints.

 

HARRY KANE

Harry Kane has been flying this season and there is every chance his form continues against Burnley on Monday.

Kane has managed six goals and two assists in his past four Premier League games against the Clarets and hit a hat-trick at Turf Moor three years ago.

Spurs have also scored 11 in just two away games in the league this term.

Hugo Lloris has defended Antoine Griezmann from critics and insists the Barcelona forward remains a crucial player for France.

Griezmann has been scrutinised for his form for much of the past 15 months since he completed a €120million move from Atletico Madrid to Barca.

The 29-year-old has not looked fully at ease in the Catalans' forward line, his last goal in LaLiga – one of only nine he scored last season – coming in the 4-1 win at Villarreal on July 5.

Griezmann, who got a goal in the 7-1 friendly thrashing of Ukraine, also scored in the 4-2 Nations League win over Croatia but, ahead of Wednesday's rematch in Zagreb, he again finds himself facing accusations of poor form for the national team.

In the 0-0 draw with Portugal on Sunday, Griezmann, playing as a number 10 behind Olivier Giroud and Kylian Mbappe, managed just two shots and created one chance for team-mates.

However, he did attempt 55 passes in the opposition half – the most of any player on the pitch – and highlighted his importance without the ball, winning back possession a game-high 11 times.

It is that kind of quality that Lloris believes will always be important, even if Griezmann's goal output is presently reduced.

"You can't question a player like Antoine Griezmann because of all he has done and all he has brought to France in recent years," the Tottenham goalkeeper told reporters on Tuesday.

"All players have ups and downs. There are times when you succeed more than others. He is currently going through a slightly complicated period in attack, but above all, I see a player who is ready to defend and make the effort for his team-mates. There is no question about that.

"We have to keep our backs to the wall and help him, too. He has our full confidence. We know he has the ability to make the difference in truly important moments for France.

"Let's be patient but, in any case, France can only be strong if we are all united and not pointing the finger at any individual player."

Lloris is looking forward to Wednesday's game at Stadion Maksimir, at which a number of fans will be permitted.

"The presence of supporters is of course good news," he added. "There will inevitably be a bit of hostility but, for the French players, it's a good thing to be able to overcome adversity to win this match.

"That's our goal, in any case. We'll give everything to give the right performance to win."

While some get a slightly longer break, the Premier League returns this week for the majority.

Champions Liverpool get going against Marcelo Bielsa's Leeds United, back in the big time for the first time since 2004, while plenty of eyes will be on Frank Lampard's lavish new Chelsea side.

With the Manchester clubs, Aston Villa and Burnley not involved, this is an opening matchweek where you can afford to be a little more selective as you look for names to get you up and running.

If you need a little advice, then look no further - this Opta-powered selection is sure to get you off to a flying start.

HUGO LLORIS

While there might be one or two too many of those 'rare errors' in Hugo Lloris' form over the past two years, he is undeniably still a hugely capable goalkeeper.

Don't believe me? Well, based on Expected Goals figures, he prevented 9.5 goals for Spurs last season, the most of any keeper in the Premier League. He also had the highest save percentage (79) in the competition. And he only played in 21 games.

Given Spurs are unbeaten in 15 league matches against Everton, Jose Mourinho has managed 10 opening-day Premier League games without losing, and the Toffees have won once in 19 top-flight visits to London, Lloris looks a pretty safe bet between the posts.

 

MATT DOHERTY

A goalscoring defender in a Jose Mourinho team? You'd be mad not to consider him.

Matt Doherty has scored 15 goals in all competitions since 2018-19, more than any other Premier League defender in that time. Looking at goals and assists (eight each) in just the league in the same time frame, only Andrew Robertson (25) and Trent Alexander-Arnold (30) have more goal involvements than Doherty's 16.

Given Spurs' recent good form against Everton (see above), Doherty represents a solid selection.

 

TRENT ALEXANDER-ARNOLD

Yes, he's expensive, but really, there are few reasons to leave him out.

With five goals and 25 assists since 2018-19, Trent Alexander-Arnold leads the way in Europe's top-five leagues for goal involvements from a defender. He's hit double figures for assists (12 and 13) in each of the past two seasons, too.

Liverpool have not lost on the opening day of the top flight as reigning champions since 1924, and while Leeds United could make things tricky, Alexander-Arnold is almost certain to be involved in the Reds' best moments.

SON HEUNG-MIN

There's a real Spurs flavour to this week's picks - as we've established, Everton have a pretty lousy recent record against them - and Son Heung-min is another worth considering.

So often Spurs' go-to attacking star when Harry Kane is sidelined, last season saw Son register 21 goal involvements (11 scored, 10 assisted) in 30 games, his best record in England's top flight.

That works out at 118.3 minutes per goal or assist, which is enough to make the Everton defence feel more than a little nervous.

 

PIERRE-EMERICK AUBAMEYANG

Look no further for your first-week captain.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has been directly involved in 16 goals in 13 Premier League games against newly promoted opponents. In two matches against Fulham in 2018-19, he scored three and set up another across 5-1 and 4-1 victories for his side.

