Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said he cannot see the benefit of the Premier League temporarily halting action in a bid to stop the spread of coronavirus.

On Tuesday, the Premier League confirmed 18 new positive COVID-19 tests in the week commencing December 21 – the highest number of positive results in a single round of tests this season.

The news came just a day after Manchester City's game at Everton was postponed at four hours' notice due to a coronavirus outbreak at the Etihad Stadium, while Fulham's match against Tottenham on Wednesday is also in doubt.

Eighteen positive cases surpasses the previous high of 16 recorded in the week commencing November 9, and mirrors the wider situation in England, with more people now in hospital due to the virus than at the peak of the first wave in April.

West Brom head coach Sam Allardyce has called for a circuit break – a tight set of restrictions designed to reverse the tide of the pandemic – but Solskjaer is unsure what benefit that would bring. 

"As a club and as a group we've been really good at following the protocols," Solskjaer said after United's 1-0 win over Wolves on Tuesday.

"That's part of the job. I can't see the benefit in having a circuit break because when are we going to play the games?

"We all know this year is so difficult, but if you stop more games I don't think that's going to make a big change – it might be a longer one. When do we finish the season?"

Marcus Rashford's stoppage-time goal handed United all three points against Wolves at Old Trafford and moved the Red Devils up to second in the table, two points behind leaders Liverpool. 

The result stretched United's unbeaten run in the league to nine games, but Solskjaer said it is too early to start talking about a title challenge.

"There's no title race after 15 games," he added. "You can lose the chance of being in a race in the first 10 games. But play another 15, get to 30, and then maybe we can start talking about a title race."

Bruno Fernandes was once again instrumental in United's win, with his ball over the top leading to Rashford's late strike. 

Since his Premier League debut in February, the Portugal international has been directly involved in more goals in the Premier League than any other player (32 – 18 goals, 14 assists).

Solskjaer admitted it was not Fernandes' most stellar performance but he was pleased his perseverance paid off. 

"He didn't play his best game, definitely," he said. "He's played better games but he's always in and around creating chances.

"Maybe he made more for them than he did for us today! But he's got that knack of looking for that pass, and in the end it worked."

Marcus Rashford insists Manchester United "cannot look too far ahead" after his last-gasp strike snatched a 1-0 win against Wolves to close the gap on Premier League leaders Liverpool to two points.

Rashford conjured up something out of nothing three minutes into stoppage time at Old Trafford, latching onto a brilliant Bruno Fernandes pass and lashing a left-footed drive off the body of Romain Saiss and past Rui Patricio in the Wolves goal.

The Red Devils had dominated possession and created the best chances but United seemed destined to be consigned to back-to-back draws.

But Rashford's moment of brilliance, after turning Wolves wing-back Rayan Ait-Nouri inside and out, kept United in touching distance of the summit.

However, the England international striker refused to entertain talk about a title challenge and said it would be "stupid" to focus on the table after only 15 matches.

"I think for us we cannot look too far ahead," Rashford told Amazon Prime.

"We're a team that's still doing a lot of work on ourselves and to be looking at the table so early in the season is a bit stupid of us.

"We have to take it one game at a time and if we can keep finding ways to win like this we'll see where we are at the end of the season."

The late strike was Rashford's seventh in 15 Premier League matches this season, after he netted 17 times in 31 top-flight outings in 2019-20.

The 23-year-old revealed the match-winning moment came after he noticed Wolves' left-sided defender Ait-Nouri struggling with cramp and decided to target the stricken Frenchman.

He said: "The full-back, I think he got cramp a few minutes before so I just had in my head that the next time I get the ball I'm going to try and go at him and make him chop and turn and just see if I can make something happen, and thankfully in the end we got a deflection and it went in.

"We're obviously a little bit disappointed we didn't play as well as we wanted to or we could have, but at the end of the day it's three points and no matter how scrappy or how tough they are we'll take them."

Manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer revealed he has encouraged his players to remain focused late in games due to United's historic penchant for scoring crucial goals in the closing stages.

