The Premier League title picture became little clearer on the first weekend after Christmas.

Liverpool and Tottenham were both held, while Manchester United played out a draw at Leicester City. Chelsea lost to struggling Arsenal.

But there was still plenty of intrigue across the latest round of fixtures as Edinson Cavani proved his worth again and Spurs struck swiftly before their late collapse.

With the help of Opta data, we take a look at some of the most interesting facts.

Cavani continues sublime sub form

United striker Cavani has still started just one Premier League match and played 207 minutes in the competition in total, but he provided another telling contribution as a substitute on Saturday as he assisted Bruno Fernandes' goal at Leicester less than four minutes after his introduction.

It was Cavani's fifth goal involvement off the bench already in the league this season, scoring three and creating a further two. No other player has been involved in more than three.

That tally has already matched manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's best return as a substitute in a single Premier League campaign; the renowned 'super sub' was involved in five goals off the bench in both 1996-97 and 1998-99.

Earlier this term, Cavani achieved a feat that Solskjaer had not, scoring and assisting as a substitute in the same away game at Southampton. Only Ruud van Nistelrooy had previously done so on the road for United.

The Paris Saint-Germain great has some way to go before taking the all-time Premier League record for goal involvements from the bench, however, as Adam Le Fondre tallied nine (eight goals, one assist) in 2012-13.

Speedy Spurs strike early again

If only Tottenham finished matches as strongly as they start them, having again failed to see out victory in the closing stages of Sunday's draw against Wolves.

Spurs have now dropped nine points in the final 10 minutes of matches this season, a Premier League high, yet their 57-second opener from Tanguy Ndombele continued a theme of speedy starts.

Only Chelsea (12) have scored more first-minute goals than Tottenham (11) in Premier League history.

And while Ndombele's drilled effort did not rank up there with the quickest, Spurs have accounted for two of the four fastest goals ever scored in the competition.

Ledley King's 9.8-second blast against Bradford City in 2000 ranks second, with Christian Eriksen's 10.5-second finish in a win over United in January 2018 fourth.

Tottenham have also conceded seven times in the opening 60 seconds of Premier League matches, though, joining Chelsea, United and Arsenal in a tie for third in that regard behind Everton (10) and Newcastle United (nine).

Arsenal ace Xhaka finds his range

Arsenal's London derby defeat of Chelsea might have come as a surprise, but Granit Xhaka's superb goal perhaps should not.

His free-kick on the stroke of half-time put the Gunners 2-0 up and was the first Arsenal goal scored direct from a free-kick against Chelsea since Thierry Henry's effort in the 2004-05 season.

Henry (12) has scored the most Premier League free-kicks for the Gunners, while Alexis Sanchez and Robin van Persie (both five) are the only other two Arsenal stars to top Xhaka's total of three.

And no Arsenal player with five or more Premier League goals has scored a greater portion of their strikes from outside the box, with Xhaka netting seven of nine (78 per cent) from range.

He is still a way short of Henry's Arsenal haul of 29 goals from distance or Chelsea boss Frank Lampard's Premier League record of 41, however.

Ten-man Villa deserving victors

One of the most impressive results of the weekend saw Aston Villa beat Crystal Palace 3-0 despite seeing Tyrone Mings being sent off just before the break with his side just one goal up.

Although Villa had just 38.6 per cent of the possession, they were ruthless, having 20 attempts for an expected goals total of 4.3.

That is the highest xG total for a team over a single match so far this season, with Manchester City - 4.6 against Brighton and Hove Albion - the last team to top that at the end of the 2019-20 campaign.

City had 11 men for the duration of that match, though.

Since Opta's xG records began in 2013-14, no team had previously earned a total of 4.3 after having a man sent off, let alone having been reduced to 10 men before half-time.

How it started: With a Jermaine Pennant hat-trick against Southampton, in a "farcical" game.

How's it going? Try asking Britain's most decorated football manager, standing at the heart of his Manchester United kingdom, smeared in mozzarella, tomato and pepperoni.

It's October 24, 2004, and Alex Ferguson needs a change of outfit before heading to post-match interviews.

His United team have halted Arsenal in their tracks, a 2-0 victory at Old Trafford ending the Gunners' record 49-game unbeaten run in the Premier League.

And while Ferguson might be smarting as the victim of what would become known as 'pizza-gate', just moments ago he was rejoicing while Arsene Wenger was seething.

For the Scot, the next day's dry-cleaning bill would be a small price to pay.

