The most wonderful time of the year may not be quite as magical as years gone by due to restrictions on all of our lives caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Christmas is still a special period, though, and the familiarity of a hectic Premier League schedule is sure to be a comfort to fans across the globe.

We appreciate you may be about to tuck into your dinner or snoozing after over-indulging already, but why not digest some tasty Christmas Premier League facts before cracking on with the next beer?

Wondering where you enjoy such a gem? Well we have you covered below, with the help of the happy little elves at Opta.


SANTA SLEIGHED BY SALAH

We ho ho hope you don't mind a little Christmas gag to headline this section to get us cracking…

It seemed only fitting to start with a bit of a coincidence that once upon a time a man with a festive theme in his name was responsible for the best minutes-per-goal ratio during the month of December.

That man was ex-Blackburn Rovers striker Roque Santa Cruz, who netted nine times in 846 minutes for a ratio of 94 minutes per goal.

Alas, just like Rudolph and the rest of the gang at the end of a busy Christmas Eve shift, Santa Cruz has been reined in. The honour now goes to Liverpool star Mohamed Salah, who has a goal every 91 minutes in matches played in December (19 goals in 1737 minutes).

Mick Quinn (97 mins per goal), Divock Origi (105 mins per goal) and Demba Ba (106 mins per goal) complete the top five for December.


MAYNOR THE KING OF THE CHRISTMAS CRACKERS?

Paper hats, Christmas jokes and cheaply assembled plastic toys…you all love pulling a cracker at Christmas!

And there have been many crackers scored in the month of December in the Premier League – not least Maynor Figueroa's 60.5-yard effort for Wigan Athletic against Stoke City back in 2009, which remains the longest of long-range goals in the competition during the final month of the calendar year.

The full-back's quick thinking with a free-kick from his own half caught Thomas Sorensen off guard and nestled in the back of the goal.

Former Portsmouth man Matt Taylor had a penchant for a long-range goal and his famous audacious volley against Everton in 2006 measured in at 40.6 yards.

Juan Mata (39.9 yards for Man Utd v Stoke), Sebastian Larsson (39.4 yards for Birmingham City versus Wigan) and Kevin De Bruyne (38.3 yards for Manchester City v Crystal Palace) all rank in the top five.


LLORIS AND THE KEEPERS GIFTING OUT THE GOODS

Christmas, at least under normal circumstances, is a time for spending time with loved ones and eating copious amounts of foods that aren't particularly good for us.

It is also, of course, if we're being honest, a time to exchange tat by the Christmas tree and say a silent prayer the generous buyer has kept the receipts.

Obviously, in football you're not supposed to be generous with your gifts – but Tottenham goalkeeper Hugo Lloris has been particularly forthcoming with presents for opposition teams at this time of year.

The France World Cup winner has committed seven errors in the month of December, a Premier League high and one more than Red Devils number one David De Gea.

Unsurprisingly, goalkeepers make up the top five with Petr Cech (6), Robert Green (5) and Simon Mignolet (4) all featuring. Indeed of those to have committed three or more errors leading to goals in December, ex-Newcastle United defender Aaron Hughes is the only outfield player on our list.


SANTA'S NOT THE ONLY LAPLAND VISITOR

Santa makes his annual jolly around the globe to deliver presents to all the good boys and girls but back in 2001 there was another who heralded from Lapland to visit England.

Finland international Hannu Tihinen arrived on loan at West Ham from Norwegian side Viking and fittingly made his Premier League debut on Boxing Day!

In total he made just eight Premier League appearances, winning just once in England's top flight.

Perhaps the difference in quality was just – ahem – poles apart for Tihinen, who was nonetheless part of the side that memorably defeated Manchester United 1-0 in the FA Cup early in 2002.


RED DEVILS TOP OF THE TREE

The old cliche is that it means nothing to be top at Christmas…but for the sake of the jokes in this piece it's very important to be top of the tree come December 25!

Manchester United have sat in such a position on seven occasions, more than any other team, but Liverpool – six times – are the only side to hold top spot three seasons running having done so in 2018, 2019 and now 2020.

In total, 11 sides have managed to be top at Christmas - Chelsea (5), Arsenal (2) and Manchester City (2) unsurprisingly doing so. Norwich City, Blackburn Rovers, Newcastle United (2), Aston Villa, Leeds United and Leicester City have also achieved the honour.

