Kevin De Bruyne claimed his 50th Premier League assist in Manchester City's trip to Bournemouth on Sunday, reaching that mark in record time.

When City's Belgian talisman is in full swing, there is little question he is heading in the direction of being regarded a Premier League great.

The statistic behind his assist for Sergio Aguero's opener at the Vitality Stadium is the case in point, as he set a new record for the fewest matches needed to create 50 goals.

Ironically, he surely cannot claim to have meant this one as his scuffed shot fell to Aguero who swept home, but it has seen De Bruyne reach the 50 mark in just 123 games, nudging to the top of a list of illustrious modern-day players.

 

Mesut Ozil

While the German playmaker polarises opinion, few would doubt his quality at unlocking defences, particularly under Arsene Wenger. Ozil held the record before De Bruyne, recording 50 assists after 141 matches for Arsenal. The 2015-16 campaign brought his biggest contribution, setting up 19 goals.

 

Eric Cantona

A Premier League all-time superstar almost as much for his outlandish personality, notoriety and bizarre quotes as his ability on the pitch. The French attacker was arguably the first real Manchester United idol of the Premier League era, scoring spectacular goals aplenty and crafting them too, hitting the 50 assists mark in his 143rd match.

"When the seagulls follow the trawler, it is because they think sardines will be thrown into the sea." Perhaps the famous quote was in reference to team-mates expecting him to provide assists? Probably not.

 

Dennis Bergkamp

The legacy of Dutch great Bergkamp is his penchant for the unexpected. Few players to have graced the Premier League had such a spellbinding impact on the ball, his legendary goal against Newcastle United when he turned Nikos Dabizas inside out – you can decide whether it was deliberate or not – a classic of the genre. He supplied 50 goals to team-mates in 146 matches, a slightly less impressive record than Ozil, though it's unlikely the German will be remembered as fondly by fans as Bergkamp.

 

Cesc Fabregas

The third former Arsenal player on the list – the Gunners have certainly been blessed with some clever, creative talents in the Premier League era. After breaking into the team as a teenager under Wenger, Fabregas went on to become a real midfield force and, arguably, the best in the league for a time. His first 50 assists took 165 matches to reach, though he occupied a significantly deeper role than Ozil, Cantona and Bergkamp.

David Silva

Pep Guardiola admitted on Friday he had doubts about Silva's suitability to Premier League football when he made the move from LaLiga in 2010. Guardiola was one of many, but the playmaker has emphatically proven himself. Across almost a decade, Silva has gone on to be regarded as one of the Premier League's greatest imports, making his 400th appearance for City on Sunday. He took one match more than Fabregas to hit 50 assists, but his consistency and influence on one of the division's greatest dynasties highlight his overall greater impact.

Andrew Luck rocked the NFL on Saturday when he confirmed he was retiring.

The 29-year-old, who has battled injuries since entering the league with the Indianapolis Colts in 2012, said at a press conference that his problems had "taken my joy of this game away".

One of the most hyped quarterbacks to enter the NFL in recent years, former first overall pick Luck certainly lived up to the billing when he was able to get on the field.

Here, we take a look at Luck's career in numbers.


171 - The former Stanford Cardinal tossed 171 touchdowns with the Colts. In NFL history, only Aaron Rodgers and Dan Marino threw more in their first 86 regular-season games.

40 - Of those 171, 40 came in 2014 when Luck led the league in touchdown passes. Only eight men have thrown for more in a single season.

53-33-0 - Indianapolis won 53 of the 86 regular-season games Luck started. The Colts won two AFC South titles in 2013 and 2014 and made the playoffs on four occasions in the Luck era.

4 - Luck was named to the Pro Bowl four times and last season he won the NFL's Comeback Player of the Year award.

20 - There were 20 game-winning drives in Luck's career. Only Drew Brees, Russell Wilson and Matthew Stafford have had more since 2012.

28 - The Colts were 28 points down to the Kansas City Chiefs in the playoffs when Luck engineered what was, at the time, the second-biggest postseason comeback of all time on January 4, 2014.

174 - Luck was sacked on 174 occasions in his career, with 156 of those coming in his first five years as a pro and 41 in his rookie campaign.

4,374 - The record 4,374 yards Luck threw as a rookie remains the leading mark of any first-year quarterback.

11 - Luck played the Tennessee Titans on 11 occasions in his career. The Colts won every single game. 

David Silva could become the 14th player to make 400 competitive appearances for Manchester City when the Premier League champions visit Bournemouth on Sunday.

The last player to reach the milestone in the blue half of Manchester was former captain Paul Power, who spent 11 years at Maine Road but did not win a trophy during his time at the club.

