The first heavyweight tussle of the new year in the Premier League did not disappoint as Chelsea and Liverpool played out an entertaining 2-2 draw at Stamford Bridge.

The Blues were held at home for the fifth time in six league games, a run that includes three straight draws in the top flight for the first time since February 2016.

But Thomas Tuchel's side can be happy with a point after recovering from two goals down as they extended their unbeaten run against the Reds in the league to four matches.

While there was nothing to separate the sides sitting second and third, Brentford, Brighton and Hove Albion and Leeds United were all victorious on Sunday.

Here, Stats Perform unpacks the pick of the Opta data from another eventful day in the Premier League.

Chelsea 2-2 Liverpool: Blues hit back after Salah strikes again

Sadio Mane opened the scoring in a Premier League game for the 37th time since joining Liverpool in 2016-17 – only Tottenham's Harry Kane (40) has done so on more occasions.

However, some will argue that Mane was fortunate to be on the field at that point after catching Cesar Azpilicueta with his elbow after just six seconds.

Mane was instead issued a yellow card with 15 seconds on the clock, making it the earliest booking in a Premier League game since Opta started recording such data in 2006-07, nine seconds faster than the previous quickest caution for Scott McTominay against Newcastle United in December 2019.

Mohamed Salah went on to double Liverpool's lead with his fourth league goal against Chelsea, which is the joint-most any player has scored against the Blues after playing for them, along with Manchester City's Kevin De Bruyne.

Chelsea responded brilliantly with two goals in the space of 245 seconds through a Mateo Kovacic stunner and Christian Pulisic's well-taken strike, ensuring they remain a point above their opponents having played a game more.

This was the fourth occasion in this season's Premier League that a side has failed to win a game in which they have led by two goals, with Liverpool accounting for two of those occasions, having also drawn 2-2 with Brighton in October.


Leeds United 3-1 Burnley: More Maxwell magic not enough

Leeds scored three times in a Premier League game for the first time this season on their way to ending a four-game run without a victory, putting distance between themselves and Burnley in the final relegation spot.

Previously with just one win to their name in the competition since the end of October, Jack Harrison squeezed home for Leeds to open the scoring at Elland Road before Maxwell Cornet equalised through Burnley's first direct free-kick goal since Boxing Day 2017.

That was Cornet's sixth Premier League goal in 10 appearances, the most by an African player in their first 10 games since Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang for Arsenal in April 2018 (also six).

Stuart Dallas restored Leeds' advantage on his 250th appearance for the club in all competitions, becoming the first United player to reach that tally since Lucas Radebe in November 2003.

The much-needed victory was sealed by Daniel James in added time, meaning Leeds are unbeaten in 10 Premier League games against sides starting the day in the relegation zone (W8, D2) since returning to the top flight last season.

As for Burnley, they have now won just one of their last 20 Premier League matches and are winless in 11 on their travels, their worst such run on the road since 17 without a victory between August 2016 and April 2017.


Everton 2-3 Brighton and Hove Albion: Mac Allister inspires soaring Seagulls

The highest-scoring game of the day in the Premier League took place at Goodison Park, where Everton suffered defeat in their opening league game of a calendar year for the fifth year running, their worst such streak since a run of seven between 1957 and 1963.

Brighton's opening goal via Alexis Mac Allister after two minutes and 43 seconds was the Seagulls' fastest-ever away from home in the competition, and their third-fastest overall.

Dan Burn doubled the visitors' lead on Merseyside, shortly before the returning Dominic Calvert-Lewin became the 22nd different player to miss a Premier League penalty for the Toffees – only Arsenal (23) have more.

Anthony Gordon scored his first senior goal to give Everton a bit of hope, only for Mac Allister to register for a second time as Brighton moved to 27 points after 19 games – their joint-best return at this stage of a top-flight campaign alongside 1981-82.

It was another afternoon to forget for Rafael Benitez, however, with Everton having now picked up only 19 points from 18 games, which is their worst return at this stage since accruing 17 from 18 matches in 2005-06.

Brentford 2-1 Aston Villa: Bees bounce back again

Comeback experts Brentford hit back to beat Villa late on thanks to goals from Yoane Wissa and Mads Roerslev after Danny Ings had opened the scoring in west London.

Only West Ham (12) and Everton (11) have won more points from losing positions in the Premier League this term than Brentford, who have now recovered nine points in total.

That is in complete contrast to a Villa side that have lost more games in the competition since the start of last season after scoring first than any other side (eight).

Ings has now opened the scoring in more different English top-flight games since the start of 2019-20 than any player (18), but that early strike was not enough for Steven Gerrard's men.