There have been 15 instances of a team being in first place on December 25 and jingling all the way to the Premier League title, but nothing can be wrapped up this early in the season.


SNOW-BODY DOES IT BETTER THAN SHEARER OVER CHRISTMAS

For a man with 260 Premier League goals to his name, it should come as no surprise to hear that the player with the most goals scored in the period from December 26 to January 5 is Alan Shearer.

The Newcastle United great netted 23 times between those dates, five more than the 18 celebrated by former Liverpool striker Robbie Fowler.

Dimitar Berbatov and Jermain Defoe each have 17, while Steven Gerrard has 16 – the same amount as Tottenham star Harry Kane, who has Shearer's record in his sights.

In a league table of win percentages during this period, Manchester United lead the way with 64.6 per cent, while Liverpool (59.5 per cent) have brought plenty of festive cheer too.

At the opposite end, Sheffield United have won just 18.2 per cent of Premier League games for those dates over Christmas, while Crystal Palace 21.2 per cent fare little better.


JESUS RISES TO THE OCCASION

Christmas for many is mainly a secular celebration nowadays but the traditional meaning of the holiday season is to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.

In the Premier League, there have been six occasions of a player with Jesus in their name scoring a December goal – five of which were from Manchester City striker Gabriel Jesus.

The other was netted by former City winger Jesus Navas, who fittingly at this time of year often delivered for others – producing six December assists and amassing 74 crosses from open play.

Thiago Alcantara will not be rushed back into action despite returning to Liverpool first-team training, according to boss Jurgen Klopp.

The Spain international has missed more than two months of action since sustaining a knee injury in the Merseyside derby against Everton on October 17.

Having also had a spell out after testing positive for coronavirus, the 29-year-old has only played twice for Liverpool since arriving from Bayern Munich in a deal that could reach £25million.

He started training with the rest of the squad on Wednesday but Klopp confirmed Sunday's Premier League game against West Brom will come too soon for him, although the Reds boss had better news on the possible returns of Xherdan Shaqiri and James Milner.

"Thiago made his first steps back towards team training," he told a media conference. "He's not involved in the full session but has made good steps. Unfortunately, after a long time out we cannot and will not rush it.

"The other guys are closer. Shaqiri trained really well. Milly trained a full session yesterday and today a little bid adapted.

"It's a strange situation for us because we still have two more days before we need to make a decision but I don't know. Thiago will not be involved, he has to be in full training first. He's not too far away, I hope."

After an intense period of six games in 19 days, Liverpool are enjoying an eight-day gap between the 7-0 win over Crystal Palace on Saturday and the visit of West Brom this weekend.

Klopp says it has allowed his players to undertake more varied training, which he believes will stand them in good stead ahead of the busy Christmas and New Year period.

"This week was a really important week," he added. "Today was the first 'minus three [days]' session since we started again, so full 11 on 11, tactical stuff, everything in, pressing, counter-pressing, all the stuff. We haven't had that.

"So, this is the most similar session you can have to playing a game. The boys are connected, the boys are important and we will use them.

"Against Tottenham we didn't make a substitution because they were all without rhythm and the game was really intense. They are now all a step further."

Liverpool will be quietly confident of extending their unbeaten run in the top flight to 11 games against a side who have won just once in 14 outings so far this season.

Baggies boss Sam Allardyce, however, is unbeaten in his last three away Premier League games against the champions and was the last opposition manager to win at Anfield in the competition, doing so with Palace in April 2017.

With that in mind, Klopp is taking nothing for granted and expects a tough game against the league's 19th-placed side.

"Of course, it's a tricky one," he said. "We analysed it this morning. It's a mix of when Sam was at Everton and then his first game at West Brom against Aston Villa.

"I expect a tough opponent, well organised, don't make a big fuss of possession and it will be a proper fight. Sam is a proven specialist for organising teams for these kinds of fights. A tough game."

Jurgen Klopp is unconcerned by speculation over Mohamed Salah's Liverpool future, insisting the Premier League's leading scorer is in a "really good shape".

Salah has been in superb form for the Premier League champions this season, scoring 13 times in the top flight.

Reports have emerged over the last week linking Salah with a move away from Liverpool, who he joined from Roma in 2017.

Salah's current deal – signed in 2018 – runs until 2023, though the 28-year-old has hinted he sees his next challenge as being away from Merseyside, telling Diario AS: "I think Madrid and Barcelona are two top clubs.