But even Ferguson must have felt a grudging admiration, for he and United never scaled the heights that Wenger and his Invincibles reached in their greatest year.

Who were the Invincibles and how did their run begin?

Arsenal had already won the Premier League twice already under Wenger, in the 1997-98 and 2001-02 seasons, and they were hot favourites for the 2002-03 crown when a 2-0 victory over Charlton Athletic on March 2 gave them an eight-point lead over Ferguson's United.

They blew it from there, ultimately surrendering the last lingering hopes of the title when losing 3-2 at home to Leeds United on May 4, Mark Viduka striking a super late winner for Peter Reid's visitors to Highbury.

Manchester United, with whom Arsenal were waging a bitter rivalry, scooped the silverware.

But that loss to Leeds was the trigger point for the longest unbeaten run in English top-flight history, and three days later Arsenal crushed Southampton 6-1 in what would prove to be game one of their historic achievement.

The BBC reported it as "a slightly farcical" victory for Arsenal against Southampton that night, with both sides resting a host of players ahead of their meeting later in the month in the FA Cup final.

Pennant hit a treble and so did Robert Pires. Only one of that pair played an integral role for the duration of the Invincibles' run. Reader, it was not Jermaine Pennant.

Arsenal signed off their 2002-03 league campaign with a 4-0 win at Sunderland, where Freddie Ljungberg helped himself to a hat-trick too, but it was the following campaign where Wenger's men were truly sensational.

Unstoppable Gunners

Arsenal began 2003-04 in the Premier League with four straight wins before a draw with Portsmouth checked their charge ahead of a trip to Old Trafford on September 21 - a game that stoked the tension for what that occurred 13 months later.

Down to 10 men after Patrick Vieira saw red for kicking out at Ruud van Nistelrooy, Arsenal conceded a 90th-minute penalty. Van Nistelrooy stepped up with the chance to win the game - only for the Dutchman to smack his spot-kick against Jens Lehmann's crossbar.

Arsenal stars, including Martin Keown, playing the big man, confronted Van Nistelrooy at the final whistle, amid unsavoury scenes that saw the Gunners fined £175,000 by the Football Association, with short-term bans scattered among the unruliest of the players.

Arsenal escaped that day with a draw and never looked back. A 1-1 draw with United at Highbury in March left Arsenal seven points clear of second-placed Chelsea, and Thierry Henry's hat-trick in the next home game sealed a 4-2 win over Liverpool, proving a soothing result after FA Cup and Champions League exits.

United ended their FA Cup run and Chelsea eliminated Arsenal from Europe - sore losses, both.

Yet a 2-2 draw at Tottenham secured the title, with Arsenal grandstanding at White Hart Lane, home of their great north London rivals, and still their Premier League aura remained.

How it ended

Eight wins from nine at the start of the 2004-05 campaign pointed to Arsenal being prime contenders for another title. For how long would they stay unbeaten? Could the Invincibles repeat the trick?

United had won just three of nine by the time Arsenal arrived at Old Trafford on that fateful October day, when Van Nistelrooy this time made no mistake with a second-half penalty before Wayne Rooney marked his 19th birthday by sealing the home side's win late on.

If that was the main course, the tasty afters were reserved only for those with behind-the-scenes access, with word trickling out of chaos in the tunnel, by the dressing rooms.

Ferguson, in his 2013 book My Autobiography, wrote that Wenger "was livid" after the game.

"His fists were clenched," Ferguson claimed.

Soup was thrown. Or was it pizza? Maybe it was both, as many reported at the time - pea soup or tomato soup, depending on your newspaper of choice.

Ferguson would know, and he wrote in his book: "The next thing I knew I had pizza all over me."

The players were at loggerheads, and in admitting his guilt as recently as 2017, Cesc Fabregas said he had ventured out of the Arsenal dressing room to see punches being thrown.

The 17-year-old Fabregas, a slight figure not built for dust-ups, decided the pizza would be his tool of war, and off it went into the throng, unwittingly finding what some might consider the bullseye of all bullseyes.

Invincibles never die, and nor do their statistics

Arsenal went past the previous record of 42 unbeaten top flight games, set by Brian Clough's Nottingham Forest from 1977 to 1978, when they thumped Blackburn Rovers 3-0 at Highbury on August 25, 2004.

The third goal that day was scored by Jose Antonio Reyes, a January acquisition who shone brightly at Arsenal for a while, played for Spain at the 2006 World Cup and also appeared for Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid and Sevilla. In June 2019, Reyes died in a car accident.

