Tottenham and England are set for a spell without talisman Harry Kane following his injury.

The striker suffered a ruptured tendon of his left hamstring and will require surgery, meaning he is not expected back in Spurs training until April.

With Jose Mourinho's men off the pace in the Premier League while England prepare for Euro 2020, the news comes as a blow to both club and country.

Using Opta data, we take a look at just how Kane's absence impacts both Tottenham and England.

 

SHOT-SHY

It should come as no surprise that Spurs and England shoot less often when Kane is not playing, with the forward boasting the ability and willingness to score from just about anywhere.

But Kane is also a wonderful playmaker, often dropping deep to create space and pick passes for runners such as Son Heung-min, Lucas Moura, Raheem Sterling or Marcus Rashford.

Since the start of the 2014-15 season, Kane has played 187 Premier League matches, in which Tottenham averaged 15.6 shots per game. In the 24 fixtures he has missed, that figure drops to 14.9 shots per game.

The difference is more marked with England. Since his international debut in March 2015, the Three Lions have attempted 15.1 shots per game with Kane in the side (45 matches) and 12.3 without (16 matches).

 

GOALS DRY UP – AT BOTH ENDS...

So it follows that with fewer shots come fewer goals. Spurs and England certainly feel Kane's absence when it comes to putting the ball in the net.

The London club have scored 359 times across his Premier League matches since 2014-15, an average of 1.9 per game. They net 1.3 per game without him.

England score a hugely impressive average of 2.3 goals per game – 103 in total – when the top scorer in Euro 2020 qualifying is involved. That drops to that same mark of 1.3 when he is missing.

Interestingly, though, England's defence is statistically meaner when Kane is absent, conceding 0.5 goals per game, down from 0.9.

Tottenham concede roughly one goal per game regardless of their front man's availability.

 

WINNING WOES

Tottenham were already struggling to finish in the top four in this season's Premier League with Kane in the side, so Mourinho really has his work cut out now.

Their top-flight win rate since 2014-15 falls from 57.2 per cent to a relatively ordinary 45.8 per cent when Kane is not involved.

They have lost seven of the 24 games he has not been involved in, while their points return drops from 1.9 per game to 1.6.

Although England may concede more often on average with Kane on the pitch, they are a much better side going forward when they can count on their captain, winning 64.4 per cent of matches with him compared to 50 per cent without.

There is never a good time to face the current Liverpool team but Jose Mourinho's beleaguered Tottenham team could well do without meeting the Premier League leaders on this particular weekend.

Spurs are winless in their last three games in all competitions and have won just one of their last four in the top flight, leaving them sixth and a staggering 28 points behind the Reds after 21 games.

Liverpool, in stark contrast, can rack up their 12th consecutive Premier League win if they triumph at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium and will be well rested having fielded a team largely made up of fringe players in their 1-0 FA Cup victory over Everton.

At their best Liverpool look unstoppable, but Tottenham have only lost one league home game in four months and Mourinho would love nothing more than to put his side's season back on track by putting a speedbump under the Anfield juggernaut.

 

ACID TEST FOR SPURS' POUROUS DEFENCE

Since Mourinho's arrival, Spurs have kept just one clean sheet and any Tottenham fans anticipating a more miserly rearguard action under the Portuguese have been disappointed thus far.

Defensive fragility has been Tottenham's Achilles heel all season, and their record of two domestic clean sheets this term is bettered by every top-flight club except stragglers Norwich City.

Liverpool, meanwhile, have scored in their last 29 top-flight matches and are steaming towards Manchester United's record of finding the net in 36 consecutive Premier League games, which the Red Devils set in November 2008.

Stopping Liverpool means stopping Sadio Mane, who has been involved in 11 goals in his last nine Premier League appearances, scoring six goals and assisting five.

Mane picked up the African Player of the Year award earlier in the week and will no doubt be in the mood to celebrate with a goal in North London.

HEAD-TO-HEAD: JAN VERTONGHEN v VIRGIL VAN DIJK

Among those tasked with stopping Mane, Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino et al will be Tottenham centre-back Jan Vertonghen, who has started in 14 of Spurs' 21 league games this season.

The Belgium international's contract is up at the end of the season and his lacklustre performance in Tottenham's 1-1 FA Cup draw with Middlesbrough prompted calls for him to be let go by sections of the club's support.

