A year to the day since their stunning 3-2 comeback at home to Newcastle United eased the pressure on then-boss Jose Mourinho, Manchester United continued what appears to be a slow, painful march into mediocrity against the same opposition on Sunday.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer initially sparked a turnaround in United's fortunes as he lifted the gloom around Old Trafford, breathing life into the club following the end of Mourinho's reign.

Since March's VAR-assisted comeback win at Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League, though, United have been abysmal and Solskjaer's days appear increasingly numbered. Perhaps only a lack of viable alternatives is keeping him in the job.

There are extenuating circumstances. At St James' Park there was no Paul Pogba, Luke Shaw, Anthony Martial, Jesse Lingard, Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Victor Lindelof or Eric Bailly, all injured.

With so many regulars missing most teams would struggle, but United's lack of squad depth is of their own making. They failed to sign any attacking reinforcements after allowing both Romelu Lukaku and Alexis Sanchez to join Inter, a decision signed off by Solskjaer.

Of those players remaining, Marcus Rashford's confidence has never looked lower, the initial spark provided by Wales winger Daniel James has fizzled out and David de Gea no longer looks among the world's best goalkeepers.

Few Premier League teams would find any use for Fred, a below-average midfielder who only gets selected as an alternative to the static Nemanja Matic. Andreas Pereira's inability to provide little creativity whatsoever is partly due to being fielded on the wing rather than his preferred central position, but mostly because the Brazilian seems out of his depth at this level. Juan Mata, despite a continued sureness of touch, ceased to be an elite playmaker several years ago. To describe Scott McTominay as an enigma would be kind.

At Newcastle, against a team hammered and humiliated by Leicester City last time out, Solskjaer's side created almost nothing from open play – they managed three shots on target – although how Harry Maguire failed to convert Ashley Young's corner when given a free header from five yards out will forever be a mystery.

There was no surprise when Newcastle, whose under-fire boss Steve Bruce was marking his 400th Premier League game as a manager, broke the deadlock in the rain 72 minutes in.

Matty Longstaff rattled the crossbar in the first half, Miguel Almiron wasted two clear sights of goal and Andy Carroll headed an inviting centre wide before De Gea was finally beaten from outside the box.

Longstaff, making his Premier League debut alongside older brother Sean in the Newcastle midfield, then sent a true drive fizzing into the net, much to the delight of the home fans.

Beating United is no longer that special, though. This season they have already lost to Crystal Palace and West Ham in the league. They needed penalties to get past Rochdale in the EFL Cup. Ex-United centre-back Bruce had overseen 22 matches against United without recording a single victory.

Newcastle moving out of the bottom three will buy Bruce some much-needed goodwill and time, which are both rapidly running out for Solskjaer. Top four? They're not even in the top half of the table.

With eight games gone, reigning Premier League champions Manchester City are eight points adrift of early pacesetters Liverpool following a shock 2-0 loss to Wolves on Sunday.

City's start to 2019-20 has been hindered by a series of defensive injuries. Their best centre-back, Aymeric Laporte, is a long-term absentee, while Benjamin Mendy joined John Stones as a hamstring injury victim this weekend.

Add the fact they failed to replace long-serving captain Vincent Kompany in the transfer window and it is no surprise their defence is in dire straits.

The paucity of first-team options at the back is making manager Pep Guardiola go against his instincts.

Prior to a 2-2 draw against Tottenham in August, a match for which Laporte was available, Guardiola was asked about the possibility of deploying club-record signing Rodri and Fernandinho together in defensive midfield for crunch matches.

"I don't believe in football putting these two guys [in front of the defence] gives you more security for the team," said Guardiola. "I've never believed in my life that by putting in more defensive holding midfielders you defend better.

"You play better, especially with the ball, when everybody commits and everybody fights without the ball. So when we defend better it's because there are 11 reasons. You have to find the balance."

Guardiola has been forced to use his first-choice holding midfielder Fernandinho as a centre-back, hastening a planned transition for the 34-year-old and meaning City they are without the man they need screening a makeshift back four.

Ilkay Gundogan and Rodri sat in front of the defence on Sunday and proved Guardiola right; two holding midfielders does not always provide greater security.

City were vulnerable to the break. A stray pass from Riyad Mahrez in the 19th minute let Raul Jimenez in and only a fine recovering tackle from Fernandinho kept him at bay, the Brazilian somehow managing to block Patrick Cutrone's follow-up while down on the deck too.

The champions' case was not aided by Nicolas Otamendi. In times like these, what Guardiola needs most is a competent performance from his only fit centre-back. The Argentine failed to rise to the occasion.

Otamendi's stray pass on halfway let Wolves break again, with Fernandinho just doing enough to put Jimenez off without conceding a penalty when the Mexican was one-on-one with Ederson.

Wolves were at the door, and City were leaving it wide open.

It perhaps did not help that Guardiola deployed Joao Cancelo, a player far more familiar with the right side of the back four, at left-back while Oleksandr Zinchenko and Angelino started on the bench.

Zinchenko was sent on at the conclusion of a lacklustre first half, but City remained without any drive from midfield or a coherent attack. They sent in 29 crosses from open play – since the start of last season the only times they attempted more in the Premier League was during similar shock defeats to Norwich City (31) and Crystal Palace (30).

David Silva rattled the crossbar from a free-kick in City's best chance before Cancelo ceded possession high up the pitch and Wolves surged clear. Jimenez negotiated a flailing and ineffective Otamendi challenge and squared for Adama Traore to slot an uncharacteristically composed finish beyond Ederson.

Another rapid break saw a disjointed City carved apart with ease and Traore complete the scoring in the fourth added minute.

The international break has arrived at a good time for City and Guardiola – with Stones and the influential Kevin De Bruyne expected to be back when they resume at Crystal Palace on October 19 – although the chance to bolster their centre-back options in the January transfer window may be their best opportunity to set things straight.

Liverpool are one of only six clubs to have won all of their opening eight matches of a top-flight season in England.

Saturday's 2-1 victory over Leicester City, courtesy of a James Milner penalty deep into injury time, means Jurgen Klopp's side have matched a feat the club first achieved back in 1991.

It also stretches Liverpool's run to 17 consecutive league victories, putting them just one short of matching the record set by Pep Guardiola's Manchester City between August and December two years ago.

City have never opened a season with eight wins in a row, though. Chelsea, Manchester United, Tottenham, Sheffield United and Everton are the only teams apart from Liverpool to have managed that.

Surprisingly, such a start has mostly led to an unsuccessful bid to win the top-flight title.

Of the seven occasions that a team has won eight from eight at the start of the season, only twice has that side gone on to become champions of England in that same campaign.

Chelsea managed it under Jose Mourinho in 2005-06, but you have to go back to 1961 for the only other instance, when Tottenham won their second and most recent league title.

In 1991, Liverpool finished second to Arsenal after their perfect start, while Manchester United could only manage fourth after winning their first 10 in a row in 1985-86.

Sheffield United ended up down in seventh after storming to eight straight wins to kick off the campaign back in 1904, and Everton were league runners-up to Sunderland in 1894-95.

Can Liverpool buck this trend in 2019-20? Their first game after the international break might give some indication, when they will look to match City's 18-match winning run – by beating Manchester United at Old Trafford.

Eden Hazard has finally arrived at Real Madrid. The reported €100million signing opened his goalscoring account and got an assist on Saturday, helping unconvincing Los Blancos see off Granada 4-2 at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Having played five matches before the visit of Diego Martinez's men and with only a yellow card to show for his efforts, pundits had been quick to point out the Belgium international's stuttering form.

There is no doubt Hazard's hamstring injury in August played a significant role in disrupting his start to life in Madrid, preventing him from playing the first few weeks of the season.

Yet, for all the understanding from some, Hazard had become a key conversation topic around the club, with questions dominating Zidane's news conferences.

To Zidane's credit, he had been quick to back Hazard – perhaps learning from his treatment of Gareth Bale – and even suggested there were parallels to his own start at the Bernabeu.

"I know [Hazard] is going to succeed here," Zidane said before Madrid were held to a 2-2 draw against Club Brugge in the Champions League on Tuesday.

"The same thing happened to me, this is why I'm very calm, I knew things would work out for me in time and it's the same with Hazard."

