Liverpool may have lost ground in the Premier League title race to Manchester City, but they could claim a second trophy of the campaign when they face Chelsea in the FA Cup final on Saturday.

A Wembley Stadium meeting between the Blues and the Reds is, of course, nothing new, with Thomas Tuchel paying the penalty – literally – for his ill-fated introduction of Kepa Arrizabalaga in February's EFL Cup final loss.

Revenge will certainly be on Chelsea's minds after substitute Kepa missed the decisive spot-kick in the shoot-out at the end of that goalless draw, and they will be desperate to avoid becoming the first team to lose both domestic English cup finals in the same season since Middlesbrough in 1996-97.

For Liverpool, meanwhile, their pursuit of the quadruple, and with it, footballing immortality, hinges on their ability to see off the Blues.

Who will be crowned the latest winners of football's oldest national competition? Stats Perform takes a look at the key Opta numbers ahead of these two rivals' fourth meeting of the season.

Wembley regulars hunting cup success

Chelsea and Liverpool have met in the final of the FA Cup on just one previous occasion, with Ramires and Didier Drogba firing the London club – then managed by Roberto Di Matteo – to victory just over a decade ago on May 5, 2012.

Both sides have significant pedigree in the competition, with Chelsea making their 16th final appearance and Liverpool featuring in their 15th – only Arsenal (21) and Manchester United (20) have made more such appearances than the duo.

However, neither side have had it all their own way when making it this far, with Chelsea losing each of the last two finals.

The Blues are the first team to qualify for three consecutive finals since Arsenal between 2000-01 and 2002-03, but another defeat would make them the first team since Newcastle United in 1998-99 to lose on their last three final appearances (1973-74, 1997-98, and 1998-99).

Liverpool, however, have lifted the trophy on just 50 per cent of their previous final appearances (7/14). Only two teams have a worse success rate having reached 10 or more finals (Everton, 5/13, and Newcastle, 6/13).

 

Fourth time lucky as deadlocked rivals meet again?

Having both made their names coaching Bundesliga sides Mainz and Borussia Dortmund, Tuchel and Klopp are no strangers to one another, and have become accustomed to head-to-head meetings this season.

Chelsea and Liverpool have already met three times this campaign, twice in the Premier League and once in the EFL Cup final, with each of those games ending level.

Having clung on with 10-men to earn a 1-1 draw at Anfield in August, Chelsea fought back from two goals down in a 2-2 draw at Stamford Bridge in January before enduring penalty heartache at Wembley the following month.

 

The last fixture between two English top-fight teams to see more draws in the same campaign was Arsenal v Chelsea in 2017-18 (four).

Fans of a penalty shoot-out, then, could be in for more entertainment on Saturday. 

The Mane for the big occasion

The electrifying form of January arrival Luis Diaz means Klopp's Reds have never had such attacking depth available, but could one of his longest-serving attackers make the difference here?

Since arriving at Anfield in 2016, Sadio Mane has scored six times against Chelsea, with no other player scoring more often against the Blues in that time.

Mane made an important contribution to Liverpool's 3-2 semi-final win over Manchester City, becoming the first player to score a Wembley brace for the club since Steve McManaman in the 1995 League Cup final against Bolton Wanderers.

Should Mane again find the net against one of his favourite opponents, he would become the first Liverpool player to score in consecutive Wembley appearances (when used as a neutral venue) since Phillipe Coutinho in April 2015 and February 2016.

 

Can Werner haunt his former suitors? 

Chelsea forward Timo Werner made headlines on Friday after claiming to have chosen Stamford Bridge over Anfield when he left RB Leipzig in 2020.

And the Germany international will hope to continue his excellent FA Cup campaign if he is chosen to lead the line at Wembley.

No player has made more goal contributions in the competition than Werner this season, with the 26-year-old recording two goals and three assists in the Blues' cup run.

While that tally is more than any Liverpool player has managed in the competition this term, it's also the most any Chelsea player has registered in a single FA Cup campaign since Pedro (six) and Willian (seven) both impressed in 2016-17.

However, Chelsea ended that season by falling to a 2-1 final defeat to Arsene Wenger's Arsenal, so Werner will be hoping any contribution he can make will prove more decisive.

 

We are at the penultimate gameweek of the Premier League fantasy football season and a slab of fixtures means double matches for Aston Villa, Leicester City, Crystal Palace, Burnley and Everton.

Balancing between premium players and those who can provide particular value could be the difference at this time of the season, whether you need to consolidate or make up ground.

Stats Perform has you covered with some Opta-powered recommendations below, so here are our suggestions for this week's picks.

ROBERT SANCHEZ (Leeds United v Brighton and Hove Albion)

While only one of these teams will have something significant to play for, Brighton come to Elland Road in good form, winning four of their past six Premier League matches.

Brighton shot-stopper Sanchez has claimed more clean sheets this season (11) than over the previous term (10), with shutouts achieved in Brighton's past two matches.

The 24-year-old has been a big contributor in that regard, with a save rate of 68.4 per cent from shots in the penalty area, trailing only Alisson, Jose Sa and David Raya.

TRENT ALEXANDER-ARNOLD (Southampton v Liverpool)

Setting aside Saturday's FA Cup final on Saturday, Liverpool need to win to keep their Premier League hopes alive, and they will likely have the majority of the ball against Southampton on Tuesday. Expect crosses and dead balls.

Alexander-Arnold has been involved in more goals among defenders than any other in the Premier League this season, with 12 assists among 14 goal involvements.

While the Reds right-back trails Reece James (1.92) from chances created in open play per 90 minutes (1.53) this term, among defenders he leads the competition for chances created per 90 overall with 2.74.

SON HEUNG-MIN (Tottenham v Burnley)

Seeking to back up Thursday's critical win over arch rivals Arsenal, there can be no let-up from Tottenham in the race for the final Champions League spot.

Spurs have leaned on Son for goals this season and he has obliged, already beating his best tally for goal involvements in a single Premier League season of 27, with 28 for the term so far. 

The 29-year-old has 21 goals, only trailing Mohamed Salah's 22. Among players with 10 or more goals, Son leads the competition for shot conversion at 27.3 per cent. His seven assists have also come in handy.

DANNY INGS (Aston Villa v Crystal Palace, Burnley)

Aston Villa's next two opponents are Crystal Palace and Burnley, against whom Ings has scored a combined nine goals.

With five goal involvements (goals and assists) against both clubs respectively, Ings has only had more goal involvements against Everton (eight) and Norwich City (six) in the Premier League.

The 29-year-old has the most goal involvements for Villa this season, with seven goals and six assists.

Even when Jack Grealish charged into the penalty area in the 87th at the Santiago Bernabeu last week and saw his shot cleared off the line by Ferland Mendy, there seemed no way Manchester City wouldn't be in the Champions League final.

They were already 1-0 up on the night, 5-3 up on aggregate. Real Madrid had three minutes plus stoppage time to turn things around – even for a side that produced some memorable comebacks en route to the semi-finals, turning things around looked impossible.

Yet we all know how the tale unfolded in a matter of minutes, with City's Champions League aspirations dissolving for another season.