Times have changed and Silva, who has confirmed this will be his final season with City, now skippers the most dominant team in English football.

Opta data shows the classy 33-year-old has been at the forefront of the club's transformation from noisy neighbours to Premier League powerhouses.

 

MOVING ON UP

Silva could conceivably bow out next year ranked as high as eighth on City's list of all-time appearance makers, albeit that would require him to likely be an ever-present in Pep Guardiola’s teams in the 2019-20 season.

The renowned Mike Summerbee occupies that spot with 452 games to his credit, meaning Silva would have to even surpass the 50 outings he managed last term.

Separating the pair are Sam Cowan (407), Ernie Toseland (411), Neil Young (415), Willie Donachie (436) and ninth-placed Power (445).

Silva has never made more appearances in a single season for City than the 53 tallied after joining from Valencia, although he did register more minutes (3,880) the following campaign.

It was then, in that historic 2011-12 campaign, that a future favourite really came to the fore.

 

BRAINS BEHIND THE BREAKTHROUGH

"I am so pleased he is coming to us because I think he can make a big, big impact for Manchester City," said then-manager Roberto Mancini upon securing Silva's signature in 2010.

The Italian's words were prophetic.

After a third-place finish in his first season at the Etihad Stadium, midfielder Silva and a core cast of stars including Sergio Aguero, Yaya Toure and Vincent Kompany spurred an expensively assembled squad to the success expected of them.

Silva was pivotal in helping make the dream of a first Premier League title become a reality.

His contribution across all competitions amounted to eight goals, 19 assists and landmark victory after landmark victory during his 49 appearances.

It remains the 125-cap international's finest season for the club in terms of goal involvements, even accounting for the unparalleled excellence of the Guardiola era.

 

PREMIER LEAGUE'S SUPREME PROVIDER

Silva has added three more Premier League titles to his City legacy since pipping Manchester United in dramatic circumstances seven years ago.

Trophies aside, a man described by Guardiola as a "European great" will be remembered at City as much for his artistry on the ball and his ability to help get the best out of his team-mates.

Nobody has come close to rivalling the number of Premier League assists (83) Silva has laid on since the start of the 2010-11 season, nor the level of chances created (745).

Those figures continue to swell and so too will the diminutive Spaniard's enormous imprint on English football over the course of his farewell lap.

England were embarrassed at home by their arch rivals on Friday as Australia ran through their fragile batting line-up in dismissing them for 67.

Tim Paine's team seized the initiative in the third Test by skittling their hosts out inside 28 overs, raising the possibility of Australia retaining the urn and avoiding defeat in an away Ashes series for the first time since 2001.

It was a display that was not just horrifically bad, but historically bad.

With the help of Opta, we take a look at the numbers behind the horror show at Headingley.

 

- England's eventual total of 67 was their lowest ever at Headingley, where the lowest Test total of all time is 61 (West Indies in 2000).

- This capitulation followed England being dismissed for 85 by Ireland at Lord's last month. This is just the second time where England were all out for fewer than 100 twice in home Tests hosted in the same year (2019 and 1888).

- Moreover, this was the fourth time since the start of 2018 that England were all out for 85 or less. Their other paltry totals came against West Indies in January (77) and against New Zealand in March 2018 (58).

- This was England's lowest total against Australia since 1948 and their fourth lowest in a home Ashes Test.

- Having gone for a golden duck at Lord's last time out, England captain Joe Root was dismissed without score again. It is the first time in his Test career Root was out for back-to-back ducks.

- Positioned at first slip, David Warner claimed four catches - the joint-most by a fielder in an Ashes Test innings.

England pushed hard to level the series in a rain-affected second Test at Lord's and were given a new lease of life by Jofra Archer.

But Australia and their batsman came through a serious examination to keep their 1-0 lead intact going into the third encounter at Headingley.

Following that dramatic draw, Joe Root's men have renewed impetus and Aussie talisman Steve Smith has been ruled out, having been struck by a brute of a bouncer from paceman Archer.

Here, we look at the key Opta numbers heading into what is sure to be another gripping battle.


11 – Of the 20 times batsmen of both teams were struck on the helmet or body at Lord's, Archer was responsible for 11. Only one other such blow came from an England bowler.

8 – Australia are unbeaten in their past eight Tests against England, winning six and drawing two. The last time they put a longer Ashes streak together was 18 matches between 1987 and 1993.

1 – The tourists only need one more victory from the remaining three games to retain the Ashes. They last avoided defeat in a series in England was 2001.

