Manchester City made history by putting Newcastle United to the sword and Arsenal also set a Premier League record in their thrashing of fragile Leeds United.

Rampant City ran riot at St James' Park on Sunday, hammering the relegation-threatened Magpies 4-0 to ensure they will be top of the table at Christmas.

Pep Guardiola's side took their tally of top-flight victories in 2021 to 34, bettering a record they had shared with Liverpool.

Depleted Leeds handed out far too many gifts in the season of goodwill, dishing out a 4-1 drubbing as Marcelo Bielsa's side were blown away in the first half at Elland Road on Saturday.

Second-placed Liverpool had to settle for a 2-2 draw at Tottenham in an eventful game for Andy Robertson on Sunday.

The fixture list was hard hit due to COVID-19 outbreaks, but there was no shortage of quirky Opta facts from the matches that went ahead.

 

No presents from Pep for struggling Howe

City can celebrate Christmas at the top of the tree for the first time since 2018, with Liverpool having been at the summit in the last three seasons.

It has been another memorable year for the champions, who not only set a record for number of top-flight wins but have also scored the most goals in a year by a Premier League team.

Not forgetting that football was indeed played before 1992, City's total of 106 goals in the top flight in 2021 sees them match a figure last set by Liverpool back in 1982. Aston Villa, however, hold the all-time top-flight record with a staggering 120 in 1930.

It has been a very different story for Newcastle, who conceded 79 times in the league this year, matching an unwanted record Ipswich Town set in 1994.

Eddie Howe will be glad to see the back of City, as the Newcastle head coach has lost all 11 matches against them – the worst 100 per cent losing record by any boss against one club in the history of the competition.

Ruthless Arsenal make Leeds suffer 

Leeds were thumped 7-0 by City in midweek and they gift-wrapped Arsenal three points with a naive display, even if injuries must be taken into account (all nine of Bielsa's substitutes were aged 21 or under, with 15-year-old Archie Gray among them).

The Gunners extended their winning run to three matches after dominating the first half, Gabriel Martinelli scoring twice and Bukayo Saka putting them 3-0 up at the break.

It could have been worse for the Whites, as Arsenal had 11 shots on target in the first half – the most on record (since 2003-04) by any side in the opening 45 minutes in a Premier League match.

With Emile Smith Rowe also on target, it was the first time Arsenal have had three players aged 21 or younger on the scoresheet in a Premier League game (excluding own goals).

Kalvin Phillips was once again sorely missed by Leeds. The Yorkshire club have lost 12 of their 15 Premier League games when the England midfielder has been absent.

Robertson turns from hero to villain

Liverpool are three points behind City after they were held by Spurs, having come from behind to lead 2-1 in the capital.

It was an eventful match for Robertson, who was unable to complete the 90 minutes after being shown a red card for a tackle on Emerson Royal.

The Scotland captain was given his marching orders eight minutes after putting the Reds in front and he also set up Diogo Jota's equaliser. Since Jota's Liverpool debut in 2020, only Christian Benteke (a former Red) has scored more headed Premier League goals than the Portugal forward (six).

Robertson became the first player to score, provide an assist and be sent off in a Premier League game since Aleksandar Mitrovic for Newcastle in May 2016, also against Spurs.

Harry Kane got the opener in an enthralling encounter, netting just his second league goal of the season and his first one at home since May.

That means Kane's last three home league goals for Spurs have all come under different managers – Jose Mourinho, Ryan Mason and Antonio Conte.

Jurgen Klopp railed at Paul Tierney after accusing the referee of blundering by failing to send off Harry Kane and snubbing Diogo Jota's penalty appeal in Liverpool's dramatic draw at Tottenham.

The Liverpool manager said the game needed "an objective ref" – a comment that could land him in trouble – and questioned if there was anything personal to read into Tierney's decisions.

"I have really no idea what his problem is with me," said Klopp, who spoke to the referee at half-time and full-time.

Former Borussia Dortmund boss Klopp was convinced Kane should have been ordered off for a first-half lunge on Liverpool left-back Andy Robertson, who was himself dismissed late in the game for fouling Emerson Royal, as the game finished in a 2-2 draw.

And Klopp was dismayed when Tierney refused to award Liverpool a spot-kick after Jota went over as Emerson and Davinson Sanchez slid in.

