Senegal have been criticised by brain injury association Headway for their handling of Sadio Mane's head injury in the Africa Cup of Nations win over Cape Verde.

Liverpool star Mane received a nasty blow to the head in a collision with Cape Verde goalkeeper Vozinha, who was sent off after a VAR review of the incident, during Tuesday's last-16 tie.

Mane received treatment on the field but was allowed to stay on and subsequently curled in a brilliant opener for Senegal, who went on to win 2-0.

The forward was taken off shortly after and was then taken to hospital for further assessment.

A photograph – posted on the official Africa Cup of Nations Twitter account – revealed that Vozinha visited Mane in hospital after the game.

Sharing the photo on Instagram, Mane told his 9.1million followers: "All is well. Thank you all for the messages."

However, brain injury association Headway have criticised how Senegal allowed Mane to play on following the collision.

"On the face of it, this seems to be yet another example of football putting results ahead of player safety," said Luke Griggs, deputy chief executive of Headway, in a statement released on the association's website.

"This was a sickening collision that clearly left both players in enough distress for a concussion to have surely been considered a possibility at the very least.

"At that point, the principle of 'if in doubt, sit it out!' should have resulted in Mane being substituted without another ball being kicked.

"The image of the player collapsing on the ground and having to be helped from the pitch after scoring his goal should tell you everything you need to know about the impact and the effect it had had on his brain.

"Yet again, the desire to win is seen as being worth serious risks to players' health. It is simply shocking that this continues to happen.

"This is now a real test of leadership for The Confederation of African Football (CAF) and world governing body FIFA – particularly if Senegal declare Mane fit for Sunday's quarter-final.

"If football wants to be taken seriously when it comes to concussion, it simply must take action to enforce and strengthen its protocols."

In the Premier League, concussion substitutes have been introduced that enable teams to take a player off if they have sustained a head injury, without giving up one of their three allocated changes.

Neither FIFA nor CAF had commented on the incident at the time of publication.

Sadio Mane says "all is well" after he was taken to hospital following a nasty clash of heads during Senegal's Africa Cup of Nations victory over Cape Verde.

Mane's brilliant strike broke the deadlock as Aliou Cisse's side overcame stubborn opponents 2-0 to advance to the quarter-finals of the competition.

However, Senegal forward Mane was substituted soon afterwards, appearing to still be feeling the effects of an earlier collision with Vozinha.

As he chased a bouncing ball on the edge of the penalty area, Mane collided with the Cape Verde goalkeeper, who was dismissed following the intervention of VAR.

A photograph – posted on the official Africa Cup of Nations Twitter account – revealed that Vozinha visited the Liverpool forward in hospital after the game.

Sharing the photo on Instagram, Mane told his 9.1million followers: "All is well. Thank you all for the messages."

He will now hope to be fit for the quarter-finals, where Senegal will play either Mali or Equatorial Guinea on Sunday.

Captain Kalidou Koulibaly said after the game, quoted by Senegalese sport website wiwsport.com: "Sadio Mane has to do some tests. We've had him on the telephone, and he says he's OK. He wasn't wanting to come off, but no risks should be taken. He's an important player for us."

Reports later on Tuesday evening said Mane had been released from hospital.

Chelsea once again downed Tottenham at Stamford Bridge in the headline clash of the weekend's Premier League fixtures.

Fellow title hopefuls Liverpool, who still have a game in hand, closed the gap on leaders Manchester City to nine points with victory over Crystal Palace in south London.

Staying in the capital, Arsenal were held to a goalless draw by lowly Burnley as they lost ground in the race for the top four, while Leicester City shared the points with Brighton and Hove Albion.

With the action all over for a couple of weeks, Stats Perform unpacks the pick of the data from Sunday's fixtures.

Crystal Palace 1-3 Liverpool: Reds down Eagles again as Robertson delivers

Liverpool reduced Manchester City's advantage at the top to nine points after a 3-1 victory over Palace, who have lost each of their last 10 league meetings with the Reds.

Virgil van Dijk placed Jurgen Klopp's side in control after just eight minutes at Selhurst Park with his 10th headed goal in the competition – only Sami Hyypia (17) has scored more headers for the Reds in the Premier League.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain added a second after the half-hour mark as he scored in back-to-back top-flight matches for the first time since February 2020.

Both of those goals were created by Andrew Robertson, who now sits joint-second with team-mate Trent Alexander-Arnold (both 43) for the most assists in the league since the start of the 2017-18 season, with only Kevin De Bruyne boasting more (52).

Odsonne Edouard halved the deficit in the second half, but Fabinho secured three points with Liverpool's 169th Premier League spot-kick – the joint-most awarded to a team in the competition's history along with Manchester United.

Arsenal 0-0 Burnley: Gunners fail to fire against Clarets

Arsenal have failed to win any of their opening five games of a calendar year for the first time since 1995 after being held to a 0-0 draw by Burnley.

