Liverpool set another goalscoring record with their two first-half goals against Everton in Wednesday's Merseyside derby.

The Reds raced into a two-goal lead inside 19 minutes at Goodison Park thanks to strikes from Jordan Henderson and Mohamed Salah.

In doing so, Liverpool scored at least twice for the 18th match running in all competitions, a streak stretching back to August 28 when drawing 1-1 with Chelsea.

Sunderland previously held the record among English top-flight clubs with a run of two goals or more in 17 straight games in 1927.

With his well-taken strike, Salah has been directly involved in at least one goal in each of his past 12 Premier League appearances.

He is only the third player to do so in the competition after Stan Collymore (12 games) and Jamie Vardy (15).

Trent Alexander-Arnold has never experienced a more intense Premier League title race than the one this season despite only being 13 games into 2021-22.

Chelsea lead defending champions Manchester City by one point, with third-placed Liverpool just two off Thomas Tuchel's Champions League winners.

All three teams will be in action on Wednesday, with Chelsea at Watford and Manchester City visiting Aston Villa, while the Reds make the short trip to Everton for the Merseyside derby.

Liverpool may be unbeaten in their last 10 top-flight visits to Goodison Park, but Alexander-Arnold appreciates his side cannot afford to relinquish ground on the top two.

Asked whether he had experienced a more competitive title race, the right-back told Liverpool's website: "No, I wouldn't say so. It is intense. It's going to be a good season, I think everyone has got that feel for it. 

"The way the table is looking now as well, going into the Christmas period, it's as tight as it comes really: three teams, it's probably something we haven't seen over the last few years. It's going to be intense and we know that any slip-ups will be costly."

Everton won the last Premier League meeting between the local rivals, though the Toffees have not won back-to-back Merseyside derbies since 1984-85 and have come under fire recently after slipping to 14th with just 15 points.

Alexander-Arnold recognises Rafael Benitez's side will be looking for a response, but he believes Liverpool's dangerous frontline will be all Everton are thinking about ahead of the clash.

"They'll be looking to bounce back, they suffered a defeat that they probably won't be too happy with on the weekend, so they will probably have a little bit more motivation to bounce back and want to do it in front of the home fans," he added.

"But that's football, every team has those little bits of motivation – we are a top, top team so every team wants to beat us. 

"But I'm also sure they will be worried about what we can do going the other way. 

"The form that the front three are in at the minute is frightening; goals and the way they are contributing and linking up together, and the way the team is gelling at the minute is looking very good for us and I'm sure they will be watching our analysis with a little bit of fear in them."

Indeed, Jurgen Klopp's team have scored at least twice in their past 17 games across all competitions, the joint-longest such run in history by an English top-flight side.

The Reds have been inspired by Mohamed Salah's 11-goal haul in the league so far, while the Egypt international has managed a goal or an assist in each of his last six Premier League away games – no Liverpool player has ever managed that in seven successive matches on the road.

But Alexander-Arnold believes it is the group dynamic that is ensuring Liverpool keep pace with the early leaders.

"I think it's part of modern-day football, that rotation, and more 'squad' rather than just a team," he continued. "Injuries come, especially at this time of year they're very frequent, so it's important to have a strong squad. 

"I think we've got that, we've got players contributing with goals and assists and clean sheets. So it's vital to have that within the squad and whether you are starting or coming on, that you've got that confidence that you can contribute to the win."

Liverpool have two reunions with fan favourites coming up in the space of 10 days.

While Steven Gerrard will bring his Aston Villa team to Anfield on December 11, Liverpool first make the short trip to Goodison Park to face the manager under which they enjoyed their best spell of the 21st century prior to Jurgen Klopp's arrival.

Rafael Benitez was a contentious appointment, to say the least, when he replaced Carlo Ancelotti at Everton.

After a strong start to his tenure at Goodison Park, a combination of injuries to key players and questionable tactical decisions have left Benitez under pressure.

Everton are on a seven-match winless run in the league, their worst run since 2016, and a streak of just one victory in 10 matches across all competition. 

It does not look pretty, the mood around each club could hardly be more different, and the last thing Benitez needs is a reunion with a fanbase that once idolised him and may well be singing his name again on Wednesday.

Where did it all go wrong?

Benitez has inherited a mess and Everton's director of football Marcel Brands and majority shareholder Farhad Moshiri must face scrutiny. The Spaniard, however, must ultimately shoulder part of the blame for the current malaise.

Of Everton's Premier League managers, only Howard Kendall (in his ill-fated third spell at the club) and Walter Smith took fewer points than Benitez's tally of 15 across their first 13 league games.

