A pulsing light show, a pitch side fire show and the obligatory Kasabian soundtrack. The King Power Stadium was ready to party like it was 2015-16.

Brendan Rodgers' vibrant Leicester side might have been knocked off their stride at Manchester City last weekend, but this felt like the ideal time to restate their elite credentials before an adoring and clapper-armed public.

Liverpool were just back from their successful but often torrid Club World Cup exertions in Qatar to play their closest challengers in the Premier League away from home.

Any notion this combination of circumstances represented a deck potentially stacked against Jurgen Klopp's formidable side lasted less than a minute, during which time the runaway leaders almost scored twice.

Kasper Schmeichel, who did not enjoy his most distinguished outing, was unsettled by Trent Alexander-Arnold's rasping long-range drive before Jonny Evans uncharacteristically switched off from a Mohamed Salah cross and Sadio Mane bundled wide.

Leicester were rarely able to feel any more comfortable than they were during those discombobulating opening 60 seconds, save for a fleeting second-half rally ignited by Alisson slicing his clearance from an Andy Robertson backpass.

Seemingly affronted by this belated challenge in a game where they should already have been out of sight, Liverpool scored three times in the space of seven minutes to seal an emphatic 4-0 triumph. This was brutal, blistering efficiency from the best team on the planet right now.

Their record this season in the Premier League reads 17 wins and one draw. This is not a title race; it is a procession. The final five months of their 30-year wait for a 19th top-flight crown will be little more than an extended victory lap.

Liverpool have risen imperiously to the implausibly high bar set by Manchester City – the last team to beat them in the Premier League back on January 3.

Pep Guardiola's men amassed 198 points and five of the six major domestic trophies on offer over the past two seasons. City's wobbles this time around have been magnified by the Reds' near perfection and they travel to Wolves on Friday 14 points in arrears having played the same amount of games.

Leicester were unable to bring their considerable quality to bear in a contest where Jamie Vardy and James Maddison existed on the margins. They were beaten 3-1 by City, subjected to a Kevin De Bruyne masterclass, a reminder of Riyad Mahrez's magic and suggestions of Bernardo Silva rediscovering his mojo.

Here, they were swept beneath the red wave, with Alexander-Arnold particularly exceptional.

The cross for Club World Cup hero Roberto Firmino's opener was delicious and when the same players combined for Liverpool's third in the 74th minute it was a 20th assist since the start of last season for the England right-back.

Alexander-Arnold was not done there, completing the scoring with an unerring finish on the break after Mane scatted a bedraggled Leicester backline.

The all-important second goal arrived when Caglar Soyuncu needlessly handled in the area and substitute James Milner confidently converted from 12 yards. Soyuncu has arguably been the standout defender in the Premier League this season but flailed badly five days on from being subjected to De Bruyne's wrath.

It handily encapsulates the gulf between the champions, the leaders and the rest – a gap more likely to grow than shrink given the various grapples with transition the other members of the "big six" are undergoing.

The champions of Europe and the world will be the champions of England. If the wondrous Alexander-Arnold and his team-mates can maintain their levels, the only question is how many records they might smash by the end of the season.

Erling Haaland is going to Juventus. No, sorry, that should say Manchester United. Or is it Leipzig, I can never quite remember. Did the papers say Dortmund? You might be right.

What we know about Haaland is that it should be a matter of days before his future becomes clear. The Salzburg striker is surely going somewhere in January.

If his eventual destination is Old Trafford, then that raises an issue. Because on the evidence of the 4-1 Boxing Day win over Newcastle United, the Red Devils have a set of forwards who should be going nowhere.

In 22-year-old Marcus Rashford and 18-year-old Mason Greenwood, they possess two of the brightest young forwards in the Premier League certainly, perhaps in all of Europe.

And with two-goal Anthony Martial looking the part again, do United even need Haaland? The answer is that yes, they need all the top-class young players they can possibly draw to Manchester, even those who crow about supporting long-time foes Leeds United.

If Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is to truly build a team to stand the test of time, then the most eminent substitute of his day knows better than most the benefit of United boasting deep resources.

As United's supporters drawled through their 'Twelve days of Cantona' routine and patted themselves on the back over petty slights at former Newcastle striker Alan Shearer, there was a sense amid the festive cheer was that this is a club trapped in time.

The legendary Bobby Charlton watched on, and even in the opposition dugout there was a former United favourite in Steve Bruce.

Who within the United ranks as we head towards 2020 will be held in similar esteem to Charlton in 20, 30, 40, 50 years?

David de Gea? Still fault-prone. Rashford? Give the lad time. Paul Pogba? There were high hopes when he returned, but surely not.

So there is nobody quite there yet. The serial winners have all left, and any predictions of United lifting a Premier League title in the next five years might be widely frowned upon.

But while Liverpool are on top of the world, Manchester City have long cast off the tag of 'noisy neighbours', and intrigue surrounds Frank Lampard at Chelsea and Mikel Arteta at Arsenal, it is almost as though something has slipped beneath the radar.

Perhaps we are seeing a modern United team beginning to blossom into something rather special.

There will be bumps in the road for any young team, and the loss to Watford on Saturday was a thudding example.

But since a 1-0 defeat at Newcastle on October 6, this Manchester United team have been rather good more often than not.

The Manchester Evening News said of that St James' Park performance: "This predictably awful team was predictably awful."

Yet in the 11 weeks between that game and a reunion with the Magpies, United have become the first side to prise Premier League points from Liverpool this term, stunned derby rivals City, seen off Jose Mourinho's reborn Tottenham and scored league wins over Norwich and Brighton.

All this while steadily marching on in the Europa League and EFL Cup, with losses to Watford and Bournemouth the only real blemishes.

So yes, now is the time to build and keep building, to get Haaland if that deal is achievable, to show mettle at Burnley on December 28 and at Arsenal on New Year's Day.

With the excellence of Rashford complemented by the flourishing teenage talent of Greenwood and a steadily improving supporting cast, this is not the time to stand still.

Predictably awful? Not anymore. United are back in the realm of being merely unpredictable. Given their youngsters, and given the depths to which they sank, file that away as progress. Next stop, consistency.