Nick Pope was in excellent form, while Alexandre Lacazette spurned a glorious open-goal opportunity, as the Clarets conceded 20 shots – the most they have faced in the Premier League without conceding since May 2021 (21 versus Fulham).

Lacazette's profligacy meant the Gunners have failed to score in four consecutive matches across all competitions for the first time since December 2005.

Arsenal will be desperate to improve upon their torrid run of form to challenge for the top four, with this stalemate being the first time the Gunners have failed to beat the team starting the day bottom of the table at home for the first time since October 2008.

Leicester City 1-1 Brighton and Hove Albion: Foxes tamed by away specialists

Leicester remained unbeaten at home to Brighton in the Premier League, though Brendan Rodgers may feel they should have claimed victory after a 1-1 draw.

Patson Daka broke the deadlock as he became just the second Foxes player to score in each of his first three home starts in the competition, after Leonardo Ulloa in the 2014-15 season.

The Zambia striker found the net just 26 seconds after the interval, the quickest goal scored in the second half of a top-flight game since February 2020.

However, Danny Welbeck levelled things up as he scored his fourth goal against Leicester in the Premier League, only bettering that haul in games with Aston Villa (five).

Neither side could find a late winner, ensuring the Foxes remain unbeaten at home to the Seagulls in the top flight since December 1980, while Graham Potter's side have only lost one of their last 11 away leagues games – a joint-low with Manchester City.

Chelsea 2-0 Tottenham: Blues make London derby history  

Chelsea registered their fourth win in all competitions this season – and third in January alone – over London rivals Tottenham with a 2-0 triumph at Stamford Bridge.

Harry Kane thought he had struck first before the break but a slight push on Thiago Silva saw his finish ruled out before Hakim Ziyech expertly curled in his fifth league goal for Chelsea – all five of those having come at different venues.

Silva added a second soon after as he became the oldest player (37 years, 123 days) to score in the Premier League since February 2013 to condemn Antonio Conte to his first top-flight defeat as Spurs head coach.

The defender's header was set up by a free-kick from Mason Mount, who provided his 20th assist since the start of the 2019-20 campaign – the most by any Chelsea player across all competitions in that period.

Spurs were unable to breach the Blues' goal, meaning they have now gone six matches across all competitions since last scoring against Chelsea, who became the first side to collect 500 points in Premier League London derby matches (501 points from 272 derbies).

Jurgen Klopp insisted "the distance is too far" between Liverpool and Manchester City to talk about the Premier League title race after a 3-1 win at Crystal Palace.

Virgil van Dijk and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain offered the Reds control with goals in the first half at Selhurst Park, but Odsonne Edouard's second-half strike teed up a nervy ending on Sunday.

Fabinho sealed all three points from the penalty spot after Vicente Guita was ruled to have fouled Diogo Jota, though Klopp's side owed much credit to goalkeeper Alisson for victory.

The Brazilian was required to make four saves, the joint-most of his 2021-22 campaign along with performances against Brighton and Hove Albion and Leeds United, as Liverpool managed a 10th straight victory over Palace in the league.

It leaves them nine points behind leaders City, while still boasting a game in hand, and manager Klopp refused to start speculating about a potential chase for the title just yet.

Asked by the BBC about Liverpool's title challenge, Klopp said: "No. The distance is too far to talk about it, but we don't have to. We just need to win football matches. 

"Each Premier League game is difficult, like we saw today. We made it more exciting than necessary! We will see what happens in the final few months."

Liverpool recorded victory without the likes of Mohamed Salah, Naby Keita and Sadio Mane, who are still away on international duty at the Africa Cup of Nations.

The Reds trio should return to Merseyside before their next Premier League fixture, which sees them take on Leicester City at Anfield on February 10, and Klopp was delighted to have negotiated a challenging January period.

"Massive. It is obviously January which is a tricky period for us historically - well at least during my time," Klopp said. "You play without three players in Africa and a few others, so we had a small group to get through this, but the boys did incredible.

"It showed how insanely good we can be and how bad as well! For 35 minutes we were outstanding.

"We looked really sharp and ready to play in small spaces, then two or three sloppy passes and the stadium is back, Palace is back, and we did not start well in the second half. We had our moments, but we did not control it anymore.

"If you lose a little bit of focus it showed how tired we could be as Palace played a really good game. We opened the door for them and they ran through."

Van Dijk opened the scoring after just eight minutes in south London with his 10th headed goal in the competition – the only defender to have scored more headers in the Premier League for the Reds is Sami Hyypia (17).

The Netherlands international praised Andy Robertson's delivery as the centre-back reiterated Liverpool were not getting ahead of themselves in the title race.

"It was a very good corner from Andy Robertson," Van Dijk told Sky Sports. "We practised a lot for this, so important to finally get on the scoresheet again.