Wissa's equaliser was Brentford's first Premier League goal from outside the box and full-back Roerslev, who set up that strike, completed the turnaround to become the second Bees player to score and assist in the same game in the competition for the club after Ivan Toney.

It all comes down to this.

Whether you're flying high at the top of your local leagues, battling for the top 100 nationally or just desperate not to lose face with friends, matchday 38 of the Premier League is a decisive moment for fantasy football players the world over.

Amid last-minute transfers, wildcards and triple-captaincies, it can be difficult to find true value in selections that could give you the edge over your rivals.

That's where we come in.

Using Opta data, we have compiled a final selection of seven recommended players to draft in for this most dramatic of weekends...

 

MARTIN DUBRAVKA

If you were considering a Newcastle United goalkeeper but just didn't have the guts previously, now is the time to be bold.

Martin Dubravka kept his first clean sheet of the season last time out as the Magpies beat Sheffield United 1-0.

Next up, they face another relegated side in Fulham, who have scored a league-low nine goals at home in the whole of 2020-21 – and only one since February.

 

AARON CRESSWELL

West Ham's unlikely quest for Europe looks set to end in success, and Aaron Cresswell has played no small part.

The full-back has recorded eight assists this season, the most of any defender in the division. The last time a West Ham player assisted more was when Dimitri Payet set up 12 goals in 2015-16.

The Hammers conclude their campaign at home to Southampton, who haven't beaten David Moyes' side in their most recent six attempts.

STUART DALLAS

Only Patrick Bamford (16) has scored more league goals for Leeds United this season than Stuart Dallas (eight).

On Sunday, Marcelo Bielsa's men host West Brom, who have the leakiest defence in the whole of the division, conceding 73 times in 37 matches.

Leeds are also unbeaten in four against the Baggies, winning three of those games by 10-0 on aggregate, while they have not lost a league game at home to this weekend's visitors since January 2007.

JESSE LINGARD

Part of the reason Jesse Lingard found getting regular football tricky at Manchester United was the arrival of Bruno Fernandes, so it's fitting he should be chasing a record held by the Portugal star.

Last season, Fernandes set a Premier League best by registering 15 goal involvements (eight scored, seven assisted) despite not appearing in the competition until as late as February.

Lingard, who made his Hammers debut on February 3, has recorded nine goals and four assists for Moyes' men, a tally bettered only by Kelechi Iheanacho (12 goals, two assists) over the same time frame. Two more direct goal involvements against Southampton would see Lingard match Fernandes' exploits in 2020.

 

JOE WILLOCK

With his midweek winner for Newcastle against Sheffield United, Joe Willock became the youngest player to score in six consecutive Premier League appearances.

Remarkably, the Arsenal loanee – who is being tipped for a permanent move to the Magpies – has the best minutes-per-goal rate (127) of any Newcastle player in the league this season with at least three goals.

Should he net against Fulham, Willock will become only the second player for the club to score in seven Premier League games in a row, after Alan Shearer in 1996.

HARRY KANE

Whether he stays at Tottenham or not, Harry Kane will be eager to get on the scoresheet at Leicester and boost his chances of claiming the Golden Boot.

His record against the Foxes is promising. Kane has managed 14 goals in 11 Premier League meetings with the team now bossed by Brendan Rodgers, more than he has scored against any other opposition. Those goals have come at an average of one every 65 minutes.

He has hit seven of those at the King Power Stadium, including four in one game in May 2017.

 

CHRISTIAN BENTEKE

Could Liverpool's top-four hopes be dashed by a former Reds player?

Christian Benteke has scored 10 league goals this term, his first double-figure return since he got 15 in 2016-17.

That season's haul included a double away to Liverpool in April and, throughout his career, Benteke has enjoyed facing his old employers: only Andy Cole (eight) has scored more Premier League goals as a visiting player at Anfield than Benteke (five in four games).

Manchester City will have to wait to get their hands on a third Premier League title in four years after they fell to a 2-1 home defeat against Chelsea on Saturday.

Sergio Aguero in particular will want to forget the game in a hurry after a failed Panenka attempt, which he later apologised for on social media.

Liverpool kept their first home clean sheet in nine top-flight games as they overcame Southampton 2-0, while Leeds United cruised past Tottenham 3-1 at Elland Road.

Elsewhere in Yorkshire, Crystal Palace inflicted yet more misery on Sheffield United, running out 2-0 winners at Bramall Lane.

Stats Perform News uses Opta data to take a look at the best facts from the four games.


Manchester City 1-2 Chelsea: Aguer-woe for leaders as Blues hit back

City suffered more penalty woe as they missed the chance to be crowned Premier League champions.

It had started well for the hosts, however, with Raheem Sterling giving them the lead with his 10th Premier League goal of the campaign. The England international has now reached that total in four successive seasons, with only Aguero (nine) hitting double figures more regularly in the competition for City.

