It is not uncommon for second-choice goalkeepers to be given minutes in the early rounds of cup competitions, only for the number one to return when it comes down to the crunch.

Yet for Kepa Arrizabalaga, that will almost certainly not be the case.

Signed in 2018 from Athletic Bilbao for £71.6million (€80m), which is still a record fee for a goalkeeper, Kepa undoubtedly struggled in his first few seasons at Stamford Bridge.

Indeed, Kepa's form was so worrying that Chelsea, then managed by club great Frank Lampard, decided to sign Edouard Mendy from Rennes in 2020, just two years after shelling out that record-setting fee.

Yet since Thomas Tuchel came into the club, Kepa has been given a new lease of life.

While Mendy has solidified his place as the number one, Kepa has stepped up when called upon.

The nervous, shaky youngster has made way for a player who once again seems confident in his own ability and his right to play for the European champions.

With Mendy staying as the first choice in the Premier League and Champions League, for now, Kepa has nailed down a starting spot in the domestic cup competitions, and looks set to start against Liverpool in the EFL Cup final on Sunday.

Should he turn in another match-winning display, as he did in the UEFA Super Cup last year, then Tuchel may well have a decision to make on just who is his first choice after all.

What went wrong?

Kepa's move to Chelsea came in the same window that Liverpool had splashed out on Alisson, and there was plenty of expectation on both goalkeepers.

But while Alisson thrived under the pressure, going on to help Liverpool win the Champions League and then the Premier League a year later, Kepa crumbled.

The Spaniard also made headlines when he refused to be subbed off before a penalty shoot-out in, ironically, the EFL Cup final. Maurizio Sarri's side lost to Manchester City.

Across 36 league appearances that season, Kepa conceded 39 goals. Eight of these came from shots outside the box, with only five goalkeepers conceding more long-range efforts. His overall save percentage was 67.77, ranking him 15th in the competition.

Another way to assess the quality of Kepa's shot-stopping is by using the expected goals on target (xGOT) model to calculate the number of goals Kepa actually prevented. xGOT measures not just the quality of a chance (xG) but the quality of the attempt itself.

Kepa's Premier League xGOT figure for 2018-19 was 37.1. Minus the 39 goals he conceded, Kepa essentially allowed in just over two more goals than the numbers would suggest (-1.9).

In comparison, Alisson finished the season having prevented 5.5 goals in the league through the quality of his saves, while West Ham's Lukasz Fabianski, for example, had an outstanding figure of 12.9. 

Yet it was in 2019-20 that Kepa's form truly dropped off. He conceded 47 times from 33 league appearances, with only seven goalkeepers allowing more goals. His save percentage of 53.47 was the poorest in the league, out of shot-stoppers to play at least 10 times, while his goals prevented figure was -10.7 (including penalties, but excluding own goals).

 

Chelsea claimed a top-four place and reached the FA Cup final, yet it was Willy Caballero, not Kepa, who helped them get to a Wembley showdown and, at the start of 2020-21, they drafted in Mendy from Rennes.

Turning point

Things hardly improved for Kepa at the start of 2020-21. Across the Premier League season, no goalkeeper made more errors leading to goals than the Spain international, who committed three such mistakes in just seven appearances.

All of those mistakes came in his first three league appearances of the season, and he did not feature again in the top flight under Lampard, next playing in February. He made four saves, including an impressive stop from Joe Willock late on, as Tuchel's team defeated Newcastle United 2-0.

That, perhaps, was the start of Kepa's resurgence. Chelsea again reached the final of the FA Cup, and again lost - this time to a Youri Tielemans stunner for Leicester City - but Kepa played in all six of those cup matches.

However, the true turning point came in August's Super Cup. Tuchel's side triumphed 6-5 on penalties over Europa League winners Villarreal following a 1-1 draw in Belfast, and Kepa was the hero.

In contrast to that 2019 EFL Cup final, Kepa was the goalkeeper brought on specifically for penalties this time, and he denied Aissa Mandi and Raul Albiol to ensure victory.

Back at his best?

Perhaps Kepa will need to move on to be a first-choice goalkeeper once again. After all, at 27 he can no longer be counted as a youngster, and as it stands Mendy is still Tuchel's number one.

Though Kepa will get his chance in Sunday's EFL Cup final, surely, to help Chelsea claim a third trophy of the season, following the Super Cup and the Club World Cup, in which he featured in the semi-final.

Since that Super Cup success, Kepa has been a consistent performer. In his 13 games across all competitions, he has conceded just eight goals, keeping six clean sheets.

Those eight goals have come from an xGOT of 18.5, meaning Kepa's "goals prevented" figure is now way into the black, at 10.5.

 

In fact, that figure is the best of any goalkeeper in Europe's top five leagues in all competitions, proving just how much Kepa has come on over the course of the last year.

Mendy, in comparison, has stopped just over three goals with his saves, while Kepa also holds a better save percentage (83.7 to Mendy's 77.4), and he has established himself as worthy competition.

It may not be what Chelsea had in mind when they paid that world record fee in 2018, but if he helps them to another piece of silverware on Sunday, it would be hard to argue he is not starting to prove his worth.

Sure, relying on Mohamed Salah every week is a decent fantasy football strategy, it's certainly good enough for most, but what happens when the Egyptian magician isn't in Premier League action?

With Liverpool in EFL Cup final duty against Chelsea, the Reds' fearsome front-line and creative full-backs are suddenly off limits to fantasy football managers across the land, while Arsenal and Chelsea are also out of league action.

However, courtesy of Opta-powered data, Stats Perform has managed to pick out some of gameweek 27's potential stars, featuring the England captain, an in-form Burnley new boy, and one of the Premier League's most lethal defenders.

HARRY KANE (Leeds United v Tottenham Hotspur)

Despite Antonio Conte's team lurching to a fourth loss in five Premier League games at Turf Moor in midweek, the England captain remains the perfect pick for managers who need a big-hitter in Salah's absence.

Kane has been involved in seven goals in his last 10 Premier League appearances, registering six goals and an assist in that time. Meanwhile, five of those contributions, including four goals, have come on the road.

If that isn't enough to make managers' minds up, Kane will be facing a Leeds team which has already shipped 56 league goals this term, and has scored 10 goals in his eight Premier League appearances in Yorkshire. 

DAVID DE GEA (Manchester United v Watford)

For those looking for an adequate replacement for the likes of Allison or Edouard Mendy between the sticks, Red Devils stopper De Gea looks to be the perfect choice, ahead of a kind home fixture with Watford.

When looking at Opta's Expected Goals on Target data, no Premier League goalkeeper has prevented more goals than the Spaniard this season, with De Gea conceding 32 Premier League goals from 39.09 xG on target faced.

Although De Gea did ship four times when Watford ended Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's Red Devils reign earlier this season, United have never lost a home league game against Watford, recording 11 wins and two draws against the Hornets at Old Trafford. They have not faced any other side in more home games during their league history without losing (also 13 unbeaten vs Hull City).

CRAIG DAWSON (West Ham United v Wolves)

The best fantasy football managers are those that find themselves looking for marginal gains, and what better way to do that than to pick one of the division's most lethal defenders?

Since the 2014-15 season, no Premier League defender can match Dawson's tally of 14 headed goals, and the big centre-back has now netted in successive games, against Leicester City and Newcastle United.

West Ham's next Premier League clash sees them take on Wolves at the London Stadium. For all their good form, the visitors are averaging under a goal per game this season, so Dawson could also be in with a chance of a clean sheet.

WOUT WEGHORST (Crystal Palace v Burnley, Burnley v Leicester City)

Finally, Burnley's towering Dutch striker Wout Weghorst stands out as an appealing under-the-radar selection, ahead of the Clarets facing two games in four days.

Since Weghorst made his move from Wolfsburg to Turf Moor, he has weighed in with a goal and two assists, meaning only Salah (three goals and one assist) has registered more goal involvements amongst Premier League players since his arrival.