Addressing the incidents that left him frustrated during the game, and booked for his behaviour on the touchline, Klopp told Sky Sports: "Some of these questions, it is probably best to ask Mr Tierney what he thinks."

Asked whether the wild challenge by Kane, which earned the Tottenham striker a yellow card, should have resulted in a heavier punishment, Klopp said: "Definitely.

"We can give Robbo a red card... that's not the smartest challenge of his life, that's how it is, but that's definitely a red card [for Kane], no doubt about that.

"People will say his leg was in the air, but that's pure coincidence. Harry cannot judge that and if Robbo's leg is on the ground then it's a broken leg.

 "We have VAR sitting there and he looks again at the Robertson situation, fine, that's what he's there for. What did he do in that [Kane] situation?

"And the penalty situation with Diogo Jota, Mr Tierney told me he thinks Diogo stops on purpose because he wants the foul.

"First and foremost, if you want to shoot you have to stop because you cannot run and shoot in the same moment. It would always be helpful if you play football yourself in the past.

"When you see the situation back and the VAR's there, where is he stopping? You have two challenges against one player and the player's down. I don't understand that."

Reflecting on a pulsating game, Klopp added: "The draw is okay, we are not that crazy that we think we cannot draw at Tottenham, that's fine, but these situations are crucial; they are decisive situations.

"I have really no idea what his problem is with me. Honestly, I have no idea."

Klopp was without his first-choice three-man midfield due to COVID-19 and illness, along with powerhouse defender Virgil van Dijk, meaning Liverpool were majorly depleted for the clash in north London.

"You cannot expect us to play our best football game of the season. You have to fight through it and that's what the boys did and I'm really happy with that," Klopp said.

"Just we need an objective ref who sees the situation and judges them and not, like, opinions. He told me he thinks [Jota] stops on purpose. He had the best spot on the pitch, he was eight yards away and doesn't give it to him.

"I said, 'Boys, how is that? You have to ask him: what's his problem with me?'."

With another international break almost upon us, fantasy football players will be able to rest easy for a couple of weeks at the start of October.

But first, there are plenty of important points to be had.

With Liverpool hosting Manchester City, Chelsea eager to get back to winning ways and Arsenal preparing for a tricky test at Brighton and Hove Albion, there is plenty of value to be had with some wise selections.

Allow Stats Perform to lend a guiding hand, with the help of Opta data...

 

EDOUARD MENDY (Chelsea v Southampton)

Back-to-back defeats to Manchester City and Juventus have somewhat derailed Chelsea's good start to the season, and Thomas Tuchel will expect a response against Southampton.

Saints have failed to score in their past three league matches and, in Edouard Mendy, they will be facing the goalkeeper with the best save percentage in the division this season (90 per cent), out of those to have played more than once in the competition.

Mendy is conceding just once every 225 minutes on average, a stat likely to worry winless Southampton but bring encouragement to fantasy football players.

 

ANDY ROBERTSON (Liverpool v Manchester City)

Since the start of last season, Andy Robertson has provided eight Premier League assists. The only defender with more is, you guessed it, Liverpool team-mate Trent Alexander-Arnold (nine).

The England right-back is also the only defender since last September with more passes into the box and chances created than Robertson, who has managed 329 and 52 respectively.

With Alexander-Arnold ruled out by Jurgen Klopp due to injury, Robertson could play an even more pivotal role for the Reds against the reigning champions.

 

JOAO CANCELO (Liverpool v Manchester City)

If you are looking for value in both boxes, Joao Cancelo may well be your best bet.

No Premier League defender has had more touches in the opposition box (16), while only Cancelo and team-mate Ruben Dias can boast five clean sheets in the competition in the 2021-22 season so far.

With 10 shots and one assist to his name, Cancelo will be another full-back to watch with interest at Anfield.

WILFRIED ZAHA (Crystal Palace v Leicester City)

Leicester could be vulnerable after a Thursday Europa League trip to Poland, especially with Palace having gone three home games without defeat while conceding just once.

The Foxes also happen to be among Wilfried Zaha's favourite opponents. The Ivory Coast international has six goals and two assists against them in 12 games, more than he has against any other side.

It is perhaps also worth mentioning that, as a player, Palace boss Patrick Vieira played 11 times against Leicester and never lost.