There comes a time in one's life when one has a sufficient number of scarves. Too many perhaps. Enough, some might say, that if one donated half of said scarves to a charity shop, said shop would be able to display an eye-catching feature of scarves through the decades.

Thanks Mum, for another scarf this Christmas. No, no, of course it'll come in very useful.

Mikel Arteta's Arsenal wardrobe is crammed with old scarves and all sorts of knick-knacks the new head coach would surely never have chosen for himself. A dressing room where too little fits the bill.

Arsenal's squad is that box of cards bearing bad knock-knock jokes that relatives giddily hand over, having briefly taken leave of their senses in a department store trolley dash.

Knock knock. Who's there? Mesut. Mesut who? Mesut Ozil, yours for £350,000 a week.

Knock knock. Who's there? Nicolas. Nicolas who? Nicolas Pepe, yours for £72million.

Ba-dum. Sigh.

The jokes are on Arsenal, beset by self-flagellating, unfunny punchlines. Or rather, there's been nothing funny about the Ozil problem, besides the dark humour behind Arsenal once considering it great value for money to offer him those extravagant wages.

It was not always the case, but recently he has been as useful as the fifth pair of drivers' gloves in the last seven Christmases, the Billie Eilish LP when you asked for Billy Childish.

There's no receipt, and your statutory rights to a refund have expired. Arteta is stuck with Ozil, so he might as well get the best from him. That is why Arteta described him as "a massive player for this football club" before Arsenal's Boxing Day trip to Bournemouth, where a 1-1 draw was a result Arsenal might have taken after being distinctly second best before the break.

The German's recent airing of his political views and his efforts for charities suggest he is more thoughtful, more engaged, than the average footballer. At the same time, his Arsenal performances have hinted he might now be that average footballer, or that he has been slowly dragged down to the level of some around him.

On his money, Arsenal effectively have to play him and pray for the return of the end product that, any other faults notwithstanding, unmistakably was once part of his game.

And yet Ozil - one assist and no goals in seven Premier League games now this season - is far from being the only choice from the Arsenal selection box to have looked questionably out of date.

Calum Chambers and his 40 per cent tackle success rate in 13 league outings, before being dropped for the Bournemouth game, invites questions about his right to be defined as a defender.

Arteta recalled Ozil, but to what effect? A few neat early passes from the former Real Madrid player and an eye-catching flick in midfield to keep a break moving showed the technical side of his game is unimpeachable.

But Ozil has won almost 100 caps for Germany and started for his country in a World Cup final. Surely he should be delivering more.

At times in Bournemouth he clung to the right touchline like a fearful child to the edge of a swimming pool, pinging short passes while carrying nothing of the threat posed by, say, Josh King down the same flank for the opposition.

Yet when Ozil ventured infield, which is where Arteta is surely encouraging him to spend his time, there were flashes of beneficial quality, and one sublime pass to Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang should have been rewarded with a goal.

By the time he was hauled off with 15 minutes remaining, Ozil was producing one of his best recent games for Arsenal, even if he squandered a decent chance when mis-kicking with a volley on his right foot.

Arteta will fancy this was a small step in the right direction from his inherited number 10. But where Ozil earned a pass mark, the way Arsenal were so often stretched by Bournemouth showed their mid-table position is about right. Chelsea and Manchester United are next for Arteta's men.

Knock knock. Who's there? Same old. Same old who? Same old problems for Arsenal, a pantomime in motion. But perhaps now a closing act to this bleak midwinter's farce is within sight.

Choosing boxing's pound-for-pound king is no easy feat at the best of times. Trying to do so over a decade is trickier still.

It is a debate that, due to its subjectivity, does not really have a true answer, but try stopping fans and pundits from arguing the toss anyway.

The 2010s have been a truly golden era for the sport with legacies cemented and legends born.

But just who has been the best of the best over the last 10 years? Here, we rank our top 10 pound-for-pound kings of the decade.


'Money' has not fought in a meaningful bout since 2015 (forget about that contest with Conor McGregor – we all should), but still merits a place at the top of these rankings. The American's list of scalps since 2010 is impressive, to say the least. It includes: Shane Mosley, Miguel Cotto, Marcos Maidana (twice), Saul 'Canelo' Alvarez and, of course, Manny Pacquiao.

Timing was key for Mayweather – and not just in terms of his fighting style. He took on Canelo when he was still to hit his peak, while he kept Pacquiao – and boxing fans for that matter – waiting. Still, you should not overlook his achievements. Floyd was a genius in the ring, with his brilliant defensive technique nullifying opponents. This was the decade when he sealed his status as one of the all-time greats.

The Sweet Science pic.twitter.com/OFRssPx1Wi

— Floyd Mayweather (@FloydMayweather) October 3, 2019


If not for a period of promotional paralysis in the middle of the decade, Ward would probably be top of this list. However, after an infuriating four-year spell of his prime that took in relatively inconsequential bouts against Edwin Rodriguez, Paul Smith and Sullivan Barrera, the 'Son of God' brought things home in style.

Having reigned supreme during a golden era for the super-middleweight division, beating the likes of Mikkel Kessler, Arthur Abraham, Carl Froch and a stepping-down Chad Dawson to establish himself as the undisputed number one, Ward went north to light-heavyweight. Never the biggest puncher in his natural weight class, he pulled himself up off the canvas to outfox the ferocious Sergey Kovalev and become a two-weight world champion. In their rematch – via some legal body shots and some not-so-legal – Ward bullied the bully to an eighth-round stoppage, walking away with an unblemished 32-fight record and nothing left to prove.


Arguably the finest amateur of all-time, Lomachenko has lived up to and probably surpassed such a billing in the paid ranks. He boxed for a world title in only his second fight, dropping a split decision to the Orlando Salido. The roughhousing Mexican unleashed a monster in his moment of triumph, persuading Lomachenko to embellish his unparalleled skills with a vengeful streak.

Victory over Gary Russell Jr. next time out secured the WBO featherweight title and the 31-year-old has since blazed an irresistible trail through three divisions, racking up 10 knockouts in 14 wins. Fellow former amateur standout Guillermo Rigondeaux, Nicholas Walters, Jorge Linares, Jose Pedraza and Luke Campbell are included on an impressive list of scalps Lomachenko holds three of the four main lightweight belts and will aim to become undisputed king of division a man of his dimensions has little business competing in, never mind cleaning out, against Teofimo Lopez in 2020.