"I'm just happy to get the three points because it was a tough one. You can't deny it's [the title race] in your mind but as we have said many times we take it game by game. It sounds a bit boring, but it is like that.

"We are not looking at them because there is no point. There are so many games to play. We focus on ourselves."

Liverpool closed the gap on Premier League leaders Manchester City to nine points with a 3-1 victory at Crystal Palace on Sunday.

Jurgen Klopp's side recorded a remarkable 7-0 victory in this exact fixture last season and were soon in command as Virgil van Dijk and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain struck in the first half at Selhurst Park.

Palace deservedly pulled one back through Odsonne Edouard just after the break, but Fabinho sealed all three points from the penalty spot in the closing stages.

Victory saw Liverpool reduce City's lead at the summit after they were held by Southampton on Saturday, while the Reds still have a game in hand.

A deflected Jordan Henderson strike forced the first save of the contest from Vicente Guaita, but the Palace goalkeeper had no chance of stopping Van Dijk's thumping header from Andrew Robertson's out-swinging corner a minute later.
 
Liverpool doubled their lead just past the half-hour mark as Oxlade-Chamberlain brought down Robertson's inviting delivery and hammered home.
 
Alisson then denied Michael Olise as Palace looked to respond, while Jean-Phillipe Mateta saw his strike deflected wide after rounding the Brazil international.

Conor Gallagher headed a glorious point-blank chance wide immediately after the interval, before Alisson thwarted an inventive Edouard flick.

Palace eventually breached the Liverpool goal after 55 minutes when Mateta latched on to Jeffrey Schlupp's immense throughball and selflessly squared to Edouard for a tap-in.

Joachim Andersen fired narrowly wide moments after and Alisson had to race back to parry Olise's chip, as Liverpool negotiated a spell of sustained pressure.

Klopp's side secured all three points after a lengthy VAR check adjudged Guaita to have fouled Diogo Jota, with Fabinho converting from 12 yards.

Liverpool forwards Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane will do battle for a place at the 2022 Qatar World Cup after their nations were drawn together in African qualifying.

Salah and Mane, who are both currently at the Africa Cup of Nations, have been an integral part of Liverpool's success over the past few years, and are considered to be two of the world's best forwards.

However, just one of them will be at the World Cup later this year after Salah's Egypt were paired with Mane's Senegal in the African qualifying play-off round.

The remaining 10 teams in African qualifying will face off in two-legged play-offs for the continent's five spots at the tournament.

Algeria will play Cameroon, Nigeria were paired with Ghana, while Morocco have been drawn against DR Congo.

The final tie will see Tunisia face Mali, with all fixtures taking place in March.

Arsenal midfielder Granit Xhaka accepts he needs to "improve" his disciplinary record, but he does not think he can change his approach.

Xhaka attracted widespread criticism after he was sent off in Arsenal's EFL Cup semi-final first leg draw with Liverpool.

The Switzerland international made a wild lunge on Diogo Jota in the first half, with the Liverpool man looking to bring down a lofted pass before he received a high kick from Xhaka.

It was by no means the first time Xhaka's discipline has been called into question – that was his fifth red card since joining Arsenal in 2016, the joint-most of any Premier League player in that time.

But he does not think changing his game is possible, pointing out that it is not as if he is doing it on purpose.

"It's not like I'm planning this," he told Sky Sports prior to Liverpool's 2-0 win in Thursday's semi-final second leg. "It's not like I'm doing this on purpose, but sometimes I am in a position where I have to take a 50:50.

"It's risky, of course. Now people will say, 'Yeah, but why do you always [take] risks?' This is who I am. I can't change myself from today to tomorrow.

"Of course, I need to improve and I know I need to improve, but in this moment, if Jota takes the ball and he scores, they will say again, 'Why didn't you stop him?' Now, I stop him, they say, 'Why do you get the red card?'

"In the end, after the game, everyone is smarter than in the moment – myself as well. Of course, when I see it back now and say, 'Do I need to go into the duel or not?' No.

"But it is a moment, a second, where I have to make a decision and this time I made the wrong one and I feel sorry for the team, I feel sorry for the supporters, but thank God they did an amazing job after that."

Concerns over Xhaka's decision-making has not been limited to just red cards, though, as he also has a poor record when it comes to conceding penalties.

He has committed six offences that led to spot-kicks during his Arsenal career, with only David Luiz, Fernandinho (both seven) and Wilfred Ndidi conceding more over the same period.

The most recent of Xhaka's six came against Manchester City on New Year's Day, with the Arsenal man penalise for a coming together with Bernardo Silva – while there was contact, the Portugal star appeared to throw himself to the floor in a theatrical manner.

Referee Stuart Attwell did not immediately award the penalty, only doing so after a VAR check, and Xhaka voiced his frustration with situations like these.

"If you if you look in slow motion, every duel, every foul looks too much," he added. "[Against City], he [Attwell] had decided already it wasn't a penalty.