Although Burnley's weekend opponents Crystal Palace have been buoyed by a 4-1 win over Watford, they then host a Leicester team which has conceded 40.61 expected goals this season, a tally worse than all but three Premier League teams, so another Weghorst contribution could be on the cards.

With another NBA All-Star weekend in the books, Thursday sees the league back in regular season action, with one of the more intriguing games taking place at Barclays Center when the Brooklyn Nets entertain the Boston Celtics.

They played in the same venue earlier this month, with Boston easing to a 126-91 victory, which the Nets will be eager to avenge this time.

Somewhat surprisingly given the strength of their respective rosters, Celtics star Jayson Tatum was the only player representing either team to play in the All-Star game, scoring eight points during his 20 minutes on court for Team Durant.

Kevin Durant missed the game in Cleveland with a knee injury and is likely to be out of this clash as well. 

Nets general manager Sean Marks recently said Durant and new arrival Ben Simmons could be ready to play in the coming weeks, but the visit of the Celtics is likely to come too soon for both.

Steve Nash's team currently sit eighth in the Eastern Conference on 31-28, having fallen away dramatically in the last month, losing 11 games in a row until beating the Sacramento Kings on Valentine's Day.

Injuries have played a big part in the dip in form, but back-to-back wins against the Kings and the New York Knicks suggested they could be about to turn things around, even with a defeat to the Washington Wizards in their last game before the All-Star break.

The Celtics, meanwhile, have been going in the other direction, winning nine games in a row before a loss to the Detroit Pistons ahead of the break, and they find themselves sixth in the East on 34-26.

Coach Ime Udoka has led his team to a five-game winning streak on the road and will be looking to make it six in Brooklyn.

He will be reliant on Tatum and Jaylen Brown to pick up where they left off. The Celtics' star duo combined for 57 points and 20 rebounds in the recent 135-87 thrashing of the Philadelphia 76ers.

The impact of guard Derrick White could also be crucial after his recent arrival from the San Antonio Spurs. He has made a respectable start to life with Boston, averaging 12.3 points per game in his four outings.

The restart of the league signals the beginning of what will no doubt be a tense run in a tightly contested Eastern Conference, and both these teams will be looking to get off to a perfect start on Thursday.

PIVOTAL PERFORMERS

Brooklyn Nets – Patty Mills

It's a home game, so Kyrie Irving (vaccination status) cannot play, and with James Harden gone and no Durant or Simmons yet, the pressure will once again fall on Mills to be his team's main man.

The Australian narrowly missed out on the three-point finals at All-Star weekend but is enjoying a career-best season for points (13.4 average per game) in Brooklyn after moving from San Antonio last year.

His three-point shooting is what has been letting him down in recent times, going five games in a row scoring single figures for points, before hitting 22 in the loss to Washington before the All-Star break, including five of seven from beyond the arc.

Boston Celtics – Jayson Tatum

Tatum has been his team's standout player this season, and the momentum from featuring in the All-Star game could see him raise that level even higher.

Only three players in the league have scored more than his 1,439 points this season (DeMar DeRozan - 1,547, Trae Young - 1,475, Giannis Antetokounmpo - 1,443), while only DeRozan (566) and Nikola Jokic (516) have hit more than his 500 field goals.

Interestingly, Tatum took more of a back seat when Boston beat Brooklyn earlier this month, with Brown and Marcus Smart (both 22) scoring more than his 19 points.

KEY BATTLES – Make a better start, Brooklyn

The recent game between these two saw the Celtics race out to a 35-16 lead after the first quarter. It was always a big ask for the Nets to do anything from there.

Where Brooklyn will likely look for success is in mid-range, where no team in the league has a higher percentage of field goals from (48.7). However, only four teams have a lower percentage of mid-range field goals allowed than Boston (39.9 per cent).

HEAD-TO-HEAD

Although the Celtics won at Barclays Center earlier this month, the Nets had won the previous four meetings between the two, including at TD Garden in November, and all three encounters last season.

The Champions League returns on Wednesday as the first legs of the round of 16 come to an end.

Manchester United travel to the Wanda Metropolitano to face Atletico Madrid, with the visitors aiming to become just the fourth team to 500 goals in the European Cup and Champions League combined.

Erik ten Hag's Ajax thrilled in the group stages with their high-scoring and free-flowing football, and they make the trip to the Estadio da Luz to face Benfica in the other first-leg meeting.

Here, Stats Perform unpacks the pick of the Opta data behind the pair of knockout fixtures in Europe's premier club competition.

Atletico Madrid v Manchester United

United and Atletico have somehow only faced each other in the same European campaign once previously, when the Spanish side were 4-1 victors on aggregate in the last 16 of the 1991-92 Cup Winners' Cup.

The Red Devils, on their only previous visit to Atletico, lost the first leg of that tie 3-0 at the old Vicente Calderon stadium against Luis Aragones' team.

Ralf Rangnick's away side will be hoping for happier returns on their next visit to Spain, where they have won just one of their last seven trips in the knockout stages of the Champions League (D4 L2).

But Diego Simeone's team have also tasted defeat in each of their last four matches against English teams in the competition, double the number of losses they suffered across their first 12 such matches (W4 D6 L2).

Atletico have won just four of their last 14 in the Champions League. Additionally, they have lost more times in their last four home games (three) than they did in across their previous 37 (two) in the competition.

The LaLiga outfit will have to contend with an old foe Cristiano Ronaldo, who has scored 25 goals in 35 matches against them, only managing more versus Sevilla during his entire career.

Indeed, four of the forward's club hat-tricks have come against the Spanish side, two of which have been netted in this competition – no other player has recorded more against a single opponent in Europe's top club tournament.

Benfica v Ajax

Benfica may have won the first European meeting with Ajax, a 3-1 win in the first leg of the 1968-69 European Cup quarter-finals, but they are winless in their six games against them since.

Ajax are unbeaten in their previous three away games at Benfica in the European Cup and Champions League (W1 D2), with the most recent of these coming under Ten Hag’s stewardship, a 1-1 draw in November 2018.

The reigning Eredivisie champions are unbeaten in their four meetings with Portuguese sides in the competition (W3 D1), while Benfica have won just two of their last 11 clashes with Dutch opponents across the European Cup and Champions League (D4 L5).

To reach this stage, Ten Hag's men recorded six wins from six, which is the longest winning streak by a Dutch team in the European Cup and Champions League.

Should they manage victory in Portugal, Ajax's seven-game winning run would be the longest in the history of the two competitions by a team outside of the current big five European leagues (England, France, Germany, Italy, Spain).

Sebastian Haller fired his side into the knockout stages with 10 goals in six European outings, the most by any player in his opening six matches in the competition.

Playmaker Dusan Tadic has also created more chances from open play than any other player in the competition (77) since his debut in September 2018, but Benfica will not just roll over given they have recorded clean sheets in five of their last seven Champions League games.

Tiger Woods recently vowed the PGA Tour has not seen the last of him, but surely it has seen the best of him.

This week marks 30 years since a 16-year-old Woods took his first steps onto the professional circuit, the first patter of Tiger feet coming at the Nissan Los Angeles Open, at Riviera Country Club. It is the tournament now known as the Genesis Invitational.

He appeared as an amateur, on an invitation proposed by tournament director Greg McLaughlin, and went up against an elite field on the par-71 course.

Before teeing up with tour pros Bob Friend and Dicky Thompson, however, Woods played the pre-tournament pro-am in the company of Columbo actor Peter Falk. Just one more thing... to make his week memorable.

Woods had been touted for many years as a star in the making, having first caught the eye as a prodigious talent before starting school. He won the U.S. Junior Amateur title in consecutive years from 1991 to 1993 to underline that quality.

And while his first taste of life among the elite was not a triumphant experience, neither did Woods embarrass himself on February 27 and 28, back in 1992. It was clear to many that his talent had not been overstated, and barely five years later this student of the greens and fairways had graduated to become a Masters champion.