Boxing's biggest draw remains a divisive figure. A six-month ban following two failed drugs test for clenbuterol in 2018 – Alvarez protested his innocence, citing contaminated meat – compounded his standings with fans who point towards a carefully managed career and some arguable generous scorecards in his favour.

Nevertheless, the four-weight world champion's body of work is undeniably impressive and now places him towards the upper-reaches of Mexico's proud boxing tradition. Canelo iced Kovalev to become only the fourth fighter to win titles at both light-middleweight and light-heavyweight, following in the footsteps of 'Sugar' Ray Leonard, Thomas Hearns and Mike McCallum. Since his schooling beneath Mayweather's educated fists in 2013, Alvarez has blossomed. Whether or not his gripping rivalry with Gennadiy Golovkin gets a third act, further defining nights lie ahead.


A phenomenally skilled southpaw, Crawford is possibly the most complete fighter competing in any weight class today. He headed into the lion's den to win a first world title in 2014, outboxing Ricky Burns with a quicksilver display before the champion's fiercely loyal supporters in Glasgow.

Content with the WBO belt at 135lbs, Crawford stepped up to light-welterweight and won the lot, becoming undisputed champion with a three-round demolition of the previously undefeated Julius Indongo. Welterweight beckoned and the American unseated Jeff Horn in his first outing in the division. Operating outside of the PBC stable has made legacy enhancing fights at 147lbs hard to come by and we must hope for a final act worthy of the 36-0 32-year-old's glittering career.


Gonzalez lost his air of invincibility with back-to-back defeats to Srisaket Sor Rungvisai in 2017, the second of them by stoppage as he was knocked out cold, yet the Nicaraguan made boxing history in the decade by winning world titles at all four of the lowest weight classes.

Small in stature but big in terms of power, Gonzalez has made a habit of stopping opponents inside the distance. However, he had no problem going the distance in a thrilling slugfest with Carlos Cuadras in September 2016, winning on the scorecards to dethrone the WBC super-flyweight champion. Inactivity in recent years has seen his career stall, but at 32 there is still plenty of time to rise back to the top.


A not-insignificant number of observers feel Golovkin was hard done by in both his split-decision draw and majority-decision loss to bitter rival Alvarez, but his vice-like grip on the middleweight division is no more and an unexpected thriller again Sergiy Derevyanchenko gave another hint at growing vulnerabilities.

Even if Golovkin is on the slide – as would be expected at 37 – he is still a deeply unpleasant night's work for anybody. He spent the bulk of the decade amassing a record-equalling run of 20 consecutive middleweight world title defences, while a 24-fight knockout streak made good on his claims of always providing a "big drama show". There were few more visceral thrills in 2010s boxing than Golovkin.


It would have been a brave punter who suggested placing Pacquiao on this list after Juan Manuel Marquez left him face down and motionless on a Las Vegas canvas in December 2012. The duo's undulating rivalry ended with an emphatic exclamation mark, but Pacquiao was far from done.

He avenged his farcically judged points loss to Timothy Bradley comprehensively, meaning the superfight with Floyd Mayweather belatedly arrived – too late for Pacquiao, as it happened. Nevertheless, bouts against relatively lesser mortals did not present so much of a problem, even after shoulder surgery. A 2017 loss to Jeff Horn was not the end, just a needless blot surrounded by wins over Jessie Vargas, Lucas Matthysse, Adrien Broner and Keith Thurman for this remarkable 41-year-old.


The old boxing adage that you don't get paid for overtime was certainly taken to heart by Inoue in the 2010s. If fans blinked, they could miss him; if opponents blinked they usually found themselves flat on their backs.

A three-weight world champion since picking up the WBA bantamweight crown, Inoue's outings at the weight featured one completed round – Emmanuel Rodriguez making it to the second session after Jamie McDonnell and Juan Carlos Payano were unable to see out the opener – before November's instant classic against the great Nonito Donaire, where the 26-year-old prevailed over the course of 12 action-packed and legacy-enhancing rounds. Las Vegas awaits in April for a superstar in the making.


As lavishly skilled, unorthodox and dangerous as his great friend and Ukrainian compatriot Lomachenko, Usyk wasted no time in bending the cruiserweight division to his will. Krzysztof Glowacki, Michael Hunter, Marco Huck, Mairis Briedis and Murat Gassiev were all systematically taken apart en route to undisputed status before Usyk left former champion Tony Bellew splayed out helplessly to leave no doubt over who was the man at 200lbs.

Weight limits are now a thig of the past for the 32-year-old as he moves up confidently to the land of the giants. As Anthony Joshua, Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury all bicker over their claims for heavyweight supremacy, do not be surprised if the sensational Usyk manages to pickpocket them all on his way to glory and greatness.

It is yet another Merry Christmas for Sydney FC in the A-League.

The Sky Blues are top of the table on Christmas Day for the third time in four seasons, continuing their dominance.

Being top on December 25 means a record-breaking trophy is likely for Sydney FC.

Alongside Melbourne Victory, they have won seven trophies in the A-League era – four championships and three premierships.

Another premiership is likely but a championship less so as we assess where previous league leaders on Christmas Day have ended up, thanks to Opta data.

- Only once have a team leading the league at Christmas finished outside the top two (Perth in 2014-15).

- Of the previous 14 seasons, the team top on December 25 have ended up first on nine occasions.

- However, only five times have the league leaders gone on to win the Grand Final.

- Four current teams – Newcastle Jets, Melbourne City, Wellington Phoenix and Western United – have not led the league at Christmas.

2019-20: Sydney FC
2018-19: Perth Glory (Premiers and grand final loss)
2017-18: Sydney FC (Premiers and semi-final loss)
2016-17: Sydney FC (Premiers and champions)
2015-16: Western Sydney Wanderers (2nd and grand final loss)
2014-15: Perth Glory (7th*)
2013-14: Brisbane Roar (Premiers and champions)
2012-13: Central Coast Mariners (2nd and champions)
2011-12: Central Coast Mariners (Premiers and preliminary final loss)
2010-11: Brisbane Roar (Premiers and champions)
2009-10: Melbourne Victory (2nd and grand final loss)
2008-09: Adelaide United (2nd and grand final loss)
2007-08: Central Coast Mariners (Premiers and grand final loss)
2006-07: Melbourne Victory (Premiers and champions)
2005-06: Adelaide United (Premiers and preliminary final loss)

* Perth finished third in 2014-15 before salary cap breaches saw them banned from the finals and placed in seventh.