Over the course of the two legs, City were comfortably the better team and few would disagree with the idea that they're almost certainly better equipped than Madrid to stop Liverpool in the final.

City's failure served to highlight a key deficiency in their squad. Whether that's fair or not is up for debate, because they look destined to win the Premier League title again and no one would've questioned the legitimacy of them seeing off Madrid, but when the victor is led by the type of figure the loser is lacking, it's an easy conclusion to jump to.

Karim Benzema may not have been at his unplayable best in the second leg last week, but he won and converted the ultimately decisive penalty, and the effectiveness with which he led the line in the first leg ensured Madrid were still in with a shout upon the return to Spain.

City will now hope they have such a goalscoring talisman in Erling Haaland.

The club confirmed on Tuesday that Haaland will join at the end of the season, with City apparently set to pay £51.3million (€60m) to Borussia Dortmund for his transfer. Even when you consider the apparently significant agents' fees et cetera, it's difficult to see this as anything other than a bargain for City.

Of course, while the timing of the signing might frame it as a reaction to Champions League elimination, it's clearly not. Reports have suggested for weeks that the deal was virtually done and Haaland was going to follow in his father's footsteps by signing for City.

However, it's hard not to look at the deal through the prism of Champions League failure because of what will now be expected – rather than hoped for – with a player like Haaland in the team.

When trying to understand what has specifically gone wrong for City in the Champions League since Guardiola was hired, most people seem to have different opinions. Some might point to an apparent lack of on-field leaders, others highlight wastefulness at crucial moments, and of course there are many who have bemoaned Pep's dreaded "overthinking".

The idea of there being a lack of on-field leaders has always seemed wide of the mark, while no one can accuse Guardiola of overcomplicating his selections against Madrid – even if they did try to claim that, City were on course for the final until the 90th minute of the second leg.

Similarly, wastefulness is something most clubs can be accused of at one time or another and, in fact, across all the Champions League ties from which City have been eliminated under Guardiola, they have scored 17 times from 16.99 expected goals (xG). Granted, there were occasions where they didn't score as often as they should have, but over time it evens itself out.

Yet perhaps this is where Haaland can make the difference. Sure, City's xG has evened out over the unsuccessful ties in question, but with a striker as freakishly deadly as the Norwegian, there becomes a greater opportunity to finish chances that maybe you wouldn't generally expect to.

Haaland is a pure finisher unlike any other player in the world. Since his Bundesliga debut on January 18, 2020, he has scored 85 times from 69.7 xG across all competitions. Similarly, when excluding penalties he remains almost as potent, with 75 goals from 60.2 np-xG.

In both instances he has scored roughly 15 more goals than he should have based on the quality of his chances – among players with 30 or more goals over the same period, only Son Heung-min (16.1 and 16.5) can boast better xG differential figures. Again, ordinarily you'd expect this to even out over time, with such form usually unsustainable – but when you make the implausible look routine, this is the output you can produce.

One thing you cannot accuse City of is being ineffective when it comes to controlling football matches and creating chances – they wouldn't be about to claim a third Premier League title in four years if they were.

But in knockout ties when there is such a limited amount of time to respond to setbacks or make amends for certain mistakes, whether that's defensive or in front of goal, the value of the greatest strikers can shine through even more: Benzema showed that against City.

While there are likely to be stylistic compatibility questions to be asked regarding City and Haaland, particularly given the Premier League champions-elect haven't really played with an out-and-out striker for a couple of years now, they suddenly have arguably the finest finisher of his generation in their arsenal.

If Haaland isn't the final piece of the puzzle in City's quest for a maiden Champions League crown, Guardiola might as well give up.

The worst-kept secret in football is finally out – Erling Haaland will be a Manchester City player from next season onwards.

The Norway international will bring the curtain down on a two-and-a-half-year stay with Borussia Dortmund in the Bundesliga to join the Premier League champions, who confirmed a deal in principle on Tuesday.

The arrival of the Leeds-born forward at the Etihad Stadium – to a club where his father played two decades ago – brings one of the game's hottest talents to British shores.

In addition, it fills the gap Pep Guardiola has sought to occupy since Sergio Aguero's exit at the end of last term and further bolsters City's already fearsome arsenal.

As the Opta numbers from his time at Dortmund illustrate, Haaland could well prove to be the man that finally makes the difference for City in the Champions League.

3 – The number of minutes it took Haaland to score on debut for Dortmund against Augsburg, after coming on as a second-half substitute. He went on to score a hat-trick.

85  Haaland has scored 85 goals since arriving in Germany from Salzburg at the start of 2020. Bayern Munich's Robert Lewandowski (122) and Paris Saint-Germain's Kylian Mbappe (89) are the only two players across Europe's top five leagues to have scored more in that span.

86.84 – The minutes-per-goal average posted so far by Haaland across his Dortmund career in the Bundesliga. He has recorded a marginally lesser 86.90 this season alone.

23 – Haaland's all-time goal haul in the Champions League, the most a player has scored by the age of 21, two ahead of Mbappe.

2 – The number of players to have scored more Champions League goals than Haaland since his competition debut – Lewandowski (33) and Karim Benzema (26).

14  Haaland needed just 14 games to score 20 goals in the Champions League, the fewest in the competition's history ahead of Harry Kane (24).

64  His minutes-per-goal ratio in the Champions League, which is the best among players to have scored 20-plus goals in the competition. Mario Gomez (102) is second.

32.31 – The conversion rate enjoyed by the Norway star in the Bundesliga this term.

It is finally official. Manchester City will be the new home of Erling Haaland next season after the announcement of an agreement with Borussia Dortmund for the superstar's capture.

Barring an unexpected issue with personal terms, the striker will arrive after two and a half years in the Bundesliga to bring even more firepower to the Premier League champions.

Having flirted with Tottenham's Harry Kane throughout last year's pre-season transfer window without landing their man, City have decided to go down the Haaland route to finally bring in the number nine they have sought since Sergio Aguero left.

Pep Guardiola has told anyone who will listen all season how incredible it is that his team has maintained the standards they have "without a striker", which can't have made Gabriel Jesus feel all that good about himself, let's be honest.

But can Haaland replace the significant impact of club legend Aguero? Stats Perform has taken a look at the numbers to determine the potential impact of the Norway sensation.

More than just "Agueroooo"

When you reel off a list of the greatest players to don a City shirt, Aguero's name is likely to feature prominently.

The Argentine striker played a huge role in taking the club from top-four contenders to the most dominant team in England, winning five Premier League titles, six EFL Cups and an FA Cup.

Aguero scored 260 goals in 390 games for City, averaging a goal every 107 minutes over his 10 years at the club.

He, of course, will also forever be synonymous with the famous stoppage time goal against QPR in 2012 that sealed City's first Premier League title, snatching it from the hands of Manchester United with almost the last kick of the season.

Despite his undoubted quality, there were some questions about how he would fare under Guardiola when the Catalan coach arrived in 2016.

While Guardiola had played with orthodox strikers before, arguably his crowning achievement was cultivating a Barcelona team that many still believe to this day is the greatest club side the game has ever seen – and that broadly played without a number nine, with Lionel Messi often used in a false nine role.