"But after, they go to VAR and check and check and check. The thing is, they are checking two pictures, three pictures, and they are not seeing all the action.

"I hope that in the future the referees can make their own decisions. Don't let the people from outside look in slow motion and stuff like this because I believe in a slow motion, everything looks harder than it is.

"In the end, they are human beings as well. They make mistakes as well. This is part of the job. Everyone makes mistakes. We have to accept decisions and look forward."

The race for Erling Haaland's signature will be a huge story in 2022.

The 21-year-old sensation has interest from some of Europe's biggest clubs.

Haaland has netted 63 goals in the past 18 months for Borussia Dortmund.

 

TOP STORY – MAN UTD GIVE UP ON HAALAND

Manchester United have pulled out of the race to sign Dortmund's Haaland, according to ESPN.

The Red Devils will focus on alternative attacking options with uncertainty around Edinson Cavani and Cristiano Ronaldo's futures at the club while Haaland is favouring a move to Real Madrid.

United have had a long-standing interest in the Norwegian, who has a €75 million (£62m) release clause on his Dortmund contract.

 

ROUND-UP

- Manchester City are closing in on a deal for River Plate's 21-year-old Argentina international Julian Alvarez, claims The Telegraph. As part of the imminent deal, Alvarez – who has interest from Milan, Inter and Juventus – will remain with River until June. The fee is expected to be no less than £20m.

- Liverpool have joined the race to sign Borussia Monchengladbach's Denis Zakaria, according to ESPN. The Reds will rival Dortmund and Bayern Munich who are both keen on the Swiss midfielder.

- Ajax's Mexico international Edson Alvarez is attracting interest from Premier League trio Chelsea, Leicester City and Crystal Palace, reports Football Insider.

- Leeds United have opened contract talks with Brazilian superstar Raphinha,  according to the Daily Star, amid interest from Chelsea and Liverpool .

- French club Nice are set to offer Tottenham's Bryan Gil a loan deal, according to L'Equipe. The Spaniard has struggled for impact since his move to England.

- Diario AS claims that Valencia are working on a January deal for Athletic Bilbao defender Unai Nunez .

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has stated that Caoimhin Kelleher will start for the Reds in next month's EFL Cup final against Chelsea, fitness permitting.

The Irish goalkeeper is the understudy to Alisson at Anfield, but has played in three of their five EFL Cup games this season, including Thursday's 2-0 semi-final second leg victory at Arsenal.

Kelleher has played 15 times in all competitions for Liverpool, with former Republic of Ireland international Shay Given recently suggesting that the 23-year-old should leave the club to seek regular football.

However, Klopp insisted before the first leg against Arsenal that the EFL Cup was "his competition" and explained that Alisson only played in last week's 0-0 draw at Anfield because the Brazilian needed "rhythm" after a spell out with COVID-19.

Speaking at a news conference ahead of Sunday's trip to Crystal Palace in the Premier League, Klopp was asked whether Kelleher would retain his place for the Wembley final on February 27, to which he replied: "Caoimh will play, if he is fit.

"We consider Caoimh as an outstanding goalkeeper and we want to keep him here, and to keep him here you have to make sure a few things.

"It is all about how you perform, and if he didn't perform the way he did I would maybe see it differently. He shows that he deserves all the trust and faith we have in him.

"I don't see any reason why Caoimh won't play. He deserves it, he brought the team there."

Klopp was also effusive in his praise for Trent Alexander-Arnold, whose two assists for Diogo Jota in the win against the Gunners took his tally for the season to 14 in all competitions.

In the top five leagues in Europe, only Bayern Munich's Thomas Muller (18) has more, with the German having played four more games than Alexander-Arnold.

"I don't know anyone who is like Trent, who is a right-back and is that decisive," Klopp said. "On the bus on the way home the television is on and you hear people talking and they say 'yeah defensively he is not that good'... honestly I thought he played outstandingly well defensively last night.

"[Gabriel] Martinelli, we will talk about this player in the future. If he avoids major injuries he will have a proper career, so he's really good and what he did there against [Alexander-Arnold] and how he kept him busy defensively and where he showed up and all these kinds of things... the [overall] package of Trent is insane.

"It's not that he delivers every day, there are still departments where he can improve and has to improve and we work on that... he still has 15 years or whatever to play, to create and to score and to learn and to improve. The last five years were a good start in the career I would say."

Jurgen Klopp lauded Diogo Jota once again as Liverpool turn their attention back to the Premier League and Sunday's clash with Crystal Palace.

Jota scored twice in a 2-0 win for the Reds at Arsenal on Thursday in the second leg of their EFL Cup semi-final.

Once more shorn of Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah, who are on international duty with Senegal and Egypt respectively at the Africa Cup of Nations, Liverpool progressed with relative ease to set up a final against Chelsea next month.

It is the first time the Reds have made a cup final since 2019, when they won the Champions League by defeating Tottenham in Madrid.