Marnus Labuschagne has made a spectacular start to his international career and he can join several Australia greats during the Boxing Day Test.

Labuschagne, 25, has cemented his spot at number three in Australia's batting order heading into the second Test against New Zealand in Melbourne.

The right-hander only made his Test debut in October last year, but he has taken his chance.

Labuschagne has scored 1,103 runs at 58.05, including three centuries, which have come in his past three Tests.

History awaits if he can make it a century in four consecutive Tests in Melbourne.

Only five Australians have managed that feat in Test history and Labuschagne can add his name to the list.

Don Bradman managed it three times – including in a record six straight Tests against England in 1937-38.

Jack Fingleton (1936), Neil Harvey (1949-50), Matthew Hayden (2001-02 and 2005) and Steve Smith (2014-15) are the other Australians to have scored centuries in four straight Tests.

New Zealand struggled to find an answer to Labuschagne in Perth, where he made scores of 143 and 50 in a comprehensive victory for Australia.

Labuschagne only made his first Test century last month and there has been no looking back.

Now, less than 15 months after his Test debut, he has the chance to join a group of Australia's best on a huge stage at the MCG.

If there was ever any doubt beforehand, now everyone in Formula One knows: Charles Leclerc is the future for Ferrari.

The famous team showed their long-term commitment to the talented 22-year-old by handing him a new contract that runs through until 2024.

Leclerc came through the Ferrari Driver Academy but started his F1 career with Sauber. His debut campaign in 2018 showed promise as he picked up 39 points, leading to a promotion. Since joining Ferrari, Leclerc has overcome some early hiccups to overshadow a four-time world champion in Sebastian Vettel.

So why have his current employers shown so much faith in him? With the use of Opta data, we look at the feats achieved by the man from Monaco - and the record he can break in 2020.

Leader of the pack

Leclerc was the master of qualifying this year. His tally of seven pole positions was the most by any driver during the season. Yes, even more than world champion Lewis Hamilton.

Ronnie Peterson is the only non-world champion to have secured more poles in a single year (nine in 1973), while Juan Pablo Montoya also had seven in 2002.

When it came to his head-to-head battle with Vettel, Leclerc was dominant. He qualified in front of his team-mate in 11 of the last 14 races, while only the legendary Niki Lauda managed more pole positions (nine in 1974) in a debut season for Ferrari.

A taste of success

Ferrari endured a tough first half of 2019. The Mercedes combination of Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas were dominant, including five successive one-two finishes at the start of the campaign. There was no battle to be the leading constructor after that, just a procession to the crown.

However, after the break, the Belgian Grand Prix was all about Leclerc. At a venue more suited to Ferrari, he made history by becoming the first Monegasque driver to win a race, while only Max Verstappen (18 years 7 months and 15 days) and Vettel (21 years 2 months and 11 days) had done so at a younger age.

So, how do you follow up such a notable result? You go out and do the same again, this time at the Italian Grand Prix, a week later. His success at Monza marked Ferrari's first triumph at their home track since 2010, when Fernando Alonso claimed top spot on the podium.

Record up for grabs

"I'm keen to see what the future holds and I can't wait to get going again next season," Leclerc said on Twitter after his deal was announced.

You cannot blame him for being in a hurry to get back behind the wheel. There were missed opportunities this year, with confusion over team instructions costing him in Singapore and the involvement of the safety car scuppering his hopes in Russia.

Ferrari will have to cope with the rivalry between their two drivers, with the relationship not aided by a crash involving the pair in Brazil. Still, the numbers make it clear who should be their main man, despite Vettel's CV.

Leclerc demonstrated he can learn quickly on the job  - but can he go on to become world champion next year? If he does, he will become the youngest to ever achieve the feat in F1.

Jose Mourinho's impressive run at home to his former clubs was ended as Tottenham lost 2-0 against Chelsea on Sunday.

The final Premier League game before Christmas was a cracker, with Willian in dazzling form and scoring twice, while Son Heung-min was sent off.

A big win for Chelsea came at the end of a weekend in which Manchester City toppled top-four rivals Leicester City.

There were two key victories at the bottom of the table, too, with Southampton triumphant at Aston Villa and Watford upsetting Manchester United.

Read about the weekend's biggest games with our Opta-powered review.


Aston Villa's solid start to the season has been forgotten as they spend Christmas in the relegation zone, having been handed another convincing home defeat on Saturday, going down 3-1 to Southampton.

The promoted side lost their previous league game at Villa Park 4-1 against Leicester, meaning they have conceded as many goals (seven) across their past two such matches as they had in their first seven this term.

Southampton took advantage and scored three goals in an away league game for the first time in 364 days, going back to last December's victory by the same scoreline at Huddersfield Town.

Danny Ings' brace took his 2019-20 tally to 11 – the joint-best pre-Christmas Premier League haul from a Saints player, along with James Beattie in 2002-03 – and Jack Stephens also netted, with Southampton's past 16 Premier League goals scored by English players.


It appeared for a time as though the latest chapter of Leicester's sublime season would see an away victory at the champions, as the counter-attacking Jamie Vardy netted against Manchester City for the fifth time in the Premier League – the joint-most, along with Sadio Mane, since his 2014 bow.

But the scoreline had been turned on its head by half-time after Riyad Mahrez rewarded the hosts' dominance by becoming the fifth man to play for and later net against Leicester in the Premier League, before Ilkay Gundogan scored a penalty won by Raheem Sterling – the 17th such award in favour of the winger, a league-high since his debut.

Gabriel Jesus then secured the points, ending a home drought that went back to March, with his 14 goals in the interim scored away from the Etihad Stadium.

It gave Man City their 250th Premier League win of the 2010s, making them just the second team to hit that milestone in a single decade – along with rivals Manchester United in the 2000s.


Watford ended a 12-game winless run at home in the Premier League with an unlikely 2-0 victory against Manchester United on Sunday following a David de Gea error.

