Manchester City will start their Premier League title defence at West Ham, while Frank Lampard will host his former club Chelsea with Everton on the opening weekend.

City pipped Liverpool to their fourth English top-flight crown under Pep Guardiola and there will be significant interest around their August 7 opener at London Stadium, where new signing Erling Haaland could make his debut after arriving from Borussia Dortmund.

Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool will aim to mount another title charge in the 2022-23 campaign and they go to newly promoted Fulham for their first game.

Chelsea eased into third place last term and their first league game of the Todd Boehly era sees them travel to face Blues great Lampard at Everton, who narrowly avoided relegation to maintain their top-flight status.

Manchester United finished in a disappointing sixth last campaign, with a 4-0 thrashing at Brighton and Hove Albion a low point, and they host the Seagulls in what will be Erik ten Hag's first game in charge.

Arsenal will visit Crystal Palace on August 5 as the season's opening game, while promoted side Bournemouth are at home to Aston Villa.

Antonio Conte's Tottenham sneaked into the Champions League last season and open their campaign at home to Southampton, with Nottingham Forest playing their first top-flight fixture in 23 years away at Newcastle United, who climbed out the relegation zone under Eddie Howe in the previous term.

Testing opening for Liverpool, Guardiola faces late Blues clash

Liverpool were in the hunt for an unprecedented quadruple for much of the 2021-22 season, but fell short and ended up with just the EFL Cup and FA Cup crowns to their name.

Klopp's side will be tested in the opening weeks of the season, facing four – United, Chelsea, City and Arsenal – of the traditional 'big six' sides in the first 11 games, alongside a Merseyside derby at Everton on September 9.

The first clash between United and Liverpool will come just three matchdays into the season, with the Reds visiting Old Trafford on August 20.

Liverpool then head Chelsea and Arsenal either side of the late September international break, with champions City travelling to Anfield just a week after the Gunners trip.

Supporters in Manchester will eagerly await October 1 for the first meeting between United and City at Etihad Stadium, while the first north London derby between Tottenham and Arsenal comes on the same day.

The Premier League title race went down to the wire last campaign, and City could face a tough task if it does so again as they host Thomas Tuchel's Chelsea in an enticing clash on the penultimate weekend.

Premier League opening weekend fixtures:

Crystal Palace v Arsenal
Bournemouth v Aston Villa
Everton v Chelsea
Fulham v Liverpool
Leeds United v Wolves
Leicester City v Brentford
Newcastle United v Nottingham Forest
Tottenham v Southampton
Manchester United v Brighton and Hove Albion
West Ham v Manchester City

Tottenham have reached an agreement to sign Fraser Forster on a free transfer.

The 34-year-old will join at the start of July on a two-year deal once his Southampton contract officially expires.

Forster has spent the past eight years at St Mary's, albeit with a season on loan at Celtic in 2019-20, and made 134 appearances for the club in the Premier League.

That includes 19 top-flight outings last season when conceding 35 goals and keeping three clean sheets.

Tottenham confirmed the six-cap England international's imminent arrival on their official website on Wednesday.

The agreement comes a week after Spurs agreed terms with Ivan Perisic, who will also arrive on a free from Inter.

Forster is expected to be second choice behind Hugo Lloris following loanee Pierluigi Gollini's return to Atalanta last week.

Jordan Henderson joked that he is ready to put a call in to Steven Gerrard as Liverpool eye a favour from Aston Villa on the final day of the Premier League season.

After coming from behind to beat Southampton 2-1 in their penultimate fixture of the campaign, Jurgen Klopp's side remain in with a shout of clinching the title on Sunday.

But, for that to happen, they must first win their Anfield clash with Wolves and then hope that Manchester City drop points at home to Villa.

Pep Guardiola's men came out on top in a similarly tight race in 2018-19, and Henderson says he is ready to call on his former Anfield teammate Steven Gerrard - now the manager of Villa - as he looks for a different outcome.

He told Sky Sports: "It's hard. We've had this before when they played Brighton [and went 1-0 down] and the crowd cheer and you know what's going on and it's hard to focus on the game. 

"Hopefully that experience, we've learned from it and we can just concentrate on the game and what we need to do. 

"Hopefully, Stevie and Villa can do us a favour at City. I might give him a call now, actually!"