 

ALLAN SAINT-MAXIMIN (Wolves v Newcastle United)

Aside from being one of the most fun players in the top flight, Allan Saint-Maximin is also Newcastle's greatest goal threat.

With two scored and three assisted, he has been directly involved in 71 per cent of all the Magpies' league goals this season and has had a hand in at least one in each of his past four appearances.

Newcastle have only won one of their most recent nine league encounters with Wolves, who themselves have not beaten their next opponents at home since April 1993. Perhaps Saint-Maximin is the man to tip the balance.

 

NEAL MAUPAY (Brighton and Hove Albion v Arsenal)

Speaking of key players, Brighton owe half of their eight league goals this season to Neal Maupay, who is looking to score in three consecutive top-flight matches for the first time in a year.

Arsenal are one of his preferred opponents, too: he has scored the winner in two out of three league meetings with the Gunners.

Mikel Arteta's side should be feeling positive after their derby win, but the Seagulls have won three of their past four home matches in the league, as many as they had managed in their previous 22.

 

ROMELU LUKAKU (Chelsea v Southampton)

After drawing a blank in his previous four outings in all competitions, Romelu Lukaku will be keen to get back among the goals.

Chelsea's record signing will be glad of his next opponents, then: he has nine goals in 12 previous Premier League games against Southampton and has never scored more against a single side in the division.

The Blues have scored six first-half goals in 2021-22 – only Liverpool can match that tally – so an early Lukaku strike may well be on the cards.

Liverpool defender Andy Robertson has declared himself fit to play in Saturday's Premier League clash with Chelsea after recovering from an ankle injury.

The 27-year-old missed the opening two games of the Premier League season after damaging ligaments in the Reds' pre-season friendly draw with Athletic Bilbao on August 8.

However, Robertson was among the substitutes for Saturday's 2-0 victory over Burnley and is now pushing for inclusion to face likely title rivals Chelsea at Anfield later this week.

Robertson, who signed a new long-term deal with Liverpool on Tuesday, told his club's official website: "I'm back in full training now. 

"I fully trained on Friday, just one day before the [Burnley] game – maybe a bit ahead of schedule but I think the physios just wanted rid of me, to be honest!

"Obviously I've been very lucky in my career that I've not had too many injuries and certainly not long-term injuries, and long may that continue. 

"But yeah, I'm a nightmare when I’m injured and I want to get back out on the pitch as quickly as possible.

"For me, as soon as I did it and I got the scan results I said, 'I think Burnley is in my sights' and there was a couple of people who said, 'Yeah, you've got a chance'.

"I managed to cling on to them and a couple of people said I had no chance, so I avoided them until it was more realistic! I tried my best, I tried everything. 

"I was out running and I felt as if I could maybe have trained a day or two earlier but the experts we have at this club are excellent and I still needed to tick a couple of boxes.

"Luckily I did that on the Thursday. Then I fully trained with the team on the Friday. Obviously the gaffer put me on the bench, which was probably unexpected but I was happy. 

"When you're at the game and everything is involved, you just want to be on the pitch, but I think that was unrealistic on Saturday.

"Now I've trained today and I'll have a full week of training so let's see what happens against Chelsea. But I'll be ready, I'll be ready to play, and like I said, I'll hopefully be fit for the rest of the season now."

Robertson has established himself as a regular for Liverpool at left-back since joining from Hull City in 2017, making 177 appearances for the club in all competitions.

He featured 36 times for the Reds in their title-winning campaign two seasons ago and again impressed last time out, with his eight direct goal involvements bettered only by team-mate Trent Alexander-Arnold (nine) among Premier League defenders.

Despite Robertson's return to fitness, the Scotland international faces a challenge ousting Kostas Tsimikas from the side following the latter's solid start to 2021-22.

Tsimikas has helped Liverpool to back-to-back clean sheets in their first two matches and assisted Diogo Jota's opener in the win against Burnley, with his four chances created bettered by four other defenders in the division so far this term.

Andy Robertson has signed a new long-term contract with Liverpool, the Premier League side have announced.

The Scotland international, who has spent the past four years at Anfield, is reported to have agreed a deal that runs through until 2026.

Robertson joins fellow defenders Trent Alexander-Arnold and Virgil van Dijk, plus goalkeeper Alisson and midfielder Fabinho, in agreeing fresh terms to commit his future to the Reds.