The Gunners have lost once in 13 league meetings with Fulham and are unbeaten in 24 matches in all competitions in September, so it seems like now is the time to give Aubameyang the armband - assuming he stays at the club, of course.

TIMO WERNER

Brighton, beware: only four players scored more goals than Timo Werner (28) in all of Europe's top-five leagues last season.

A very expensive new starting line-up is likely to be fielded by Lampard against Brighton and Hove Albion and you can bet Werner will be front and centre (or maybe front and left - we're not second-guessing your formation, Frank).

Chelsea's defence might not be trustworthy, but backing Werner to hit the ground running is a safer bet.

 

DANNY INGS

Danny Ings got 22 goals in the Premier League last season, the most by a Southampton player since James Beattie in 2002-03. And Beattie was a real fantasy favourite.

Southampton start away at Crystal Palace, where they have won in each of their past three visits without conceding a goal, and their nine away wins last season (a tally bettered only by Liverpool and Manchester City) suggest a fourth in a row at Selhurst Park is forthcoming.

With Ings having been directly involved in 14 goals (12 scored, two assisted) in 14 top-flight away games, there is every chance he could be matchweek one's top performer.

France goalkeeper Hugo Lloris believes Anthony Martial has grown more confident under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer at Manchester United.

The forward made his first international appearance since March 2018 when he came on as a substitute in the 1-0 Nations League win over Sweden on Saturday.

Martial won a penalty after drawing a foul from United team-mate Victor Lindelof, only for Antoine Griezmann to miss from the spot.

The 24-year-old, who scored 23 goals in all competitions at club level last season, could be involved on Tuesday in the clash with Croatia after Kylian Mbappe hurt his ankle against Sweden.

Lloris thinks the pressure is now on Martial to follow up his most prolific season with continued good form, but the Tottenham captain believes the former Monaco man will benefit from playing in United's more fluid attack.

"I don't know how his relationship with Solskjaer is, but I think he's more confident," said Lloris.

"There's a very good understanding with the players around him at Manchester United.

"There'll be expectations on him; he will have to confirm his good season. He's committed to doing well for five, 10 minutes, a half or a whole game."

The meeting with Croatia is a repeat of the 2018 World Cup final, which France won 4-2 at Moscow's Luzhniki Stadium, but Lloris expects their opponents to be more concerned about making amends for a chastening 4-1 loss to Portugal last weekend.

"It's a different context, a different competition [to the World Cup]," he said. "It'll be a whole different game.

"We expect a Croatia team whose pride is a little hurt after the defeat to Portugal.

"We'll try to confirm the result we got in Sweden. Beyond that, we would have liked to have played in front of our fans. It's still an advantage when you play at home - we know they'll be in front of their TVs to cheer us on."

Kylian Mbappe is fit to play for France in Tuesday's Nations League meeting with Croatia after responding well to a right ankle knock, coach Didier Deschamps has confirmed.

Mbappe was forced off 77 minutes into France's slender 1-0 win over Sweden on Saturday, with the Paris Saint-Germain star suffering a blow to his foot.

The 21-year-old damaged the same ankle in PSG's Coupe de France final triumph over Saint-Etienne on July 24, just about recovering in time for the resumption of the club's Champions League campaign three weeks later.

Although Mbappe said after the unconvincing Sweden victory that he would be fine, Deschamps expressed concern and insisted he would take no risks with the prodigious forward.

But it appears he has recovered quickly and will be in contention for Tuesday's rematch of the 2018 World Cup final.

"It's okay, I've no particular worries," Deschamps told reporters on Monday regarding Mbappe's condition.

"He had a little shock during the game. He will take part in today's session. As he says, with each passing day things are getting better and better. I've no fears for his ankle compared to Saturday.

"The full 23 are available, Kim [Presnel Kimpembe] and Kylian too, they know it, I know it. I am not in the place of the clubs.

"This is an international match and we will do everything to win it, even if in the analysis I take different things into account."

While Mbappe is available, Deschamps may opt against throwing him in from the start due to his condition, meaning Anthony Martial – the PSG striker's replacement on Saturday – could get his first start for Les Bleus since a March 2018 friendly against Russia.

Deschamps recognises his versatility in attack is useful, while captain Hugo Lloris noted the 24-year-old appears more confident having enjoyed a resurgence under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer at Manchester United.

"He's capable of playing on the flank too, but in Manchester he's really a number nine," Deschamps said. "He might not have the typical profile of a centre-forward, though he has that versatility there. He has gained consistency and efficiency."

Lloris added: "I don't know how his relationship with Solskjaer is, but I find he is more confident."

France will be hoping to at the very least keep pace with Portugal at the top of Nations League Group A3 when they face Croatia, who were resoundingly beaten 4-1 by Fernando Santos' talented side on Saturday.

Portugal will be hosted by Sweden on Tuesday, with Cristiano Ronaldo potentially back in contention as they go for two wins from as many games.

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