He did utilise Robert Lewandowski to good effect while at Bayern Munich, though, and while he did not exactly make Aguero his first name on the teamsheet every week, the overall development in quality of the team led to the striker actually improving his own numbers.

Under Guardiola, Aguero played 182 games, scoring 124 goals at a rate of 102 minutes per goal.

Unfortunately, injuries hindered Aguero in his final two seasons before he bade a tearful goodbye at the end of last season to join Barcelona. He was then forced to retire from the game altogether in December on health grounds, but the forward's significant impact at City will never be in question.

 

Step forward the second-generation sensation

It almost sounds like something out of the Football Manager computer game series. The son of former Leeds United and City player Alf-Inge Haaland goes on to become one of the best strikers in world football? Yeah, sure.

Well, it's true. Haaland burst onto the scene as he scored goals at rates rarely seen before at Salzburg, before making the move to Dortmund in the January transfer window of 2020, and he has not looked back since.

Haaland has bagged 85 goals in 88 games for BVB in all competitions, which works out at a goal every 84 minutes. Not bad for someone who only turns 22 in July.

But how does he compare to Aguero? It is difficult to make comparisons given the difference in style, experience and leagues, but to try to get a good idea, let's look at Haaland's two and a half years in the Bundesliga compared to Aguero's first three Premier League campaigns under Guardiola.

In Haaland's 66 league games for Dortmund – in which he has scored 61 goals, averaging 87 minutes per goal – he has attempted 3.5 shots per 90, with a shot conversion rate of 29.9 per cent, and he has scored 62.0 per cent of his 'big chances' (chances from which Opta would expect a player to score).

He has also averaged 3.3 shots from inside the penalty area per 90, notable with City spending so much time camped around opposition boxes.

Between 2016 and 2019, Aguero played 89 Premier League matches for City, scoring 62 goals at an average of one every 111 minutes.

The Argentinian averaged 4.6 shots per 90, with a shot conversion rate of 17.7 per cent, scoring from 53.9 per cent of his big chances, with an average of 3.6 shots from inside the penalty area.

It therefore appears that Haaland is actually the deadlier finisher, which is quite an achievement next to someone as good as Aguero, and one would assume Haaland's shot numbers will increase playing in a more dominant team like City, who always create plenty of chances.

 

It might be argued that goals in the Bundesliga do not always translate into goals in the Premier League. For example, Timo Werner scored 28 goals in 34 games in his last league campaign at RB Leipzig before joining Chelsea, where he has scored just 10 in 56 Premier League appearances.

However, even allowing for a period of adaption, it would take a brave person to bet against Haaland being a success in England based on his career to date.

Already outstanding in a single season without Aguero, City have seemingly identified the man to fill those big boots.

Manchester City edged closer to the Premier League title, while there was significant change at the bottom of the table on Sunday.

City were eliminated from the Champions League semi-finals in dramatic fashion by Real Madrid in midweek, but saw their domestic hopes boosted when Liverpool dropped points against Tottenham on Saturday.

Pep Guardiola's side subsequently breezed past Newcastle United to move three points clear of the Reds with three games remaining, while West Ham hit relegated Norwich City for four.

Elsewhere, Arsenal continued their charge for Champions League qualification with a narrow victory over 10-man Leeds United, who ended the day in the relegation zone after Everton triumphed at Leicester City.

Here, Stats Perform takes a look at the pick of the Opta data from the day's top-flight fixtures.

Manchester City 5-0 Newcastle United: Sterling provides as title charge continues 

Raheem Sterling was at the double as City strengthened their grasp on top spot with a 5-0 rout of Newcastle at the Etihad Stadium.

Sterling and Aymeric Laporte struck in the first half, with Joao Cancelo teeing up the England international's opener as the full-back became the fourth of Guardiola's players to reach 10 assists in all competitions this season (also Kevin de Bruyne with 13, Phil Foden and Gabriel Jesus - both 11).

City are the only team in Europe's big five leagues to have four or more different players reach 10 assists in all competitions this campaign, and Guardiola's men furthered their advantage after the interval.

Rodri then scored following a corner, as Laporte did in the first half, as City managed their 19th and 20th goals from set-piece situations this term in the league, excluding penalties. They have conceded just once from set-pieces themselves, with their plus-19 differential the best figure recorded in a single season in the Premier League since such records are available (2006-07 onwards).

Foden added a fourth before Sterling capped a fine victory with his 51st Premier League goal at the Etihad, becoming only the second player to pass 50 strikes for City at home in the competition after Sergio Aguero (106).

City have beaten Newcastle 28 times in the Premier League (D8 L8), more than they have any other side in the competition. In their league history, they have only beaten Everton (72 times) more often than the Magpies (68 times).

Meanwhile, Eddie Howe has lost all 12 of his Premier League meetings with City – 10 of those against Guardiola – the worst 100 per cent losing record a manager has against a single opponent or against another boss in the competition.

Arsenal 2-1 Leeds United: Ill-tempered Whites fall into relegation zone

An Eddie Nketiah double kept Arsenal on course for Champions League qualification as they triumphed 2-1 against 10-man Leeds, who dropped into the bottom three for the first time since October 30.

Nketiah fired the Gunners into a 2-0 lead as he became just the second Arsenal player to score twice in the opening 10 minutes of a Premier League game after Kanu (versus Sunderland in October 2002).

With Alexandre Lacazette out of favour, Nketiah has stepped up as Mikel Arteta's talisman, scoring four goals in his last four league games – just one fewer than he had managed in his first 52 top-flight appearances.

Luke Ayling was then dismissed for a mindless two-footed lunge on Gabriel Martinelli after 27 minutes, Leeds' earliest red card in the competition since April 1998 (when Lucas Radebe saw red after 17 minutes against Everton).

Tempers continued to flare before the interval as Leeds picked up their 95th and 96th yellow cards of the season, setting a new record for the most bookings for a club within a single Premier League campaign.

Diego Llorente offered Jesse Marsch's visitors brief hope as he poked home with Leeds' first shot on target, which marked the first home league goal Arsenal have conceded from a corner since February 2021 (also against Leeds).

However, Arsenal held on for victory to move four points clear of fifth-placed Tottenham, who they face on Thursday knowing victory will secure Champions League football next campaign.

Leicester City 1-2 Everton: Toffees move out of bottom three

Mason Holgate's second-half header proved the difference as Everton climbed out of the relegation zone with a battling 2-1 victory at Leicester.

Before this game, Leicester had won eight of their last nine top-flight matches against sides starting the day inside the relegation zone (D1), but the Foxes were caught cold by Vitalii Mykolenko's early volley.

That made Mykolenko the first Ukrainian to score a Premier League goal for Everton, the 39th different nationality to find the net in the competition for the Toffees, the sixth most of all clubs.

Patson Daka restored parity five minutes later, with all five of the striker's Premier League goals coming at the King Power Stadium – only Jamie Vardy (6) has netted more often at home for the club in the top-flight in 2021-22.

Holgate delivered the decisive finish in the 30th minute with his second league goal in his last five matches, one more than he had managed across his previous 109 top-flight appearances beforehand (one).