"It's one of the points we brought up in a meeting early on in the season that last season we didn't win many points at the end of games," Solskjaer said.

"We've got a tradition for it at this club. It's happened so many times at that end. Now we've won quite a few points at the end of games and that's both a mental aspect but also a physical aspect.

"We've got a group now that's more robust mentally and physically. They're getting fitter and fitter, and the fitter they are the more they can do.

"Mentally as well, it gives you a mental boost knowing that you do win games towards the end.

"We've got to a decent position at the moment but it's not even halfway. We didn't perform as well as we want to, but we won a game against a very difficult opponent.

"This is a big step forward, that you don't perform but you still win."

Marcus Rashford scored in second-half stoppage time to earn Manchester United a 1-0 win over Wolves and send the Red Devils up to second in the Premier League.

In the 93rd minute of a turgid game with few clear chances for either side, the two stars of United's season combined to produce a goal that took their tally to 10 points from their past four games at Old Trafford and ended 2020 on a high.

Wolves failed to capitalise on United's flat display, prioritising their own low block to stifle the threat of fast breaks that brought Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's men six goals against Leeds United in their previous home game, and defender Romain Saiss was the visitors' most potent attacking force.

But they slipped up late on when they failed to track Rashford's run onto a brilliant Bruno Fernandes pass and the England international's deflected goal extended his side's unbeaten run to nine league matches.

Diego Costa is poised to become a prize catch for one club in the days ahead, but what does the former Atletico Madrid striker have in mind?

He was released from his contract with LaLiga's leaders on Tuesday but looks set to make a swift return to football.

Atleti head coach Diego Simeone said he expects Costa to make a success of his next move, with the likes of Benfica, Arsenal and Wolves already linked with the fiery frontman.

Perhaps Costa will favour a move home to play in his native Brazil, or could MLS beckon?

Could Costa light up the Primeira Liga?

Benfica were linked with Costa in the previous close season, but nothing came of their reported interest. However, the Portuguese giants may still fancy a shot at bringing him to the Estadio da Luz.

They sit five points behind leaders Sporting CP this season, with Switzerland international Haris Seferovic their leading scorer with six goals in just three starts and six substitute appearances.

Would Costa fancy the Portuguese league, which he left behind 13 years ago when departing Braga to head to Spain? A Europa League campaign might bolster the appeal, with Benfica drawn to face Arsenal in the first knockout round.

Is he going to be a Gunner?

Given he was a hate figure for many Arsenal fans during his time at Chelsea, when he was a two-time Premier League winner, it would seem inconceivable for Costa to move to Emirates Stadium.

But needs must, and Arsenal might benefit from some of his attitude and knowhow up front as they battle to climb the Premier League table from a lowly standing.

Reports in Spain have suggested Arsenal's interest is genuine, with the club willing to let bygones be bygones and embrace a former fierce rival.

Whatever would they make of it at Chelsea?

Wolves at the door

There is plenty of circumstantial evidence to suggest a switch to Wolves could be a goer.

Costa's agent is Jorge Mendes, whose influence has helped the Premier League club build a squad with the talent to challenge for a top-six place.

And with Raul Jimenez sidelined after the serious head injury he sustained at Arsenal in November, Wolves could certainly do with an experienced addition to their forward ranks.

Costa might fancy joining a pack of underdogs, and his prospects of regular top-flight football would appear to be good.

Homeward bound

Perhaps the player who left Brazil as a teenager to seek footballing fame and fortune in Europe could be about to announce a return home.

Costa never played professional club football in Brazil and it may hold some appeal before he hangs up his boots.

There might be some making up to do before that happens, however, given he controversially turned his back on Brazil in 2013, in favour of playing international football for Spain.

The MLS route

A player of Costa's stature could be a big draw in MLS, given his achievements in Europe, his background, and his eye-catching style of play.

Goals have been hard to come by in  LaLiga for Costa during his second spell with Atletico, and there may be some appeal in moving to a league where not only would he be assured regular football, but the goals may come more easily.