While Zidane is probably bending the truth with respect to his own start, having scored three times by the end of September in his first season at the club, it was a comment made to buy Hazard a little extra time – after all, Madrid's fans are infamous for their lack of patience.

Having again been underwhelming against Brugge, making just one key pass, Hazard still initially appeared rusty in the visit of Granada – allowing a defender the chance to get a foot in and tackle him when well placed to cut a ball back into the danger zone.

But in the 42nd minute a low cross almost found Bale, who wanted a penalty for an apparent foul by Carlos Neva, suggesting the Belgian was settling into the contest.

And his next involvement in stoppage time saw Hazard make the sort of impact he did so regularly with Chelsea, racing on to a throughball and nonchalantly lobbing Rui Silva to make it 2-0, adding to Karim Benzema's opener.

The relief on his face was soon replaced by unbridled joy – Sergio Ramos' reaction seeming to say, "About time!".

He followed that up in the second half with an assist, going on a mazy run on the left flank, before cutting back inside and teeing up Luka Modric, having drawn several defenders in.

Modric subsequently unleashed a ferocious strike into the top-left corner from 30 yards, taking full advantage of the space made for him.

No one will attempt to claim Hazard is back to his best on the back of this match – after all, he was generally quiet in the first half and he only got an assist because of Modric's excellence.

But after a sequence of below-par performances in which he offered precious little, Hazard has at least shown hints of his brilliance in a Madrid shirt for the first time.

And given Madrid's rather fragile mentality – as evidenced by the performances against Brugge, Levante, Real Valladolid and now Granada, who fought back from three goals down before James Rodriguez struck late on – Zidane needs Hazard in full stride as soon as possible.

Tottenham's 3-0 defeat at Brighton and Hove Albion on Saturday condemned Spurs to a second successive loss with 10 goals conceded this week, piling the pressure on manager Mauricio Pochettino. 

Spurs were demolished 7-2 in their own stadium by Bayern Munich in the Champions League on Tuesday, prompting further questions of Pochettino, who continues to be linked with a departure. 

Pochettino urged his team to produce a response at Brighton, telling his players to "man up" and put things right. 

But a Brighton side inspired by 19-year-old Aaron Connolly piled on the misery at the end of a crushing week for Spurs, with Pochettino appearing increasingly defeated and deflated. 

With the manager seemingly running out of ideas, we chart the highs and lows of his time at Spurs. 

LOW – The only way is up 

Tottenham's standing compared to the other big clubs at the start of Pochettino's tenure was laid bare in the first month of the new boss' debut campaign. Liverpool were the visitors, with Spurs hoping for the chance to make something of a statement, but Brendan Rodgers' men blew them away with ease by winning 3-0. It was Spurs' first loss under Pochettino and they went on to miss out on Champions League qualification by six points that term. 


LOW – Stamford Bridge implosion hands Leicester the title 

There was no denying Spurs' vast improvement between Pochettino's first few months and 2016 as they looked to challenge for a maiden Premier League title. However, their form at the end of the season saw them come up short, squandering a 2-0 lead at Chelsea in an ill-tempered encounter to come away with a 2-2 draw, therefore securing a famous success for Leicester City. Pochettino's men finished third, 10 points off the top. 


HIGH – Bidding farewell to White Hart Lane in style 

Having seemingly established themselves as top-four regulars, Spurs looked to further consolidate their new-found status by moving to an extravagant new stadium. In their final outing at the more modest White Hart Lane in May 2017, Spurs downed Manchester United 2-1. A glamourous new era seemed to be on the horizon, with Pochettino steering the Spurs ship expertly. 


HIGH – Spurs hit 13 goals in two games 

Spurs then finished that season in remarkable fashion, crushing Leicester City 6-1 and then going one better against relegated Hull City, winning 7-1 despite both games being away from home. Harry Kane was the star on both occasions, netting four at the King Power Stadium and a treble the following week. Those victories wrapped up a second-place finish in the Premier League. 


HIGH – Manchester United crushed at Old Trafford 

In August 2018, Pochettino was among the favourites to replace an under-fire Jose Mourinho at United and he helped inflict more misery on the Red Devils and make his pitch for the job with an emphatic 3-0 win at Old Trafford. Kane and a Lucas Moura double did the damage, making it the hosts' worst start to a league season since 1992-93. 


HIGH – VAR-ty time as Llorente steers Spurs past City 

Spurs' Champions League hopes appeared to be vanishing against Manchester City in April this year when, after winning 1-0 at home, they found themselves trailing 4-2 in the 59th minute despite earlier leading 2-1 on the night. Fernando Llorente then got what proved the vital goal – the ball striking him and going in, the goal standing even after a VAR check for an apparent handball. Raheem Sterling had no such luck, however, as his stoppage-time goal was disallowed by VAR for offside against Sergio Aguero. Pochettino's men survived a bonkers encounter to reach the last four. 


HIGH – Incredible turnaround secures first Champions League final 

Somehow Spurs managed another lucky escape in the semi-finals as well. A 1-0 defeat at home to Ajax in the first leg had them looking doomed, even more so when Matthijs de Ligt and Hakim Ziyech made it 3-0 on aggregate in the first half of the return fixture in Amsterdam. But a remarkable Lucas Moura hat-trick in the second half sealed a vital 3-2 win in stoppage time and left Ajax devastated. Spurs were heading to Madrid. 


LOW – An underwhelming Champions League final 

Their first Champions League final – it was an historic occasion regardless of the result. Yet, there was an air of frustration at how they approached what proved a tepid contest, with fans bemoaning an apparent lack of attacking intent as a half-fit Harry Kane struggled to make an impact. Mohamed Salah's early penalty gave Pochettino's men an uphill struggle and Divock Origi wrapped things up late on. 


LOW – Battered by Bayern, swept aside at Brighton 

The worst week of Pochettino's reign? If the 7-2 demolition by Bayern Munich at home in the Champions League wasn't bad enough on its own, the embarrassment was exacerbated by the fact an Arsenal academy product – Serge Gnabry – scored four and he certainly milked the occasion. It was the first time Spurs had ever conceded seven at home in a major competition. Despite the pressure increasing on Pochettino, no response was forthcoming on Saturday as Brighton cruised past them 3-0 at the Amex Stadium. 

Tottenham's dismal week concluded in humiliating fashion on Saturday as Mauricio Pochettino's side slumped to a 3-0 defeat at Brighton and Hove Albion.

Spurs' hopes of bouncing back from their 7-2 Champions League capitulation to Bayern Munich in midweek took a blow early on when Hugo Lloris' mistake gifted Neal Maupay the opener.

To further compound the visitors' misery, Lloris was subsequently taken off with an arm injury sustained as he landed awkwardly.

Aaron Connolly scored either side of half-time on his first Premier League start to secure a famous win for Brighton and one that leaves Tottenham with plenty to ponder heading into the international break.

Here we take a look at the best Opta facts from a shock result on the south coast.

17 - Tottenham have now lost 17 games in all competitions in 2019, more than any other Premier League side. Spurs have lost as many matches as they have won in this calendar year.

2 - Connolly is the first Irish teenager to score a Premier League double in over 20 years, with former Tottenham striker Robbie Keane having netted twice for Coventry City against Derby County in August 1999.

10 - Spurs have conceded 10 goals in their last two matches. It is the first time they have done so since December 1997, when they lost 6-1 to Chelsea before going down 4-0 to Coventry.

2:30 - Timed at two minutes and 30 seconds, Maupay's opener was Brighton's fastest goal in the Premier League.

100 - Youngster Connolly is the 100th player from the Republic of Ireland to score in the Premier League. The Republic of Ireland is now the fourth nation to have 100 or more different goalscorers in the league, along with England, France and Scotland.

8 - Lloris was taken off after eight minutes. It is the earliest a goalkeeper has been subbed off in a Premier League match since Lloris was replaced after four minutes in a match against Leicester City in March 2015.

NFL players typically thank colleagues, coaches and God after games, but Kirk Cousins was grateful to his 'brain coach' for a record-breaking day in London three years ago.

British fans are accustomed to watching sluggish, error-prone displays from tired teams in London yet Cousins, then with the Washington Redskins, bucked the trend when it comes to performances across the pond.