De Gea failed to make a routine save from Ismaila Sarr, before conceding a Troy Deeney penalty as United lost by more than a single goal to a team starting the day bottom of the table for the first time since April 2005 – also 2-0 against Norwich City.

If the nature of the first goal was surprising, the same could not be said of the second. De Gea has failed to save the past 15 spot-kicks he has faced in the league.

And Deeney netted from 12 yards against United at Vicarage Road again, now having done so in four of the past five seasons.


Mourinho had not lost in 13 previous home matches against former clubs, winning all but one, but Chelsea got the better of Spurs at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

Willian's second goal – from the penalty spot – was the 100th Chelsea have scored against Tottenham in the Premier League, while they have now won three consecutive games against their London rivals in all competitions for the first time since January 2008.

There are concerns at both ends of the pitch for Mourinho. Spurs mustered just five shots in total – their third lowest haul at home in the league since Opta records began in 2003-04 – while they have conceded the joint-most goals (14, along with Arsenal) in all competitions of all Premier League clubs since the Portuguese took charge.

They will have to do without Son for the next three matches after his dismissal, too. He is the first player to be shown three red cards in a calendar year in the Premier League since Lee Cattermole in 2010.

During his prime years, Jose Mourinho was frequently credited with bringing opponents under his spell.

That certainly was not the case during the first half of Tottenham's thundering reality check against Chelsea, although some other mysterious force appeared to have bent the mind of referee Anthony Taylor towards another dimension just before the interval.

Passed, prodded and paraded wearily across their home turf by a slick and purposeful Chelsea, Spurs turned towards those derby-day favourites of physicality and aggression in an attempt to overturn Willian's well-taken opener.

Those are qualities common to all of Mourinho's best sides and, although this version of Spurs are presently light-years away from being seen as such, they gave their best approximation. It was one they will want to forget quickly.

Harry Kane blasted over from his team's first clear opening in the 28th minute, with Son Heung-min similarly wayward shortly afterwards.

Booming clearances by goalkeeper Paulo Gazzaniga were deployed as an attacking weapon, while opposite number Kepa Arrizabalaga had to contend with a hulking Moussa Sissoko clattering through him when an under-hit Marcos Alonso backpass piqued the midfielder's interest.

Dele Alli then leapt on Mateo Kovacic's back. The ensuing fracas ended with both men being booked, meaning a suspended Kovacic has Boxing Day off – a relatively positive outcome from a very weird incident, as far as the Chelsea midfielder was concerned.

Anyone concerned Taylor had become a little too comfortable with the hosts' increasingly roughhouse approach would still have been baffled by what followed.

Only Gazzaniga will have the foggiest idea what on earth he was thinking during first-half stoppage time. As it's the season for giving, let's charitably suggest he was relishing his new role of launching route-one attacks. Alas, instead of booting the ball down field, he careered kung-fu style into Alonso.

Taylor's response was to give a free-kick against the assaulted Chelsea wing-back. After Tammy Abraham's remonstrations with the official suggested he should be a shoo-in for any Christmas Day game of charades, a VAR review gave Willian the chance to clinically double his tally from 12 yards.

Eric Dier's festive goodwill was severely tested by being hooked early once again by Mourinho but, while Christian Eriksen's introduction against Olympiacos last month sparked a turnaround, all Spurs could offer was increasingly impotent fury and petulance.

Son's kick out at Antonio Rudiger to be sent off was entirely in keeping with a ragged and ineffective performance, where wretched individual decisions festered within the general malaise.

Of course, the severe wrong-headedness of a Tottenham element off the field then took centre stage. Objects were thrown at Chelsea players and three stadium announcements asked for racist behaviour to stop after Rudiger appeared to be targeted by abuse.

Racism is a sickeningly visible cancer in British football and society right now, making conversations over tactical setups and styles of play feel entirely redundant. Yet this remains the day-to-day requirement for Mourinho and Frank Lampard, the pupil who comprehensively out-thought the teacher here.

If we are told the league table at the end of the season does not lie, then the form table is the delinquent child who tells Santa they've been good in order to score some extra presents.

Chelsea's four defeats in five Premier League games heading into this contest meant little when Spurs were confronted by a side with solid foundations and a commitment to intelligent passing and positional play.

Mason Mount and Abraham, youngsters publicly questioned by Mourinho at the start of the season, shimmered and asked questions to perplex Tottenham throughout, while N'Golo Kante was effervescent, excellent and absolutely everywhere.

Tottenham had four wins from five under Mourinho and were within touching distance of fourth-placed Chelsea. Yet, on the field there was a yawning chasm between the sides. It is to Lampard's credit that he has imbued a belief resilient to fickle mid-season fortunes during his first campaign in charge.

His old boss' challenge is to lay similar foundations and display a vision beyond the all brawn, no brains pragmatism that amounted to a Christmas gift for Chelsea and an ecstatic Lampard.

Liverpool secured their second trophy in the 2019-20 season on Saturday, lifting the Club World Cup in Qatar after a hard-fought 1-0 win over Flamengo.

It was a long-awaited first triumph in the competition - including their previous appearances in the Intercontinental Cup - as Jurgen Klopp managed to achieve what club legends Bob Paisley, Joe Fagan and Rafael Benitez found a step too far during their respective tenures on Merseyside.

Having scored a dramatic late winner in the semi-final, Roberto Firmino was once again on target for the Reds on Saturday. The Brazil international crushed the hopes of his compatriots in the first period of extra time, converting Sadio Mane's pass.

After their success in Doha, we look back at Liverpool's previous near misses - and how those seasons panned out once they returned home.



Having opted not to play in the 1978 fixture, the Reds travelled to Tokyo three years later to face Copa Libertadores holders Flamengo.

Liverpool had secured their place in the game by lifting the European Cup in May, Alan Kennedy the unlikely hero with the only goal in a 1-0 triumph over Real Madrid. The full-back left it late too, collecting a throw-in from Ray Kennedy before ghosting into the penalty area to beat goalkeeper Agustin Rodriguez in the 82nd minute.

However, Paisley's star-studded team were no match for their Brazilian opponents, losing 3-0. Flamengo did all the scoring in the first half, Nunes' brace sandwiching a goal from Adilio.