If Lionel Messi is considering a future move to the United States, then clearly it is below no one, and Costa may relish seeing out his career in the growing league.

The Premier League title picture became little clearer on the first weekend after Christmas.

Liverpool and Tottenham were both held, while Manchester United played out a draw at Leicester City. Chelsea lost to struggling Arsenal.

But there was still plenty of intrigue across the latest round of fixtures as Edinson Cavani proved his worth again and Spurs struck swiftly before their late collapse.

With the help of Opta data, we take a look at some of the most interesting facts.
 

Cavani continues sublime sub form

United striker Cavani has still started just one Premier League match and played 207 minutes in the competition in total, but he provided another telling contribution as a substitute on Saturday as he assisted Bruno Fernandes' goal at Leicester less than four minutes after his introduction.

It was Cavani's fifth goal involvement off the bench already in the league this season, scoring three and creating a further two. No other player has been involved in more than three.

That tally has already matched manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's best return as a substitute in a single Premier League campaign; the renowned 'super sub' was involved in five goals off the bench in both 1996-97 and 1998-99.

Earlier this term, Cavani achieved a feat that Solskjaer had not, scoring and assisting as a substitute in the same away game at Southampton. Only Ruud van Nistelrooy had previously done so on the road for United.

The Paris Saint-Germain great has some way to go before taking the all-time Premier League record for goal involvements from the bench, however, as Adam Le Fondre tallied nine (eight goals, one assist) in 2012-13.
 

Speedy Spurs strike early again

If only Tottenham finished matches as strongly as they start them, having again failed to see out victory in the closing stages of Sunday's draw against Wolves.

Spurs have now dropped nine points in the final 10 minutes of matches this season, a Premier League high, yet their 57-second opener from Tanguy Ndombele continued a theme of speedy starts.

Only Chelsea (12) have scored more first-minute goals than Tottenham (11) in Premier League history.

And while Ndombele's drilled effort did not rank up there with the quickest, Spurs have accounted for two of the four fastest goals ever scored in the competition.

Ledley King's 9.8-second blast against Bradford City in 2000 ranks second, with Christian Eriksen's 10.5-second finish in a win over United in January 2018 fourth.

Tottenham have also conceded seven times in the opening 60 seconds of Premier League matches, though, joining Chelsea, United and Arsenal in a tie for third in that regard behind Everton (10) and Newcastle United (nine).
 

Arsenal ace Xhaka finds his range

Arsenal's London derby defeat of Chelsea might have come as a surprise, but Granit Xhaka's superb goal perhaps should not.

His free-kick on the stroke of half-time put the Gunners 2-0 up and was the first Arsenal goal scored direct from a free-kick against Chelsea since Thierry Henry's effort in the 2004-05 season.

Henry (12) has scored the most Premier League free-kicks for the Gunners, while Alexis Sanchez and Robin van Persie (both five) are the only other two Arsenal stars to top Xhaka's total of three.

And no Arsenal player with five or more Premier League goals has scored a greater portion of their strikes from outside the box, with Xhaka netting seven of nine (78 per cent) from range.

He is still a way short of Henry's Arsenal haul of 29 goals from distance or Chelsea boss Frank Lampard's Premier League record of 41, however.
 

Ten-man Villa deserving victors

One of the most impressive results of the weekend saw Aston Villa beat Crystal Palace 3-0 despite seeing Tyrone Mings being sent off just before the break with his side just one goal up.

Although Villa had just 38.6 per cent of the possession, they were ruthless, having 20 attempts for an expected goals total of 4.3.

That is the highest xG total for a team over a single match so far this season, with Manchester City - 4.6 against Brighton and Hove Albion - the last team to top that at the end of the 2019-20 campaign.

City had 11 men for the duration of that match, though.

Since Opta's xG records began in 2013-14, no team had previously earned a total of 4.3 after having a man sent off, let alone having been reduced to 10 men before half-time.

Thomas Tuchel's tenure as Paris Saint-Germain head coach is all but over.