Everton went unbeaten in their three league derbies under Ancelotti, albeit they did suffer a 1-0 loss to very much a second-string Liverpool side in the FA Cup in January 2020.

However, Ancelotti oversaw Everton's first derby victory since October 2010 when the Toffees beat Liverpool 2-0 at Anfield in February, ending a winless run at that ground stretching back to September 1999.

That win at an empty Anfield inflicted a fourth successive home league defeat on Liverpool for the first time since 1923 and left the Merseyside rivals level in the race for Champions League qualification.

Since then, Everton have won just nine of their 27 Premier League outings, losing 11, with Liverpool winning 17 of 26, only suffering three defeats. The Reds have scored 62 goals, 36 more than their city rivals, while only Chelsea's defence is stingier of sides to have been in the top tier for the entirety of that timeframe.

If Evertonians hoped a corner had been turned in February, Klopp's team have proved they are still worlds apart.

Similar derby records... differing approaches

Speaking of Klopp, he has won seven Merseyside derbies since joining Liverpool in 2015, drawing five and suffering that solitary defeat. 

Benitez will be the sixth Everton boss Klopp has faced, and the German holds an impressive record over his Liverpool predecessor, winning four of seven meetings, losing just once, when Napoli beat Borussia Dortmund 2-1 in the 2013-14 Champions League group stage.

Liverpool also won their last three league games against Benitez's Newcastle by an aggregate score of 9-2. 

This game will take Klopp onto the same amount of Merseyside derbies that Benitez managed as Liverpool boss. The former Real Madrid coach oversaw 14 meetings with David Moyes' Everton, winning eight and losing only three times. The Toffees' failures in this fixture have not been limited to the past decade.

Across the last seven matches, Benitez's team rank 17th for possession (39.5 per cent), joint-18th for shots on target (21) and joint-20th for goals (four), albeit they have underperformed their expected goals (xG) value (7.58) – the absence of Dominic Calvert-Lewin has not helped this.

Liverpool, on the other hand, have scored a league-leading 24 times in that time. Their xG of 16.4 also tops the competition, though it does suggest their finishing is above the standard that would be expected based on the quality of the chances.

Their high press has been back at its best, with no team producing more high turnovers (sequences that start in open play and begin 40 metres or less from the opponent's goal) than the Reds' 145. Everton's 78 ranks above only Watford (74) and Tottenham (72).

Another concern for Benitez will be Everton's tally of 101 high turnovers against. This ranks 11th in the league, but an issue for the Toffees all season has been an inability to keep the ball for sustained spells, even if it has been their aim to counter-attack. Their number of sequences of 10+ passes stands at 63 (16th). Liverpool's total is 220, placing them behind only Manchester City (283).

Everton had just 22.7 per cent of the ball in their recent 3-0 defeat to Manchester City, allowing 17 shots. It is hard to imagine Wednesday's statistics turning out much differently.

Injuries giving Toffees the blues

Mohamed Salah came seventh in the Ballon d'Or voting but if he continues his current form into 2022 then he could be a shoo-in for next year's award. He has been sensational, scoring 17 times in 18 appearances across all competitions, and also leads the league in assists (eight). 

Salah scores every 92 minutes, on average, while Sadio Mane has bounced back from his struggles last season with seven league goals.

Mane has played in 14 derbies, contributing to seven goals, scoring five himself, while Salah has netted twice across five appearances against Everton.

While Liverpool's talismanic duo head into Wednesday's fixture in fine fettle, Everton are in the midst of an injury crisis that has exposed their weak squad.

Richarlison should return from suspension and Abdoulaye Doucoure played at Brentford, but Calvert-Lewin and Yerry Mina remain out.

Calvert-Lewin has been a huge miss but the influence of Doucoure and Mina should not be understated.

With the pair playing, Everton have won three of six league games, averaging 1.8 goals for and 1.3 goals against, picking up 1.8 points per game. Without at least one of them, Everton have won just one of seven and averaged 1.7 goals against and 0.7 goals for. Their points per game drops to 0.6.

Liverpool's last league win over Everton came on December 4, 2019, a 5-2 thrashing at Anfield marking the end of Marco Silva's tenure.

Eight of Liverpool's last nine top-tier trips to Goodison have finished level but, unless Benitez can pull off an unexpected result, his fate may be similar. 

Liverpool have the class to "walk the game" when they tackle Everton in Wednesday's derby, and former Reds defender Stephen Warnock believes that would pile pressure on Rafael Benitez.

A series of worrying injuries have hampered Everton in recent weeks, and they will be without Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Yerry Mina and Tom Davies for this midweek tussle.

Warnock has sympathy for Benitez, whom he played under at Liverpool, but he feels the big game will only go one way unless Everton can raise their levels.