Liverpool lost their first game back following their journey to Japan, going down 3-1 to Manchester City on December 26, but still went on to be crowned champions, finishing four points clear of Ipswich Town. They also lifted the League Cup, recording a 3-1 triumph over Tottenham at Wembley thanks to two goals from Ronnie Whelan.



Fagan was in charge for Liverpool's fourth European Cup win, sealed on penalties at the expense of Roma. The shoot-out will forever be synonymous with Bruce Grobbelaar and his spaghetti legs, the goalkeeper deploying wobbly limbs in an attempt to put off opponents as they approached the spot. 

The tactic may well have worked as three players missed for the Italians, allowing Kennedy to once again make a telling contribution in a final, the defender converting the winning kick.

They were back in Tokyo again before the end of the year, this time Independiente their opponents. The Argentine club grabbed an early lead through Jose Percudani in the sixth minute and defended resolutely for the remainder of the contest.

Liverpool finished a distant second to neighbours Everton in the league, while also losing 1-0 to Juventus in a European Cup final overshadowed by crowd trouble at Heysel Stadium. Fagan would retire after the Reds finished a campaign without silverware for the first time in a decade.


FIFA had merged the Intercontinental Cup and Club World Championship by 2005, giving us the modern format with more participants involved.

Liverpool were involved again thanks to one of the most memorable European nights in their storied history, with Benitez's team rallying from three goals down at half-time against Milan to complete what will forever be known as the 'Miracle of Istanbul'. 

Jerzy Dudek was one of the heroes - channelling his inner Grobbelaar during the shoot-out - but he was no longer first-choice goalkeeper by December, demoted following the arrival of Pepe Reina.

The Reds eased past Costa Rican opponents Saprissa in the semi-final but would lose to Sao Paulo, Mineiro - who would go on to have a forgettable spell at Chelsea - scoring the solitary goal of the game in 27th minute.

Still, Benitez's squad did secure silverware in 2005-06, lifting the FA Cup in Cardiff after Steven Gerrard produced a long-range stunner to force extra time against West Ham. As for the Premier League, they finished third, nine points behind champions Chelsea.

"He was sad," Mikel Arteta confessed on Friday, Arsenal's beaming new head coach showing very real contrition. "The timing wasn't the best for him, but he understood."

He was speaking of Pep Guardiola, the man he also described as "incredible", "inspirational", and a guiding light in the ruthlessness of top-level management.

Arteta knew this was a hard week for his old boss. He knew it would hurt Manchester City to leave now, during a typically arduous December schedule, the champions knowing third place at Christmas was the best they could hope for regardless of the result against Leicester City.

But after Saturday's 3-1 win, Arteta can raise a glass of Yuletide spirit to his mentor knowing that, unlike the UK's railway network at this time of year, Guardiola's City are motoring along the right track.

With Leicester four points ahead of them in the table and leaders Liverpool away in sunnier climes being crowned champions of the world, defeat for City against Brendan Rodgers' side would have been a brutal blow in a difficult week. It would undoubtedly also have led to more questions about the signs of decline in 2019-20 and whether this team's relentless will to win had been further embrittled by Arteta's departure.

Those were valid concerns after 22 minutes at the Etihad Stadium. City had dominated, Riyad Mahrez giving Ben Chilwell a nightmare before Christmas as Guardiola got his attacking play entirely right by attacking entirely down the right.

Apparently, though, he didn't predict Leicester's Jamie Vardy plan. This is a striker who lives for passes over or behind the defence, playing on the shoulders of Fernandinho and Nicolas Otamendi, on a pitch where Adama Traore of Wolves and the entire Manchester United forward line caused havoc on the break, and yet City conceded from the first such attack.

Kyle Walker was dragged too far forward, Harvey Barnes' outside-of-the-boot pass was precise, and Vardy showed how even a poor touch can be devastating when you're in this kind of form, his heavy control allowing him to loft the ball over Ederson for league goal number 17 of the season.

It was an obvious tactic that still caught City cold, silencing the home crowd and perhaps leaving fans fearing their title defence all but gone before the new decade had started.

But Guardiola stuck to his guns, City persisted in their forays down the right, and it paid dividends. Mahrez skipped infield again, let fly with his left foot, and Caglar Soyuncu's obliging frame deflected the ball past Ederson.

Mahrez celebrated with gusto, his seasonal spirit apparently not reserved for his old employers. Guardiola whipped his arms up and around his head like a man drowning in eggnog, demanding more from the crowd, expecting more from his players. Mahrez then switched the play, Ricardo Pereira crumpled to the turf to trip Raheem Sterling in the box, and Ilkay Gundogan scored from the spot. "What I learned is you have to be ruthless, consistent," Arteta said of working under Guardiola. The manager's message was still loud and clear.

The second half was less engaging and certainly less worrying for City. Leicester tried and failed to release Vardy and only the excellent Jonny Evans curtailed further City inroads from Mahrez and Kevin De Bruyne. Eventually, De Bruyne left the tiring Soyuncu for dead – having driven forward, you guessed it, down the right – and teed up Gabriel Jesus for a tap-in. Ruthless, consistent. Victorious.

Guardiola does not expect to appoint a new assistant this season and time will tell how much Arteta's absence is felt, but this was a significant test for City and their ambitions this season that they passed in exemplary fashion. A sad week, but no blue Christmas.

Carlo Ancelotti and Mikel Arteta surely departed Goodison Park on Saturday suspecting they had each arrived just in time.

Everton initially improved under Duncan Ferguson following Marco Silva's sacking, but new boss Ancelotti - watching in the stands - struggled to hide his frustration as they contributed to a dreadful Premier League encounter.

Arteta, a former Toffees favourite, was also in attendance and might even have been the more encouraged of the two coaches-in-waiting, yet his side Arsenal were only marginally better.

Freddie Ljungberg has failed to inspire Arsenal, and it was clear on Merseyside that both the Gunners and Everton were each in need of a lift.


Ljungberg's stint ends with one win in six matches in all competitions, having muddled through the same assortment of teams and tactics that saw off Unai Emery while further exacerbating the issues around Mesut Ozil, Arsenal's eternal enigma.