Jet lag appeared to be no issue for Cousins as he completed a franchise-record 38 passes for a career-best 458 yards and two touchdowns in a 27-27 tie with the Cincinnati Bengals.

It was no coincidence. Cousins had been preparing for the Transatlantic jaunt with Dr. Tim Royer, a neuropsychologist who had monitored data from around 750 nights of the quarterback's sleep and implemented methods to ensure he could quickly adjust when jumping across multiple time zones.

"I knew when he had too much light sleep, when he had a good amount of deep sleep, how many times he woke up in the night," Dr Royer told Omnisport.

"It was very interesting to see how his performance on gameday directly correlated to his sleep cycle. The quality of your sleep dramatically affects your production of testosterone.

"Testosterone is kind of like the goose that laid the golden egg in sports; if your testosterone is high, it makes you more confident, you have better muscle mass and you're more driven. The overall stamina that you have is incredible."

Dr. Royer had worked with the NBA's Orlando Magic, who travelled to London earlier in 2016, and was able to share his data on the impact of long-haul flights with Cousins and how his methods could speed up the adjustment process by "at least 50 per cent".

"If somebody does a trip like that, you're typically going to see the impact on their testosterone at somewhere around a 15-to-20 per cent drop off," Dr. Royer explained.

Dr. Royer theorised that for every hour travelled from west to east, it would take Cousins a day and a half to adjust, meaning that, without introducing methods to combat jet lag, the quarterback would need around a week from arriving in London to fully acclimatise due to daylight saving time.

Yet Cousins' preparations began the moment Washington's game against the Detroit Lions finished the week before.

"We told him, 'On the bus, stay away from the windows'," Dr. Royer said.

"In a room, get away from any exposed sunlight. Wear sunglasses.

"We introduced light therapy - much like you would use for seasonal-affective disorder - high-volume light.

"We started to move the light that he was exposed to with a bio light in the morning so he started waking up an hour earlier each day.

"It was still dark out in D.C. but we used blue light. In the human body, the circadian rhythm gets set by blue light.

"We increased his EEG [electroencephalogram] feedback so he was getting a lot of feedback on his brain, making sure it was calibrating correctly and introducing a slowing-down response in the body."

Dr. Royer thought Cousins was already "close to London time" by Thursday, the day the team actually boarded their flight for London.

Cousins' sleep cycles from Friday and Saturday night "were identical" to those he had in Washington, setting him up for a record-breaking day on Sunday.

"He was right on. I expected him to do well. It wasn't coincidental," Dr. Royer said.

This weekend the Oakland Raiders face the Chicago Bears in Premier League side Tottenham's stadium in the first of four NFL games in London this season.

Oakland arrived in England on Monday - a change from last year when they touched down in London two days before being beaten by the Seattle Seahawks.

The Bears, meanwhile, only landed in the English capital on Friday. So does the arrival time have an impact?

"The arrival time has very little to do [with it]," Dr. Royer argued.

"It's the work you do behind the scenes. Things like your pancreas, your digestive system, they're very rhythmic. They work on how you're releasing melatonin.

"Once you disturb that, it makes it very difficult to perform at a high, accurate level - whether it's basketball, football, whatever."

Boxing history is littered with examples of the best-laid plans being left battered on the canvas.

Especially at world level, there is an inherent danger in "marking time" fights.

Although multi-directional promotional disputes and genuine antipathy between the fighters makes a third bout against Saul 'Canelo' Alvarez far from cut and dried, it is still the prospect that generates most noise around Gennady Golovkin as the middleweight great prepares for a shot at regaining his old IBF belt against Sergiy Derevyanchenko on Saturday in New York.

"Ask more interesting questions," Golovkin tersely told reporters via an interpreter this week when Alvarez and his jump up to light-heavyweight for a shot at Sergey Kovalev in November became the topic of conversation at a pre-fight briefing.

The reality is there are few things more interesting in boxing in 2019 than the prospect of Golovkin and Alvarez squaring off for another instalment, having shared 24 enthralling, epic rounds so far.

Golovkin – in a not uncommon take – believes he should have been declared the winner of both 2017's split-decision draw and Alvarez's 2018 split-decision victory. His Mexican rival sees things somewhat differently.

"Oscar says many things that make no sense. Gennady Golovkin does not represent anything for me right now," Alvarez told the Los Angeles Times when launching the Kovalev fight.

"He comes from practically fighting a nobody [Golovkin's fourth-round knockout of the unheralded Steve Rolls in June]. He doesn’t represent a challenge that I haven’t had already in our two fights … For me, yes, we are finished."

Big drama away from the ring

The Oscar in question is Alvarez's long-time promoter Oscar De La Hoya, who the fighter publicly questioned after the IBF stripped him of champion status on account of a bout with mandatory challenger Derevyanchenko not being arranged.

Towards the end of Golovkin's preparations to contest the vacant belt with the 33-year-old Ukrainian, De La Hoya told DAZN that GGG "will be" one of Alvarez's opponents for next year.

It is an unhelpful spat but pales next to the ructions behind the scenes that followed Golovkin's first career loss to Alvarez.

The bout against Derevyanchenko has been promoted under the tagline "Big Drama Show" – Golovkin's always smilingly delivered catchphrase as the knockout victims stacked up and he became a star name in the United States.

That famously boyish grin has been harder to spot of late, and not just because the Kazakh puncher turned 37 earlier this year.

Alvarez prevailing, after testing positive for clenbuterol seven months earlier, irked Golovkin, and his actions since suggest a man unwilling to take any perceived injustice, no matter what the consequences.

A $100million six-fight deal with DAZN brought part three of the trilogy closer but changes away from the ring were not done there.

Oleg and Max Hermann, the managers who helmed Golovkin's American adventure, were jettisoned and legal proceedings followed with grim inevitability. Long-time promoter Tom Loeffler remains involved, although the fighter has also linked up with Eddie Hearn's Matchroom operation.

The end of Mexican style

The most shocking change to Golovkin's supporting cast came when he parted with esteemed trainer Abel Sanchez, who ingrained the long-reigning champion's "Mexican style" and presided over the bulk of a shuddering 23-knockout streak.

"It's unfortunate that fighters get to a certain point when it's all 'I' and not 'we'," Sanchez told Behind the Gloves in April. "It was a team effort – it was managers, promoters, the fighter, myself. We all made sacrifices to get to where he's at now."

Sanchez claimed Golovkin offered him reduced pay that he chose not to accept, and added: "When young men get to that level, new advisers get around them and I think because of that I've lost not only a friend but – I feel like – a son."

Johnathon Banks, alumnus of the famed Kronk Gym, who took charge of Wladimir Klitschko's corner when the great Emanuel Steward died, will run Golovkin's corner on Saturday as he did against Rolls. He could have a bigger job on his hands than the oddsmakers suggest.

Derevyanchenko danger

Derevyanchenko has a close 12-round decision against two-time middleweight champion Daniel Jacob in common with Golovkin, only he came out on the losing end.

It is the sole blemish on a late-starting professional career for a product of a Ukrainian amateur setup that is threatening to dominate the modern era through the likes of Vasyl Lomachenko, Oleksandr Usyk and Oleksandr Gvozdyk.

Even if Alvarez is not up next, Billy Joe Saunders, Callum Smith, Demetrius Andrade, Jermall Charlo or Jamie Munguia would all represent more attractive assignments than Golovkin's present task and the relatively muted publicity surrounding it. Boxing's cardinal sin of looking past your forthcoming fight feels impossible, which is dangerous when considering Derevyanchenko's obvious pedigree.

Then there are Golovkin's advancing years, the fact he has appeared easier to hit from his 2016 win over Kell Brook onwards – even while dispatching an over-matched Rolls – and the reality that brutal and punishing encounters such as those he shared with Alvarez seldom leave an aging boxer enhanced.

It remains hard to look past Golovkin's shocking power catching up with the naturally smaller Derevyanchenko at some stage this weekend. But during his imperial period in the middle of the decade, fighters entered the ring with two fists and a prayer. Now, amid age and upheaval, the reasons to suspect vulnerability have never been greater.

