On the day of El Clasico, the final one of this decade, the crowds gathered early – even by the fixture's normal standards.

But the thousands in attendance weren't just congregating outside Camp Nou for an early glimpse of the team buses. No, they were there for the start of a demonstration organised by Catalan independence activists Tsunami Democratic.

Initial estimations had expected 18,000 supporters of the cause to attend, though the group themselves claimed on Wednesday they were distributing 100,000 banners.

Their aim? To encourage a dialogue between Spain and Catalonia following the jailing of nine Catalan separatist leaders in October for their respective roles in the region's 2017 referendum and declaration of independence.

The match had been almost two months in waiting, as the political tension played a significant part in the game being postponed in October.

A different demonstration had been planned on the day of the initial Clasico on October 26, but due to security fears it was put back. So, Tsunami Democratic simply pencilled in another protest to fall in line with the new date. This time, the fixture did go ahead, finishing 0-0.

Despite the efforts of security staff, many pro-independence banners made it into the ground and could be seen as the teams walked out to the famous 'Cant del Barca' anthem.

Emblazoned with the slogan 'Spain, sit and talk', the bright blue pieces of plastic stood out amid the stadium-wide mosaic. A much larger yellow banner with the same phrase could be seen right in the middle of the crowd facing the main stand, taking on extra symbolism as it accompanied the top-to-bottom yellow and red stripes borrowed from Catalonia's Estelada flag.

The charged atmosphere gave every impression the contest itself would be a fiery one, but in reality it fell short of expectations.

While still gripping, the match highlighted Barca's shortcomings, with their tactics something resembling 'Lionel Messi or bust'.

With their talisman curiously subdued, rarely did Barca give the impression they could rise to the occasion and outclass their rivals in what was a tense encounter.

The Blaugrana's midfield was without Sergio Busquets, who was replaced just before the match due to illness and without him Barca had significantly less of a presence in the middle.

Frenkie de Jong, playing in his first Clasico, looked particularly lost at times in the first half, gifting possession back to Madrid or putting the hosts under pressure.

In attack, there were few occasions they managed to carve through Madrid, with Messi often crowded out and nullified in a generally ineffective display by his standards.

Alongside him, Luis Suarez and Antoine Griezmann were willing runners but not clinical or creative enough to truly worry the Madrid defence, having no shots on target and three key passes between them.

The best chance of the match fell to Casemiro in the first half – his header crucially cleared off the line by Gerard Pique, before Sergio Ramos did similar at the other end to thwart Messi.

The political backdrop came to the fore again after the interval when inflatable balls rained down from the stands and on to the pitch, causing a two-minute stoppage to the match.

That proved to be arguably the most notable incident in a second half that was dominated by frantic bursts up field, but sorely lacking in composure.

Despite the lack of brilliance on display, in some ways it was the Clasico this political climate needed, with tensions never boiling over on the pitch. 

At full-time there was an air of relief – no losers, no mass celebrations that might have fuelled those looking to use their politics to cause trouble.

But a public address message late in the match alerted those in attendance to potential issues outside the ground, with reports of fires behind the south stand.

Much of the post-match focus will be on the politically charged incidents, but as they slip away from the chaos of Catalonia, Madrid will be quietly happy to take a point back to the capital after avoiding a defeat that might have further emboldened those using the platform of football to push certain agendas.

Liverpool may have been spared extra-time exertions at the Club World Cup on Wednesday, but the deployment of Jordan Henderson as a makeshift centre-back is an experiment they will not want to repeat.

The Reds needed substitutes Trent Alexander-Arnold and Roberto Firmino to combine in stoppage time to book their place in Saturday's final against Flamengo.

Much has been made of the Reds' squad depth in impressive recent wins over Everton and Bournemouth.

However, in only sneaking past Mexican side Monterrey with a late winner in a 2-1 success, it was evident that there is one man Liverpool cannot do without if they are to end their long wait for a Premier League title this season.

Virgil van Dijk was laid low by illness on Wednesday and with recognised centre-backs Dejan Lovren and Joel Matip also missing due to injuries, it was left to midfielder Henderson to drop back into a defensive berth.

Henderson may be an adept passer and fine midfielder, a man somewhat unfairly maligned, but a centre-back of Van Dijk's ilk he most certainly is not.

The Reds looked ragged in the first half. Andy Robertson and James Milner were bombing on from the full-back positions as usual, but there was a vulnerability to a defensive duo of Joe Gomez and Henderson.

Both men looked susceptible to balls over the top and there was, understandably, little cohesion between the two when it came to a holding a defensive line.

Henderson was caught out of position when Monterrey cancelled out Naby Keita's opener, an unmarked Rogelio Funes Mori slotting home after Alisson saved Jesus Gallardo's volley.

Gomez earned a booking in the second half when Funes Mori got the wrong side of him, the England international dragging his man down rather than leaving him to face Henderson in a race for the ball.

In the end, as they often do, Liverpool found a way to win, though only after Sadio Mane, Alexander-Arnold and Firmino were thrown on.

Of more concern will be how shaky the Reds looked at the back without their inspirational Dutchman, who remains a doubt for Saturday's final against Flamengo.

Gomez, Lovren and Matip have all been questioned at points in their Liverpool careers, though all three have also had strong spells - usually when playing alongside Van Dijk.

Pundits have questioned whether Liverpool can survive a major injury to their vaunted front three, but it is at the other end of the pitch where they cannot afford a lengthy absence.

Van Dijk has played all but 35 minutes of Liverpool's Premier League games over the past season and a half, and he needs to remain available if they are to maintain their relentless title pace.