"Obviously when the negotiations started and it looked as if my future was going to be here longer term than what it was, then I think it's no secret that I'm happy at this club," he told the club's website.

"I want to stay at this club for as long as possible and to extend my stay, it's always a happy time for me, for my family.

"We're settled here, we love everything about this football club and I'm glad that the journey is continuing."

Robertson has established himself as a regular for Liverpool on the left side of their defence since joining from Hull City, the 27-year-old making 177 appearances for the club in all competitions.

He featured 36 times for the Reds in their Premier League-winning campaign two seasons ago and played in all but one of their matches en route to lifting the Champions League in 2019, a year after losing to Real Madrid in the final.

Robertson has also won the Club World Cup and Super Cup during his time on Merseyside and is hoping to add more silverware to his collection.

"When you sign for a massive club, I still remember the day as if it was yesterday when I signed here and obviously you have ambitions to become a regular player for Liverpool, to win trophies for this club, to do everything else but the way it's gone has been excellent," he said.

"But since the very start of my career I've always been one to look forward: that's in the past, that's something that I can sit down with the people who want to listen to me when I've hung up my boots and retired and I can tell them all the stories that we’ve already made.

"But I'm certainly one, and I know a lot of people in this training ground just now are people to look forward and people [who want] to create more history, more stories. Hopefully people get bored of me when I've retired and I can sit down for hours and hours and tell them about all the stories!"

While yet to feature at the start of the 2021-22 season due to an ankle injury, Robertson is back in full training and could make a return against Chelsea on Saturday.

Andy Robertson has signed a new long-term contract with Liverpool, the Premier League side have announced.

The Scotland international, who has spent the past four years at Anfield, is reported to have agreed a deal that runs through until 2026.

Robertson joins fellow defenders Trent Alexander-Arnold and Virgil van Dijk, plus goalkeeper Alisson and midfielder Fabinho, in agreeing fresh terms to commit his future to the Reds.

"Obviously when the negotiations started and it looked as if my future was going to be here longer term than what it was, then I think it's no secret that I'm happy at this club," he told the club's website.

"I want to stay at this club for as long as possible and to extend my stay, it's always a happy time for me, for my family.

"We're settled here, we love everything about this football club and I'm glad that the journey is continuing."

Harvey Elliott has been handed a first Premier League start for Liverpool against Burnley, while captain Jordan Henderson returns to action for the Reds.

Henderson suffered a groin injury in the derby defeat to Everton at Anfield in February and has not featured for Jurgen Klopp's men since, though he was involved in England's Euro 2020 campaign.

Elliott became the youngest player to make an appearance in Premier League history in May 2019, making his debut for former club Fulham when aged 16 years and 30 days.

The 18-year-old now gets the chance from the outset after appearing twice as a substitute during the 2019-20 campaign for Liverpool, with Andy Robertson is also fit again to return to the bench.

The Scotland left-back suffered ankle ligament damage in a pre-season friendly with Athletic Bilbao and while Saturday's clash has come too soon to start again, it appears he could be ready for the Chelsea game next week.

Liverpool ran out 3-0 winners in their Premier League opener against Norwich City, in which Elliott tasted seven minutes of action off the bench, but they now host a Burnley side who ended their 68-game unbeaten home run last term.

Mohamed Salah netted once, his record-breaking fifth consecutive goal on the opening day of a Premier League campaign, as well as providing two assists against the Canaries.

A brace against the Clarets would see the Egypt forward reach 100 Premier League goals in 160 appearances. Only four players have ever achieved that feat in the competition before: Alan Shearer (124 games), Harry Kane (141), Sergio Aguero (147) and Thierry Henry (160).

Burnley, in contrast, got their campaign underway with a 2-1 loss at home to Brighton and Hove Albion. They could win consecutive away league matches at Anfield for the first time since 1894-95 and 1896-97.

Liverpool defender Andy Robertson has confirmed he suffered ankle ligament damage in the 1-1 pre-season friendly draw with Athletic Bilbao.

The Scotland international limped off after attempting to block a cross and was replaced at half-time by Owen Beck.

Manager Jurgen Klopp said further tests were required to determine the level of damage, casting doubt on Robertson's availability for Liverpool's opening game of the Premier League season away to Norwich City on August 14.

