Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Marquise Brown made one of the most visually spectacular plays of Week 4 in the NFL. Watching a second-quarter moonball from Lamar Jackson threaten to fly out of his reach, Brown dived to reel in a stunning catch in the back of the endzone for a 49-yard touchdown and a 14-7 lead over the Denver Broncos that they would not relinquish.

It was a play that typified what the 3-1 Ravens have been in 2021, as it was a catch that came from a wide receiver who committed a pair of killer drops on potential big plays in their narrow Week 3 win over the Detroit Lions.

Stone hands one week, expert ball tracker the next. Brown exemplified the Ravens this season. Brilliant in overturning an 11-point deficit to stun the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 2, then unconvincing and undoubtedly fortunate in needing a record-breaking field goal to beat the winless Lions, they are consistently inconsistent, with their week-to-week performance seemingly impossible to predict.

The historic aspect of their 23-7 defeat of the Broncos provided a further illustration of this. With a five-yard carry from Lamar Jackson on the final play of the game, the Ravens tied the record the most consecutive 100-yard team rushing performances with 43. They did so while averaging only 3.4 yards per carry. An inconsistent performance from a usually consistent rushing attack, and an achievement entirely in keeping with their identity under John Harbaugh.

Yet, with an opening overtime loss to the Las Vegas Raiders firmly in the rearview mirror, the Ravens are again doing what has typically come natural to them during Harbaugh's tenure, winning.

They are doing so while failing to put together a complete performance through four weeks of the season. The victory in Denver was perhaps the closest they have come to such a display, and the fact the Ravens now stand atop the AFC North without truly clicking as a team should strike fear into a conference they unquestionably have the talent to win.

Lamar not limited by inaccuracy

In terms of accuracy, Jackson is the picture of inconsistency.

Through the first four games of the season, Jackson is producing an accurate, well-thrown ball on 74.1 per cent of attempts, according to Stats Perform data.

However, what he continues to do with reliability is deliver the explosive plays on which NFL games often hinge.

Jackson leads the league in air yards per attempt with 12.21 and is third in the NFL in completions of 20 yards or more, his 19 trailing only Tom Brady (23) and Derek Carr (21) prior to the Raiders' Monday Night Football clash with the Los Angeles Chargers.

He is also third with 12 passing plays of 25 yards or more, putting him on pace to surpass the 25 he produced last season.

More impressively, he is having success attacking downfield while generally avoiding turnover-worthy throws.

Jackson has been intercepted three times this season, yet he is only credited with two interceptable passes on 116 attempts, his pickable pass ratio of 1.72 per cent the eighth best among quarterbacks with a minimum of 20 attempts, pointing to a quarterback who has taken care of the ball for the most part but has been ruthlessly punished for his poor throws.

Averaging 6.64 yards per carry, Jackson's abilities as a runner have played a critical role in the Ravens' ground game continuing to excel despite a swathe of injuries at running back. His eight runs of 10 yards or more are the joint fifth-most in the league.

But, in the modern NFL, the passing game is king, and it is Jackson's apparently improving rapport with a group of pass-catchers showing promising signs of progress that is fuelling a surge in the Ravens' production through the air.

Marquise making the leap

The Ravens finished the 2020 season top 10 in yards per pass play with 6.25. In 2021, they are seventh with 7.57. The Chiefs, the Raiders and the Cincinnati Bengals are the only AFC teams above them on the list.

Standing out as a primary reason for this improvement are the strides made by Baltimore's receiving weapons, with Brown chief among them.

Producing a burn, which is where a receiver wins his matchup with a defender on a play where he is targeted, on 71.4 per cent of his targets, Brown is blossoming from pure speedster into a number one receiver with the upside to flip the field in an instant.

His burn yards per target average of 18.33 ranks second among receivers with at least 10 targets while Brown's burn yards per route average of 6.1 is seventh. Put into the context of Brown having the seventh-highest average depth of target (16.4 yards) of such wideouts, those numbers are even more admirable.

Brown is getting crucial separation while running longer routes where it is typically more difficult to escape from defenders, and his big-play percentage of 48.2 — third among receivers with 10 targets — reflects his explosiveness that has been critical to the Ravens' improved passing game efficiency.

Meanwhile, tight end Mark Andrews remains an excellent complement to Brown. He leads tight ends with at least 10 targets with a burn percentage of 84 and is second among that group in burn yards per target (14.02) and third in burn yards per route (4.2).

The efforts of Brown and Andrews have arguably turned the pass-catchers into the most consistent element of the team, with that duo supported by the increasing contributions of Devin Duvernay and James Proche.

Rookie first-round pick Rashod Bateman is back practicing after being activated from injured reserve following a groin injury, and Baltimore will look for Bateman to replicate the impact that saw him finish fourth among Power 5 receivers with at least 25 targets in his last full college season in 2019 with a big play percentage of 50.4.

That will be a challenge at the highest level but on the surface the Ravens are set to add more potency to help the offense potentially provide further support to a defense of which the numbers paint a fittingly mixed picture.

Defensive development

The Ravens' defense ranks 16th in opponent yards per pass play allowed (6.62) and 14th in opponent rushing average (4.13). In other words, up and down, middle of the pack, inconsistent. You get the theme by this point.

But after allowing the Lions to average only 4.8 yards per play in Week 3, the Ravens restricted the Broncos to 4.3 in Week 4.

Indeed, this is a defense with an intriguing blend of youth and experience that appears to be rounding into form.

The Ravens only managed 15 pressures of Broncos quarterbacks, 10 fewer than they recorded against the Raiders, but you would be forgiven for thinking they produced double that number.

Save for a drive that ended in a three-yard touchdown for Broncos tight end Noah Fant in the second quarter, Baltimore's defense dictated terms, registering five sacks.

The Ravens have tallied 23 opponent negative plays for minus 111 yards. That is the tied for the sixth-most opponent negative yardage produced by a defense this season.

Up front, the development of defensive tackle Justin Madubuike and edges Tyus Bowser and Odafe Oweh has been key, with the that trio undoubtedly benefiting from the veteran influences of Calais Campbell and Justin Houston.

In the defensive backfield, All-Pro Marlon Humphrey is leading the way for a secondary managing to survive the loss of cornerback Marcus Peters to a season-ending injury.

The progress of recent weeks can partially be attributed to going from facing the Raiders and Chiefs, each in the top 10 in yards per play, to meeting with two offenses in the bottom half of the league in that category in the Broncos and Lions.

And, with the win over the Broncos the first the Ravens have claimed by double digits this season, talking up Baltimore as challengers to Kansas City and the Buffalo Bills in the AFC may seem premature at this point.

However, the blend of explosive offense and an imperfect defense that lives on creating negative plays is one that has delivered a Super Bowl title as recently as the 2019 season when the Chiefs lifted the Lombardi Trophy.

The presence of that formula is apparent for a Ravens team that has gone from staring at an 0-2 start to reeling off three straight wins without fully clicking across the board. Though far from perfect, it is a turnaround that should leave the rest of the AFC hoping Baltimore's consistency never comes.

Premier League football takes a back seat again for the best part of a fortnight now as the international break arrives, but the past weekend gave us plenty to chew on in the interim.

Liverpool and Manchester City played out a belter of a match at Anfield on Sunday, as Mohamed Salah shone yet again on English football's biggest stage.

That contest provided further evidence of the gap between those two and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's Manchester United, though Bruno Fernandes' latest achievement suggests the Norwegian should be doing better given the talent at his disposal.

Below, Stats Perform looks at some of the quirky Opta facts from the weekend…

Salah a double threat

Sunday's 2-2 draw between Liverpool and Manchester City at Anfield was utterly engrossing, and Mohamed Salah played a key role in that.

Not only did he set up Sadio Mane's opener with a brilliant run and pass, he then got Liverpool's second at the end of an incredible run that saw him evade most of the City defence.

That was the 20th time he has both scored and assisted during a single Premier League game, which is six more than anyone else in the top-flight since his Reds debut on 2017-18 — Son Heung-min is next with 14.

There is also no Liverpool player particularly close to him in that regard in the club's entire Premier League history, with Steven Gerrard second to Salah with 16 instances of getting a goal and assist in the same game.

Fernandes setting the pace

Manchester United may be erratic, but Bruno Fernandes certainly isn't when it comes to decisive moments in the Premier League.

He set up Anthony Martial with a lovely turn and throughball for the first goal in United's 1-1 draw with Everton on Saturday, that assist taking him to 50 goal involvements in 58 Premier League matches — only Andy Cole (43), Alan Shearer and Eric Cantona (both 54) reached that mark in fewer games.

But putting his achievement into modern-day context, Fernandes (30 goals, 20 assists) sits top of the pile for most involvements since his debut, his 50 being four more than Salah (34 goals, 12 assists).

The only other player on more than 40 in that time is Harry Kane (44 involvements, 30 goals, 14 assists).

The Premier League's deadliest attack… Sort of

So, you think you know which team is the most clinical in the Premier League this season? Well, you're wrong.

It's not Chelsea, Liverpool or Manchester City. It's certainly not Tottenham or Arsenal… It's Brentford. In a way.

When it comes to the amount of goals scored from their shots on target, the Premier League new boys have been the most clinical, netting 10 (or 45.5 per cent) of their 22 accurate attempts following the 2-1 win at West Ham.

Liverpool are the league's leading scorers with 17, but those goals have come from 53 shots on target, meaning only 32.1 per cent of their accurate efforts are beating the goalkeeper.

Norwich City prop up the table (11.8 per cent), with Spurs (18.8 per cent) and Arsenal (19.2 per cent) also in the bottom three.