That Liverpool have been able to take the title race to the last day owes much to the efforts of the heavily rotated team that clinched victory at St Mary's on Southampton.

Takumi Minamino was among nine alterations to the line-up, and scored just as he had done on his last Premier League start - a whopping 514 days ago.

That ability to come in from the cold and contribute pleased Henderson, who remarked: "I feel like we've done that really well all season.

"The lads who might not have played as much as they would have liked, they've got to come in and show what they're all about. 

"I felt as though all the lads did that tonight, took the opportunity, and in a Premier League season you need absolutely everyone."

James Milner echoed his captain's sentiments in urging Liverpool to simply focus on what they can control on the final day of the season.

However, he also insisted that Klopp's men have done themselves proud in pushing City so close regardless of Sunday's outcome.

He said: "Try and win our game, that's all we can do, and that's all we've been trying to do since we sort of had a reset in January. 

"We were so far behind and we went for it, had a mental reset, and since then we've really pushed. 

"They're an incredible team to go up against and, whatever happens this season, I think we've done ourselves proud. 

"But you're coming up against a top team like Manchester City so all we can do is try and win our games and try and keep the pressure on right until the end. 

"All we could do is take it to the last game."

Liverpool's squad players were describes as "Ferraris in the garage" by Jurgen Klopp after the title chasers came from behind to beat Southampton.

Klopp made nine changes to his line-up for the trip to St Mary's on Tuesday, where Liverpool realistically had to win to keep hopes of winning the Premier League title alive.

Although the Reds fell behind to Nathan Redmond's opener, Takumi Minamino pulled them level before half-time and Joel Matip's header secured a huge three points.

Minamino also scored in his most recent previous Premier League start for Liverpool – a 7-0 win over Crystal Palace in December 2020. That gap of 514 days between scoring in consecutive starts for a top-flight club is the longest since Duncan Ferguson's 533 days for Everton from April 2002 until September 2003.

Klopp was proud of the result and said any further success that EFL Cup and FA Cup winners Liverpool experience this season is down to the strength in depth they possess.

"I'm so happy about the performance, it was a bit touching, to be honest," Klopp told a post-match news conference.

"These boys, it's like having Ferraris in the garage. Harvey [Elliott], I'm not sure when he played last. Curtis [Jones], no rhythm, he played from time to time. Takumi Minamino, it's a crime he's not playing more often. Oxlade [Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain] didn't even play and he's in outstanding shape.

"It's really tough for the boys, but whatever happens this year happened because of this group. It's exceptional, and tonight they showed that again."

Klopp added to Sky Sports: "I've never had a group like this. Because we win most of the time there are not a lot of things you can really argue about. But there are two opportunities how you can deal with it: you give up, or you play your role in the group, and this group push each other constantly.

"In the end it's absolutely outstanding. We came here and had to do what we did, and it worked out because of the boys." 

Joe Gomez hobbled off injured at half-time and did not return for the second half. Klopp was hopeful the defender had avoided a serious injury, though he reportedly left the stadium on crutches.

"I hope we are lucky. Joe himself has pain but not too much, but it was really like a shock to the system,” Klopp said.

“He was sitting in the dressing room, when I spoke to him he was in a good mood so I think we were probably lucky, but we have to figure that out."

Liverpool are one point behind leaders Manchester City, and will have to beat Wolves at Anfield on Sunday to stand any chance of winning the Premier League.

City will be entertaining Aston Villa at the same time, but Klopp is not planning to chat to Steven Gerrard before he takes his side to the Etihad Stadium.

"No, of course not … There's no reason to talk to him [Gerrard]. We all know Villa wants to win because Villa wants to win," said Klopp.

"We have to first win our game, we can't talk about Wolves as if they will not be there. It's difficult enough.

"Imagine we went there with one ear in Manchester and [Raul] Jimenez headed in the ball. We will be 100 per cent focused.

"So many things happened in this second half of the season. If we become champions it would be deserved as well, but for that we have to win."

Joel Matip ensured the Premier League title race will go to the final day as Liverpool came from behind to win 2-1 at Southampton.

A Reds team showing nine changes from the weekend's FA Cup final over Chelsea found themselves down early through a fine Nathan Redmond strike.

However, Liverpool responded through a thunderous Takumi Minamino strike before the break and went on to secure the win in the second half as Matip headed home a corner in the 67th minute.