Revered sporting director Antonio Cordon was frustrated at Monaco in 2017.

Having just seen the club win Ligue 1, it was becoming apparent he had less control over player sales than he previously believed. He quit almost exactly a year after he had joined.

Although the Spaniard had no shortage of offers after departing Stade Louis II, with Real Madrid, Barcelona and Chelsea among his admirers, he opted for a rather more curious option.

Had a Granada fan been told at the time the highly regarded former Villarreal transfer guru was about to become an influential figure in the second-tier side's future, they'd have assumed you'd just fallen head-first from a Sierra Nevada peak.

Yet two years on, Cordon has again displayed his brilliance with Granada not only in LaLiga, but heading into Saturday's game at Real Madrid second in the table and just a point behind Zinedine Zidane's league leaders having already beaten Barcelona 2-0 as part of their best start to a top-flight season.

Hope springs eternal

Jiang Lizhang's first season as Granada owner culminated in relegation with just 20 points in 2016-17. Change was desperately needed but, luckily, the Chinese businessman's plans were already in place.

"Hope Group was established to manage the sporting activity of not just Granada, but also other clubs Jiang's invested in, such as Parma, Tondela and Chongqing Lifan. Leading things at Hope is Antonio Cordon," Heath Chesters – a fan and former Granada club journalist – told Omnisport.

"Cordon brought in Fran Sanchez to run the sports management at Granada. Between them they started the rebuild."

Although not one to bask in media attention, Cordon is a hugely respected figure in European football having spent 17 years at Villarreal and playing a vital role in turning them from a second-tier side into one of Spain's most prominent clubs.

Scout, chief scout, sporting director – Cordon's influence at Villarreal was huge, marking himself out as a shrewd talent-spotter. Now he is helping oversee several clubs at once via Hope Group.

The new system needed 2017-18 as a settling period, but they have gone from strength to strength ever since.

Jobs for locals

"Hope's aim was to focus mainly on Spanish players and particularly those from Andalusia," Chesters adds of the club's recruitment strategy.

Nine of Granada's squad are Andalusia born-and raised, while Yan Eteki, Ramon Azeez and Aaron Escandell all came through academies in the southern region.

Hope created a centralised scouting department to give their clubs access to data, tools and information that otherwise might be out of their reach financially. That certainly appears to be paying off with Granada, who finished second in La Segunda last term.

"Something that has been overlooked by much of the media is the quality of signings, both last season in Segunda and this season preparing for LaLiga," Chesters adds. "The biggest credit for the sports directive and Diego Martinez [coach] working in unison, is they signed pretty much all of their primary targets this pre-season.

"All clubs have their shopping lists, but how many actually get to sign practically all those they've targeted? Granada did that and, for the most part, that effort has gone under the radar."

Martinez the inspiration

But for all the planning and Hope Group's influence, there's no doubt who the main catalyst has been in the eyes of supporters.

"Speak to any fan and they'll say Granada's rise has everything to do with Diego Martinez," Chesters continues. "It's his sense of humility and teamwork, plus a strong family atmosphere, which has been the biggest change."

He secured an unexpected promotion back to LaLiga in his first season, earning many admirers in the process as his side went up with the best defence in the division.

Martinez spent the formative years of his coaching career at Sevilla. In eight seasons, he coached the 'C' team, guided the academy to a first ever league success, worked as assistant to Unai Emery and then took charge of the 'B' team – Sevilla Atletico – in 2014.

It was with Sevilla Atletico when he caught the attentions of other clubs, masterminding their shock promotion to La Segunda and keeping them up in 13th. They even had a spell between October 30 and December 9 when they didn't drop below fourth.

An underwhelming one-season stay at Osasuna did little to dent his burgeoning reputation and he has been the perfect fit for Granada.

"He transmits his belief, enthusiasm and encouragement to the players, and they've responded magnificently," Chesters enthused. "Most fascinating to see is interviews with every player, all praising his leadership, sharing his vision and philosophy. It's created the most unified group I think I've ever seen at Granada in 15 years following the club."

With Cordon and Martinez working in harmony, the sky is the limit. Next stop, the Santiago Bernabeu.

One thing you could never accuse Antonio Conte of is shying away from a challenge.

Conte has a history of taking on projects that, from the outside looking in, appear unfavourable to say the least. 

The fiery Italian delivered Serie A and Premier League titles, in his first campaigns at Juventus and Chelsea respectively, against the odds.

These are the formative days of his Inter tenure, but the initial signs suggest that history could be repeating itself as Conte attempts to end a Juve dynasty he himself set in motion.

So crucial to the aforementioned successes were hugely impressive undefeated streaks that defined his triumphs.

With six wins from six league matches, Inter fans can be forgiven for dreaming that the Conte affect is happening at San Siro.

This weekend, Juventus travel to Milan for what is undoubtedly the biggest domestic test Inter have faced in the fledgling Conte's era. 

Ahead of such a blockbuster fixture, Omnisport has taken a look at Conte's previous new-club juggernauts.

CONTE'S INVINCIBLES

Not even the bravest of gamblers would have predicted the sort of impact Conte had upon his return to Juve as head coach in May 2011. After gaining promotion back to the top flight four years previously, having been demoted for their part in the Calciopoli scandal, the Bianconeri set about competing at the top immediately by finishing third and second in the 2007-08 and 2008-09 campaigns.

But when Conte walked back through the doors in Turin, Juventus were at a low ebb, having recorded back-to-back seventh-placed finishes. It was in this context we first witnessed Conte's uncanny ability to turn underachievers into title winners.

Defensive solidity, tactical nous and quick transitions – all Conte trademarks – were to the fore as Juve went unbeaten in Serie A. A tendency to draw looked as though it could derail their aspirations – there were 15 in all from 38 matches and AC Milan actually won more games - but their defence was breached just 20 times in 38 matches. An outstanding end to the season, which saw Juve win 10 of their final 11 games, including a run of eight in a row, emphatically settled the issue and sparked the start to an era of dominance that has returned eight straight titles.

RECORD-BREAKING BLUES

Fast forward to 2016 and it must have felt a little like 'Groundhog Day' for Conte when he took the reins at Stamford Bridge. Chelsea were a club in disarray having finished the 2015-16 season in 10th place, just a year on from winning the Premier League under Jose Mourinho.

A team seemingly split and at odds with one another, Mourinho was sacked in December 2015 with the Blues in 16th position. Guus Hiddink steered the club through choppy waters to the end of the campaign, but any notion Conte could make Chelsea title contenders again seemed fanciful at best. Back-to-back losses against Liverpool and Arsenal in September did little to change that thinking.

But a switch to his trademark three-man defence proved a tactical masterstroke as Londoners embarked upon a then-record winning run of 13 matches in the Premier League. Chelsea would suffer three more defeats, but just one in the last nine games – a run of six straight victories crowning a memorable title triumph.

COMPARISONS TO JOSE?

Inter's golden era in the middle-to-late part of the past decade seems like a lifetime ago. Luciano Spalletti secured fourth-place finishes in his two seasons in charge, but the gap to Juventus remained sizeable – 21 points separated the teams last term. It is a challenge tailor-made for Conte and the early signs are positive, with a 100 per cent record in Serie A including a 2-0 derby win over AC Milan.

Juve are undoubtedly on another level to Inter's embattled neighbours, but with games against Sassuolo, Parma, Brescia, Bologna, Hellas Verona, Torino and SPAL to follow there is an opportunity, on paper at least, for another memorable Conte run.

An interesting point of reference is Inter's starts under Jose Mourinho during his two campaigns at San Siro. The Nerazzurri lost just one of their opening 18 Serie A matches – a derby defeat in September – during the 08-09 campaign and cantered to the title by 10 points. It was a similar story 12 months later, where Mourinho oversaw a famous treble campaign, as Inter lost just once in the first 15 matches of the season.

With the first quarter of the season over already, the tanking reality is starting to sink in for some teams, while the two remaining undefeated squads are not showing any signs of slowing down.

Here is a look at Week 5's Bullet Points with data supplied by Stats Perform.