The injured Ozil's absence - having reacted angrily to his substitution last week - neatly encapsulated the lack of leadership on the pitch for Arsenal.

Emery named Ozil among a quintet of skippers in each of his two seasons, but the warring five families in 'The Godfather' were less disparate. Only Granit Xhaka - stripped of the role - and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang of the former coach's group started on Saturday.

Ozil and Xhaka were in 2018-19's selection of five, too. Laurent Koscielny, Petr Cech and Aaron Ramsey have all since left - in controversial circumstances, on a free transfer, and retiring to join rivals Chelsea's staff, respectively.

Former Arsenal captain Arteta appears reluctant to intervene decisively, though, saying on Friday: "I want to see what they are doing at the moment and, after that, slowly, we will make some decisions to help them."


Everton collected just a second clean sheet in 16 league games, while Arsenal - having conceded the first goal in more Premier League games than any other side this season - could also welcome a rare shut-out - their first in 15 matches in all competitions.

But this goalless game owed more to aimless attacking play than defensive interventions, with passes from both sides regularly going astray at key moments.

Arsenal named their youngest league XI since May 2011, with many of the rookies in forward positions, yet Arteta would have been concerned as the visitors waited until the 44th minute for their first attempt.

Jordan Pickford was called into action before Bernd Leno, though, saving well six minutes after the break, as Everton likewise toiled.

Goals under Ferguson have largely come as a result of defensive errors, which the Gunners avoided, despite the presence of stars like Gylfi Sigurdsson and Richarlison.

Ancelotti is renowned for getting the best out of talented players, and for all Everton's back-line issues, a key focus must be to ensure future displays are more incisive going forward.


These two sides are stuck in the mid-table mire, and it was not hard to see why in a pair of hopeless performances. But such is the need to get their seasons back on track that both teams would have welcomed a late winner regardless of what went before.

Neither truly deserved the three points, yet triumphing without playing well will be the early expectation for each new coach.

Arsenal's captaincy concerns need to be addressed, while Everton must have more edge up front and be less edgy at the back, but frustrations will not be abated for long if results see the two toiling in the bottom half.

Everton's pre-match optimism was sapped by full-time, and Arsenal's Friday talk of Champions League qualification and "eventually" the title looks pie in the sky.

Only once victories are belatedly strung together can serious discussion of fulfilling ambition be considered.

Everton have pulled off a major coup in appointing former Milan, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich boss Carlo Ancelotti as their new manager.

Ancelotti, who parted company with Napoli earlier in December despite guiding the Serie A club to a second-placed finish last term, along with this season's Champions League knockout stages, has signed a four-and-a-half-year deal at Goodison Park.

He replaces Marco Silva, who was sacked by Everton following a dreadful opening 15 matches of the Premier League campaign, with Duncan Ferguson having taken temporary charge in the interim.

Ferguson masterminded a home win against Chelsea and a draw at Manchester United in his first two matches in charge, before the Toffees headed out of the EFL Cup on penalties to Leicester City on Wednesday.

But while Ferguson may have instilled some passion and belief back into Everton's injury-ravaged squad, there is plenty of work for Ancelotti to do on his return to the Premier League.

Bring back an identity

Since David Moyes ended his 11-year tenure at Goodison Park to join Manchester United in 2013, Everton have had four different permanent managers - plus two interim appointments - each with differing styles of play.

With Everton's squad littered with signings who have worked under these coaches, Ancelotti - the fifth new boss since Moyes’ exit - must first establish which system he is going to play - and then stick with it.

Ferguson's time in charge has shown how Everton respond well to an aggressive approach and, at least until Ancelotti establishes which of the players will fit into his preferred style, keeping things simple may be the best way forward as the club continues to flounder at the wrong end of the table.

Fix up a leaky defence

Richarlison, a rejuvenated Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Gylfi Sigurdsson - though the latter has been out of form - should have enough quality for Ancelotti to work with up front, but his primary focus must be on fixing a defence which has conceded 29 league goals this season through their first 17 games

Yerry Mina, who spent much of 2018-19 battling injuries, has impressed at times, but Michael Keane and Seamus Coleman have struggled for form, and Ancelotti must swiftly instil discipline in his defensive ranks.

Tap into Ferguson's feel-good factor

Fan-favourite Ferguson may have been unable to drag Everton into the EFL Cup semi-finals, but the manner in which the Blues fought back from two goals down against Leicester was a prime example of the spirit he has rekindled within the squad.

Ferguson's unorthodox approach - including hugging Goodison Park ball boys following goals and donning a sweatband with his suit - has certainly won over what had become a disenchanted fanbase.

It remains to be seen how much input Ferguson will have under Ancelotti, but the new man at the helm has been wise enough to keep the Scotsman on his staff.

Address a broken spine

Everton have spent big since majority shareholder Farhad Moshiri injected a huge investment into the club in 2016, but too many of the signings have failed to have the desired impact.

While Marcel Brands - Everton's director of football - heads up recruitment, having someone of Ancelotti's status will surely help to attract a higher calibre of player to the blue half of Merseyside.

A centre-back should be a priority target in January, while a glut of injuries to Fabian Delph, Jean-Philippe Gbamin and Andre Gomes have left Everton depleted in midfield.

Finding a striker close to the quality of Romelu Lukaku may prove too difficult during the middle of a season, but there is no doubt Everton also need a reliable scorer to take the burden off Richarlison.

Get the best out of Moise Kean

Perhaps Everton already have an answer to their striker issues already within their squad.

Moise Kean's start to life in England has been a difficult one, to say the least, with the 19-year-old having failed to score in 15 appearances in all competitions. He was unceremoniously brought off at Old Trafford having earlier come on as a substitute, though he did then have an impact off the bench against Leicester.

The former Juventus forward undoubtedly has plenty of ability, and perhaps, under the tutelage of compatriot Ancelotti, Kean will be able to live up to the hype.

As CVs go, Carlo Ancelotti's stacks up against the very best.

A league-winning coach in England, Italy, France and Germany, the former Milan centre-half will go down as one of the best leaders of his generation.

And yet not everyone is convinced he is the right man to replace Marco Silva at Everton.

Here, two Omnisport writers argue it out. Who do you think makes the more compelling argument?