But in answering his critics Vertonghen might point to his duel success rate of 74.02 per cent this season, which stands up well against the imperious Virgil van Dijk who has won 75.58 per cent of his Premier League duels this season.

Van Dijk has been successful in 64.29 per cent of his tackles this term, while Vertonghen has won 58.82 per cent of his, and Van Dijk's nine blocks put him just one ahead of his Tottenham counterpart.

Van Dijk dramatically outshines Vertonghen in the air, winning 101 aerial balls compared to the Belgian's 42, and the Dutchman can boast seven league clean sheets this season.

Perhaps most worrying for Mourinho is that the 32-year-old Vertonghen has been dribbled past on 10 occasions across the course of the campaign - seven more times than Van Dijk, who so rarely gets beaten on the ground or in the air.

FORM GUIDE

Liverpool have scored seven goals without reply in their last two Premier League away games, which extended their winning streak on the road to four consecutive games.

But Spurs do have an omen in their favour: in their last 10 home league games against sides starting the day top of the table, Tottenham have won six (D1 L3).

That said, getting a result against Liverpool requires Spurs to break down the Premier League's meanest defence, and they will have to do so without the injured Harry Kane.

Tottenham have won just two of their last 12 games in all competitions without Kane (D4 L6) and when the England striker has been missing this season his team-mates have failed to win at all (D3 L1).

HISTORY SAYS

Recent meetings with Liverpool have not gone well for Tottenham, who have won just one of their last 14 Premier League games against the Reds (D4 L9), winning 4-1 at Wembley in October 2017.

It was not always this way: Liverpool lost five consecutive games at Tottenham between 2008 and 2012, but in their last six league visits they have claimed three wins and two draws.

Victory on Saturday would mark Liverpool's fourth consecutive win in London - a feat they have not achieved since October 1989.

Liverpool's tally of 58 points from 20 Premier League games this season has already eclipsed their totals from the entirety of the 2011-12 and 1998-99 campaigns, and their charge towards the title will take some stopping at Spurs.

Mikel Arteta claimed his first win as Arsenal head coach against Manchester United on New Year's Day.

The end of a hectic spell of Premier League fixtures brought some belated joy for Arteta and Arsenal in a 2-0 home victory.

A fine day for the Gunners also saw rivals Tottenham beaten, but Manchester City and Liverpool made no mistake at the top.

We review the key midweek top-flight matches with the help of Opta data.


INGS AND SAINTS PREY ON LEAKY SPURS

Danny Ings is a man in top form and his goal on Wednesday - a ninth in his past nine Premier League starts - saw Southampton to a 1-0 win over Tottenham at St Mary's Stadium.

Only Jamie Vardy (17) can better Ings' tally of 13 league goals this term, while the former Liverpool man has scored eight times against 'top-six' sides since the start of last season - second only to Sergio Aguero (nine).

His goal meant Spurs have still only kept one clean sheet under Jose Mourinho in all competitions 11 games into his reign.

Tottenham lost their first league game of a calendar year for the first time since 2009, while Southampton are on the up, having won three of their past five home matches in the competition.

JESUS DOWNS FAVOURED FOES EVERTON

Manchester City maintained their recent dominance of Everton with a 2-1 win at Etihad Stadium, winning five consecutive league matches against the Toffees for the first time.

The champions also got the better of Carlo Ancelotti for a fourth time in the Premier League. He has lost to City more times than any other team in the competition.

Gabriel Jesus grabbed both City goals and now has seven against Everton - all of them coming in his past five league games - while he has been directly involved in 69 goals in his 75 starts for the club in all competitions.

With Richarlison responding for Everton to set up a tense finish, this became just the fourth match in Premier League history to see a Brazilian score for either side (excluding own goals).

ARTETA'S ARSENAL END WINLESS HOME RUN

After seven home games without a win in all competitions since beating Vitoria SC in October, Arsenal belatedly got the better of United.

In a further sign of the Gunners' struggles this term, this was their first win against a team currently in the top half in the Premier League in 2019-20, drawing four and losing five of their previous nine.

Nicolas Pepe and Sokratis Papastathopoulos got the goals, making Arteta the seventh Premier League boss to claim their first victory in the competition against United.

Defeat perhaps came as little surprise to the Red Devils, as they have a miserable recent record at Emirates Stadium, losing on four of their past five league visits.