Victory moved Jurgen Klopp's men to just a point behind Manchester City at the summit, meaning the teams' respective final-day showdowns with Wolves and Aston Villa will decide the destination of the title.

Liverpool enjoyed plenty of the ball early on but were given a scare when Armando Broja escaped on the break before being denied by the trailing leg of Alisson.

A failure to heed that warning was punished with just 13 minutes gone as another Southampton counter ended with Redmond cutting in off the left to thrash a curling effort into the top-right corner.

Klopp was incensed by the failure to award a foul on Diogo Jota in the build-up to that goal, but that did not stop his team responding well to the setback.

They were denied an equaliser when Roberto Firmino was flagged offside in heading home a free-kick, but restored parity after 27 minutes as Minamino smashed home a cute Diogo Jota pass at close range.

That prompted a spell of Liverpool dominance, though they were unable to punish some lax Saints defending before a half-time break that saw Joe Gomez withdrawn due to injury. Jota poked the ball inches wide shortly after the restart following great work from Kostas Tsimikas.

The chances kept coming, Harvey Elliott hitting the side-netting, Jota skewing wide, and Firmino sending in a weak shot from distance. As such, it was no real surprise when the goal eventually came and, in fact, neither was the method.

Only Leicester City had conceded more headers than Southampton in the Premier League this term, while Liverpool had scored a league-high 15 goals in that manner and added another when Matip met Tsimikas' corner to loop one in.

Southampton tried to rally from there, but struggled to see much of the ball as Liverpool ensured City still have work to do on the final day.

Winning the Premier League is more difficult than lifting the Champions League, says Southampton manager Ralph Hasenhuttl, who could have a decisive say in the title race when his side host Liverpool.

Liverpool could cut Manchester City's lead at the Premier League summit to just a point by winning at Southampton on Tuesday, after Pep Guardiola's team were held to a 2-2 draw at West Ham on Sunday.

Victory over Southampton, who have won just one of their last 10 league games, would keep Jurgen Klopp's side in the hunt for an unprecedented quadruple. A shock win for Southampton would hand the title to City.

Having already secured the EFL Cup and FA Cup, both on penalties against Chelsea in the final, Liverpool also have the Champions League final against Real Madrid on May 28 in Paris to contend with.

But Hasenhuttl, speaking at a pre-match news conference on Monday, labelled the Premier League as the most challenging of titles to win.

"We all know Jurgen and how strong he is and you can be sure that he doesn't give up the chance for winning the league, for sure," said Hasenhuttl.

"This is still the title that is the most countable for everybody because it's the hardest to get. For me it's even harder to be over 38 games in the Premier League consistently on the top than to win the Champions League sometimes.

"Even if he [Klopp] says it's tough for him to go for all four, I know he will do everything to win this game on Tuesday to give himself a chance on the last day."

Klopp has already suggested he does not envisage City dropping points at home to Aston Villa on the final day, but Liverpool first have to negotiate the hurdle presented by Southampton, who won this exact fixture 1-0 last season.

Southampton have also taken two points off City this campaign, with two stalemates in as many league games, but Hasenhuttl appreciates the sizeable task at hand when Liverpool visit.

"I think it is fantastic for the Premier League to have such a close title race," he added.

"Everybody is electrified from this battle and we are now part of this duel. We have done our job this season against Man City with two points. They lost four points against us in the title race.

"Against Liverpool, the first game we lost, so now it's up to us to show again that we can be competitive against a top team.

"For me, it's one of the most difficult games to prepare for because of the flexibility of the opponent and the unbelievable offensive qualities they have."

Southampton have taken home points against Manchester United and Tottenham as well as City this season, but have lost eight of their last nine league meetings with Liverpool.

Hasenhuttl was quick to add that Klopp's side may pose the toughest task yet for his side, who sit 15th in the Premier League.

"This is maybe the most difficult one at home," he continued.

"We have shown against the top teams that we can achieve something very big – and this is what we will need on Tuesday evening. They [the players] know what team we are facing, they know how tough it is, they know on what run of form they are.

"It's our Champions League final, if you want. And we are going for this with everything we have and the team that is on the pitch is the team that will do everything to make them [the fans] proud."

Jurgen Klopp predicts that Manchester City will not drop more points, but that does not stop Liverpool from keeping the Premier League title race alive by beating Southampton on Tuesday.