THURSDAY
(All Times Eastern)

Los Angeles Rams (3-1) at Seattle Seahawks (3-1), 8:20pm

The Rams have won three straight games versus the Seahawks and six of eight dating back to the 2015 season. Both games in 2018 were decided by five points or fewer – since last season Los Angeles are 8-1 in one-possession matches, the best in the NFL (game decided by eight points or fewer).

Los Angeles lost their first game of the season in Week 4, falling at home to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 55-40. Jared Goff threw for 517 yards, the third-most in a loss in NFL history behind only Dan Marino (521 on October 23, 1988 versus the New York Jets) and Matthew Stafford (520 on January 1, 2012 versus the Green Bay Packers).

Seattle have scored at least 21 points in all four of their 2019 games and in 12 straight dating back to Week 10 of 2018 – only the Kansas City Chiefs (25) have a longer active streak. Under Pete Carroll (since 2010), the Seahawks are 4-4 when scoring 21 or more points against the Rams compared to 17-5 when doing so against other divisional opponents.

SUNDAY

New York Jets (0-3) at Philadelphia Eagles (2-2), 1pm

Philadelphia have scored a touchdown on each of their last seven trips to the red zone, the longest active streak in the NFL. Conversely, the Jets have allowed points on each of their opponents' last 51 trips to the red zone, also the longest active streak in the NFL.

Carson Wentz leads the NFL in passing yardage (385), passing touchdowns (five) and first downs (23) in third-down situations this season. He and the Eagles have converted 56.1 per cent of all third-down opportunities, the best in the NFL.

Le'Veon Bell has accounted for 42.3 percent of the Jets' scrimmage yards and 59.4 per cent of all touches this season, both highest in the NFL. For the Jets, 31.9 per cent of all passes have been thrown behind the line of scrimmage – the most in the NFL.

Jacksonville Jaguars (2-2) at Carolina Panthers (2-2), 1pm

The Jags have gone 26 consecutive drives without a turnover, the second-longest active streak in the NFL (Tennessee Titans, 46). They have turned the ball over just three times this season, tied for third-fewest in the league, but have forced just two turnovers, tied for second-fewest (DenverBroncos, zero).

The Panthers are tied with the Patriots for the NFL lead in sacks with 18, which is also Carolina's most through four games in franchise history. They have 11 players with at least half a sack this season, the most of any team.

Christian McCaffrey is only the second player in the Super Bowl era with at least 400 rushing yards (411) and 200 receiving yards (218) through four team games of a season. He joins the Detroit Lions' Billy Sims in 1980 (539 rush yards, 206 receiving yards).

Minnesota Vikings (2-2) at New York Giants (2-2), 1pm

Daniel Jones will attempt to become the first Giants rookie quarterback to win his first three NFL starts since Phil Simms (four) in 1979. Jones can join Lamar Jackson (2018), Carson Wentz (2016) and Ben Roethlisberger (2004) as the only active QBs to go 3-0 as a starter during their maiden season.

Golden Tate will make his Giants debut after completing a four-game suspension for violating the NFL's policy on performance-enhancing substances. Tate has had at least one reception in 104 consecutive games, the third-longest active streak among players currently on NFL rosters (Larry Fitzgerald, 231; Julio Jones, 107).

Dalvin Cook is the third player since 2009 with over 400 rushing yards and five or more rushing touchdowns through a season's first four games (Adrian Peterson, 2013; DeMarco Murray, 2014). Cook is also the third player in Vikings history to start a season with a rushing touchdown in four straight games (Chuck Foreman, four in 1975; Bill Brown, six in 1968).

Atlanta Falcons (1-3) at Houston Texans (2-2), 1pm

The Falcons are 1-11 against the AFC since October 23, 2016, the worst winning percentage in interconference games during that period. Atlanta's six straight interconference losses is their longest skid against the AFC since they lost seven in a row from October 3, 1999-December 3, 2000.

Atlanta's Julio Jones (8,891) and Houston's DeAndre Hopkins (7696) rank second and third respectively among NFL players in receiving yards since the latter entered the league in 2013. Jones became the fastest player in NFL history to reach 11,000 receiving yards, doing so in 115 games, during Atlanta's Week 4 loss to Tennessee.

DeShaun Watson has thrown 221 consecutive passes without an interception at home, the longest streak in franchise history. Watson has been picked off just three times overall in 14 games since Week 7 of last season. Among quarterbacks with at least 300 pass attempts over that span, only Aaron Rodgers (2) has thrown fewer interceptions.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-2) at New Orleans Saints (3-1), 1pm

The Buccaneers have allowed 30 or more points in 11 of 20 games since the start of the 2018 season, tied with the Miami Dolphins for the most in the NFL during that period. Including the postseason, the Saints are 19-1 when scoring 30 points or more since 2017, with the lone loss coming to the Bucs last term.

Tampa Bay have allowed league lows of 59.3 rushing yards per game and 2.9 yards per rush attempt in 2019, and their 237 rushing yards allowed are the second-fewest in franchise history for the first four games of a season (233 in 1999). New Orleans, meanwhile, have not allowed an individual 100-yard rusher in 26 straight games, the longest active streak in the NFL.

New Orleans kept sole possession of the NFC South lead with last week's 12-10 win over the Dallas Cowboys – their first victory without scoring an offensive touchdown since October 25, 1998 (a 9-3 win over Tampa Bay). The Saints have just three offensive touchdowns over their past three games, their fewest in any three-game span since Sean Payton became head coach in 2006.

Buffalo Bills (3-1) at Tennessee Titans (2-2), 1pm

The last three meetings between the Bills and the Titans have been decided by a single point, with Buffalo winning the last two (2015 and 2018) and Tennessee winning the other (2012). Only four other match-ups in NFL history have had three straight games decided by one point or less – the most-recent previous occurrence was from 1966 to 1969 between the San Francisco 49ers and the Eagles.

Marcus Mariota threw for three touchdowns in the win over Atlanta after having no passing touchdowns in a loss to Jacksonville the week before. Mariota has played in 60 career games for the Titans (59 starts) and Tennessee's record is 30-30. He has a touchdown-to-interception ratio of 51-13 (3.92) in the 30 wins and 25-29 (0.86) in the 30 losses.

Frank Gore rushed for 109 yards in the loss to the New England Patriots at the age of 36 years, 138 days. He became the second-oldest player in NFL history to rush for 100 or more yards in a game behind only MacArthur Lane, who was 36 years, 199 days old when he rushed for 144 yards with Kansas City on October 1, 1978 at Buffalo.

Arizona Cardinals (0-3-1) at Cincinnati Bengals (0-4), 1pm

The Bengals have started 0-4 for the 11th time in franchise history, the second-most 0-4 starts of all time (Lions, 13). They have just 198 rushing yards this term, the sixth-fewest by any team through four games in the last 60 years.

The Cardinals are winless through four games for the second consecutive season. They have been outscored by 46 points in the first half, the third-worst in the NFL, but have outscored opponents by five points in the second half.

Kyler Murray has attempted 169 passes this season, the third most in the NFL and third most by any player in his first four career games in the last 50 seasons. He has also rushed for 113 yards, third most among quarterbacks this season (Lamar Jackson, 238; Josh Allen, 131).

New England Patriots (4-0) at Washington Redskins (0-4), 1pm

The Patriots are the fourth team since the 1970 merger to not trail over their first four games of a season, along with the 1983 Oakland Raiders, 2004 Falcons and 2009 Saints. The only one to extend their streak to five games was the 2009 Saints.

Tom Brady has led his team to a 4-0 start for the fifth time, the second most of all time among starting quarterbacks behind Peyton Manning (seven times). With those four wins, Brady now has more victories after turning 42 years old than all other QBs in NFL history combined.

The Redskins have allowed their opponents to convert 63.0 per cent of their third downs this season, the highest opponent third-down percentage through four games by any team in the last 25 years.

Baltimore Ravens (2-2) at Pittsburgh Steelers (1-3), 1pm

These teams are 19-19 against each other since 2000, but Pittsburgh have won four of the last five meetings. This will be the first meeting between the teams without Joe Flacco or Ben Roethlisberger starting since December 30, 2007, when the Ravens' Troy Smith beat the Steelers' Charlie Batch 27-21.

Lamar Jackson is the first player in NFL history to tally 1,100 or more passing yards and at least 200 rushing yards through his first four games of a season. His 10 touchdown passes are the most through four games in franchise history.

