An unlikely quadruple remains very much on for Liverpool after a 3-2 victory against Manchester City in the FA Cup semi-final at Wembley.

The national stadium was bathed in sunshine, resplendent, eagerly anticipating round two of arguably the biggest heavyweight clash in world football right now.

Fair enough, technically round three if you include the Anfield game earlier this season, but it felt like a second leg after last week's exhilarating 2-2 draw at the Etihad Stadium that left City one point ahead of the Reds in the race for the Premier League title.

A relatively innocent declaration from former Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher recently that this is now the biggest rivalry in English football caused uproar from those who remember the days of Manchester United and Arsenal going at it, publicly hating one another, fiery encounters, pizza lobbing. That rivalry admittedly had it all.

This is a rivalry of quality, though. It would be a stretch to say City and Liverpool like each other, but there is a clear mutual respect, which some claim stops it being a proper rivalry.

It is an odd thing to point to when the same people were seemingly disgusted by the scenes at the Wanda Metropolitano on Wednesday as City and Atletico Madrid players did not exactly shake hands after the final whistle.

There was some ill-feeling in Wembley ahead of kick-off, with a section of City fans choosing to make noise during a moment of silence to mark the anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster, which the Manchester club later condemned in a statement.

Purely from a football perspective, this is as good as it gets, possibly in the world. It is the new Real Madrid v Barcelona, and this was the latest chapter, their first meeting at Wembley since the 2019 Community Shield, which City won on penalties.

 

Of course, no-one particularly wanted to be at Wembley, as nice as it looked. With travel from the north west of England heavily affected by a lack of train services over the Easter weekend, questions were raised as to why both sets of fans were forced to travel to London to play a game that was not even a final, but that is a conversation for another day.

On this day, it was the red of Liverpool that reigned supreme.

A strong start for Klopp's men saw Ibrahima Konate continue his recent goalscoring form, nodding in his third goal for Liverpool in the space of four games from Andy Robertson's outswinging corner.

The freshness of the Reds told in the early stages, with Klopp having rested a number of key players in the week, while City had experienced a tough away trip to Madrid, and Guardiola was forced to make several changes to his usual line-up.

His decision to swap goalkeepers soon came back to bite him as Sadio Mane closed down Zack Steffen. While Ederson had teased Diogo Jota at the Etihad in a similar way, Steffen could not match the Brazilian's calmness and saw himself tackled by Mane to concede a farcical second.

Liverpool's midfield was masterful at Wembley. Fabinho managed to keep City's band of attacking midfielders relatively quiet, even after picking up a first-half yellow card. Thiago was just as mesmeric as he had been at the Etihad, finding or creating space, making full use of the vast pitch, and it was his sumptuous dinked ball out to Mane that led to the third, with the Senegalese smashing home inside Steffen's near post.

 

Of all three Liverpool midfielders, though, you could argue it was Naby Keita who stood out most.

The Guinea international has struggled for fitness and consistency pretty much ever since he arrived in a big-money move from RB Leipzig in 2018, but picked ahead of captain Jordan Henderson for this huge game, he did not let his manager down.

Keita won possession seven times, more than any other player on the pitch in the 73 minutes he featured, and with the ball during that time, nearly matched Thiago (26) for passes in the opposition half (24).

Last week's league encounter had seen City dominate the first half before Liverpool came back in the second, and it seemed the reverse was happening here, except the Merseysiders made more of their dominance with a three-goal lead at the break.

Guardiola's men started the second half much quicker, and had pulled it back to 3-1 within minutes, with a nice Gabriel Jesus run ending with Jack Grealish firing home, just days after admitting he wanted to score more goals after his £100million move from Aston Villa last year.

This was not the same City as last week though, quite literally given the number of changes, and they rarely looked like troubling their title rivals after that, with Jesus hitting an effort when through on goal straight at fellow countryman Alisson.

The Premier League leaders struggled, with just one shot in the first half and Grealish's goal their first effort on target. Their passing accuracy was also way down from its usual high standards at just 80.5 per cent, playing more long balls and failing to deal with Liverpool's famous press.

Though he did not find the net himself, the impact of Luis Diaz was clear for all to see again. The Colombian seems to be improving alongside Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah game on game.

He won four fouls as he was a constant thorn in the side of Joao Cancelo, while Mane also carried on the fine form he showed at the Etihad.

The former Southampton man became the first Liverpool player to score twice in an FA Cup semi-final since Robbie Fowler against Aston Villa in 1996, and the first to score a brace for the Reds at Wembley since Steve McManaman in the League Cup final against Bolton Wanderers in 1995.

In typical City fashion, they refused to give up until the end, making things interesting with a second goal back in stoppage time courtesy of Bernardo Silva after fine work from substitute Riyad Mahrez.

This was Liverpool's day, though, and if City struck a blow by staying ahead of the Reds in the league last week, Klopp's men responded with one of their own here as we head towards what promises to be an increasingly fascinating rivalry.

Liverpool fans sang Dua Lipa's 'One Kiss' as they got ready for a long journey back up the motorway, safe in the knowledge that history still beckons this season.

Sevilla and Real Madrid were title rivals when they last met in LaLiga back in November.

Then, as is the case now, Madrid led the table, but Sevilla were just two points back in third having played the same number of games. Optimism was growing for a genuine title fight.

But the team the capital from behind to win 2-1 through a late Vinicius Junior goal and have since opened a significant gap to Sevilla.

Including the three earned at the Santiago Bernabeu, Madrid have collected 10 more points than Sevilla in the intervening period.

Now, as the sides prepare to face off again at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan, Carlo Ancelotti's men – fresh from reaching the Champions League semi-finals – look to be coasting towards a 35th championship.

Even victory for Sevilla would only close the deficit to nine points with six games to play – and such a result feels highly unlikely based on recent history.

One-sided recent rivalry

Perhaps discussion of a tussle at the top earlier in the season was premature given Madrid's dominance of this fixture in the past few seasons.

Defeat at the Bernabeu was Sevilla's fifth in six league matches against Madrid, with their other encounter in that run a draw.

Indeed, this is their worst winless run against Madrid since a sequence of 15 games between May 1993 and April 2003 – 13 of which were losses. That was Sevilla's longest such streak against Madrid in LaLiga history.

 

Away day success in Andalusia 

This miserable stretch for Sevilla has included consecutive home defeats to Madrid, who are now bidding to win three in a row away from home in this fixture for the first time since a run of four ended in November 1996.

Those past two Madrid victories have been by 1-0 scorelines, meaning they could become only the third team in LaLiga history to win three in a row at Sevilla without conceding after Barcelona in March 1961 (three matches) and Celta Vigo in November 2003 (four).

Madrid have enjoyed recent trips to Andalusia as a whole, winning on their past seven visits. This is their best ever such run in LaLiga.

Los Blancos have scored in 31 of their past 32 league matches in the region (W24 D2 L6) for 78 goals in total at a rate of 2.44 goals per game.

Can ex-flop Lop stop the rot?

The match in November was Sevilla coach Julen Lopetegui's 100th in LaLiga, but it should have come as no surprise that it did not come to plan. His career rarely has when Lopetegui has become entwined with Madrid.

His Spain tenure was ended prematurely when he agreed to join Madrid as coach on the eve of the 2018 World Cup – a decision that panned out for nobody.

Lopetegui oversaw just six wins in 14 matches in all competitions before he was sacked after a 5-1 defeat to rivals Barcelona. His win rate of 42.9 per cent was the second-lowest among all Madrid coaches to oversee multiple games.

As evidenced by the result in November, things have scarcely improved for Lopetegui where Madrid are concerned since his dismissal.

He has overseen five of the six matches in Sevilla's winless run in this fixture, with the four defeats tied for his most against any team in LaLiga – along with Barca, of course.

On the other hand, opposite number Ancelotti has won six of his seven games against Sevilla as a coach, including two victories in finals, winning the UEFA Super Cup with Milan in 2007 and Madrid in 2014.

Benz at his best while Martial flounders

It was hoped the January signing of Anthony Martial would boost Sevilla's title hopes, yet his only goal in their colours so far came in the Europa League against Dinamo Zagreb.