Brendan Rodgers will be left frustrated by the nature of Holgate's goal, given it was the 15th Premier League strike Leicester have conceded from a corner this campaign – the most by a side in a single campaign since Brighton and Hove Albion in 2017-18 (16).

Victory marked the first away league win in 15 games for Everton, ending a seven-game losing streak on the road as Frank Lampard's side moved a point clear of Leeds and Burnley having played one game fewer.

Norwich City 0-4 West Ham: Bowen and Benrahma on song to down Canaries

Said Benrahma scored twice as West Ham responded to Thursday's Europa League semi-final heartbreak by cruising past relegated Norwich 4-0 at Carrow Road.

Benrahma struck after 12 minutes before Michail Antonio ended his joint-longest goal drought in the top-flight with his fifth Premier League strike against the Canaries, only against Tottenham (six) has he scored more in the competition. 

Algeria international Benrahma doubled his tally before the interval, taking him to 21 direct goal contributions in the competition (nine goals, 12 assists). Since his debut in 2020, Jarrod Bowen (30) and Antonio (28) are the only other Hammers to register 20+ top-flight goal involvements.

Bowen assisted both of Benrahma's strikes as the former Hull City man became just the second player for West Ham to register at least 10 goals and 10 assists in a Premier League season, and the first since Paolo Di Canio in 1999-00 (16 goals, 13 assists).

Indeed, only Harry Kane (32) has been involved in more goals among English Premier League players in all competitions than Bowen this season (27 – 16 goals, 11 assists).

Manuel Lanzini's second-half penalty rounded off the victory as West Ham won a Premier League away game by at least a four-goal margin for just the third time, while it was the first time the Hammers have put at least four goals past a side in consecutive league visits since doing so against Tottenham in November 1966.

Meanwhile, Norwich have failed to score in 20 different league games this season, becoming the first side to do so in at least 20 matches in three different Premier League campaigns (also in 1994-95 and 2019-20).

Football in May really can be all or nothing. Some teams have nothing left to play for beyond pride, while others have everything on the line in the closing weeks of the season.

It is safe to say that Liverpool's clash with Tottenham at Anfield on Saturday is in the latter category.

Liverpool remain in the hunt for an astonishing quadruple having already won the EFL Cup and booked their place in both the FA Cup and Champions League finals, while sitting just a point behind Manchester City in the Premier League title race.

Tottenham, meanwhile, are still in with a chance of securing Champions League football for next season with a top-four finish. They are currently in fifth place, two points behind north London rivals Arsenal.

Such is the precarious position of both teams as they chase glory, any slip-up will in all likelihood spell the end for their hopes and dreams in the league, which sets up their Anfield battle nicely.

Who will end the night with their season still on track, and who will end it wondering if there is any chance of recovering? Stats Perform takes a look at the Opta numbers heading into what should be a fascinating contest.

Reds capable of blunting Spurs

With Liverpool's home record over the years, it feels like most games at Anfield start with people explaining how few wins the visitors have in recent history.

Indeed, the same is the case with Tottenham, as Liverpool have lost only one of their last 27 Premier League home games against them, and are unbeaten in their last 10 since a 2-0 loss in May 2011.

Spurs have become a dangerous opponent for anyone in recent times, which Manchester City will attest to having been beaten 3-2 at the Etihad Stadium in February, allowing Jurgen Klopp's Reds to close the gap at the top in the first place.

However, despite having won four of their five Premier League meetings with Liverpool between November 2010 and November 2012, Spurs have won just one of their last 18 against them.

Will someone pay the penalty?

This time last year, you would have been called a fool for predicting Liverpool would be anywhere near the title race now, let alone being so while potentially winning every other trophy possible as well.

The Reds had a turbulent campaign in 2020-21, which included an unthinkable six home defeats in a row at one point, with no fans or centre-backs, leaving them flailing in their own quest for Champions League qualification, though a late run of wins saw them ultimately finish third.

Since the last of those six home defeats, the Reds are unbeaten in 21 Premier League home games, scoring 52 goals and conceding just nine. They have won each of their last 12 at Anfield, including the last five while keeping a clean sheet – only once have they had a longer run of home wins without conceding in the Premier League (eight between October 2005 and January 2006).

Ensuring another shutout will be easier said than done, though, as Liverpool against Tottenham is the second highest-scoring fixture in Premier League history (170 goals in 59 meetings), while it has seen more penalties awarded than any other match-up in the competition (23).

Kane v Mane

It was a slow start to the season for Tottenham striker Harry Kane, only managing one goal in his first 13 league games, though the England captain has bagged 12 goals in 20 games since.

He also has a good record against Saturday's opponents, having been involved in nine goals in 13 Premier League appearances against Liverpool (seven goals, two assists), with five of these goal involvements coming in seven games at Anfield (four goals, one assist).

Spurs will have to be wary of Liverpool's forward threat too, with Sadio Mane on such a run of form that he is in the early conversation for this year's Ballon d'Or.

Mane also has an impeccable record at Anfield, having scored in 49 different Premier League games at the stadium (one for Southampton and 48 for Liverpool) avoiding defeat in all 49 of those matches (W44 D5) – the most games a player has scored in at a single ground in the competition's history without ever losing.

Conte can dampen Reds title hopes

Having started the season with Nuno Espirito Santo in the dugout after Antonio Conte was among a series of coaches to turn the club down, very few Spurs fans would have been expecting to see the Italian leading their charge for a top-four spot just a few months later.

Conte has unsurprisingly been a success at Tottenham since arriving in November, with 14 wins, four draws and six defeats in his 24 Premier League games so far.

Both of former Chelsea boss Conte's Premier League visits to Liverpool have finished in 1-1 draws – only four managers have avoided defeat in each of their first three away games at Anfield in the competition: Martin O'Neill, Peter Reid, Roy Hodgson and Paul Lambert.

Arguably the most impressive player so far under Conte, Son Heung-min, has scored 19 Premier League goals this season, with none of them coming from the penalty spot. The South Korea international could become just the second Spurs player to score 20 in a Premier League campaign without any of them being penalties, after Gareth Bale in 2012-13.

Three matchdays remain in Serie A, and yet there is plenty still to be decided at both ends of the table – not least which side will be crowned champions.

Milan occupy top spot in their quest for a first Scudetto since 2011, but fierce rivals Inter are just two points behind and arguably have an easier set of fixtures to conclude the campaign.

Napoli and Juventus are not officially out of the title race just yet, though they are seven and eight points off first place respectively, therefore requiring a remarkable set of results.

Both Napoli and Juventus are already assured of a top-four finish, but there are several other teams still battling it out for the three remaining European spots.

Venezia appear doomed at the opposite end of the table after losing to fellow strugglers Salernitana on Thursday, with the latter's victory lifting them out of the bottom three – in all, six teams remain in trouble.

But just how will the remaining two and a half weeks of the season unfold? Using the Stats Perform League Prediction Model, we can try to forecast the final standings.

Created by Stats Perform AI using Opta data, the model has analysed the division to assign percentages to potential outcomes for each club.

The model estimates the probability of each match outcome (win, draw or loss) based on teams' attacking and defensive qualities, which considers four years' worth of results.