In their famous run, Arsenal won 36 times and drew 13 matches, scoring 112 goals and conceding just 35, with 20 clean sheets.

Thierry Henry and Kolo Toure each appeared in all but one of the games, with goalkeeper Lehmann playing 47 times and winger Pires next on the list with 45 outings, ahead of Ashley Cole and Lauren (both 41), Dennis Bergkamp, Ljungberg and Gilberto Silva (all 39) and Sol Campbell (38).

Henry was at his magnificent peak, plundering 39 goals across the run, along with 19 assists, with Pires scoring 23 and Ljungberg 10. Reyes bagged eight and Bergkamp seven, the Dutchman adding 13 assists.

It meant that Henry had an involvement - putting the ball in the back of the net or setting up the chance - in 52 per cent of Arsenal's goals in those 49 games.

Pires, also in his pomp, was next, playing a part in 29 per cent of the goals, with Bergkamp (18 per cent), Ljungberg (17 per cent) and Reyes (12 per cent) rounding off the top five contributors at the sharp end.

Could anyone go 50 unbeaten now?

Liverpool got to 44 before Watford stopped them in their tracks earlier this year, and the truth of it is that footballers are imperfect and will have bad days.

Manchester City reached 30 unbeaten before Liverpool beat them 4-3 in January 2018.

Arsenal's Invincibles remain held up by many as the benchmark team of the Premier League era.

Pep Guardiola's Manchester City reached 100 points, Liverpool hit 99 last season, but they both had slips along the way. Arsenal completed a full season unbeaten in the league, and then some.

Wenger's third Premier League trophy was also his last, but his greatest Gunners regiment, from field marshals Henry and Bergkamp down to lance corporals Pascal Cygan and Jeremie Aliadiere, will not be forgotten in a long time.

And 'pizza-gate' might carry different connotations in the modern world, but there was no conspiracy theory surrounding the Old Trafford flying slice.

It happened all right. Perhaps somewhere there are still the stains to prove it.

Tottenham fans got to see Gareth Bale don the famous shirt once more in Sunday's Premier League clash with West Ham.

The Wales star came off the bench at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium for his first appearance in England's top flight since May 2013, but it proved a frustrating outing.

From 3-0 up when Bale was introduced in the 72nd minute, Tottenham were pegged back as the game finished in a 3-3 draw.

The 31-year-old, who previously played for Spurs between 2007 and 2013, joined Jose Mourinho's side on loan from Real Madrid after winning four Champions Leagues with Los Blancos.

Bale had only 25 goal involvements (17 goals, eight assists) across his final two seasons with Madrid, having managed 61 (38 goals, 23 assists) in his last two campaigns with Tottenham.

Players returning to clubs where they enjoyed great success is nothing new, but are the second acts ever as good as those we witness first?


One of the world's greatest players, Maradona completed a dream transfer from Argentinos Juniors to Boca in 1981, going on to score 28 times in 40 league games for the club he supported as a boy. With the lure of Europe, a world-record transfer to Barcelona followed, but Maradona finished his career back in Argentina with Boca. However, by that point he was a shadow of his former self, scoring just seven times in 30 appearances from 1995 to 1997.

Key stat: Maradona played in 10 Primera Division seasons in his home country, though he would win just one piece of silverware - the 1981 Metropolitano - in his first stint at Boca.


Known as 'God' at Anfield, Fowler was the homegrown hero who led the line for the Reds for much of the 1990s. He was sold to Leeds United in 2001, having had a difficult relationship with manager Gerard Houllier, who preferred Michael Owen and Emile Heskey in attack. After a spell at Manchester City, Fowler returned to Liverpool on a free in 2006, but the three league goals he scored in 2006-07 were all penalties.

Key stat: Fowler remains Liverpool's all-time leading scorer in the Premier League having netted 128 times in 266 games.


Another talented Merseyside youngster, Rooney made a memorable breakthrough at Everton with a brilliant winner against Arsenal in 2002, though his relationship with fans of his boyhood club soured when he joined Manchester United, for whom he became the club's record scorer. Relations thawed over time and Rooney came 'home' for 2017-18 - but he was often deployed in a deeper midfield position in his second spell.

Key stat: Rooney scored 10 times in the Premier League during his second stint at Goodison Park - the only time he reached double figures for Everton in a league campaign.