There has been just a single assist in LaLiga, too, meaning Martial is still waiting for his 100th goal involvement in Europe's top five leagues two months on from his 99th – that tee-up for Rafa Mir against Elche.

 

This underwhelming form stands in stark contrast to that of compatriot Karim Benzema, who has 38 goals in 38 games in all competitions this season, with only Robert Lewandowski matching his 51 goal involvements among players in Europe's top five leagues.

Benzema has eight goals in 21 LaLiga games against Sevilla, although he has scored just once in 10 visits to the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan. Only at Camp Nou (one goal in 13 games) has he played as many games while scoring so few goals.

Of all the seasons to improve that return, though, this is surely the one.

Thanks to the FA Cup semi-finals, matchday 33 in the Premier League is a bit more spread out, with just six games taking place at the weekend.

A further six games are scheduled for midweek, so there is a chance to get some of those pulling double duty in your fantasy team.

Whether your interests lie in the title race, the top-four scuffle or the relegation battle, there promises to be entertainment for everyone.

Therefore, it is time for Stats Perform to give you some suggested picks for your team using stats from the wonderful people at Opta.

HUGO LLORIS (Tottenham v Brighton and Hove Albion)

As odd as it sounds after a 4-0 win, had it not been for Lloris' heroics between the sticks last time out, Spurs could very well have lost against Aston Villa.

The Spurs captain made seven saves in the first half at Villa Park to keep Steven Gerrard's team out, with the visitors scoring four from their five on target in an afternoon of ruthless efficiency that had Antonio Conte smiling.

Only Alisson and Ederson (both 17) have kept more clean sheets in the Premier League this season than Lloris (12), while the Frenchman last recorded more shutouts in a single campaign in 2017-18 (15).

JOAO CANCELO (Manchester City v Brighton and Hove Albion)

This feels like we're picking on Brighton, but the fixture computer has not been kind to them, pitting them against two of the league's most in-form teams this week.

Only Gabriel Jesus (seven) has more assists for City in the Premier League this season than Joao Cancelo (six), as many as in his previous three league seasons combined.

As well as that, Cancelo is part of a staunch City defence that has conceded the fewest goals in the league this season (20), and against a Brighton side that has scored fewer goals (28) than all except Burnley (25) and Norwich (20), will be confident of a clean sheet on Wednesday.

JAMES MADDISON (Newcastle United v Leicester City, Everton v Leicester City)

Maddison is somewhat of an enigmatic player and, not that long ago, was struggling to start in Brendan Rodgers' strongest line-up.

However, he has already equalled his goal involvements tally for the entirety of last season in the Premier League (13), with the former Norwich man only bettering that in 2018-19 (14).

Indeed, he has either scored or assisted in each of his last three league appearances (one goal, two assists), last doing so in four such games in January 2021 (three goals, one assist).

CHRIS WOOD (Newcastle United v Leicester City, Newcastle United v Crystal Palace)

It has hardly been an electric start for life on Tyneside for Wood since his January move, though goals drying up for his former club and relegation rivals Burnley has been a positive added factor for the Magpies.

The New Zealander scored a crucial penalty in the 1-0 win against Wolves last time out, though, and he is looking to bag in consecutive league games for the first time since May 2021 (run of three).

Also, only against West Ham (seven) and Wolves (six) does Wood have more Premier League goals than he has previously managed against Leicester (four).

The NFL Draft is rarely dominated by teams in contention to lift the Lombardi Trophy at the end of the upcoming season.

Though trades regularly shuffle the pack, more often than not the draft headlines are made by teams who finished at the wrong end of the regular-season standings in the previous campaign, such is the nature of league's annual selection meeting.

While those franchises with rosters capable of contending to go all the way to the Super Bowl may not be as reliant on the draft as those rebuilding their teams, the selections they make can be critical in providing the potential final piece of what they hope will be a championship-winning puzzle.

Inevitably, not every team expected to contend in April will do so once the season gets under way in September.

Yet we can make educated guesses as to which teams will be in the mix to go deep into the postseason in each conference.

Here Stats Perform has identified four such teams from each conference, with the Cleveland Browns omitted from the list due to the threat of a possible suspension for new starting quarterback Deshaun Watson.

With help from some advanced metrics, we look at what each of these eight teams need to add in the draft to maximise their hopes of standing underneath the confetti in Arizona next February.

NFC

Los Angeles Rams

Identifying draft needs for the Rams is a difficult task not because they don't have any, but because they so often fill their holes by trading away their picks to land superstars.

This year, the Rams don't pick until 104 overall in the third round, not that the Super Bowl champions will mind skipping the first two rounds.

When it finally comes to their turn, the interior of the offensive line stands out as an area of weakness, while the Rams might also be eyeing an edge rusher to help fill the void left by Von Miller, whose stunt-adjusted pass rush win percentage of 43.4 was fifth among edge rushers with at least 100 one-on-one matchups last year.

San Francisco 49ers

The Niners are in a similar position to the Rams in that they don't have a lot of needs, though the urgency is greater for a team that let a fourth-quarter lead slip against Los Angeles in the NFC Championship Game.

Right guard has been a long-standing issue for San Francisco, and the Niners will also need to find a developmental center to replace Alex Mack when he eventually retires. Nebraska's Cam Jurgens is a name to watch there.

San Francisco do not pick until 61st overall in the second round, having traded this year's first-rounder in the package that landed Trey Lance. A defense that ranked first in pass rush win rate could be stacked further by another edge rusher to pair with Nick Bosa, and there is a clear need next to Jimmie Ward at safety.

Of course, what would really make it a successful draft for the Niners would be finally trading Jimmy Garoppolo to secure more picks.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

There's a theme here, and the theme is that trying to find needs for NFC contenders is tough, especially in the case of the Bucs, who brought back Tom Brady after he quickly got bored with retirement and re-signed a host of free agents many expected to depart.

With Todd Bowles assuming the head coaching reins from Bruce Arians, it's fair to anticipate a focus on the defense from the Bucs, who own the 27th pick in the first round as well as two other top-100 selections.

More beef on the interior of the defensive line is required with Ndamukong Suh as yet not re-signed and, though Logan Ryan and Keanu Neal have signed as safety help to atone for Jordan Whitehead's departure, a rookie who can make a difference down in the box and in coverage would be a welcome addition to the defense.

Green Bay Packers

Now this is more like it. The Packers have one glaring, obvious need and there's no way they can fail to address it, right?

Brian Gutekunst may have a history of eschewing first-round wide receivers but, after trading Davante Adams to the Las Vegas Raiders, it would be an extremely bemusing move to risk Aaron Rodgers' wrath and do so again.

Chris Olave, Jameson Williams, Treylon Burks, Jahan Dotson... they all must be in the mix here and, with two selections in the first round, the Packers could even double up at the position.

There are other holes. The secondary could use some more quality depth, and an offensive line that ranked 28th in run-block win rate could also be improved, but the Packers' hopes of getting over the hump in 2022 likely rest on their ability to give Rodgers weapons that mitigate the impact of Adams' stunning departure.

AFC

Kansas City Chiefs

After Patrick Mahomes faced the most pressures in a Super Bowl since 2006 in consecutive years (28 in SB LIV, 34 in SB LV), the Chiefs overhauled their offensive line heading into 2021 and were confident they were on course for the title game once again – only for Mahomes' own stunning playoff collapse to end both the team's season and the career of Tyreek Hill in Kansas City.

Hill's departure in a trade to the Miami Dolphins leaves a gaping hole.

New signing Marquez Valdes-Scantling at least offers a downfield option, but that was his sole responsibility with the Packers in 2021, recording a league-high average depth of target of 17.6 yards but making just 26 catches. Valdes-Scantling and fellow recruit JuJu Smith-Schuster, who's coming off shoulder surgery, have just one 1,000-yard season between them; Hill has four.

Thankfully, the Hill deal means the Chiefs have plenty of draft picks – two in each of the first three rounds – and plenty of options at wide receiver, but safety Tyrann Mathieu and cornerback Charvarius Ward must also be replaced just to get Kansas City back to where they started.