Liverpool spent £41million to sign Jota from Wolves in September 2020 and he has gone on to score 27 goals in 57 appearances across all competitions.

Since he made his debut on September 24, 2020, only seven Liverpool players have featured more times across all competitions than Jota, with just Salah (51) able to better the Portugal international's goal tally.

Jota averages a goal every 138 minutes, once again a rate bettered only by Salah (120), while the 25-year-old has had the third-most attempts in Liverpool's squad since his arrival (141), behind Salah (245) and Mane (178).

Of outfield players to have featured at least five times, Jota has the third-best shooting accuracy (excluding blocks), with 59.1 per cent.

Jota is second in the Premier League scoring charts this season with 10 goals from 20 appearances, trailing only team-mate Salah (16), although he has slightly underperformed his expected goals (xG) of 11.4, suggesting he has missed some big opportunities.

After the win at Emirates Stadium, Klopp hailed Jota as a "world-class striker" and, in Friday's news conference to preview the trip to Selhurst Park, Liverpool's manager explained that the forward's quality was already there before he joined the club.

"Work," Klopp answered when asked what the trick to Jota's success was. "But if you don’t have the basis, nobody can perform miracles.

"Diogo came in and he was an outstanding player, but it helps if you are a striker when your team has more of the ball. Yesterday he had to do an awful lot to make it happen.

"Diogo is a really impressive person. Really grown up, a really mature young man. Loves football, loves working, training.

"He was in the middle of the team after three weeks, there was no time to adapt. I'm really happy for him. If you have this quality it’s nice that you can show it and that's what he's done."

Klopp also stressed the importance of Liverpool switching focus back to the Premier League and putting thoughts of the EFL Cup final to one side.

"The boys really wanted it and made it happen and are really looking forward to the final. The only problem is six or seven games to play until then. So we have to put it to the side a little bit but keep the feeling," he said.

"We were flying after the game, the boys were in a really good mood. That's how it should be. It gives us confidence, everything that was said without [Mane, Salah and Naby Keita] available, it's good for us.

"But we have to create a different mood until Sunday because Palace away, they don't give any presents, so we have to be in the fighting mood again.

"We will be, we are not kids anymore. We take the feeling, hopefully can use it but we have to be greedy again, aggressive and fight with all we have. Palace will ask for that. That's what I'm concerned about, not how we can keep this feeling before the final."

Liverpool have won their last six Premier League away games against Palace, including a 7-0 victory in the corresponding fixture last season, though Klopp is expecting a much sterner test this time.

"A one-off, a freak of nature. That day was incredible, we scored pretty much with each shot," Klopp added. 

"We don't expect that again. They've changed and improved under Patrick [Vieira], they look like a really stable team. It's a really good Premier League team with a few unlucky results."

Mikel Arteta insisted Arsenal can use the loss to Liverpool as a platform to build on as he called for improvements against Burnley.

A Diogo Jota double eliminated the Gunners from the EFL Cup at the semi-final stage on Thursday as Jurgen Klopp's side ran out 2-0 victors across the two-legged tie.

Arteta's side rarely troubled the Liverpool goal, bar an early Alexandre Lacazette free-kick hitting the crossbar, and their focus is now solely on the league as they are out of every other competition.

But the Spaniard believes his team can utilise their outing against the Reds to develop upon on Sunday against Burnley, who they have lost just one of their last 18 league games against.

"I will show them what they have done against Liverpool and demand more of ourselves as well," he told reporters at his pre-match news conference.

"We did a lot of good things but it is not enough to win the tie across two games against them, and this is the level of excellence we have to look for."

Burnley are winless in their last 11 Premier League away games, drawing four and losing seven, but have not played in the top flight since January 2 due to various coronavirus-enforced postponements.

The Clarets will be without the in-form Maxwel Cornet for the trip to Emirates Stadium as well, but Arteta expects a tough task against Sean Dyche's relegation battlers.

"They are a competitive team and Sean always puts them out there for a difficult game," he added.

"For us, it is a massive game after the defeat and disappointment – we have to get back on track and get winning."

Burnley did win 1-0 on their last league visit to Arsenal and are looking for consecutive such victories for just the third time, after doing so in 1950 and 1960.

While aware of his side's need to regain their form, Arteta insisted Arsenal are not feeling the heat of the top-four race as they sit in sixth – two points behind fourth-placed West Ham having played two games fewer.

However, north London rivals Tottenham are fourth, a point ahead of the Gunners, while boasting a one-game advantage over their neighbours.

"We are here to win football matches and that is the pressure, we know the amount of matches we have to win if we want to be up there," Arteta continued.

"We can't look too far ahead, there has been a lot happening in recent weeks and it has been extremely difficult to manage the squad and the team.

"We have lost a lot of players and we have to reunite, win on Sunday and move from there. Then we have a window to hopefully get some players back."