Tuchel will reportedly be replaced by Mauricio Pochettino, despite leading PSG to Ligue 1 glory last season and the Champions League final.

Can former PSG defender Pochettino help the French giants conquer Europe?

 

TOP STORY – POCH SET FOR PSG

Mauricio Pochettino has agreed terms to take charge of Ligue 1 champions Paris Saint-Germain, according to Fabrizio Romano.

Thomas Tuchel's sacking is set to be announced after striking a deal with PSG to leave immediately – the compensation worth €6million, reports Bild.

Former Tottenham manager Pochettino is now poised to return to PSG, where he played between 2001 and 2003.

 

ROUND-UP

Diego Costa has requested to leave Atletico Madrid in January, claims Diario AS and Marca. If Costa is unable to depart during the next window, the veteran striker will farewell Atletico on a free transfer at season's end.

Wolves have joined the chase to sign Real Madrid outcast Luka Jovic, says The Athletic. Wolves are keen to bolster their attack following Raul Jimenez's serious injury and Jovic has emerged as a loan option for the Premier League side. Milan have also been heavily linked with the Serbia international.

Georginio Wijnaldum wants time to reflect on Liverpool's contract offer, reports Fabrizio Romano. Wijnaldum is set to become a free agent amid links to Barca.

- The Mirror reports Arsenal are circling for Brighton and Hove Albion full-back Tariq Lamptey should Hector Bellerin depart for Barcelona. Lamptey has been linked to Manchester City and Bayern Munich.

Sevilla are eyeing a January swoop for Marseille star Florian Thauvin, according to Andaluz Estadio Deportivo. Milan have also been tracking the Frenchman.

- Corriere dello Sport says Juventus and Inter remain keen on signing Udinese's Rodrigo De Paul. Meanwhile, Ilbianconeri claims Juve have been offered Arsenal outcast Mesut Ozil.

Manchester United remain in contact with Moises Caicedo's agents to sign the Independiente del Valle sensation, says Romano. The 19-year-old Ecuadorian midfielder wants to move to Old Trafford.

Jose Mourinho is concerned by Tottenham's inability to see games out after they once again lost points in the latter stages of a Premier League match following their 1-1 draw with Wolves.

Spurs were 1-0 up at Wolves on Sunday inside the first minute thanks to Tanguy Ndombele, but they only managed to muster another two shots on target for the remainder of the match, the last one coming in the 21st minute.

Highlighting Spurs' lack of attacking threat was the fact Son Heung-min and Harry Kane only managed one shot each against Wolves.

Wolves came on stronger in the second half and eventually levelled late on through Romain Saiss' glancing header at a corner.

It meant Spurs have dropped nine points with goals conceded in the final 10 minutes of matches this term, more than any other Premier League team.

While Mourinho accepted that was a concern, the head coach feels it is more worrying that Spurs are failing to kill teams off with their winless run now four in the league - they scored first in three of those games.

"Of course it is a concern, but I repeat, it's more a concern the fact we score early goals and we don't kill matches," Mourinho told reporters.

"Of course, against Liverpool it was about the post not wanting us to win the match and it's not expected to go to Liverpool to have five, six or seven chances and score one, two, three or four goals.

"In this match, or against [Crystal] Palace for example, are matches where by scoring an early goal you must have a go and it's simple as that.

"Even defending very well, which we do as a team, that is not enough. It could be enough if we defend that last corner, we win 1-0 and maybe now you are asking me different questions.

"But my feeling would be exactly the same, scoring in the first minute we had 89 minutes to score more goals and we didn't."

That was also the latest in a series of goals conceded at set-pieces, but again Mourinho felt the bigger issue was failing to add to Ndombele's early strike.

"Of course, we can go back to a corner, we can say that in Liverpool we should win and we lost with a corner," Mourinho continued. "We can say here we should win and we drew with a corner.

"You can say that against Crystal Palace we should win and drew with a lateral free-kick.

"I don't think it's very obvious just to look in that direction and not to go in other directions. The other direction for me is, you score a goal in the first minute and you have 89 minutes to score more goals and we didn't."