Cincinnati Bengals

The Bengals are a year behind the Chiefs, beaten in the Super Bowl after leaving their quarterback horribly exposed. Joe Burrow faced 23 pressures against the Rams, tied for third-most since 2006.

Like the Chiefs, they quickly set about bolstering their O line in free agency, though there remains a pressing need at left guard. Ted Karras played there for the New England Patriots last year, but is set to move back into center after Trey Hopkins was cut.

That versatility at least gives the Bengals options at either position depending on how the draft plays out, with their first pick not until the end of the first round (31). In fact, given competition at cornerback, edge and/or tight end could also be sought, the Bengals may be flexible throughout.

Buffalo Bills

The Bills are the Super Bowl favourites, and with good reason. They were a coin flip away from beating the Chiefs and would have backed themselves against the Bengals, which might have quelled some of the optimism in Cincinnati channelled above. Buffalo have also added Super Bowl champion Miller to a defense that gave up a league-low 4.57 yards per play.

That's not to say there don't remain areas for improvement, with cornerback an obvious place to start. Tre'Davious White is returning from an ACL tear, and the Bills need a new man opposite him, given the loss of Levi Wallace.

The Bills might also be advised to ease the burden on all-action quarterback Josh Allen with the addition of a reliable running back. Allen ranked third among QBs for rushing yards in 2021 (763) but accounted for 34.5 per cent of his team's total – far and away the greatest share at his position.

Second on the list was former MVP Lamar Jackson (767 yards, 30.9 per cent), who's already showing signs of wear and tear having been tasked with running the Baltimore Ravens' offense.

Los Angeles Chargers

Outside the Packers, the Chargers perhaps have the most obvious positional need of any contender at right tackle – despite their own strong signings so far.

Left tackle Rashawn Slater was their first-round pick in 2021 and earned Pro Bowl recognition in his rookie season. Among offensive tackles with 200 or more pass protection snaps, Slater's stunt-adjusted win percentage of 90.5 ranked third. However, that stood in complete contrast to right tackle Storm Norton, whose 63.0 per cent ranked third-last.

Norton was brought in to play 15 games after a back injury put Bryan Bulaga on injured reserve. Bulaga has now been cut, and the Chargers surely cannot run it back with Norton.

The very best OTs in the draft are unlikely to still be available when the Chargers get to work in the middle of the first round, but it's no surprise to see them widely linked with Northern Iowa's Trevor Penning.

So here it is. That time of year again where we separate the wheat from the chaff, the men from the boys, the champions from the... rest.

The NBA playoffs get underway on Saturday with plenty of stories to be written and legacies to be cemented.

Can the Phoenix Suns turn their dominance in the regular season into a championship? Will the Milwaukee Bucks be able to retain their crown? Could someone from the play-in tournament sneak in the back door and go all the way?

These questions and plenty more will keep us glued to our screens as we watch the action unfold over the next two months.

But what of the individual stories? There are plenty of players who have made names for themselves in the business end of the season down the years, with lots of big names who will particularly want to make an impression this time around as well.

Stats Perform has selected five such players to focus on, explaining why they may just have a bit more to prove over the next few weeks than others.

James Harden – Philadelphia 76ers

It may feel slightly like shooting fish in a barrel to start with a player who is known for not being able to get over the line in the postseason, but we are not above easy wins here.

Harden has been to the NBA Finals just once in 12 postseason appearances, and that came 10 years ago with Oklahoma City Thunder.

Strictly speaking, his playoff averages have been impressive. While with the Houston Rockets, he averaged at least 26.3 points per game (PPG) in the playoffs, including an impressive 31.6 in the 2018-19 season.

However, it has more been one-off performances, invariably at crucial moments, that have let him down. This was summarised perfectly last year in Game 7 for the Brooklyn Nets against the Bucks, when he sank only five of 17 field goal attempts.

Now at the Sixers after a huge trade earlier in the season, and with the league's top scorer Joel Embiid on his side, Harden will surely be determined to silence his doubters and reach the second NBA Finals of his career. 

Chris Paul – Phoenix Suns

This is likely the best chance the Suns will ever have to win an NBA championship, and ditto Paul.

An incredible regular season record of 64-18 saw them finish atop the Western Conference with a win percentage of 78.0, almost 10 per cent more than the second-place Memphis Grizzlies (68.3 per cent).

For Paul, this, therefore, is almost certainly his strongest chance to finally win a championship ring, especially having come so close last year.

The 12-time All-Star has the most assists per game in the league this season (10.8), and only Trae Young (737) has more overall assists than his 702, though the Atlanta Hawks star has played 11 more games.

At 36 years of age, Paul will not have many more opportunities, and will want to make this one count.

 

Luka Doncic – Dallas Mavericks

It has been another memorable season for the young Slovenian, averaging 28.4 PPG as well as 8.7 assists and 9.1 rebounds.

In his two previous playoff campaigns, Doncic has stepped his game up even more, averaging 31.0 PPG in 2019-20 and a remarkable 35.7 PPG last year. However, on both occasions, the Mavericks still could not make it past the first round.

Dallas ended the regular season with a record of 52-30, winning seven of their last eight games, and will go up against the Utah Jazz in the first round, a team they have beaten twice in the last six weeks.

It is not so much that Doncic himself has a point to prove, but he will be looking for more help from his team-mates as he looks to get to the latter stages, where a player of his talent surely belongs.

Tyler Herro – Miami Heat

Another young player who has already put in some strong postseason showings in his short career so far.

Herro impressed in the 2020 playoffs, but last year the Heat were whitewashed by the Bucks in the first round. As the number one seeds in the East this year, all eyes will be on them to do much better.

While Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo will of course be important, Herro could well be the difference-maker.

The 22-year-old point guard has comfortably produced his best regular season so far, averaging 20.7 PPG, as well as 4.0 assists and 5.0 rebounds.

Many expect it to be Miami v Phoenix in a battle of two number one seeds in the Finals this year, in which case Herro will be looking to repeat his second-best scoring performance of the season when he came away with 33 points in the Footprint Center in January's 123-100 win against the Suns.

Ben Simmons – Brooklyn Nets

It has been a nervous wait for Simmons, not just to return to fitness, but to see if he would even have the chance to turn out for the Nets this season.

While it has not been suggested the 25-year-old will return from back problems imminently, it has been reported the Nets are looking to use the player they traded Harden for in February sparingly towards the end of the first round.

Thankfully for him, his team-mates made it through their play-in game against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Tuesday and so take their place in the playoffs, where they will start off in a fascinating encounter against the Boston Celtics.

Simmons has not played a single minute of basketball this season, not since his notorious performances in last year's postseason with the Sixers that saw him draw the ire of Joel Embiid and coach Doc Rivers.

Although Embiid accused Simmons of wanting to be a star more than wanting to win, that he won't necessarily need to fire from the off could help him, with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving in excellent form for Brooklyn.

Simmons will want to discover the sort of form he showed in the 2018-19 campaign, when he averaged 16.9 PPG, as well as 7.7 assists and 8.8 rebounds.

Joao Felix was one of the brightest prospects in world football when he burst onto the scene with Benfica.

Atletico Madrid had to shell out of one the biggest ever transfer fees to land such a big up-and-coming talent.

Atleti paid Benfica a club-record fee of €126million to bring Joao Felix, then 19, to the Wanda Metropolitano, making the forward the fourth-most expensive footballer of all time.

Antonie Griezmann's move to Barcelona provided Atleti with the funds for such a transfer, though it would be safe to say neither of those players hit the heights that might have been expected.

Indeed, Griezmann is now back at Atleti and playing alongside the man who was brought in to replace him. For Joao Felix it has been a slow burn, but he now appears to be playing at the highest level he has achieved since his move to the Spanish capital.

Manchester City visit the Wanda Metropolitano on Wednesday with a place in the Champions League semi-finals up for grabs and, though the Premier League leaders hold a 1-0 advantage, it is all to play for.

Joao Felix may just prove to be the decisive figure.