Pep Guardiola's City fought from two goals down at half-time to draw 2-2 at West Ham on Sunday, leaving them four points clear at the top.

Liverpool can cut that gap to just a point heading into the final matchday with a win at Southampton, who have won just one of their last 10 league games.

The Reds have also won eight of their last nine league games with Southampton, netting at least twice in each victory, which could be useful to slice City's goal difference advantage.

Guardiola's side boast a better goal difference by seven, but Klopp suggested it may not come down to that differential as he cannot predict City faltering against Aston Villa next Sunday.

"I don't know the last time City dropped points two games in a row," said Klopp, who became only the second manager to win the European Cup, EFL Cup, the top-flight title and the FA Cup with the same club after defeating Chelsea in the latter competition on Saturday.

"Villa have to play two games in a short space of time, they are professionals, but they are not used to it.

"I do not expect City to drop points there, but our game is tomorrow, and we want to go into the final matchday one point behind."

Nevertheless, Klopp insisted Liverpool will push City to the final day even as he contends with fitness issues, given the Reds played 120 minutes in the FA Cup just days ago.

Mohamed Salah limped off in the first half at Wembley Stadium but Klopp did not appear concerned after the game, while Fabinho remains out as he battles a muscular injury.

"This process is not finished yet, we only played 120 minutes two days ago so when the boys arrive I have to make a lot of decisions," he added.

"We line up a team to try and win the game at Southampton as difficult as it is, that is the job to do and we have to see who is able to help – the 30 extra minutes made a big difference but we have to see.

"This is game 60. When did Southampton have their last game, 10-12 days? They might lack rhythm, but we lose that advantage if we make changes. They are completely fresh.

"Imagine we go there with eight players who played 120 minutes, it makes no sense. We will make changes, I don't know how many. They thought the next day for us to play was Tuesday.

"We can't play Wednesday? UEFA [Europa League final on Wednesday between Rangers and Eintracht Frankfurt], my friends."

Regardless of whether City lift the title at Etihad Stadium or Liverpool complete an unlikely turnaround to keep an unprecedented quadruple on the cards, Klopp will see the season as a success.

"If we play a season like we play and we win the EFL Cup and fight for the title until the end, I think it's a good season," he continued.

"The FA Cup is a massive competition. It felt great to win it. It takes the pressure off and makes it more enjoyable."

As for the Champions League final on May 28 with Real Madrid in Paris, Klopp believes his side cannot be labelled as favourites after Carlo Ancelotti's team dominated LaLiga.

"It would be massive if we win in two weeks' time in the Champions League. But we play the most experienced Champions League team," the German said.

"We aren't massive favourites. They have won the league already but between now and then we still have two massive games."

Despite the change and uncertainty at Manchester United since Sir Alex Ferguson's retirement, the one constant on the pitch has been a dysfunctional midfield.

The Red Devils appear intent on changing that, amid the backdrop of Paul Pogba's contract expiring at the end of the season, while a season remains on Nemanja Matic's deal after the end of this term.

Their idea of a solution will reportedly come from within the Premier League.

 

TOP STORY – MANCHESTER UNITED TARGET WARD-PROWSE

Incoming Manchester United boss Erik ten Hag wants James Ward-Prowse to spearhead a transformation of his new side's midfield, The Sun is reporting.

Ten Hag faces a substantial rebuild at Old Trafford and with the club set to miss out on Champions League qualification, a £150million asking price from West Ham for Declan Rice reportedly appears too steep.

Ward-Prowse appears to be the alternative, with Ten Hag reportedly an admirer and reportedly costing half the price of Rice. 

The 27-year-old's contract with Southampton runs until 2026, but the lure of a club of United's stature would be hard to resist.

ROUND-UP

- Ousmane Dembele has a more lucrative offer from  Paris Saint-Germain but the 24-year-old is intent on staying at Barcelona, Sport is reporting.

- Manchester City are confident Pep Guardiola will sign a new deal at the end of the season, with the Sunday Mirror reporting talks have taken place to extend his tenure to 2025.

- The Sunday Mirror is also reporting that Manchester United are interested in signing Feyenoord's 22-year-old left-back, Tyrell Malacia.

- Milan have agreed terms with Lille to sign  Renato Sanches, per Calciomercato, with the midfielder set to join for €20million plus add-ons.