RELENTLESS REDS RECORD ANOTHER WIN

There looks to be no stopping Liverpool, who moved on to 58 points after just 20 Premier League games this season with a 2-0 home victory over Sheffield United. Adjusting to three points for a win, the only team in top-flight history to match that outstanding tally were Manchester City in 2017-18 (also 58).

The Reds scored in a 29th consecutive Premier League game - the third-longest run in competition history - as Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane found the net, the latter registering his 100th goal involvement for the club in all competitions (74 goals, 26 assists in 151 appearances).

Mane has 25 league goals at Anfield since the start of last season, with only Lionel Messi (29 at Camp Nou) and Kylian Mbappe (27 at the Parc des Princes) netting more at a specific stadium in that time.

Liverpool condemned the Blades to back-to-back league defeats for the first time since they lost their first two Championship matches in 2018-19.

Liverpool will become only the third Premier League club to go unbeaten for more than a full year after Thursday's 2-0 win over Sheffield United.

The Reds last suffered defeat on January 3, 2019, in a 2-1 loss at Manchester City, a reverse that ultimately cost them the Premier League title.

However, their response ever since has been nothing short of remarkable, with Thursday's victory ensuring they will pass the one-year anniversary of that defeat without having been beaten again.

The result was never really in doubt against the Blades, as Liverpool opened the scoring after just four minutes through Mohamed Salah and dominated thereafter.

Although goalkeeper Dean Henderson kept the visitors in the contest at Anfield, Sadio Mane finished them off just past the hour, converting at the second time of asking following a devastatingly rapid move that started with Alisson's quick distribution to Andy Robertson.

The match that actually began Liverpool's run was on January 12, 2019, a 1-0 victory over Brighton and Hove Albion, meaning they are technically still 10 days off hitting the one-year mark from the start of the unbeaten streak.

In that time they have played 37 Premier League matches, winning 32 and dropping points just five times.

That form has Liverpool firmly on track for a maiden Premier League title and first top-flight crown for 30 years; they sit 13 points clear with a game in hand on their rivals.

Nevertheless, Liverpool still have some way to go to match Arsenal's record-breaking run.

The Gunners' 49-match unbeaten streak in the Premier League started in the 2002-03 season and stretched all the way through to 2004-05, beginning on May 7, 2003 and ending October 24, 2004 in a defeat to Manchester United.

That run lasted 536 days, though Arsenal drew 13 times in that period, meaning Liverpool are already close to matching their haul of 36 victories during the record-breaking period.

Liverpool still have Chelsea to overtake as well. The Blues, under the guidance of Jose Mourinho at the time, went 40 Premier League matches without defeat between October 23, 2004 and November 6, 2005 – 379 days.

Preston North End (23 matches, 1888-1889) and Nottingham Forest (42 matches, 1977-78) were both unbeaten for 378 days, meaning Liverpool's current run is the fifth-longest in terms of days in English football history.

They are next in Premier League action on January 11 at Mourinho's Tottenham.

Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo have dominated the 2010s in terms of individual awards and moments of pure inspiration.

Future generations will look back on this past decade as a period obsessed with the two generational talents - their often-exaggerated rivalry exacerbated by spending such a long time on opposite sides of the Clasico divide.

But, while Ronaldo and Messi have filled more column inches than any other player on the planet, there are plenty of others who have been world leaders in their respective positions.

Having looked back over the last 10 years, using Opta data for inspiration, we have selected a Team of the Decade. But who makes the cut?

Is David de Gea selected in goal? Does Luis Suarez join Messi in attack? Has Virgil van Dijk done enough for inclusion? Find out below...

OMNISPORT TEAM OF THE DECADE

Manuel Neuer

There is not much more Manuel Neuer could have achieved over the past 10 years. For much of that time he has been one of the globe's most dependable goalkeepers, even if he has shown signs of decline since a spate of foot injuries. A veteran of seven Bundesliga title triumphs and a World Cup winner with Germany, Neuer boasts a save percentage of 74.2 per cent and has comfortably the most clean sheets (139) this decade in the German top flight.