Master meets apprentice in the Premier League this weekend as Jose Mourinho and Tottenham entertain Frank Lampard's Chelsea.

Spurs, after taking 12 points from a possible 15 under their new boss, have the chance to climb above their London rivals and into the top four.

Mourinho managed Lampard across two separate stints at Stamford Bridge and will hope to assert his authority after the then-Derby County boss knocked his Manchester United team out of the EFL Cup in September 2018.

Chelsea, meanwhile, have endured a sudden run of losses that leaves them in danger of coming unstuck against opponents who have enjoyed a swift rise since parting ways with Mauricio Pochettino.

Here, we assess Opta data to determine what changes Mourinho has made, and whether there could be problems ahead.

 

FINE FINISHING MASKING MOURINHO'S SHORTCOMING?

Part of the Mourinho package that must have appealed to Daniel Levy was the Portuguese's ability to organise a defence and eradicate the vulnerabilities that led to results like the 7-2 Champions League loss to Bayern Munich.

The 56-year-old, however, has acted against type in his fourth life as a Premier League boss, releasing the handbrake on a Spurs side that has scored 14 times in five matches under the new regime.

Their return of 2.8 goals per game exceeds the scoring average recorded in each of Pochettino's five full seasons in charge and is double the number managed across the final 12 games he oversaw.

Can it be sustained? Dele Alli, Lucas Moura, Harry Kane and company will surely find it difficult to maintain the 58 per cent shooting accuracy that has helped lift the gloom. The closest Spurs came to achieving such sharpness with Pochettino in the manager's seat was the 53 per cent they posted in 2015-16 and 2016-17.

Tottenham's number of shots per game has, in fact, dipped significantly since his departure, to 11.8 on average with Mourinho at the helm.

That figure ranks well below the levels set under Pochettino, particularly the 17.6 attempted per 90 minutes in 2016-17 and even the 12.5 that were being unleashed before the managerial change was made this term.

Superficially, the current shot conversion rate of 24 per cent works in Mourinho's favour, but there is a risk of results turning if such clinical finishing reverts to somewhere close to their mean of 11.6 per cent under Pochettino.

 

NO PREOCCUPATION WITH POSSESSION

Unsurprisingly, Tottenham are now seeing less of the ball than they did under Pochettino, a footballer and coach of the Marcelo Bielsa school.

Mourinho has presided over a decline in average possession to 50 per cent; over the course of a full campaign, his predecessor's teams never averaged less then 59 per cent.

Passing accuracy has naturally become a lower priority as this more functional Spurs side looks to get the ball forward quicker in order to better harness Alli's ingenuity and Son Heung-min's speed.

Near their peak, in the 2016-17 campaign that saw them finish second behind Chelsea, Tottenham were completing over 60 more passes per game.

Mourinho would argue that such statistics are irrelevant on matchday, especially one as important as Sunday.

He might, however, have more time for a review of his record in games against the clubs that have employed him in the past.

EDGING HIS EXES

Mourinho has demonstrated a well-documented taste for attention throughout his successful managerial career and he will be under the spotlight when the Blues make the short trip to Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

Chelsea have hit a slump of four defeats in five Premier League matches at an inopportune time but should take no real fear from their former boss' record against previous employers.

Mourinho has faced old clubs on 33 occasions and won 18 times, losing nine and drawing the other six.

A win percentage of 55 per cent from those matches could do with improving for a man set to face a club that dismissed him twice.

Chelsea, of course, have appeared buoyant under a much-loved figure who recently said he would never manage Tottenham, and will hope to show that Mourinho's Spurs lack substance.

Manchester City bounced backed from the misery of their derby defeat to Manchester United with a comfortable 3-0 victory over Arsenal on Sunday.

Pep Guardiola's two-time defending champions have the opportunity to reduce the gap between themselves and Premier League leaders Liverpool, who are away at the Club World Cup in Qatar.

However, standing in Manchester City's way are Leicester – four points above them in the table in second place and playing with the kind of freedom that won them the title in 2015-16.

With Manchester City in such inconsistent form, can Leicester enhance their own title ambitions and register their first win at the Etihad Stadium since February 2016?

 

RODGERS' FOXES HOT TO TROT 

Brendan Rodgers' Leicester team have taken an impressive 39 points from 17 Premier League games this season and with a hungry and talented squad got their supporters buzzing again.

That is their best ever total at this stage of a top-flight campaign and one point ahead of their title-winning campaign in 2015-16 when they had 38 points after 17 games.

The Foxes have won four consecutive Premier League away matches, after losing consecutive away trips to Manchester United and Liverpool. 

Rodgers' side – led by league top scorer Jamie Vardy – have netted 17 goals in those four away games, two more than in their previous 11 combined when they bagged 15.

Manchester City will be favourites to take the points and do seem to rise to the occasion.

Guardiola's men have won five of their past six Premier League games against teams that started the day above them in the table, the only exception being a 3-1 loss to Liverpool in November.

A Leicester win would put them seven points ahead of Manchester City and see them possibly become Liverpool's only rival for the title.

HEAD-TO-HEAD: KEVIN DE BRUYNE V JAMES MADDISON

Manchester City midfielder Kevin De Bruyne gave a masterclass in their victory over Arsenal as he scored two goals and created another.

The impressive numbers produced by the Belgium international have put him on course for the most productive season of his career.

De Bruyne has nine assists in this campaign, and responded to Guardiola's request to get more goals for City with six to his name so far with 48 shots in total. 

James Maddison fulfils a slightly different role for Leicester than De Bruyne and has five goals and three assists this Premier League season, playing second fiddle to the goalscoring prowess of Vardy.