Lofty expectations

Diego Simeone is an incredible coach whose achievements in Madrid cannot be understated. Two LaLiga titles, two Europa League crowns, a Copa del Rey triumph and two Champions League runners-up medals.

Yet, Simeone is hardly renowned for nurturing flair players who thrive at being able to roam the final third; scoring, creating and producing those moments that live long in the memory.

Joao Felix certainly falls into that category of player and it is hard not to imagine just how exciting the Portugal forward – who also plays for a more conservative coach at international level in Fernando Santos – might have been under, for example, Pep Guardiola.

Having scored 20 goals for Benfica across all competitions in the 2018-19 season, he managed just nine from 36 appearances in his first campaign at Atleti, averaging one every 276 minutes.

It was by no means bad for a young player finding his feet for one of Europe's top teams, and one of the most defensive of the elite sides, but living up to such a price tag was always going to be difficult. Until now, perhaps.

Adapting

Simeone will not adapt to his players, they must adapt to his system and slowly, but surely, Joao Felix has got there.

Joao Felix has scored 10 goals and assisted a further five this season in all competitions, already matching the tallies from last season. Ten of those 15 goal involvements have come in his past 12 appearances (seven goals, three assists), as many as in his previous 47 games for the club.

Yet despite being in such a rich vein of form, having scored a double against Deportivo Alaves ahead of Atleti's trip to Manchester last week, his first job at the Etihad Stadium was to defend.

Atleti failed to register a shot in the first leg, making them the first side since APOEL Nicosia (versus Real Madrid in March 2012) to fail to record a single shot in a Champions League match. It was very nearly the perfect defensive showing; only Phil Foden's sublime pass and Kevin De Bruyne's neat finish punctured Atleti's resolve.

Key to Simeone's plan was the work of Joao Felix and Griezmann, who has been directly involved in 67 per cent of Atleti's Champions League goals this season (6/9 – the highest ratio of any player for his team among the eight quarter-finalists).

Given Atleti only had 29.5 per cent possession, Joao Felix spent much of his time on the ball in what would normally be the space filled by the left-back, and only one of his 34 touches came inside City's area.

He did his defensive work diligently, making a team-high five interceptions, going in for nine duels (slightly above his per-game average of 8.1 this season), and was able to at least get City working back the other way with some impressive, surging runs before he was replaced by Thomas Lemar.

Time to shine

Simeone's tactics must change in the second leg, though, if Atleti are to progress, and a more open game could provide Joao Felix with the opportunity to shine.

Only Luis Suarez (13) and Angel Correa (12) have scored more goals for Atleti this season than the 22-year-old, whose 15 goal involvements ranks joint-second in the squad behind Correa.

Joao Felix has netted seven times in 21 Champions League appearances for Atleti, making him the club's top scorer in the competition since the start of the 2019-20 campaign, and Simeone has to find a way to get him into more adventurous positions this time around.

Not that Joao Felix needs to be provided with gilt-edged opportunities. His expected goals (xG) of 6.9 this season in all competitions means he has a +3.1 differential between his xG and his actual tally. In fact, this differential is larger than Kylian Mbappe's (3), Erling Haaland's (2.5) and Paulo Dybala (2.15), and second only to Correa (4.6) in Atleti's team.

Essentially, he is scoring more goals than predicted given the quality of opportunities coming his way, although an expected goals on target (xGOT) of 7.9 suggests he may have benefitted from some goalkeepers not keeping out shots they should have done better with.

Atleti have a supreme talent on their hands who finally seems to be living up to his enormous potential. Lighting up a Champions League quarter-final and sending Simeone's men into the last four just might be the seminal display that Joao Felix needs to prove he can be considered among the very best.

Chelsea clawed their way back into an exhilarating Champions League quarter-final tie with Real Madrid through some unlikely sources, but there was nothing surprising about the identity of the players that eventually booked Los Blancos' place in the last four.

Backed up against the wall after a meek 3-1 defeat to a Karim Benzema-inspired Madrid in the first leg at Stamford Bridge, the defending champions were brilliant for much of a captivating return fixture, quieting the Santiago Bernabeu by showing control and composure that belied their plight.

Unlike in west London, where Madrid were afforded far too much possession and space, Chelsea commanded the midfield for long periods, the metronomic Mateo Kovacic - who completed 96 per cent of his passes and 98.5 per cent in the opposition half - playing a key role in what for a while appeared to be the undoing of his former club.

It was a midfielder who put Chelsea ahead on the night in the 15th minute, Mason Mount producing an unerring finish to beat the outstretched arm of former Chelsea goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois after neat build-up play that saw him eventually teed up by Timo Werner - more on him shortly.

Madrid kept hold of the aggregate lead until the 51st minute when, after Luka Modric was incorrectly adjudged to have deflected a Reece James shot behind, Antonio Rudiger rose to steer a superb header from Mount's set-piece delivery into the bottom-right corner.

The hosts were then the beneficiaries of controversy when Marcos Alonso had a goal ruled out for a seemingly unintentional handball, an incident that will surely have set in motion further heated debate about the current interpretation of that rule across living rooms and bars in both the English and Spanish capitals.

Carlo Ancelotti's men never learned their lesson and were the antithesis of defensive solidity throughout a breathless contest, and they were punished by Werner 15 minutes from the end of normal time.

Madrid lost possession inside their own half, Kovacic played Werner down the left side of the box and the often-derided former RB Leipzig star jinked his way past three challenges before sending a calm, albeit deflected, close-range finish beyond Courtois.

It took Werner's tally to just 17 goals in 70 games in all competitions since his big-money move from the Bundesliga and looked as if it would be the defining moment - at least in goalscoring terms - of his Chelsea career so far.

Yet Werner's hopes of being Chelsea's saviour were thwarted by three men who have so often played that role for Madrid.

Five minutes after Werner silenced the home fans, Modric had them roaring in adulation, his sublime cross-field pass with the outside of his boot finding Rodrygo, who provided the finish the delivery deserved as his first-time volley left Edouard Mendy with no chance and forced extra time.

That was Modric's 17th Champions League assist and his fourth this season, a tally only one of his team-mates, Vinicius Junior, has bettered. 

It was Vinicius' creativity that ultimately ensured Madrid had the final say.

Chelsea surrendered possession all too easily in midfield and Eduardo Camavinga sent Vinicius tearing down the same flank that brought Werner's goal.

Vinicius' delicate right-footed cross was greeted gratefully and emphatically by first-leg hat-trick hero Benzema, who once again added the final gloss to a Champions League masterpiece with an unstoppable header that brought up his 38th goal of a remarkable campaign and the Brazilian architect's sixth assist in the competition this term, tied with Leroy Sane for the most in the tournament.

As a pairing, Vinicius and Benzema have now combined for 15 goals in all competitions in a season that could yet come to a close with Madrid crowned as both Spanish and European champions.

Chelsea had plenty of opportunities during the remainder of the additional half hour to make it 4-2 on the night and at least force penalties, racking up 28 shots to Madrid's 10 but with just seven of those hitting the target.

Hakim Ziyech, Kai Havertz and Jorginho will all rue chances they missed in a frantic finale as Chelsea's reign as holders came to an end in an epic tale that, for Madrid, ended in pleasingly familiar fashion. 

Speed is a highly valued asset in the NFL and if you needed any reminder of the premium the league places on wide receivers who can create separation with raw acceleration, it arrived during perhaps the wildest offseason in history.

A frenzy of blockbuster trades was capped off last month by the Miami Dolphins parting with first and second-round picks in this year's draft, two fourth-round selections and a 2023 sixth-rounder to acquire Tyreek Hill from the Kansas City Chiefs.

Miami subsequently made Hill the highest-paid wide receiver in the NFL by signing him to a four-year, $120million contract extension, including $72.2m guaranteed.

The price teams are prepared to pay for speed receivers of Hill's calibre is an extremely promising harbinger for wideouts in this month's draft who share his ability to take the top off of a defense. 

Among another uber-talented class of players at the receiver position, one man stands above the rest in possessing that specific trait, Alabama's Jameson Williams.