4 – Peter Siddle has seen four catches dropped off his bowling in the series so far – twice as many as any other bowler.

459 – Travis Head has more runs in Test cricket than any other player in 2019, averaging 76.5. England would be well advised to target the stumps as four of his past five dismissals have been lbw.

42 – Stuart Broad has 42 Test wickets at Headingley at an average of 26.8. Three more this week and he will surpass the 44 achieved by Yorkshire great Fred Trueman on his own ground and become the most prolific wicket taker at the Leeds venue in the longest format.

2014 – The last time back-to-back Test matches in England were drawn.

7 – Seven of the past nine Tests at Headingley have been won by the team to lose the toss – a sequence that started with Australia's innings and 80-run triumph in August 2009. That was the fourth time in five visits to Leeds the men in baggy greens have emerged victorious.

2 – England's previous two wins at Headingley, either side of a five-wicket loss to West Indies in 2017, came by an innings.

Manchester United were forced to settle for a 1-1 draw at Wolves after Paul Pogba had a second-half penalty saved by Rui Patricio at Molineux.

Ruben Neves' sublime 55th-minute strike cancelled out Anthony Martial's opener but Pogba had a golden chance to take the points when he was brought down by Conor Coady.

At that point, confusion reigned. Marcus Rashford, who rifled in from the spot during last weekend's 4-0 win over Chelsea, willingly gave up the ball to Pogba after a short conversation.

"This is a Manchester United penalty, not a tombola!" club great Gary Neville shrieked while reviewing the incident on Sky Sports. "Something's not right!"

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer explained afterwards that both Rashford and Pogba were designated takers but, as the numbers show, United's chances of victory took a dive the moment their record signing grasped the nettle.

Pogba's penalty conversion percentage of 63.6 is the sixth lowest in Premier League history out of players to have taken 10 or more.

Only Juan Pablo Angel, Riyad Mahrez, Steed Malbranque, Dwight Yorke and Kevin Phillips have fared worse than the France international's seven out of 11.

Although he boasts two from two in the Champions League, Pogba's four Premier League misses since the start of last season is the most of any player in the competition.

By contrast, Rashford has scored every penalty he has stepped up to take in his junior and senior career.

The England international converted against the Netherlands in the Nations League finals in June before succeeding in a third-place match shoot-out versus Switzerland. Those exploits are sandwiched by nerveless efforts for the Red Devils against Paris Saint-Germain and Chelsea.

Rashford previously scored two penalties for United in the UEFA Youth League and one for England Under-21s.

Martial scored his 50th goal in United colours on Monday and four of those have come from the penalty spot.

In fact, Pogba's compatriot has only missed once for the club from 12 yards, during a 2-0 Champions League win over Benfica in October 2017.

The evidence suggests it is time for United's midfield superstar to pass on the responsibility for good.

Philippe Coutinho's loan move to Bayern Munich is complete and so begins the club's season-long assessment of whether to activate their option to buy him on a permanent basis.

The former Liverpool star has suffered a loss of form since making a big-money move to Barcelona in 2018 and will now have the chance to reinvent himself in the Bundesliga.

While Bayern have chased Leroy Sane throughout the transfer window, it appears Coutinho and Ivan Perisic - signed on loan from Inter - will be the players tasked with replacing Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery.

Niko Kovac must also fill the creative void left by James Rodriguez's return to Real Madrid and Coutinho, who is accustomed to playing centrally, could be anointed chief playmaker.

Here, we use Opta data to assess the merits of such a move, comparing the strengths and weaknesses of his game in comparison James.

 

Direct and dangerous

Shedding the more pedestrian James and deploying Coutinho in his place should give Bayern a greater degree of dynamism going forward.

The Brazilian causes problems with his willingness and ability to beat defenders, traits not exhibited quite so regularly by James.

Over the past two seasons, Coutinho attempted an average of 2.4 more dribbles per match and completed them with a success rate of 58.1 per cent.

James trusts less in his ability to go beyond markers, a dribble success rate of 44.2 per cent explaining his hesitance.

Yet, as the silky former Real Madrid man showcased at the Allianz Arena, his skills in other departments are sharper than most.

 

Bayern to get creative with solution to missing assists

James tallied 67 appearances across all competitions in his two seasons with Bayern.

Coutinho, in the same period, featured in 96 matches for Liverpool and Barcelona, clocking up over 2,000 more on-field minutes.

Despite the huge discrepancy, the pair each recorded 19 assists.

James, with his 89.2 per cent passing accuracy, created 3.5 chances per 90 minutes, during which he averaged 95 touches.