Vardy almost the 'golden oldie'

Jamie Vardy's story is a familiar one these days. His journey to the top wasn't straightforward, but since getting there he's been absolutely devastating.

Of course, his 24-goal haul was essential in Leicester City's incredible title triumph of 2015-16, but he's continued at a great level, only recording under 15 Premier League goals in a single season once since.

He already looks well on track to better his tally of 15 from 2020-21 this season, with the former England man on six in seven league games, and now he's closing in on a record.

Vardy's goal against Crystal Palace at the weekend was his 90th in the top-flight since turning 30 in January 2017, with Arsenal great Ian Wright (93) the only player in the competition's history to score more after his 30th birthday.

In the past four seasons, only Manchester City and Liverpool have won the Premier League title. In the past four seasons, only City and Liverpool have even come close.

For all the talk of a 'big four', including European champions Chelsea and Cristiano Ronaldo's Manchester United, leaving Arsenal and Tottenham behind, these are the two teams to beat. When they meet, it tends to be special. Sunday's 2-2 draw was no different.

James Milner may not wish to watch the game back, though. For the same reasons, Pep Guardiola is unlikely to reflect fondly on a point that leaves City third, a point behind Liverpool and two shy of Chelsea.

The champions trailed twice but will feel they should have ended an 84-year wait for consecutive league victories against Liverpool, having won at Anfield last season for the first time in 18 attempts.

It was little wonder City players were bent double even before the full-time whistle was blown, this game coming at the end of a brutal week that took in trips to Stamford Bridge and Paris Saint-Germain's Parc des Princes before another Anfield epic. On top for much of all three matches, Guardiola's men might have taken nine points from nine across the Premier League and Champions League but instead had to settle for four.

Without a striker signing, the lack of a ruthless touch in the final third was in evidence again on Merseyside, in stark contrast to Liverpool and Mohamed Salah, as the Reds — and Milner, in particular — were somehow allowed to escape a punishing first half unscathed.

A pair of Alisson errors in last season's meeting had teed up City's 4-1 win, but the goalkeeper played a key role in keeping his side in the game this time.

City had briefly hinted at an alternative approach to last week's relentless pressing of Chelsea — which included a season-high 17 pressed sequences — this time allowing 46.5 per cent of the action to play out in their own third in the first five minutes as Liverpool initially took control.

But the visitors, with one notable exception, soon found their feet and exposed Liverpool's obvious flaw: Milner.

Phil Foden had started through the centre at Chelsea but moved to the left, trading with Jack Grealish, and thoroughly enjoyed himself up against makeshift right-back Milner, whose woeful start was only matched by fellow stalwart Jordan Henderson. The Liverpool captain completed only 50 per cent of his first-half passes and gave up possession with 46.7 per cent of his touches.

Henderson epitomised Liverpool's first 45 minutes, but Milner was the real victim of his inability to keep the ball.

When Bernardo Silva pounced on a slack touch in the middle of the pitch, beat Henderson twice, did the same to Andy Robertson and then squeezed between Fabinho and Virgil van Dijk, leaving the latter in a tangle, he spotted Foden racing in behind Milner. Out came Alisson for a vital save.

Again and again, Foden ran at Milner. An apparent foul on the border of the box went unpunished, then the England man swung over a deep cross to find a team-mate unmarked in front of goal. Unfortunately for City, it was Kevin De Bruyne, the one man uncharacteristically matching Henderson's mishaps stride for stride. De Bruyne stooped and headed over, one of four attempts before the break, none of which hit the target.

Next, Foden was successful in drawing a foul from Milner and a yellow card. The veteran midfielder did not learn and was caught out by an outrageous Ederson pass that required Alisson to advance again, reading Foden's intentions as he attempted to round the goalkeeper.

Jurgen Klopp rushed down the tunnel at half-time but did not rush to make changes. Out came the same team again, Milner up against Foden again.

Crucially, however, Liverpool were able to keep the ball away from the versatile forward for a time and instead focused their attention on moving in the opposite direction down the same flank. Joao Cancelo may be a more natural full-back, but he also looked uncomfortable against Salah.

So it proved just before the hour, when Salah skipped past his opponent and suddenly had City on the back foot for the first time. They had faced only two shots to that point, but Salah's pass found Sadio Mane with space beyond Ruben Dias and able to steer in a scarcely deserved opener.

That should have given Liverpool the belief to go after Guardiola's men again, and City certainly wobbled for a time, but the introduction of Raheem Sterling for Grealish — at odds with Klopp's unerring faith in his first XI — gave the Reds something new to think about and distracted from Foden, who subsequently found space again and rifled in a superb leveller with Milner unable to recover.

Milner did not last much longer, but he should have been sent off before he was subbed off. It was at this point that Guardiola's frustration boiled over. With his side in the ascendancy, Silva's dancing feet beat Milner and he was brought down. The former City man inexplicably evaded a second card and, with Guardiola fuming on the touchline, gesturing towards fourth official Mike Dean, slumping in his chair and then hopping up to remove his jacket, Klopp quickly made plans to replace his ailing man.

Inevitably, Joe Gomez was still waiting to come on when Milner won a throw-in deep in City territory and Liverpool built another attack. Curtis Jones fed Salah, who turned away from Cancelo, left Silva on his backside and danced past Aymeric Laporte to lash in from a tight angle. The predictable response from those of a City persuasion prompted bookings for both Guardiola and Silva.

Yet Foden had stolen the show in this fixture last term and was not about to be undone. Unperturbed by Gomez's presence in place of Milner, he created space for a cutback that rolled away from Kyle Walker but not De Bruyne, this time a little more accurate but still benefiting from a deflection en route to the net.

There was still time for a remarkable Rodri block as Salah's cross gave Fabinho an open goal, but the apparent promise of another twist faded as legs became heavy. The international break would do these players the world of good if not for their national team commitments.

Sloppy in the first half, sublime in the second, Liverpool and City showed both why they are the best around and how they can be beaten. Whether anyone else in the league can stay with them long enough to get a good look at those weaknesses is another matter.

While Liverpool floundered last year and City the season before, this rivalry remains on a knife-edge. The return fixture could yet prove pivotal.

Barcelona lack many things right now: a top level coach, a Champions League wage budget, Lionel Messi, of course. But a nose for narrative? That has never been in question.

Luis Suarez's apologetic celebrations at the Wanda Metropolitano on Saturday, as Ronald Koeman checked the charge on his mobile phone, represented merely the latest desperate development for those of a Blaugrana persuasion – all too predictable, all too preventable.

For so long Suarez, who made one and scored one for Atletico Madrid in this 2-0 victory, had been in the Barca ranks, an unwitting spectator for a stretch of their spectacular collapse from European football's shining example to its great crisis club.

Barca at least had rather less say in the departure that kickstarted this decline than in Suarez's.

The beginning of the end, it seemed, came on the night of one of their greatest wins, a stunning 6-1 success against Paris Saint-Germain orchestrated by Neymar. In overturning a hefty first-leg deficit but allowing the Brazil superstar to step out from Messi's shadow, Barca's joy emboldened his desire to be the main man in his own team – the other team, to be precise.

Of course, Neymar left, and Barca, rather than rallying from behind, twice in the next two seasons built big European leads of their own – at home to Roma and Liverpool – only to remarkably let both bring about return-leg remontadas.

The Blaugrana, seemingly without a thought for their finances, responded to the Liverpool reverse with their third nine-figure signing in three years, as Antoine Griezmann followed Philippe Coutinho and Ousmane Dembele to Camp Nou and followed both in underwhelming.

By the time their next Champions League campaign concluded in typically farcical fashion, all three were on the bench – Griezmann and Dembele for Barca, Coutinho for opponents Bayern Munich. On came Coutinho, still on loan from Barca, to score twice in 15 minutes against his parent club. Since returning to Catalonia, he has scored three times in 1,041 minutes, missing their best chance on Saturday.

 

Bayern's 8-2 win prompted Quique Setien's sacking and Koeman's appointment, which surprisingly then spelled the end for Suarez. "The coach did not count on me," the striker said as he joined Atletico. "I expected it, it had already been said before he told me."

From an eight-goal humiliation, a club of Barca's size should only be able to head in one direction, back on the ascent. But Suarez's departure deepened the damage. An unsettled Messi allowed his contract to run down and, in a manner that only Barca could manage, had to leave even once he changed his mind.

Four years of bad decisions led Barca to this point and Suarez, starting in the Atleti attack, was never likely to be one for sympathy. With neither a coherent plan nor an individual of era-defining talent to fall back on, Koeman's side were ill-equipped to deal with a man he had deemed surplus to requirements.

Twice Atleti pulled the Barca back line apart, Koeman phoning in from the stands due to a touchline ban but mirroring the gesticulations of Gerard Pique, Sergio Busquets and Memphis Depay as the visitors failed to get close to Suarez.

A drop of the shoulder from Joao Felix for the first brought him inside from the left to find his strike partner, whose first-time pass around the corner set Thomas Lemar clear to finish high into the net.

The same trio combined for number two, Lemar playing a patient one-two with Joao Felix down the same left flank and then lofting an inch-perfect pass over last defender Pique for Suarez to control, compose himself and steer past Marc-Andre ter Stegen.

"The opponent in front of us is special, but my work must be dedicated 100 per cent to Atletico," Suarez told Movistar afterwards – the Atleti goal never truly troubled as they earned a third straight LaLiga clean sheet against Barca for the first time ever.

 

By full-time, Suarez had been able to remove the wide grin from his face long enough to console his former team-mates, having moments earlier been hopping with glee on the Atleti bench.