Ahead of Monday's friendly with Osasuna, the Reds' final warm-up game before the 2021-22 season, Robertson said via Twitter that he expected to be sidelined for a time.

"Thanks to everyone for the kind messages and support," he wrote. "Scan suggests nothing too major but there's some ligament damage which will need to mend.

"I will be grafting every day so I can help the team again sooner rather than later. Good luck to the boys playing tonight."

Liverpool left-back Andy Robertson will have scans on an ankle injury described by manager Jurgen Klopp as "pretty painful".

Robertson was hurt during Sunday's 1-1 friendly draw between the Reds and Athletic Bilbao at Anfield.

The Scotland international limped off after attempting to block a cross and was replaced at half-time by Owen Beck.

Klopp said further tests are required to determine the level of damage, casting doubt on Robertson's availability for Liverpool's opening game of the Premier League season away to Norwich City on August 14.

"We obviously don't know in the moment how serious it is," Klopp said. 

"It was pretty painful and that's why Andy went off. You probably saw it on the TV pictures better than we did, but he got the ball, the ball on the front of his foot, [and] twisted the ankle.

"The pain settled already, but we cannot say anything further without further assessment tomorrow [Monday]. He has to get a scan and then we will know more."

Diogo Jota scored Liverpool's opener on Sunday before Alex Berenguer levelled early in the second half in front of a crowd of close to 40,000.

There was a warm reception from the home fans for Virgil van Dijk, who played 72 minutes on home turf for the first time in over 10 months, having missed the majority of last season with a knee injury.

Liverpool face Osasuna on Monday in their final pre-season friendly before the 2021-22 season gets underway.

Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp has confirmed centre-back Virgil van Dijk is in contention to make his long-awaited return from injury in Thursday's pre-season friendly with Hertha Berlin.

Van Dijk appeared just five times for the Reds in the Premier League last season and missed the Netherlands' Euro 2020 campaign due to an anterior cruciate ligament injury sustained against Everton in October.

The 30-year-old was included as part of Liverpool's squad for their warm-weather training camp in Austria this month, but he was not used in last week's 1-0 win over Mainz and Klopp made clear he would not rush the defender back.

However, the Liverpool boss is now ready to give Van Dijk some minutes at Tivoli Stadion, while fellow centre-back Joe Gomez – who has not featured since injuring his knee while on England duty last November – is also closing in on a return.

"I hope, I am not sure, there is the opportunity Virgil could play a few minutes. He looks really good in training and maybe we can bring him in, but I need to have some final conversations. He looks ready and we'll see," Klopp told Liverpool's website.

"If you see the games now as part of their rehab training, that makes sense. Joe is very close. There is no race between the two of them; they had different injuries and stuff like this, but he is very close.

"If Virgil can play now 20 then probably Joey can in the game after. We will see. In training they both look really good.

"I think from time to time there are some pictures of them from training sessions and everyone can see how good it looks, but there is no rush for us. 

"It is not about they now need five pre-season games to be ready for the start or whatever. It is a long season and we prepare them after these very, very serious injuries for the rest of their careers and not for the first game of the season.

"Losing a little bit of patience for them to return as a supporter or as a coach even is not bad, it just means they were pretty good and we want them to be back in the team."

The imminent return of Van Dijk is a major boost for Liverpool, who sorely missed the Dutchman's leadership and defensive attributes last season, having played every match in their successful 2019-20 Premier League campaign.

Only one defender in the league bettered his 191 aerial wins during that season, while he attempted and completed more passes than any of them. Trent Alexander-Arnold, meanwhile, was the sole defensive player to have more than his 3,624 touches.

Liverpool won 81.4 per cent of the 43 Premier League matches Van Dijk played between August 2019 and his injury, but that fell to just 51.5 per cent between October and the end of the season when he was out of the team.

Van Dijk is not the only player in line to return to the Liverpool side this week, with Andy Robertson and Diogo Jota set to feature against Bundesliga side Hertha.

Robertson and Jota represented Scotland and Portugal respectively at Euro 2020, but both players linked up with their club colleagues last week and are now deemed ready to feature in pre-season action.

"They will have minutes, that's the plan. They obviously trained completely normal all the time now and we try to involve them," Klopp said.