The Brazilian enjoyed a fruitful six years at San Siro, winning the 2007 Ballon d'Or, a Serie A title and a Champions League while scoring 70 goals and providing 48 assists in 193 league games. Kaka never truly hit those heights again as a Real Madrid Galactico and returned to Milan for 2013-14, though he was unable to rediscover his magic.

Key stat: The forward averaged a goal involvement every 131 minutes in his initial spell with Milan, but that fell to 219 minutes second time around.


A product of BVB's youth academy, Gotze, like his team-mates Robert Lewandowski and Mats Hummels, was eventually lured to rivals Bayern Munich. The midfielder, who scored the winning goal for Germany in the 2014 World Cup final, struggled at times for form and fitness during three seasons with Bayern and that continued back at Dortmund, where he spent four more seasons before leaving earlier this year. Gotze has since joined Dutch giants PSV.

Key stat: Gotze scored 22 goals at a rate of one every 263 minutes in his first four-season spell with Dortmund. During his second stint, he scored 13 at a rate of one every 351 minutes.


Of course it is the enigmatic Swede who proves things can be just as good second time around. Ibrahimovic enjoyed a brilliant two-season run at Milan between 2010 and 2012 - scoring 42 times and providing 17 assists in 61 Serie A games. Ibrahimovic returned to Milan in January and, in 20 Serie A games so far, he has scored 14 goals and assisted five more.

Key stat: Ibrahimovic's minutes-per-goal involvement stood at one every 91 minutes in his first Milan spell, and this time around on average he has played a part in a goal every 81.3 minutes.

Former Barcelona sensation Bojan Krkic scored as play-off chasing Montreal Impact edged Inter Miami 2-1 in MLS, while Chicago Fire salvaged a last-gasp draw against Sporting Kansas City.

Goals from Bojan and Maxi Urruti lifted Thierry Henry's Impact past Inter Miami at Red Bull Arena on Saturday.

Bojan opened the scoring in the sixth minute before teeing up team-mate Urruti with 10 minutes remaining after Inter Miami's Brek Shea had equalised 12 minutes prior to half-time.

Spaniard Bojan recorded a goal and an assist in a league match for the first time since December 2010 during his time with Barca, per Opta.

Bojan has scored three goals from outside the box since the start of the 2019 MLS season – no Impact player has done so more than once in that time.

With the win, the Impact leapfrogged Nashville into eighth position in the Eastern Conference, while Inter Miami remain 12th after their three-game unbeaten streak was snapped.

Djordje Mihailovic scored in the fifth minute of stoppage time as the Fire snatched a 2-2 draw with Sporting KC.

With Sporting KC on track for maximum points, Mihailovic latched onto a ball over the top, got beyond goalkeeper Tim Melia and converted into the net.

At 94:14, it is Chicago's latest goal scored in MLS since Cuauhtemoc Blanco's 96th-minute penalty against Chivas USA in 2009, according to Opta.

Erik Hurtado and Robert Beric had traded goals in the first half before Gadi Kinda put Sporting KC ahead with seven minutes of regulation remaining.

Chicago are 10th in the east, while Sporting KC are third and level on points with Western Conference leaders Seattle Sounders and Portland Timbers.

Arsene Wenger regrets missing out on the chance to pair Cristiano Ronaldo with Thierry Henry at Arsenal and jokingly suggested his Gunners side may have scored 200 goals if he had.

Legendary ex-Arsenal boss Wenger has spoken on several occasions of how close he came to bringing Ronaldo to north London and this week claimed the Portugal great "had the shirt" after a deal was struck with Sporting CP.

Of course, a teenage Ronaldo instead joined Manchester United and became a global name, winning eight major trophies including the Premier League three times and the Champions League.

A move to Real Madrid in 2009 saw Ronaldo scaling even greater heights, becoming Los Blancos' record goalscorer and winning another four Champions League medals before joining in Juventus in 2018.

Ronaldo is also a five-time Ballon d'Or winner, a number surpassed only by his long-time rival Lionel Messi at Barcelona, and Wenger cannot help but imagine what life had been like if Ronaldo had played with the likes of Henry, Robert Pires and Dennis Bergkamp under his stewardship.

"Of course I think what if, for example, Cristiano Ronaldo played with Thierry Henry, Pires, [Sylvain] Wiltord and Dennis. Maybe we score 200 goals in a season!" He told BBC Sport.