He was replaced with 18 minutes remaining but surely would have added to his tally had he stayed on the pitch. Instead, Atleti's final big opportunity fell to Griezmann, back on the bench in a big Barcelona game, this time playing the Coutinho role for the opposition. Rather than ruthlessly finish like either of the ex-Liverpool men when faced with the chance to punish the club he used to call home, Griezmann went for a pass, which he comically misplaced. With a future obligation in his loan switch meaning he will not return to Camp Nou like Coutinho, the France international need not have been so generous.

Despite sharing more than seven years between these two teams, Griezmann has somehow never scored in this fixture – featuring in every edition in that time – and never won LaLiga. Atleti had gone 20 without a win against Barca before last season's meeting, in which Griezmann started for the Catalans.

An underwhelming start to his second Atleti career saw him dropped for this game, setting the stage for Joao Felix to excel, contesting 10 duels, winning four fouls and playing a key role in both goals. Griezmann is an expensive substitute; Barca's €97million salary cap could not even fit him in the first team.

Nor, it seems, can they afford to sack Koeman, out of his depth but determined to stick around. His future, Joan Laporta said, was safe regardless of this result.

Surely only that financial factor will prevent Suarez from seeing off the coach that ended his Barca stay. Scoring against the 31st of 31 LaLiga opponents, the forward gave it a good go, at least.

There probably won't be too much focus on Mac Jones come Sunday night at Gillette Stadium.

In the ranking of cast and characters as Tom Brady makes his return to Foxborough, having left New England after 20 seasons and six Super Bowl rings and gone on to add another in his first year away from the Patriots, Jones might struggle to even be considered a supporting actor.

Indeed, the dominant narrative as Brady brings the defending champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers to the place where he built a legend that stands above all others in the NFL will be one of quarterback versus former coach.

This is a chance for Brady to get one over on Bill Belichick and, for many, to prove that he was the chief reason for the two decades' worth of success the Patriots enjoyed. In a landscape where hot takes rule over balance and nuanced conversation, the most obvious explanation that New England's dominance was a product of a quite beautiful marriage between the greatest quarterback and greatest coach of all time is drowned out.

Talk of Brady claiming a narrative-winning triumph over Belichick ignores the fact that the deck is firmly stacked against New England. In almost every area, the Patriots enter this one shorthanded compared to their opponents and the reality is the Bucs should win handily regardless of who is coaching the opponent.

But for most this is a game where that narrative trumps analysis and, with Brady almost certain to break Drew Brees' record for all-time passing yards at the home of his former team, little importance is likely to be assigned to the Patriots' first-round pick and how he performs with a team ill-equipped to topple the Bucs.

Yet in terms of the long-term outlook, that is the most important aspect of Sunday's game for New England. Belichick will not care about Brady breaking records. His focus will be on how Jones meets the challenge of facing the team that entered the season as the class of the NFL.

Coincidentally, that test comes three days after the 20th anniversary of Brady's first start for the Patriots in 2001, a season that saw him improbably lead New England to Super Bowl glory. The NFL has changed so much in those two decades that a direct comparison between Brady's first games as a starting quarterback and those of Jones is difficult to make.

However, the timing of the most challenging and most significant game of Jones' career to this point provides an opportunity to answer the question: is he on track to be the long-term successor to Brady?

A superior start?

Having used the 15th overall pick on Jones, the Patriots will hope the answer is an emphatic yes.

On the surface, the difference in his numbers from his opening three games and those from Brady across the same limited sample size provides reason for encouragement.

Brady completed 57.4 per cent of his passes across his first three starts for 618 yards and two touchdowns. Through Week 3 of this season, Jones has completed 67.5 per cent of passes for 737 yards and two touchdowns. He has six passing plays of 25 yards or more so far in his career, Brady had only three in his first three starts.

Yet Jones' advantage in those raw numbers is more than likely a reflection of a modern NFL that is far more hospitable to the passing game than it was in 2001.

And in the one area where Jones and the young Brady could be considered comparable, it is the latter who has the edge. Brady did not throw an interception across his first three starts, Jones has already thrown three.

They all came in last week's loss to the New Orleans Saints, a performance that lent credence to the argument that, while Jones has arguably been the most composed of the rookie quarterbacks to start a game this season, his poise and decision-making is not on the same level as Brady's was back in 2001.

Cleaning up the decision-making

Jones cannot be considered at fault for all those picks. He certainly takes some share of the blame for the first, which saw him step up into the arms of Kaden Elliss, who hit Jones as he delivered the ball, producing a wobbly pass that landed in the grateful arms of P.J. Williams.

The second, which was returned for a touchdown by Malcolm Jenkins, saw a well-thrown ball bounce off the hands of Jonnu Smith, while the third appeared to be the product of a miscommunication with Nelson Agholor, the throw behind the receiver with the game well out of hand.

Only the first interception could potentially be ascribed to Jones and poor decision-making in the pocket, but the numbers offer an insight into when his turnover-worthy plays are coming and provide some cause for concern.

Jones has thrown a pickable pass, per Stats Perform data, on 2.56 per cent of his attempts, putting him the right side of the league-wide average of 3.13 per cent. The modern-day Brady, a seemingly ageless behemoth content to see how close to 50 he can continue playing, has thrown an interceptable pass 1.49 per cent of the time.

The statistics indicate that Jones has been unperturbed by pressure. He has thrown three pickable passes in total this season, but none have come when under duress. Instead, they have all been thrown from a clean pocket.

Only two other quarterbacks, Dak Prescott (4) and Zach Wilson (6) have thrown more interceptable passes from a clean pocket. Brady has thrown one, with his other pickable pass coming under pressure.

The split speaks to Jones' composure under pressure but raises doubts about his overall decision-making when he has the chance to properly scan the field, and further potential issues become apparent when looking at the Patriots' quarterback under pressure versus when he has time.

A lack of aggression

Criticism of Jones to this point in his NFL career has surrounded an apparent inability to push the ball downfield. However, his air yards per attempt average of 8.24 is actually slightly superior to that of Brady (8.13).

But when he has the opportunity to assess his options, Jones eschews the more aggressive throws. His air yards per attempt average from a clean pocket is 7.38, only just above the average of 7.28 and below Brady's 8.13.

It is when he is pressured that Jones appears more comfortable going deep. With the time to think taken away, Jones' air yards average is 10.03, again above the average (9.97) but on the lower end of the scale.

Delivering a well-thrown ball 81.6 per cent of the time under pressure, Jones stands above Brady (78.8) as the joint-third most accurate quarterback under duress.

It is his overall accuracy that gives the Patriots their primary cause for optimism with Jones. His well-thrown percentage of 80.3 is above the 78.9 per cent average, though below Brady's 82.1, and Smith's drop that turned into an interception was illustrative of the lack of help he has received from his pass-catchers despite heavy investment from New England this offseason.

Receivers Agholor (66.7), Kendrick Bourne (57.1) and Jakobi Meyers (72.4) are all below the average for open percentage on plays where they are targeted among wideouts with at least five targets, speaking to a lack of separation from New England's receiving weapons.

Jones might not be getting the best of assistance, but a blend of questionable decision-making and lack of aggressiveness from a clean pocket is not a winning strategy in today's NFL. It is also not a combination Brady could be accused of ever possessing during his career, even if he did average fewer than seven yards per attempt across his first three seasons as a starter.

Stepping into Brady's shoes after Cam Newton's failed bid to become the successor was always going to be a tall ask for a rookie, so it is important not to make definitive judgements on a player whose NFL career is still firmly in its infancy.

But the early signs for Jones are mixed and if he is to snatch some of the limelight in primetime, he will need to do a better job of taking advantage of protection and making the right reads and, in the process, keep the man who has built the NFL's greatest resume off the field for as long as possible.

Barcelona had not lost to Benfica since 1961. They had not started a European season with consecutive defeats since 1972-73. They had last lost back-to-back Champions League group games 21 years ago.

And yet, the most damning thing about their 3-0 defeat in Lisbon on Wednesday was that it wasn't a huge surprise.

By most reasonable football definitions, Barca are in crisis. They have won just three of eight games in all competitions in 2021-22. Spiralling debts of more than €1.2billion meant they could not give Lionel Messi a new contract or conduct any meaningful recruitment, even as club captains took pay cuts.

Those dire financial figures also mean they have a spending cap barely an eighth of the size of Real Madrid's for this season, so January is unlikely to offer much of a chance to change things. And, in Ronald Koeman, they have a coach who appears increasingly out of his depth, unable to inspire his players or maintain much cordiality with the suits above him.

There is speculation that Barca's next game could be his last in charge... and it just happens to be against the champions. How has it come to this?

 

Passive passing

It should be repeated that many of Barca's problems are not of Koeman's making. He was appointed by Josep Maria Bartomeu after the historic ignominy of that 8-2 loss to Bayern Munich, when years of squad mismanagement came home to roost in one horrifying performance. With no money to keep Messi or greatly improve the team, Koeman has been hamstrung in his efforts to build a side capable even of competing for pride, never mind titles.

It's also true that Koeman's system is a mess.

There's a semblance of playing 'the Barca way'. For one thing, they love having the ball: the Catalans average the most possession in LaLiga this season (68.4 per cent), while their average of 4.54 passes per sequence is the highest in the division, and only league leaders Real Madrid (112) have put together more sequences of 10 passes or more than Barca (106). They also press high, restricting opposition teams to just eight passes per defensive action on average, the best figure in the league.

The trouble is, they don't seem to make the most of these positives.

 

Despite ostensibly pressing with intent, their return of 53 high turnovers is only joint-seventh in LaLiga. Despite controlling the ball for the majority of matches, they have only created 55 chances from open play – eight teams have created more – and attempted 72 shots, the 13th-highest tally in the competition. Even crosses are scarce: five teams can better their figure of 211 deliveries into the box.