"Who knows what will happen in the future, but right now I am focused on winning the Premier League and the Champions League with Liverpool again. Of course I want to break records here and, I repeat, all the club records, but everything is in the hands of the club."

Salah's former Egypt team-mate Mohamed Aboutrika has claimed the forward, who recently surpassed Steven Gerrard as Liverpool's all-time leading scorer in the Champions League, has been unhappy at Anfield.

"I called Salah about his situation in Liverpool and he is upset, but that would never affect his performance on the field," Aboutrika told beIN SPORTS.

However, when pressed on Salah's situation ahead of Liverpool's home game against West Brom on Sunday, Klopp insisted there is nothing to suggest the player is unhappy.

"We never speak [in public] about [contracts], why should we start now? Mo is in a good mood, good moment, really good shape," Klopp told a news conference.

"Training – you would have seen him laughing a lot, he enjoyed the session, so that's good. All the rest is for sure nice for the media to write about but internally, nothing really.

"He is [operating at a high level]. There's always things to talk about, he didn't start the last game [against Crystal Palace], all the things you heard after about the reason, then he came on and scored two.

"Obviously he doesn't need a long time. He's in a good moment, I hope he stays like this. All of the boys were in a good moment, that's why we have the points we have.

"The toughest period of the season is now ahead of us. We have to make sure we get through this with the right results."

Salah's goals have propelled Liverpool to the top of the league, with 31 points – four clear of second-placed Leicester City.

The Reds are the first Premier League side to sit top of the tree at Christmas in three successive seasons, though Klopp – whose team failed to go on and win the title from the same position in 2018-19 – knows it is no guarantee of success.

"It obviously means you are not automatically champion, otherwise we would have won the league three times," Klopp said.

"It's the best position to be in but we will know how tough it will be. We have not yet played half of the season. It's nice, but it's nothing else.

"Two years ago when we didn’t win after being top of the table at Christmas, it was not about a lack of focus, it was about the quality of the opponents. This quality is still out there, so nothing really happened so far. We have to collect more points, that's what we try."

The festive season is here once more and that means a full round of Premier League action in the days following Christmas.

There are distractions aplenty, with presents to wrap and food to prepare, but do not let your fantasy team fall by the way side.

Our Opta-powered picks should see you safe once more this weekend.


EMILIANO MARTINEZ

Aston Villa are at home to Crystal Palace on Boxing Day and looking for a fourth consecutive Premier League clean sheet for the first time since February 2010.

Martinez is the obvious pick to make the most of this hot streak in a chilly December, having kept more clean sheets (seven) than any other top-flight goalkeeper this season.

That tally has already matched Villa's total for the 2019-20 campaign.


TYRONE MINGS

Why stick to one Villa man when you can have two? Mings has been just as important as Martinez to their defensive form.

Indeed, the England centre-back has played the full 90 minutes in all seven of those clean sheets.

Mings, who also has two goals and an assist this season, only had six clean sheets in the entirety of the previous campaign.


ANDY ROBERTSON

Capable of delivering the goods all year round, back Robertson to perform again this Christmas.

Robertson leads all Premier League defenders in assists (five), chances created (26) and touches in the opposition box (44) this season.

Any fantasy player who has so far resisted the urge to call up the Scotland captain might consider struggling West Brom's trip to Anfield on Sunday.


BRUNO FERNANDES

The curtain is coming down on a year that has belonged to Fernandes, signed by Manchester United in January.

Since his debut the following month, the Portugal playmaker has been involved in 29 goals (17 scored, 12 assisted) in the Premier League, more than any other player.

In fact, Fernandes has either netted or created half of United's 58 goals and should be heavily involved again in Saturday's Christmas cracker at Leicester City.


JAMES WARD-PROWSE

Southampton visit Fulham on Boxing Day, with Ward-Prowse again set to be at the heart of their midfield as they aim to bounce back from a narrow defeat to Manchester City.

With four goals and three assists this season, his seven involvements are already the third-most he has managed across a campaign in his Premier League career.

The set-piece expert has played just 14 matches but could match his best ever tally with another goal or assist this festive season.


KEVIN DE BRUYNE

It is a little late for last-minute shopping, but City's De Bruyne still has time to get his wish this year.

The midfielder has 15 Premier League assists in 2020, three short of his record for a calendar year (18 in 2017).