Mason Rudolph is the fourth player in NFL history to throw multiple touchdown passes in each of his first three career games, joining Mark Rypien (first four), Jay Cutler (first four) and Marcus Mariota (first three).

Chicago Bears (3-1) at Oakland Raiders (2-2), 1pm

Oakland average 5.08 yards per carry, the sixth best in the NFL this season. Chicago hold opponents to 2.96 yards per carry, the second fewest league-wide (Tampa Bay – 2.93). The longest run the Bears have allowed this season went for 14 yards.

Derek Carr has a 72.1 completion percentage through four games, besting his franchise record of 71.0 from last season. Carr, Matt Ryan and Russell Wilson are the only quarterbacks in the NFL to have completed at least 60.0 percent of their passes in four straight games to begin the 2019 season.

Since the Raiders sent Khalil Mack to the Bears before last season, he has forced 10 fumbles, two more than any other player. The Bears are 10-2 when Mack gets at least one sack; only the Rams in Aaron Donald's games (11-0) and the Chiefs/49ers in Dee Ford's (11-1) have been better (minimum 10 games).

Denver Broncos (0-4) at Los Angeles Chargers (2-2), 4:05pm

The Chargers have the third-best passing offense in the NFL at 300.3 net yards per game; they also rank in the top five in the league in average time of possession, yards per play, plays of 20-plus yards and third-down efficiency. Yet the Chargers are only 14th in scoring, averaging 22.5 points per game.

Melvin Gordon is expected to play on Sunday; he returned to the Chargers last weekend after ending a contract dispute. Gordon's replacement Austin Ekeler leads the NFL with six total touchdowns and ranks fifth with 490 scrimmage yards. The Chargers' Keenan Allen is tied for the league lead with 34 receptions and tops all players with 452 receiving yards.

Joe Flacco has started a season 0-4 for the first time in his 12 NFL seasons, but his numbers are among the best of his career. Flacco's completion percentage of 66.2 is the highest he has had through four games in a season, and his yards per attempt (7.27) is on pace for the second highest of his career.

Green Bay Packers (3-1) at Dallas Cowboys (3-1), 4:25pm

The Packers have won seven of their last eight meetings with the Cowboys in the regular season and postseason. Green Bay have won their last three in Dallas dating back to 2013, with each game decided by four or fewer points – prior to these three wins, Green Bay had gone 5-12 in Dallas (regular season and postseason).

Aaron Rodgers has gone 3-10 away from home since 2017, the third-worst record in the NFL among quarterbacks with at least 10 road starts in that time. Only Derek Carr (4-14) and Jameis Winston (2-10) have a worse record in road games over the last three seasons.

Dak Prescott threw for a season-low 223 yards in Dallas' loss to New Orleans, throwing an interception and zero touchdowns. In Prescott's starts, the Cowboys have gone 5-9 when he fails to throw a touchdown compared to 30-8 when he throws at least one.

Indianapolis Colts (2-2) at Kansas City Chiefs (4-0), 8:20pm

The Chiefs have started 4-0 for the third consecutive season, becoming the first team do so since the Colts from 2005-07. They are the sixth team to do this in the Super Bowl Era (since 1966) – four of the previous five won a Super Bowl within the three-year span.

Patrick Mahomes did not throw a touchdown pass in Kansas City's Week 4 win over the Lions, breaking a streak of 14 straight games with at least two passing TDs. Only Peyton Manning (with Denver) has a longer streak, throwing two-plus TD passes in 15 straight games spanning the 2013 and 2014 seasons.

Jacoby Brissett is the only quarterback in the NFL to have thrown multiple touchdowns in four games in 2019. Brissett has a 120.5 passer rating on second down, trailing only Dak Prescott (132.1) and Matt Stafford (123.3). Five of his 10 passing touchdowns have come on second down, trailing only Prescott (six).

MONDAY

Cleveland Browns (2-2) at San Francisco 49ers (3-0), 8:15pm

The Browns have combined for just 26 points in their two home games (both losses) but have scored 63 points in their two road games (both wins). They have not won their first three road games of a season since 1994.

Nick Chubb ran for 165 yards and three touchdowns in Week 4 at Baltimore on just 20 attempts. The last Browns player before Chubb with 165 or more rushing yards on 20 attempts or fewer was Jim Brown on September 22, 1963 at Dallas (20 attempts, 232 yards).

Matt Breida (226) and Raheem Mostert (202) each have over 200 rushing yards, one of two teams with two such players this season despite playing just three games. The last 49ers duo to each have 200 rushing yards through three games of a season was Roger Craig and Wendell Tyler in 1985.

The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) once had Twenty20 vision to realise the potential for a new, shorter format to be added to the county structure.

What was set up as a method to attract a younger audience has become a global success worth millions, with T20 competitions springing up around the world - and not just traditional cricket-playing nations, either.

However, the ECB has decided the time is right to embrace change again. In 2020, the English game will see The Hundred come into existence.

Here, we attempt to answer some key questions about the tournament, including the teams involved, the players who are primed to play in it and where the games will take place.


The Hundred - what exactly is it?

A new concept for cricket in England that involves eight teams. A game will have two innings of 100 deliveries each (the clue is in the name).

There will be a change of end after 10 balls, rather than the usual six. Bowlers can send down five or 10 consecutive balls, while they are limited to 20 in the match. As for the powerplay, that will span 25 deliveries and a maximum of two fielders will be allowed outside the inner circle during that period of play.

It's cricket - just not as we know it.


And when will this take place?

From July 17 to August 16. The schedule – which runs during the school holidays in England – will see the teams play each other once, while each side will take on a 'rival' opponent both home and away, taking the total number of group games for each up to eight.

The top three in the table will then progress through to finals day, where second will play third in a semi-final to decide who will face the top seeds for the title.


What about the names and locations of the teams?

Well, the identities will be announced on Thursday at the initial draft. However, we do at least know the locations.

The 18 first-class counties have been grouped together in catchment areas based around international venues, two of which are situated in London. The full list is as follows (in alphabetical order):

- Birmingham (Warwickshire and Worcestershire - to play at Edgbaston)
- Cardiff (Glamorgan, Gloucestershire and Somerset - to play at Sophia Gardens)
- Leeds (Yorkshire and Durham - to play at Headingley)
- London (Middlesex, Essex, and Northamptonshire - to play at Lord's)
- London (Surrey and Kent - to plat at The Oval)
- Manchester (Lancashire - to play at Old Trafford)
- Nottingham (Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire and Leicestershire - to play at Trent Bridge)
- Southampton (Hampshire and Sussex - to play at the Rose Bowl)


Will England players be appearing in it?

Absolutely! That includes their Test players too, albeit only for a limited stretch due to a home series against Pakistan, which starts on July 30.

The 10 individuals who were handed red-ball contracts for the 2019-20 season are not guaranteed to play for their 'home' teams, however.  Each roster will have at least one Test representative, with the chance to choose from the options available from their counties. However, Cardiff and the London franchise based at Lord's have no red-ball options tied to them.

Those with multiple options will have to make a choice on Thursday at the initial draft.

For example, if Leeds opt for all-rounder Ben Stokes (and why wouldn't they?), it means Jonny Bairstow and Joe Root could end up elsewhere, though if they are not chosen by another team, they will automatically be added to their original team's roster.

As well as Test stars, the teams will have the opportunity to announce two 'icon' players from their catchment, which will also be revealed on Thursday.

This is likely to be when some of the England squad who won the Cricket World Cup on home soil earlier this year will find out whether they will be staying close to home. However, there also could be some lesser-known names - at least globally - rewarded for their T20 performances at county level.


How many players on each team, and what about international signings?

There will be 15-man rosters for the teams to work with, which will be filled out during a further player draft on October 20.

Organisers has revealed some of the registered players already, with the list including World Cup-winning captain Eoin Morgan and England team-mate Moeen Ali.

Australia duo Steve Smith and David Warner will also be involved, along with Pakistan batsman Babar Azam, South Africa wicketkeeper Quinton de Kock and Afghanistan leg-spinner Rashid Khan. Oh, and the evergreen Chris Gayle, of course. It would not be a white-ball event without the 'Universe Boss'...