Scores of tournament wins have come Woods' way, and there have been storied crises off the course too, most recently with his car crash horror last February 23.

Here, Stats Perform winds back the clock three decades, and reflects on the career of an all-time sporting great.

How did Tiger get on?

By his latter-day standards, awfully. But for a kid, just fine. Woods shot 72-75 to be five over par, and that meant he was 17 shots behind leader Davis Love III through 36 holes.

Love went on to lose in a playoff to Fred Couples for the title, while Woods, who was then the youngest player to appear in a PGA Tour event, missed the cut.

Some 24 years later, Woods would serve as a vice-captain to Love on Ryder Cup duty, but in 1992 they were poles apart.

However, this was a taster for Woods of the life that awaited him, and as much as the cameras were trained on the fabled youngster, he remained a boy in a man's world.

It was said that he had grown from 5ft 6in in 1990 to 6ft 1in by 1992, a spurt that meant his physique was becoming the ideal complement for his natural talent, but the 16-year-old Woods was still somewhat scrawny. Like millions of young American boys across the country, he was within touching distance of adulthood, but still tantalisingly distant.

A crisp three-wood from the first tee set him on the way to a respectable opening round of one over par, before his game dipped slightly on the Friday.

What they said?

According to Sports Illustrated, Woods' father Earl said of his son's performance: "He was playing army golf: left, right, left, right.

"But he was getting up and down like a thief. He recovered and made pars from positions that Riviera hasn't seen in a long time."

Woods was braced for teasing from his fellow students at Western High in Anaheim after failing to make it into the weekend, but those around Woods knew the trajectory of his career was only going upwards.

Mother Kultida still urged expectations to be kept in check, telling the Los Angeles Times on day one of the tournament: "He’s just a kid, just 16. It's hard for people to understand that, because he has the ability. But playing here is just a test for Tiger, to see where he is at and how far he needs to go. Let him be a kid. He loves to play."

Tiger's verdict? 'I'm not ready for this'

"It was a learning experience, and I learned I'm not that good," Woods said after completing his second round. "I can play at the junior level, but I'm not good enough to compete at this level.

"You look up at the board and see 12 under. These guys are just too good. I just don't think I'm ready for this. I have a long way to go."

He also described the experience as "the greatest two days of my life", and in 2018, on his personal website blog, said it had been "very motivating".

"At the time," Woods explained, "I hadn't played amateur golf yet; just junior golf. I skipped the amateur ranks to play in one event. It made me more determined than ever to work on my game and improve."

Here's a fact that still jars with Woods: he has never won at Riviera, where nowadays he is the tournament host.

What became of his playing partners

Neither Friend (72-71) nor Thompson (69-78) made the cut, so it was hardly the most successful grouping of the week.

Friend had his most successful year as a pro in 1998, when he earned the only three top-10 PGA Tour finishes of his career. The highlight was a second place at the Bell Canadian Open, where he lost out to Billy Andrade in a playoff for the title. By that point, Woods was a Masters champion, and he did not compete that week at Glen Abbey.

Thompson had an 11th-place finish at the 1992 Buick Southern Open and signed off his career with just two top-10 results in a PGA Tour career spanning 1991 to 1998.

Both can tell a first-hand anecdote or two about Tiger Woods from that day though.

As Friend said, according to pgatour.com: "The first [reaction] is, 'Oh man, this place is going to be a zoo'. People were all over the place.

"He was very much in his own bubble. We talked about school, 'How do you like school? What's your favourite subject?’.

"It was like playing with any other professional. Some guys talk. Some don't. He wasn't the least bit flummoxed by anything. He was very focused on what he was doing. He had the moxie of a guy who was a senior in college."

What now for Tiger?

As we know, the boy Woods went on to become the dominant golfing man of his generation.

With 15 majors among his record-tying 82 PGA Tour wins, his status as a sporting great is assured.

Woods also has 199 top-10 finishes on tour, and it might be more realistic to expect him to round that up to 200 than to imagine him winning again, as he battles to recover fully from the major leg injuries he sustained in an SUV roll that occurred in this week last year. He was fortunate to escape with his life, police said.

Woods said last week that he could not commit to returning to the PGA Tour in 2022, telling CBS: "You'll see me [again] on the PGA Tour, I just don’t know when.

"Trust me, I'd love to tell you I'll be playing next week but I don't know when, which is frustrating in that sense because I've been down this road too before with my back when I didn't know when I'd come back."

Whether he eventually does come back, or whether this is perhaps the end of the road for Woods the competitor, the world will be waiting and watching.

All those years ago at Riviera, he spoke of having "a long way to go". He went there, and then some.

Manchester United have not faced Atletico Madrid in European competition since the 1991-92 Cup Winners' Cup last 16, a tie the Spanish side won 4-1 on aggregate as Luis Aragones got the better of Alex Ferguson.

That was a meeting of two teams on the up: United were a year away from their first of 13 league titles under Ferguson, while Atleti would go on to win consecutive Copas del Rey, with a LaLiga triumph coming in 1996. Twenty years on, Atleti and United meet again in the last 16 of the Champions League, a competition neither is expected to win but one that represents the only means of salvaging their respectively rotten seasons.

It's a difficult one to call. United have become more resolute and less porous under Ralf Rangnick, losing just once over 90 minutes since Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was sacked in late November, but in their 15 games under their interim manager, they have not been tested by elite opposition. Atleti, champions last season, are 15 points off the pace set by Real Madrid in 2021-22 and, in the time Rangnick has been at Old Trafford, they have won six and lost eight of 15 matches in all competitions.

These are well-matched, dispirited teams, who occasionally thrill in attack but always unnerve in defence. Neither looks favourite to win, and neither can afford to lose.

It has, therefore, become a big-pressure situation for the goalkeepers – and that's where form starts to differ wildly.

This will be David de Gea's first competitive meeting with Atleti since he left for United in 2011. He probably didn't imagine he would win fewer league titles than his old club in the decade to follow, but that's another story.

De Gea can at least step onto the pitch at the Wanda Metropolitano on Wednesday knowing he can claim to be one of the best in the business again based on form – a claim that opposite number Jan Oblak certainly can't make.

We know United have been extremely vulnerable this season. In all competitions, they have faced 465 shots, the fifth-highest tally among teams in Europe's top five leagues; 168 of those attempts have been on target, the third-highest number a team has faced. What is particularly worrying is that 21 of their opponents' shots have come directly from United mistakes, the highest number on the continent behind Sevilla (23).

Looking at expected goals on target – a way of measuring not just the quality of a chance (xG) but the quality of the attempt itself – United's figure against stands at 51.1 in all competitions, the third-worst among Europe's top five leagues. And yet, they have conceded 44 goals – far more than pretenders to trophies should be letting in, but around seven fewer than the numbers suggest they should. Much of that is down to De Gea.

In the Premier League alone, De Gea has made 96 saves from 128 shots on target faced, giving him a save percentage of 73.44. No other keeper has made as many stops and only Leeds United's Illan Meslier has faced more attempts, yet Meslier has conceded 50 goals to De Gea's 34. Using that same xGOT model and subtracting goals conceded (excluding own goals), we can work out a value for how many goals a keeper has prevented through saves. For De Gea, that figure is 7.1, the best in the league.

If you include all competitions, De Gea has faced the most shots on target (157) among top-five-league teams apart from Leicester City's Kasper Schmeichel (158), again showing just how fragile United can be without the ball. Looking at that 'goals prevented' metric again, De Gea is at 7.86 – in other words, he's prevented roughly eight goals through the quality of his shot-stopping. Across the continent, only two keepers to play at least 15 times this season can do better.

Preventing goals and high save percentages have traditionally been where Oblak thrives. Since his Atleti debut in September 2014, he has the most clean sheets (167) in Europe's top five leagues and a save percentage of 76.5, the third-highest. According to the data, Oblak has prevented just over 51 goals in that time, at least four more than any other keeper and nearly 20 more than De Gea. It makes his form this season all the more troubling.