Dani Alves

Has there ever been a better right-back than Dani Alves? The Brazilian stands to leave an impressive legacy, not just through his thrilling style of play, but with his record-breaking trophy haul of 43 after captaining Brazil to Copa America success this year. Despite being a right-back, he claimed 67 assists in league action through the 2010s, though his greatest contribution came in LaLiga with Barcelona, for whom he set up 51 goals. Marcelo (48) is the closest to him, but he has played 77 times more than the current Sao Paulo star.

Vincent Kompany

Although a brilliant player at his best, it is understandable to suggest Vincent Kompany never reached his ceiling due to injuries. Nevertheless, the Belgian will go down as a Premier League great such has been his impact with Manchester City, with whom he enjoyed four title wins. Kompany recorded 83 Premier League clean sheets in the 2010s, just 10 fewer than record-setter Kyle Walker, who has played 57 more matches. His leadership qualities have been missed by City this season.

Sergio Ramos

Sergio Ramos is a player who often polarises opinion, but he's one of only three players to have been at Madrid for the entire decade, so he must be doing something right. An undisputed leader and fierce competitor, Ramos is a big-game player like few others and boasts a goal-scoring record even many midfielders would be happy with, having netted 43 times in LaLiga since the start of 2010, more than any other defender. Over the past 10 years, he's helped Los Blancos to a remarkable four Champions League titles, while he won the 2010 World Cup and Euro 2012 with Spain.

Jordi Alba

At his best, Jordi Alba was almost unstoppable. The flying left-back became a staple and key outlet for one of the great Barcelona teams, with his driving runs – on or off the ball – often creating havoc. A master at making a darting run into the box before cutting a pass back to create a chance, Alba has 38 LaLiga assists to his name for Barca, a record bettered by only Dani Alves and Marcelo among defenders. He gets the nod ahead of his Madrid counterpart as his assist haul is from 72 fewer matches.

Luka Modric

The only player to break the Cristiano Ronaldo-Lionel Messi Ballon d'Or duopoly, Luka Modric has enjoyed a wonderful decade. A vital part of the Croatia team that enjoyed an historic run to the 2018 World Cup final, Modric also played a big role in Madrid's incredible Champions League domination. Toni Kroos (11,260) is the only midfielder to have completed more passes in LaLiga than Modric (10,759), while he laid on 42 assists and created 522 chances.

N'Golo Kante

If there was an award for the most likeable player of the decade, N'Golo Kante would surely be a frontrunner. Sadly there is no such thing, so he'll have to contend with inclusion in this team. Arguably the key cog in Leicester City's remarkable Premier League title win, Kante followed that up with similarly impressive form at Chelsea and with France, winning the World Cup with Les Bleus last year. He has made 912 tackles and interceptions in the Premier League, putting him fifth among players with 200 appearances or fewer this decade, and each of those who rank higher have played at least 20 matches more.

David Silva

When David Silva leaves Man City at the end of the season, there will inevitably be a debate as to whether he can be regarded the Premier League's greatest 'import'. That this will even be suggested tells you the impact he has had. No one gets close to Silva's record of 89 Premier League assists in the 2010s, with the Spaniard almost certainly the most consistent creator the division has seen in the past 10 years. He was similarly important for Spain until his post-World Cup retirement last year, having previously lifted the trophy in South Africa in 2010 and at Euro 2012, eventually accumulating 125 caps.

Lionel Messi

Where does one even begin with Lionel Messi? If any single player has defined the 2010s – from an individual perspective – in world football, it is surely the Barcelona talisman. In LaLiga, Messi has amassed 505 goal involvements (369 goals, 136 assist) in 343 matches since the start of the decade, routinely carrying Barca to victory. He has won every trophy possible with the Blaugrana over the past 10 years and claimed five Ballons d'Or, with his 2019 victory giving him a record-breaking sixth. Although now 32, he remains frighteningly decisive – all that eludes him is international success with Argentina.

Robert Lewandowski

A long list of immense strikers have starred throughout the 2010s, but arguably chief among them – Ronaldo aside – is Bayern Munich's Robert Lewandowski. Having moved from Borussia Dortmund, whom he helped turn into Champions League contenders, the Poland international has developed into a remarkable all-round striker. In 307 Bundesliga games he has 221 goals from 1,163 attempts, meaning he scores every 5.2 shots – by contrast, Ronaldo needs 6.4 efforts per goal. Although he is yet to win Europe's elite club competition, there is little doubt the Pole appears to be getting better with age having already notched 19 league goals this term, just three short of his total for 2018-19.