Do not, however, get excited about the prospect of seeing Virat Kohli or Rohit Sharma playing. India's current internationals are not set to be involved.


So how does the second player draft work, then?

A draw will decide the order for what will be a snake draft later in the month, meaning positions will be reversed in alternate rounds. Therefore, if you are up first in round one, you will be last second time around.

Each team must pick two players from seven set salary bands, which range from £30,000 to £125,000. Captains, by the way, get a £10,000 bonus.

Players have chosen their own reserve price, meaning they may pitch themselves out of the draft. Still, the biggest names will expect to earn the big money.

A team can pick three overseas recruits and, just prior to the tournament, will complete their 15-man line-ups by adding a wildcard - most likely an individual who impressed in the domestic T20 Blast earlier in the same season.

The NFL returns to London this weekend as the Chicago Bears face the Oakland Raiders.

For the 13th successive season, fans across the pond will get a chance to sample a regular-season game in the English capital.

The Bears and Raiders will meet for the first time since October 2015, when Chicago won 22-20. 

While Chicago and Oakland don't face off often in the United States, this game in London will be a tiebreaker, since their all-time series is split at 7-7.

With help from our friends at Opta, we break down what to expect when the Raiders and Bears visit London, from the teams' biggest stars to the interesting and random facts that make football fun.

Chicago Bears

Coach

Matt Nagy - Second season, 15–5 regular-season record

Quarterbacks

While Mitchell Trubisky is the starter for Chicago, the dislocated shoulder he sustained in Week 4 will likely sideline him for the Raiders clash. Backup Chase Daniel will therefore almost certainly take to the field on Sunday in his fifth career start and first since Week 12 of last season.

Trubisky, 25, is in his third season with the team and Daniel 32, has been a backup for several franchises since he signed as an undrafted free agent in 2009. However, Daniel has posted better numbers than Trubisky when comparing their first four NFL starts (though it took Daniel nine years in the league to log four starts).

Offense

Daniel's experience means he can anchor the Bears' offense in London as that unit looks to catch up to their stellar defense.

Rookie running back David Montgomery leads the team in touches (66) and rushing yards (200) and has the team's only rushing touchdown of the season, which was his first NFL score. His 66 touches through four games are the fourth-most for a Bears rookie and the most since Matt Forte's 110 touches in 2008.

In terms of the passing game, wideout Allen Robinson has been the go-to man for Trubisky, but how will he fare with Daniel? According to Nagy, nothing will be altered much, and Daniel indicated Robinson still will be a top target on Sunday.

“He's just so aggressive with the football,” Daniel said of Robinson earlier this week. "You can trust him. It's his football or nobody's. So, I have a lot of trust in him, and I have a lot of time on task with him, too.”

Robinson has been targeted 10 more times than any other Bear (34), has 10 more receptions than any other teammate (24) and his 280 receiving yards are more than double the next closest Bears pass catcher (Taylor Gabriel, 110).

Defense

The team's defense is one of the best in the league with 17 total sacks, four interceptions (two of which were returned for touchdowns) and 253 total team tackles.

That unit's star linebacker Khalil Mack, has 17.5 sacks, 22 QB hits and 10 forced fumbles since he was traded to the Bears from the Raiders in 2018. The 10 forced fumbles are two more than any other player in the NFL. In comparison, the entire Raiders' defense has combined for 18 sacks and eight forced fumbles in the same time span.

Defensive tackle Nick Williams has had a breakout campaign for the Bears this season after spending his first five seasons in the league on practice squads with other teams. He signed with the Bears in 2018, but this year he's exploded, recording a sack in each of the last three games for Chicago. He's also one of eight players with four or more sacks this year. 

Fun London fact: This is the Bears' second game in London. They defeated the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 24-18 at Wembley in 2011. The Bears had four interceptions in that game — one of four contests with four-plus picks since the start of the 2009 season — and Forte ran for 145 yards and a touchdown.

Only one player has had more rushing yards in a London game — New York Jets tailback Chris Ivory ran for 166 yards in 2015 against the Miami Dolphins.

Oakland Raiders

Coach

Jon Gruden: Second season in second coaching stint, 5-15 regular-season record

Quarterback

Derek Carr is in his sixth season with the Raiders, who drafted him in 2014. This will be his third game in London, where he holds an 0-2 record. He enters this weekend with 888 passing yards, six touchdowns and three interceptions while completing 72.1 percent of his passes. 

In London, Carr has 288 passing yards, one passing touchdown and one interception in his first two games there.

Offense

Running back Josh Jacobs has 307 rushing yards and two touchdowns on the ground on 62 carries this year. He leads all rookies in yards from scrimmage (364) and is one of two rookies with multiple rushing touchdowns. The other? New York Giants quarterback Daniel Jones, who also has two rushing scores.

Jacobs has been huge for an inconsistent Raiders offense. He was instrumental in the team's first win of the year in Week 4 against the Indianapolis Colts and is now being called the team's "closer."

"This guy Josh Jacobs is going to be a great back," Gruden told NBC after the win. "As long as I don't screw it up, he's going to be one hell of a player. He can really run — he's got great vision. I think he's got breakaway speed and power...

“It's a credit to everybody when you run the ball the way we ran it. It wasn't a bunch of RPOs and single-back lateral runs. It was old-fashioned, hard-nosed football."

Many wondered who would take over for Antonio Brown after he was released by the Raiders before the season began, and that man seems to be Tyrell Williams. The receiver has caught four of the team's six touchdown passes this year and has a score in four straight games. He will be looking to make that five in a row and, if he does score a touchdown on Sunday, he will be the first Raider to do so since Tim Brown in 2001.

Defense

After trading away Mack last season, the Raiders' defense has been as exciting as a dry piece of toast. The team ranks 22nd out of 32 when it comes to total yards allowed (385.5 yards per game).

It's unclear if defensive end Benson Mayowa, who leads the team with 3.5 sacks, will play this Sunday, but he posted a cryptic message which said "u cannot believe everything u read" after being inactive for Oakland's win against the Colts.

Down the field, safety Erik Harris has proven to be a headache for receivers this season. He secured his third career interception and first touchdown in Week 4. His three interceptions since the start of last year are tied for the most on the team.

Harris is just the second Oakland player with an interception return touchdown over the last three seasons

Fun London fact: This is Oakland’s third game in London — only the Jacksonville Jaguars (six) and the Dolphins (four) have played in England more often. The Raiders are 0-2 in London, getting outscored 65-17 in the process.

Beating a struggling 10-man Newcastle United 5-0 may be no sign of a team's quality but Leicester City can send the Premier League a message when Brendan Rodgers returns to Anfield this weekend.

The Foxes are third in the league, having taken 14 points from their seven matches, with last month's 1-0 loss away to Manchester United their only defeat in the 2019-20 season so far.

That trip to Old Trafford was supposed to act as a marker for Leicester, a chance to show they are ready to challenge the established elite, but Marcus Rashford's early penalty was enough to settle the contest.

Liverpool have yet to drop a point in the league this season and are on a 16-game winning run that dates back to last term, though Rodgers and Leicester could give the Reds' perfect record a serious test.


IN BETTER SHAPE THAN 2015-16?

No football fan will ever forget Claudio Ranieri leading Leicester to the Premier League title, but Rodgers' side have started the season in stronger form than the Foxes did four years ago.

At this stage of their title-winning campaign, Leicester were yet to keep a clean sheet having gone down 5-2 at home to Arsenal, while they had 12 points on the board compared to this term's tally.

Of course, this does not mean Leicester are going to repeat their 5,000/1 heroics, as Pep Guardiola's two-time champions Manchester City and - to a slightly lesser extent Liverpool - have completely changed the game since then.

Leicester capitalised on the traditional 'big six' - City, Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea, Tottenham and Manchester United - all having poor seasons to secure an improbable triumph, topping the table with 81 points, having drawn 12 games and lost three. Teams need to target 100 points to win the title now.

That is not to say Leicester did not deserve their season in the sun - they won the league by a comfortable margin of 10 points after all - but the set of circumstances that led to their triumph are highly unlikely to be repeated in 2019-20, as Liverpool's winning streak shows.