He outperformed Coutinho in both departments, the former Anfield favourite averaging 2.1 chances created from 82 touches per game.

Perisic will help bridge the gap, but it seems Robert Lewandowski might have to make peace with a less consistent supply line this season.

 

New firepower in front of goal

Where the champions can reasonably expect clear return on their investment is in goals scored.

Despite well-documented difficulties, Coutinho still did his part at Barca by notching 13 times in LaLiga. Those goals contributed to a solid combined two-season tally of 33, averaging out at 0.5 per 90 minutes.

James, the Golden Boot winner at the 2014 World Cup, managed seven in each of his Bundesliga campaigns.

He struck a total of 15 times in all for Bayern, having averaged 2.3 shots and 3.5 touches in the opposition box per match.

Coutinho's role is still to be determined and how his team-mates receive him remains to be seen, but an average of 3.3 shots and 4.6 touches in the opposition box over the course of 90 minutes portrays a player who will actively seek out his own opportunities.

Amid a chaotic blend of defensive haplessness and rip-roaring counter-attacks, there was one thing discernible in Chelsea's 1-1 draw with Leicester City on Sunday – James Maddison and Mason Mount highlighted England have an embarrassment of riches in midfield.

While it was another underwhelming result for Chelsea, following the crushing 4-0 defeat by Manchester United last time out, again there were some positives.

Mount's display was arguably chief among them, as the young midfielder exhibited his wide-ranging abilities.

The standout performer was Maddison, however, as the playmaker carved through Chelsea almost singlehandedly.

Neither has played for England yet, but on Sunday's evidence they won't be waiting much longer for their first caps.

 

MAJESTIC MADDISON BACKS UP HIS SWAGGER

Maddison, 22, scored seven goals and set up another seven last term, impressing many with his creative talents.

Given his form, it was somewhat surprising how few bigger clubs were linked with him during the transfer window – but their loss is Leicester's gain.

The former Norwich City talent was the best player on the pitch at Stamford Bridge and by some distance, as he created three chances and set up Wilfred Ndidi's equaliser.

His ability on the ball had Chelsea's defence and midfield all over the place, as Maddison drove at them relentlessly.

One particularly highlight saw him slalom past several opponents in the penalty area, but he was unable to apply the finish, shooting over.

Leicester received big money for Harry Maguire in pre-season – before long it'll be Maddison attracting such interest, with already overdue England honours surely just around the corner.

Some have criticised Maddison for his bravado and perceived flashy nature, but at Stamford Bridge he certainly walked the walk.

 

MOUNT MAKES HIS MARK

Although he may not have been quite as eye-catching as Maddison, Mount was similarly effective but for different reasons.

When scoring the opening goal, he showed precisely what he's about – harrying Ndidi, robbing him of the ball and even applying a fine finish despite being off balance.

The well-rounded midfielder was Chelsea's biggest threat in the final third, having a total of five shots and getting three of them on target, also creating one other opportunity.

Off the ball, he gained possession five times, made two interceptions and three tackles, while he also found a team-mate with 90 per cent of his passes in the opposition's half.

What made his performance even more impressive was the backdrop of criticism from Jose Mourinho last week – the former Chelsea boss suggesting Frank Lampard shouldn't have started Mount over more experienced options at Old Trafford.

He kept his place and showed why.

Tottenham winger Lucas Moura made an instant impact by scoring 19 seconds after coming off the bench against Manchester City.

The Brazil international was brought on for Harry Winks in the 56th minute and glanced home Erik Lamela's cross with his first touch of the ball to make it 2-2 at the Etihad Stadium.

But Lucas is still some way short of the eight seconds it took Sammy Ameobi to score for Newcastle United as a second-half replacement against Spurs in 2014.

Below are the quickest ever goals by substitutes in Premier League history, using data supplied by Opta.

Sammy Ameobi, 8 seconds: (Newcastle v Tottenham at White Hart Lane, 26/10/2014)
Antoine Sibierski, 15 seconds: (Wigan Athletic v Derby County at Pride Park, 12/01/2008)
Andrew Johnson, 17 seconds: (Fulham v Wolves at Molineux, 23/04/2011)
Gerard Deulofeu, 17 seconds: (Watford v Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium, 09/03/2019)
Yakubu Aiyegbeni, 18 seconds: (Everton v Blackburn Rovers at Ewood Park, 17/04/2010)
Apostolos Vellios, 18 seconds: (Everton v Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, 15/10/2011)
Lucas Moura, 19 seconds: (Tottenham v Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium, 17/08/2019)
Andre Bikey, 19 seconds: (Reading v Chelsea at the Madejski Stadium, 15/08/2007)
Stelios Giannakopoulos, 19 seconds: (Bolton Wanderers v Tottenham at White Hart Lane, 26/04/2008)
Matt Derbyshire, 22 seconds: (Blackburn v Middlesbrough at the Riverside Stadium, 11/08/2007)
Shane Long, 22 seconds: (Reading v Newcastle at the Madejski Stadium, 27/10/2007)
Chris Smalling, 22 seconds: (Manchester United v Burnley at Old Trafford, 11/02/2015)
Sam Vokes, 22 seconds: (Burnley v Watford at Vicarage Road, 07/04/2018)