A run of seven games without a win in the Premier League, their longest such streak since 2016, has seen Everton plummet to 14th in the Premier League going into the midweek round of games.

As a former Liverpool boss, Benitez needed a strong start to earn the affections of those on the blue side of the city, and having seen his team lose their way after promising early signs, he can ill afford a bruising defeat to the Reds.

"Rafa's reign sort of started well, but then it's gone probably horribly wrong for him," Warnock told Stats Perform.

"But you have to look at injuries to key players – Dominic Calvert-Lewin being injured, Richarlison was out for a long time, [Abdoulaye] Doucoure [was] a huge, huge miss in the midfield.

"I look at Ben Godfrey and he's obviously suffered a little bit from long COVID. The effects of that have been tough on him.

"But when you look at Everton, if Everton went into the derby with their strongest team, I think it'd be a competitive game. But if you look at the teams on paper, Liverpool will walk the game, it'll be a comfortable game.

"I think Rafa needs a result in the game, because if he doesn't get then I think the fans could possibly start to turn on him a little bit."

Warnock made his Liverpool breakthrough in the 2004-05 season but missed out on Benitez's teams for the Champions League and League Cup finals in that season.

He considers Benitez a mastermind when it comes to creating a game plan, but not the ideal man for rallying players to the cause.

"Well, I don't think man-management is his biggest strength, if I am being completely honest," said former England international Warnock.

"Rafa is more of a tactical genius, if you like, he understands how to set teams up.

"You've got to understand that that's his strength, but he has to have people in and around him, who are good at man-management, understanding the players what their needs are.

"He's not the type of manager who's going to put an arm around you. He doesn't have that sort of that personality to do that. But if you want someone who's going to sort of be able to take a team forward tactically, then Rafa is your man."

Benitez knows the significance of Wednesday's game and has called on his players to generate a spicy atmosphere, the sort that can allow underdogs to overturn expectations.

In the 1980s, these were the dominant sides in English football, and although Liverpool remain serious silverware contenders, Warnock says the game remains a significant occasion in the city. 

"The Merseyside derby will always be more special to me, purely because I grew up a Liverpool fan. I understand what it means," he said.

"I come from a split household, where myself and my mum are Reds, and my dad and my brother are Blues, and that's the way it is quite a lot around Merseyside.

"But come derby day, it's changed a lot in the last sort of five or 10 years. It has got a little bit more hostile, it used to be a friendly derby, but now that's changed.

"And I love it. I love derby day. I think it's always a special occasion to play in those games, to be up the ground, to take it all in. Yeah, enjoyable games."

Rafael Benitez believes the Goodison Park support will be crucial when Everton host rivals Liverpool in the Merseyside derby.

The Toffees welcome rampant Liverpool having failed to win any of their last seven matches; their joint-third longest such run in the Premier League, and longest since 2016 under Roberto Martinez.

Everton sit 14th in the table having collected just 15 points, with only Howard Kendall (13) and Walter Smith (12) registering fewer than Benitez in their first 13 Premier League games in charge of the club.

The Spaniard, who was Liverpool boss between 2004 and 2010 and guided the Reds to Champions League glory in 2005, has also won only once in 10 league games against sides he has previously managed in the English top-flight, as he aims to guide Everton to a second successive top-flight Merseyside derby win for the first time since 1984-85.

Meanwhile, Liverpool arrive unbeaten in their last 10 away Premier League matches against the Toffees and Jurgen Klopp's side have scored at least twice in each of their last nine league games away from Anfield.

Although the form book does not favour Everton, Benitez insists that anything is possible with the Goodison faithful right behind the team. 

"A derby is a derby, everything can change," he told a news conference. "It depends on the atmosphere, how well we can do, and the connection with the fans. If we can create a good atmosphere, anything can happen.

"A derby is always special. Here, the passion is massive; we know it's really important for everyone. I want to win and do well, for us as a team it's important to bring back the confidence.

"The fans are intelligent, they know we need them. They're crucial and the main thing for us. I think they will realise how important they are for the players

"We have to stay focused, go back to the principle of defending as a unit. After, we try to play the best way possible on the ball, if we have to play counter-attack then do it."

Benitez's pleas may well fall on deaf ears, however. He was a contentious and, in some quarters, unpopular selection with the Everton fanbase, given his Liverpool connections.

Indeed, while a good start to the season allayed some of those concerns, injuries have hit Everton's squad hard and Benitez has so far struggled to fully adapt.

Should they fail to beat Liverpool, it will mean Everton have won just one game in 10 across all competitions, with that run including an EFL Cup exit at Queens Park Rangers and a humiliating 5-2 home defeat to Watford.