"You regret sometimes, you think it's your fault that you didn't decide quickly enough or sometimes financially you couldn't agree quickly enough, but overall I must say you go to Chelsea, you go to Manchester United, you go to Liverpool...every club is full of stories like this."

There is a sort of long-running joke regarding Wenger and the players he missed out on signing during his 22-years with Arsenal.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic, like Ronaldo, is another of the greats that slipped the net at Arsenal, with the Swedish star having had a trial at the club as a teenager.

But Wenger says the circumstances were markedly different to those involved in his pursuit of Ronaldo.

Asked if he wished he signed Ibrahimovic instead of inviting him for a trial, Wenger replied: "Not really, because he was a 17-year-old boy playing at Malmo in the second league in Sweden. 

"And nobody knew him. We gave trials to many players at 17 – it was absolutely normal before you make a decision."

Olivier Giroud has half an eye on catching Thierry Henry at the top of France's all-time leading scorer list after grabbing two goals on his 100th international appearance. 

The Chelsea striker got his 41st and 42nd goals for Les Bleus in Wednesday's 7-1 thrashing of Ukraine in a friendly match at Stade de France. 

Giroud has surpassed Michel Platini on the list and is now behind only former Arsenal and Barcelona star Henry, who scored 51 in 123 games. 

Giroud's tally is all-the-more impressive given he has often been used by coach Didier Deschamps as a target man entrusted with bringing deeper forwards such as Antoine Griezmann and Kylian Mbappe into play.

Indeed, the 34-year-old played in all seven of France's games at the 2018 World Cup, including their 4-2 win over Croatia in the final, without once getting on the scoresheet. 

Although he is not focusing too much on catching Henry, he suggested setting a new national record could be within his reach.

"Obviously, I'm hugely proud," Giroud, who was captain for the Ukraine match, told TF1. "It's a great honour [to reach 100 caps] and I'm very happy that it happened like this.

"It was always going to be emotional. It's a friendly match but it's still my hundredth, so I'm very happy for me and for the team as well. We showed a lot of good things.

"Now I keep looking forwards, without setting any limits. I hope to continue like this.

"I think you have to set goals. It's now maybe a little early to say [if I will break the record]. We'll see when I'm maybe on 46 or 47 goals!"

France face Portugal in the Nations League on Sunday.

The goals continued to flow in the Premier League at the weekend, but not quite at the same rate as the previous matchday had seen.

There was a first for Pep Guardiola as Manchester City were thumped 5-2 by Leicester City at the Etihad Stadium, while Manchester United overcame Brighton and Hove Albion 3-2 in a thriller that was decided by a penalty scored after the final whistle.

Chelsea came back from three goals down to earn a point at West Brom, while West Ham put four past Wolves and kept a clean sheet despite manager David Moyes not being present due to a positive coronavirus test.

Not everyone stayed on brand, though. Leeds United's first two games included 14 goals but they only edged out Sheffield United 1-0 at Bramall Lane, while Southampton beat Burnley by the same scoreline.

Still, at least there wasn't a single 0-0!

With the help of Opta, we took a look at some of the more unusual stats to have emerged over the weekend.


Richarlison took his Premier League tally to 32 goals in Everton's 2-1 victory at Crystal Palace, but it was his first from the penalty spot. It is far from unusual for an attacker to rack up an impressive number of strikes without the assistance of spot-kicks, though. Les Ferdinand is the most prolific forward to not score a single penalty in the Premier League, with none of his 149 top-flight goals coming from the spot. In fact, rather than Richarlison, it's another player on Merseyside among the leaders in this category. Sadio Mane has scored 86 goals in the Premier League and not a single one was a penalty, putting him fourth on the list behind Emile Heskey (110) and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer (91).


Harry Kane may have only scored one league goal this season, but the England captain has undoubtedly been in fine form. By setting up Lucas Moura's opener in the 1-1 draw with Newcastle United on Sunday he became only the third player to supply five assists across the opening three matchdays of a Premier League season – a feat only previously achieved by Ruel Fox for the Magpies in 1994-95 and Henrikh Mkhitaryan for United in 2017-18. Another assist against the Red Devils this weekend would see Kane match Thierry Henry (2004-05) and Cesc Fabregas (2014-15) with six from four matchdays, while two would be a new Premier League record.