Spurs' slump has seen them go from looking like Liverpool's likeliest title challengers to dropping right out of the top four, while Manchester City and Aston Villa in the places directly below have played fewer games.

Jose Mourinho claimed Tottenham lacked the "ambition and desire" to push for a win against Wolves.

Spurs went in front on Sunday through Tanguy Ndombele's first-minute strike, yet only managed another two attempts on target – the last of which came when Sergio Reguilon drilled at Rui Patricio in the 21st minute.

Wolves made it count, scoring in the 86th minute through Romain Saiss' header, and the home side should have won it when Fabio Silva headed straight into the gloves of Hugo Lloris in stoppage time.

Tottenham have now dropped nine points this season due to conceding goals in the last 10 minutes of matches, the most of any side in the Premier League, while Mourinho's team are without a win in four league matches.

"I am," Mourinho responded to Sky Sports when asked if he was frustrated by the result and performance.

"One point against Wolves normally wouldn't be a bad result - they are a strong opponent, but scoring a goal in the first minute and having control of the game for the rest of it, and having 89 minutes to score more goals, it feels frustrating.

"I don't want to say much. I know the way I prepare the team; I know what I ask from the players, know what I told them at half-time.

"I don't want to say more than that. I give some credit to Wolves because, though they were losing, they put pressure on us – pressure that we coped with, controlled the game very well – but we didn't have that ambition and desire to go for more."

Wolves boss Nuno Espirito Santo, however, believes his side – who won 66 duels, six more than Spurs – performed brilliantly to limit the visitors' chances.

"We performed really well, played a very good game. We conceded early but the team reacted, against a very good, very dangerous side," he told Sky Sports.

"We were very aggressive; we always followed the movements, filled in the gaps. We played good.

"We had to go and chase the result, chase the game, and then you have to be aggressive and have organisation and then you hope the talent can provide you with some good moments. We're trying to improve."

Spurs face Fulham and Leeds United in their next two games, and Mourinho reiterated that no match in the Premier League can be considered easy.

"Every game is an opportunity, but every game is dangerous," Mourinho said. "Fulham are in a fantastic run of results, they are playing very well, so it is going to be difficult.

"Of course, we've had this run of matches playing against all the top teams, but I don't consider that Fulham or Leeds United will be easier matches. Matches we want to win, but not easier."

Tottenham's winless run in the Premier League was extended to four matches as Romain Saiss' late header cancelled out Tanguy Ndombele's opener to earn Wolves a 1-1 draw.

After defeats to title rivals Liverpool and Leicester City, Spurs were aiming to avoid suffering a third successive league defeat for the first time since November 2012 and made a flying start as Ndombele drilled in after just 57 seconds.

Wolves looked toothless for most of the remaining 89 minutes with star forward Raul Jimenez watching on from the stands, yet their knack of getting late goals came to fruition once more.

Pedro Neto's superb corner was met by Saiss, who glanced a brilliant header beyond Hugo Lloris to again frustrate Tottenham, who passed up the chance to move up to third and were ultimately grateful for a 96th-minute Fabio Silva miss.

Wolves players have been blocked from going to the supermarket as the club aims to limit their risk of contracting coronavirus.

Some Premier League clubs have been allowed to welcome fans back to grounds over recent weeks, as the United Kingdom government moved to a 'tier system'.

However, with large swathes of the country now back under stricter restrictions as infection rates rise, only Liverpool and Everton are allowed to welcome home fans to their matches.

Only one Premier League match this season has had to be postponed due to COVID-19, with Newcastle United's squad having been unable to attend their training ground ahead of a clash with Aston Villa due to an outbreak within the group.

The league is now reverting to twice-a-week testing as the fixture list becomes more and more congested, and Wolves have taken steps to reduce their players' exposure.

"It is about protecting ourselves," said Wolves boss Nuno Espirito Santo. "Since the beginning of the pandemic, our staff in the kitchen put together a big box of the basic things that we need and during the high moment of the pandemic, everybody had it.