Everton will be able to welcome Richarlison back from suspension while Andre Gomes is available for the first time since September, but Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Yerry Mina remain sidelined.

Jurgen Klopp backed Virgil van Dijk to power through his return to Goodison Park with Liverpool but believes the Dutchman will have his emotions stirred.

Last season's Merseyside derby at Everton saw Van Dijk clattered early on by Jordan Pickford and hobble out of the game, suffering an anterior cruciate ligament injury that ended his season in October.

The Dutch defender was sorely missed as Liverpool's Premier League title defence collapsed amid a drastic set of injuries that left Klopp struggling to piece together a backline at times.

Now he has Van Dijk back and close to as good as ever, with Liverpool in great shape as they prepare to face Everton, who are under the instruction of former Reds boss Rafael Benitez.

When asked about Van Dijk ahead of Wednesday's tussle with their struggling neighbours, Klopp suggested it would be naive to expect no reaction.

"We're all human beings, so it's probably difficult to ignore something like that," Klopp said.

"It was a situation that should not happen in football and doesn't happen very often. I can't remember one since then in any other game.

"Virgil is very experienced, and he has these situations constantly since he's been back where he's in challenges and has to be completely free of all things he could have in his mind because of one issue in his past.

"So slightly more different [against Everton] because it's in the same place, but apart from that it's just a football game again."

Van Dijk has been an ever-present for Liverpool in their 13 Premier League games so far this season, and in that time he has been dribbled past only once by an opponent. No defender with 10 or more appearances has bettered that, and Klopp has been reassured by his increasingly imposing form.

"He came back brilliant. People are really quick if something's not exactly like it was before to say 'he's not the same anymore' and stuff like this, and this is of course not right," Klopp said. "These kind of judgements make absolutely no sense because everybody needs time to get back.

"He had a full pre-season which is absolutely helpful. His comeback was absolutely brilliant since he came back, it's been really good.

"If some things are not exactly as they have been, it's only a matter of time because of his quality, there's no doubt about that."

The Liverpool manager said his team would need "a cool head" for the likely raucous atmosphere awaiting them.

"We are still an emotional team, but you have to use the emotion in the right way and that's the plan for tomorrow absolutely," Klopp said.

Everton won 2-0 at Anfield in their last Premier League game against Liverpool, ending a 20-game winless run against them in the competition. Wednesday's hosts have not won back-to-back league Merseyside derbies since beating Liverpool in both meetings in the 1984-85 campaign, with Everton then on their way to winning the First Division title.

Eight of the last nine Premier League derbies at Everton have finished level, including each of the last four in a row.

Liverpool can break a long-standing record on Wednesday, which is one of numerous incentives. Klopp's team have scored at least twice in each of their last 17 games in all competitions, the joint-longest such run in history by an English top-flight side, level with Sunderland in 1927.

Benitez will be out to prevent that happening, but his Everton side are in free-fall having lost five of their last six games.

Former Liverpool managers have lost 13 of their last 14 Premier League games against the Reds, with Brendan Rodgers' Leicester City the exception, winning 3-1 in February, with Van Dijk by then on the injured list.

Klopp does not entertain the theory that form goes out of the window for a derby.

"I think previous form matters," he said. "Especially when it's good."

Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola wished Ole Gunnar Solskjaer well for the future but indicated the Norwegian's sacking came as no surprise.

It was announced on Sunday that Manchester United had officially parted company with Solskjaer, one month shy of what would have been his three-year anniversary as manager of the club.

Red Devils chiefs acted on the back of Saturday's humiliating 4-1 loss to Watford, which leaves the club eighth in the Premier League and 12 points behind leaders Chelsea.

The defeat at Vicarage Road was United's fifth in seven top-flight matches, a dire run that includes a 2-0 reverse at home to City a little over two weeks ago.

Given the often brutal nature of football, Guardiola claimed he could easily have been the manager to have been sacked had City lost that recent meeting with rivals United.

"I wish him all the best, it was a pleasure to face him," the Catalan coach said following Sunday's 3-0 win over Everton.

"He beat me more than I wanted, but he knows when you're in charge of a team like United you have to win otherwise you're in trouble.

"I'm sitting here because we won, otherwise it would be another person sitting here. I hope one day we can see each other again. I wish him all the best."

City's comfortable win over Everton, coming on the back of their victory at Old Trafford a fortnight ago, moved the reigning champions above Liverpool and back within three points of leaders Chelsea.

Raheem Sterling was handed just a fourth league start of the season for what was his 300th Premier League appearance, making him the fourth-youngest player to reach the milestone at the age of 26 years and 348 days.

The former Liverpool winger opened the scoring with a first-time strike after being picked out by a sublime outside-of-the-boot pass by Joao Cancelo, having early won a penalty that was overturned following a lengthy VAR check.