Oblak has faced 50 fewer shots on target this season than De Gea – implying Atleti's defence is still stronger than United's, even accounting for their dip in standards – yet he has conceded five goals more than the Spain international. Oblak has saved 61, or 57 per cent, of the shots he has faced this season, which is an alarming drop from his career average of 76.52 per cent in Atleti colours.

Using that same 'goals prevented' calculation, Oblak is at -7.05, meaning he has conceded at least seven goals more than should reasonably be expected. Among Europe's top leagues, only seven keepers come off worse this season, and only four by a significant degree.

There is of course more to a keeper's value than the number of times the ball goes in his net, but these numbers give us a good indication of which ones are performing well when it comes to rudimentary shot-stopping. A 15-goal swing between De Gea and Oblak this season tells you everything you need to know about their recent standards, and why Atleti will have more cause for concern than United in this hugely important knockout tie.

Champions League holders Chelsea get their knockout campaign started on Tuesday as the defence of their crown enters an altogether more challenging stage.

Thomas Tuchel's men may feel they have dodged a bullet or two by getting this draw, with their next opponents Lille struggling to match the highs of their Ligue 1 title victory from last season in 2021-22.

Tuesday's other encounter sees Juventus travel to Villarreal, with Massimiliano Allegri looking to improve on the knockout exploits of Maurizio Sarri and Andrea Pirlo before him.

Here, Stats Perform delves into the Opta data to pick out the key statistical narratives and subplots ahead of Tuesday's games.

Chelsea v Lille

Much of the attention at Stamford Bridge will be on Romelu Lukaku, whether the Belgian plays or not.

The big-money signing's struggles this season have been well-publicised, but he hit a new low on Saturday as he touched the ball just seven times in the win over Crystal Palace – that is the fewest by any player to feature for 90 minutes in a single Premier League game since at least 2003-04.

On the other side of the contest is a striker aiming to emulate Lionel Messi. Jonathan David may not have scored a Ligue 1 goal since December but the talented Canadian impressed in the second half of the group stage.

He scored one goal in each of his last three appearances in the competitions, meaning if he scores on Tuesday he will be the second-youngest (22 years, 39 days) non-European to score in four successive Champions League games after Messi (21y, 155d in November 2008).

That is not to say Lille are a high-scoring side. Many will be wondering who let Les Dogues out of Group G, given their haul of seven makes them the lowest-scoring group winners since Leicester City and Atletico Madrid (seven each) in 2016-17. In fact, no team from that section scored more than eight.

The omens are, perhaps unsurprisingly, overwhelmingly in Chelsea's favour here. Only Manchester City (15) and Bayern Munich (14) have won more Champions League games than the holders since the start of last season, while Lille are appearing at this stage for just the second time ever.

Further to that, Tuchel boasts a fine record in Champions League knockout ties, having progressed from/won (including finals) eight of his previous 11 (73 per cent), a success rate bettered by only three managers (minimum 10 knockout ties): Vicente del Bosque (80 per cent - 8/10), Jupp Heynckes (86 per cent - 12/14) and Zinedine Zidane (88 per cent - 14/16).

Villarreal v Juventus

Sarri and then Pirlo were both tasked with establishing a new era at Juventus, but when Allegri returned after a two-year break in pre-season, he picked up the pieces of a side that had regressed significantly.

There remain plenty who feel Allegri never should have been re-hired, but this tie at least gives him an opportunity to point to a degree of progress – at least in the context of the Champions League.

After all, neither Sarri nor Pirlo got beyond the last 16. Allegri, on the other hand, was only eliminated at this stage once in five seasons, and that was to Pep Guardiola's excellent Bayern side.

His counterpart on Tuesday, Unai Emery, has something of a point to prove as well, but his has more to do with his own personal record.

While something of a specialist at Europa League level, having won the competition four times including last season, he has won only one of six knockout games in the Champions League.

Much of Emery's hope will be pinned on Arnaut Danjuma.

The Dutchman – who recently returned from two months out and scored a hat-trick at the weekend – had a hand in five goals in the group stage, which is already a joint-club record for the club in the competition.

By no means are the Yellow Submarine a one-man team, however. Young winger Yeremi Pino caught the eye in the group and is plotting to become only the fourth Spanish teenager to score in the knockout stages of the Champions League after Bojan, Cesc Fabregas and Raul.

Saturday was quite a day in the Premier League, with shock results impacting both ends of the table, and the middle.

Liverpool appear to live challengers again in the title race after their 3-1 victory against Norwich City was followed by Tottenham's dramatic 3-2 win away to leaders Manchester City.

Mohamed Salah scored his 150th goal for Liverpool and Luis Diaz bagged his first in English football, while former City target Harry Kane insisted on shoving narrative into everyone's faces with a sensational performance for Spurs at the Etihad Stadium.

Elsewhere, a late Hakim Ziyech goal secured Chelsea a win at Crystal Palace, Arsenal's youngsters earned them a 2-1 win against Brentford, while West Ham were held to a 1-1 draw by Newcastle in the early game.

Burnley produced a surprising performance to win 3-0 at Brighton, with Wout Weghorst getting off the mark for his new club, while Watford also threw a spanner in the works of the relegation fight with a 1-0 win at Aston Villa.

The other game of a busy day in England's top flight saw Southampton beat Frank Lampard's Everton 2-0 at St Mary's thanks to goals from Stuart Armstrong and Shane Long.

Manchester City 2-3 Tottenham: City Kane-d by ruthless Spurs

Pep Guardiola's City team had looked imperious since losing at home to Crystal Palace in October, until today.

City were dominant but wasteful against Spurs, finding the target with only four of their 21 shots, while the visitors made Ederson work with five of their six efforts, beating him three times to take the points.

Kane’s winner, timed at 94:25, was the latest winning goal scored against City in the Premier League since Michael Owen for Manchester United in September 2009 (95:27).

Tottenham duo Kane and Son Heung-min have now assisted one another for 36 Premier League goals, the joint-most of any pairing in the competition's history, moving level with Didier Drogba and Frank Lampard.

Son has been directly involved in 10 goals in 15 appearances against City (seven goals, three assists); only against Southampton (15) and West Ham (11) has he had a hand in more goals for Spurs.

Meanwhile, Guardiola has lost twice to Tottenham this season, and has only lost more games to Chelsea (eight) than Spurs (six) in his entire managerial career.

Liverpool 3-1 Norwich: Reds come back thanks to usual suspects, and a new one

Early in the second half at Anfield, it did not look like Liverpool would be cutting Manchester City's lead on Saturday, finding themselves 1-0 down to the Canaries after Milot Rashica's first Premier League goal.

However, a marvellous overhead kick from Sadio Mane was soon followed by a historic moment for Salah, who scored his 150th goal for Liverpool in just his 233rd appearance. Only Roger Hunt (226) has reached that total faster in the club's history.

Luis Díaz became the 16th different Colombian player to score a Premier League goal, producing a nice finish after a Jordan Henderson throughball. He was also Liverpool’s 16th different goalscorer in the competition this season (excluding own goals), the joint-most of any side in 2021-22 (Chelsea and City both also 16).

Henderson was a standout performer on the day as well, drastically improving from his showing at Burnley last weekend.

He completed just 50 per cent of passes (18 out of 36) in the 1-0 win at Turf Moor, but on Saturday produced his second-best pass success rate in the Premier League for Liverpool in a game where he made at least 100 passes, with 97.2 per cent (104 of 107), only bettering that against Hull City in 2016-17 (97.3 per cent, 108 of 111).

Crystal Palace 0-1 Chelsea: Late Ziyech strike saves Blues

Chelsea returned to Premier League action after winning the FIFA Club World Cup last week to eventually secure three points against Palace thanks to an 89th-minute Ziyech strike. The Moroccan has scored in three consecutive league matches for the first time since September 2019 in the Eredivisie with Ajax.