Cristiano Ronaldo

In the somewhat tiresome 'Ronaldo or Messi' debate about which superstar is "better", the former can at least point to his international successes with Portugal as something that sets him apart, having lifted Euro 2016 and the 2018-19 Nations League. That is just the tip of the iceberg for his brilliance in the 2010s, however. Across spells with Real Madrid and Juventus, Ronaldo has scored 335 league goals and laid on 95 assists. With Los Blancos he helped inspire four Champions League successes, also winning a couple of LaLiga titles. What a privilege it has been to see Ronaldo and Messi in the same era.

Liverpool ended 2019 with a 13-point lead at the top of the Premier League after extending their unbeaten home record to 50 top-flight matches with victory over Wolves at Anfield.

It was a happy end to the year for the Reds' local rivals too, with Everton boss Carlo Ancelotti making it two wins from two games in charge as his side beat Newcastle United at St. James' Park.

But uncertainty reigned in north London as the decade in football came to a close, with Arsenal letting slip the lead as they lost at home to Chelsea, and Tottenham being held to a draw by struggling Norwich City.

Our Opta-powered review features all the key stats and facts from a fascinating weekend of action.

CALVERT-LEWIN IS TOFFEES' TOP MAN

Dominic Calvert-Lewin's brace helped Everton to a 2-1 victory at Newcastle United and extended the Toffees' unbeaten Premier League run to five matches under caretaker boss Duncan Ferguson and new manager Carlo Ancelotti.

Calvert-Lewin netted either side of Fabian Schar's equaliser to take his tally to eight league goals this season and he is currently Everton's top scorer.

The result spread some additional festive cheer around the blue half of Merseyside following Everton's 1-0 win over Burnley on Boxing Day and made former Chelsea boss Ancelotti the fifth-fastest manager to reach 50 Premier League wins, doing so in his 78th match.

It was Newcastle's first home defeat in the league since the opening weekend, when Arsenal won 1-0 at St. James' Park, and Schar's goal was his sixth of 2019, making him the Magpies' top league scorer in the calendar year.

ERIKSEN AND KANE ADD TO IMPRESSIVE TALLIES

After falling behind to a Mario Vrancic goal in the 18th minute at Carrow Road, Tottenham dragged themselves back into the game only to be undone again by a Serge Aurier own goal.

Aurier's blunder was Tottenham's fourth own goal of 2019 - their most in a Premier League calendar year - but Harry Kane scored his 20th top-flight penalty for Spurs to earn his side a point from a 2-2 draw.

Earlier in the game Christian Eriksen scored his eighth direct free-kick for Tottenham to cancel out Vrancic's opener, netting from outside the penalty area for the 23rd time in a Spurs shirt.

Vrancic's strike came courtesy of an Emiliano Buendia assist, and only Kevin de Bruyne (70) has created more chances this season than Buendia's 57.

SCALE OF ARTETA'S TASK MADE CLEAR

Mikel Arteta was on course for victory in his first home game in charge of Arsenal but a late Chelsea turnaround left the Gunners with their worst run of home results in 60 years.

The last time Arsenal lost four consecutive home matches in all competitions was in December 1959, but goals from Jorginho and Tammy Abraham condemned Arteta to his first defeat and forced the Emirates Stadium crowd to endure a fourth loss on the bounce.

Jorginho's goal came courtesy of an error from Bernd Leno, whose attempted punch failed and allowed the Italian midfielder an easy finish.

That was Leno's seventh error leading to a goal since August 2018 and he has committed more than any other Premier League player during that period.

Abraham's winner, scored through the legs of Leno, took his league goal tally to eight away from home this season and only Raheem Sterling and Jamie Vardy (nine each) have plundered more on the road.

LIVERPOOL ACHIEVE UNBEATEN HALF-CENTURY AT ANFIELD

Liverpool were made to work hard for three points by a Wolves side who were left feeling hard done by after their 1-0 defeat at Anfield on Sunday.

Sadio Mane's goal in the 42nd minute was all that separated the two teams at the final whistle, condemning Wolves to their first defeat in eight Premier League away games.

Pedro Neto had a goal ruled out for the tightest of offside rulings, meaning Wolves failed to score in a league away game for the first time since they drew 0-0 with Leicester City on the opening day of the season.