But Rodgers' Leicester are in a serious position of strength, with quality running deep through their squad. Could the same be said for Ranieri's squad? They were more reliant on a small group of players who featured in most matches.


VARDY STILL LEADS THE WAY

Jamie Vardy and Kasper Schmeichel are the two main stars left at Leicester from 15-16, providing stability and reliable quality at each end of the pitch, with Wes Morgan now a back-up option.

Vardy has hit five goals in seven Premier League games, while Schmeichel has helped Rodgers' men concede only five times. They are level with leaders Liverpool as the tightest defence in the league despite the club-record sale of star defender Harry Maguire to Manchester United.

The importance of Vardy to Leicester cannot be understated. Nonplussed with his role under Claude Puel, when Leicester played a style completely ill-suited to his abilities, but the striker is now back to his best.

Since Rodgers' first match in charge in March, Vardy has scored 14 times in 17 Premier League appearances, which is more than any other player in the competition in that time. That Vardy gave up England duty also suits Leicester, as the 32-year-old can rest up during international breaks.

Vardy is providing a goal or an assist every 95 minutes during the Rodgers era, compared to every 105 minutes on average when Leicester became champions. 


SQUAD STRENGTH KEY FOR FOXES

Leicester are not a one-man team, though. James Maddison has forced his way into England reckoning by virtue of eight Premier League goals since he signed from Norwich City last year, while his 111 chances created is more than anyone in the Premier League since the start of the 2018-19 season.

There is an argument Leicester are a better unit now than in their title-winning season when Vardy, Riyad Mahrez and N'Golo Kante were Ranieri's undoubted star trio, while there are more options in forward positions after investment in the squad.

Wilfred Ndidi, who scored the last goal in Leicester's 5-0 rout of Newcastle, is performing a passable Kante impression in midfield, while full-backs Ben Chilwell and Ricardo Pereira are attacking upgrades on Danny Simpson and Christian Fuchs from the title-winning XI.

Ayoze Perez and Youri Tielemans - a reported transfer target for Manchester United earlier this year - would be strong options get into that team as well, perhaps replacing Shinji Okazaki and Danny Drinkwater respectively, although Rodgers' system is different to Ranieri's more traditional 4-4-2.

On paper at least, this current Leicester vintage is arguably stronger than the 15-16 heroes.


DATA DIVE HINTS AT IMMINENT DOWNTURN

An examination of Opta data indicates Leicester are over-performing right now and could therefore drop down the table in the coming weeks - although after going to Anfield their next three league games are all eminently winnable: Burnley (H), Southampton (A), Crystal Palace (A).

Perceived wisdom tends to claim Leicester were lucky in 15-16, but their tally of 68 goals was slightly under their season xG (expected goals - a metric that explains quality of chances created) score of 69.3, suggesting results were around what was to be expected from their performances.

This season, though, Leicester's xG stands at just 7.84 - above only Crystal Palace and Newcastle. They have scored 13 goals for an xG difference of 5.2, meaning they are vastly overperforming. Typically, xG figures stabilise as the season progresses, but this is not always the case. The Foxes' xG difference in 2017-18 was also 5.2.

Leicester have one of the highest xG differences in the league, which means they have been clinical but may also hint a correction is on the cards. Since ex-Celtic boss Rodgers took over, Leicester have converted 46 per cent of their big chances, compared to 40.2 per cent in 15-16.

Rodgers has also tweaked the Foxes' style after they played on the break to great effect under Ranieri. Possession stands at 55.5 per cent for Leicester under their current manager, while it was down at 42.4 per cent in their title season. Passing accuracy is up from 70.5 per cent to 82.3 per cent, too.

The xG data may indicate Leicester's status as top-six - or even top-four contenders - is in doubt despite issues for Chelsea, Tottenham, Arsenal and United. No team has broken the dominance of the 'big six' since Leicester.

If Rodgers can inspire a positive result against the team he almost led to a maiden Premier League title in 2013-14, the numbers might just be proved wrong.

Two of the Premier League's form sides face off on Saturday, as Liverpool welcome Leicester City, along with their former manager Brendan Rodgers, to Anfield.

Jurgen Klopp's side may have narrowly missed out to Manchester City in the title race last season, but already hold a five-point advantage over the defending champions after seven games.

The Reds have won all of their league outings so far, though you expect they will have to be better than they were against Sheffield United last time out if they are to defeat a Leicester side that is going from strength to strength under Rodgers.

Leicester – tipped before the season started as genuine top-six contenders following a strong end to 2018-19 – have won four of their last five matches, with their only defeat of the campaign coming at Old Trafford.

A 5-0 demolition of 10-man Newcastle United last weekend followed on from a hard-fought, if slightly fortuitous, win over Tottenham and the question now is whether Leicester can prove their credentials for a top-six finish, if not better, against the European champions.

 

RODGERS RETURNS TO MERSEYSIDE

This match will be Rodgers' first trip back to Anfield since he was sacked by Liverpool in October 2015.

The former Swansea City boss almost led Liverpool to the league title in 2013-14, but City pipped them to the post after a number of big moments went against the Reds.

Since Rodgers took over at Leicester following the dismissal of predecessor Claude Puel, only City and Liverpool have won more Premier League points than the Foxes' haul of 31.

Klopp, of course, took charge at Anfield after Rodgers had left, with Liverpool – under his stewardship – returning back to the top table of European football and competing for the league title on a consistent basis.

While Rodgers will be keen to prove himself to Liverpool all over again, this time by inflicting their first defeat of the season, Leicester's best efforts may not be enough if Klopp's men – who have won 16 league games in a row – play close to their full capability.

HEAD TO HEAD: SADIO MANE V JAMIE VARDY

Sadio Mane shared last season's Golden Boot with team-mate Mohamed Salah and Arsenal's Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and the Senegal international has kept up his sparkling form.

With four goals already this season, Mane needs one more to bring up his 50th in the league for Liverpool in what would be his 100th appearance for the club.

But Leicester have a fearsome forward of their own in the form of Jamie Vardy, who has started the season in style with five goals.

Vardy has relished playing against Liverpool in the past, with only Andrew Cole and Thierry Henry scoring more times against them in the Premier League than Leicester's number nine.

The 32-year-old averages a goal every 126 minutes, ever-so-slightly better than Mane's effort of 129.5 minutes per goal and since the start of 2010-11 only Sergio Aguero has a better minutes per goal ratio against the 'big six' than Vardy, while he has also converted 50 per cent of six big chances created for him this term.

In comparison, Mane's big-chance conversion percentage is 33.3, though the ex-Southampton forward has created 12 opportunities for his team-mates, albeit only resulting in one assist.

Both players have had 34 touches in the opposition box so far and have each managed seven shots on target, though Mane has completed nine dribbles compared to Vardy's zero.

FORM GUIDE

Liverpool's current run of 16 consecutive Premier League victories is the second longest in English top-flight history, bettered only by City between August and December 2017, when Pep Guardiola's side won 18 matches in a row.

While Liverpool are unbeaten in their last 43 home league games, Leicester have been in indifferent form on the road so far this season, though they have played both Manchester United and Chelsea, losing at Old Trafford but drawing at Stamford Bridge.

Their one away win came at Bramall Lane, where Liverpool laboured to a 1-0 victory last time out thanks to Dean Henderson's howler.

It was possibly the least convincing display from the Reds so far this season, with Klopp's side having been mightily impressive on the whole, defeating both Arsenal and Chelsea.

However, they had only managed to keep one clean sheet prior to Saturday's win in Sheffield, with Leicester sure to test Virgil van Dijk and co at the back.

HISTORY SAYS…

The Reds are unbeaten in their last 43 home league games, which is the longest ongoing run in the top five European leagues, and Liverpool's second longest in the top flight. 

Coincidently, their previous best of 63 between February 1978 and December 1980 was eventually ended by Leicester.

But the good omens end there for Leicester, who have not beat Liverpool in their last eight trips to Anfield in the Premier League since a 2-0 win in May 2000.

Leicester have lost 11 of their last 13 Premier League games against sides starting the day top of the table, with their last such victory coming in January 1998.

Meanwhile, Roy Hodgson is the only manager to have previously managed the Reds in the Premier League and won away against them in the competition.

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