Aguero should have doubled their advantage before the interval, but his woeful Panenka attempt from the spot was comfortably gathered by Edouard Mendy. City have now failed to score more penalties (four) than any other side in the Premier League this season, while they are the first to miss at least four spot-kicks in consecutive top-flight seasons since Tottenham in 1993-94 and 1994-95.

Hakim Ziyech made the most of that reprieve, levelling with his first Premier League goal in 18 appearances since scoring against Burnley in October.

There was worse to come for Pep Guardiola, who has now lost four home league games this season – twice as many as he had lost in any other campaign in his managerial career.

At 91 minutes and 54 seconds, Marcos Alonso's scuffed finish was the latest winning goal scored by the visitors in a Premier League game at City since Paul Scholes for Manchester United in April 2010 (92:41).

Liverpool 2-0 Southampton: Mane helps sink former employers

Liverpool kept their hopes of qualifying for the Champions League alive with victory at Anfield in the late kick-off.

Sadio Mane opened the scoring in the first half with his second goal in three Premier League games, having found the net just once in his previous 14 outings in the competition before that.

He was teed up by Mohamed Salah, marking the first time the pair have combined for a top-flight goal this season.

Thiago Alcantara added a second in the 90th minute to become the 140th player to score a Premier League goal for Liverpool, though the first to get off the mark for the Reds from outside the box since Divock Origi in December 2015.

Southampton, meanwhile, have now earned just 11 points from their 18 Premier League games in 2021, fewer than any other side this calendar year.

Leeds United 3-1 Tottenham: VAR bars Kane as Spurs suffer

Leeds' superb record against the Premier League's 'big six' continued.

Marcelo Bielsa's side became the first to remain unbeaten at home in the top flight against each of Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United and Spurs in a season since West Ham in 2015-16, and only the third newly promoted team to do so, after Ipswich Town in 2000-01 and Birmingham City in 2009-10.

Stuart Dallas broke the deadlock to become the first Northern Ireland player to score as many as eight Premier League goals in a season since Chris Brunt in 2008-09.

Son Heung-min equalised for the visitors, but Patrick Bamford restored Leeds' advantage to move onto 22 Premier League goal involvements this term (15 goals, seven assists). Harry Kane is the only Englishman to have been involved in more (34).

Rodrigo then added a third late on as Spurs suffered a fifth defeat in 10 top-flight away games in 2021 – more than they experienced in the entirety of 2020.

Sheffield United 0-2 Crystal Palace: Benteke helps Eagles deal with blunt Blades

After a run of three consecutive defeats, Palace could not have wished for more accommodating opponents than the already relegated Blades.

Christian Benteke opened the scoring after just 66 seconds, registering the club’s earliest Premier League goal since James McArthur's strike against Everton in November 2017 (51 seconds).

Benteke has now scored more goals this season (seven in 27 appearances) than he managed in his previous three Premier League campaigns combined (six in 71).

Eberechi Eze continued his impressive season with a second late on. Only Wilfried Zaha (12) has been directly involved in more Premier League goals for Palace this season than Eze (four goals, five assists), while no Eagles player has laid on more goals than the former Queens Park Rangers man.

The result meant United have failed to score in 20 matches within a single league season for the first time in their history, while in terms of the Premier League, only Derby County in 2007-08 (22), Leeds United in 1996-97 (21) and Huddersfield Town in 2017-18 (21) have failed to score in more games in a single campaign.

Patrick Bamford's 15th Premier League goal of the season helped Leeds United to a 3-1 win over Tottenham, all but ending their opponents' tenuous Champions League hopes.

Leeds laid siege to their visitors in typical fashion and led through Stuart Dallas' eighth league goal of the campaign.

Son Heung-min levelled and Harry Kane had a goal disallowed for offside before Bamford again pressed his claims for joining the England captain in Gareth Southgate's Euro 2020 squad.

Kane hit the crossbar with a free-kick inside the final 20 minutes at Elland Road but chasing the game left Tottenham increasingly vulnerable on the break and Rodrigo completed the misery for Ryan Mason's side at Elland Road.

Hugo Lloris got down and across to his left well to deny Bamford after Jack Harrison slid a pass into the Leeds striker's path in the seventh minute.

Lloris again excelled himself as Sergio Reguilon turned Harrison's virtually undefendable cross towards his own goal, but Dallas was on hand to smash home and give Leeds a deserved advantage.

Spurs' much-vaunted front four led the response impressively.

Robin Koch blocked a Dele Alli effort from a Son pass but when the roles were reversed – the midfielder cleverly delaying his throughball – the Korea forward dispatched his 17th goal of the season.