Liverpool also have friendlies against Athletic Bilbao and Osasuna to come before beginning their Premier League campaign against Norwich City on August 14, so Klopp will continue to rotate his side during the upcoming matches.

"Some of the players are ready for 60 minutes. It will be hard for them definitely, but it means then others play 30 minutes and stuff like this, or even maybe 20 minutes and these kind of things," he said.

"Pre-season is about trying. It's a proper, proper challenge to make all these individuals to bring them in the best possible physical shape and make us more ready or stronger as a team. 

"Unfortunately, football is not like cycling, so you don't miss it completely but the pedals and stuff like this just go away so quick that's incredible. So we have to work on that again, that's what we do.

"Today is a really tough [double session]. I like it, the players probably sleep now already and that would be better because this afternoon it would be really hard."

Steve Clarke spoke of his pride after Scotland's first major tournament appearance in 23 years ended in a 3-1 defeat to Croatia.

But the 57-year-old also shared his belief that the disparity in tournament experience between the two sides was a decisive factor in the Scots exiting Euro 2020 at the group stage.

Having picked up just a point from their opening two games, both Scotland and Croatia needed a win at Hampden Park to secure a place in the round of 16.

And it was the visitors who got it, with Nikola Vlasic, Luka Modric and Ivan Perisic goals rendering a Callum McGregor equaliser - the first Scottish European Championship goal since Ally McCoist against Switzerland on June 18, 1996 - irrelevant.

Reflecting on the defeat, Clarke told ITV: "I'm proud of the players, the fact they managed to get here for the first time in 23 years, that was a big thing for the country, a big thing for this group of players. 

"I think you saw tonight a team that's tournament-hardened, Croatia, against a team at their first tournament in a long time. 

"We had a little spell just before half-time when we got the goal and looked exciting but Croatia are a top team and they showed that tonight."

Clarke declared a 2-0 defeat to the Czech Republic in the first group game to be a decisive result in an all-too-brief Scotland campaign.

But he has backed his young squad to learn important lessons from their first major international tournament.

He added: "I think we'll go away and learn from it for sure. Obviously starting on the back foot with losing the first game is something you'd need to address in the next one because that set us up for a difficult one. 

"We left everything on the pitch at Wembley against England on Friday and couldn't quite get it tonight. 

"I think through all the three games they've acquitted themselves well, they've tried their best, showed some good qualities. Obviously, as a coach I don't like to concede so many goals, it's something we have to work on a little bit, but we can improve. 

"We've got young players in the squad, it's a relatively young group of players, and we want to improve together and hopefully we can do that."

Captain Andy Robertson echoed his manager's sentiments and urged his team-mates to turn this into a glorious era for Scotland by ensuring they also qualify for the World Cup in Qatar next year.

He said: "We're a squad that still has a lot of potential, still relatively new to this and not a lot of caps between us and it's important we build on this. 

"It's important we don't take this as the high for this squad because we're a good team on our day and now we need to focus on September. 

"I know it's a long way away, we need to go away on holiday and finally rest, but come September we need to try and qualify for another tournament because it can't go another 23 years. 

"We want to be a team that qualifies for many tournaments and it become the norm that Scotland qualify. 

"That's in our own hands, but we'll think about that another day."

As for the Croatia skipper, Modric, he preferred to revel in his nation sealing safe passage to the knockout stages in second place behind England rather than the wonderful curler he netted to set up the win.

The Real Madrid midfielder is now his country's oldest and youngest ever scorer at a European Championship, having done so at both 35 years and 286 days and 22 years 73 days old.

He told Euro2020.com: "This goal means a lot to me but our play means more, from the beginning until the end. I am happy that my goal helped, but it's most important that the team won.

"We are happy because we played a big match and qualified for the next round.

"We were not happy with performances in the first two matches and we knew we could be better. When we play like this, we are dangerous to everyone."

Tomas Soucek hailed Patrik Schick's long-range strike against Scotland as "the goal of the tournament" after the forward's double helped the Czech Republic beat Scotland 2-0 in their Euro 2020 opener.

Schick stole the show in Monday's Group D clash at Hampden Park with a towering first-half header and an incredible goal from just inside the opposition half after 52 minutes.