We are approaching the home straight in the Premier League, which means the tension builds, the sweat pours, and the heart-rate increases...and that's just in our fantasy leagues.

Some matches mean more than others right now, but to fantasy managers, every game has the potential to get you those much-needed points to make a late run in your league.

If you want a bit of a helping hand with your decision-making this week, Stats Perform has you covered with some Opta-powered suggestions below.

Here are our suggestions for a new goalkeeper, defender, midfielder and striker for your consideration...

EMILIANO MARTINEZ (Aston Villa v Norwich City)

The Argentine goalkeeper has been impressive since making the move from Arsenal in 2020, establishing himself as number one for both Villa and his national team, winning the Copa America last year.

Martinez registered his 25th clean sheet for Villa last time out against Leicester City, and since the start of last season, only Ederson (37), Edouard Mendy and Alisson (both 29) have kept more than him.

With a home clash against bottom of the table and lowest scorers Norwich coming up on Saturday, it seems as likely a time as any for another game without picking the ball out of his net for Martinez.

MARC CUCURELLA (Wolves v Brighton and Hove Albion)

It is hard not to be impressed by Brighton, with Graham Potter getting a team with limited resources to play some of the best football on show in the Premier League, it's just a question of finding consistency.

With a trip to a stumbling Wolves side that has lost three of its last four games, Potter will look to produce the same magic that saw his team secure impressive recent away wins at Arsenal and Tottenham, with particular focus on one of his more potent performers at full-back.

Only Liverpool duo Trent Alexander-Arnold (47) and Andrew Robertson (36) have created more chances from open play among defenders this season than Cucurella, who has been one of the many success stories at the Amex Stadium since arriving from Getafe last year.

JAMES WARD-PROWSE (Southampton v Crystal Palace)

It would not be surprising in the slightest to see a suggestion at the next Premier League managers' meeting to extend VAR protocol to include free-kick decisions anywhere near the penalty area, but only for games involving Southampton.

When Ward-Prowse lines up a free-kick, it feels like watching Mohamed Salah taking a penalty, you just wonder which corner of the goal the ball will inevitably end up in.

After two strikes last time out against Brighton, one of course a free-kick, Ward-Prowse has now been involved in 13 goals (nine goals, four assists) in the Premier League this season, only ever managing more in 2020-21 (15 - eight goals, seven assists), with this his best season for goals. 

WOUT WEGHORST (Watford v Burnley)

Those of us who watch the Bundesliga and like to bring our hipster opinions to conversations were saying the same thing when Burnley signed Weghorst in January, that he was probably an improvement on the outgoing Chris Wood.

So of course, the big Dutchman managed just three goal involvements in his first 12 appearances for the Clarets (one goal, two assists) after arriving from Wolfsburg.

However, just as Burnley have turned their form around as they look to avoid relegation, Weghorst has stepped his game up too, having managed a goal and an assist in his last three games, and is about to come up against a very leaky Watford backline.

The Premier League has rearranged games involving Manchester City and Liverpool to set the final schedule for what promises to be an exciting title race.

Pep Guardiola's side are one point ahead of Jurgen Klopp's Reds at the top of the table with five league games remaining for both.

City's trip to face Wolves at Molineux, which was originally supposed to be played on the weekend of their FA Cup semi-final defeat to Liverpool, will take place on Wednesday, May 11.

Meanwhile, with Liverpool's involvement in the FA Cup final against Chelsea on Saturday, May 14, their away game at Southampton has now been set for Tuesday, May 17.

That means Jurgen Klopp's men will have to play two games in the final week of the campaign, with the last matchday scheduled for Sunday, May 22.

Reigning champions City still have to play Leeds United (a), Newcastle United (h), Wolves (a), West Ham (a) and Aston Villa (h).

Meanwhile, Liverpool's remaining games are against Newcastle (a), Tottenham (h), Aston Villa (a), Southampton (a) and Wolves (h).

WIth both teams also involved in the Champions League semi-finals, it promises to be an intense end to the season, especially for Liverpool, who can still win what would be an unprecedented quadruple.

Divock Origi kept up his run of scoring against Everton as his late goal helped Liverpool claim a 2-0 win in the Merseyside derby.

The Reds were made to work hard by struggling Everton, who went into Sunday's match in the relegation zone after Burnley had defeated Wolves earlier on.