Gareth Bale looks set to get another chance at Real Madrid after he was named in their starting XI for the opening LaLiga game of the season at Celta Vigo.

Bale seemed certain to depart Madrid after six seasons with coach Zinedine Zidane, whom the Wales star has a rocky relationship with, making it clear during pre-season he wanted the forward to leave.

But, after a move to Jiangsu Suning in the Chinese Super League collapsed and no other realistic suitors emerged, Bale has been reintegrated into the Madrid squad.

The Cardiff-born forward has consistently delivered across a trophy-laden spell, but he often lived in the shadow of the imperious Cristiano Ronaldo – who was worshipped above all others at the Santiago Bernabeu before his departure to Juventus last year – and suffered with injuries.

There is no club in world football with higher expectations of its players than Madrid and Bale has at times been forced to toil under what many would consider unfair scrutiny and criticism, but an examination of his record in the Spanish capital shows his value.

Goal return to rival Ronaldo 

Bale left Tottenham as a once orthodox winger who had blossomed into a goal-scoring force on the flank and has continued that development in Madrid.

He scored 22 times in all competitions during his first season and added another 80 over the next five to join an exclusive club of players to have hit a century of goals for Los Blancos.

Among that group is Brazil legend Ronaldo, a beloved figure but one who finished his Madrid career with only two more goals (104) than the oft-maligned Bale's 102. Just 12 others have struck more for a club with a glittering 117-year history.

Bale has laid on 55 more - more than the talented Isco - during his time in Madrid, and has been responsible for the sixth-most goal involvements in LaLiga, even as the club stuttered to three third-place finishes and a single title.

Standing tall on Europe's grand stage

Madrid's success under Zidane has come largely in Europe, for which Bale can take a good portion of credit.

The Wales international fired his team ahead in the 2014 triumph over rivals Atletico Madrid, notched an assist and a successful spot-kick against the same opposition two years later, and then returned from injury in time for the crushing victory over Juventus in Cardiff in 2017.

That is all without mentioning his match-winning impact in Kiev.

Bale scored twice off the bench in 2018, the first a bicycle kick that dented Liverpool's nascent comeback and the second a speculative long-range shot that smashed it into pieces.

The brace elevated him to what is now a selection of seven players - including Ronaldo - to have struck two goals or more in a Champions League final.

 

Breaking new ground for British footballers

Criticism of Bale for failing to communicate with the media in Spanish dwarfed the plaudits directed his way for venturing where few of his compatriots had gone before.

Then aged 24, the Southampton academy product spurned reported interest from Premier League heavyweights Manchester United to become the third Welshman - and first in more than 25 years - to play in LaLiga.

He is the leading British scorer (78 goals) and appearance maker (155) in the competition's history, relegating David Beckham to second place in the latter category.

Yet, while Bale has struggled to gain Zidane's acceptance, reportedly in part because of his reluctance to assimilate to life in Spain, the France legend praised Beckham for being a "truly great professional" as recently as 2013.

That was despite him once admitting his "friendship with David is little. On the pitch, we understand each other perfectly, but as I don't speak English and he doesn't speak Spanish we are a little bit lost."

Bale might justifiably feel his efforts deserve greater affection - but now he has another chance to win supporters and Zidane over.

Manchester City take on Tottenham in an early-season Premier League blockbuster on Saturday, pitting two of English football's surest things against one another.

Harry Kane typically stepped up when Spurs needed him on the opening weekend, netting a second-half brace to see off freshly promoted Aston Villa.

The fact City's 5-0 rout of West Ham featured a hat-trick from Raheem Sterling also felt somewhat par for the course.

Two leading lights in Gareth Southgate's England team, Kane and Sterling have operated at an increasingly prolific level over recent seasons – something that undoubtedly bodes well for the Three Lions with Euro 2020 on the horizon.

Here we look at the rise and rise of two phenomenal forwards.