His hopes of going in the first round took a huge hit when Williams tore his anterior cruciate ligament in the National Championship Game in January, ending a sparkling sole season with the Crimson Tide after he transferred from Ohio State.

Yet between the significant advancements in ACL recovery - giving Williams a chance of making an impact in his rookie year - and how desperate NFL teams are for big-play receivers who can flip the field in an instant, it still appears likely he will hear his name called on night one in Las Vegas.

A first-round draft status would be the least Williams deserves, with the advanced metrics and his Alabama tape combining to paint a picture of a receiver who is not only the top deep threat in the draft, but also has an extremely compelling argument for being considered the best all-round receiver in this deep class.

Belated big-play impact

His injury meant Williams was unable to take part in any pre-draft athletic testing but, while teams have not had the chance to put a 40-yard dash time next to his name, the impact of his speed was obvious during a brief but ultra-productive stay with Alabama.

Having made only 15 catches in two seasons at Ohio State, where he played behind two receivers expected to go in the first round in Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave, Williams took full advantage of his opportunity to shine down in Tuscaloosa.

Williams racked up 79 catches for a team-high 1,572 yards, with his 15 touchdown catches tied for third in the FBS.

Nine of Williams' 15 touchdown catches were for 40 or more yards, while no player in the FBS produced more than his nine receptions of at least 50 yards, four more than the wideout who stepped into his third receiver role at Ohio State, Jaxon Smith-Njigba.

Landing with college football's modern-day juggernaut undoubtedly helped his cause, but the 2021 season was one in which Williams' established himself as the premier downfield weapon in the FBS by separating more consistently and more dramatically than any of his peers near the top of this year's receiver draft board.

Feel the burn

Blending elite speed with lower-body flexibility that enables him to be a substantial threat on double moves, Williams thrived running post-corner and corner-post routes downfield during his time with Alabama, with his proficiency in creating substantial separation going deep reflected by his burn rate.

Burn rate measures how often a receiver wins his matchup with a defender on a play where he is targeted. Williams did so on 74.6 per cent of his targets in 2021.

Williams' burn rate was superior to that of Wilson (71.6 per cent), Olave (69.9), USC's Drake London (71.3) and Arkansas star Treylon Burks (64.8).

He comfortably led the way in burn yards per target, his average of 19.34 nearly five full yards better than that of his nearest challenger, Cincinnati's Alec Pierce (14.74), and was also the cream of the crop in burn yards per route (4.9).

In other words, none of the other receivers anticipated to be in the first-round conversation came close to generating as much separation as Williams, who was the class of this field when it came to defeating his defender's coverage.

Yet in the endless quest for mismatches that is the NFL in 2022, it is not just Williams' success in separating that makes him such an intriguing prospect, it is the varied nature of a skill set ideally suited to where modern passing games are going.

Slot machine

There has arguably never been a better time to enter the NFL as a receiver who can win because of that extra gear at their disposal.

Hill coalesced perfectly with Patrick Mahomes during their time together in Kansas City and, as quarterbacks blessed with Mahomes' extraordinary arm talent become the archetype in the league, there figures to be an increasing demand for receivers who can get behind the secondary along with wideouts with the size and catch radius to mitigate inaccurate throws.

Williams may not have an intimidating frame at 6ft 2in and 189 pounds, but he does possess outstanding ball tracking ability and the body control to turn off-target throws into completions.

Elite receivers of all moulds - from route-running aficionados Cooper Kupp and Davante Adams to yards after catch monsters like Deebo Samuel and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' physically imposing duo of Mike Evans and Chris Godwin - are spending an increasing amount of time playing, and thriving, from the slot.

Winning inside and out is a prerequisite for top-tier wideouts at the NFL level, and that is a box Williams checks emphatically.

Able to win with patient and intelligent footwork at the start of his route and through varying his route speeds, Williams' physical gifts have seen him develop into a substantial threat to pick up yardage after the catch on underneath routes that can be run from the slot, with his advanced metrics when lined up inside nothing short of astonishing.

Williams ran 132 routes from the slot in 2021 and was targeted 40 times. His burn rate from the slot was 77.5 per cent compared to 73 per cent when he lined up as an outside receiver.

He averaged 26.53 burn yards per target and 8.04 burn yards per route from the slot, while he produced a big play on 59.7 per cent of slot targets.

Those numbers dwarf his still impressive statistics as an outside receiver - 15.46 burn yards per target, 3.62 burn yards per route and a big play rate of 41.7 per cent - though that disparity is largely a product of Williams running a lot of his deeper routes from the slot.

Indeed, Williams' average depth of target from the slot was 19.3 yards, compared to 11.5 yards from the outside.

Such a gulf is unlikely to exist in the pros. In a league so heavily influenced by Kyle Shanahan and Sean McVay and their offensive system, Williams should expect to see his speed utilised to stretch the field horizontally as much as vertically at the next level. The Dolphins' aggressiveness in trading for Hill despite Tua Tagovailoa's arm paling in comparison to that of Mahomes perhaps foreshadowed that teams whose quarterbacks cannot so easily access downfield throws may still be interested in pursuing a burner of Williams' talents.

But, with the Green Bay Packers - who traded Adams to the Las Vegas Raiders and lost their deep threat, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, to Kansas City - and the Chiefs both possessing two picks in the second half of the first round, Williams could yet find himself catching passes from either Aaron Rodgers or Mahomes and executing the best-laid gameplans of Matt LaFleur or Andy Reid. 

The college football world only got a fleeting glimpse of what Williams could do when given a featured role for a dominant program. More prolonged pain for NFL defenses will come if he ends up landing with a team that can claim to have one of the NFL's best arms and a sharp offensive mind in their employ.

Karim Benzema's brilliance was the difference as Real Madrid stormed into a 3-1 lead over Chelsea last week.

The 34-year-old, as evergreen as they come, was at his sublime best once again with a sensational hat-trick at Stamford Bridge to put Madrid on the verge of reaching the Champions League semi-finals.

It followed on from his three goals in that remarkable comeback against Paris Saint-Germain in the round of 16 and it would not be unreasonable to expect Benzema to hit another hat-trick on Tuesday when Thomas Tuchel's reigning European champions visit the Santiago Bernabeu, such is the France international's prolific form.

"To say that we are dependent on Benzema is the truth, there is no need to hide it," said Carlo Ancelotti in Monday's news conference previewing the second leg.

"I am very happy to be dependent on Benzema."

While Benzema thrives with that dependence on his shoulders, Chelsea visit the Spanish capital without the striker they hoped would take them to the next level. It is safe to say that Romelu Lukaku's return to Stamford Bridge has not gone to plan.

 

Having rediscovered his best form over two seasons with Inter, driving the Nerazzurri to their first Serie A title in over a decade, Lukaku has come closer to resembling the much-maligned version of himself that struggled at Manchester United.

Lukaku will be absent through injury for what is his team's biggest game of the season, a rather fitting summary of how his second spell at Chelsea has played out so far.

All going wrong for Rom

It seemed the perfect match. Lukaku was fantastic for Inter, providing not only goals but also adding creativity to his game as he formed a supreme partnership with Lautaro Martinez.

Lukaku directly contributed to 35 goals in Serie A alone last season, converting 25 per cent of his 96 shots and creating 52 chances for team-mates, with 10 of those being big chances - defined by Opta as an opportunity from which a player would reasonably be expected to score.

The Belgian averaged a goal every 120 minutes and converted 20 of the 39 big chances that came his way, as Antonio Conte helped get Lukaku back to his best.

 

But matters could hardly be more different at Chelsea.

Lukaku has hinted that Tuchel's style does not suit his preferred way of playing, though his ability to drop deep and link the play at Inter seemed to have put the 28-year-old in good stead to do the same with the likes of Timo Werner, Kai Havertz, Mason Mount and Christian Pulisic in west London.

The drop-off has been significant – just 12 Premier League starts, five goals and zero assists, while he has created only 16 opportunities and converted 17.2 per cent of his 29 shots, just 11 of which have been on target.