The second was measured at 49.7 yards, making it the longest-range goal scored at the European Championship since such data was first recorded in 1980.

Euro 2020 may still be in its early stages, but Soucek does not believe team-mate Schick's sensational strike will be bettered throughout the rest of the tournament.

"It's clear we already have the goal of the tournament. No need to try to beat it," Soucek said.

 

Schick overtakes Torsten Frings (38.6 yards) for the longest recorded strike in the competition with what was his 13th goal in 27 appearances for the Czech Republic.

The Bayer Leverkusen man lobbed the ball over David Marshall after his side turned over possession inside their own half, leaving the backpedalling Scotland keeper red faced.

And speaking after the game, Schick confirmed he had spotted Marshall off his line earlier in the contest and decided to have a go from range.

"I knew he liked to stay very high, so when the ball came, I quickly checked where he was standing, and it was a nice goal," he told BBC Sport. 

"I saw the keeper off his line. I checked already in the first half and thought maybe this situation will come."

Schick has scored eight goals in his last nine starts for the Czech Republic, with Monday's long-ranger at Hampden Park undoubtedly the pick of the pitch.

"We know he's a genius," Czech coach Jaroslav Silhavy told reporters. "He knows how to finish and that's why he's there - it was something out of this world. 

"We really haven't seen a goal like that from the middle of the field for a long time."

Scotland were backed by around 12,000 spectators on home soil in what was their first major tournament game in 23 years.

The hosts had 19 shots, four of those on target, but a lack of composure and some good goalkeeping from Tomas Vaclik kept them out.

Steve Clarke does not believe that the two-goal margin of victory for the Czech Republic paints a true reflection and is eager to bounce back for Friday's clash with bitter rivals England.

"It was quite an even game. There wasn't much in it," the Scotland boss told BBC Sport. "Obviously they were a little bit more clinical with their chances. 

"Losing the goal with a second-phase set-piece was disappointing and we went in at half-time on the backfoot, then the boy's hit a wonderful strike from just inside our half. 

"It was a shot that got blocked that fell perfect for them. So those moments went against us. When we had our chances to get back, we didn't take them. 

"At times we played some good stuff. I'll have a good think about it. We'll go back to base camp, lick our wounds for 24 hours, then get ready for the game on Friday."

Clarke is hopeful of having Kieran Tierney back from injury to face England at Wembley, with the defender proving a big loss for Scotland in their tournament opener.

Fellow defender Andy Robertson was Scotland's star performer against the Czech Republic, creating a game-high six chances, none of which his team-mates could convert.

"At the highest level, you have to take your chances," he said. "The Czech Republic did that, we didn't, and that's why we’re on the wrong end of a result.

"For the first one, we shouldn't concede. It's a good header but we've got to be a wee bit stronger and braver.

"We started the second half well and hit the bar. The boy's in his own half and it's a one in a million shot. It knocked the stuffing out of us. Going forward, we need to be more clinical."

Scotland have now lost their opening match in five of their last six appearances at a major tournament, failing to score on five occasions in that run.

Scotland will join England in taking the knee when the great rivals meet at Euro 2020, as head coach Steve Clarke vowed to fight racism and tackle "ignorance".

England's players have been going down on one knee before games as a protest against racism, while Scotland have since March stood together as a group to make their own united statement.

They intend to carry on in that way but will make an exception for the England game at Wembley on June 18, having been disappointed by reactions to their own method of facing down discrimination.

A frustrated Clarke said that "some individuals and groups have sought to politicise or misrepresent the Scotland national team position".

He reiterated his squad's view that "the purpose of taking the knee ... has been diluted and undermined by the continuation of abuse towards players", but Clarke does not want Scotland's actions to be interpreted as anything but being vigorously opposed to discrimination.

The one-off policy shift is a statement of Scotland's solidarity with their English counterparts, who have faced booing from supporters of the national team after taking the knee.

"In light of divisive and inaccurate comments being perpetuated by individuals and groups, whose views we denounce in the strongest terms, we have reflected today as a group," Clarke said.

"We remain committed to our principles of taking a stand but we must also be unequivocal in condemning the opportunistic false narrative being presented by some.

"We have therefore agreed that we will show solidarity with our counterparts in England, many of whom are team-mates of our own players, and who have found themselves on the receiving end of abuse from fans in recent international matches.