The Premier League is a week away from its winter break, but a feast of football awaits us before then, along with fantasy point-scoring opportunities.

Leaders Manchester City head to Southampton and will look to extend their 12-game winning run in the competition, at the expense of opponents who are unbeaten in their last seven league games at St Mary's.

Manchester United have a tricky assignment against David Moyes' West Ham, and you might consider a Hammers forward to break down Ralf Rangnick's defence at Old Trafford.

If the time is right to back your strong start to the season, there are proven fantasy league performers to choose from here among this week's picks, and a strong case to be made for others you may not have considered.

EDERSON (Southampton v Manchester City)

Pep Guardiola's trusted City goalkeeper has kept more Premier League clean sheets (12) and faced fewer shots on target per 90 minutes (2.2) than any other goalkeeper this season.

City have faced 50 shots on target across 22 games and have conceded only 13 goals, so another shut-out must be a realistic proposition on the south coast.

Ederson has played in all but one of those Premier League assignments for City this term, and although Southampton have won three and drawn four of their last seven 2021-22 home league games – their best record since going nine unbeaten from March to October 2016 – it is the visitors who start this clash as strong favourites.

JOAO CANCELO (Southampton v Manchester City)

City's defence has been close to watertight this season, but Cancelo's role at full-back is more than just about stopping the opposition.

Only the Liverpool duo of Trent Alexander-Arnold (10) and Andrew Robertson (6) have provided more Premier League assists among defenders this season than Cancelo (5).

He has also had 44 goal attempts, with 15 of them finding the target, and his tally of one goal scored will surely grow soon enough.

DAVINSON SANCHEZ (Chelsea v Tottenham)

Can Tottenham be trusted to keep a clean sheet against Chelsea, in Sunday's headline game? This choice would represent a gamble, albeit one that can to an extent be rationalised by data.

Since December 1, Sanchez has been involved in a Tottenham defence that has kept four clean sheets in seven Premier League appearances. Indeed, only Manchester City's Aymeric Laporte (5) has kept more clean sheets during that time among top-flight defenders. New boss Antonio Conte is making a difference at Spurs, no doubt about it.

The counter-argument here comes with the fact Chelsea have won five of their last six league games against Spurs (D1), and beat them in both legs of the EFL Cup semi-finals.

RAPHINHA (Leeds United v Newcastle United)

Leeds United have woken from their slumber in the Premier League, winning twice in a row to climb to 15th place, just three points behind Leicester City in 10th spot.

Last time out it was Jack Harrison who was the hero, with a hat-trick at West Ham, but Raphinha is their Mr Consistency.

The Brazilian set up Harrison's match-winning third goal at the London Stadium, and since the beginning of the 2020-21 Premier League season, Raphinha is one of just five players to have registered 10 or more goals, 10 or more assists and created over 100 chances in the English top division.

JARROD BOWEN (Manchester United v West Ham)

Former Hull City forward Bowen has been involved in 13 goals in the Premier League this season (6 goals, 7 assists) and opponents Manchester United will be wary of his quality.

Indeed, only Mohamed Salah (25) and Bowen's West Ham team-mate Michail Antonio (14) have been involved in more Premier League goals this term.

To strike a slight note of caution, Bowen only has an expected assists (xA) total of 2.94, meaning West Ham have made more of his chances created than they would ordinarily be expected to, while Bowen is slightly lagging behind his expected goals (xG) total of 8.29. That said, the Red Devils will surely not underestimate his threat.

ROBERTO FIRMINO (Crystal Palace v Liverpool)

With Salah and Sadio Mane still away at the Africa Cup of Nations, Brazilian forward Firmino again looks set for a starting role as the Reds travel to Selhurst Park on Sunday.

Firmino has been involved in six Premier League goals against Palace in his last five appearances (4 goals, 2 assists), having been involved in just two across his first seven games against the Eagles in the competition (2 goals).

Starting with a double in a 7-0 win in this exact fixture last season, each of Firmino's last 10 Premier League goals have all come away from home. Liverpool have won their last six Premier League away games against Palace.

ALLAN SAINT-MAXIMIN (Leeds United v Newcastle United)

Can Newcastle beat the drop? Their best hope before the transfer window opened up a new world of possibilities appeared to lie with the fast feet of Saint-Maximin, and he remains their star attacker for now.

The French winger has scored in each of his last two Premier League appearances, with those goals earning 1-1 draws with Manchester United and Watford.

Now here lies the problem with trusting such form: he has never scored in three successive appearances in the competition. However, Saint-Maximin did score in the reverse fixture against Leeds in September, another 1-1 result for the Magpies.

Diogo Jota was "on fire" against Arsenal and Jurgen Klopp took it as evidence he has become a "world-class" attacker at Liverpool. 

Liverpool spent £41million to sign Jota from Wolves in September 2020 and he has provided stiff competition for Roberto Firmino. 