Maddison has attempted more dribbles (57) than De Bruyne (40) and made more tackles (36) than his Manchester City counterpart (19).

Manchester City's defenders will have to be on the guard with Maddison's quick feet in dangerous areas. He has won more fouls – 50 – than any of his team-mates.

FORM GUIDE

Manchester City's defence looks unusually leaky on home turf at the moment. Guardiola's side have conceded six goals in their past five Premier League home matches, one more than they had shipped in their previous 12 such games.

What is almost certain is City are more than likely to score on their own patch. Only once in the past 39 home league games have they not found the net and are the league's top scorers with 47 this season.

Leicester are, though, unbeaten in their past nine in the league. Only Liverpool are currently on a longer such run with 34 matches without losing.

The Foxes have won eight of those games and conceded just four goals in the process, although Rodgers' side were held to a 1-1 draw by Norwich City last time out.

This will be Manchester City's first time in front of their own fans since their derby defeat, having won away to Dinamo Zagreb and Arsenal in their past two fixtures.

HISTORY SAYS

Manchester City have won four of their past five Premier League meetings with Leicester, losing the other 2-1 in December last season at the King Power Stadium.

Leicester have lost their past three Premier League away games against Manchester City, having won four of their first five visits to their opponents.

History suggests Leicester will need to keep it tight. In all competitions, the Foxes have lost five of their past six away games against Manchester City, conceding 14 goals in those defeats.

In fact, Leicester have kept just one clean sheet in their past 11 matches against Manchester City in the Premier League, drawing 0-0 at the King Power Stadium in December 2015.

However, this will be the first Premier League clash between the two sides where Leicester will start the day above Manchester City in the table since February 2016, when the Foxes picked up a 3-1 win at the Etihad.

When Barcelona hosted Real Madrid on November 29, 2009, the final Clasico of the first decade of the 21st century, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo had won just a single Ballon d'Or between them.

The following month saw Messi land his first, yet even when considering the standards both were setting even then, few would have predicted the remarkable nature of their dominance over the following decade.

Ten years on, only one person – Luka Modric – has been able to interrupt their duopoly of the coveted individual award, with Messi edging out Virgil van Dijk earlier this month to win it for a record sixth time.

Ahead of the final Clasico of this decade on Wednesday, Barcelona's Messi is now the undisputed king of the fixture, with no one else's status even remotely comparable since Ronaldo's departure from Madrid to Juventus last year.

There is a staleness to the two squads in terms of many so-called star names, Messi and Karim Benzema aside. Gerard Pique, Sergio Busquets, Toni Kroos, Modric, Gareth Bale, Sergio Ramos, Ivan Rakitic, Luis Suarez, Jordi Alba – all have been wonderful players and, in most cases, are still among the main attractions, but arguably every single one is past his prime.

But as we prepare to head into a new year and new decade, both sides have impressive youngsters waiting to be leading lights of the next generation, and some could even enjoy a decisive impact on Wednesday.

Barcelona

Ansu Fati - Winger, 17

The next jewel out of La Masia? Well, his lightning start to life in the Barca first team suggests so. Despite being just 16 years old at the time and without even representing their 'B' team, Fati was promoted to the senior side at the start of the season, becoming the club's second-youngest player as he featured against Real Betis. He then made himself the most junior goalscorer in their history. Nimble-footed, a good finisher and blessed with excellent vision, the teenager's potential appears limitless such is the ease with which he has adjusted to top-flight football.

Jean-Clair Todibo - Centre-back, 19

France Under-20 international Todibo has had a curious start to his Barca career, in that he has not made much of an impact. He joined from Toulouse – for whom he played 10 Ligue 1 games in 2018-19 – at the start of 2019, but then only featured twice in LaLiga before the campaign ended. Similarly, he has been sparingly used this term, but away to Inter in the Champions League he highlighted his potential. Making his Champions League debut, the defender was the best player on the pitch, coping comfortably defensively and showcasing considerable ability on the ball. The archetypal Barcelona centre-back, they already seem to have Pique's heir. That is if Barca resist the urge to cash in early, as reports suggest they are contemplating.

Frenkie de Jong - Central midfielder, 22

Probably the player on this list who least requires an introduction. De Jong rose to prominence last term with Ajax, playing a starring role as they went as far as the Champions League semi-final. While he has not quite hit those heights at Barca yet, there's no doubt about his ability. Once some of the older midfielders move on, De Jong will surely have the team built around him.

Pedri - Attacking midfielder, 17

He may be a year or two from making his first Clasico appearance, but Pedri looks destined for an illustrious career. Barca secured the attacking midfielder's signature in September when he was still 16, paying Las Palmas – where he has been important since returning on loan – an initial €5million. Media reports claim the Segunda club could eventually receive €25million for Pedri, whose release clause will balloon up to €400million when he becomes a first-team player at Camp Nou. A dazzling dribbler and a fine playmaker, Pedri is already seen as one of Spain's next great hopes and will surely light up El Clasico in the 2020s.

 

Real Madrid

Rodrygo Goes - Winger, 18

Even though Rodrygo cost Madrid a reported €45million from Neymar's former club Santos, it never felt as though there was quite the same hype around him from Madrid fans as there was Vinicius Junior. But the 18-year-old already seems to have moved ahead of Flamengo product Vinicius in the pecking order, with Rodrygo becoming something of a regular over the past couple of months. He is the Champions League's second-youngest hat-trick scorer following his treble against Galatasaray and is settling in at Madrid in encouraging fashion.