He will welcome the visit of Newcastle United then, having provided five assists in seven league games against the Magpies, along with a pair of goals - including one of the strikes of the season at St James' Park in 2019-20.


JAMIE VARDY

Like Santa and Rudolph, Vardy and Leicester City manager Brendan Rodgers make quite the team.

The striker has scored more goals (43) than any other Premier League player since Rodgers took charge, while only Luis Suarez (54) has netted more times under the former Liverpool boss in the competition.

Do not bet against Vardy ruining United's Christmas; he remains an obvious choice.

Chelsea have reportedly joined the race for Erling Haaland as Manchester United consider their options.

Haaland, 20, has been heavily linked with a move after starring for Borussia Dortmund.

Europe's biggest clubs are lining up to sign the forward, and Chelsea are apparently among them, while United may look elsewhere.

 

TOP STORY – CHELSEA JOIN RACE FOR HAALAND

Chelsea are ready to enter the race for Dortmund star Haaland, according to 90min.

Manchester City are also reportedly heavily interested in the Norway international, who has also been linked with Manchester United and Real Madrid.

Haaland has scored 33 goals in 32 games for Dortmund since arriving at the Bundesliga club from Salzburg in January.

 

ROUND-UP

- Manchester United, meanwhile, may look elsewhere. The Mirror reports the Premier League giants may be unable to sign Haaland due to their "sour relationship" with his agent, Mino Raiola. The report says United see Everton striker Dominic Calvert-Lewin as an alternative.

- With Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez still sidelined, Liverpool continue to be linked with defenders. Todofichajes.com reports the Premier League leaders are interested in Real Madrid centre-back Eder Militao. Meanwhile, the Liverpool Echo says the club are in talks with Celta Vigo over 16-year-old defender Stefan Bajcetic.

- Struggling in the Premier League, Arsenal are expected to strengthen in January. The Daily Star reports the Gunners are considering a loan move for Real Madrid forward Vinicius Junior next month.

- After just one Premier League appearance for Chelsea this season, Antonio Rudiger has been linked with a move away. Le Parisien reports Paris Saint-Germain want the defender in January.

- Celtic forward Odsonne Edouard is apparently attracting interest from elsewhere. CalcioMercato reports Juventus and Milan are interested in the 22-year-old.

- Barcelona midfielder Riqui Puig is set to leave Camp Nou following repeated criticism from Blaugrana boss Ronald Koeman. Manchester City and Bayern Munich are both keen on the 21-year-old, according to Fichajes.

Thiago Alcantara is edging closer to a Liverpool return after rejoining first-team training.

The Spain international has missed more than two months of action since sustaining a knee injury in the Merseyside derby against Everton on October 17.

Having also had a spell out after testing positive for coronavirus, the 29-year-old has only played twice for Liverpool since arriving from Bayern Munich in a deal that could reach £25million.

After a period of individual training, Thiago took to social media on Wednesday to confirm he had started training with the rest of the squad, posting on Twitter: "Back with the lads."

Thiago made an instant impact on his debut against Chelsea on September 20.

He completed 75 passes of 83 attempted (90.4 per cent), more than any Chelsea player over the course of the contest, despite only coming on at half-time.

Since Opta began collecting full passing data in 2003-04, that total was the most made by a player to have played a maximum of 45 minutes.

Liverpool host West Brom at Anfield on Sunday before travelling to Newcastle United three days later.

Erling Haaland is Chelsea's number one transfer target, while a pair of Premier League giants are lining up January bids for Aston Villa captain Jack Grealish.

Borussia Dortmund star Haaland has netted 23 goals in 23 games since moving to the Bundesliga in January, leading to him reportedly being installed as Frank Lampard's top target for the off-season.

Will Haaland make the move to Chelsea?


TOP STORIES – CHELSEA WANT HAALAND

Borussia Dortmund star Erling Haaland has been identified as Chelsea's top transfer target along with West Ham's Declan Rice, according to Sky Sports journalist Angelo Mangiante.

Haaland has been linked with LaLiga champions Real Madrid, Barcelona, Manchester United, Manchester City and Liverpool.

But Haaland is wanted in London as Chelsea prepare for a clear-out, with seven players being made available – Antonio Rudiger, Andreas Christensen, Jorginho, Marcos Alonso, Ross Barkley, Danny Drinkwater and Victor Moses.

Manchester City and Manchester United are set to battle it out for the signature of Bayern Munich's star defender David Alaba.