"As it started to improve, we said: 'OK, now you are free to go and do your own shopping.'

"But now the levels are increasing and there is the new variation that everybody is worried about, we started to do it again. So the players and their families are not going to the supermarkets.

"It is about protecting ourselves. There are so many people to take care of us."

Wolves have been in indifferent form and lost to Burnley last time out. They take on Tottenham on Sunday before facing Manchester United two days later, with a trip to Brighton and Hove Albion rounding off their festive fixture list.

Jose Mourinho does not believe Tottenham are heading into an easier run of Premier League fixtures after a string of tough encounters with fellow 'big six' sides.

Spurs faced Manchester City, Chelsea and Arsenal in successive top-flight games across November and December, taking seven points in the process, before facing Liverpool after a trip to Crystal Palace.

Mourinho's side followed a defeat to the Premier League champions by losing against Leicester City – who finished fifth last season – on Sunday, leaving them sixth in the table and six points off top.

The back-to-back reverses mean Spurs are in danger of losing three straight Premier League games for the first time since November 2012 under Andre Villas-Boas.

But although four of Spurs' next five league outings will be against teams who went into Christmas Day in the bottom half, Mourinho is not expecting an easy ride.

Asked if the 'big six' will break away from the rest of the Premier League and whether Wolves, their opponents on Sunday, will be added to that group, Mourinho said: "I believe so but it's very hard in this league to have consistent runs, because every game is very difficult.

"We were in a period where we had to play against the considered top six teams, we got them all in a row, and now some people will say we are going to get an easier run of matches.

"What is easier? Going to Wolves, playing Fulham and Aston Villa is easier? It's not easier. We should be very happy [with where we are], and not sad with that, because it's a fantastic league, I believe."

Spurs will be without Giovani Lo Celso during their festive fixtures, but Mourinho is confident captain Harry Kane will be able to play a full part after overcoming a knock at the start of December.

Kane, who started the EFL Cup quarter-final win at Stoke on Wednesday, needs one more goal to become just the fourth Englishman to reach double figures in seven straight Premier League campaigns, after Michael Owen, Frank Lampard and Wayne Rooney.

"Gio will not be fit," said Mourinho. "I really don't know [how long he will be out]. He will not be playing in this period of Christmas, New Year's, that's for sure.

"I hope that [Kane] plays all of the next matches again. The next match is Sunday. I believe that a player like him that works well, takes good care of himself with a great professional life, I believe that he will be ready to play against Wolves."

Nuno Espirito Santo was wrong to single out Lee Mason for criticism but the standard of refereeing in the Premier League is falling, says former Professional Game Match Officials Board (PGMOL) chief Keith Hackett.

Wolves boss Nuno launched a scathing attack on Mason following his side's 2-1 defeat to Burnley at Turf Moor on Monday.

He said: "Honestly I don't like to say it, but I must say it because I will not feel right: the referee does not have the quality to whistle a game in the Premier League."

Hackett recalled his own dealings with some of the Premier League's most outspoken bosses and says while Nuno was wrong to specifically go after Mason, the Portuguese's concerns should be taken seriously.

"Of course, I've had to put up with that when I was the boss - it was [Alex] Ferguson, [Sam] Allardyce, [David] Moyes, [Arsene] Wenger and the like because these guys are passionate people and you have to take that into account," Hackett told Stats Perform News. 

"I think the reality is that some of our referees are less athletic in appearance than some of our European counterparts. I think in addition to that, referees have form. 

"Initially what he said was unfair because I think he personalised it. What he said obviously had some credibility because of his disappointment in decisions - which weren't specific to one decision, it was actually his overall management.

"So, it has to be taken seriously. I do think standards have fallen and I think for many reasons. 

"You get a quiet guy like Nuno who comes out and makes the biggest blast on a referee for the last two or three years and, yes he's wrong for personalising it, but I can understand his frustrations because I share some of his frustrations when I see the referees."