Vinicius Junior - Winger, 19

A positive debut campaign in Madrid gave Vinicius a real platform to build on this term, particularly given a lack of quality wide options aside from Eden Hazard and Gareth Bale – who is rarely in favour. The Brazil international is yet to nail down a starting role, with his performances a little inconsistent, though he remains an explosive option and has been used fairly regularly by Zinedine Zidane lately. If he progresses as expected, there is no reason why he and Rodrygo can't be pillars at Madrid over the next 10 years.

Federico Valverde - Central midfielder, 21

Valverde is by no means the typical Madrid player. He's not particularly flamboyant, meaning he lacks the aura of glamour of Vinicius and Rodrygo, yet he is enjoying an excellent breakthrough season. The Uruguayan midfielder has already made 12 LaLiga appearances this term – just four shy of his total for 2018-19 – and has truly earned Zidane's trust. Mixing an effective blend of combativeness, off-the-ball intelligence and fine ball control, Valverde could be Madrid's midfield lynchpin for years to come.

Martin Odegaard - Attacking midfielder, 21

The clamour to sign a 16-year-old Odegaard in 2015 at the time felt like the transfer saga to end all others. Madrid got their man, despite reported interest from Manchester United, Liverpool, Bayern Munich, Barcelona and just about every other major European club. For a few years it seemed his potential may have been misread, but a solid loan spell at Vitesse last term saw him flourish and he has truly blossomed at Real Sociedad this season as a standout player in LaLiga. He'll almost certainly be back in 2020-21, and on the evidence of his current form, few would bet against him instantly starring.

A group of players will add their names to El Clasico's rich history when Barcelona host Real Madrid at Camp Nou on Wednesday.

Alongside seasoned names such as Lionel Messi and Sergio Ramos, the likes of Antoine Griezmann, Frenkie De Jong, Ansu Fati, Rodrygo Goes and Ferland Mendy are in line to make their debuts in the fixture.

Shining on the biggest stage at the first time of asking is not always easy, but here are four players who enjoyed notable recent introductions to European football's most captivating rivalry.

DAVID VILLA

The dream scenario for Griezmann or Rodrygo would be to star in the manner Spain great Villa did at Camp Nou in November 2010. In one of the defining victories of the Pep Guardiola era, Barcelona thumped Jose Mourinho's Madrid 5-0. Villa joined the most feared forward line in world football earlier that year and netted a quickfire second-half brace to take the game away from Los Blancos. In the 21st century, the former Valencia favourite is the only player to boast a Clasico debut double.

NEYMAR

Barcelona's fabled MSN forward line was still a year away when Neymar made his Clasico bow. In fact, it was Alexis Sanchez - later phased out by the arrival of Luis Suarez - who scored what turned out to be the winner at Camp Nou in October 2013. Neymar laid on that goal after notching the opener, meaning the Brazilian is the only player since 2000 to score and assist on his first outing in the rivalry.

JESE RODRIGUEZ

Many celebrated attacking names have graced this match in the famous white shirts of Real Madrid. Close-season arrival Eden Hazard must wait for his introduction after being sidelined by injury. However, the first time is not always the most enjoyable where big-name Madridistas are concerned. Jese Rodriguez pulled a late goal back after Neymar and Sanchez were on target in the 2013 Nou Camp match. Now at Sporting CP, with one goal to his name in 12 appearances this season after unsuccessful stints at Real Betis, Stoke City, Las Palmas and Paris Saint-Germain, Jese is still the last Madrid player to have scored on his Clasico debut.

ARTURO VIDAL

De Jong's arrival at Barcelona and the re-emergence of Ivan Rakitic has served to give Vidal a frustrating lack of recent first-team opportunities. Nevertheless, the tenacious Chile midfielder has fond memories of the corresponding fixture last season. He came off the bench to crown a 5-1 thumping of Madrid at Camp Nou in October 2018, heading home 190 seconds after entering the field. No Clasico debutant has scored a quicker goal this century.

Ever since Cristiano Ronaldo joined Juventus, it's been hard to pin down a 'Clasico duel' to rival the Portugal star's battle with Lionel Messi.

We could have one on Wednesday, though, from two pretty unlikely sources.

Ivan Rakitic and Federico Valverde are likely to start at Camp Nou this week, when Spain's grandest rivalry renews with the LaLiga head-to-head record locked at 72 wins each from 178 meetings (Barca, it's worth noting, have never been ahead of Madrid in terms of league wins).

Each player has become potentially pivotal for this latest meeting, which is fairly remarkable given their respective standings in the first-team picture when the season got underway in August.

 

RAKITIC: FROM PARIAH TO PIVOTAL

It looked like Rakitic could well leave Barca this year, even though he didn't want to.

With two years to run on his contract, it was suspected the player would command a significant fee in the previous transfer window, with Paris Saint-Germain, Juventus and Inter all linked. With Barca having spent in the region of €758million since recouping a world-record €222m for Neymar, with their wage bill near breaking point and a huge redevelopment of Camp Nou to pay for, a major sale would have been timely.

It would also have reduced the bloated midfield options at Ernesto Valverde's disposal, while a more cynical observer might suggest selling Rakitic would appease a small but prominent squadron of fans on social media who appear to have taken a disconcertingly severe dislike towards the player and his every appearance for the club.

But Rakitic is settled in Barcelona. His wife and daughters are Spanish. He is a four-time LaLiga champion, a Champions League and Club World Cup winner, a World Cup finalist in 2018 – that's a CV to stand up to any midfield competition, including Netherlands star Frenkie de Jong, signed in an €86m deal this year.

So, he stayed. But he didn't play. He started once in 17 games at the beginning of the season, in a 2-0 loss to Granada in September. His banishment from the team left him forlorn enough to go public with his concerns, telling Movistar: "How does my little daughter feel when you take a toy from here? She feels sad. Well, I feel the same. They took my ball. I feel sad."