Lukaku's 12 goals in all competitions do slightly exceed his expected goals (xG) of 11.8, showing he is at least scoring at a rate that reflects the quality of chances that have come his way, though he headed wide from Chelsea's best opportunity of the first leg (0.29 xG).

 

Chelsea won the Champions League without a recognised number nine, given Tammy Abraham's failure to cement a place under Tuchel and Werner's hit-and-miss form, which has continued into this campaign.

Indeed, Havertz netted the winner in Porto against Manchester City last May and in recent weeks has been the player Tuchel has utilised to lead Chelsea's line, even with Lukaku fit. It was the Germany forward who scored for the Blues against Madrid last week and he seems set to continue up front.

All going right for Benzema

In contrast, Benzema is at the very top of his game. His hat-trick at the Bridge took him to 37 goals for the season. That tally far exceeds his xG (28.3), illustrating just how excellent his finishing has been.

That supreme ability was on show in all its glory in the first leg. His opener was a quite wonderful header that he somehow kept down and floated beyond Edouard Mendy - Opta's xG model suggests there was just an eight per cent chance of that opportunity resulting in a goal.

Benzema's second, another header under three minutes later, was equally impressive, while his third came as a result of his aggression in the press, forcing a mistake that gave him a simple finish into an empty net.

Similar to Lukaku in Serie A last season, Benzema is converting roughly a quarter of his attempts across all competitions, and he has already crafted 66 chances for others and contributed 13 assists. 

Of strikers in Europe's top five leagues, only Robert Lewandowski has scored more goals than the Frenchman, who has as many assists as Lionel Messi and scores every 84 minutes.

 

Benzema is the heartbeat of a Madrid side pushing for a double, crucial to everything Los Blancos do in attack, dropping into midfield to aid the build-up as well as being in the right place to finish chances.

Lukaku, meanwhile, is on the periphery at Chelsea and though the £97.5million (€115m) outlay may yet prove worthwhile, he is not going to be able to stand up and be counted when his side might just need him the most.

That, perhaps, is a sign it was simply never meant to be for Lukaku at Chelsea after all.

The Champions League quarter-final second legs are here, and the competition's two most recent winners must overcome first-leg deficits to reach the final four on Tuesday.

Defending champions Chelsea were downed by a stunning Karim Benzema hat-trick at home to Real Madrid, who are bidding to be crowned European champions for a 14th time.

Bayern Munich, meanwhile, suffered a shock reverse at Unai Emery's Villarreal, who will surely require a remarkable defensive performance to keep the free-scoring Bundesliga leaders at bay in Bavaria.

Here, Stats Perform unpacks the pick of the data from Tuesday's crucial European ties. 

Real Madrid v Chelsea: Benzema brilliance puts hosts in driving seat

Benzema's Stamford Bridge hat-trick has put Los Blancos on the brink of a semi-final spot, and he will be looking to continue his incredible European campaign when Chelsea try to overcome a 3-1 deficit in Spain.

After hitting consecutive European trebles, Benzema's tally of 11 goals is a new record for the most strikes by a French player in a single edition of the competition, and matches his record across the last two editions combined (he scored six goals in 2020-21 and five in 2019-20).

The 34-year-old's understanding with Vinicius Junior caused Chelsea all sorts of problems in London, and the duo have now assisted each other a combined five times in the Champions League this term (Vinicius providing four assists, Benzema one), the most of any two team-mates in the competition.

Carlo Ancelotti will qualify for the semi-finals for a record eighth time if Madrid can maintain their advantage against his former employers, equalling Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho.

Chelsea, meanwhile, are making their first trip to the Santiago Bernabeu in European competition, and must become the first English side to win a Champions League game there by more than one goal to have any chance of progressing.

Goalkeeper Edouard Mendy's costly mistake at Stamford Bridge has left the Blues on the brink of an exit, with his dire pass to Benzema representing his first error leading directly to a goal in 20 appearances in the competition.

Chelsea may be encouraged by the fact they have not lost both legs of a Champions League tie since going down to Bayern Munich in 2019-20's last 16, and have won three and drawn two of their last six meetings with Los Blancos.

However, with Madrid progressing from nine of their previous 10 ties after winning an away first leg (the exception being a 5-3 aggregate loss to Ajax in 2019), Chelsea look unlikely to revive their title defence.

 

Bayern Munich v Villarreal: Emery eyes landmark success against Bavarian giants

Elsewhere, Bayern Munich are looking to avoid consecutive last-eight eliminations when they host Villarreal, with Arnaut Danjuma giving Unai Emery's men a precious 1-0 first-leg lead.

Danjuma has six Champions League goals this term, with only Robert Lewandowski (12), Benzema (11), and Mohamed Salah (eight) managing more, and could prove the visitors' best outlet on the counter-attack.

Indeed, Villarreal will certainly require a resolute defensive performance in Munich, having conceded 22 shots in their surprising home triumph.

However, Julian Nagelsmann's side were uncharacteristically wasteful in Spain, and their four shots on target last Wednesday marked the lowest such tally managed by a team to attempt over 20 shots in the competition this season.

 

Bayern unquestionably have what it takes to turn the contest around, however, and haven't gone consecutive Champions League games without scoring since a 5-0 aggregate loss to Real Madrid in 2013-14's semi-final tie.

Lewandowski will carry the burden of rescuing the Bavarian giants, having already scored two European hat-tricks in Munich this season (against Benfica and RB Salzburg). Only Cristiano Ronaldo (for Real Madrid in 2015-16) has ever managed three trebles in one Champions League campaign.

If the Yellow Submarine can pull off a remarkable success at the Allianz Arena, Emery will progress beyond the competition's quarter-finals for the first time in his career.

But the omens do not make for great reading for the Spaniard. The only previous time a side of his won an opening leg in the competition's knockout stages (Paris Saint-Germain's 4-0 win over Barcelona in 2017), they became the first team to be eliminated after winning a first leg by four goals, falling to an incredible 6-1 away loss. 

The final matchday of the Champions League quarter-finals has arrived, with Liverpool and Manchester City in touching distance of the last four.

The Premier League pair played out a thrilling 2-2 draw in what many billed as the title decider on Sunday, but their attention now turns back to Europe as they hunt yet more silverware.

Liverpool, if uncomfortable at times, managed a 3-1 victory at the Estadio da Luz, while City hold a slender 1-0 advantage heading to the Wanda Metropolitano against Atletico Madrid.

Here, Stats Perform unpacks the pick of the data from a decisive Wednesday in UEFA's flagship club competition.

Atletico Madrid v Manchester City: Simeone's side must end home hoodoo

City make their first ever trip to Atletico in European competition having won just three of their last 11 away games against Spanish side – though Pep Guardiola's team won their most recent visit to Real Madrid (2-1 in February 2020).

The Premier League leaders do so with a narrow 1-0 first-leg lead, thanks to Kevin De Bruyne, after Atletico lost the first away leg of a Champions League knockout tie for a fourth time.

Simeone's side, though, may take confidence from the fact they have progressed on two of the three previous occasions they have lost the first leg away from home.

But the reigning LaLiga champions will have to turn around their torrid home form in the competition if they are to do so, given they are winless in their last seven home games in Europe.

The compact setup that many branded as negative will also have to make way for Atletico to compete, after they failed to record a single shot in the first meeting at the Etihad Stadium.

The fewest attempts across two-leg Champions League knockout ties is four (Shakhtar Donetsk v Bayern Munich in 2014-15), since Opta began recording in 2003-04, while the only team to have failed to record a shot on target across two legs in this period was Deportivo La Coruna in the 2003-04 semi-finals against Porto.

Simeone will look to Antoine Griezmann to make the difference, with the forward one goal away from overtaking David Trezeguet (29) for the fourth-most strikes by a Frenchman in the competition.

Meanwhile, City will reach the landmark of 100 games in the Champions League, having won 55 of their first 99 – only Real Madrid have triumphed more in their first 100 matches (57).

Liverpool v Benfica: Formidable Reds lucky Portuguese omen

The omens will be good if Liverpool can progress past Benfica here, given they have gone on to win the competition on the last two occasions they have won both legs in a European Cup or Champions League knockout tie against the Portuguese side, doing so in 1977-78 and 1983-84.