Alaba's Bayern contract expires in June 2021 and both Manchester clubs have made approaches for the 75-cap Austria international.

Pep Guardiola coached the 28-year-old during his time in the Bundesliga, but City may face further competition for the two-time Champions League winner.

 

TOP STORY – UNITED AND CITY SET FOR TUG-OF-WAR OVER ALABA

Manchester City and Manchester United have each made formal contact with Alaba 's agent Pini Zahavi, reports Spanish media outlet AS.

Bayern's chief executive Karl-Heinz Rummenigge has accepted the European champions can do nothing to keep Alaba, despite trying "everything" to convince the nine-time German league champion to stay.

But the Manchester rivals are not the only interested parties, with Real Madrid the favourites to land Alaba, according to the Daily Mail.  Chelsea and Paris Saint-Germain are also in the race.

 

ROUND-UP

- Everton left-back  Lucas Digne  is another player on Guardiola's wish list, say the Daily Mail. The Toffees are set to offer the France international a bumper new contract to ward off  City 's advances, according to the Times.

PSG  are lining up a bid for Atletico Madrid's wantaway goalkeeper  Jan Oblak , say the Daily Mail. The Ligue 1 champions see 27-year-old Oblak, who wants a new challenge, as the successor to 34-year-old gloveman Keylor Navas in the French capital.

Liverpool put seven past Crystal Palace and Manchester United brushed aside Leeds United with six goals on a bonkers weekend of Premier League action.

Reigning champions Liverpool are the first side to sit top of the tree at Christmas in three successive years since last achieving the feat themselves between 1978 and 1980 under Bob Paisley.

While a couple of scorelines stood out, it was business as usual for Jamie Vardy as he scored for the 11th time this season in Leicester City's 2-0 win at Tottenham, making some history in the process.

With the help of Opta, we take a look at some of the more unusual stats to have emerged over the weekend.

Palace plundered as rampant Reds cut loose

There was a magnificent seven for Liverpool at Selhurst Park in the early kick-off on Saturday, the reigning Premier League champions running up the score to move further clear at the summit.

It was the first time Liverpool have scored seven in an away game in the top flight since March 1991. Roberto Firmino bagged two of them, a year on from his last league brace for Jurgen Klopp's side.

Poor Palace, then. They had not conceded more than five at home in any competition since a 6-1 defeat to the Reds in August 1994.

They were 3-0 down at home by half-time for only the sixth time in the Premier League era. However, three of those occasions have come against Liverpool (also in August 1994 and October 2016).

Vardy starts the Christmas party early

Vardy likes Tottenham. Maybe not as much as certain alcopop drinks and kicking corner flags at Bramall Lane, but the striker does seem to relish a trip to Spurs.

His goal in Leicester City's 2-0 triumph on Sunday means he has completed the set when it comes to Spurs, having now scored against them at White Hart Lane, Wembley and Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

He is the first player in Premier League history to score away to a specific opponent at three different grounds.

A Toby Alderweireld own goal made sure of all three points for the Foxes, who will be in the top two places of the table at Christmas in consecutive seasons for the first time in their history.

Next up for Brendan Rodgers' side: third-place Manchester United at home on Boxing Day.

Red Devils put on a (first-half) show

Man United and cross-Pennine rivals Leeds served up a pre-Christmas treat at Old Trafford in a game that saw Scott McTominay score the Premier League's quickest ever brace inside just 170 seconds.

A further three goals followed before half-time, making it the fourth game in the competition this season to see as many as five goals scored in the opening 45 minutes, along with Liverpool v Leeds, Aston Villa v Liverpool and Man United v Tottenham.

To put that into some context, five or more goals were scored in the first half of just three matches in the whole of 2019-20. 

The rampant hosts added another couple of goals to their tally in the second half, including a strike from Daniel James to end a 33-game wait since his last Premier League goal, a run spanning some 16 months.

James was also - harshly, in the view of boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer - booked for simulation, making him only the second player in the Premier League this season to be cautioned for diving, along with Wolves' Adama Traore.

A bit of Mina time

Mikel Arteta's woes continue following an eighth defeat in 14 Premier League matches for Arsenal this season, this most recent setback coming at the hands of the under-fire manager's former club Everton.

Carlo Ancelotti's side took the lead through a Rob Holding own goal, the centre-back becoming the first Arsenal player to put into his own net in this Premier League fixture since, of all people, Arteta in April 2014.