Liverpool are now back within a point of their Premier League title rivals Manchester City, while third-placed Chelsea moved five points clear of fourth-placed Arsenal with a last-gasp win over West Ham.

Brighton and Hove Albion and Southampton played out a 2-2 draw in the day's other game. Here, using Opta data, Stats Perform checks the best facts from Sunday's action.

 

Chelsea 1-0 West Ham: Pulisic spares Jorginho's blushes

Chelsea turned in a below-par performance against West Ham, but got over the line thanks to Christian Pulisic's last-gasp winner.

The Blues had lost their previous two matches at Stamford Bridge and looked set to be on their way to a third home game without a win when Jorginho sent a poor penalty straight at Lukasz Fabianski.

Jorginho had converted each of his last 13 penalties for Chelsea, excluding shoot-outs, with this being his first failure to score from the spot for the Blues since Boxing Day 2020.

But Pulisic swept in from Marcos Alonso's cross to win it. The United States international has been directly involved in 10 goals in 32 appearances for Chelsea across all competitions this term (seven goals, three assists), matching his tally from last season when he made 43 appearances.

Burnley 1-0 Wolves: Clarets out of the bottom three

Burnley claimed a second win on the bounce to lift themselves above Everton and move out of the relegation zone.

They have now won three home Premier League games in a row for the first time since a run of five between December 2016 and January 2017, and that is the same number of victories as they managed across the 26 games beforehand.

Indeed, Burnley have picked up seven points in their three Premier League games under Mike Jackson (W2 D1), the same number of points as Sean Dyche picked up during his final eight league games at the club (W2 D1 L5).

Wolves, meanwhile, have now suffered more defeats in their last five away league games (four) than they had in their first 12 on the road this season (W7 D2 L3).

Matej Vydra grabbed Burnley's winner. Four of his eight top-flight goals for the Clarets have been ones to claim three points.

Brighton and Hove Albion 2-2 Southampton: Ward-Prowse closes on free-kick record

James Ward-Prowse scored both of Southampton's goals as they came from behind to rescue a point in the south coast derby against Southampton.

Despite scoring as many goals on Sunday as they did in their previous seven home Premier League matches, Brighton failed to win a game in which they led by at least two goals for just a third time in the competition (P23 W20 D2 L1), having won each of their previous 13 such matches.

But after an own goal put Brighton further ahead, Ward-Prowse's excellent free-kick halved the deficit. He has now scored 14 direct free-kick goals in the top flight, just four shy of David Beckham's record, while only the Manchester United great and Laurent Robert (both five) have netted more free-kicks in a single season.

Ward-Prowse doubled his tally and restored parity with another long-range effort, and 44 per cent of his league goals for the Saints have come from outside the box (17/39).

Liverpool 2-0 Everton: Origi strikes again to give Toffees the Blues

It took Liverpool until the 62nd minute to break the deadlock at Anfield, though they were arguably fortunate not to have conceded a penalty not long before.

Nevertheless, Liverpool's dominance finally told as Everton's back-to-the-wall display was broken – Andy Robertson heading in before Origi scored late on. The striker has now netted six times in nine league appearances against Everton, scoring once every 62 minutes on average.

Liverpool have lost just one of their last 23 Premier League games against Everton (W10 D12), completing the league double over their neighbours for the first time since 2016-17. They now have 79 points, 50 more than Everton, which is the joint-largest margin they have held in the competition (along with the 2019-20 season).

Everton will end the day in the relegation zone for the first time since December 2019 (also after a derby defeat at Anfield), while this is the furthest into a season, after 32 games or more, the Toffees have found themselves in the bottom three since 1998-99.

They have lost 11 of their last 12 Premier League away games (D1), including each of the last seven in a row. It is their longest run of consecutive away defeats since a run of eight between April and October 1994.

Origi has now scored 11 goals as a substitute in the Premier League, the outright most by a Liverpool player, overtaking Daniel Sturridge's 10. 

Liverpool recorded a possession figure of 82.7 per cent against Everton – only Man City (83 per cent v Swansea City in April 2018) have recorded a higher such figure in a Premier League game since Opta started collecting this data (2003-04). 

Southampton midfielder James Ward-Prowse says he is more motivated by the prospect of meeting David Beckham than overtaking the former Manchester United star's Premier League free-kick record. 

Ward-Prowse is now only four behind Beckham (18) in the all-time Premier League list for goals scored from direct free-kicks after his strike in the 2-2 draw with Brighton and Hove Albion on Sunday. 