The Portugal international took his tally for the Reds to 27 in 57 appearances with a double in the EFL Cup semi-final second leg against the Gunners on Thursday, clinching a 2-0 aggregate win that set up a meeting with Chelsea at Wembley in February. 

Despite only playing two games for Liverpool at Emirates Stadium he is already the club's top scorer at the ground with four goals, while he has five in his past four appearances against Arsenal in all competitions. 

Jota stepped up to play a decisive role with Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah away on international duty at the Africa Cup of Nations, but it came as no surprise for Klopp. 

"The mood in the dressing room is that we are over the moon. It was a difficult game, difficult time in general … but what the boys did tonight against this really strong Arsenal side was absolutely exceptional," Klopp told Sky Sports. 

"First half, Arsenal were pretty lively, then we calmed it down, played good football and created not plenty but quality efforts were not so easy. The second half was pretty similar. 

"We scored two wonderful goals, I have to say. Wow, Diogo Jota on fire. But the passes were – on the first goal it was super play and the second one, I don't think a lot of people in the stadium saw Diogo in that position but Trent saw it, which was helpful. Then he finished it off. Absolutely outstanding. 

"We were completely convinced when he arrived at the club that he would help us massively. Nowadays you can watch 100 games if you want [before signing a player], so we were really comfortable. 

"Since he is here, he has made another step. It's helpful. He has just turned into a really world-class striker." 

Arsenal hit the bar through Alexandre Lacazette in the opening period and the France international missed a great chance to work Caoimhin Kelleher early in the second half. 

The Gunners' were left with a bitter taste when Thomas Partey picked up two bookings in three minutes after returning from AFCON duty earlier in the day.

Arsenal have had a player sent off in three of their past four games – none of which have ended in victory – and have received a total of 14 red cards in all competitions since Mikel Arteta took over in December 2019. No other Premier League side has received more than eight.

"We are really disappointed but we played against a top side. We had big moments in both halves and we have to score," said Arteta. 

"We had chances and were pushing for the game but we have to convert if we were to beat a team like Liverpool. 

"I have no regrets [about sending Partey on]. I cannot use him now, so it is what it is. He made the effort to come ... we had to make a decision and we decided to use him and unfortunately that happened.

"We have played the last three games with 10 men and at this level it is extremely difficult to win like that. I am proud of the boys and how committed they were without any training sessions." 

Diogo Jota fired Liverpool into the EFL Cup final with his double securing a 2-0 victory over Arsenal, who finished the semi-final second leg with 10 men.

Liverpool will take on Chelsea at Wembley in their 13th EFL Cup final, though it will be their first appearance in the showpiece since 2016. 

Jota squeezed in the opening goal in the 19th minute, bringing an end to a bright Arsenal start that saw Alexandre Lacazette hit the crossbar. 

Liverpool had the tie wrapped up when VAR overturned an offside decision after Jota lifted in his second, with the Gunners' frustrations compounded by a 90th-minute dismissal for Thomas Partey.

Arsenal went close to taking the lead when Lacazette's free-kick was tipped onto the bar by Caoimhin Kelleher during an impressive opening quarter of an hour for the hosts. 

However, Joel Matip had a goal ruled out for offside before a sweeping Liverpool attack ended with Jota scuffing an effort beyond Aaron Ramsdale from 18 yards against the run of play. 

Lacazette spurned a great chance from Albert Sambi Lokonga's excellent pass four minutes after the restart. 

Kaide Gordon wasted an opportunity to punish him when he blazed over and Konate – who replaced Matip at half-time – crashed a powerful header into the foot of the upright before the hour mark. 

Arsenal controlled possession in the closing stages but Jota put the game to bed in the 77th minute, with the VAR deeming he had been played onside from Trent Alexander-Arnold's excellent pass by Gabriel Magalhaes.

Partey only arrived back from Africa Cup of Nations duty with Ghana on Thursday and picked up two yellow cards in three minutes to cap a disappointing day for the Gunners.

What does it mean? Liverpool too good for Gunners 

Arsenal had their moments and played well, but Liverpool were just too solid for them and they failed to register against Jurgen Klopp's side in the fifth straight meeting of the teams in all competitions. 

The Gunners have now won just one of their past 18 matches against the Reds, with this representing their first home EFL Cup loss to the Merseyside side. 

Chelsea await in the final, where Liverpool will hope to become the first team to win the competition nine times. 

Diogo goal crazy 

Jota now has five goals in his past four games against Arsenal in all competitions – four of them have been at the Emirates as a Liverpool player, making him the club's leading goalscorer at the stadium.

Gordon makes history 

Gordon was named in the starting line-up and became the first Liverpool player aged 17 or younger to feature in the semi-final or final of a major competition. He was not heavily involved and missed a great chance to mark the occasion with a goal early in the second half. 

What's next? 

Arsenal entertain Burnley in the Premier League on Sunday, when Liverpool are back in London to take on Crystal Palace. 