"We will continue to take a stand – together, as one – for our matches at Hampden Park. For our match at Wembley, we will stand against racism and kneel against ignorance."

Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon backed the move, writing on Twitter: "Good decision, Scotland – well done!"

Scotland begin their Euro 2020 campaign – their first major finals since the 1998 World Cup – with a Hampden clash against the Czech Republic on Monday.

Andy Robertson, the Scotland captain and Liverpool left-back, backed the decision to take the knee before the highly anticipated Wembley game.

Robertson said: "Our stance is that everyone, players, fans, teams, clubs, federations, governing bodies and governments must do more. Meaningful action is needed if meaningful change is to occur.

"But it is also clear, given the events around the England national team, taking the knee in this tournament matters as a symbol of solidarity.

"For this reason, we have collectively decided to again take the knee as a team for the fixture against England at Wembley Stadium.

"The Scotland team stands against racism but we will kneel against ignorance and in solidarity on June 18th."

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is not alone in facing a conundrum as he decides on who will play in goal for Manchester United against Tottenham.

Fantasy football players across the globe may also be wondering who to back between the sticks this weekend. Well, we might just be able to settle the debate.

As the Premier League season enters its decisive final weeks, we've got a handful of suggestions to give you the edge when it comes to your fantasy leagues, and one or two may just surprise you.

Without further ado, here are our picks for matchday 31, based on Opta data.

 

DEAN HENDERSON

Since taking over the number one spot with United while David de Gea was on parenting duties, Henderson has given little reason to suggest he should be dropped.

The England man might only have made four appearances in the top flight in 2021 but, of the 11 shots he has faced, he has saved all but one of them. That gives him a save percentage of 91, the best in the competition among keepers to play at least twice.

He could well be entrusted to keep Harry Kane and company at bay when United face Tottenham.

ANDY ROBERTSON

Even during a much more difficult season at Liverpool, Robertson continues to offer value as a defender given his undiminished attacking proclivities.

Only Aaron Cresswell (seven) has been directly involved in more Premier League goals among defenders this season than Robertson (six).

The Scotland left-back has had 80 touches in the opposition box, by far the most for a defender this term. He's an attacking threat to rely on.

 

JOHN STONES

Not only has Stones won back his place in Pep Guardiola's first-choice defence, he's even started proving a menace in the opposition box this year.

The centre-back has scored four goals in 2021, the most of any Premier League defender, having only managed one in his first 170 games in the top flight.

Given he already has eight clean sheets this year, behind only Cesar Azpilicueta (nine) among defenders, he should practically walk into fantasy teams at present.

JESSE LINGARD

He's been talked about pretty much every week since joining West Ham on loan – and for good reason.

Since his league debut for the Hammers in February, Lingard has been directly involved in nine goals (six scored, three assisted), matching Kane (seven scored, two assisted) for the most involvements of any player in the competition in that time.

West Ham face a tough test against Leicester City on Sunday, but Lingard has good recent memories of facing the Foxes: he scored the second goal when Manchester United won 2-0 at the King Power Stadium on the final day of last season.

 

RAPHINHA

Patrick Bamford has enjoyed a strong first Premier League season for Leeds United, but few would deny that Raphinha has been their standout attacking performer.

No Leeds player has created more chances (55) or provided more assists (six) than the Brazilian, who has also scored six goals of his own in 2020-21, most recently in the 2-1 win at Fulham on March 19.

If anyone can cause problems for Manchester City on Saturday, it's him.

DANNY WELBECK

Welbeck is enjoying a decent run of form for Brighton and Hove Albion, with goals in his previous two games against Newcastle United and boyhood club Manchester United.

The 30-year-old hasn't managed to score in three in a row in the Premier League since January 2014, but Everton might just be the ideal opposition for him to do just that.

Welbeck has more direct goal involvements (eight – four scored, four assisted) against the Toffees than he does against any other top-flight team. His goals have come for three different teams, too: United, Arsenal and Sunderland.

 

AYOZE PEREZ

Perez is another man with fond memories of his coming opponents.

The forward has managed three goals and three assists in his previous seven league games against West Ham, making them his most profitable opponents after Southampton.

Kelechi Iheanacho is the man in form at Leicester City, but Perez could well be a safe bet to make a decisive impact against the Hammers.

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