A lot has been made of Jorge Mendes' influence at Wolves, which has seen an influx of Portuguese talent at Molineux. The latest such addition is defender Nelson Semedo, who became the 14th Portuguese player to appear in the Premier League for Wolves by debuting in the 4-0 loss to West Ham on Sunday. It is far from the greatest affinity between a Premier League club and players from a specific country, though. The 27 Frenchmen to turn out for Arsenal represents a joint record alongside Sunderland's 27 Irish players. Another appearance by a player from France would see Newcastle (26) draw level as well.


City's 5-2 hammering at the hands of City on Sunday represented the first time in 686 games as a manager that Guardiola has seen one of his teams concede five goals. Among Premier League title-winning bosses still active in the top flight, Guardiola lasted the longest by some distance. Carlo Ancelotti first saw one of his teams ship five in his 106th game as a coach (Parma's 5-2 loss to Sampdoria in January 1998), while it happened to Jurgen Klopp in his 209th match (Mainz's 6-1 defeat to Werder Bremen in October 2006). The first time it happened to Mourinho was in his 471st game, when Guardiola's Barcelona claimed a 5-0 victory over Real Madrid in November 2010.


Danny Ings was one goal away from sharing the Golden Boot with Jamie Vardy last season and he's continued his prolific form in 2020-21, scoring three times in as many top-flight appearances. Since the start of last season Ings has scored 25 of Southampton's 54 Premier League goals, which equates to 46 per cent. No other team has been as dependent on a single goalscorer, though Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (23 of 61 - 38 per cent) and Jamie Vardy (28 of 79 - 35 per cent) are in close contention.

Anthony Joshua has made the move from boxing to football, at least in the virtual world, after it was confirmed he will appear in FIFA 21.

Joshua will be a playable character in the video game's "Volta" mode – in which players are able to test their skills in a small-sided game with five-a-side rules.

Olympic gold medallist and world heavyweight champion Joshua is being introduced as a "Groundbreaker", alongside Kaka, Eric Cantona, Thierry Henry, Liverpool defender Trent Alexander-Arnold, Atletico Madrid youngster Joao Felix and FIFA 21 cover star Kylian Mbappe.

Diplo, a three-time Grammy Award-winning DJ and producer, also features.

Players will be able to pit their wits against the Groundbreakers, while also being able to recruit them into their squads.

Montreal Impact prevailed 1-0 as Thierry Henry's men ended Toronto's 18-game unbeaten streak in MLS on Tuesday.

Eastern Conference leaders Toronto had the chance to tie the record for consecutive regular-season matches without defeat, but they were upstaged by their Canadian rivals.

A 14th-minute header from Rudy Camacho was the difference at BMO Field in Toronto, where the Impact defender was left unmarked to head home Romell Quioto's cross.

Toronto thought they had equalised via the penalty spot in chaotic scenes in first-half stoppage time, following a foul on Jozy Altidore.

Alejandro Pozuelo and Pablo Piatti combined, the former rolling the ball forward for the latter to fire a penalty past Impact goalkeeper Clement Diop.

Referee Drew Fischer, however, ruled out the goal after Piatti was judged to have entered the penalty area before Pozuelo passed the ball forward.

In the 95th minute, Montreal's Emanuel Maciel was sent off for a challenge on Toronto captain Michael Bradley but VAR downgraded the card to yellow.

Toronto remain a point clear of Columbus Crew in the east, while Montreal are five points off the pace in fifth.

With all eyes on Barcelona, Lionel Messi's future is again a talking point.

The Catalans capitulated in the Champions League on Friday, thrashed 8-2 by Bayern Munich in the quarter-finals in an embarrassing defeat.

Quique Setien appears set to be sacked as coach, while Messi's future has become unclear.



Manchester City think they are in pole position to sign Messi if he leaves Barcelona, according to the Mirror.

Messi, 33, is contracted to Barca until next year and is reportedly prepared to walk away from the club amid the chaos.

City have been linked with the record six-time Ballon d'Or winner previously, while Inter are another reportedly interested.


- Changes are expected at Barcelona. AS reports Messi will be free to decide his future in January, while it says Setien and technical secretary Eric Abidal are on their way out.

- The focus otherwise in Spain is on Setien's replacement at Barcelona. Mundo Deportivo reports Netherlands coach Ronald Koeman is a candidate to take over at Camp Nou with Mauricio Pochettino and Al Sadd boss Xavi losing steam. Marca says Pochettino and Koeman are favourites, while Sport reports the former Tottenham manager is the frontrunner. It says Koeman, Massimiliano Allegri, Thierry Henry and Garcia Pimienta are also candidates.