Weighting is based on recency and the quality of opposition, with the rest of the matches then simulated 10,000 times to calculate the likelihood of each outcome.

Let's take a look...

 

MILAN TO SEE THE JOB THROUGH

Milan still have Hellas Verona (ninth), Atalanta (eighth) and Sassuolo (11th) to face, whereas Inter's final fixtures are against Empoli (14th), Cagliari (18th) and Sampdoria (15th).

However, it is worth noting that if they finish level on points, Milan would be crowned champions by virtue of a superior head-to-read record against their rivals this term.

With that in mind, while Inter are only two points behind, they essentially need to take three more points than Milan over the final three matchdays.

And our model suggests the Rossoneri have a 62 per cent chance of retaining top spot, compared to a 37.7 per cent chance of defending champions Inter overtaking them.

Just to highlight how unlikely it is either Napoli or Juventus will pip the current top two to the summit, they have a 0.2 and 0.1 per cent chance of winning the title respectively.

A ROME ONE-TWO FOR EUROPA LEAGUE?

The Champions League places may now officially be wrapped up, but five teams are still battling it out for the three remaining European berths.

The sides that finish in fifth and sixth, currently occupied by Roma and Lazio, will qualify for the Europa League group stage.

Roma, according to the model, have a 59.1 per cent chance of nailing down fifth place – though if they were to drop to seventh, the Europa Conference League finalists could get into the Europa League by winning UEFA's third-tier competition.

Lazio would take great enjoyment from finishing above their neighbours and have a 36.9 per cent chance of doing so.

The first priority for Maurizio Sarri will be locking down sixth, though, and there is a 46.7 per cent likelihood of achieving that with Fiorentina three points further back.

ATALANTA TO PIP FIORENTINA

While the top six are forecast to remain where they are, our model predicts seventh-placed Fiorentina will miss out to Atalanta in the Europa Conference League play-off position.

After losing three games in a row, La Viola now have a 31.2 per cent chance of staying seventh, compared to 47.6 for Atalanta, whom they are currently level with on 56 points.

Verona are four points further back and that appears to be too big a gap to bridge, with the Gialloblu seemingly certain to remain in eighth.

Indeed, the 80.8 per cent likelihood of Verona finishing in that position is bettered only by the chances of Empoli staying 14th (90.2 per cent) and Venezia remaining bottom (87.4 per cent) given the points margin either side.

VENEZIA AND TWO OTHERS TO DESCEND

Thursday's 2-1 defeat away to Salernitana looks to have spelled the end for Venezia's brief stint back in the top flight as it leaves them seven points from safety. Their chances of escaping the drop sit at 0.1 per cent.

Salernitana still have a 36.2 per cent chance of dropping into the bottom three, but given they face the team directly below them – Cagliari – and Empoli in their next two games, they will surely like those odds.

Another win for Salernitana on Sunday would be massive at the bottom, as such a result will relegate Venezia and potentially Genoa, whom the model gives only a 1.2 per cent likelihood of climbing up to 17th.

Spezia and Sampdoria aren't quite out of the woods yet, but their five-point cushions should be enough to keep them in Serie A. Everything points to Sunday's contest being almost a straight relegation play-off between Salernitana and Cagliari.

The model suggests with a 63.3 per cent probability that Cagliari will go down, but their fate is in their own hands.

We are in the home stretch in the Premier League, which means everything is at stake – in the fantasy leagues, that is.

It is that time of the year when fantasy managers start to go over which games matter at opposite ends of the table to maximise points hauls.

Stats Perform has you covered with some Opta-powered recommendations below, so here are our suggestions for a new goalkeeper, defender, midfielder and striker.

EDERSON (Manchester City v Newcastle United)

Following their dramatic Champions League exit at the hands of Real Madrid, there is a possibility Manchester City players might actually breathe fire on Sunday against Newcastle United.

It will likely mean sporadic and low-quality opportunities for the Toon and, ultimately, light work for Ederson in City's goal.

Another clean sheet for the Brazil international will see him record at least 20 in a Premier League season for the second time, the last being in 2018-19. The next best to Ederson's 90 clean sheets since 2017-18 is Liverpool's Alisson, with 64.

GABRIEL MAGALHAES (Arsenal v Leeds United)

Arsenal's Champions League hopes could hinge on this weekend, with nearest rivals Tottenham coming up against Liverpool. The Gunners need points against favourable opponents.

Only Chelsea's Reece James (five) has scored more Premier League goals for defenders this season than Gabriel's four for Arsenal, with all of them coming from corner situations.

With that in mind, Leeds are one of the five sides in the Premier League this season to have conceded at least 10 goals from corners.

DEJAN KULUSEVSKI (Liverpool v Tottenham)

However, Arsenal's need to pick up points against Leeds does not mean Tottenham players are off-limits, and Antonio Conte's side on the counter-attack are a tough proposition for any club in Europe.

Dejan Kulusevski has come to life at Spurs after a middling spell at Juventus, with no player in Europe's top five leagues providing more assists since his first start in the Premier League. 

On top of Kulusevski's eight assists, only Son Heung-min (15) and Harry Kane (14) have been involved in more Premier League goals than him (11) over the same period.

RICHARLISON (Leicester City v Everton)

Leicester's struggles in possession once again came to the fore on Thursday against Roma, and on Sunday they will have to back up against one of the Premier League's most dynamic players in transition.

Richarlison has almost single-handedly propelled Everton's push for Premier League survival, with six involvements in their last eight goals.

At this rate (12 goal involvements), the Brazil international is on track to match his tally of 16 from the 2019-20 season.

On the back of becoming the first manager to win a clean sweep of trophies in Europe's top five leagues, Real Madrid boss Carlo Ancelotti suggested his coaching career – at club level, at least – is nearing its end.

"After Real, yes, I'll probably stop," he told Amazon Prime in an interview released on Monday. "I'd like to be with my grandchildren, go on vacation with my wife – there are so many things to do that I have left out that I would like to do. The day I quit, I'll have all these things to do."

That did come with a caveat, though. "If the club keeps me here for 10 years, I'll train for 10 years," Ancelotti added, before leaving the door open for a move into international management ahead of the 2026 World Cup.

One month shy of his 63rd birthday, making him the oldest manager to win LaLiga, Ancelotti can be forgiven for thinking of retirement and life beyond football. He has won everything there is to win, after all, including a record-equalling three European Cups.

And yet, for all his success, which includes 20 major trophies across a 26-year managerial career spanning five countries, laid-back Ancelotti is arguably looked down upon when compared to fellow heavyweights such as Jurgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola.

The latter in particular has built a reputation – rightly – for being a philosophy-driven coach who is obsessed with the finer details. Sometimes a little too obsessed when it comes to Champions League football, some might say.

Ancelotti, on the other hand, is old-fashioned in a sense, a coach who learned his trade in the days that managers would regularly be seen puffing away on cigarettes in the dugout, rather than analysing opposition tactics on a tablet.

It was a cigar Ancelotti was seen enjoying last weekend as Madrid toasted LaLiga title glory in his first campaign back, showing there is more than one way to skin a cat when it comes to coaching philosophy.