That was Sterling's first league goal since August and Guardiola is hopeful it will boost the England international's confidence.

"He needed that and in the first half he was an important player," Guardiola said. "He scored a brilliant goal, from an exceptional pass from Joao again.

"He played a good game in what could have been a difficult one, because they defended really well."

With a Champions League tie against Paris Saint-Germain to come on Wednesday, Guardiola handed Cole Palmer a full Premier League debut against Everton.

The academy product played in a false nine position and led the way for the number of shots (four), while nobody played more than his two key passes.

"The striker position is the most difficult but as the game went on he felt more comfortable," Guardiola said.

"It was a good performance. He now already has 90 minutes in the Premier League in his mind. It is an incredible investment for the future."

Rodri added to Sterling's opener with a remarkable 25-yard drive and Bernardo Silva capped City's eighth straight win against Everton with a simple finish late on.

"It was a really good win. We're very pleased," Guardiola added. "The last times we played against Rafa Benitez at Newcastle, we always struggled.

"We were better today, we conceded few chances and were patient."

Manchester City picked up from where they left off before the international break with a 3-0 win over Everton to move back into second place in the Premier League.

Pep Guardiola's side strolled to a 2-0 victory over Manchester United two weeks ago and were just as comfortable in Sunday's contest at the Etihad Stadium.

Raheem Sterling, making his 300th appearance in the English top flight, linked up with Joao Cancelo to fire City ahead after earlier having a penalty awarded and overruled.

Rodri scored an equally impressive goal from long range and Bernardo Silva then capped a win that moves City, who handed a full league debut to Cole Palmer, above Liverpool and within three points of leaders Chelsea.

 

Ilkay Gundogan looped a header on top of the crossbar after Jordan Pickford kept out Silva in a one-sided first half that saw Demarai Gray limp off for injury-hit Everton.

City were awarded a penalty for Michael Keane's apparent challenge on Sterling, but referee Stuart Atwell overturned the decision after a lengthy wait due to a lack of contact.

But the home side made the breakthrough on the brink of half-time thanks to Sterling's first-time finish after being picked out by a sublime outside-of-the-boot pass from Cancelo.

Rodri gave City some breathing space with a rocket drive from 25 yards that flew past Pickford into the top-left corner with 55 minutes played.

Guardiola's men were beaten 2-0 by Crystal Palace in their most recent home league match, but they made certain of a fourth top-flight win in five games through a simple finish for Silva late on.

 

What does it mean? City ease past out-of-form Toffees

The pressure was on City to pick up a victory against the Toffees following wins for Liverpool and leaders Chelsea on Saturday.

From the moment Sterling deservedly opened the scoring for the Citizens, an eighth successive league win against Everton – scoring 24 times in that run – was never in doubt.

Rafael Benitez's side are now without a victory in six Premier League matches, making this their longest winless run since January 2018 and heaping pressure on the Spaniard.

Sterling stars on landmark appearance

At 26 years and 348 days, Sterling became the fourth-youngest player to make 300 Premier League appearances and marked the occasion with a superbly taken half-volley.

Cancelo deserves credit for his assist, which was his sixth of the season in 18 outings – as many as he produced in his first two seasons with the club combined.

 

 

Shot-shy Everton offer little

City may be in good form, but defeat to Palace at the Etihad Stadium less than a month ago is proof that they can be beaten with the right gameplan.

Whatever tactics Everton deployed here did not work, with the Toffees registering just two attempts on target, neither of which truly troubled Ederson.

What's next?

City turn focus to the Champions League on Wednesday, with a point required at home to Paris Saint-Germain to guarantee a place in the last 16. Everton travel to Brentford in their next Premier League outing in a week's time.

Kevin De Bruyne is set to miss Manchester City's next three matches after testing positive for coronavirus.

City manager Pep Guardiola confirmed on Friday that De Bruyne will have to isolate for 10 days after returning a positive test.

That means he will miss Sunday's clash with Everton, Wednesday's huge Champions League showdown with Paris Saint-Germain and the Premier League meeting against West Ham next weekend.

"Kevin has tested positive for Covid so he must isolate for 10 days," Guardiola told a media conference.

"We have to be careful, people are dying from Covid, he is vaccinated so hopefully he will be okay.

"Now he has to recover well. The human being is more important than anything else."

De Bruyne's absence may be magnified by injuries to fellow attacking midfielders Jack Grealish and Phil Foden, who returned from international duty with England with knocks.

Guardiola does not expect Grealish to be available to face Everton and is unsure on whether Foden will be ready for the visit of the Toffees.

"We have Jack getting better after he went to the national team," he added. 