Only a fractional offside on the end of another Alli pass prevented Kane from putting Tottenham ahead, although back came Leeds – Dallas seizing on some sloppy defending from Eric Dier and Reguilon and setting in motion a slick move from which Bamford converted Ezgjan Alioski's low cross.

Marcelo Bielsa was concerned enough by Spurs' early second-half pressure make a change before the hour, Raphinha replacing Tyler Roberts, and Mateusz Klich's snap-shot forced another superb stop from Lloris.

Opposite number Illan Meslier excelled himself to push Serge Aurier's deflected cross to safety, although he was relieved to see Kane's 72nd-minute free-kick cannon against the top of the bar.

Meslier saved with his feet from Erik Lamela before another substitute, Rodrigo, calmly collected Raphinha's pass to seal the points.

What does it mean? Spurs' Champions League hopes fade to almost nothing

Spurs lie sixth with three matches to play, five points behind fourth-placed Chelsea having played a game more. Liverpool and Everton, two and four points behind them respectively, each have two games in hand. Mathematically possible, sure, as they can still reach 65 points. But not realistically.

Indeed, Mason's men are only six points better off than Leeds, who are up to ninth and eyeing a top-10 finish on their Premier League return having hit the 50-point mark.

What's next

Leeds will continue their pursuit of a top-half finish at Burnley next Saturday, with Tottenham hosting Wolves a day later.

As the Premier League season heads towards the home straight, so too do your fantasy football leagues.

Hurt by captaining Raheem Sterling last week before he twice missed out for Manchester City? Or wondering how to replace the injured Son Heung-min?

Time is of the essence when making these big calls, especially when there are only four league fixtures this weekend.

Fortunately, you can consider our weekly Opta-powered picks, this time featuring two of Son's Tottenham team-mates.
 

EMILIANO MARTINEZ

If your confidence in Spurs is wavering, with Son out and a north London derby defeat fresh in the memory, you might prefer to hedge your bets.

Aston Villa, Tottenham's opponents, have the standout goalkeeper in action this week in the form of Martinez, who is a reliable source of frequent clean sheets. His 14 is a total only topped by Ederson (16) this season.

Among keepers to play 500 minutes in the Premier League this term, ex-Arsenal man Martinez has the best save percentage (77.6).

LEWIS DUNK

The big battle at the bottom sees Brighton and Hove Albion host Newcastle United on Saturday, in a match that is unlikely to provide a wealth of goals based on the form of both sides.

However, defender Dunk is perhaps as likely a scorer as any. He has four in the league this season, making this his best top-flight campaign for goals, while only Neal Maupay (seven) has more for Brighton in 2020-21.

Add in the potential boost of a clean sheet and Dunk could be a real difference-maker.

STUART DALLAS

The versatile Dallas is listed as a defender, allowing him to accrue additional points for attacking contributions despite spending large parts of his career in midfield.

Indeed, no defender in the division has netted more goals than the Northern Ireland international (five) this season.

Dallas, set to face struggling Fulham with Leeds United on Friday, also has two assists for seven total goal involvements.

JESSE LINGARD

Midfield loanee Lingard was kept on the sidelines last weekend as West Ham visited Manchester United, his parent club.

But this week has already improved for the Hammers star following his return to the England fold, earning a recall following four goals and an assist in six league appearances since his temporary move. He has been on target in his past two London Stadium outings.

Now Lingard has Arsenal in his sights, and he has a great record against the Gunners. Indeed, he has not scored more against any other team in English football, having managed four goals in seven starts in all competitions against the north London giants.

GARETH BALE

Still fancy Tottenham to beat Villa? Great, we have some options for you - starting with Bale.

The winger was quiet against Arsenal but has still been involved in six goals (four goals, two assists) in his past five Premier League games, having netted just once in his first seven on his return to the competition this season.

Bale's previous meeting with Villa, back in December 2012, saw him score his first career league hat-trick in a 4-0 Spurs win.

HARRY KANE

If not Bale, then why not Kane? Or pair the two, as they are each likely to be heavily involved if Tottenham turn in a much improved performance from the Arsenal match.

Kane has six goals in six Premier League games against Villa, including five in his past three.

His most recent two meetings with Villa have seen the England captain net braces - in March 2016 and August 2019.

ALEXANDRE LACAZETTE

While Bale and Kane cannot again perform as poorly as they did in the north London derby, Lacazette will hope to match the standard he set.

Handed the captaincy and the central striking role from the start as Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was disciplined, the Arsenal number nine netted the winner and is now the club's leading marksman in the Premier League this season with 10.

West Ham should be especially wary of Lacazette, who has scored six goals in his past eight league London derbies. He has been on target in four of those encounters this term and Arsenal have won all of them.

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