The Serie A, Premier League, Ligue 1, Bundesliga and LaLiga-winning coach may yet add a record fourth Champions League to his glittering CV come the end of the month, though for that to happen Madrid must first overturn a 4-3 deficit in Wednesday's semi-final second leg with Guardiola's Manchester City.

The opening 90 minutes in Manchester last week produced the joint-highest scoring semi-final first leg in the competition's history, alongside Liverpool's 5-2 win over Roma four years ago, and also provided a snapshot into the two styles of not just Madrid and City but also their respective coaches.

City enjoyed 60 per cent of possession and completed 541 passes to Madrid's 336 – and an extra 248 in the opposition half – which is reflective of how both sides have played this season. 

The Citizens, much like Barcelona during Guardiola's trophy-laden four-year spell in charge, have become perfectly shaped to fit to the Catalan's own style. They have completed 31,385 passes across their 53 games this season, which is more than any other side from Europe's top five leagues.

Madrid also feature high on that list, down in fifth behind Chelsea, Liverpool and Paris Saint-Germain. They also rank fifth among European clubs for goals scored this season with 108. Yet, when you think of an Ancelotti side, you might struggle to immediately describe the default style of play.

Resilient, perhaps? The resilience to score three goals in the space of 17 minutes en route to eliminating PSG with a 3-2 comeback win in the last 16; the resilience to pick themselves up when trailing Chelsea 4-3 on aggregate late on in the quarter-finals, only to advance 5-4.

Ancelotti's football may not have been revolutionary in the same way that Guardiola helped to transform Barcelona, Bayern Munich and City, yet the Italian has succeeded most places he has gone, not least this season with Madrid on course for their joint-highest LaLiga points haul since tallying 100 in 2011-12.

With a few simple tweaks, not least getting Karim Benzema and Vinicius Junior working in tandem, Ancelotti has improved Madrid both in an attacking sense and defensively – even if they did ship four goals against City last week.

And so, while he may not be a perceived as a football 'philosopher' or someone who enjoys antagonising his counterparts, Ancelotti – in his 178th Champions League game in charge – has the chance to further prove he has stood the test of time when Guardiola's double-chasing City travel to the Spanish capital.

Should Los Blancos pull off another memorable comeback and go on and lift the trophy in Paris later this month, there would be no better way for Madrid's quiet leader to bring down the curtain on a legendary coaching career.

Liverpool fans are a creative bunch, particularly when it comes to making up songs for their idols.

The latest favourite of the Kop is a little ditty about Jurgen Klopp to the tune of 'I feel fine' by The Beatles, though it has also been re-worked to be about the Reds' manager's wife Ulla after her husband revealed the part she played in convincing him to sign a new deal at Anfield.

While Klopp appreciates the sentiment, he has always said he prefers to hear songs about his players, and there are plenty of those too.

You have to be quite a special player to get your song before you have even signed for the club, though, and it was testament to the excitement around the arrival of Thiago Alcantara from Bayern Munich in 2020 that not only did he already have a song by the time he was signed, but he even whistled it in his own announcement video.

It is a fairly simple number, as most of the best football songs are, where fans just sing "Thiago, Thiago Alcantara!" to the tune of 'Cuba' by the Gibson Brothers.

Arguably the best part about it, though, was the accompanying video that found its way onto social media, which showed Thiago's head superimposed over a woman walking by, while three men, made up to be Klopp, Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah, danced in the background.

Reds fans certainly feel like dancing right now, seeing their team still in the hunt for an unprecedented quadruple in early May, with the EFL Cup already in the bag, and Thiago is very much at the centre of the march on the remaining three fronts in the Premier League, Champions League and FA Cup.

The 31-year-old had a tricky first season in England, having to contest with playing in stadiums with no fans, then picking up an injury that kept him out for several months, before returning to a team whose season had fallen apart after practically the entire defence had also been wiped out by injury.

Thiago showed his class by the end of the campaign to help Liverpool qualify for the Champions League, and although some still cast doubt on his suitability for Klopp's team, he has certainly proven his importance this year as the Merseysiders look to cement their legacy as one of the best teams of all time.

He has continued to suffer from injury issues, and has so far only managed to start in 15 of Liverpool's 34 Premier League games, but it is clear to see the difference he makes when he is available.

In those 15 games, Liverpool have won 14 (93 per cent) and drawn one, which was the recent 2-2 at title rivals Manchester City. When Thiago has not been in the starting XI, the Reds have won 11 of those 19 outings (58 per cent), drawing six and losing two.

They have conceded just four times in the 15 games he has started, compared to 18 in the games without, while averaging 2.9 goals for per game when he starts opposed to 2.3 when he does not.

It is only really of late that the player has been getting recognition for his impact, which is not entirely surprising as he has certainly stepped things up in recent games.

It is not the first time he has done so towards the business end. In 2019-20, his final season at Bayern, he came through to play a crucial role in the German giants' run to the Champions League final, starring in the 1-0 win against Paris Saint-Germain in Lisbon as the Bavarians went on to win a Bundesliga, DFB-Pokal and Champions League treble.

Thiago has finally been able to put a run of games together at Liverpool without being interrupted by injury, and Klopp's team are very much reaping the benefits.

He is not a player you particularly want to measure by numbers alone, such is the beauty with which he plays the game when in top form, but it is equally hard to ignore the increase in his figures of late.

Having not even attempted 100 passes in a game this season beforehand, in his last three starts, Thiago attempted 113 against Manchester United, completing 108, attempted 121 against Everton, completing 119, and attempted 103 against Villarreal, completing 99, as Liverpool went on to win all three with relative ease, not conceding any goals.

Speaking of which, it is not just his passing that makes him one of the best midfielders in the game. He has also shown the best of his defensive ability, particularly in the Champions League.

Of midfielders to have attempted at least 10 tackles in the competition this season, only Villarreal's Giovani Lo Celso (86.67) and Thiago's Liverpool team-mate Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (83.33) have better tackle success percentage than his 81.82.

As well as increasing his already impressive medal haul, one other inspiration for producing such fine form could be Thiago wanting to give Spain boss Luis Enrique something to think about ahead of the World Cup later this year.

La Roja will be among the favourites in Qatar, though such are the riches in midfield they can boast, Thiago has found himself largely out of the squad since last year's rescheduled Euro 2020 tournament, where he only played 66 minutes as Spain reached the semi-finals.

During the tournament when questions were raised as to why the former Bayern and Barcelona man was not featuring more, Luis Enrique said: "Thiago is a very good player. You know and everybody knows about his quality, but we are a strong team and I try to give them minutes.

"He's helping the squad a lot because he's an experienced player and we are very happy to have him in the squad.

"After that, I have to decide and my decision speaks much better than me."

It could be that the Spain head coach is trying to leave space for young prospects such as Pedri and Gavi to come through, but at a major tournament like the World Cup, you would imagine those two and others could only prosper from sharing a squad with someone like Thiago.

The player's club boss certainly thinks so, with Klopp telling reporters at a news conference ahead of Liverpool's Champions League semi-final second leg in Villarreal: "When Thiago is in the shape he's in now, he would play for any team in the world and that is Spain as well.