For context, Sunday's opponents Atletico Madrid have attempted 96 shots this season, the third-most in the league, created 10 more goalscoring chances than Barca and played 44 more passes into the penalty area – and all while facing a league-low 45 shots on their own goal, 14 fewer than Koeman's men. Even taking into account Barca's game in hand, these are notable differences.

 

A Messi divorce

Barca knew they would miss Messi. Koeman knew they would miss Messi. Anyone who has ever kicked a football knew they would miss Messi.

But, boy, they really do miss him.

Barca finished LaLiga last season with 85 goals, 18 more than any other side, 30 of which were scored by Messi. They outperformed their expected goals figure by 11.04, with only champions Atletico doing so by a greater margin (13.95). Messi himself exceeded his xG by 6.21.

 

Excluding penalties and own goals, Barca outperformed their xG of 74 in 2020-21. Their 583 shots, the most among LaLiga teams, each carried an average value of 0.13xG.

 

This season, Barca have scored 11 goals, which almost exactly matches their xG – and that is despite the average xG value of their shots increasing very slightly to 0.15. Without Messi's abnormal abilities, they are reverting towards the norm.

It's amazing how much better things look when someone is there to stick the ball in the net.

 

Dutch courage

Which brings us to Memphis Depay, the big positive of Koeman's time in charge.

Trying to fill Messi's shoes might be beyond mere mortals, but the way Depay has settled into his role as Barca's attacking lynchpin has been extremely impressive. The Netherlands forward has fulfilled his former international boss' requirements, leading the line with aplomb even when the team around him has floundered.

Depay has managed three goals and one assist in all competitions, more than any other Barca player. With 2.49 expected assists, he can consider himself unlucky not to have a greater tally of goal involvements, too.

To date, Depay has attempted 22 shots, more than three times as many as any team-mate, and created 18 chances, six more than the next-best figure posted by Frenkie de Jong.

 

Among LaLiga players in all competitions, only Karim Benzema (16) and Vinicius Junior (14) have mustered more shots on target than Depay (13), while only three players in Spain's top flight have completed more dribbles than the former Lyon and Manchester United man (21). He has embraced the pressure of leading the Barcelona line in one of the toughest periods in their recent history. He just can't do it alone.

If Koeman's reign is to survive this weekend, he will have to hope Depay can produce some magic against Atletico – although even that may not be enough.

Trepidation has been a common feeling among Manchester City fans when it comes to the adaptation of new signings under Pep Guardiola.

That's not necessarily down to doubts over the players generally, or Guardiola, but rather how those two factors will come together.

After all, it's been noted for a while now just how common it seems to be for Guardiola's signings to perhaps underwhelm in their first season at City, only to then kick on and really make an impact in their second season.

While it's hardly an exact science, numerous players fit into that category; Riyad Mahrez, Joao Cancelo and Bernardo Silva are certainly among them, and there's even a case to be made that Ferran Torres could qualify given he's made a solid start to 2021-22 after an up-and-down 2020-21.

Jack Grealish probably wouldn't have had too many supporters concerned, though you could argue the pressure on him to succeed straight away was far greater and that in itself might've been a burden.

Yet his transition from key man at Aston Villa to a similarly central figure has been impressively seamless.

If it ain't broken…

Much of the focus around Grealish's £100million move to City centred on where he would be deployed by Guardiola.

There were a lot of suggestions that he was actually set to be tried in more of a central position, perhaps with the idea being to make the most of his ball-carrying abilities.

While Grealish's name has seemingly been spotted in various starting positions on line-up graphics and the like, he's still unmistakably been more prominent out on the left flank – 73 per cent of his actions have been localised to the left side of the pitch in the opposition's half, up from 51 per cent at Villa last term.

Of course, at City he is in a team that spends more time on the front foot and in possession than Villa in 2020-21, so such an increase isn't exactly a surprise, but it does suggest Guardiola hasn't tried to make major changes just yet.

Instant influence

Tuesday's 2-0 defeat to Paris Saint-Germain was probably Grealish's trickiest game yet for City – as one might expect.

That's not to say he played especially poorly, as he did manage to record a couple of key passes, but generally he was frustrated. Achraf Hakimi's athleticism helped the Moroccan do a good job on Grealish, while referee Carlos del Cerro Grande was rarely sympathetic to the England international.

It wasn't a huge surprise when Guardiola opted to withdraw him with 22 minutes remaining, but despite that blip, there has been plenty to be optimistic about Grealish's settling-in period at City.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Grealish's trademark comfort on the ball has been a particular factor, and his start at City speaks to his own self-belief.

He's averaging 25 carries (defined as movements of at least five metres in possession) each game in the Premier League, more than any other player, while his total carry distance of 1,787.5 metres is second only to a man who seems to know no other skill, Adama Traore (1,844.5m).

His forays on the ball are helping to drive City forward as well, with Traore (55) and Allan Saint-Maximin (48) the only players to record more progressive carries of at least 10m. The one other City player with more than 34 is Aymeric Laporte.

Additionally, those carries have led to 11 goalscoring opportunities, with three ending in a shot by Grealish or eight leading to a key pass. Again, only five have been more effective with their end product when running with the ball.

To come into the champions' team and instantly become such an influence is an impressive feat in itself.

More than meets the eye

Of course, some might be tempted to point towards Grealish's rather modest return of two goal involvements (one goal, one assist) in six Premier League appearances this term, but that would be too reductive.

Having a solitary assist, for example, certainly doesn't tell the whole story. After all, his 2.9 chances created per 90 minutes is second only to Bruno Fernandes (3.0) in the league, while Grealish's 0.26 expected assists (xA) each game is bettered by just five players.

It's also worth pointing out his xA per 90 is greater than his assists per 90 (0.17), suggesting he's actually being let down by the finishing of his team-mates.

As for his goalscoring efforts, we all know Grealish is capable of the spectacular but his shot selection at City has seemingly been focused on ensuring maximum threat to the goalkeeper, with all but one coming from inside the box. With his shots averaging 0.12 xG as opposed to 0.09 last season, there's every reason to expect greater long-term results.

Furthermore, there is evidence to support the idea Grealish is slightly more involved in general build-up play as well, his open-play sequence involvement going up from 43.7 per 90 to 47.8 – though City do see more of the ball, so it is probably too soon to make any meaningful conclusions from that.

Nevertheless, it is another example of how Grealish has quickly become a key influencer in the City team. While those early reports of him literally playing a central role may not have quite come to fruition, he has at least in a figurative sense, with Rodri the sole City player involved in more sequences (53.8) each game than him.

It's already been a hectic period for City, given they've faced Chelsea and PSG in less than a week, and it will ramp up again with another big test in their attempts to become early runaway leaders when they face Liverpool at Anfield on Sunday.

The following day will be exactly a year on from Grealish's devastating display in Villa's 7-2 win over the Reds, during which he had a hand in five goals (three assists, two goals), a haul that has only ever been bettered twice in a single Premier League match.

While no one will be expecting quite an astonishing performance this time, it's at least evidence of what Grealish is capable of if Liverpool cannot keep him under wraps.

After another busy off-season at Bayer Leverkusen, many would have tipped a slow start with a new face in the dugout.

With Peter Bosz relieved of his duties, Simon Rolfes and Leverkusen turned to Gerardo Seoane on the back of three consecutive Swiss Super League titles at the helm of Young Boys.

Star winger Leon Bailey also headlined the departures at BayArena, a year on from Kai Havertz's big-money move to Chelsea. Factor in major international tournaments prior to the 2021-22 campaign – Euro 2020, the Copa America and the Olympic Games – and it made for a challenging pre-season.

But Leverkusen have hit the ground running in the Bundesliga – a 4-0 rout of Borussia Monchengladbach and wins over Augsburg (4-1), Stuttgart (3-1) and Mainz (1-0) helping Die Werkself to second place through six games, three points behind leaders and champions Bayern Munich.

Leverkusen sporting director Rolfes told Stats Perform: "We're happy with the start of the season because it was a difficult summer for us but also the other teams who have a lot of international players. This summer with the Copa America, Euros, Olympic Games... there were a lot of players from us involved. A player from us won the Copa America and Olympics, so only the Euros we missed.

"That's why the pre-season was really difficult. The players step in, week by week, and I think one week before the start of the season, we had our final squad together. The transfer market due to coronavirus was also very different and late. That's why I'm very happy. We had good opponents."

"We were not happy with the last season," said Rolfes, whose Leverkusen finished sixth in 2020-21 while losing in the DFB-Pokal last 16 and Europa League round of 32. "A very good start but the end was difficult. We reached international competition okay, but we are ambitious and want more this season. You can imagine the Champions League is a big goal but also the DFB-Pokal and Europa League to go further.

"What's very important for our club is development. One thing is performance and also the result at the end of the season, but development is very important. Develop the players, make them better. Then we have the chance to also perform today in the best way. We have a lot of young players – we want to develop them to their best level. That's also good for the performance today."

 

Seoane's 13 points after six Bundesliga matches represent the best record of any Leverkusen head coach since Sami Hyypia (15) in 2013. For the North Rhine-Westphalia outfit, it is their best start to a top-flight season since 2019-20 (also 13), while they have only scored more goals after six matches in 2008-09 (18) than in the current campaign (16).

Leverkusen have exceeded their expected goals (xG) tally by almost eight goals this Bundesliga campaign – 7.7 (16 goals at 8.3 xG), a league best.