The Reds have won each of their last five games against Portuguese sides in Europe's premier club competition, scoring 16 goals and only conceding three times. 

Indeed, they are unbeaten in nine games against teams from Portugal in the competition since Benfica won at Anfield in March 2006 (W7 D2), as they eye a third Champions League semi-final under Jurgen Klopp.

That is as many times as the Reds had managed to do so prior to Klopp taking charge (2004-05, 2006-07 and 2007-08, all under Rafa Benitez), with the German somewhat of a knockout specialist.

There is no denying Liverpool are heavy favourites; they have progressed from each of their last 12 ties in the Champions League knockout stages after winning the first leg, since a 2001-02 quarter-final loss to Bayer Leverkusen, who lost 1-0 in the first leg before winning 4-2 in the return meeting.

Central to Klopp's plan will be the seemingly out of form Mohamed Salah, whose next home goal will see him overtake Steven Gerrard (14) for the most goals by a Liverpool player at Anfield across the European Cup and Champions League.

While only two teams have ever won by more than one goal away to Liverpool in the latter stages of the competition, one of those occasions was Benfica in a 2-0 victory in the last-16 in 2005-06.

Darwin Nunes will be the key, with the forward scoring five times in nine European appearances this season – no player has ever netted more in a single Champions League campaign for the Primeira Liga side.

Manchester City and Liverpool produced a pulsating top-of-the-table clash on another enthralling day of Premier League action on Sunday.

The top two played out a hugely entertaining 2-2 draw at the Etihad Stadium to ensure the title race remains delicately poised with seven games remaining, City's one-point lead intact for now.

Elsewhere, Brentford beat London rivals West Ham, while there were wins for Leicester City and Norwich City over Crystal Palace and Burnley respectively.

Stats Perform takes a look at some key Opta facts from the day's games.
 

Manchester City 2-2 Liverpool: Guardiola's men miss chance to pull clear of rivals

The hosts started at a breathless pace and went ahead early on thanks to Kevin De Bruyne's 11th Premier League goal of the season. The Belgium international has only once scored more in a single top-flight campaign (13 in 2019-20).

Diogo Jota pulled Liverpool level before Gabriel Jesus restored City's advantage, and both players maintained their records of never losing in a Premier League game when they have scored. Jota is unbeaten in 33 matches (W27 D6) and Jesus in 45 (W42 D3), with only James Milner (54 games) and Darius Vassell (46) scoring in more without losing in Premier League history.

Sadio Mane scored just 46 seconds into the second half to secure a point for the Reds. It was the first time they had scored in the opening minute of the second half in a league game since January 2019 (Mohamed Salah vs Crystal Palace) and the first time City had conceded in the 46th minute in a Premier League game since November 2004 vs Norwich City.

The result means Liverpool are now winless in their last five Premier League matches against City (D3 L2), their joint-longest run without a victory against them along with a five-game run between November 2011 and December 2013.

Brentford 2-0 West Ham: Hammers stung by Bees

This win means Brentford have recorded a league double over West Ham for only the second time, last doing so in 1953-54 when both sides were in the second tier.

Bryan Mbeumo opened the scoring and the forward has now found the net in both Premier League games against West Ham this season. He is only the second Brentford player ever to score both home and away against the Hammers in the same league campaign, after Jack Holliday in 1933-34.

Ivan Toney added a second to take his tally to eight goals from 32 shots in the Premier League in 2022, after netting just four times from 36 attempts prior to the new year. Indeed, only Son Heung-min (nine) has scored more top-flight goals since the turn of the new year than the Brentford striker.

West Ham, meanwhile, have lost seven of their last 11 away Premier League games (W2 D2), which is one more away defeat than they suffered last season.

The Hammers have suffered three consecutive away defeats for the first time since a seven-game run between December 2019 and June 2020.

Leicester City 2-1 Crystal Palace: Foxes too strong for Vieira's men

Leicester remain unbeaten in their last six Premier League games against Palace (W4 D2), having lost four on the bounce against the Eagles in the top-flight before this run.

Ademola Lookman got them on their way with his fifth league goal of the season, equalling his best tally in a domestic campaign for a side in Europe's big five leagues (also five in 2017-18 with RB Leipzig).

Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall then doubled their advantage with a superb strike after being teed up by James Maddison.

England international Maddison, who has been involved in more Premier League goals than any other Leicester player this season (eight goals, five assists), became just the fourth player to register 20-plus goals and 20-plus assists for the Foxes in the Premier League, after Muzzy Izzet, Riyad Mahrez and Jamie Vardy.

Patrick Vieira's Palace got one back through Wilfried Zaha, who has scored more Premier League goals against Leicester than he has versus any other side in the competition (seven), yet they were unable to find an equaliser.

Norwich City 2-0 Burnley: Canaries boost survival hopes

Norwich injected life into their Premier League survival bid with a comfortable win over fellow strugglers Burnley.

Pierre Lees-Melou opened the scoring with his first Premier League goal for the Canaries in his 26th appearance in the competition, becoming the first French player to score for the club in the English top flight.

Teemu Pukki made sure of the three points with his 20th Premier League goal, moving him ahead of Mark Robins (19) as the club's third top scorer in the competition after Chris Sutton (33) and Grant Holt (23).

The result meant Dean Smith's side have gone unbeaten home and away against a Premier League opponent for just the second time this season (D1 W1).

Burnley, meanwhile, are winless in their last four Premier League games against teams starting the day bottom of the table (D1 L3).

It was billed as the title decider of all title deciders, a clash of titans to determine who would go on to win the Premier League, and yet at the end of 90 breathtaking minutes it remains as you were.

Manchester City, for all their attacking intent and brave play, could not find a killer knockout punch against Liverpool and so it will all come down to the final seven games and who can hold their nerve.

The Citizens have the advantage given they retain a one-point lead, but Pep Guardiola will feel his team deserved more, and Jurgen Klopp can still dream of a quadruple after what he described as a "wild" game.

As it turns out, fortune does not always necessarily favour the brave – though credit must also go to Liverpool for themselves contributing to another Premier League classic between these heavyweights.

It became clear an hour before kick-off that Guardiola would be true to his word: City had no intention of playing for a point in the biggest game of a thrilling campaign that had seen the chasers close the gap on the leaders from 14 points to just one heading into this showdown.

With Gabriel Jesus recalled for his first league start since New Year's Day in an attack that also included Raheem Sterling, Phil Foden, Kevin De Bruyne and Bernardo Silva, City were out for blood against a Liverpool side on a 10-game winning run in the competition.

For a manager now famed for over-thinking his team selection, this was a masterstroke from Guardiola. De Bruyne and Jesus were on the scoresheet, the latter ending a run of 37 shots without scoring in the competition, while Sterling had a goal ruled out for offside by VAR.

But the reward at the end of it all was only a point as Liverpool, who went with the line-up many had been expecting, twice hit back to ensure this enthralling title race has another chapter of drama still to come.

Five minutes was all it took for City's attacking approach to pay off. Moments after Sterling was denied by Alisson from close range, De Bruyne's long-range strike – via a telling deflection off Joel Matip – went in off the post to give the reigning champions lift-off.

That was the 10th goal City have scored in the opening 10 minutes of Premier League games this season, each of the last four netted by De Bruyne in the fifth minute – a remarkable quirk. The outcome when City have taken the lead, regardless of the minute, had always been the same: won 22, drawn none, lost none.

The title race was over, on that basis. Except of course it wasn't.

Diogo Jota's leveller eight minutes later, following brilliant interplay between full-backs Andy Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold, had Liverpool back on level terms in a match that lived up to its pre-match billing. Did you really expect anything else?

If the previous omens had been stacked in City's favour, now Liverpool had something similar to cling to given Jota had not lost in any of the previous 32 Premier League games in which he had scored. Make that 33 on a day when Klopp's own selection calls were justified by the final result.