The Blues have now won back-to-back league games for the first time since October, when they won four in a row, and could also be looking up the table after City's wobble.

It was another clean sheet for Chelsea, who have kept 37 in 70 matches in all competitions under Thomas Tuchel, more than any other Premier League side since the German’s first match in charge in January last year.

It was not all good from Tuchel's men though, with struggling striker Romelu Lukaku managing just seven touches, one of which was at the kick-off, the fewest in a single top-flight game for a player to feature for at least 90 minutes since Opta started collecting the data in 2003-04.

Arsenal 2-1 Brentford: Young guns fire Arteta's side to victory

Goals from Emile Smith Rowe and Bukayo Saka earned Arsenal a hard-fought win against Brentford, despite Christian Norgaard's late strike for the Bees.

Smith Rowe bagged his ninth league goal this season; the only player to score more in a single campaign for Arsenal when aged 21 or younger was Nicolas Anelka in 1998-99 (17).

Saka registered his 11th goal involvement in the Premier League this season (seven goals, four assists), the most of any under-21 player and a haul bettered only by Jarrod Bowen (16), Mason Mount (13) and Trent Alexander-Arnold (12) among English players.

The Gunners netted their 600th (and 601st) Premier League goals at the Emirates Stadium, reaching the milestone in their 297th game there, with only United at Old Trafford (283) and City at the Etihad (290) doing so at a single stadium in fewer games in the competition.

Brentford are winless in their last seven league games, last having a longer run between September and October 2018 (eight games). Thomas Frank's side have also lost their last five away league games, their longest such run since February 2011 (also five).

West Ham 1-1 Newcastle: Magpies continue to rise under Howe

Eddie Howe's 500th league game as a manager (410 with Bournemouth, 77 with Burnley and 13 with Newcastle) ended with a well-earned point from the London Stadium in the day's early kick-off.

Craig Dawson gave West Ham the lead before Joe Willock's equaliser came just before half-time.

Newcastle have now taken 12 points from their last six Premier League games, two more than they managed in their previous 18 this season (10 points).

Dawson's goal was the 11th scored from a set-piece by the Hammers in the league this season (not including penalties), a figure only Liverpool (14) and City (12) can better.

Brighton and Hove Albion 0-3 Burnley: Weghorst gets off the mark in big Clarets win

A quite remarkable performance from Sean Dyche's side in his 250th Premier League game in charge of Burnley saw them ease to a 3-0 win at the Amex Stadium, with Weghorst, Josh Brownhill and Aaron Lennon all finding the net.

Brighton suffered the heaviest defeat by a team hosting the English top flight's bottom side since Crystal Palace lost 4-0 at home to Sunderland in February 2017.

This was Burnley's first away win in the league since May 2021 (v Fulham), ending a run of 12 games without a win on the road. They also scored more goals in this game than they had in their previous five Premier League away games combined (two).

Weghorst scored his first goal for Burnley, becoming the first Dutchman to score for the Clarets in the competition. This ended a run of seven league games without scoring for Weghorst, with his previous goal coming in December for previous club Wolfsburg against Cologne.

Aston Villa 0-1 Watford: Dennis a menace to Villa

Another relegation-threatened side stepped up to secure an impressive away win as Roy Hodgson earned his first victory in charge of Watford thanks to a goal from Emmanuel Dennis.

This was the Hornets' first Premier League away win since October (5-2 v Everton), and their first away win in the competition while also keeping a clean sheet since January 2020 (3-0 v Bournemouth).

After winning two of their first three home games under Steven Gerrard (L1), Villa are now winless in their last four games at Villa Park (D2 L2). This was the first Premier League home game they have failed to score in since May 2021 (v Everton), ending a run of 12 in a row in which they had found the net.

Watford have now kept as many clean sheets in four Premier League games under Hodgson (two) as they had in their previous 36 games in the competition.

Southampton 2-0 Everton: Another free-kick continues Toon revival

The revival of Everton under Lampard was nowhere to be seen at St Mary's as Ralph Hasenhuttl's side continued their good run of form.

Southampton have now won four of their last eight Premier League games (D3 L1), as many victories as they managed in their previous 20 games in the competition (D8 L8).

Everton's total of 22 points from their first 23 games in the league this season is their worst at this stage of a top-flight campaign since 1950-51 (three points for a win), when they also had 22 and were relegated at the end of the season.

Long's goal was his first in the league since February 2020 (v Aston Villa), ending a run of 799 minutes without the Irishman scoring in the league.

Since Ralf Rangnick took charge at Manchester United, much of the focus on them has revolved around – unsurprisingly – how they press, or don't, for that matter.

Of course, the overriding narrative when he was appointed fixated on how he was the supposed 'godfather of gegenpressing' and would definitely have United pressing more effectively than Liverpool in a matter of weeks…

Okay, there probably weren't many making such grand claims, but the point remains: United's off-the-ball work became the focus.

That meant their rather underwhelming attacking displays went a little unnoticed until Rangnick started talking about their expected goals (xG) after their 1-1 draw with Southampton.

As it turns out, since Rangnick's arrival, United have underperformed their non-penalty xG by 5.5 across all competitions, the worst of any Premier League team in that time. When you do consider spot-kicks, that gap increases to 6.1. Brentford are the second-worst in both metrics (4.31 and 3.67, respectively).

United simply aren't scoring as many goals as they should given the quality of the chances they're creating, but you can spin that into a positive.

Assuming they continue to craft opportunities at a similar rate, they should – in theory – level out with respect to xG. Considering recent meetings with Leeds United and their own woes, could Marcelo Bielsa's men be the tonic they need?

LEEDS LATE TO RIVALRY PARTY

Matches against Man Utd are, in all likelihood, the first games your average Leeds fan will look for when the fixture list is released ahead of the season. While the rivalry may not be as fierce competitively on the pitch as it once was, the two sets of supporters still despise each other.

These rivalry clashes haven't been especially kind to Leeds since their long-awaited return to the Premier League, though.

Over the three games, Leeds haven't won once and trail 11-3 on aggregate, with United demolishing them 6-2 at Old Trafford last season and 5-1 there in August. The 0-0 draw at Elland Road in April last season is as good as it's got – that's also the last time the Red Devils failed to score on the road.

Leeds suffered those two Old Trafford nightmares having previously only conceded five or more goals away to United in all competitions twice in their previous 50 visits.

Further to that, the 6-2 was the first time a Bielsa team had conceded six times in a competition match since he was in charge of Newell's Old Boys in February 1992.

It was also the first occasion United had scored at least six goals since "I'd 8-2 be an Arsenal fan" happened, with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's men having netted just three times in their previous six home league games.

Of course, last season's clash at Elland Road was the opposite of a goal fest. The main difference this time is that the game won't be behind closed doors, though Leeds weren't quite this defensively feeble then.

LEAKS UNITED

It is worth mentioning that, indeed, Leeds were not as leaky last season, as has been said. But even when they were in good shape, few would consider them among the tightest teams at the back.

Their 54 concessions in 2020-21 may not have been alarming in itself, with six teams letting in more, but at a rate of 1.4 goals conceded every game they were always likely to find themselves in a little danger if, A) they stopped scoring as often, or B) they didn't improve the defence.

Sure enough, injuries have played a massive part in Leeds' struggles this season, with most of their key players spending at least a short period on the sidelines.

That's been especially felt at the back. While Leeds' goals scored per game remains at a similar – albeit slightly lower – rate (1.5 down from 1.6), their concessions have rocketed from 1.4 every match to 2.0.

Only Norwich City (50) have conceded more Premier League goals than Leeds this season (46), and 26 of those have come in the nine matches since their last clean sheet in November. It's a diabolical run.