SUCCEED - by Pat Ridge

In November 2016, on the back of a humiliating 5-0 defeat to Chelsea, Everton's majority shareholder Farhad Moshiri pledged to back Ronald Koeman. The Iranian businessman had identified Koeman as the big-name manager needed for the Toffees to be able to compete with their north-west rivals and labelled Everton "the new Hollywood of football".

Finally, over three years later, Everton have finally got the star name to match their lofty ambitions.

Ancelotti's name alone should be enough to attract a different calibre of player to Everton – already, there have been links to Zlatan Ibrahimovic – to complement a squad with potential despite their lowly league placing.

It was only four months ago that they were being tipped to challenge the Premier League's "big six" this season. While injuries have ravaged the squad, Everton have plenty of promise within their ranks - Richarlison and Moise Kean are two extremely exciting young attackers, while Lucas Digne, Yerry Mina and the injured Andre Gomes all joined from Barcelona.

Quality signings will be needed, but if Ancelotti can finally solve the defensive issues that have been prevalent over several seasons, Everton certainly have the attacking talent to prosper.

It was an opportunity too good to turn down, and in appointing Ancelotti, Everton have made a statement of intent. Now, their activity in the transfer market must match it if they are to challenge the Premier League's elite.

FAILURE - by Ben Spratt

Interim boss Duncan Ferguson called on Everton to pursue "the best managers in the world" to replace him, and Ancelotti can certainly make a case to be counted on that list.

The Italian has won Serie A, the Premier League, Ligue 1 and the Bundesliga, along with three Champions League titles, coaching Juventus, Milan, Chelsea, Paris Saint-Germain, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich and Napoli.

This is an elite CV. But in two decades of dominance across Europe, Ancelotti has not seen a task quite like the one that awaits him now.

Ancelotti has a reputation as a popular man manager, getting the world's best players to perform and win together. He was perfect for the Real Madrid job, a Galactico coach for a team of Galacticos.

Everton have potential, as Ferguson has indicated, but they are not in this bracket.

The hapless Michael Keane is still relied on far too regularly at centre-back, the midfield has been ravaged by injuries, and Richarlison carries the burden up front in the absence of a natural number nine.

Recent history suggests Ancelotti will be granted funds in the transfer market, yet even the more talented players already at the club are underperforming.

A new face and words of encouragement may not fix everything.

As former Toffees favourite and apparently talented tactician Mikel Arteta heads to Arsenal while Ancelotti - often linked with the Gunners - moves to Merseyside, it is hard not to wonder if Everton have gone for the wrong man.

Everton have completed a major coup in appointing Carlo Ancelotti as their new manager on a four-and-a-half-year deal.

Ancelotti, who previously managed in the Premier League with Chelsea, returns to England after he was sacked by Napoli on December 10, despite guiding the Serie A club to the Champions League knockout stages.

He replaces Marco Silva, who was dismissed on December 5 following a 5-2 defeat to Liverpool in the Merseyside derby, with Duncan Ferguson having been in temporary charge since then.

The Italian – the first coach from his nation to win the Premier League – has had a glittering career, taking charge of 735 top-flight matches in total thanks to spells at Parma, Juventus, Milan, Chelsea, Paris Saint-Germain, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich and Napoli.

As Ancelotti takes over at Goodison, we have used Opta data to take a look at his glittering career in numbers.



33 - Of his 68 league matches at the helm at Parma between 1996 and 1998, Ancelotti won 33 times, suffering 14 defeats.

2 - Parma finished second in Serie A in their first season under Ancelotti, though could only manage a sixth-place finish in the following campaign.


61 - Ancelotti took charge of 82 top-flight games in Turin, managing 50 wins – giving him a 61 per cent win ratio. 

0 - Across 23 seasons in management, Ancelotti has never finished outside of the top seven in any domestic league, coming seventh only once, with Juve in 1998-99.


282 - Ancelotti's longest spell at one club came at Milan, where he spent eight seasons, managing the Rossoneri in 282 league fixtures.

1 - His first league title came in 2003-04, when Milan finished top of Serie with 82 points.

3 - Milan's Serie A success came on the back of glory in the Champions League in 2002-03. Ancelotti has won Europe's biggest prize on three occasions, with only Zinedine Zidane and former Liverpool manager Bob Paisley able to match that total. 


4 - Only four coaches to have managed 30 or more games in the Premier League have a higher win percentage than Ancelotti's 63.2 – Jurgen Klopp, Alex Ferguson, Antonio Conte and Pep Guardiola.

103 - Chelsea set a Premier League goals record for a single season when they netted 103 times under Ancelotti during 2009-10. It is a record which was only surpassed by Manchester City in 2017-18.

172 - In total, Chelsea scored 172 goals in 76 league fixtures while Ancelotti was in charge at Stamford Bridge.

Paris Saint-Germain

47.4 - Fixing Everton's leaky defence will be a top priority for Ancelotti, who during his time at PSG had a clean sheet percentage of 47.4, with the Ligue 1 giants not conceding in 27 out of 57 matches.

297 - In total during his two seasons at Parc des Princes, PSG had 297 shots on target. That was, however, significantly fewer than Ancelotti's Chelsea (532) or Madrid (583) sides managed.

Real Madrid

1428 - Los Blancos had almost 1500 shots during Ancelotti's time at the club.

867 - However, they were also the most open at the back when compared to Chelsea, PSG, Bayern and Napoli, allowing 867 attempts at their own goal.

1 - Spain is the only country in which Ancelotti has not won a league title. He also won his third Champions League crown with Madrid, in 2014.

Bayern Munich

68.6 - Having taken over from Guardiola, it is no surprise to see that possession was the order of the day for Ancelotti at Bayern, who averaged 68.6 per cent of the ball under his tutelage.

89 - In Ancelotti's only full campaign at Bayern, they scored 89 Bundesliga goals, conceding just 22 in return.


29 - From 53 matches in charge of Napoli in Serie A, Ancelotti claimed 29 victories. His record in 2019-20 was a comparatively poor one, however, with four defeats and six draws from 15 games.

735 - After leaving Napoli, Ancelotti has taken charge of 735 top-tier league fixtures, with a win percentage of 60.5.

998 - Napoli had just under 1000 shots at goal during Ancelotti's spell.

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