And then, three weeks ago, Barca gave it back.

Restored to the starting line-up against Borussia Dortmund, Rakitic excelled in a 3-1 win. He kept his place four days later for the 1-0 victory away to Atletico Madrid, then the 5-2 thrashing of Real Mallorca. He was captain of the much-changed side that finished the Champions League group stage by beating Inter 2-1. The 2-2 draw with Real Sociedad was less impressive, but that was true of every Barca player at Anoeta last weekend.

Statistically, Rakitic does not outstrip his competitors for the midfield three this season in LaLiga. He has two assists, the same as De Jong and Sergio Busquets and one fewer than the injured Arthur. His passing accuracy of 88 per cent is lower than all Barca midfielders except Arturo Vidal; his duel success rate of 47 per cent is better only than Carles Alena's; his tackle success rate of one in three puts him bottom of the pile.

Yet the fact remains that, right now, Barca play better with him. And they'll need him against Madrid.

VALVERDE: THE MAN MAKING POGBA POINTLESS

Real Madrid have built their spectacular success of 2014 onwards on a central trio of Casemiro, Toni Kroos and Luka Modric. None of them is now their best midfielder, which tells you just how well Federico Valverde is performing.

Casemiro disrupts the opposition, Kroos controls the tempo and Modric links the play – it's how Madrid have played throughout Zinedine Zidane's time in charge. Valverde effectively does all three jobs together. As Zidane said last month, he is "capable of being in every position and with great acceleration".

After the 3-0 loss to PSG in September – which he missed – the Uruguayan was the change Madrid so sorely needed. He came on against Sevilla to help see out a 1-0 win in their next game. He kept his place for the 2-0 victory over Osasuna and the goalless derby draw with Atletico. He then sat out the game at home to Club Brugge, one Madrid nearly lost.

Valverde's influence was becoming clear, to fans and Zidane. Since Paris on September 18, Madrid have lost only one match, away to Mallorca on October 19. It is the only game Valverde has missed.

Still only 21, Valverde brings composure, tenacity and technical quality to Madrid's play. Of their midfielders in LaLiga this season, only Modric, Kroos and Isco have a higher passing accuracy than his 88 per cent. Casemiro and Kroos are the only ones to rank higher for tackles and duels, but he has lost possession on fewer occasions than either of them. 

Valverde has also provided two goals and two assists for good measure, something only Modric can better. No wonder the president of his old club Penarol, Jorge Barrera, told AS: "Those of us who met Valverde in the lower ranks of the club are not astonished at what Federico is going through right now. He will continue to grow a lot and is one of the great talents of world football."

For all of Mino Raiola's posturing, Zidane's public praise and Manchester United's inconsistent form, Paul Pogba looks no closer to joining Madrid than he did in the previous transfer window. If Valverde's form continues – particularly against Barca, at Camp Nou – they can perhaps forget about Pogba entirely.

Points were dropped by several Premier League sides with top-six aspirations on a weekend when leaders Liverpool were rescued by Mohamed Salah's finishing as they extended their winning streak and their cushion at the top.

The Reds beat Watford 2-0 at Anfield to move 10 points clear of Leicester City, who were held to a 1-1 draw at home by struggling Norwich City.

There was also frustration for a top-four side at Stamford Bridge, where Chelsea failed to score for the second time in three Premier League home games as they succumbed 1-0 to Bournemouth.

Manchester City suffered no such slip-up when they travelled to Arsenal on Sunday, as a 3-0 win for the third-placed defending champions moved them to 14 points behind Liverpool.

Tottenham nudged up to fifth after beating Wolves 2-1 to offer further evidence that Jose Mourinho has addressed some of the problems his side faced on the road under Mauricio Pochettino.

Take a deep dive into the big stories of the weekend in our Premier League Data Diary.

REDS STREAK RANKS THIRD AFTER TRICKY HORNETS TEST

Goals from Mohamed Salah and some wayward Watford finishing ensured Liverpool claimed a 2-0 win at Anfield to extend their unbeaten Premier League run to 34 games.

Only Arsenal (49 between May 2003 and October 2004) and Chelsea (40 between October 2004 and October 2005) can boast longer undefeated sequences in the competition, and the Reds have won their last 16 league games at Anfield.

Five more consecutive home wins would see Jurgen Klopp's men match the record (21) set by Bill Shankly's title-winning Liverpool side between January and December 1972.

Salah's double takes his goal tally to 84 in 126 appearances for Liverpool, eclipsing Luis Suarez's record of 82 goals in 133 games for the Reds.

Watford have taken just nine points from 17 league games this season, and the omens for them are not good: all of the nine teams to accumulate nine points or fewer after 17 Premier League matches have been eventually relegated.

 

HONEYMOON PERIOD A DISTANT MEMORY FOR LAMPARD

After seeing Chelsea lose just two of his first 12 Premier League games in charge, Frank Lampard watched his charges slip to a fourth defeat in five against Bournemouth on Saturday.

The 1-0 reverse at Stamford Bridge came courtesy of Dan Gosling's first league goal since April and left the Blues with just one fewer home defeat (five) in all competitions this season than they suffered in 62 games over 2017-18 and 2018-19 combined.

Chelsea have lost two of their last three top-flight home games, as many as they had in their previous 28 at Stamford Bridge, and failed to score in both of those defeats.

Since their promotion in 2015, no side has won more Premier League away game at Chelsea than Bournemouth (three, level with Liverpool).