Hackett stressed the importance of the PGMOL communicating with managers and says referees do take it personally if they make a bad decision.

"I think we have to look at the facts and answer the facts to Nuno, that's Mike Riley's job in saying 'here is the information, what area of the performance are you criticising'?" Hackett added.

"I think the perception is they [referees] couldn't care less, I've dealt with referees for a long time, if you see the face of a referee after he's found out he's made a major error, it's really telling. 

"We're dealing with human beings, Lee Mason is towards the older end of the group in terms of age. Off the field of play you couldn't wish to meet nicer guy, great sense of humour.

"Sadly, and I have managed him, he doesn't take that onto the field of play and sometimes he's a rabbit in the headlights, and sometimes he's running where he shouldn't run and his game reading, even though he's an experienced referee, is lacking. 

"We can talk about technology, talk about competency levels but we've also got to say 'look these guys are human beings' and if you think Lee Mason listening into the comments made by Nuno Santos is going to be happy, he's not, because he's been personally attacked."

Liverpool claimed a big win in the Premier League title race on Wednesday, as the champions saw off Tottenham to take a three-point lead at the top.

The Reds will look to extend their unbeaten run in the top flight to 10 matches when they face Crystal Palace on Saturday.

Mohamed Salah is likely to play a key role for Liverpool, while Raheem Sterling is aiming to set a record at Manchester City and the duo headline our Opta-powered Premier League fantasy picks for matchweek 14.

 

MOHAMED SALAH

Salah has scored in all three of Liverpool's games in December so far, and is averaging a goal or assist every 66 minutes in the month across his Premier League career.

It is the best ratio in any month in which he has played more than one match.

Salah already has 11 league goals to his name this term, sitting top of the charts along with Son Heung-min and Dominic Calvert-Lewin.

RAHEEM STERLING

Sterling created City's goal on Tuesday, with a neat cross for Ilkay Gundogan to sweep home his first Premier League goal in nearly a year, but Pep Guardiola's team could only draw 1-1.

It left them eight points adrift of pace-setters Liverpool, though Sterling is well in the hunt for a club record.

The England forward has been directly involved in 148 goals under Guardiola in all competitions, and is looking to become the first player to reach 150 during the Spaniard's time at City.

 

PIERRE-EMERICK AUBAMEYANG

Arsenal are in dismal form heading into Saturday's contest with Everton, who have won their last two outings – against Chelsea and Leicester City respectively.

Mikel Arteta's team ended a three-game losing streak when they drew at home to Southampton, though it is now six matches without a top-flight win for the Gunners.

One positive is that Aubameyang netted the equaliser against the Saints – just his third league goal of the season. He has scored four times in as many starts against Everton – he only has more goals against Burnley (seven) and Watford (six) in the Premier League than the Toffees.

 

CALLUM WILSON

An alternative to Aubameyang could be Wilson, who has been directly involved in 10 Premier League goals in 11 appearances for Newcastle United.

His seven goals and three assists mean he has contributed to seven more goals than any other Magpies player so far.

Newcastle take on Fulham on Saturday, with Scott Parker's team having drawn their last two games - versus Liverpool and Brighton and Hove Albion.

 

HARRY KANE

Before bursting onto the Premier League scene with Tottenham, Kane spent time on loan with Leicester, and against no club has he scored more in all competitions.

Kane has netted 16 times against the Foxes – five more than against any other team.

With Spurs having failed to win their last two games, their talisman will be determined to continue that form and get Mourinho's men back on track, though Leicester will be no pushovers.

PATRICK BAMFORD

Leeds United forward Bamford moved onto nine league goals for the season when he drew Marcelo Bielsa's team level with Newcastle on Wednesday.

The Whites went onto win 5-2 and, since Bielsa took charge of Leeds in 2018, no player has scored more goals for the club than Bamford.

In 85 appearances across all competitions, the former Chelsea forward has 35 goals.

 

PEDRO NETO

Diogo Jota's departure to Liverpool and Raul Jimenez's head injury means there is extra onus on Wolves' remaining attackers, and Neto delivered the goods with a last-gasp winner against Chelsea last time out.