That is the third own goal Arsenal have scored in the top flight this term - only in 2002-03 (four) and 2011-12 (five) have they scored more in a single season.

Nicolas Pepe temporarily levelled up for the Gunners from the penalty spot, only for Yerry Mina to head in what proved to be the winner in the 45th minute.

The timing of the goal should come as little surprise given that the last four league goals scored by the ex-Barcelona man have come in that exact minute, including stoppage time.

Only Chris Eagles has scored as many consecutive goals in the same minute before, notching four times in the 90th between 2007 and 2011.

Real Madrid are still eyeing Kylian Mbappe next year.

Mbappe, 22, has been heavily linked with the LaLiga giants with his contract at Paris Saint-Germain expiring in 2022.

Madrid may be looking to make a move in 2021.

 

TOP STORY – MADRID CONFIDENT OVER MBAPPE IN 2021

Real Madrid are very confident of completing a deal for PSG star Mbappe next year, according to 90min.

Mbappe has developed into one of the world's best forwards at PSG, where he has scored 13 goals in 17 games this season.

The France international is admired by Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane.

 

ROUND-UP

- Barcelona may be active in January. Sport reports Ronald Koeman is insisting on signings to begin 2021, with Lyon star Memphis Depay said to be available for just €5million. It also says Barca will negotiate with Manchester City for Eric Garcia.

- Staying at Manchester City and the Premier League giants have been boosted by John Stones' form. The Telegraph reports the defender is poised for a contract extension, with his current deal running until 2022.

- Yves Bissouma is seemingly attracting plenty of interest after his form for Brighton and Hove Albion. The Daily Express reports Manchester United have joined the race for the midfielder, who has also been linked to Liverpool and Arsenal.

- Yet to play for Napoli this season, Arkadiusz Milik is set for an exit. CalcioMercato reports Tottenham have given up on trying to sign the striker, who is also apparently a target for Juventus, Inter and Roma.

Mohamed Salah is unhappy at Liverpool and the Premier League giants are considering selling the star, according to his former Egypt team-mate Mohamed Aboutrika.

Salah, who has starred since arriving at Anfield in 2017, refused to rule out a move to Real Madrid or Barcelona during a recent interview with AS.

The forward also said he was disappointed not to be made captain for Liverpool's Champions League clash against Midtjylland earlier this month.

Aboutrika, who played 100 games for Egypt, said Salah was unhappy at Liverpool.

"I called Salah about his situation in Liverpool and he is upset, but that would never affect his performance on the field," he told beIN SPORTS.

"I know that Salah is not happy in Liverpool, he told me the reasons why he is not happy but they are secrets and I cannot talk about it in public. One of the reasons that made Salah angry that he was not the captain against Midtjylland."

Salah joined Liverpool from Roma for a reported £36.9million (€42m) in mid-2017.

Aboutrika believes the Premier League champions are thinking about selling the 28-year-old forward.

"In my opinion, Liverpool is considering selling Salah for economic purposes," he said.

Salah has scored 110 goals in 173 career appearances for Liverpool, including 16 in 21 this season.

He has helped the club win the Premier League, Champions League, UEFA Super Cup and Club World Cup.

Chelsea head coach Frank Lampard does not foresee another push for the Premier League to introduce five substitutes after the suggestion was again voted down.

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has been leading the campaign for teams to be allowed to make up to five changes in matches, owing to the congested nature of the season.

Premier League sides were allowed five substitutes when the competition restarted in June but voted to return to three subs for 2020-21.

Opposition has come from clubs with smaller squads, who claim being able to use five changes only benefits the bigger teams and, on Thursday, the proposal was turned down again, though nine players can now be named on the bench.

The Premier League is the only major European competition not to allow five changes, but Lampard is not expecting there to be any further votes on the matter.

"I think that's it now, I don't know how many more times we can go through it," Lampard told a news conference ahead of Monday's game against West Ham.

"It doesn't worry me, it is what it is. Some clubs have decided it was in their better interest to not have the subs and that overrode what we felt, just as the managers.

"It wasn't a manager vote, so I suppose it doesn't really matter what the managers felt. It's a difficult one to talk about because people think you're whining too much but I just thought it was something which would help the player welfare."