"Phil Foden came back with a knock and a problem in his leg, but he is getting better.

"Jack, I don't think so [will be available]. Phil we will see."

Though he enjoys the impact international breaks have on his appearance, Guardiola is happy City can now focus on their Premier League challenge and qualifying for the knockout stage of the Champions League without interruption until January.

"As a club manager, it is a dream because I have a week's holiday," Guardiola said about international breaks. "Look at my tan, it's much better than at the United game.

"But at the same time I'm concerned because every international break we're unlucky.

"Players come back from the national team and they get injured, this time is not an exception. We get them fit, they come back not fit.

"Now until January, there is no international break and hopefully we can get a point and qualify for the Champions League and fight for the title at the end of the season."

International football is officially over for another year. *Pauses for cheers or jeers*

With the November international break done with, we turn our attention back to domestic football, with a hectic period set to begin in the Premier League.

More fantasy points will be available over the next seven weeks or so than at any other period in the season, such is the jammed nature of the schedule, and there's no better time to get ahead of the curve.

Stats Perform has delved into the Opta data to pick out seven picks for this week, hopefully giving you the edge...

EDOUARD MENDY (Leicester City v Chelsea)

Leicester City may represent a tricky opponent for any team, particularly given their good options going forward, but if anyone can keep them at bay, it's Mendy.

Not only has the Senegal international conceded the joint-fewest goals (four, excluding own goals, minimum of three appearances) in the Premier League, he also leads the way with 3.4 goals prevented, according to expected goals on target data.

In terms of form goalkeepers this season, Aaron Ramsdale runs him close, but Mendy is the outstanding candidate.

JOAO CANCELO (Manchester City v Everton)

City's versatile Portuguese full-back enjoyed an exceptional 2020-21, but he seems to have stepped things up even further this term.

In 17 games in 2021-22 across all competitions, Cancelo has already reached seven goal involvements (two goals, five assists), just one fewer than his haul of eight in 43 outings last term.

He has been hugely influential at City, while it would also hardly be a surprise if they keep a clean sheet against an out-of-sorts Everton.

TRENT ALEXANDER-ARNOLD (Liverpool v Arsenal)

Liverpool's right-back became something of a scapegoat – fairly or not, that's a discussion for another day – in 2020-21. It is safe to say his critics are rather quieter at the moment.

Only Bruno Fernandes (37) can better Alexander-Arnold's 30 chances created in the Premier League this term, while no defender has more than his four assists.

A resurgent Arsenal could cause Liverpool issues, so a clean sheet is no guarantee, but there is no defender more likely to nab you an assist or two.

CONOR GALLAGHER (Burnley v Crystal Palace)

On-loan Chelsea youngster Gallagher has been a revelation for Palace this season, with his all-action style proving a great addition to Patrick Vieira's team.

He has also provided plenty of quality in the final third, having a hand in a team-high six goals (four goals, two assists).

Gallagher has already beaten his combined tally (two goals, two assists) from 2020-21 when he was on loan at West Brom, and he won his first England cap against San Marino earlier this week.

BRUNO FERNANDES (Watford v Manchester United)

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's men have seemingly hobbled from 'crisis' to 'crisis' this season, and while Fernandes arguably has not been as impressive as last season, he is still essential to the Red Devils.

He leads the way with the most chances created (37) in the league this term, and that fits into his wider excellence ever since joining United, a period that has seen him supply the most assists (22) and craft the most goal-scoring opportunities (162) of anyone in the competition.

Additionally, only Mohamed Salah (55) has been involved in more goals than Fernandes (52) in the same period. Regardless of perceptions of his form, the Portugal star is a must-have, particularly given United will fancy their chances of bouncing back at Vicarage Road.

GABRIEL JESUS (Manchester City v Everton)

While he may not be playing in the striker role many might have expected before the season started, instead featuring largely as a right-sided winger, Jesus has made a strong start to 2021-22.

With the South American World Cup qualifiers not extended to a triple-header this month, Jesus is also less of a selection risk than he was after the international breaks in September and October.

But above all, he loves playing Everton. In eight Premier League games against them, Jesus has scored eight times, or roughly one every 69 minutes, and he will be aiming to give the Toffees plenty to chew on yet again this weekend.

SON HEUNG-MIN (Tottenham v Leeds United)

Among the players Antonio Conte will be hoping to get more out of after a slow start to the season, Son is surely near the top of the list.

Since the start of last season, no player has outperformed their expected goals (xG) tally by a greater margin than the South Korean (8.2), with 21 goals from 12.8 xG.

Obviously that can suggest a degree of unsustainable fortune on Son's part, but we all know he is an exceptional player capable of the extraordinary. Leeds are a side who let other teams play, and that might be just what the doctor ordered for Son and Spurs.