"They are an incredibly talented team but the shape he's in, he'd play for every national team. Thiago needs to be fit and gain rhythm and he can show his best form."

Thiago will take to the field in Spain on Tuesday to try and guide himself and his team to another Champions League final, with Liverpool leading the Yellow Submarine 2-0 from the first leg.

As he has proven in recent weeks, Thiago's best form is quite a thing to witness, and whether it is in the red of Liverpool or the red of Spain, it is well worth singing about.

Real Madrid and Villarreal have it all to do when they host Manchester City and Liverpool respectively in the second legs of their Champions League semi-final ties in midweek.

Fresh off the back of winning a second LaLiga title in three seasons, Madrid are aiming to overturn a 4-3 deficit against City following last week's thrilling first leg in Manchester.

That was the joint-highest scoring semi-final first leg in the competition's history, along with Liverpool 5-2 Roma in 2017-18, and more drama awaits in the Spanish capital.

Villarreal face an even bigger task, meanwhile, as they trail Liverpool 2-0 through an unfortunate Pervis Estupinan own goal and a Sadio Mane strike at Anfield.

However, only once before have the Reds won both legs of a knockout stage tie against Spanish opposition in the Champions League or its former guise as the European Cup.

So will it be an all-English final in Paris on May 28, or can the LaLiga pair turn things around on home turf?

Ahead of the second legs, Stats Perform digs into some of the best Opta numbers around the two semi-final ties.


Villarreal v Liverpool

To put the size of Villarreal's task into some perspective, only once before – Liverpool versus Barcelona in 2019 – has a team overturned a two-goal first-leg deficit at this stage of the Champions League.

Villarreal are unbeaten at home in Champions League knockout ties, albeit having won just two of their seven such games. The bad news, though, is that across those seven matches, neither side has managed to score more than once on any occasion.

If they are to have any hope of advancing then Unai Emery's men need to display far more attacking impetus than was on show last week, having attempted only one shot and failed to hit the target at Anfield. The last team to fail to record a shot on target across two legs of a Champions League semi-final was Deportivo de La Coruna in 2003-04, against Jose Mourinho's Porto.

Should Liverpool see the job through, they will become only the fourth side to reach the final of the European Cup/ Champions League on 10 or more occasions after Real Madrid (16), Bayern Munich and Milan (both 11), with their current tally of nine the most of any English side.

Jurgen Klopp's side have been formidable on the road in Europe this season, scoring 15 goals and conceding five across their five away Champions League matches, all of which have ended in victory. Should they win on Tuesday, they will boast the longest 100 per cent away record by any team in a single European Cup or Champions League campaign.

After netting in the first leg it is likely that Mane will again be selected in Liverpool's star-studded front three. The Senegal international has scored 14 knockout-stage goals for the Reds in the Champions League, leaving him one short of Chelsea legend Frank Lampard's record for the most for an English club.

 


Real Madrid v Manchester City

The omens are good for City as they have progressed from nine of their previous 10 knockout ties in the Champions League after winning the first leg, the only exception being against Monaco at the last-16 stage in 2016-17 after squandering a 5-3 advantage to lose 6-6 on away goals.

Madrid have been eliminated from all five previous Champions League semi-finals in which they have lost the first leg, meanwhile, though they have advanced from two of their past three knockout ties when losing the first leg – against Wolfsburg in the 2015-16 quarter-finals and versus Paris Saint-Germain in this season's last 16.

Los Blancos, the competition's most successful side, have lost their past two Champions League games, though only once before have they lost three on the spin. Head coach Carlo Ancelotti, incidentally, has never lost three in a row with this his 178th match.

A draw would be enough to see City through, but they have won their last three matches against Madrid in the Champions League and could become the third side to win four in a row against them in UEFA's showpiece competition, the only previous sides to have done so being Ajax (between 1973 and 1995) and Bayern Munich (between 2000 and 2002).

City boss Pep Guardiola has had his fair share of battles with Madrid down the years, not least in the Champions League. The Catalan coach has won four matches against Los Blancos in the competition – only Ottmar Hitzfeld (seven) has won more – with half of those wins coming at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Karim Benzema has rescued Madrid a number of times in Europe this season, the Frenchman having netted nine times in the knockout stage alone. Only former team-mate Cristiano Ronaldo (10) has ever scored more in a single season, while Benzema could become the fourth player to score in both legs of the quarter-finals and semi-finals in a single season after Fernando Morientes (2003-04), Neymar (2014-15) and Edin Dzeko (2017-18). 

While Benzema has rightly received plenty of plaudits, strike partner Vinicius Junior has himself played a huge part in Madrid's charge for a record-extending 14th European Cup. The 28 open-play chances created by the Brazil international is the most of any player in the Champions League since Dusan Tadic (36) in 2018-19.

The Premier League witnessed drama at both ends of the table on an absorbing Saturday, as Manchester City and Liverpool continued to trade blows in the title race.

Jurgen Klopp's men downed in-form Newcastle United thanks to Naby Keita's first-half strike, before City responded by cruising to a 4-0 thrashing of Leeds United at Elland Road.

At the other end of the table, Norwich City were condemned to a record sixth Premier League relegation at Aston Villa, and Watford look destined to join them after Burnley continued their incredible upturn in form at Vicarage Road.

After another frantic day of action, Stats Perform looks at some of the key Opta facts from Saturday's contests.

Newcastle United 0-1 Liverpool: Keita continues Reds' run

Liverpool's bid for a remarkable quadruple faced a tough test when they travelled to Eddie Howe's in-form Newcastle in the first clash of the day.

However, Naby Keita's 19th-minute goal proved the difference in a competitive encounter, and was Liverpool's earliest winning goal in a 1-0 Premier League victory since December 2016, when Georginio Wijnaldum netted after eight minutes against Manchester City.

Klopp's side had chances to extend their lead, with home goalkeeper Martin Dubravka making nine saves, his highest tally in a single Premier League match. Since 2003-04, when Opta data began, the only Newcastle goalkeepers to make more saves in a Premier League game are Tim Krul (14 against Tottenham in November 2013) and Karl Darlow (11 against Tottenham in September 2020).

However, a 21st clean sheet of Liverpool's league campaign was enough to move them to the top of the table - only in 2005-06 (22) have the Reds kept more shutouts in a single Premier League campaign.

Liverpool have now picked up 40 points from the last 42 on offer in the competition, and the win turned up the pressure on City ahead of their trip to Leeds later on Saturday.

Leeds United 0-4 Manchester City: Visitors draw on set-peice prowess to reclaim top spot

The Reds were not top of the table for long, however, as City claimed a 4-0 win over relegation-threatened Leeds at Elland Road. Goals from Rodri and Nathan Ake both came from set pieces, meaning City have now scored 18 set-piece goals (excluding penalties) this season, their most in a Premier League campaign since 2013-14 (22).

Pep Guardiola's men have also kept five consecutive away league clean sheets, the best such sequence in the club's history.

After Gabriel Jesus had made the points safe, Fernandinho stuck a superb fourth goal late on, becoming the club's oldest ever Premier League goalscorer at 36 years and 361 days old, overtaking Frank Lampard in 2015 (36 years and 338 days old).