 

MOURINHO'S MEN MAKE PROGRESS ON THE ROAD

Prior to Jose Mourinho's arrival as Tottenham boss, Spurs had failed to win a Premier League away game this season. But since he took charge they have won two out of three in the league on the road.

Lucas Moura's spectacular solo goal gave them the lead at Molineux and the Brazilian has now scored three goals in five top-flight appearances under Mourinho.

Wolves pulled level after 67 minutes of a scintillating game, Adama Traore scoring his fourth goal in 26 appearances in all competitions this season - twice as many goals as he scored in his previous 82 matches.

But Jan Vertonghen restored Tottenham's lead in second-half stoppage-time, inflicting a third home league defeat for Wolves in 2019 while extending Mourinho's record of not losing Premier League games when his side score first to 54 games since October 2015.

 

CHAMPIONS CRUISE AGAINST SHOT-SHY GUNNERS

Arsenal shipped three goals in 40 first-half minutes as they lost 3-0 at home to Manchester City, which left the Gunners with one win from their last nine Premier League matches.

Freddie Ljungberg's men are without a win at home in six games across all competitions - the club's longest such run since an eight-game streak between December 1994 and February 1995.

Kevin De Bruyne produced a masterclass at the Emirates, scoring either side of Raheem Sterling's tap-in, which he set up, to take his goal involvement tally to 19 in the league this season (seven goals and 12 assists).

Sterling's effort was his seventh away goal in the league this season - his joint-highest return on the road in a single campaign (also seven in 2017-18).

While City were prolific, Arsenal mustered just one shot on target all game - their joint-fewest in a Premier League game at Emirates Stadium (one v Everton in 2010, and v Chelsea in 2015 and 2016).

There was a time when the thought of Manchester City without David Silva would have left supporters in a nervous sweat, such has been his influence and impact in the Premier League.

The crafty Spaniard will arguably go down as the greatest import in Premier League history, with his technical and passing abilities almost unrivalled, while he has enjoyed incredible success with City.

Yet, if Sunday's exceptional 3-0 demolition of Arsenal proved anything about City, it's that their midfield now looks better without Silva, who will depart at the end of the season.

One man stood out in particular in north London.

After the whistle was blown to signify the end of the first half at Emirates Stadium, Kevin De Bruyne ambled towards the tunnel appearing typically expressionless – his face showing no hint of acknowledgement of what he had just done to Arsenal.

It was an absolute masterclass from the barnstorming Belgian, whose trademark blend of emphatic power and technical wizardry left the Gunners utterly helpless.

The first goal, just 89 seconds into the match, was quintessential De Bruyne. Receiving Gabriel Jesus' cut-back as it sat up for him, he found the roof of the net with a finish that seemed to defy the laws of physics, picking up remarkable speed despite it being a controlled, side-footed strike.

That was just the tip of the iceberg, however.

There was a purpose and relentlessness to De Bruyne's performance that gave the impression he was playing with a vengeance, like he'd been wronged and was out to exact revenge by imposing misery on the hosts.

That drive was plain to see when creating City's second goal, exchanging passes with Jesus before darting forward with three defenders for company and squaring to Raheem Sterling for an easy finish.

But there was even more to that goal than De Bruyne just running very fast in a straight line and then passing. The move began just outside City's own penalty area, with Rodrigo doing brilliantly under pressure before Phil Foden took several out of the equation with a line-breaking pass.

It was a fitting involvement from the 19-year-old, who was making his first Premier League start of the season in place of the injured Silva.

Many had long been calling out for Foden to secure a place in the starting XI ahead of Silva, who by his own standards has been underwhelming this term.

The talented England Under-21 international quietly went about his business during the first half, often filling the half spaces towards the flanks. Although by no means devastating, almost every time Foden got the ball he looked capable of picking through Arsenal's midfield line.

He did just that when setting up De Bruyne's gorgeous second, turning cleverly and darting into space before nudging possession to the Belgian, who sumptuously found the bottom-left corner.

History almost repeated itself late in the half, the same pair combining – only this time Bernd Leno displayed a comparable level of brilliance with an astonishing save, tipping De Bruyne's strike on to the post.

With De Bruyne's ruthlessness, Foden's nous for finding dangerous spaces and Rodri's authoritative conducting, City's midfield looks set for the foreseeable future.

Though Pep Guardiola's use of Foden does continue to puzzle.

The decision to withdraw him in the 56th minute when 3-0 up against a team with barely a modicum of mental fortitude was eyebrow-raising, particularly given Guardiola's regular backing of Foden as Silva's so-called heir.

Foden's ability has even led Guardiola to lauding him as the greatest young player he's ever worked with. This from the man who coached Lionel Messi during his early years.

If Foden even gets close to De Bruyne's standard, City fans will consider themselves extremely fortunate, as on Sunday's evidence there are few better than the Belgian.

In De Bruyne and Foden, City have a creative hub that could dominate for years – but Guardiola needs to let go of the reins if the latter is to succeed Silva and reach the level he appears destined for.

Friday the 13th appeared to be shaping as the beginning of the end of the United States' Presidents Cup dominance. Two days later, their class came to the fore.

Trailing the Internationals 4-1 at Royal Melbourne Golf Club following the opening day's four-ball contests, the USA found themselves behind in every foursomes matchup on Friday.

They were facing a staggering 9-1 deficit before the momentum swung and the session was somehow split thanks to clutch putts from Justin Thomas and Patrick Cantlay.

The USA's 6.5 - 3.5 deficit became 9-5 after Saturday morning's four-ball, but with the talent in their team, they could always look ahead to 12 singles matchups.

Thomas and Rickie Fowler may have coughed up a 5up lead in the foursomes later on Saturday, but the USA were back to within 10-8 and in position for an eighth straight title.