 

2014-15

After doing his time in the loan ranks, Kane flourished during Mauricio Pochettino's first season in charge at Spurs. His 21 goals placed him second behind Sergio Aguero in the Golden Boot standings. Add in four assists and Kane averaged a goal involvement every 103 minutes.

The year after Liverpool's close-shave in a title race with City (sound familiar?), Sterling chipped in with seven goals and seven assists – a goal involvement every 218 minutes as Brendan Rodgers' Anfield tenure ran into problems and speculation mounted over the winger's future.

2015-16

Sterling sealed an acrimonious move to City and endured a mixed campaign. Six goals and just two assists meant his goal involvement average dropped to 241 minutes.

Kane, meanwhile, was going from strength to strength as he claimed the first of back-to-back Golden Boots.

He only supplemented his 25 goals with a solitary assist, however, for a goal involvement every 130 minutes. This placed him below Leicester City's title-winning heroes Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez in the overall league standings for goals and assists.

 

2016-17

Kane bolstered his all-round game and hit a sublime level as Spurs spent a large chunk of the campaign as Chelsea's most credible title challengers. He hit 29 goals and seven assists, giving him the most goal involvements in the division – two ahead of Alexis Sanchez – at an astonishing average of one every 70 minutes.

Sterling scored seven and set up six for a goal involvement every 193 minutes. But Pep Guardiola was in town and things were heading in the right direction.

 

2017-18

City stormed to the title with a record-breaking haul of 100 points, made possible by a succession of crucial late strikes by Sterling. He doubled his previous best Premier League campaign to finish with 18 goals, while 11 assists meant he was involved in a goal every 89 minutes.

That edged Kane's average of 96, but 30 goals and two assists meant the Spurs star hit greater numbers overall, before collecting the World Cup Golden Boot playing in an England attack alongside Sterling that reached the semi-finals of Russia 2018.

2018-19

Sterling and City retained their remarkable levels of consistency to go back-to-back, the 24-year-old scoring 17 and laying on a further 10. His 27 goal involvements were the fifth-best in the division.

Despite an injury-interrupted campaign, Kane also scored 17 times and assisted four. His excellent goal involvement average of 116 minutes was shy of Sterling's superb 103.

Atletico Madrid broke their transfer record and Real Madrid spent a huge amount to freshen up their squad, but Barcelona will still be the team to beat in LaLiga's title tussle.

Barca have finished top in eight of the last 11 years, including the past two, and they head into the 2019-20 season as favourites to retain their crown.

The reigning champions accrued 11 points more than runners-up Atletico last time out and have strengthened during the close season with the additions of Antoine Griezmann, Frenkie de Jong and Junior Firpo.

But with Zinedine Zidane at the Madrid helm and long-term target Eden Hazard in place, not to mention the signings of Luka Jovic, Eder Militao, Ferland Mendy and Rodrygo Goes, there is hope Madrid can bridge the 19-point gap from last season.

Across the city at the Wanda Metropolitano, Atletico replaced Griezmann with €126million sensation Joao Felix and refreshed some key areas in the squad following the exits of Diego Godin, Filipe Luis, Juanfran and several others.

Ahead of the new season commencing on Friday, we used Opta data to look at which records and landmarks LaLiga's three heavyweights are targeting over the next nine months.

The #PrimeraIberdrola gets underway on September 8th!

Who will be the 2019/20 champions? pic.twitter.com/FyzvJxjEps

— LaLiga (@LaLigaEN) August 14, 2019

 

Messi has more records in sight at Barcelona

⦁ With Cristiano Ronaldo no longer in the picture, Lionel Messi is closing in on the ex-Madrid forward's hat-tricks record in the Spanish top flight. One more treble will draw him level with Ronaldo on 34; two more will take him outright top.

⦁ Messi, unsurprisingly, leads the way at the top of Barca's all-time scoring charts in LaLiga with 419 goals to his name. Team-mate Luis Suarez has the chance to move up to third in the list, requiring one more goal to overtake Ladislao Kubala (131).

⦁ Barcelona could become the second team to score more than 6,100 goals in LaLiga history. They go into the season on 6,089, 15 fewer than Real Madrid.

⦁ Messi is also high on the list of the Catalan giants' all-time appearance-makers, featuring 684 times in all competitions to leave him second to Xavi Hernandez (767). Gerard Pique has some catching up to do, but he has a landmark in sight, as he is two outings short of 500 in a Barca shirt.

⦁ In the dugout, Ernesto Valverde is on course to become the 10th manager to reach 450 LaLiga games. The Spaniard, whose future was called into question during the close season, is 26 matches short of that impressive figure.