Klopp came under some scrutiny for not using any changes in Liverpool's 2-1 win over Tottenham on Wednesday, though the Reds boss did use three substitutes in Saturday's 7-0 thrashing of Crystal Palace, while Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola also kept the same XI on for 90 minutes in a match against Fulham this month.

It was the first time Liverpool had not made a change in a league match since May 2004, while it had been over 15 years since City made no alterations.

Chelsea have used 35 substitutes so far this Premier League season - two fewer than Liverpool - which is the joint-fifth-lowest amount in the top flight.

Asked if player welfare is the main factor in deciding who to take off in a game, Lampard replied: "With the three subs that you're allowed now, I felt – and I think some other managers have said this – really you have two. You have to save the third.

"I don't think when you're in the game you're always thinking about the number of subs to use.

"In the defeat at Wolves, it was hard for me to make that third sub even though I thought we looked tired, because if I try to inject some fresh legs into the team, does that tiredness force someone else to go down?

"There are multiple reasons where you work around those subs. Five subs would have given me more options to change in games, lessen the risk of getting injured and keep players fitter, but it's gone now."

Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain are confident over a move for Lionel Messi, while Mohamed Salah is eyeing Real Madrid.

Messi sensationally requested to leave Barcelona during the close season, but ended up staying with the LaLiga giants.

While the star made more history on Saturday, his contract expires at the end of the season – and two European giants think he is ready to make a move.

 

TOP STORY – MAN CITY, PSG CONFIDENT OVER MESSI

Manchester City and PSG are confident Messi is prepared to leave Barcelona in 2021, according to 90min.

The big-spending European giants have been among the most heavily linked with a move for Messi, who is out of contract at Barca next year.

Messi equalled Pele's record of 643 goals for one club with his header against Valencia in LaLiga on Saturday.

ROUND-UP

- Liverpool star Salah discussed a potential move to Real Madrid or Barcelona in an interview with Diario AS on Saturday – and the forward apparently has a club in mind. DefensaCentral reports the Egypt international wants a move to Madrid, who have apparently maintained close contact.

- Barcelona could be set for good news in January. L'Equipe reports Lyon are prepared to sell Memphis Depay – who has been linked with the LaLiga giants and is out of contract at the end of the season – for €5million.

- Manchester City are prepared to listen to offers for Oleksandr Zinchenko in January, according to 90min. Zinchenko has played just 12 minutes in the Premier League this season.

- Struggling for game time this season, Daniel James has been linked with a move away from Manchester United. However, the Manchester Evening News reports James is committed to staying with the Premier League giants beyond January.

Liverpool registered a historic win in their seven-goal blitz of Crystal Palace and the records of an unwanted kind kept coming for Arsenal in their defeat to Everton.

The reigning Premier League champions opened up a five-point lead at the top, with Merseyside rivals Everton their closest challengers after beating an Arsenal side slipping further into the abyss with each passing game.

Manchester City also got back to winning ways thanks to a Raheem Sterling-inspired success at Southampton, while Newcastle United and Fulham played out a draw at St James' Park in the late kick-off.

Here is the pick of the Opta facts from Saturday's action in the Premier League.

Crystal Palace 0-7 Liverpool: Reds run riot as Klopp overtakes Rafa

Jurgen Klopp registered a landmark victory in a historic win for Liverpool at Selhurst Park as the Reds won an away top-flight match by a margin of seven goals for the first time in their history.

German coach Klopp overtook Rafael Benitez (126) for the most triumphs as a Liverpool boss in the Premier League with his 127th success.

It was the first time the Merseyside outfit scored seven goals in a league game - each assisted by a different player - since a 9-0 triumph over Palace in September 1989, with the Eagles conceding seven in a home match for the first time.

Substitute Mohamed Salah netted a brace and laid on an assist for fellow two-goal forward Roberto Firmino - the 17th time the pair have combined for a Premier League goal for Liverpool, placing them behind only Robbie Fowler and Steve McManaman (24).

Takumi Minamino, Jordan Henderson and Sadio Mane were also on the scoresheet, the latter becoming only the fourth player in Premier League history to score in seven successive appearances against an opponent.

Southampton 0-1 Manchester City: Sterling sinks Saints again

Sterling's sweeping finish proved enough for City to return to winning ways at St Mary's Stadium as they became the first team to stop Southampton from scoring in the Premier League since the opening weekend of the season.

Match-winner Sterling has been directly involved in 11 goals in 16 Premier League meetings with Southampton – only against West Ham (14) has he had a hand in more.