His free-kick halved the deficit after Brighton had raced into a two-goal lead, with Ward-Prowse sealing a point for his side with a superb low drive from outside the penalty area in the second half. 

He has now scored eight direct free-kick goals in the Premier League since the start of last season, which is twice as many as any other player in Europe's big five leagues and four times as many as any other Premier League player. 

Despite edging closer to Beckham's record, the 27-year-old revealed he is more excited by the opportunity to meet the former United and Real Madrid superstar than surpass his dead-ball achievements in the English top flight.  

"My main motivation is to meet my hero from when I was a kid," he told BBC Sport. "If I do get that record, hopefully he'll reach out, but there's a long way to go yet." 

Ward-Prowse, who is enjoying his best goalscoring season in the Premier League (nine), praised his team-mates' character for bouncing back from two goals down at the Amex Stadium.  

"We gifted them two goals and we felt at half-time we were very much in the game. It's frustrating when you give teams those sorts of leads, but we showed great character," he added. 

"Sometimes this happens in the Premier League when you're up against good teams, but we were more frustrated at ourselves. To come from behind is never easy and we did that today. 

"We wanted to start the second half quickly and continue the momentum. Probably, on another day we would have nicked a third." 

With Manchester City and Liverpool facing off in the FA Cup on Saturday, the Premier League's attention turned to the race for a top-four spot.

Cristiano Ronaldo scored a hat-trick as Manchester United beat Norwich City 3-2, with the Red Devils taking full advantage of 1-0 defeats for Tottenham and Arsenal against Brighton and Hove Albion and Southampton respectively.

Elsewhere, Watford's slim survival hopes were dealt a blow as they suffered a 2-1 defeat to Brentford.  

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

Manchester United 3-2 Norwich City: Ronaldo racks up yet another treble

Ralf Rangnick's side delivered another disjointed performance at Old Trafford, yet they did enough to secure a 13th win in their past 16 Premier League games against the Canaries.

Ronaldo was the star of the show, the Portuguese superstar plundering the 60th hat-trick of his professional career for club and country.

The 37-year-old has now scored 20 or more goals across all competitions in each of his past 16 seasons at club level – a run that started in the 2006-07 campaign during his first spell at United.

His first goal was teed up by Anthony Elanga, who is 17 years and 81 days younger than Ronaldo. It is the greatest age gap between a United goalscorer and the player who assisted him in Premier League history.

Teemu Pukki had given Norwich hope of a memorable result when he pulled the visitors level at 2-2 from 2-0 down, the Finland international becoming the first Canaries player to score 10 or more goals in two different Premier League campaigns (11 in 2019-20 and 10 in 2021-22).

As is so often the way, though, Ronaldo had the last word.

Tottenham 0-1 Brighton and Hove Albion: Seagulls leave it late to edge out blunt hosts

Spurs missed the chance to strengthen their grip on fourth position as they suffered a third home defeat in their past six home Premier League games – as many as in their previous 14 on home soil.

Despite starting with the in-from trio of Harry Kane, Son Heung-min and Dejan Kulusevski in attack, Spurs did not manage a single shot on target. It was the first time they had failed to do so in 21 Premier League games, since November last year against Everton.

Brighton's winner came in the 90th minute through Leandro Trossard, who has now scored six goals in the top flight this season – his best-ever season return in the competition.

Graham Potter's side have now won consecutive away league games for the first time since September 2021 and are unbeaten in three Premier League games, winning the last two, after losing each of the six before that.

Southampton 1-0 Arsenal: Wasteful Gunners punished by Saints

Arsenal missed the chance to pull level on points with Tottenham after a third consecutive Premier League defeat, having lost just two of their previous 13.

The Gunners dominated at St Mary's, taking 23 shots and enjoying 76 per cent possession. There have been 11 instances of a team failing to score having taken 20 or more shots in a Premier League match this season, with Arsenal responsible for three of those.

They were undone by Jan Bednarek's goal on the stroke of half-time, the first they have conceded from a corner situation in the top flight this season.

Bednarek has now scored four goals in 27 Premier League games this season, which is one more than he scored in his previous four campaigns combined (three in 100 appearances).