 

Simeone closing in on milestone Atletico victory

⦁ Retaining the services of boss Diego Simeone was key for Atletico during the close season. The Argentine coach remains and he could become the second manager to reach 200 LaLiga wins with a single team after Miguel Munoz for Real Madrid (257). He heads into the weekend on 180.

⦁ Since Radamel Falcao got the Simeone era up and running with goal number one in 2012, Atletico have gone on to add another 484 in LaLiga, meaning the 500 landmark is within touching distance.

⦁ Atletico have become more synonymous with the defensive side of the game under Simeone and boast one of the world's best goalkeepers in Jan Oblak. The Slovenia international is on 88 LaLiga clean sheets and is aiming to become the third keeper to reach triple figures in the 21st century after Victor Valdes (171) and Iker Casillas (160).

⦁ In new signing Joao Felix, Atletico boast one of the hottest properties in world football. Aged 19, he could become one of the youngest players to score for the club - a record held by Ignacio Camacho (17 years and 364 days when he scored against Recreativo Huelva in 2008).

⦁ Joao Felix will hope to have a long and prosperous career at the Wanda Metropolitano, much in the way team-mate Koke has. The academy product has made 285 league appearances for Atletico and will expected to become only the sixth player to reach 300 this term.

 

 Numancia
 Chivas
 Real Madrid
 MLS All-Stars
 @AtletideSanLuis
 Juventus

 100% win rate in pre-season! #AúpaAtleti #AtletiSummerTour pic.twitter.com/k007cDdLQk

— Atlético de Madrid (@atletienglish) August 10, 2019

 

Familiar faces out to make history for Madrid

⦁ They may have fallen well off the pace last season, but no team has won more matches in LaLiga than Real Madrid's 1690 victories, 55 more than next best Barca. They could therefore become the first team to reach 1,700 victories in the competition.

⦁ Karim Benzema hit a good patch of form towards the end of last season to go sixth on the club's list of all-time leading scorers in all competitions with 222 goals. That leaves him just 20 short of fifth-place Ferenc Puskas, but still a whopping 228 adrift of leading marksman Ronaldo.

⦁ The Frenchman will hope to retain his place up top this term, especially with Hazard now providing the ammunition from out wide. The Belgian is looking to become the eighth current player to reach 100 assists in the top five European leagues. He goes into the season on 89 from his time with Lille and Chelsea.

⦁ Zidane was brought back to Madrid in March, 10 months after stepping down, and he is closing in on 200 games for Los Blancos. The 47-year-old has taken charge of 160 matches in all competitions, leaving him behind five others, including Jose Mourinho (178).

⦁ Players and managers come and go but one thing remains constant - Sergio Ramos marshalling the Madrid defence. The Spanish skipper has made 419 LaLiga appearances in the famous white strip, although he is only seventh on the list of record appearances makers, with Paco Gento (427) the next player in his sights.

Frank Lampard's bid for a first Premier League victory in charge of Chelsea shifts to Stamford Bridge this weekend but a happy homecoming is far from guaranteed.

Why? Largely, because of Jamie Vardy.

The fast-moving, hard-pressing, all-action Leicester City striker is a nuisance the competition's best sides have often failed to contain over the past five years.

His record against England's big six of Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool, Tottenham and the two Manchester clubs makes for captivating reading.

But the Opta data on Vardy might just leave Blues boss Lampard - who saw his side beaten on penalties by Liverpool in the UEFA Super Cup on Wednesday - in a cold sweat ahead of Sunday's encounter.

More goals than Aguero

Marooned in non-league football not so long ago, Vardy is now a veteran of five Premier League campaigns.

The 32-year-old has scored 80 goals in that time - more than Eric Cantona achieved - and no fewer than 31 against the big six.

That impressive second figure becomes exceptional when you consider he has faced such opposition on 55 occasions, his goals arriving at a rate of one every 141.2 minutes.

Sergio Aguero and Harry Kane have each managed more than 20 against the competition's heavyweights but neither boasts as many as Vardy since 2014-15.

Factor in a modest supporting cast, occasionally weakened by departures to the teams he continually troubles, and the Foxes frontman seems to defy logic on big occasions.

How, then, are his scoring figures so high?

Staggering conversion rate the cornerstone of carnage

In short, Vardy simply performs better when faced with a tougher task.

Opta statistics show his 31 goals against the big six have come from 105 attempts on goal, spawning a shot conversion rate of 29.5 per cent.

For comparison, the former Fleetwood Town striker converts with 18.8 per cent of his shots when squaring off against the rest the Premier League has to offer.

That accounts for a difference of 10.7 per cent.