Leeds, meanwhile, are looking over their shoulders after another heavy defeat. They have conceded a remarkable 20 league goals against the two Manchester clubs this season (11 against City, nine against Manchester United) – a new top-flight record for goals conceded against the duo in a single season.

Watford 1-2 Burnley: Clarets' revival continues after Cork ends barren run

Elsewhere, Burnley continued their incredible revival by coming from behind to defeat Watford, making Mike Jackson the first Clarets boss to win three of his first four league games in charge since Jimmy Mullen won his first four in 1991.

After James Tarkowski's own-goal put Watford ahead, Jack Cork ended his run of 84 Premier League games without a goal with his first strike since December 2018 (against Liverpool), before Josh Brownhill scored a late winner.

The Clarets are now five points above the bottom three after winning three consecutive Premier League games for the first time since April 2019, having won just three of their previous 21 games.

Roy Hodgson's Watford, meanwhile, look destined for relegation after becoming the first side in English top-flight history to lose 11 consecutive home league matches.

Aston Villa 2-0 Norwich City: Canaries suffer another relegation at Villa Park

Burnley's win had other ramifications, contributing to Norwich suffering their sixth relegation from the Premier League – the most of any club in the competition's history – after the Canaries were beaten at Villa Park.

Remarkably, Norwich have been relegated in each of their last four Premier League seasons (2013-14, 2015-16, 2019-20 and 2021-22). They are only the second side in English league history to suffer relegation in four consecutive campaigns in the top-flight, after Crystal Palace (1992-93, 1994-95, 1997-98 and 2004-05).

 

Dean Smith's men saw their fate sealed after becoming the first team to concede 70 Premier League goals this season after just 34 games, representing the earliest point in any league campaign they have reached 70 concessions since 1956-57 (in their 34th game in the old Third Division South).

Ollie Watkins set the tone for Villa's win with his first-half strike, and he has now scored at least 11 more goals than any other Villa player since his September 2020 debut (25 goals in all competitions).

Despite wrapping up their 35th LaLiga title and retaining a chance of winning the Champions League this term, Real Madrid find themselves at something of a crossroads.

The individual brilliance of Karim Benzema and Vinicius Junior may have fired Los Blancos to a dominant triumph in LaLiga, but attention will soon turn to Madrid's attempts to defend the title for the first time since 2007-08.

With the potential arrival of a true global superstar and one of the Premier League's best defenders, as well as the matter of refreshing a brilliant but ageing midfield, it promises to be an interesting few months at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Here, Stats Perform analyses what Carlo Ancelotti's men could do to fend off the potential challenge of an improved Barcelona next season.

 

The Mbappe conundrum: How would the superstar fit in?

For months, if not years, Real Madrid's plans for 2022 seem to have revolved around one name: Kylian Mbappe.

While recent reports have suggested the 23-year-old could yet remain at the Parc des Princes, a move for the talismanic attacker – who will be a free agent in June – cannot yet be ruled out.

Having scored 35 goals and provided 19 assists in 43 appearances in all competitions for Paris Saint-Germain, Mbappe would clearly be an asset to any team in European football, but the question remains as to how Mbappe will complement another free-scoring Frenchman in the Spanish capital.

Benzema has become just the fifth Madrid player in history to score 40+ goals in a single season for the club (after Cristiano Ronaldo, Ferenc Puskas, Alfredo Di Stefano and Hugo Sanchez), and is being touted for the Ballon d'Or after driving Madrid's Champions League run. Benzema has scored 14 goals in 10 European appearances this term, averaging a goal every 65.1 minutes in a stunning campaign.

Mbappe and Benzema are no strangers to playing together, but the PSG forward failed to score and only provided one assist when doing so during France's disappointing Euro 2020 campaign. The Madrid man, meanwhile, finished just one goal short of the golden boot after netting four times.

Matters are complicated further when taking into account the form of Vinicius, who has formed a lethal partnership with Benzema this season, registering 33 goal involvements of his own in all competitions (18 goals, 15 assists), and Mbappe's preference to play from the left could infringe on Vinicius. 

However, Mbappe's development into a more well-rounded attacking talent should ensure he at least provides a threat, whichever flank he starts from. 

As well as improving on his 11 assists from last season, Mbappe has completed more dribbles (138) at a higher success rate (50.74 per cent) than Vinicius this term (130, 41.4 per cent), and could join him in playing a more creative role supporting Benzema.

Upgrading in defence: The arrival of Antonio Rudiger

Having announced his intention to leave Chelsea at the end of his contract, Antonio Rudiger is another player strongly linked with a move to the Bernabeu ahead of next season.

The German defender has been one of the Blues' outstanding players under Thomas Tuchel, starring in their Champions League triumph last year and enjoying another fine campaign this season.

Rudiger has been a key component in the Premier League's third-best defence this season, with Chelsea keeping 15 clean sheets and conceding just 28 goals despite falling out of title contention after a promising start.

The 29-year-old appears to be an upgrade on Madrid's current defensive options after last year's departures of Sergio Ramos and Raphael Varane, offering more physicality than David Alaba and greater defensive steel than Eder Militao, a partnership that was frequently exposed by Manchester City recently.

Rudiger would also offer a threat at the other end of the pitch, with his three league goals this season bettered by just one other Premier League centre-back (Jan Bednarek, four), and his ability to step out of defence was on display when he scored a 39-yard stunner against Brentford in early April – Chelsea's longest-range Premier League goal since January 2007

However, Rudiger has been accustomed to playing in a back three at Chelsea and would be most likely to play as a right-sided centre-back in a back four for Madrid, unless Ancelotti opts to shift Alaba to left-back.

Rudiger would likely have to curb his attacking enthusiasm if paired with the naturally forward-thinking Alaba, but he appears a smart choice to further solidify a defence that has been the second-strongest in LaLiga this term (only Sevilla have conceded fewer goals).

The case for Camavinga: Time to look to the future?

The midfield trio of Casemiro, Toni Kroos and Luka Modric will go down in Madrid history: they started together in three consecutive Champions League final wins between 2016 and 2018, with the Croatian also starring in 2014's victory.

Nobody can question their quality or longevity. All three have made at least 35 starts this season, while Modric in particular has produced several sumptuous contributions in big games that have helped him to an assist haul of nine, six more than any other Madrid midfielder.

 

However, given they occasionally appear to lack a certain dynamism when out of possession, could Madrid benefit from some extra mobility in the engine room?

The signing of Eduardo Camavinga, who has made 35 appearances this term, was clearly made with such a move in mind, but the French youngster has only started 14 times in all competitions and would benefit from more playing time next season as he looks to improve his all-round game.

However, neither Camavinga nor Federico Valverde possess the kind of metronomic abilities of Modric or Kroos, and the younger pair also average fewer passes into the final third per 90 minutes than their more experienced peers (6.25 and 6.1, respectively).

As such, with the rumoured arrivals of Mbappe and Rudiger involving no transfer fees, Madrid could yet benefit from dipping into the market to acquire another young, progressive midfielder in a move that might also help to prolong the excellence of Modric and Kroos.

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