Playing captain Tiger Woods had taken the risk of not playing himself on Saturday despite two wins on the opening two days.

That gamble paid off, the show of faith in his team – and his ability to lead by example on a decisive day – proving crucial.

The USA grabbed a record-equalling eight points in the singles, Woods' 3 and 2 win over Abraham Ancer – the Internationals' best player of the week – setting the tone.

Of the 12 singles matches, the USA had a higher ranked player in 11. The other was world number 24 Matt Kuchar, who halved his match with the 20th-ranked Louis Oosthuizen.

Internationals captain Ernie Els appeared to accept some responsibility for the defeat despite being proud of his team, but his work on the opening days helped set up what would have been a major upset.

His team led 10-8 after his pairings, but the USA's class eventually prevailed in the singles.

The Internationals were left with a sense of what might have been, given the position they worked so hard to put themselves in.

Royal Melbourne was the scene of their only Presidents Cup triumph 21 years ago, and it seemed set to be where the drought would be broken.

But just as Friday the 13th looked set to be unlucky for the USA, it proved to be for the Internationals, Woods and his team showing their class exactly when they needed to.

Tiger Woods made more history by breaking a record at the Presidents Cup on Sunday.

The 15-time major champion surpassed Phil Mickelson for most match wins in the tournament's history with his 27th.

Woods proved too good for Abraham Ancer 3 and 2 at Royal Melbourne Golf Club as the United States neared a comeback win over the Internationals.

We take a look at some of his numbers at the Presidents Cup.

27 - Woods has 27 match wins, surpassing Mickelson's mark of 26.

12 - Of his wins, 12 have come in the foursomes format, with eight in the four-ball and seven in the singles.

7 - His seven singles wins is also a record.

15 - Woods has suffered 15 defeats in his Presidents Cup career.

2 - He will finish the 2019 Presidents Cup with a 3-0-0 record, marking just the second time he has gone undefeated, having also done so in 2009 when he went 5-0-0.

1998 - Woods' first Presidents Cup victory came 21 years ago, when he combined with Fred Couples for a 5 and 4 foursomes win over Ernie Els and Vijay Singh.

The Heisman Trophy has been won by a quarterback for a fourth year in a row after LSU's Joe Burrow was given the accolade on Saturday.

Senior Burrow, who transferred from Ohio State in 2018, beat fellow quarterbacks Justin Fields and Jalen Hurts as well as Buckeyes defensive end Chase Young to claim the prize given to college football's best player.

Burrow is LSU's second winner of the prize, after running back Billy Cannon in 1959, thanks to a remarkable season in which he has led LSU to the top seed for the 2019 College Football Playoff.

With Burrow now considered the leading contender to be the first overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft too, we take a look at how he compares to the last five quarterbacks to win the Heisman - Kyler Murray, Baker Mayfield, Lamar Jackson, Marcus Mariota and Jameis Winston.

 

JOE BURROW (LSU) - 2019

- Threw for 4,715 yards, 48 touchdowns and six interceptions.

- Completed an NCAA-best 77.9 per cent of his passes.

- Had an NCAA-best passer rating of 201.5.

- Ran for 289 yards and three touchdowns.

- Led LSU to a 13-0 record and the top seed in the College Football Playoff.

KYLER MURRAY (OKLAHOMA) - 2018

- Threw for 4,053 yards, 40 touchdowns and seven interceptions.

- Had a passer rating of 205.72 - the best in Heisman history.

- Ran for 892 yards and 11 touchdowns.

- Led Oklahoma to a 12-1 record and the fourth seed in the College Football Playoff.

- Went on to be the first overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft.

BAKER MAYFIELD (OKLAHOMA) - 2017

- Threw for 4,340 yards, 41 touchdowns and five interceptions.

- Had a passer rating of 203.76 - at the time the best in Heisman history.

- Ran for 310 yards and five touchdowns.

- Led Oklahoma to a 12-1 record and the second seed in the College Football Playoff.

- Went on to be the first overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft.

LAMAR JACKSON (LOUISVILLE) - 2016

- Threw for 3,390 yards, 30 touchdowns and nine interceptions.

- Had a passer rating of 153.34.

- Ran for 1,538 yards (the most ever by a Heisman-winning quarterback) and 21 touchdowns.

- Led Louisville to a 9-3 record.

- Went on to be the 32nd overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft.

MARCUS MARIOTA (OREGON) - 2014

- Threw for 3,803 yards, 38 touchdowns and two interceptions.

- Had a passer rating of 186.79.

- Ran for 669 yards and 14 touchdowns.

- Led Oregon to a 12-1 record and the second seed in the College Football Playoff.

- Went on to be the second overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft.

JAMEIS WINSTON (FLORIDA STATE) - 2013

- Threw for 3,820 yards, 38 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.

- Had a passer rating of 190.05.

- Ran for 193 yards and four touchdowns.

- Led Florida State to a 13-0 record and the number one seed for the National Championship Game.

- Went on to be the first overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft.

In a week of deliberation over who might lead the country, English football remains in little doubt over its elect group of players.

But while many feel the current Liverpool side is born to rule, they were asked some tricky questions by a Watford team recently revived by a change of leadership.

There was a high turnout but no landslide victory against Watford at Anfield, where the Reds chalked up their 16th consecutive Premier League home win by a 2-0 scoreline thanks to Mohamed Salah's double.

And while their seat at the top of the table looks safe, canvass for opinion around Merseyside and you will find even the most dyed-in-the-wool Reds reluctant to suggest the balance of power has swung decisively in their favour.