For Jurgen Klopp's men it was business as usual and they are now unbeaten in their last 50 home league games - only Chelsea (86 between 2004 and 2008) and Liverpool (63 between 1978 and 1980) have gone more than 50 home games without defeat in top-flight history before this team.

The result was Liverpool's 17th consecutive Premier League home victory, and only Manchester United (19, ending in October 2011) and Manchester City (20, ending in March 2012) have had longer winning home runs in the competition's history.

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

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

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

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

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

SAINTS AND INGS PROFIT AS VILLA SLUMP CONTINUES

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

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

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

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

MAHREZ HAUNTS FOXES AS JESUS ENDS DROUGHT

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

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

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

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

DE GEA GIFTS BASEMENT SIDE MUCH-NEEDED BOOST

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

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

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

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

MOURINHO RUN ENDS IN CONCERNING SPURS SHOW

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Parma

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

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


Juventus

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

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


Milan

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

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

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


Chelsea

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

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

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


Paris Saint-Germain

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

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


Real Madrid

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

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

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


Bayern Munich

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

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


Napoli

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

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

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

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.

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).

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.

The Tennessee Titans take on AFC South rivals the Houston Texans in the stand-out match of the NFL schedule in Week 15.

With both teams holding an 8-5 record, there are huge playoff implications to Sunday's meeting with just three matches left of the regular season.

But that is far from the only game to keep an eye on in the coming days, with the under-pressure Dallas Cowboys hosting the Los Angeles Rams and the Buffalo Bills on the road against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The New England Patriots are also looking to bounce back after suffering back-to-back defeats when they play the Cincinnati Bengals.

Using data from Stats Perform, we take a closer look at all the Week 15 fixtures.

 

Manchester City's 2-1 defeat to local rivals Manchester United has seemingly put an end to their title challenge for this season.

Pep Guardiola's two-time defending champions have won two of their last five Premier League matches and are now 14 points behind leaders Liverpool, with Leicester City six clear in second.

Now, City must bounce back as they take on Arsenal, who finally ended a nine-match winless run – their worst streak since 1977 – with a 3-1 triumph over struggling West Ham.

With temporary boss Freddie Ljungberg having got that first win under his belt, can he put himself right in the frame to be the next permanent Gunners' manager by shocking City?

 

ARSENAL OUT TO EXPLOIT WOUNDED CITY

City's 2-1 Manchester derby defeat has left their title defence in ruins.

A comeback from such a mighty points deficit is surely unlikely given no club has ever accomplished that feat before, while City's record of 32 points from their first 16 games of the campaign are a career worst for Guardiola.

And, on paper, City's trip to Arsenal is hardly the ideal follow-up match.

Under the guidance of Ljungberg, Arsenal ended a wretched run on Monday as they beat West Ham away from home.

While it was by no means vintage Arsenal, the Gunners did at least show some of the attacking verve many expect of such a talented forward unit.

With City likely to still be reeling from their derby loss, Arsenal might just feel Sunday represents a great opportunity to claim a victory that would provide a massive boost ahead of the busy Christmas period.

HEAD-TO-HEAD: MESUT OZIL V KEVIN DE BRUYNE

Mesut Ozil is back in favour at Arsenal again since Ljungberg's temporary appointment and they will need him at his very best if they are to even get remotely close to a top-four finish.

He certainly has not been at that level since the start of last season, when he averaged a goal involvement (five goals, two assists) every 249 minutes. This term that has dropped even more to one every 610 minutes.

At his best, Ozil got six goals and 19 assists in 35 top-flight matches back in 2015-16, having a hand in one or the other every 122 minutes.

Kevin De Bruyne fulfils a similar creative role for City, having averaged a goal or assist almost every match (one every 94 minutes), though he also offers more in terms of box-to-box responsibilities than the German.

With four goals and nine assists, De Bruyne is on course for the most productive season of his career and he has definitely not suffered long-lasting effects of his injury problems last term.

The Belgium international is averaging four chances created in each match in 2019-20, while Ozil's record of 18 opportunities laid on in seven matches is significantly less impressive.

FORM GUIDE

Although Arsenal traditionally are seen as one of the Premier League's best teams, they go into Sunday's game without back-to-back wins in the top flight this season.

Of the Gunners' past six domestic games, they have won only once, while also drawing three.