- Elsewhere, Chelsea's apparent search for a defender continues. The Sun reports they are closing in on a £40million move for Brighton and Hove Albion centre-back Lewis Dunk, who is also reportedly a target for Tottenham.

- Staying at Stamford Bridge and Chelsea are also linked with goalkeepers to replace Kepa Arrizabalaga. The Sun says Chelsea and Everton are targeting Watford's 37-year-old shot-stopper Ben Foster.

- After an impressive loan spell at Roma, Chris Smalling is attracting plenty of interest. Sky Sports reports Newcastle United are keen on the Manchester United defender.

Juventus' elimination from the Champions League spelled the end for Maurizio Sarri and the start of a new era under Andrea Pirlo.

Despite leading the Bianconeri to a ninth straight Scudetto in 2019-20, Sarri was fired after Juve crashed out of the Champions League at the last-16 stage to Lyon on Friday.

Pirlo was at the heart of Juve's brilliant midfield during the start of their Serie A dominance, winning four Scudetti, the Coppa Italia and the Supercoppa Italiana twice during a four-year stint that ended when he moved to New York City in 2015.

A week after returning to Juve as their Under-23 boss, Pirlo was handed the reins of the first team ahead of the 2020-21 campaign.

He is not the first club legend to go back and manage a team they played for, though, and we have taken a look at the biggest successes and failures.


Pep Guardiola

After leaving Barcelona as a player in 2001, Guardiola returned as the Barca B boss in 2007 before being promoted to head coach of the first team a year later. Over four years in charge at Camp Nou he led the Blaugrana to 14 trophies, including three LaLiga titles and two Champions League crowns. Success has continued to come Guardiola's way with Bayern Munich and Manchester City.

Zinedine Zidane

World Cup winner Zidane was part of Real Madrid's 'Galacticos' in the early 2000s and he finished his playing career at the Santiago Bernabeu. Like Guardiola, he returned to oversee the second team before stepping up to the top job after the departure of Rafael Benitez in January 2016. Zidane went on to win an unprecedented three successive Champions League titles with Madrid before stepping away in May 2018, only to return 10 months later. He has already won LaLiga and the Supercopa de Espana in his second stint.

Antonio Conte

In 13 seasons as a player for Juventus, Conte won almost everything there is to win – five league titles, the Coppa Italia, the Champions League and the UEFA Cup. He moved into management two years after retiring and worked his way back to Juve after spells with Arezzo, Bari, Atalanta and Siena. Juve won three straight Scudetti under Conte – the start of their ongoing dominance – before he accepted the Italy job in 2014. Pirlo will have to get the better of his former coach Conte, now at Inter, if he is to maintain the Bianconeri's run of titles.

Roberto Di Matteo

Di Matteo accepted the top job at Chelsea in 2012, having previously been assistant to Andre Villas-Boas. Di Matteo – who won the FA Cup twice with the Blues as a player – went on to lift two trophies as Chelsea boss, including their first Champions League title with a penalty shoot-out win over Bayern Munich, but he was discarded early in the following season.


Alan Shearer

Record Premier League goalscorer, Newcastle United legend and lethal England striker – Shearer's playing career was full of success. When he retired in 2006, Shearer moved into television as a pundit, but when the Magpies came calling in 2009 he stepped in to try and save them from relegation. Sadly for Shearer he was unsuccessful, his eight-game reign ending in Newcastle slipping out of the top flight after a 1-0 defeat to Aston Villa on the final day.

Filippo Inzaghi

Employing former players as head coaches had previously worked well for Milan – Fabio Capello and Carlo Ancelotti proving particularly successful. When the Rossoneri turned to Inzaghi in 2014 after Clarence Seedorf's brief tenure, the move was therefore no surprise. However, the former striker – who won eight major trophies at the club in his playing days – flopped, winning just 14 of his 40 matches in charge as Milan finished 10th, their worst league position in 17 years.

Thierry Henry

Henry made his name at Monaco after breaking into the first team in 1994, the forward going on to become a world champion and a Premier League icon with Arsenal. After a period as youth coach with the Gunners, Henry was named as Belgium boss Roberto Martinez's assistant. Permanent roles with Bordeaux and Aston Villa were mooted, but in October 2018 Henry chose Monaco. He lasted just three months, losing 11 of his 20 matches in charge across all competitions before being replaced by Leonardo Jardim, the man he had succeeded.