Granted, it would appear they have been somewhat unfortunate. Their expected goals against (xGA) (40.4) is 4.6 lower than their goals conceded (excluding own goals) record, suggesting they have on occasion been punished by particularly impressive finishing.

But their xGA remains the third-poorest in the league and, as the graphic above suggests, they've been conceding higher-value chances than they've been creating on average practically all season. That -0.74 differential on their rolling average between non-penalty (np) xG for and xGA heading into the weekend highlights just how much worse they are defensively than they are good going forward at the moment.

THAT ONE'S A KEEPER

An interesting underlying narrative ahead of this clash is the form of the respective goalkeepers.

David de Gea is arguably back to his very best, the Spaniard enjoying a wonderful season after falling out of favour in 2020-21 – it's as though Dean Henderson's emergence as a viable replacement spooked him into pulling his finger out.

Whereas Illan Meslier is – according to the numbers at least – having a very difficult season.

That's not necessarily to say Meslier is entirely to blame. In fact, he's not made any Opta-defined errors leading to shots this term, whereas De Gea has made two. Similarly, as Leeds' xGA shows, they give away a lot of chances and there's only so much a goalkeeper – and a young one at that – can do.

Indeed, Meslier was considered one of few positives from Leeds' recent 3-0 battering by Everton, yet the numbers don't make for such kind reading.

According to Opta's 'goals prevented' metric, Meslier should have stopped as many as 7.3 of the goals he has conceded this season, by far the worst record in the league (Vicente Guaita: 5.1). De Gea, on the other hand, has apparently been the most decisive keeper, actively preventing 6.9 goals and making a division-high 92 saves.

Meslier is ranked second for saves (80), but it would also seem he has let in several goals the average keeper might've been expected to keep out.

Intriguingly, United's rolling average in terms of np-xG for and xGA has their current differential as the exact inverse of that of Leeds, with Rangnick's side enjoying a positive 0.74 difference in favour of xG for, meaning they are creating better chances than they concede and are seemingly at their most cohesive in attack all season.

It's by far the biggest rolling average gap United have seen this term – at least in favour of xG for – and the 2-0 win over Brighton and Hove Albion in midweek looked like another step towards being a more ruthless attacking unit.

Creating chances hasn't really been a problem in recent weeks, the issue has been finishing them off. While rivalry meetings can be unpredictable, and a full house at Elland Road should at least ensure the hosts have a vocal backing, it wouldn't be in the least bit surprising if Leeds are proven to be the cannon fodder United need.

As Liverpool continue their quest to put pressure on Manchester City (well, try to), Norwich City travel to Anfield hoping to boost survival chances.

But history isn't on the side of Dean Smith's men, who must be fearing the worst against a side they never seem to cope well with.

Expectations for Norwich are surely lower against Liverpool than versus any other team.

Here's why…

Red-faced Canaries

Norwich City really, really don't like playing Liverpool. Liverpool really, really enjoy playing Norwich City.

The Reds have handed out some absolute batterings to Norwich down the years, with the Luis Suarez era particularly profitable for the Reds.

Granted, a historically good team racking up goals against sides who traditionally finish near the bottom isn't anything new, but Liverpool's domination of Norwich does take things a bit further.

They average 2.8 goals per game against the Canaries in the Premier League – that's 53 in 19 matches. Among all the teams the Reds have played at least five times, that is their highest rate.

Liverpool have already beaten Norwich twice this season, winning 3-0 in the Premier League and 3-0 in the EFL Cup.

If they beat them by three or more goals again, it'll be only the ninth occasion of an English top-flight side completing such a hat-trick in a single season, and the first since Arsenal against Aston Villa in 2014-15.

Fortress Anfield

Anfield is a tough place to go at the best of times – from Norwich's perspective, this certainly isn't "the best of times".

As Liverpool continue to badger away near the top of the table, hoping to capitalise on any Manchester City slip-up, they have put together a strong run at home.

They are unbeaten in their previous 15 home league games and have won the most recent six by an aggregate score of 17-1.

Norwich do at least make the long trip to Liverpool – presumably made even longer by Storm Eunice – having won their last away game.

Having said that, away to Liverpool is a slightly different proposition than going to Watford, with all due respect.

Similarly, Norwich haven't won back-to-back away games in the top flight since January 2012 and managed to win just one of their last 25 league meetings with a top-three side – that was on the final day of 2012-13.

Polar opposites

Apart from the fact they've conceded the most (50) and scored the fewest (14) in the Premier League, Norwich aren't doing too badly…

Okay, that sounds disingenuous but they have managed to climb to 18th in the table and a win here – however unlikely that may be – could see them end the weekend one point from safety.

The problem, though, is the contrasting quantities of their goals record with Liverpool, who have scored the joint-most (61) and conceded the third-fewest (19).

On top of that, Liverpool have scored more than twice as many goals in both the first (31) and second half (30) of games as Norwich have in total this term.

It certainly won't look like there's much hope if Norwich need goals in the second half. Six of their strikes this term have been after the break, though half of those came one game (away to Watford).

Salah eyes assists double-double achievement

It won't be remotely surprising to learn Salah has a good record against Norwich. He's been involved in five goals (two scored, three assisted) in three Premier League matches against them.

With that in mind, he'll surely be confident of adding to that haul and reaching a landmark.

With 16 goals and nine assists already this term, Salah is agonisingly close to reaching double figures in both for the third time in a Premier League season, having also managed this in 2017-18 and 2019-20.

Only three players in Premier League history have managed it three times or more, with Eric Cantona leading the way (four) and Didier Drogba the sole individual on three.

It's surely only a matter of time, and his track record against Norwich would have few betting against it occurring on Saturday.

It took just two games of the 2021-22 season for Manchester City's failed pursuit of Harry Kane to become a big problem for Pep Guardiola.

After losing the Community Shield to Leicester City, they promptly went to Tottenham Hotspur Stadium and lost 1-0 again, even with Kane absent and City boasting Premier League record signing Jack Grealish.

The narrative arc was glaring: City would fall short without a recognised number nine, while Spurs were neither dependent on Kane nor foolhardy to snub the chance of a huge transfer fee. Perhaps he could realise his dream of big trophies in north London after all.

Six months on, and the world has come to its senses. Since losing to Spurs, City have won 20 and lost just one of their Premier League matches and look to be marching imperiously towards the title again. Spurs have changed manager, swapping one the fans never really wanted for one who gives a good impression he would rather be anywhere else, and are enduring a three-game losing run that has put their Champions League hopes in jeopardy.

And nobody is really talking about Kane, except to wonder what's going wrong.

It's beginning to look like City dodged a nine-figure bullet by not pursuing their interest. Kane has just five goals and two assists in 21 league games this season, his minutes-per-goal rate of 358.4 more than twice as bad as at any other time in his career, while his expected goals tally of 8.99 is the lowest since he played just 10 times in 2013-14.

Part of that problem can be attributed to Kane's role under Nuno Espirito Santo and now Antonio Conte. His link-up play is still effective: he is creating on average one chance per 90 minutes, slightly down on his career average in the Premier League, but averaging more passes played into the box (3.1) than he ever has.

Similarly, he is top among Spurs players for involvements in open-play sequences ending in a shot (98) – even when you remove the 52 where Kane's only contribution was the shot, he still ranks as high as fifth (46). In other words, he remains key to both getting them on the front foot and testing the opposition's goalkeeper.

Yet ultimately, Kane will be judged on goal involvements, which makes this season a distinct disappointment. Whether he was affected by City's failed pursuit, or a hangover from England's Euro 2020 final defeat – or a combination of both – it's hard to make a case for this Kane to be the missing link for Guardiola's City. And that's especially true when you consider just what Guardiola wants in his forwards: the ability to play in any position across the attack, rather than become pinioned in the number-nine role. It's why he saw fit to spend £100million on Grealish, why Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Robert Lewandowski and Sergio Aguero have each faced battles to keep their places in his teams, and why any move for Erling Haaland is no guarantee.