Real Madrid are trying to offload a pair of veterans to Tottenham. 

Eden Hazard and Gareth Bale could be on the way out at the Santiago Bernabeu. 

Spurs are reportedly only interested in one of them.

 

TOP STORY – SPURS WEIGH BALE REUNION

Gareth Bale could be headed for a permanent return to Tottenham, El Nacional reports. 

Real Madrid have offered Bale and Eden Hazard to Spurs but head coach Antonio Conte is not interested in his former Chelsea player. 

However, Spurs may pounce for Bale at a reduced price before he is out of contract following the season.

 

ROUND-UP

Manchester United are interested in adding France defender Jules Kounde to replace Harry Maguire, says Todofichajes, which reports Sevilla will demand €80million (£68m) in return. 

Donny van de Beek wants out at United, according to the Metro, and Birmingham Live says Wolves will make a strong push to sign the Dutch midfielder, with Everton and Newcastle United also rumoured suitors.

- Fiorentina are willing to sell Dusan Vlahovic in January if an interested club like Manchester City or Tottenham will pay £70m for the Serbia international, says the Sun. Vlahovic has also been linked with Bayern MunichAtletico Madrid, Juventus, Inter and Arsenal.

Milan have joined Chelsea and Atletico in pursuit of 17-year-old Angers striker Mohamed-Ali Cho, according to L'Equipe. 

Barcelona will extend 17-year-old Spain sensation Gavi's contract for five years, reports Fabrizio Romano. 

Dean Smith's appointment at Norwich City is expected to become official Monday, says The Guardian. 

Aaron Ramsey has become an issue for Juventus, being on a bumper contract but having fallen out of favour.

Ramsey signed with Juve in 2019 on a four-year deal from Arsenal.

The 30-year-old has only made 70 appearances across almost two-and-a-half seasons, including only five this term.

 

TOP STORY – PREMIER LEAGUE PAIR KEEN ON RAMSEY

Juventus are shopping around Aaron Ramsey with Premier League pair Everton and Newcastle United in the mix, claims Goal.

The Bianconeri are keen to find a buyer for the Wales international midfielder in January although his salary may be a stumbling block.

No formal offers have been tabled yet for the ex-Arsenal star.

ROUND-UP  

- The transfer saga involving Paul Pogba continues to twist and turn with The Star claiming Manchester United are willing to sell him in January, with his contract expiring at the end of the season. Paris Saint-Germain, Real Madrid and Juventus have been linked with the French midfielder.

- AS claims Manchester United are hoping to win the race for Sevilla's Jules Kounde , with Chelsea 's admiration long known.

- West Ham will turn down any approaches for England international Declan Rice , reports The Sun. The midfielder has been linked with Manchester United and Chelsea .

- Newcastle are angling to land Ousmane Dembele as a free agent if he refuses to pen a new deal with Barcelona, reports Express.

- Internazionale could also seal a free transfer for Andre Onana from Ajax according to Fabrizio Romano, who claims a verbal agreement was reached months ago. Barcelona have also shown an interest in Onana.

- Arsenal forward Eddie Nketiah has interest from German club Monchengladbach for a January move according to The Sun.

- Goal claims that Liverpool legend and current Rangers manager Steven Gerrard is Aston Villa 's first choice to take their vacant managerial role following Dean Smith's dismissal.

Tottenham boss Antonio Conte declared himself "happy for different reasons" after his team drew 0-0 at Everton in his first Premier League game in charge of the North London club.

In a cagey affair on Merseyside, Spurs left with a point and a clean sheet, although they were relieved to see referee Chris Kavanagh overturn his own decision to award a penalty to the Toffees in the second half after a VAR check.

The away side hit the post through Giovani Lo Celso in the 88th minute, while Everton went down to ten men in stoppage time when Mason Holgate was given a straight red card just nine minutes after coming on as a substitute.

Despite being denied a victory, Conte said after the game that he was pleased with some of what he saw from his new team.

"Honestly, I have to be happy for different reasons and the first is that Goodison Park is not an easy place to come to play, against Everton, especially when you had a week [that was] very intensive, I am talking emotionally for my players, not for the club," he told a news conference.

"After we play the game Thursday, I have to be happy because I started to see some tactical situations for sure we can improve and we have a lot of space for improvement. In different situations, tactically, physically but also the mentality."

The former Chelsea and Inter boss was not entirely pleased with what he saw from his forward line, with several Spurs attacks breaking down during the course of the game. 

Tottenham failed to register a shot on target for the second league game in a row for the first time since this data started being collected by Opta in 2003-04. 