Juan Jose Lopez

One of the most decorated players in River Plate history, having won seven league titles in an 11-year spell, Lopez was a popular appointment after making a strong impact in his second period as caretaker manager in 2010. However, he subsequently presided over a poor 2011 Clausura campaign, forcing River into a play-off against Belgrano, who won 3-1 on aggregate. It was the first time River dropped out of the top tier, sparking riots which left many people injured.

Orlando City edged Thierry Henry's Montreal Impact 1-0 en route to the MLS is Back Tournament quarter-finals, while Philadelphia Union also advanced to the last eight.

Tesho Akindele proved the difference for Orlando, with his 60th-minute goal seeing off Montreal in the first knockout fixture in Florida on Saturday.

Following a goalless first half, Akindele pounced on a defensive error on the hour mark – converting an easy tap-in after Clement Diop was unable to deal with Rod Fanni's back pass at Walt Disney Resort.

Nani's Orlando will face either Seattle Sounders or reigning Supporters' Shield champions Los Angeles FC in the quarter-finals.

In Saturday's other last-16 clash, Philadelphia defeated New England Revolution 1-0.

Sergio Santos' 63rd-minute effort saw the Union past Bruce Arena's Revolution.

Santos ran onto a lofted pass from Union team-mate Jamiro Monteiro and finished from an acute angle to send the Union through to the next round.

Next up for Philadelphia are either Sporting Kansas City or Vancouver Whitecaps.

FC Cincinnati booked their spot in the last 16 of the MLS is Back Tournament, while Minnesota United were held.

Jaap Stam's Cincinnati bounced back from their opening-game loss in Group E with back-to-back wins, including Wednesday's 2-0 victory over New York Red Bulls at the Walt Disney World Resort in Florida.

Yuya Kubo opened the scoring just before half-time with a good finish from the edge of the area after poor defending by the Red Bulls.

Florian Valot's own goal early in the second half sealed Cincinnati's win and second place in Group E.

The result also meant Thierry Henry's Montreal Impact advanced as one of the best third-placed teams.

Already into the last 16 from Group D, Minnesota were unable to claim top spot after a 2-2 draw with Colorado Rapids.

Kei Kamara opened the scoring for the Rapids, but they went into half-time behind.

Ethan Finlay flicked in the equaliser for Minnesota before tapping in a second.

Jonathan Lewis' powerful strike brought Colorado level as they secured their first and only point of the tournament.

Lionel Messi's clever pass to set up Barcelona's opening goal against Real Valladolid on Saturday saw him reach a notable double in LaLiga.

Arturo Vidal was the beneficiary of Messi's short ball from the edge of the penalty area, with the Chilean sending a low shot in off the left post to nudge Barcelona 1-0 ahead.

It means Messi has achieved the stunning feat of both scoring and creating 20-plus goals in the Spanish top flight this season, having already netted 22 times prior to the trip to Valladolid.

No other player has ever achieved the individual double during a single campaign in Spain in the 21st century, while the only other to do so in Europe's top five leagues is Thierry Henry, who managed 24 goals and 20 assists for Arsenal in 2002-03.

Messi is also the first in LaLiga to register 20 assists in a season since former team-mate Xavi in the 2008-09 campaign, when Barca won the league, Copa del Rey and Champions League under Pep Guardiola.

Although Messi's strike rate this season has not yet reached the heights of recent times, the 33-year-old has managed a combined haul of 40 or more goals and assists in LaLiga for a sixth successive campaign.

Lionel Messi's clever pass to set up Barcelona's opening goal against Real Valladolid on Saturday saw him make LaLiga history.

Arturo Vidal was the beneficiary of Messi's short ball from the edge of the penalty area, with the Chilean sending a low shot in off the left post to nudge Barcelona 1-0 ahead.

It means Messi has achieved the stunning feat of both scoring and creating 20-plus goals in the Spanish top flight this season, having already netted 22 times prior to the trip to Valladolid.

No other player has ever achieved the individual double during a single campaign in Spain, while the only other to do so in Europe's top five leagues is Thierry Henry, who managed 24 goals and 20 assists for Arsenal in 2002-03.

Messi is also the first in LaLiga to register 20 assists in a season since former team-mate Xavi in the 2008-09 campaign, when Barca won the league, Copa del Rey and Champions League under Pep Guardiola.

Although Messi's strike rate this season has not yet reached the heights of recent times, the 33-year-old has managed a combined haul of 40 or more goals and assists in LaLiga for a sixth successive campaign.

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