It also makes you wonder why City did not turn their attentions to the man who scored the winner in that game at Spurs last August, and who has six goals in eight matches against them.

Son Heung-min would appear, on the face of it, an ideal Guardiola player. He has proved himself adept out wide, as a number 10 and as a central striker for Spurs, hitting double figures for goals and assists for two league seasons running – don't rule out him repeating the feat again.

With nine goals and three assists, Son leads the way for direct goal involvements for Spurs in this season's difficult Premier League campaign. He has also created the most chances (36), playing 144 passes into the box, which is almost double the number of any team-mate (this includes set-pieces, of course). Son also boasts the best shot conversion rate (18.8) among players with more than one goal, while Kane's is down at just seven per cent.

The South Korea star is second only to Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg when it comes to involvements in Spurs' build-up play in the top flight this season, 35 of which have ended in a shot on goal. And when he doesn't have the ball, Son remains adept at winning it back: he has won possession the most among Spurs attackers (89), with 11 of those gains occurring in the opposition's defensive third.

Adaptable, hard-working and clinical are words that could be ascribed to any of City's forwards, and Son fits right in that same group. Should Spurs fail to qualify for the Champions League again, they may be forced to make some concessions in the transfer market, especially if they want to satisfy Conte's demands while keeping costs down. Son has just over three years on his contract and does not appear likely to agitate for a move, but, ahead of his 30th birthday in July, the next window could represent his final opportunity for a major transfer.

If anyone in a Spurs shirt is likely to impress City officials on Saturday, it's Son.

By now, you probably all get it: Trent Alexander-Arnold, Kevin De Bruyne and Mohamed Salah are pretty good at kicking a football.

So, for this week's fantasy picks, Stats Perform has looked at the Opta numbers behind some players who may not offer quite the same points guarantee as the superstars, but are cheaper and nowhere near as popular.

If everyone picks the exact same players, fantasy football managers will pick up similar points – why not take a punt on some of these?

NICK POPE (Brighton and Hove Albion v Burnley)

Burnley may be mired in a relegation battle, but goalkeeper Nick Pope has looked sharp so far in 2022.

The England international has kept two clean sheets, bettered only by Alisson and Ederson, and prevented more goals than anyone else (3.6).

He may represent something of a risk, but his form suggests Pope could be a shrewd buy.

RICARDO PEREIRA (Wolves v Leicester City)

Granted, Pereira has only scored in consecutive games once before, way back in September 2019. However, his strike against West Ham was a timely reminder of his talents following injury troubles.

Up next is a trip to Wolves. While Bruno Lage's men are solid, they do not scored masses, and Pereira has done damage to them before.

With two assists, he has only claimed more goal involvements against Everton (three) and West Ham (four) in his Premier League career.

JACOB RAMSEY (Aston Villa v Watford)

Ramsey has been a standout breakthrough youngster in the Premier League this term, with his form in recent weeks in particular causing people to sit up and take note.

The 20-year-old has six goal involvements this season, a figure only Bukayo Saka (10) can better among under-21 players.

Five of Ramsey's have been in his past seven matches, and this weekend sees Villa host struggling Watford – he might just fancy his chances of adding to his tally, and he is still a fairly cheap option.

MICHAEL OLISE (Crystal Palace v Chelsea)

Olise is another young player having a solid season – he has also tallied six Premier League goal involvements this term.

Those have come in just 568 minutes on the pitch, meaning he is involved in 0.95 goals per 90 minutes.

Only Mohamed Salah (1.19), Patson Daka (1.05), Riyad Mahrez (1.0) and Paul Pogba (0.98) boast a better record than Olise among players with at least 500 minutes played.

Again, he remains a low-cost option.

When watching games from pretty much any league in the world, there is a reasonable chance one of the players featured will be described as "on loan from Chelsea".

Such is the volume of players the recent FIFA Club World Cup winners send out on loan each season, they have even had their own WhatsApp group to keep in touch, as revealed a few years ago by Patrick Bamford.

The Leeds striker, who was on loan at Crystal Palace from Chelsea at the time, said: "The loan department set it up and allowed people in. Sometimes it drains your battery when everyone is messaging each other."

It had been seen as a ploy for the London club to hoard players for several years before selling them on for a profit once they had established themselves, but in recent times, especially with youngsters who came through the youth ranks at Cobham, it seems the chance of a first-team appearance isn't as fanciful as it once was.

The likes of Tammy Abraham, Mason Mount and Reece James went on to become regular first-teamers after successful loan spells elsewhere.

Conor Gallagher has been loaned out by Chelsea four times and is currently turning out for Palace, earning valuable Premier League minutes, just as he did last season at West Brom.

The 22-year-old is yet to make his first-team debut for the Blues, but in light of his performances for the Eagles, his long wait could potentially be over next season.

Ahead of Chelsea's trip to Selhurst Park to face Palace on Saturday, where Gallagher will be ineligible to play against his parent club, Stats Perform takes a look at whether he could indeed have a future at Stamford Bridge.

Little by little, Gallagher impresses Tuchel

Speaking in December, Blues boss Thomas Tuchel said: "We love Conor. We are convinced about him.

"We took the decision for Conor because when we looked at the midfield - Mateo Kovacic, Jorginho, N'Golo Kante - he was considered number four in the group.

"Conor knew this all the way. An opportunity came up where he could clearly see more minutes and more responsibility."

Tuchel ended up signing Saul Niguez on loan from Atletico Madrid, but the Spaniard has failed to make an impact during his time in England.

Gallagher, meanwhile, has scored seven goals in 21 Premier League appearances this season, including braces against Everton and West Ham, as well as a goal and an assist in Palace's shock 2-0 win at Manchester City in October.

It has been a lengthy journey already for the player, though, having been loaned to Charlton Athletic in 2019.

He impressed so much that Chelsea cut his loan short in the January window as, despite Gallagher's performances, Charlton were struggling in the Championship and he was instead sent to Swansea City, who were challenging for promotion.

Although he failed to score during his time in Wales, he still impressed then Swans manager Steve Cooper – who had managed England's U17s to World Cup glory in 2017 – as he grabbed five assists in his first nine games at the Liberty Stadium.

The next logical move was the Premier League, and Gallagher was loaned to West Brom for the 2020-21 campaign, where he made 32 appearances in all competitions, before heading to Selhurst Park for another season of top-flight football.

Although he performed well at West Brom, Gallagher has undoubtedly stepped up a gear under the tutelage of Palace's Patrick Vieira, and even earned his first senior England cap when he came on as a substitute in the 10-0 thrashing of San Marino in November.

It has not just been a case of him looking good among his team-mates at Palace. Gallagher actually stacks up well against most Premier League midfielders.

Only Arsenal's Emile Smith-Rowe and Bruno Fernandes of Manchester United (eight) have scored more this season than Gallagher's seven, while only Manchester City's Ilkay Gundogan has a higher expected goals rate (6.22) than Gallagher's 5.47, which is based on the quality of the chances for a player.

Like Mason, can Gallagher mount a challenge at Chelsea?

It is hard to ignore the fact that Gallagher's improvement this season has come under a manager who was one of the best midfielders in the world during his playing days in Vieira, much like Mount grew significantly while working under Frank Lampard both at Derby County and Chelsea.

Mount's is clearly the path that Gallagher should aim to tread. From being a promising youngster out on loan, he became an integral part of a European and world championship winning side.

Gallagher can take heart from the fact that Tuchel has already expressed his admiration, and the German has been happy to continue to give young players chances where he can, but it remains a place that Gallagher will have to earn.

Compared to Chelsea midfielders who have played more than five games this season, Gallagher measures well on chance creation, with only Mount (2.13) creating more per 90 minutes than his 1.61.

In terms of profile, Gallagher is certainly more in the mould of a Mount than any other of Chelsea's current midfielders. Both look to get forward whenever possible, and have more touches in the opposition box per 90 than any of the Blues' other options (Mount = 5.21, Gallagher = 3.07).