"One important point is football knowledge," Rolfes replied when asked what attracted Leverkusen to 42-year-old Swiss coach Seoane. "Also the leadership, that's very interesting. The leadership of the group as a head coach is very important. If you're in training, the assistant coaches can do things. If you don't feel so comfortable or don't have so many qualities, you can find the right team.

"The leadership as a head coach, you must have. That's a big strength, besides the football knowledge he has. He speaks six different languages – very good for an international squad to speak with the players in their language. That helps a lot to get the right connection to take them on their way and development."

Under Seoane, Leverkusen play a more patient brand of football, allowing their opposition more time on the ball in the Bundesliga rather than consistently pressing high up the field.

Through the first six games last season, Leverkusen allowed 11.1 passes per defensive action, compared to 12.2 with Seoane in charge, as Leverkusen look to instead create counter-attacks from deeper positions – their averaging starting distance at 38.6 metres from their own goal, compared to 42.2m previously. Their 17 direct attacks this term dwarf last year's six at the same stage.

Leverkusen recorded 8.7 high turnovers per match through six rounds last season, compared to 5.3 this time around, but they have scored four goals from such situations already in the Bundesliga – at least twice as many as any other side and more than any other team in Europe's top five leagues in 2021-22. They actually had fewer goals (three) from high turnovers after six games last time out, proving more ruthless this term.

Still, Leverkusen's philosophy remains the same, despite a new coach and altered approach, and it will continue to be the case with Seoane and beyond under Rolfes.

"We choose players, signing as a club," Rolfes said as he discussed the need to adopt a clear vision, instead of changing philosophy with every coach. "We sign the players for a specific style to get the most out of the squad, the player and to develop them in the best way. If you play in the totally other direction than you want to develop the players, you will not succeed. That's important to have a clear vision as a club. How you want to play and then choose the right coach in the best case.

"Every head coach of a pro team has their specific style. That's not the problem, but the main direction has to be clear. That's my task at the end to choose the right coach for the main direction. And then, the individual approach or quality of the coach, it's important you get something fresh in the club, team. The main direction is important and the club has to define the vision."

Leverkusen are one of Germany's biggest clubs, but not since the 1993 DFB-Pokal have they celebrated silverware.

They have come close on numerous occasions in the Bundesliga – runners-up in 1996-97, 1998-99, 1999-2000, 2001-02 and 2010-11 – while they also reached the 2001-02 Champions League final, succumbing to Real Madrid and Zinedine Zidane's iconic volley in Glasgow. There were Pokal final appearances in 2001-02, 2008-09 and 2019-20, too.

But an exciting and entertaining Leverkusen, even in the post-Havertz era, are on the right track amid Bayern's domestic and European dominance.

And that is thanks to teenage sensation Florian Wirtz.

The 18-year-old prodigy has continued to shine, filling the huge void left by countryman Havertz, amid rave reviews from across Europe.

Wirtz, who was prised from boyhood club Cologne last year, is the youngest player in Bundesliga history to reach 10 goals.

Leverkusen's Wirtz has already been directly involved in eight Bundesliga goals (four goals, four assists) in 292 minutes across the first six matchdays in 2021-22. Only Borussia Dortmund star Erling Haaland has had more direct goal involvements this term than the teenager.

Since Opta's detailed data collection began in 2004-05, only Patrick Helmes in 2008-09 and Stefan Kiessling in 2013-14 had previously registered as many direct goal involvements for Leverkusen after the first six matches to a Bundesliga season

Setting the standard across Europe, the new face of Leverkusen averages 37 minutes per goal involvement, which ranks best among players in the top five leagues (minimum 100 minutes played), ahead of Madrid superstar Karim Benzema (41 minutes). The 34-year-old Frenchman is the only one of those players to have exceeded his xG by a larger margin (4.8) than Wirtz (3.2) this season.

Already capped three times at international level, Wirtz has scored in four straight games, including Leverkusen's Europa League win against Ferencvaros on matchday one.

 

As Wirtz soars to new heights, Leverkusen are reaping the rewards of a unified philosophy and their faith in the midfielder.

"I think it's a real good example of how the club is working and how the club is thinking," Rolfes, who made almost 400 appearances for Leverkusen between 2005 and 2015, said. "The situation with Kai and Florian. Florian was here or came in the winter [of 2020] and made eight appearances after the lockdown with the first team. Then at the end of the [2019-20] season, Kai went to Chelsea.

"For sure, we got a lot of money for Kai, but we decided to focus on Florian Wirtz for the number 10 position. We don't sign any player as a replacement for Kai. For sure, we had some money to spend on an experienced player in the number 10 position, but we didn't do that. We said okay, the young guy will be the future and has the potential to replace or play very good in that position. We have him already in the club, so we trust him and try to develop him. That's why we sign players in other positions, where we needed improvement.

"That was a big sign for the player and for the chance you have as a young player in Leverkusen. If you have the ambition and quality, we count on you and give you the chance to develop. With development, there is also performance. That's why it's a great story for Florian but also for us as a club."

Wirtz's exploits have not gone unnoticed, however, with Bayern reportedly trying to sign the Germany international, while the likes of Manchester United, Liverpool, Chelsea and Arsenal have also been linked.

But Leverkusen have no plans to sell as Rolfes – who first watched Wirtz as a 13-year-old – added: "He has a long contract until 2026. We do not have to sell players early. We want to develop him, develop our team and club with him.

"So, there are rumours, okay. You cannot avoid that, but it's not our goal to sell him. The players at one time or point in their career make the next step to world-class level, that's okay for us, but not too early. He is a really young player. That was also with Kai – he was also extraordinary and some years with us and then maybe there's the next step. But not too early.

In February, Leverkusen extended their partnership with Stats Perform for the use of Edge Analysis – the most sophisticated football match preparation tool available.

Powered by tracking and event data, Edge Analysis applies unique AI models to unlock objective, dynamic and predictive insights to enhance pre and post-match analysis processes, delivering unique performance insights on all upcoming opponents. The platform uses over 100 AI-driven KPIs to deliver eight unique patented AI models, delivering objective insights within seconds, all linked to video.

"Data/sport technology is very important for us because I think there's huge potential in the future," Rolfes said of the deal. "Data will be better and better because the cameras/GPS tracking provides more precise data.

"We have now not only data in the computer and no one has the time to analyse it, we have the tools with AI, and find the right KPIs for you. That's very important for the match preparation and for the scouting process to be fast, really precise. That's why we invest in that topic here. That's through partnership and investing in our staff to get knowledge, to develop because, at the moment, we are only at the beginning. That's why you have to invest, to be a pioneer or leader in that topic."

The NFL season is heading towards the quarter mark and it's likely desperation time for those fantasy owners who are yet to claim a win.

Thankfully there are several matchups in Week 4 that figure to be very high scoring and deliver huge fantasy performances.

Which players should you be looking at slotting into your lineup for the upcoming slate of games?

Stats Perform looks at four offensive players and a defense that can help propel you to glory this week.

 

Quarterback: Ryan Tannehill, Tennessee Titans @ New York Jets

Tannehill followed up a 300-yard performance in Week 2 against the Seattle Seahawks with a three-touchdown display in a win over the Indianapolis Colts.

The Jets' defense is the strength of their winless team but still ranks 17th in the NFL in yards per pass play allowed with 6.79.

Given the ineptitude of New York's offense, which has committed the second-most turnovers in the NFL (7) through three games, the Jets' defense is likely to eventually wear down and provide Tannehill with plentiful opportunities to enjoy another strong fantasy outing.

Running Back: Austin Ekeler, Los Angeles Chargers vs. Las Vegas Raiders

The Chargers have their own problems with run defense, allowing the highest rushing average in the league at 5.8 yards.

However, fourth on that list are the Raiders, who have given up 4.81 yards per carry through three games.

Ekeler's yards after contact per attempt average of 2.5 is sixth among running backs with at least 10 carries and he is again a focal point in the passing game having made 15 receptions over the last two games. 

In a game likely to be dominated by high-powered offenses, Ekeler figures to play a pivotal role and, taking the favourable matchup into account, is a must-start in points per reception fantasy leagues.

Wide Receiver: Tyler Lockett, Seattle Seahawks @ San Francisco 49ers

Lockett has never had a 100-yard game against the 49ers, but caught 12 of 14 targets for 90 yards and two touchdowns in the regular-season finale against San Francisco last year.

Registering a burn, which is when a receiver wins his matchup on a play where is targeted, on 68.4 per cent of his targets Lockett is second among wide receivers that have been thrown to at least 10 times with a burn yards per target average of 19.29.

Going up against a banged-up San Francisco secondary, Lockett's ability to create consistent separation could prove pivotal in a matchup where Seattle may have to get into a shootout to prevail given the porous nature of the Seahawks' defense.

Tight End: Dawson Knox, Buffalo Bills vs. Houston Texans

Still the most difficult position in fantasy football to judge, managers can often find themselves in a difficult spot if they do not own one of Travis Kelce, George Kittle and Darren Waller.

However, those lacking a dependable option at tight end may find Knox a worthwhile pickup for this week. He has a touchdown in each of his last two games, hauling in four of his five targets last week against the Washington Football Team, and gets an extremely enticing matchup in Week 4.

The Texans are allowing the fourth-most fantasy points per game to opposing tight ends and, with the Bills' offense beginning to fire on all cylinders, Knox could prove an extremely astute addition to fantasy lineups if he is still available on your waiver wire.

Defense: New Orleans Saints vs. New York Giants

The Saints' defense had a field day in Week 3, picking off rookie Mac Jones three times, including one interception returned for a touchdown, in a bounce-back win over the New England Patriots.