But City's away form will not offer Ljungberg's men with much reason to quake in their boots, given the champions have lost twice in their six most recent league trips away from the Etihad Stadium.

HISTORY SAYS

Arsenal have lost their past four Premier League meetings with City. The last time they lost five consecutive top-flight matches to a single club was against United between September 1983 and August 1985.

City have won on each of their two most recent Premier League trips to Arsenal, which is more than they had managed in their previous 32 top-flight visits to the Gunners.

Victory for City will ensure they are the first club to win three consecutive away games against Arsenal in the top flight since West Ham did so between 1991 and 1995.

City will be eager for Sergio Aguero to be fit for the clash. The Argentina striker has scored eight goals in his past eight meetings with the Gunners in all competitions, more than any other player since he joined from Atletico Madrid in 2011.

But the champions will need to be alert to Alexandre Lacazette. He has scored 100 per cent of his five league goals this term at home, a record matched by no one else.

Manchester United claimed the derby bragging rights with a 2-1 victory over Premier League champions Manchester City last Saturday – concluding a validatory week for their manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

A blistering first-half performance on the counter-attack saw Anthony Martial score what proved to be the winner after Marcus Rashford netted from the penalty spot.

The result came after Solskjaer claimed midweek victory over predecessor Jose Mourinho and his Tottenham side by the same scoreline, handing a huge boost to an Old Trafford reign that was attracting mounting scrutiny.

United have also beaten Chelsea and Leicester City this season, while they remain the only side to take points off runaway leaders Liverpool.

However, Everton sitting 14th in the table ahead of Sunday's match suggests they could spell trouble.

Hitting the 'big six' for six

Although no longer the fixture they were under Alex Ferguson when it comes to the biggest prizes in the game, United certainly have it in them to rise to the big occasion against teams aspiring to those heights.

When facing sides who have started the game in the Premier League's top six, Solskjaer has won four, drawn three and lost two of nine matches after the success at the Etihad Stadium last time out.

That amounts to a win percentage of 44.4 per cent, a number greater than the 40.7 per cent Mourinho enjoyed over the course of 27 games during his United tenure.

Solksjaer's numbers are even more impressive when considering games against fellow members of the widely regarded 'big six' – City, Liverpool, Arsenal, Tottenham, Chelsea – and Leicester, the 2015-16 champions currently riding high in second.

In 12 games against those opponents since succeeding Mourinho, Solskjaer has won half and drawn four, losing only twice – 2-0 at home to City last April, having done likewise away to Arsenal a month earlier.

Mourinho only succeeded nine times in 22 of those games, a win percentage of 40.9, losing eight.

Overrun by the also-rans

Sitting alongside those wins over City, Chelsea, Leicester and Tottenham this season are Premier League losses to Crystal Palace, West Ham. Newcastle United and Bournemouth.

Of that quartet, only 10th-placed Palace reside in the top half of the table.

In games facing opponents in the bottom six on matchdays under Solskjaer, United have won six, drawn four and lost three, giving him a win percentage of 46.2.

Mourinho was far more successful in such presumed straightforward encounters, winning 60.7 per cent (W17 D7 L4).

Pogba to pick the lock?

The sight of Martial, Rashford, Daniel James and Jesse Lingard tearing into the big spaces behind City's midfield at the Etihad did much to explain the unusual trend in United's results.

That quartet in tandem amount to a formidable, livewire threat on the counter attack. However, operating in the small spaces afforded by deep-lying defences is a different proposition entirely.

Paul Pogba is closing in on a return from an ankle injury and, whatever the France star might lack in tenacity, his added creativity and guile could prove a significant asset.

Since returning to Old Trafford for a then-world record £89.3million from Juventus in 2016, Pogba has scored 24 goals in 97 Premier League games.

He has also contributed 25 assists and has created 164 chances – one every 50 minutes.

Lingard, who would probably be most vulnerable to a returning Pogba in Solskjaer's current XI, as Fred and Scott McTominay have thrived at the base of the midfield, has 22 goal involvements compared to Pogba's 49 over the same period.

That breaks down into 13 goals and nine assists. He has created 87 chances, a little more than half Pogba's overall amount.

Although the feelgood factor has returned to United in Pogba's absence, he could yet be the man to make it grow into something more sustainable under Solskjaer.

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