Ousmane Dembele's Barcelona career appears to be drawing to a close, with the club's director of football Mateu Alemany confirming on Thursday that he is up for sale.

Dembele's representatives have been in talks with Barca since July over a new contract for a player that arrived at Camp Nou in 2017 in the wake of Neymar's departure to Paris Saint-Germain.

Barca splashed the cash – €105million, to be exact – to bring the winger in from Borussia Dortmund, where he had enjoyed a wonderful campaign in 2016-17 after a move from Rennes.

Despite Xavi wanting to keep the player, an agreement between the club and Dembele's camp has not been reached and the stand-off has now resulted in Alemany publicly stating the France international will no longer play for Barca now he has turned down their latest offer.

 

Dembele has struggled to establish himself as a key player at Barca due to injuries and some reported attitude issues, albeit he has hardly been at Camp Nou during the most stable period.

He has managed 31 goals and 22 assists in 129 appearances since his debut in September 2017, meaning he has been directly involved in 0.63 goals per 90 minutes, but he has played in just 52 per cent of Barca's LaLiga matches in that time.

Barca's plan is to move Dembele on now but, with his contract up at the end of the season, potential suitors may wish to bide their time and sign the attacker on a free transfer.

Stats Perform explores some possible destinations.

Liverpool

Could a move to Anfield be on the cards for Dembele? He has often been linked with Liverpool in the past, and Jurgen Klopp's direct approach could well suit a player that performed so well in the Bundesliga – a competition renowned for aggressive pressing and counter-attacks, which the Reds have down to a tee in the Premier League.

There is the small matter, of course, of Mohamed Salah. Arguably the best player in the world at the moment, the Egypt star plays predominantly from the right, in Dembele's preferred position. However, there is uncertainty over Salah's future, with a new contract not yet agreed. His deal runs out in 2023 and Dembele could present an ideal rotation option and eventual successor. Klopp would surely back himself to get the best out of the 24-year-old.

 

PSG

A team reported to hold a firm interest is Ligue 1 giants PSG. It would be ironic should Dembele – the man signed by Barca to replace Neymar – ended up playing alongside the Brazil star in Paris.

PSG already, of course, have a star-studded attack. But with Kylian Mbappe expected to leave at the end of the season and Lionel Messi, Neymar and Angel Di Maria not getting any younger, Dembele could provide a relatively cost-effective replacement, and a return to France might reignite his career.

Bayern Munich

Or could a move back to the Bundesliga be the trick for Dembele? Bayern Munich have plenty of top-quality wing options, with Serge Gnabry, Leroy Sane and Kingsley Coman, who has just signed a new long-term deal, complimented by youngster Jamal Musiala. Yet in all competitions this season, Dembele has created 2.4 chances per 90 minutes played, and that is better than any of Bayern's current wingers other than Sane (2.6).

His 6.7 dribbles attempted per 90 ranks behind only Musiala (7.8) and he leads the way in shots (4.5). Most important, perhaps, is Dembele's tendency to cross. He has delivered 6.7 open-play crosses per 90 in 2021-22, exactly two more than Bayern's best wide player in this metric (Coman - 4.7), something that Robert Lewandowski would surely relish.

Borussia Dortmund

This may seem an unlikely move, but what about heading back to Dortmund? Dembele was a superstar at Signal Iduna Park in his first spell there, although fans did not take kindly to his wish to leave, and that may well mean this would not get off the ground.

But, putting any negative emotions to one side, Dortmund have a vibrant attack under Marco Rose, though are likely to lose Erling Haaland in the close-season. While Dembele's wages might be an issue right now, should he remain at Barca for the rest of the season, could Dortmund use funds generated from a possible Haaland sale to bring back a player who played a direct hand in 30 goals (10 goals, 20 assists) and created 100 chances across all competitions in 2016-17.

 

Juventus

Another elite club that could provide a new lease of life for Dembele is Juve. The Serie A giants are not involved in the title race this season, at least according to their coach Massimiliano Allegri, though he will know the Bianconeri nevertheless must challenge for silverware in Europe or in the Coppa Italia. 

Dembele could provide the spark that is missing in Juve's attack, especially with Federico Chiesa expected to miss at least six months with a serious knee injury, while Dejan Kulusevski has been rumoured to be on the transfer list.

Newcastle United

One of these clubs is not like the others but, given their new-found wealth – and, perhaps, the need to make a real statement signing – maybe it would be foolish to discount Newcastle.

Whether Dembele would fancy swapping Barcelona for the north east of England and a Premier League relegation battle in January is of course up for debate, though what would not be up for debate is Newcastle, with their Saudi Arabia-backed ownership, having the funds to pull such a signing off.

Dembele would represent a step up in quality and would surely be an instant fans' favourite at St James' Park and alongside Allan Saint-Maximin on the other flank, provide some added star power to help Newcastle survive and, possibly, thrive in future seasons.

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