The discrepancy is remarkable, particularly as his expected goals (xG) figure barely changes: from 0.46 per 90 minutes against the big six to a superior 0.48 against the rest.

Take penalties out of the equation and the gap in Vardy's shot conversion between big-six opposition and the rest of the Premier League widens further, to a difference of 12.7 per cent (28 per cent versus 15.3 per cent).

Earlier this year, after Vardy moved ahead of Gary Lineker on Leicester's list of all-time top scorers, Leicester boss Brendan Rodgers described the fiery forward as being "very hungry to improve and get better" even in his post-England years.

Chelsea, you have been warned.

Spain's football season is almost upon us, with another thrilling campaign in store in LaLiga.

But while many will focus on Lionel Messi, Eden Hazard and the revolution at Atletico Madrid, some younger talents could establish themselves as LaLiga stars in the coming season.

There are several players up and down the league who will be desperate for their big opportunity.

With the help of Opta, we take a look at five prospects who debuted in the competition last term and will hope for breakout seasons.

 

Diego Lainez (Real Betis)

Winger Lainez only turned 19 in June, but he already has four caps for Mexico, having established himself as a top prospect at Club America after debuting at 16.

Although Lainez did not make an immediate impact at Betis after a €14million January move, starting just three LaLiga games, he scored a last-gasp equaliser against Rennes in the Europa League in February and is being tipped for a big season.

Bryan Gil (Sevilla)

Across the city at Sevilla, Bryan is getting fans excited. He became the first player born in the 21st century to score in the competition when he netted against Rayo Vallecano in April.

Bryan failed to start a league match last season, making more appearances (11) off the bench without lining up than any other player in LaLiga, while he also has the unenviable task of usurping Lucas Ocampos this season.

But under Julen Lopetegui – a coach renowned for trust in youth – he is expected to feature fairly regularly, having helped Spain to European Under-19 Championship success in the close season.

 

Samuel Chukwueze (Villarreal)

The most established name on this list, Chukwueze played a crucial role in Villarreal's survival last season, with his winner at Girona in April kickstarting a run that returned 13 points from the final six matches of the campaign.

Of the youngest 20 players to feature in LaLiga in 2018-19, no player managed more appearances (26) or goals (five) than Chukwueze. He got eight in all competitions and ended the season in the Nigeria team at the Africa Cup of Nations.

Waldo Rubio (Real Valladolid)

Rubio may turn 24 on Saturday, but he only got his first taste of LaLiga football in April after being promoted from the club's B team. As with Chukwueze at Villarreal, he was central to Valladolid staying up.

The attacker played eight games from his debut until the end of the season, starting five, and netted a crucial winner against Athletic Bilbao in his side's penultimate home league match of the campaign.

 

Adria Pedrosa (Espanyol)

In theory, left-back Pedrosa might find it tougher to catch the eye than the attacking talents elsewhere in this list, but that was not the case last term.

Pedrosa started 12 games in all competitions in 2018-19, establishing himself as a starter towards the end of the season and putting his blistering pace to good use with a goal against Deportivo Alaves and an assist for Diego Godin's own goal against Atletico Madrid.

The 21-year-old has already scored a fine goal in Europa League qualifying this season, too.

It was advantage Australia in the Ashes opener at Edgbaston earlier this month.

Steve Smith was in inspired form with knocks of 144 and 142 as England, who had started well, were beaten by a humbling 251 runs.

Joe Root's men will be determined to bounce back and that opportunity will arrive this week as the second Test begins. 

We bring you the key Opta numbers ahead of the clash at Lord's, which starts on Wednesday.

 

14 - It is 14 years since England last lost the opener in an Ashes series and went on to claim the urn.

7 - Australia are now unbeaten in their previous seven Tests against England, winning six of those matches.

4 - Both these sides have strong recent records at Lord's. England have won four of their past five Tests there, while Australia have lost just two of their most recent 21 Ashes encounter at the ground.

2 - England have lost consecutive home Ashes Tests, although Australia last won three on the bounce away from home in 2001.

2008 - The last time England lost consecutive home Tests at all came in a pair of matches against South Africa in 2008.

8 - Test debutant Jofra Archer has not played first-class cricket since last September, but his only previous first-class appearance at Lord's saw him take 8-103.

76 - Smith is a man in form and has now scored at least 76 runs in his past six Test innings against England.

139 - Smith's nine Ashes knocks since the start of the 2017-18 series have seen him average an incredible 139.

9.8 - Chris Woakes has the third-best rate of any seamer at a single venue in Test cricket, with 24 wickets at an average of 9.8 at Lord's.

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