But six more home league wins in a row would see Jurgen Klopp's men eclipse the all-time record streak of 21 set by Bill Shankly's title-winning team of 1972-73, who saw governance of the top flight as their birthright.

For a home crowd watching a team guaranteed to be top of the Premier League table at Christmas, Anfield was strangely subdued during the opening exchanges between Klopp's rotated side and visitors Watford.

New boss Nigel Pearson looked to have assembled a strong opposition during a cagey opening spell that saw the incumbent leaders fail to muster a shot on goal for 22 minutes - the longest wait for a Reds attempt in a home league game since October 2016 against Manchester United.

Pearson could hardly be accused of the kind of negative campaigning Jose Mourinho so often employed during his time at United, with Watford offering a more incisive threat in the opening half-hour thanks to the positive endeavours of Will Hughes and Gerard Deulofeu.

With Andy Robertson on the bench, Liverpool looked momentarily vulnerable at left-back when Etienne Capoue skipped beyond stand-in James Milner before teeing up Abdoulaye Doucoure for a wasteful miss that was punished at the other end just 58 seconds later.

Roberto Firmino's overhead kick launched Sadio Mane down the Liverpool left and he in turn released Mohamed Salah, who fooled Kiko Femenia before nonchalantly curling home with his right foot.

It was not the first time Liverpool's Egyptian king has lorded it over Watford, and a last-minute tap-in means Salah has eight goals and one assist in five Premier League appearances against the Hornets.

But Klopp's cabinet includes many inspirational leaders. Some credit for this win must also go to Mane, so often the player who helps lay the foundations upon which Salah excels.

Mane has set up four goals against Watford in the Premier League, more than he has managed against any other side in the top tier. All four of those assists have been for Salah, too.

Klopp will hope Mane makes a habit of teeing up goals during the busy weeks ahead; the Senegal international has three assists in his past two Premier League games, as many as he managed in his previous 56 appearances.

Clean sheets also help – Klopp will certainly vote for shut-outs to become another long-running trend.

Kai Havertz broke a record previously held by his international team-mate Timo Werner on Saturday, becoming the youngest man to make 100 appearances in the Bundesliga.

The Bayer Leverkusen midfielder brought up the milestone in Saturday's trip to Cologne as he reached a century of games at the age of 20 years and 186 days, 17 days younger than RB Leipzig striker Werner was when he reached 100 matches in 2016.

Havertz, already capped seven times by Germany, is considered one of Europe's most promising young talents and has been linked with a host of clubs across the continent, including Bayern Munich, Manchester United, Barcelona and Liverpool.

Here, with the help of Opta, we look at Havertz's Bundesliga career so far.

17 years and 126 days - That was Havertz's age when he debuted in the Bundesliga in October 2016. He was the youngest player to appear in the German top flight for Leverkusen, and the 10th youngest of all time in the Bundesliga. Nuri Sahin holds the league's record, first appearing for Borussia Dortmund at 16 years and 334 days.

17 years and 144 days - Less than three weeks after his Bundesliga debut, Havertz made his Champions League bow in a 1-0 win at Tottenham. Later in that season's Champions League, he missed a last-16 game because he had to sit a school exam.

17 years and 295 days - Havertz became Leverkusen's youngest Bundesliga scorer when he netted in a 3-3 draw with Wolfsburg in April 2017.

50 - A year later, Havertz made his 50th Bundesliga appearance - becoming the youngest player to reach that milestone. He marked the occasion with two assists in a 4-1 win over Eintracht Frankfurt.

24 - As a teenager, Havertz scored 24 goals, including 17 in 2018-19. No player in the competition's history has scored more goals before their 20th birthday, with Havertz level with Horst Koppel.

26 - Since making his Bundesliga debut, Havertz has scored 26 goals. No player born in 1999 or later has scored as many goals in the top five European leagues.

43 - In his 99 Bundesliga appearances so far, Havertz has been directly involved in 43 goals for Leverkusen (26 goals and 17 assists).

17 - Havertz became the first teenager in Bundesliga history to score at least 17 goals in a season in 2018-19.

Marc Leishman and Abraham Ancer produced an incredible recovery against Rickie Fowler and Justin Thomas at the Presidents Cup on Saturday.

The Internationals were in huge trouble in the foursomes at Royal Melbourne Golf Club, but staged a late rally.

The biggest one belonged to Leishman and Ancer, who somehow managed to salvage a tie against Fowler and Thomas.

Perhaps showing some signs of fatigue after winning earlier in the day – with Thomas playing for the fourth straight session – the Americans gave up a point that looked certain.

We look at how Leishman and Ancer, who were 5down through 10, produced their response.

Back-to-back birdies spark Internationals

Leishman and Ancer headed to the 11th hole 5down, but put the pressure on the American stars.

Ancer's superb approach shot to within five feet set up a Leishman birdie before the roles reversed.

The Internationals' second shot at the 12th, played by Leishman, went to within 10 feet, setting up Ancer's birdie putt.

Fowler and Thomas managed pars at both holes, but that form would soon change.

 

Missed putts bring Internationals within one

The USA still looked in control with a 3up lead with just three holes to play.

However, pars at 16 and 17 from the Internationals would be enough to reduce that deficit.

Fowler missed a six-footer for par at 16 before Thomas' miss from nine feet meant the USA's lead was just 1up heading to the last.

 

Perfect storm at the last

Thomas' tee shot into the trees immediately put the USA on the back foot at the last.

While they tried to recover, Leishman put a quality approach shot to within seven feet for Ancer, setting up the Internationals' birdie.

The USA could only manage another bogey – their third straight – to somehow cough up a win that appeared certain.

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