Jota's record was under threat when City continued to probe with more intent than their rivals and regained the lead through Jesus, who got on the end of Joao Cancelo's pass in behind Alexander-Arnold and finished past Alisson.

Trailing in a Premier League game at half-time for the first time in exactly a year, when coming back to beat Aston Villa, Liverpool needed just 46 seconds of the second half to level through a Sadio Mane goal assisted by Mohamed Salah – the Egypt international's 159th Premier League goal involvement for the Reds, a tally only Steven Gerrard (212) can better.

It was the first time City had conceded in the first minute of the second half in a league game since November 2004 against Norwich City, though once again their response did not take long to arrive, albeit with Sterling's finish against his former club rightly ruled out for offside.

That attacking intent remained clear to see when Riyad Mahrez replaced Sterling, rather than a more cautious option being introduced, and the Algeria international twice went close to winning the game when clipping the post from a free-kick and chipping over both Alisson and the crossbar when through on goal from the final act of the game.

And so for all the to-ing and fro-ing, 2-2, and one point the gap between the sides, is how it remained come a full-time whistle that no neutral was ready to hear. A second meeting between these sides this season, a second four-goal thriller, and still there is next to nothing to separate perhaps the two greatest sides in world football.

It sets up a tense and intriguing final six weeks of the season and, the best of all, we get to do it all over again when the sides face off in an FA Cup semi-final next Saturday.

Unlike on this blockbuster day of Premier League football, there has to be a winner at Wembley.

Pep Guardiola proudly declared Manchester City and Liverpool have "raised the bar" in the Premier League, and on Sunday the north-west giants collide in a game that could have a telling impact on the destiny of the trophy.

It falls inconveniently between high-stakes Champions League quarter-final games, although the fact both City and Liverpool are ahead after the first legs of their ties somewhat mitigates that pressure.

Given City hold just a one-point lead over Liverpool with eight rounds of games remaining, a win for either at the Etihad Stadium would be a huge leap nearer to the title.

The prospect of Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp directing in their animated manner from the touchline, as their star-packed teams pull no punches on the pitch, makes this an unmissable game.

Ahead of kick-off in the biggest club game in Europe this weekend, Stats Perform has taken a look at some key pointers.

City start as favourites for a reason

English bookmakers have City as the team most likely to come away from this one with three points, and there is good reason for Guardiola's men to go in with confidence.

City have lost just one of their last 12 Premier League home games against Liverpool (W7 D4), going down 4-1 in Jurgen Klopp’s first visit in the competition in November 2015.

Liverpool had a 2-1 Champions League win at City in April 2018, but their recent successes in the league in this rivalry have been largely limited to games at Anfield. Indeed, Liverpool are winless in their last four Premier League games against City (D2 L2), regardless of the venue.

Only once in the competition have Liverpool had a longer run without a win against City, going five games without getting the better of the boys in blue between November 2011 and December 2013.

Keep it clean, lads

Liverpool have not kept a clean sheet in any of their last 11 Premier League away games against City, since a 0-0 draw in February 2010, and with Guardiola's formidable attacking resources it would surely be a surprise if this becomes the game where the Reds halt that sequence.

So goes one theory. Another way of looking at the game is to consider that Liverpool are in a stunning vein of form, and if they are ever going to halt the leakage of goals to City, it will be this weekend.

Liverpool have won each of their last 10 Premier League games, keeping eight clean sheets in doing so. It is their fifth run of 10 or more consecutive Premier League wins, Opta said.

Both Liverpool and City have achieved 18 clean sheets in 30 games this season, so could they even blunt out each other's threat?

When first and second collide

This is the 30th season of the Premier League, and Sunday's game marks the 50th time the top two sides in the division will have met.

Of the previous 49 such league clashes, the leaders have won on 20 occasions but lost 18 times, with 11 games drawn. City and Liverpool have met as the top two twice before, with a goalless draw at Anfield in October 2018 coming when City were at the summit, before Guardiola's men scored a 4-0 thrashing against Liverpool in July 2020.

The latter game came a week after Liverpool wrapped up the Premier League title, and was an ominous sign of a pendulum swing for the following season.

Liverpool can jump to first place for the first time since October 1, and they might bear in mind that battles between first and second towards the end of the season have tended to go the way of the chaser in recent times.

In fact, of the last eight Premier League clashes between the top two during the final 10 games of the season, the team in second have won seven times (L1), including each of the last five in a row.

There is just a sliver between these sides, reflected in the fact City have taken a league-high 516 points since Guardiola's arrival for the start of the 2016-17 season, and Liverpool are close behind with 488 points. Chelsea are a distant third on that list with 427 points.

The players who could make the difference

Phil Foden came off the bench to slide the pass that allowed Kevin De Bruyne to smash past Jan Oblak on Tuesday and give City a 1-0 first-leg lead over Atletico Madrid. Foden looks a sure-fire starter this weekend and has flourished in the Liverpool fixture, having scored in all three of his Premier League outings against Klopp's team, while also claiming two assists.

The 21-year-old could become just the second player to score in four successive Premier League appearances against the Reds, after Leicester City's Jamie Vardy, who found the back of the net in five straight games between 2016 and 2017.

Liverpool will know the threat could come from all angles, with Foden, ex-Liverpool man Raheem Sterling, De Bruyne, Riyad Mahrez, Bernardo Silva, Jack Grealish and Gabriel Jesus all likely menaces.

Perhaps the danger coming from Liverpool themselves is more obvious, but that does not necessarily make it easier to deflect.

Mohamed Salah has scored in four of his last five Premier League games against City, including each of his last three. The last player to score in four consecutive Premier League appearances against City was Chelsea's Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, who netted in five successive meetings between December 2000 and October 2003.

Salah is the Premier League's top scorer and might be the chief threat, but Diogo Jota, Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane and Luis Diaz will have to be guarded carefully, should they feature.

It is a guessing game as to which three Klopp will perm from his five-man pool of star forwards. The occasion itself is a guessing game too, as Klopp and Guardiola attempt to outwit one another once again.

It's matchday 32. No midweek games and precious points to pick up in the run home.

It's that time of the year when the unconventional pick can define one's season. Who dares wins, in other words.

With that in mind, let Stats Perform lead you by the hand with Opta data as we pick four players who might just give you those precious extra points in the latest Premier League gameweek.

VICENTE GUAITA (Leicester City v Crystal Palace)

The last time Leicester were kept scoreless at home by Crystal Palace in the Premier League was in December 2017, when Claude Puel was still manager of the Foxes.

In 2022, however, only Alisson and Ederson have kept more clean sheets than Vicente Guaita in the Premiership, with Guaita's four coming in his last five appearances.

Of the seven highest rankings in the Premier League for clean sheets in the new year, Guaita also has the third-highest percentage of shots saved at 75.86 per cent.

REECE JAMES (Southampton v Chelsea)

Despite the nature of their Champions League defeat to Real Madrid, against Southampton this weekend, it is almost a certainty that Chelsea will have the bulk of possession.

As a consequence of how Thomas Tuchel's side plays, Chelsea's wingbacks are very prominent in and around the penalty area.

Among Premier League defenders this season, no player has scored more goals than Reece James this season, while Antonio Rudiger is also second.

CHRISTIAN ERIKSEN (Brentford v West Ham)

Needing to back up from Thursday's tussle in the Europa League against Lyon, West Ham could be vulnerable.

Brentford's Christian Eriksen has either scored or assisted in his last two Premier League games for the Bees, while the Dane last did so in three consecutive Premier League appearances in April 2019. 

In three Premier League starts for Brentford this season, they have won all three games, and Eriksen has completed the most passes (111) in those games, played the most passes into the penalty area (26) and created the most chances (five).

HARRY KANE (Aston Villa v Tottenham)

Tottenham are starting to find their rhythm under Antonio Conte, even despite March's 3-2 defeat to Manchester United, and Harry Kane remains as pivotal as ever.

No player in the Premier League has contributed to more goals in 2022 than Kane, with eight goals and five assists over that period.

Kane has also been involved in a goal in each of his last six Premier League appearances, and only between July and November 2020 (eight games) has he been on a longer streak.

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