Watford 1-2 Brentford: Hornets' miserable home run continues

Pontus Jansson's 95th-minute winner for Brentford meant Watford became only the third team to lose 10 consecutive top-flight home games in a row, after Birmingham City in February 1986 and Sunderland in August 2005.

Alongside Birmingham, they are only the second to do so within a single season.

That run means Hornets boss Roy Hodgson is the first manager to lose his first five home Premier League games in charge of a club since Chris Ramsey with QPR in 2015.

Brentford, meanwhile, have won five of their last six Premier League games (L1) and have won three top-flight games in a row for the first time since September 1946.

Mikel Arteta described Arsenal's 1-0 Premier League defeat to Southampton as a "huge" missed opportunity in their bid to claim a Champions League qualification place.

Jan Bednarek scored the only goal of the game on the stroke of half-time as the Gunners slumped to a third straight top-flight defeat.

Arsenal would have moved level on points with fourth-placed Tottenham had they won, with Antonio Conte's side suffering a last-gasp loss to Brighton and Hove Albion earlier in the day.

As it is, they ended Saturday in sixth after Manchester United's 3-2 win over Norwich City saw Ralf Rangnick's men leapfrog the Gunners into fifth.

Arsenal were the dominant side at St Mary's, taking a whopping 23 shots and enjoying 76 per cent possession.

There have been 11 instances of a team failing to score having taken 20 or more shots in a Premier League match this season, with Arsenal responsible for three of those.

While frustrated at missing the opportunity to take advantage of Tottenham's slip-up, Arteta believes on another day his team would have won comfortably.

Asked if it was a missed opportunity at a media conference, Arteta responded: "Huge, because for somebody that doesn't know the result and is watching the game, you know what they will tell you… that Arsenal won the game, and we didn’t. It's very disappointing, and difficult to explain with words.

"But this is sport, it’s what makes it different to any other, because in basketball you have 25 shots and the winner has one and you win 10 out of 10 times.

"At the end of the day it is decided in the boxes. They scored one goal, and for the amount of time that we spent around the box, the shots that we had, and the situations and the clear-cut chances that we had; we didn't put them in the goal.

"I can’t remember a game where Arsenal has played with this team, where they have created and dominated in a game more and better. 

"We have to win football matches and we have to score more goals, and that’s a problem we have at the moment."

Arsenal started with a front three of Eddie Nketiah, Gabriel Martinelli and Bukayo Saka, with Alexandre Lacazette self-isolating after testing positive for COVID-19. 

Arteta refused to criticise the trio but suggested Arsenal would not have drawn a blank had a more experienced forward been on the pitch. 

"It is what we have," he added. "The players that we have, they haven't done it in this league. When you have a world-class player that has been playing in the league for 10 years, probably you are not sitting here.

"But I am the first one to defend them, to support them. You see how hard they tried. What happened today might happen the next week or the next month."

Arsenal are back in Premier League action on Wednesday when they travel to Stamford Bridge for a derby with Chelsea, before taking on Manchester United at home next Saturday.

Arsenal's chances of securing Champions League football for next season suffered another blow as Jan Bednarek condemned them to a 1-0 loss at Southampton.

Bednarek put the hosts ahead on the stroke of half-time, with Fraser Forster making two excellent saves as Southampton inflicted Arsenal to a third straight Premier League defeat.

Having watched Tottenham suffer a last-minute reverse to Brighton and Hove Albion earlier on Saturday, Arsenal would have moved level with their top-four rivals with a victory.

A flat performance from the Gunners, however, meant Spurs' slip-up went unpunished, allowing Southampton to end a five-match winless run of their own.

Despite the end result, Arsenal did make a bright start, with Cedric Soares drawing a decent save from Forster after cutting in from the right.

Southampton's goalkeeper was forced into a more difficult stop when he brilliantly diverted Bukayo Saka's effort over the bar.

The Saints recovered from their slow start to strike first, though, when Bednarek swept Mohamed Elyounoussi's cut back home from close range after 44 minutes.

Eddie Nketiah went close with a neat backheel after meeting Cedric's cross as Arsenal searched for a response, before Saka almost picked out the top-right corner after cutting in from the right on the hour.

Forster made his second stunning save in the 73rd minute, getting down to his left to turn substitute Emile Smith Rowe's fierce volley away from the corner.

He then denied Saka and Granit Xhaka in the final 10 minutes as Arsenal's season threatens to spiral downwards.

© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.