They also both have significantly more penalty box entries per 90 than any other Chelsea midfielder with over five Premier League appearances this term (Mount = 7.78, Gallagher = 5.22), with the next highest being Kante with 2.72, and a higher xG excluding penalties per 90 (Mount = 0.24, Gallagher = 0.27), with the next highest being Loftus-Cheek with 0.14.

The issue with Gallagher being so similar to Mount is that he'd likely find himself being in an either/or situation. Tuchel prefers to have two controlling players in his midfield three, usually two of Jorginho, Kante and Kovacic, so it seems unlikely he'd start Mount and Gallagher together very often.

It therefore seems like, should Tuchel indeed look to utilise him at Stamford Bridge next year, it will be Ross Barkley's place in the squad that Gallagher slots into, and the former Everton man has only made four starts in all competitions this season, two of which came in the EFL Cup.

The question then becomes one of whether Gallagher is happy with that role after two seasons of regular football in the Premier League and with an England spot to fight for ahead of the World Cup in November.

For the time being, it is not something that the player needs to focus on too much. He can simply enjoy the game time he is getting in south London and try to perform to the sort of levels that will give Tuchel a decision to make when planning for next season.

Michael Masi will no longer serve as Formula One race director following a "detailed analysis" of last year's controversial Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

Masi's call to unlap cars between Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen to permit one lap of racing, allowing the Red Bull superstar to snatch the title, was widely criticised and has resulted in his removal from his role.

But that is not the only change to be introduced in 2022 as part of an "in-depth reform of the organisation of refereeing and race direction", which was presented on Thursday by FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem.

As the FIA aims to move on from an episode that marred one of the greatest seasons in F1 history, Ben Sulayem outlined four key areas for reform.

"These changes will enable us to start the 2022 Formula One season in the best conditions, and our sport will be even more loved and respected," he said.

But what are these changes – billed as offering a "new step forward in Formula One refereeing" – and why have they been made?

VAR IN F1

As well as to ensure competition rules are enforced, these changes have been made to ease the pressure on the race director.

Masi's decision was all about an interpretation of the regulations, rather than an error based on an absence of technology, but Ben Sulayem feels the race director moving forward will benefit from additional support.

For this reason, a "virtual race control room" will be created to "assist the race director in the decision-making process".

"In real-time connection with the FIA F1 race director, it will help to apply the sporting regulations using the most modern technological tools," Ben Sulayem said.

If this sounds like football's VAR being introduced to F1, the FIA thinks so too. In his speech on Thursday, Ben Sulayem drew parallels with VAR, which operates outside of stadiums but assists match referees. The virtual race control room will similarly be positioned away from the circuit at FIA offices.

RADIO EXCHANGES TAKEN OFF THE AIR

In the aftermath of the Abu Dhabi GP, as F1 fans on both sides of the title divide raged, Masi was not helped by the official broadcast.

Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff fumed at Masi's decision to expose Hamilton, and Masi replied: "Toto, it's called a motor race, okay?"

This conversation, as with numerous exchanges throughout races, was relayed to those watching on television.

Leaked footage in recent weeks has suggested Red Bull implored Masi to make that judgement, using the same term in asking for "a motor race".

This conversation was not actually heard at the time, but Masi certainly did not benefit from being on display to the world as he made the biggest call of his career.

These direct radio communications will no longer be broadcast, Ben Sulayem revealed, "to protect the race director from any pressure and allow him to take decisions peacefully".

"It will still be possible to ask questions to the race director, according to a well-defined and non-intrusive process," the FIA president added.

UNLAPPING RULE TO BE REASSESSED

Part of the difficulty in Abu Dhabi was that even seasoned F1 watchers were unsure if Masi had acted correctly. Red Bull clearly thought he had done; Mercedes, unsurprisingly, disagreed.

Should a similar scenario arise again, the FIA would hope its race director would have a clear idea of the process.

"Unlapping procedures behind safety car will be reassessed by the F1 sporting advisory committee and presented to the next F1 commission prior to the start of the season," Ben Sulayem said.

MASI OUT AND REPLACED BY TWO

Masi will be offered a role elsewhere in the FIA after he "accomplished a very challenging job" across three years, but rather than being replaced by a single new race director, the governing body is putting in place "a new race management team".

Masi had endured a draining season even before the Abu Dhabi drama, and the load will be shared moving forward.

Niels Wittich and Eduardo Freitas, the two race directors, will act alternately, supported by a permanent senior advisor in Herbie Blash.

With multiple officials now overseeing the 2022 title race, the FIA will hope for less scrutiny of any one individual. The focus on Masi alone at such a crucial stage last year was surely hugely unhelpful.

A fixture worthy of the final, and a goal fit to win any game of football.

Paris Saint-Germain versus Real Madrid was billed as the tie of the round of 16, the Champions League kings against the would-be usurpers, old money versus new. More than that, it was the match to decide the future of Kylian Mbappe: parent club and suitors, battling for the right to call him their own next season. It was the sporting equivalent of a divorced couple fighting over the family dog, waiting to see who he runs to.

At full-time, it was 1-0 to PSG, a deserved win at the end of probably their best performance under Mauricio Pochettino. It was Mbappe, of course, who scored the goal at the death, reminding home and away teams why getting him to sign their contract might be the most important thing they do for years.

This tie and that tale are far from over.

The word from Spain is that Mbappe's signing is as good as done. Indeed, he might as well play with a Madrid shirt concealed underneath his PSG colours, ready to tear off the disguise and reveal his true identity as Florentino Perez's latest galactico. You can already see the Superman segment on El Chiringuito.

In Paris, they whisper a different story, one in which Mbappe may yet be convinced to sign a new deal and fulfil his dreams in his home city alongside Lionel Messi and Neymar.

The truth is nobody but Mbappe knows for certain what he wants to do, but there was an undeniable feeling on Tuesday that he might have outgrown his surroundings. Already the best player in France, perhaps he sees lighting up LaLiga as the next logical step towards a football legacy.

When Barcelona pulled off that incomprehensible comeback against PSG five years ago, Neymar was the star. It was his three-minute double that pushed Barca to the brink of an impossible 6-1 victory, and his pass to Sergi Roberto that delivered it. Yet it was Messi who took centre stage in the club's post-match footage and imagery; according to some reports, thus were sown the seeds of Neymar's longing to break free of Camp Nou shackles, ending in that €222million transfer.

It was hard not to think of that as Mbappe, midway through the second half here, watched Messi take and miss the penalty he had won.

If this really was the 'Mbappe derby', he looked happy – even determined – to embrace it as such, even if that wasn't always the best course of action. He skipped and step-overed his way into the box and shot straight into a packed Madrid defence when the cut-back to Messi was obvious. He led poor Dani Carvajal a merry dance, charging straight at him or cutting infield, the full-back little better at guessing his next move than the thousands of spectators who cheered his every touch. Just past the hour, Carvajal gave up on subtlety and decided hurling himself into the forward's legs was the only way to stop him. The only surprise was that Messi, not Mbappe, took the spot-kick that was saved by Thibaut Courtois.

For all Mbappe's efforts, there was no breakthrough. Madrid had defended stoutly, their attempts to attack given up in the opening minutes. David Alaba and Eder Militao marshalled the rearguard expertly, and Courtois showed why he is probably now the world's best goalkeeper. Even Neymar's first appearance since November could not breach the barricades, although they certainly creaked with every blonde-haired burst forward.

But of course Mbappe had the final say, and with practically the final kick. Neymar backheeled it, Mbappe flowed fleet-footed through a gap, and the ball was beneath Courtois via a tiny, telling deflection before his long legs could hit the ground. It was a 94th-minute winner, delivered with the speed and precision of the first move of a training session.

Mbappe wheeled away, arms outstretched, team-mates chasing in his wake, the Parc des Princes a living roar. His moment, his night, his team. But which one?

© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.