Neto has been directly involved in as many goals in 13 Premier League appearances this season – three goals, three assists– as he was in 29 games last season, when he scored four times and set up another two goals.

Manchester United are reportedly ready to challenge Chelsea for West Ham midfielder Declan Rice.

Rice, 21, has been linked heavily with a move to Stamford Bridge, but no deal came to fruition during the close season.

United are apparently ready to join the race for the England international.

 

TOP STORY – MAN UTD TO CHALLENGE CHELSEA FOR RICE

Manchester United could make a move for West Ham midfielder and Chelsea target Rice at season's end, according to the Daily Express.

The report says United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is said to be a fan of Rice, who spent some of his childhood in Chelsea's academy.

Rice has played every minute of the Premier League campaign for West Ham so far.

ROUND-UP

- Struggling for game time at Liverpool, Divock Origi may be set for a January move. The Athletic reports the Premier League leaders are prepared to listen to offers for the forward at the beginning of 2021, with Wolves reportedly interested.

- Staying at Anfield, Asromalive.it reports Liverpool are interested in Roma defender Roger Ibanez, who is also linked to Paris Saint-Germain. Ibanez is on loan at the Giallorossi from Atalanta.

- Yet to play for Napoli this season, Arkadiusz Milik is expected to make an exit. Goal reports the Serie A side want €15million if the striker is to leave in January amid interest from rivals Juventus and LaLiga title hopefuls Atletico Madrid, with Milik coming out of contract at season's end.

- Manchester United are expected to see some exits in January. The Athletic reports Newcastle United are interested in a loan move for Marcos Rojo, while goalkeeper Sergio Romero is set for a departure to Spain.

Frank Lampard was frustrated his Chelsea team were caught on the counter-attack after warning of Wolves' threat, although he acknowledged his side were not good enough at Molineux.

Olivier Giroud's sixth goal in his past four away games in all competitions had the Blues on course for a victory that would have taken them top of the Premier League.

But Daniel Podence netted a fine equaliser and then, with Chelsea chasing a late winner, Pedro Neto ran through at the other end and rifled in a brilliant 95th-minute strike – the latest decisive league goal the Blues have conceded since at least 2006-07.

"We didn't play well enough. It's pretty simple," said Lampard, but he also felt the visitors had the game "under pretty good control" at 1-0.

Therefore the failure to deal with Wolves on the break, a tactic for which they are renowned, was the source of some disappointment.

"We've been given maybe different kinds of games in these last two games," the coach explained. "Particularly where Everton made it difficult for us to break them down, and we didn't really succeed in that.

"Wolves played very much a counter-attacking style late in the game – not just that – but we didn't deal with that.

"The players have to feel that on the pitch, because the message was very clear about the counter-attack and the issue was that they could hurt us. So that's disappointing."

It was a second straight defeat after the 1-0 reverse at Everton, losing back-to-back league matches for the first time in 12 months and a single day.

Lampard, who is hoping to have Hakim Ziyech and Callum Hudson-Odoi back in training this week, said "there could be some fatigue" and Chelsea "didn't have that zip about us", failing to have a shot on target before Giroud's second-half opener.

But he also recognised Chelsea could not be surprised to lose games if they slip below their usual standards.

With in-form West Ham up next in a London derby, Lampard was asked if this was becoming a "blip".

"That's up to us," he replied. "We had a long unbeaten run, everyone sang our praises. I was the last one to do that.

"It's my job to stay level-headed on both ends, so I shouldn't feel too disappointed tonight, as much as I didn't get too elated after Leeds when we were on the back of a really good run.

"But clearly, when we've performed like we've done today, that's not game management, that's not the quality levels that we are striving for.

"I still think there's a lot of improvement to be done with the group, so I wouldn't say I'm massively surprised.

"My experience of the Premier League tells me that if you drop your standards, which we have in two games, particularly away from home, you can lose football matches. That's a big lesson for the players there."

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