This week, New Orleans gets to play a game at the Superdome for the first time this season, and the impact of a raucous home crowd will surely only make things more difficult for the Giants' offense and quarterback Daniel Jones.

He has been pressured 53 times already this season, the Giants allowing the 11th-most in the NFL, while the Saints' defense has racked up 56 pressures, putting New Orleans seventh in the league.

While the Giants' signal-caller has only committed one giveaway in 2021, that is a recipe for a disastrous day for a quarterback known for his lack of ball security. Should this go to form, the Saints will make life miserable for a quarterback named Jones for the second successive week.

Manchester United need points to get their Champions League campaign going, and doing so by getting revenge for their Europa League final shoot-out loss to Villarreal would be a moment to enjoy for the Old Trafford fans.

When it comes to established elite needing results, United are not alone. Barcelona head to Benfica looking to banish thoughts of that humbling home loss to Bayern Munich on matchday one, while Massimiliano Allegri could use a strong performance against strong opposition when Chelsea visit Juventus.

Bayern themselves host Dynamo Kiev, as Mircea Lucescu looks to fare a little better than the last time he took a team to the Allianz Arena.

Read on for more as Stats Perform looks at the key Opta facts ahead of Wednesday's Champions League action.

 

Benfica v Barcelona: Can Memphis Depay breathe life back into Catalans?

Barcelona's 3-0 loss to Bayern Munich on matchday one was the first time in at least 186 Champions League matches in which they did not attempt a single shot on target.

Memphis Depay did not manage a shot of any kind, something he had never before experienced when starting a game in this competition. However, with two goals in his previous two games against Benfica, he could be the man to get Barca firing in Lisbon.

Benfica have not beaten Barcelona since the European Cup final in 1961, but if they do manage to pile more pressure on Ronald Koeman with a victory, it will mark the first time the Blaugrana have lost their opening two games of the season in Europe since 1972-73, when they lost twice to Porto.

Bayern Munich v Dynamo Kiev: More unhappy memories beckon for Lucescu

The Allianz Arena was the scene of Lucescu's heaviest Champions League defeat: his Shakhtar Donetsk side lost 7-0 to Bayern Munich in March 2015.

Having failed to score in seven of their previous 11 games in this competition, it is hard to expect Dynamo to stop Bayern from claiming what would be a 33rd home win out of their most recent 35 in the group stages.

In fact, across the past three seasons, Bayern have won the most games (20) and scored the most goals (73) of any team in the tournament. In 14 of their 22 games in that time, they have netted at least three goals.

 

Juventus v Chelsea: Bianconeri out to keep up king-slayer tradition

Juventus have won seven matches against the holders in this competition's history, a figure only Real Madrid can beat (11 wins). They also beat Chelsea 3-0 in their previous meeting back in the 2012-13 group stage.

Still, Chelsea have only lost three of their past 32 group games and none of their most recent 12. Thomas Tuchel's 68 per cent win ratio is bettered by only two men among managers to take charge of 20 or more group games: Pep Guardiola (71 per cent) and Jupp Heynckes (73 per cent).

The last time Juve hosted an English team in the Champions League, Jose Mourinho's Manchester United snatched a 2-1 win in November 2018. Massimiliano Allegri's side have never lost consecutive home games to English opponents.

 

Manchester United v Villarreal: Goals at last in Europa League final repeat?

All five previous European meetings between Manchester United and Villarreal have ended in draws. The first four did not even see a goal scored – it's the most played Champions League match never to see a goal – while the Europa League final last season finished 1-1, with the LaLiga side winning 11-10 on penalties.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is the only manager to take charge of 10 or more Champions League matches at an English club and lose more than half of them (he's lost seven out of 11). Should they suffer defeat at Old Trafford, it will mark the first time in history they have ever lost their first two European games of a season.

If he plays, Cristiano Ronaldo will break Iker Casillas' record of 177 Champions League appearances. However, he has failed to score in four games against Villarreal in the competition – only against Lille and Benfica has he played as many times without finding the net.

Other fixtures:

Atalanta v Young Boys

30 – Atalanta's 30 Champions League goals have all been scored by non-Italians. They have netted more goals without any coming from a player of the nationality of the club he's representing in Champions League history. Young Boys have scored six times in the competition, but none has come from a Swiss player.

17 – David Wagner's side had 17 more shots than Manchester United in their opening-round win (19 vs 2). The last time a coach saw his team have that many more attempts than their opponents in his first game in charge was when Hansi Flick's Bayern Munich had 27 shots to Olympiacos' three in November 2019.

Zenit v Malmo

1 – Zenit have only taken one point from their previous eight group-stage matches and have lost four of their past seven home games in European competition.

8 – No team faced more shots on target than Malmo on matchday one of this campaign (eight against Juventus), while their xG against total of 3.5 was the most of any team in the opening round.

Salzburg v Lille

40 – This will be Lille's 40th Champions League match. They only won six of their first 39 - only Dinamo Zagreb (five) and FCSB (four) have ever won fewer than eight of their first 40 games in the competition.

35 – Although 10 of Salzburg's starting XI against Sevilla last time out were aged 24 or younger, they also included 35-year-old Andreas Ulmer, who was two years and 158 days older than his coach, Matthias Jaissle. It's the first time a player has been over two years older than their manager in a Champions League match since Naldo for Schalke in December 2018 under Domenico Tedesco (three years and two days older).

Wolfsburg v Sevilla

3.7 – Wolfsburg's previous six games against Spanish opponents in European competition have seen a total of 22 goals scored (11 for, 11 against), at an average of 3.7 per game.

7 – Sevilla are unbeaten in their past seven away games in this competition (W3 D4), their longest ever unbeaten run away from home in the European Cup/Champions League. They last suffered defeat on the road in October 2017, losing 5-1 away to Spartak Moscow.

For so long, the idea of Lionel Messi being anywhere other than Barcelona seemed utterly alien, but if he was going to leave, teaming up with Pep Guardiola at Manchester City – a club so heavily influenced by the Blaugrana – was surely the most likely option.

But there he was, lining up in the navy blue of Paris Saint-Germain at the Parc des Princes on Tuesday, Guardiola in the opposite dugout and City on the other side of the pitch.

There was more than a hint of inevitability about what came to pass, as Messi made a telling impact in trademark fashion towards the end to put the match beyond City in what was a 2-0 win for PSG.

But the predictability of his decisiveness didn't exactly come from an overriding brilliance that was displayed in this encounter in general.

In fact, Messi was somewhat subdued for much of the match.

His first-half performance was littered – by his standards, anyway – with heavy touches and his influence in the final third was lacking.

After all, he finished the game without contributing a single key pass, making this one of only four matches across all competitions since the beginning of last season that Messi's started but not set up a chance in.

Of course, it's worth taking into consideration that Messi's arrival at PSG was delayed by his Copa America involvement, he then went away on international break and also recently suffered a minor knee injury.

A slow start was almost to be expected in those circumstances, even for someone as good as Messi, but with City throwing men forward in search of an equaliser, you always got the sense he would get one opportunity on the break.

He did, and it produced a goal that will go down in history as his first club goal away from Barcelona.

Messi received the ball out on the right flank, just inside the City half, darted forward with much of the visitors' side on the offensive, and as Achraf Hakimi overlapped on the right, the six-time Ballon d'Or winner cut inside.

He held off Rodri as he played a one-two with Kylian Mbappe, the Frenchman's touch exceptional given the pressure he was under, and Messi strode on to the return pass before guiding it effortlessly into the top-right corner with a first-time finish.

So much of it was quintessential Messi, from the surging 19.2-metre dash to the glorious ease with which he picked out the one area of the net Ederson wouldn't be able to reach. It also summed up just how devastating he is: one shot, one goal.

Even with 672 club career goals preceding that one, it's still impossible to tire from seeing Messi hit the back of the net – or, perhaps it is now a little boring if you support an English club.

That was his 27th Champions League goal against a Premier League team, which is – remarkably – 15 more than any other player (Cristiano Ronaldo, 12) in the competition's history. Ronaldo is the only player to score more against teams from a specific nation (28 versus German clubs) in Europe's elite competition.

While Arsenal may have proven particularly powerless against Messi over the years, conceding nine times to him in just six games, it's fair to say he boasts a stunning record against City that few could match in this era, his tally now sitting at seven from as many games.

Messi seemingly has a similar kind of hold over Guardiola as well, given that was the seventh time he's scored against his old boss in the Champions League, a record.

It was under Guardiola at Camp Nou that Messi was initially elevated to his world-class perch, and there he has remained.

After a rather uncharacteristically quiet beginning in Paris, perhaps it was only fitting that his mentor was there behold Messi's true arrival in Paris.

'It's too early to talk about the MVP!', you might think when the NFL's most prestigious individual award is brought up in discussion in September.  

On the surface, that is reasonable logic three weeks into an extended 17-week season. There are many twists and turns to come that will ultimately decide the identity of this year's Most Valuable Player.  

Yet the reality is that talk of who is most deserving of the game's top solo prize plays a critical role in forming the narrative of a season.  

Conversation over which quarterback – sorry, Aaron Donald – is most deserving of the award at certain points of the campaign and what impressive performance does for a player's hopes consistently captures attention and creates heated debate, regardless of whether we think such talk is premature.  

By the end of last year, Aaron Rodgers had rendered any suggestion of alternative candidates pointless with a stunning 2020 season for the Green Bay Packers.  

While Rodgers did his prospects of retaining the award no harm by making 37 seconds seem like an eternity in the Packers' last-gasp win over the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday, the opening stages of the season suggest he will have intense competition.  