"I think we made many mistakes in the final pass. If we made the final pass in the right way, we could have chances to score," Conte added.

"I said to my players we have to know each other better, and they have to give me the possibility to know them very well. I like to win, and I will pick the players that I think can give us the possibility to win."

Everton manager Rafael Benitez was left frustrated by the overturned penalty decision, suggesting that had the incident taken place anywhere else on the pitch, a free-kick would have been awarded.

"If it is a foul in the middle of the pitch, it does not matter if he touched the ball a little bit or not. Richarlison touched the ball after the keeper Lloris touched him, so if it's like that in the middle of the pitch it's a foul, and in the box it has to be a foul," he said.

When asked for his thoughts on the penalty, Conte said that he believed it to be the right decision, explaining: "I have seen honestly that Lloris touched the ball before and to make a mistake after you watch VAR for me, it is impossible. Also, I have seen, he took the right decision for me."

Antonio Conte's first Premier League game in charge of Tottenham ended 0-0 in a frantic encounter with Everton at Goodison Park, with Rafael Benitez's side reduced to 10 men late on.

In a competitive clash, albeit one lacking in clear opportunities, Everton had a penalty overturned in the second half before Giovani Lo Celso hit the woodwork late on for Spurs.

Richarlison was awarded a spot-kick after Hugo Lloris lunged in, but referee Chris Kavanagh changed his decision after checking the pitchside monitor, and Everton fell foul of VAR again when Mason Holgate received his marching orders in stoppage time.

Spurs did not have enough time to make their numerical advantage count, however, as Conte – who enjoyed a good record against Everton in his time at Chelsea, winning three and drawing one of their four meetings – had to settle for a point.

The only shot on target in a cagey first half long-range effort from Ben Godfrey, which was saved comfortably by Hugo Lloris.

It was the fourth half of Premier League football in a row where Spurs had failed to have a shot on target, despite both wing-backs Sergio Reguilon and Emerson Royal having good chances, both directing their efforts wide.

The game finally came to life in the 63rd minute when Lloris appeared to bring down Richarlison in the box. However, after a VAR check showing that the Spurs keeper got a slight touch on the ball, referee Kavanagh reversed his decision, much to Everton's chagrin.

Everton's frustration was almost compounded in the 88th minute – the left-hand post coming to their rescue from Lo Celso's excellent effort.

Substitute Holgate then saw a yellow card upgraded to a red for catching Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg after making a clearance, though Everton held on to stop their run of defeats.

Tottenham legend Gary Mabbutt has backed new Spurs head coach Antonio Conte to have an immediate impact with the club - but would prefer him to have signed a longer contract.

The former Juventus, Chelsea and Inter boss was swiftly appointed as the replacement for Nuno Espirito Santo, who was sacked on Monday.

Tottenham made an unsuccessful attempt to recruit 52-year-old Conte prior to their appointment of Nuno in the close season.

They secured their man second time round but Conte has only agreed an 18-month deal with the London club.

The Italian has left his last two posts after just two seasons in charge, parting with the Nerazzurri over a reported dispute with the club's board despite having led them to the Serie A title last campaign, breaking Juve's hold on the Scudetto.

Ahead of Conte's first Premier League match in charge of Spurs, against Everton at Goodison Park on Sunday, Mabbutt expressed concern about the length of his contract.

He told Stats Perform: "Ideally, as a club, you want to get a manager in there who is going to have a long-term view because you want to build something.

"We have got a fantastic academy group of players coming through.

"But he said he's got an 18-month contract initially. So that is a short-term contract he is coming in with.

"In his first two years at Chelsea, he won the Premier League title and he won the FA Cup. In Milan [at Inter], it was the first time for 11 years they won the title.

"So, he's a manager that can come in and see where the problems are. He sees how those problems can be addressed and he gets in there, and he deals with it. That's what I like about him."

Mabbutt, who played 619 games for Spurs in all competitions, won the UEFA Cup in 1984, and captained them to the 1991 FA Cup, reckons Conte will get the best out of squad available to him.

He also believes Conte's systems and managerial style will suit the club's players as Spurs desperately seek a first trophy since 2008.

"I think he's very forthright and the way he wants his teams to play," he added.

"Very famously at Chelsea he was playing sort of the 3-4-3 formation, or 3-5-2 formation, those formations that he's always tended to use. 

"I think we have the players at Tottenham who will fit into that mould and seeing the first game [against Vitesse in the Europa Conference League] you could see the players were asked to be doing different things, you could see that they were responding to what he wanted. 

"I think he can make changes very, very quickly. And what this group of players need, they need to be given the confidence to be allowed to go out there and play. 

"These need to be given the belief that they can achieve things. And I believe a manager like Conte could do that."

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