Kevin De Bruyne set up that goal and now has 15 Premier League assists in 2020, which is three more than anyone else. The only time the Belgium playmaker set up more goals in a single calendar year in the competition was in 2017 (18).

City kept their opponents at bay from that point on and now boast the best defensive record in the division, conceding the fewest goals (12) and keeping more clean sheets (six) than any other team.

Everton 2-1 Arsenal: Arteta Holding on after latest defeat

Two days ahead of the one-year anniversary of his Everton appointment, Carlo Ancelotti celebrated victory over Arsenal to guarantee the Toffees a place in the top four at Christmas for the first time since 2004-05.

Rob Holding's own goal - the third by an Arsenal player in the Premier League this season - gave Everton the lead before Nicolas Pepe converted from the penalty spot for a team-high eighth goal involvement this term.

But Yerry Mina scored what proved to be the winning goal just before half-time to inflict an eighth defeat of the campaign on Arsenal, whose return of 14 points from 14 games is their fewest since 1974-75 (12 points when converted to three for a win).

Each of Mina's past four goals have come in the 45th minute - only Chris Eagles has scored as many consecutive goals in the same minute before, notching four times in the 90th between 2007 and 2011.

Goals are something Arsenal are still struggling for, meanwhile, having now failed to score from open play in their past five Premier League away matches, their only two goals in that run coming from the penalty spot.

Newcastle United 1-1 Fulham: Visitors pay the penalty in St James' stalemate

Newcastle benefited from another penalty - their third in six Premier League home games - as they recovered to earn a point against an improving Fulham side at St James' Park.

Callum Wilson made no mistake from 12 yards as he took his tally for the campaign to eight in 12 top-flight appearances, matching his return from 35 games with Bournemouth last term.

Fulham have conceded a league-high five penalties this season, including three in their past four outings, and had Joachim Andersen dismissed for the incident leading to the spot-kick - the third Danish player to see red for Fulham in the competition after Leon Andreasen and Claus Jensen.

However, Scott Parker's men - who led through Matt Ritchie's first-half own goal - held on to pick up at least a point when finishing a Premier League game with 10 men for the first time since they beat QPR 3-2 in April 2013, having lost on each of the five subsequent occasions.

Newcastle have failed to keep a clean sheet in their 11 most recent Premier League games on home soil, their longest run since February 2005 (also 11 games), but they still climbed two places into 12th.

Jurgen Klopp said everything "clicked" for his Liverpool side in their record-breaking 7-0 win over Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park on Saturday. 

The result was their biggest ever away win in the top flight and it marked Klopp's 127th Premier League victory as Reds boss, overtaking Rafael Benitez's 126 in charge of the Merseyside club. 

The champions were in devastating form against Roy Hodgson's men, powering to victory thanks to braces from Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah and further goals from Takumi Minamino, Sadio Mane and Jordan Henderson. 

Liverpool's dominant win stretched their lead at the summit to six points, although Tottenham could reduce that back to three with a win over Leicester City on Sunday.

While Klopp was impressed with his side's performance, he refused to get carried away and said their focus would soon switch to taking on West Brom next Sunday.

"It was hard work and there was a lot of counter-attacking from Crystal Palace in the first half where we needed a toe or a foot to defend," he told BT Sport. 

"Our finishing in the first half was clinical. Then, 3-0 up at half-time the game was not finished but we controlled the game and scored wonderful goals.

"The boys are capable of this but it doesn't happen every week. Today it clicked. This is a very intense period, the boys should be very proud of it. 

"We take a day off tomorrow, then prepare for West Brom, and goal difference wise it is good because of the funny result at Villa [when they lost 7-2].

"Christmas will be good, but the season is not finished, there are a few games to come but we will be ready."

Henderson opened his account for the season with a sumptuous strike from distance and praised the Reds' finishing, their seven goals coming from just eight shots on target.

"I thought we were ruthless today and took our chances which is always important," he said. "We dominated the game for large periods but I still thought we were sloppy at times. 

"Overall, we're delighted with the performance. To finish this week off with the win after midweek [when they beat Tottenham 2-1] is important and we managed to do that.

"It was coming I felt as over the last few games we have had chances and not taken them which has cost us at times.

"Overall, the performance level, we have to be happy. Now we have a week leading to the next game. Then another tough test again."

© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.