And perhaps his biggest threat plays his home games several hours south of Levi's Stadium, where Rodgers unsurprisingly was the leading man in the theatre the Packers and Niners produced in primetime.  

Indeed, long before Mason Crosby was sending a 51-yard field goal into the Northern California night to settle a fierce NFC battle, Justin Herbert and the Los Angeles Chargers took a similarly dramatic AFC contest off the leg of their kicker, with Brandon Staley's faith in Herbert and the passing game rewarded with a win that alters the complexion of the playoff race.  

Herbert's four-yard touchdown pass to Mike Williams, the second time in the game he hooked up with the former Clemson star, sealed a 30-24 win over the Kansas City Chiefs that solidified the Chargers' status as a threat to the two-time defending AFC champions, who dropped to a losing record for the first time since 2015.  

It was just reward for a display in which Herbert furthered his MVP credentials, the reigning Offensive Rookie of the Year outshining Patrick Mahomes on a day where the man most regard as the game's most talented and most explosive quarterback made history. 

Herbert joins exclusive club

By throwing for 260 passing yards, Mahomes took his career tally to 15,092, becoming the first quarterback in NFL history to reach 15,000 in 50 games or fewer, doing so in his 49th appearance. 

Herbert is not quite on the same pace, averaging 294 passing yards a game through the 18 he has played so far in his still embryonic career. Last year's sixth overall pick is on track to reach 15,000 in 51 games. 

But he outshone the 2018 MVP in Week 3, finishing with 281 yards, four touchdowns and zero interceptions while Mahomes threw for three scores but with two picks, including one with the game tied that set the Chargers up to go for the game-winning score. 

His performance saw Herbert become the fifth player in the Super Bowl era to record five games with at least three touchdown passes and zero interceptions in his first two seasons. 

Herbert joins Lamar Jackson (six), Dan Marino (six), Mahomes (five) and Dak Prescott (five) on that list. Three of the other four members of that exclusive club have all won the MVP. 

Fourth in passing yards with 956 but 17th in yards per attempt (7.59), tied-10th in touchdowns (six) and 18th in passer rating (97.9), the raw numbers do not fully support the argument that Herbert is a candidate to join Jackson, Marino and Mahomes this season. 

However, an understanding of why Herbert deserves to be firmly in the mix through three games requires a deeper look at his statistics and an examination of the high-level throws he is making look ridiculously routine.

Unerring accuracy

Herbert finished Week 3 with a well-thrown ball percentage of 91.7. Only one quarterback, Kirk Cousins (91.9), to attempt more than one pass was superior in that regard going into Monday Night Football. 

He did much of his best work when under pressure too, delivering a perfectly thrown jump pass to Keenan Allen for Los Angeles' opening touchdown with defensive tackle Khalen Saunders in his face, and putting a pass down the right sideline to where only Williams could get it, the duo connecting for the first of two fourth-quarter scores despite Chris Jones screaming off the edge. 

More exquisite placement came on the decisive drive, Herbert finding Williams on a lofted back-shoulder throw to put the Chargers close, a pass he delivered with his weight falling away from it. He then hit the same receiver for the game-winner. 

Those plays will be the ones most remember from Herbert's contribution to an engrossing encounter that ended with a failed Hail Mary from Mahomes, the Chargers having inexplicably left him with over half a minute to produce a reply. 

Yet just as impressive from Herbert were the plays that came up short, including a second-quarter missile from his own 45-yard line - one he uncorked after escaping pressure and rolling left - which was broken up in the endzone to prevent Jalen Guyton hauling in a spectacular touchdown, but that incompletion served as yet more evidence of Herbert's near-boundless ceiling. 

The first three games of the year have seen Herbert consistently demonstrate that upside. His well-throw percentage of 84.4 is fifth in the NFL to attempt multiple passes, with Kyler Murray (84.5) the only player to have averaged seven or more air yards standing above him on the list. 

While Murray provides a greater running threat than Herbert, the Chargers' signal-caller has done a superior job of taking care of the ball. He has thrown an interceptable ball on 2.46 per cent of passes, compared to 4.12 per cent for Murray. 

Though Murray has one more win than Herbert this season, he does not yet have the signature moment the former Oregon man produced at Arrowhead. 

Kyler playing catch up

With already 1,005 passing yards to his name to go with seven touchdowns and a further three scores on the ground, Murray is building a strong case of his own for MVP. 

Yet wins over the Tennessee Titans, Minnesota Vikings and Jacksonville Jaguars are unlikely to move the needle to the extent that Herbert's victory over Mahomes should. 

Murray's MVP stock could receive a bump when the Cardinals face fellow unbeaten division rivals the Los Angeles Rams in Week 4. However, for now, he is playing catch-up to Herbert in terms of a potential season-defining win that permeates the consciousness of the wider NFL public. 

Anybody who has taken even a passing interest in a Chargers franchise known in recent years for letting opportunities slip through their grasp should recognise Herbert will have a plethora of hurdles to overcome before he can claim to be an MVP frontrunner. 

But across the first three games, he has the production, at least in terms of overall yardage, and has showcased the accuracy to stand as the top challenger to succeed Rodgers at this extremely early juncture. 

Herbert enters Week 4 in a position of which few quarterbacks have experience, having gone blow for blow with Mahomes and come out on top. 

If he maintains the level that saw him achieve that feat, Herbert will have an excellent shot of replicating Mahomes and Jackson in winning the MVP in his second season.

Manchester City made something of a statement in their 1-0 win over potential title challengers Chelsea on Saturday, whereas Manchester United seemed to take another step back as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's reign stuttered again.

But Solskjaer is certainly not the only top-flight manager feeling the heat – Nuno Espirito Santo's honeymoon period as Tottenham boss is well and truly over, with the Portuguese now among the favourites to be the first Premier League boss sacked this season following a 3-1 defeat in the north London derby.

Without any further ado, here are some of the more curious facts and stats from across the Premier League this past weekend…

City defence putting the 'guard' in Guardiola

It may not have been the thrill ride neutrals were likely hoping for, but City's 1-0 win at Stamford Bridge was another impressive indicator of just how good Pep Guardiola's team is as a unit.

Of course, they won the Premier League only a few months ago, so saying City are "good" probably won't cut it for analysis – but what is really making people sit up and take note at the moment is how their unity and cohesion is translating into defensive solidity.

City have conceded just one goal in their six Premier League games this term, the fewest they've ever shipped at this stage of any league campaign.

Let's not forget that Chelsea had been widely praised for their own start to 2021-22, yet on Saturday they were prevented from having a single shot on target in a home league game since November 2012, which coincidentally was also against City.

But even more impressive from City's perspective was the fact Chelsea's expected goals (xG) value was just 0.2, the worst they've recorded in a home Premier League game since Opta records began in 2008-09.

While Chelsea fans will understandably be frustrated, it would seem their struggles on Saturday were more down to City being in a groove defensively.

They've only faced six shots on target this season, a record no Premier League has bettered over the first six matches in a campaign since at least 2003-04. If they keep this up, the title will surely be staying at the Etihad Stadium.

Fernandes' penalty miss not Man Utd's big issue

It was another day to forget for United on Saturday as they lost 1-0 at home to Aston Villa.

They were presented with a great opportunity to equalise in second-half stoppage time, but Bruno Fernandes sent his penalty over the crossbar.

Much of the focus afterwards was on Fernandes and his miss, though it would be unfair to pin the blame on him – after all, of the 23 spot-kicks he has taken since his United debut, he's only failed to convert two.

In the same time period, Cristiano Ronaldo – seemingly Fernandes' main penalty rival now – has taken 22 and missed four. This is not a problem that United need to dwell on much.

Instead, they'd be wise to look into their glaring tactical inefficiencies, with Solskjaer's team sorely lacking identity, cohesion and a defined playing style. Too often they are bailed out by moments of individual brilliance, which is an unsustainable approach to solely rely on in a title challenge.

Against Villa, those instances of individual excellence never arrived, despite United mustering 28 shots. That was the most efforts attempted by United without scoring in a home league game since October 2016 (38 shots in 0-0 draw with Burnley).

They have now conceded in each of their past eight league games at Old Trafford, their worst such run in 49 years, and lost three successive home matches (all competitions) for the first time since 1962.

Norwich set new benchmark for worst start

With every match that passes, the light at the end of the tunnel seems to become ever dimmer for Norwich City.

A 2-0 defeat at Everton on Saturday leaves Norwich pointless and with a -14 goal difference after six matches – that makes their start to the season the worst after six matches in Premier League history.

Only twice before had a Premier League side begun a campaign without a single point from six games, the last of which was Frank de Boer's infamous Crystal Palace team in 2017-18 – the Dutchman was sacked after the fourth match in that sequence.

Norwich have at least been a little more patient than Palace, with Daniel Farke's record of overseeing two promotions seemingly ensuring he retains some good will at the club, even if he now has the highest loss percentage (75 per cent, 33/44) of any manager to take charge of at least 20 games in the Premier League.

Most would already consider Norwich to be doomed for relegation, though perhaps there is some reason for optimism.

There have only been nine teams to start a top-flight season (prior to 2021-22) with six or more successive losses, but four of them – including Palace – have avoided relegation.

Vardy joins exclusive club

Jamie Vardy ended up having a peculiar day when Leicester City drew 2-2 with Burnley on Saturday, the former England striker scoring three of the four goals.

It was his own goal that gave Burnley an early lead, while he also got both Leicester equalisers, including one late in the day.

That was his first own goal ever in 360 appearances for Leicester, while he became the first player to net at both ends for the club in a single Premier League game.

It's happened to some of the best, though. He joins an illustrious list containing 11 others who have scored at least 100 goals but also put past their own goalkeeper, with Harry Kane, Steven Gerrard, Paul Scholes, Frank Lampard and Wayne Rooney among them.

On top of that, Vardy is now only one of five players in Premier League history to score at least twice at the right end and an own goal in the same game after John Barnes (Liverpool v Spurs 1995), Niall Quinn (Sunderland v Charlton Athletic 2001), Rooney (Man Utd v Stoke City 2012) and Tammy Abraham (Chelsea v Wolves 2019).

But he is still doing more than his fair share at the other end, his brace in this game taking him to eight goal involvements in his past seven league games, which is 89 per cent (8/9) of Leicester's goals in that time.

Bad omens stacking up for Nuno

After three wins from his first three Premier League games in charge, everything was looking rather rosy for Tottenham boss Nuno.

Three matches and three defeats later, some will doubt whether he'll still be in charge this time next month, let alone this time next season.

Sunday's north London derby was his 10th in charge of Spurs and the 3-1 loss made him the first manager to lose as many as four of his first 10 matches at the helm of the club since Glenn Hoddle in 2001.

Hoddle was also the last Spurs boss to conceded at least three goals in three consecutive league games in September 2003, and he was sacked after that run.

Nuno will probably make it to the next match but the last team to begin a season with three wins and then lost the next three (Everton, 1993-94) finish as low down as 17th.

His future arguably rests on getting something out of Kane, who's failed to score in five straight league games for the first time since August 2016, but things aren't looking great given Spurs' 35 open-play shots is the second fewest in the division and their expected goals (xG) total is just 3.2, only higher than three teams.

While a lack of quality chances might usually be masked by Kane's excellence, he's not bailing them out any longer – if that continues, it's difficult to see Nuno keeping his job for the long term.

It made Thierry Henry and Tony Adams happy, and Mikel Arteta on the touchline was so excited by it all that he probably expended more energy than the Tottenham midfield.

So bravo Arsenal, bravo. A 3-1 win – their 600th in the Premier League – over Tottenham looks great on paper and proved rather fetching on grass, too, the Gunners picking off their north London neighbours at will, particularly in an embarrassingly one-sided first half.

But in essence, this was all about keeping up with the Joneses. Any significance from a sunny Sunday afternoon's Emirates Stadium stroll can only be gauged by what Arsenal, and indeed Spurs, do next.

Successive 1-0 wins over Norwich City and Burnley kept the wolves from Arteta's door after Arsenal's slow start to the Premier League season, and this derby success was received like they used to savour championships in these parts.

Of course, there is a temptation to look at this result without a dispassionate perspective, to rave about Emile Smith Rowe, who was excellent, and Bukayo Saka, whose season perhaps starts now. The young English pair both scored and both had an assist, and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang played like Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang rather than an imposter.

Record scorer Henry, sitting in the stand alongside Spotify billionaire Daniel Ek, was all smiles and giggles, while former skipper Adams, in the Sky Sports studio, gushed about "a wonderful, wonderful first-half display". The Gunners gentry were grinning, dreaming it might be the start of something.

"I'm excited guys, I'm excited," Adams said, almost apologetically. "I was absolutely delighted the kids took the game to Tottenham."

Even Gary Neville said Arsenal had been "fantastic", and in many ways they were.


SPURS TAKE A HIDING

Smith Rowe wandered untracked into the heart of the Spurs penalty area to drive home Saka's low centre for the 12th-minute opener; then Aubameyang put the finishing touch to a glorious Arsenal counter-attack, Tierney to Aubameyang, on to the galloping Smith Rowe with a delicious flick, then back to Aubameyang for an unstoppable finish into the far right corner.

Tottenham were torn apart again in the 34th minute as Saka bundled his way through a desperate Spurs defence before driving a shot across Lloris.

Harry Kane had given the ball away at the other end of the pitch and dashed back to try to make amends, only to nudge Saka's attempted pass handily back into the path of his England colleague, who pounced on the chance.

Smith Rowe, at 21 years and 60 days, firstly became the youngest player to score and assist in a Premier League north London derby since Cesc Fabregas in September 2007.

Then Saka took that record outright from Fabregas, 21 days after his 20th birthday. Saka is also the youngest Englishman to score a league goal for Arsenal against Spurs since a 19-year-old Stewart Robson at Highbury in April 1984.

Son Heung-min got Spurs a goal in the 79th minute, ending their 307-minute goalless run, and Lucas Moura hit the bar in stoppage time, but this was a hiding for the visitors.

"They weren't competitive in any shape or form," said Graeme Souness, incandescent.

"Arsenal would wish they could play against a team like Spurs were in the first 45 minutes every week. Spurs were so poor."


KANE DRAWS A BLANK AGAIN

Kane went for a Hail Mary shot from 28 yards and the Arsenal crowd gleefully jeered as the ball cleared the bar by several yards. The England captain then headed wide from a corner and another roar went up.

Aaron Ramsdale pushed aside a Kane shot that may have been drifting wide as Spurs showed more spark after the break, before the Tottenham talisman scooped a shot wide after running in behind the Arsenal defence for the first time.

He cannot buy a Premier League goal this season. Five games in and he has yet to get off the mark, but at least he had five attempts here, more than doubling his tally for the campaign. It was 2016 when he last went on a five-game goalless streak.

Aubameyang answered his own critics in style and has now scored in all three of his home Premier League games against Spurs, but Kane only fuelled the arguments of those questioning his performance this season. Dele Alli was hauled off after 45 wasted minutes, with Sky pundit Neville saying: "He needs to sort himself out."


SPURS NEED TO CHANGE THEIR TUNE

Spurs have conceded three goals in three consecutive Premier League games for the first time since September 2003, and after the derby dismay against Crystal Palace and Chelsea, here was another savage reminder of their shortcomings.

They are only the second team in Premier League history to win their first three games of a season and then lose the next three, following the Everton team of 1993-94 who finished in 17th place.

So for one day at least, we might say Tottenham are in dire trouble and the future looks bright for Arsenal, despite them sitting alongside one another in mid-table.

And, of course, the CEO of Spotify fancies Arsenal. He loved the 80s mix, the 90s mix and the 2000s mix, and senses the 2020s mix could have a rocking soundtrack too, bouncing to the beat of Saka, Smith Rowe and Martin Odegaard.

Tottenham, for now it seems, are lacking punk, lacking soul, stuck on a sad-song, life-sucks loop.

Lewis Hamilton broke new ground with his 100th Formula One victory at Sunday's Russian Grand Prix.

The defending champion already had the most victories in F1 history, having surpassed Michael Schumacher's 91 last season.

And Hamilton became the first driver to reach three figures as he emerged victorious in a dramatic race in Sochi, where Lando Norris spun off the track in the rain.

The Mercedes superstar badly needed this triumph, having fallen behind Max Verstappen again following the mid-season break.

Another championship this year would take Hamilton past Schumacher outright in another regard as an eight-time F1 king.

The records continue to pile up, with Stats Perform examining the numbers that make up Hamilton's latest stunning achievement.

 

CLEAR OF THE CROWD

Schumacher's 91 wins represented a daunting total until Hamilton came on the scene, with Alain Prost's 51 second on the list at the time of the Briton's breakthrough triumph in Canada in 2007.

Now Hamilton is on top and seems set to stay there for a long, long time.

Sebastian Vettel is his closest rival among active drivers, but the Aston Martin man – winless since Singapore in 2019 – is way back on 53 victories.

Hamilton also owns the record for the most wins with a single team, with 79 of his century secured in a Mercedes.

One benchmark that appears out of Hamilton's reach is Juan Manuel Fangio's remarkable winning percentage, with 24 victories from 51 grands prix giving the five-time champion a success rate of 47.1 per cent.

Among drivers with three or more wins, Hamilton's 35.5 per cent – 100 from 281 – is third, also behind Alberto Ascari (40.6 per cent).

PROFITING FROM POLE

Of course, the win was Hamilton's second F1 century, having clinched his 100th pole at this year's Spanish GP – a tally he improved with another in Hungary at the start of last month.

Of those 101, 59 have brought victories. Schumacher's 40 wins from pole put him a distant second on that particular list.

That means Schumacher is well clear still in terms of successes from further back on the grid, accounting for 51 of his wins but only 41 of Hamilton's.

After Sunday, Hamilton now has three victories from fourth, plus 27 from second, seven from third, one from fifth and two from sixth. Only in Germany in 2018, having qualified in 14th, has the 36-year-old won from behind the front three rows.

 

HEROICS AT HOME... AND IN HUNGARY

Hamilton passed up the opportunity to reach three figures at the Hungarian GP, where victory would have made him the first man to register nine wins at a single event.

He also has eight British GP triumphs, while Schumacher had the same number at the French GP.

Of course, the eight Silverstone successes mean Hamilton has the most home wins in F1 history. Prost previously held the record with six victories in his native France.

Seven British GP celebrations in the hybrid era are also unsurpassed.

The Silver Arrows great has come out on top at 28 different events and 29 different circuits – two more highs, ahead of Schumacher (22 and 23).

SUSTAINED EXCELLENCE

Having signed a two-year contract extension in early July, it appears inevitable that Hamilton will move clear of Schumacher by another measure in 2022.

The pair are currently tied with victories in 15 different F1 seasons, both achieving the feat in successive campaigns.

With five successes this year through 15 rounds, Hamilton faces a huge ask to match his 11-win mark from the past three years.

The former McLaren man has never had more than 11 in a single campaign, also finishing with that tally in 2014.

That followed his worst year in terms of wins, with just a single victory in 2013. Only in 2017 (nine) has Hamilton since dipped below double-figures until 2021.

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