We are at the final gameweek of the Premier League fantasy football season, and the moment of truth has arrived – not for Manchester City and Liverpool, but for the fantasy players out there.

Balancing between premium players and those who can provide particular value could be the difference at this time of the season, whether you need to consolidate or make up ground.

Stats Perform has you covered with some Opta-powered recommendations below, so here are our suggestions for this week's picks.

HUGO LLORIS (Norwich City v Tottenham)

A good start at this point of the season is determining which teams have something to play for, and with Champions League qualification on the line, Tottenham are one of the more relevant examples this weekend.

Sitting on 15 for the season so far, Hugo Lloris is one clean sheet away from recording his most in a single Premier League campaign, with only Alisson and Ederson ahead of him on 20.

The 35-year-old has made a solid 2.65 saves per 90 on the way to his 15 clean sheets, holding that bit of extra motivation coming into the final round.

ANDREW ROBERTSON (Liverpool v Wolves)

Liverpool need to win to keep their Premier League hopes alive, and they will likely have the majority of the ball against Wolves on Sunday. Expect crosses and dead balls.

As a result, expect as ever for Liverpool's full-backs to be prominent, and Andrew Robinson is just one shy of recording 50 assists in the Premier League. He would become only the second defender to do so, after Leighton Baines.

He is averaging more assists per 90 (0.37) and chances created per 90 (2.02) for Liverpool this season than in any of his previous campaigns.

CHRISTIAN ERIKSEN (Brentford v Leeds United)

Granted, Brentford have little to play for aside from professional pride, but Christian Eriksen's return to the Premier League has reinforced his transformative quality as a footballer. They're also playing Leeds.

The 30-year-old has either scored or assisted in five of his nine Premier League starts this season, while only Kevin de Bruyne has created more chances than him per 90 this term. 

While Eriksen also trails De Bruyne for assists since the 2013-14 season on 66, this season has seen him create a chance every 32 minutes on average.

MICHAIL ANTONIO (Brighton and Hove Albion v West Ham)

Despite West Ham's elimination in the Europa League at the hands of eventual winners Eintracht Frankfurt, the season is not over. The Hammers still need a win to stand a chance of taking that last Europa League spot from Manchester United.

Another goal for Michail Antonio would see him score at least 10 goals in three consecutive seasons, which would also make him the first West Ham player to do so in the Premier League. 

He also has 17 goal involvements for the season, his most in the competition.

Michael Jordan has company at last.

The Chicago Bulls legend was for a long time the only player to average more than 30 points per game in the NBA playoffs, yet Luka Doncic is now writing his own name into the history books in Dallas.

The Mavericks superstar has a long way to go before he can come anywhere close to matching Jordan's achievements, but he has been spectacular in scoring 32.7 points per game through his first four postseason series.

Not only is Jordan (33.4 points per game) the sole player to top Doncic's mark across a playoff career, he alone since 1963-64 joins the former EuroLeague sensation in scoring more than 750 points over his first 23 postseason games (823 for Jordan, 751 for Doncic).

These look to be early steps in a truly great NBA career for Doncic, and he could yet end this season as a champion.

The Slovenian was outgunned taking on the Los Angeles Clippers on his own in the first round in consecutive years, but the Mavericks made bold moves this year – most notably appointing Jason Kidd and trading away Kristaps Porzingis – and are now in the Western Conference Finals.

Although Doncic averaged 32.6 points as the Mavericks beat the Phoenix Suns in the second round, he crucially had help, now surrounded with defense and shooting.

Dallas held the Suns to their three lowest points totals of the season (94 in Game 3, 90 in Game 7, 86 in Game 6), while Doncic and Spencer Dinwiddie became the first team-mates to each score 30 points in a Game 7 since Los Angeles Lakers greats Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal against the Sacramento Kings in 2002.

As the tournament heats up, Doncic will need all the assistance he can get – but any Mavericks title run surely depends on their main man being the best player in every series.

That becomes a little tougher when Dallas are faced next with playoff veterans the Golden State Warriors.

This is the 10th year of the Steph-Klay-Draymond Warriors, in which time they have been to five NBA Finals, won three championships and seen off a whole host of superstars.

There are plenty of examples for Doncic to learn from then as he prepares to take on the greatest team of the past decade.

LeBron James (33.0 points per game, 7-15 record)

Ja Morant, who scored 35 points against Golden State in last year's play-in tournament, averaged 38.3 points across three games in the 2022 second round until a knee injury ended his series and, ultimately, the Memphis Grizzlies' season. That is the highest mark posted against the Warriors in the past 10 years, albeit with a limited sample size.

Among those to play 10 or more games, James (33.0 points per game) leads the way. Equally as impressive, the four-time MVP has the most total playoff points versus the Warriors since 2012 (727) – despite spending the bulk of his career in the Eastern Conference.

 

James did score 22 in a Lakers play-in win over the Warriors in 2021, but all of their 22 postseason encounters have come across four Finals series. Unfortunately, while James has excelled, his teams have not fared quite so well.

Prior to Morant's explosion, James accounted for three of the four highest series averages against the Warriors over this period – 35.8 in 2015, 34.0 in 2018 and 33.6 in 2017 – but the Cleveland Cavaliers lost on each occasion. Their one Finals win came in 2016, when James scored 29.7 points per game.

James had a little more help in 2016 – we'll come on to that – and the Cavaliers' various failures perhaps best illustrate the folly of Doncic attempting to take on a super-team alone.

The 51 points James scored in Game 1 in 2018 were the most against the Warriors in a single playoff game in the past 10 years, but he was let down by his team-mates – we're looking at you, J.R. Smith – and Cleveland not only lost that series opener but were then swept.

James Harden (29.8 points per game, 7-16 record)

Harden's playoff career is best known for his repeated failures to get the better of the Warriors, losing all of his four series against Golden State while on the Houston Rockets, yet only James has scored more points in such matchups since 2012 (685).

Counted among Harden's 23 postseason games against the Warriors in the past 10 years – only Iman Shumpert (24) has played more – are three 41-plus-point performances. James alone can top that (five games).

However, Harden has also failed to reach 20 points on five occasions, twice shooting worse than 20 per cent from the field in 2015. Consistency is the key at this time of year, and Harden has not had that.

The Rockets blew their biggest opportunity to make a first Finals since 1995 in 2018, when they led the Warriors 3-2 in the Conference Finals before Chris Paul went down injured. Houston lost Game 6 and Game 7, collapsing dramatically in the first of the two defeats as Harden did not contribute a single fourth-quarter point.

Doncic, unsurprisingly, has never shot worse than 20 per cent in the playoffs, while his best shooting performance (63.2 per cent) came in Game 7 against the Suns and his career-high points total came in Game 7 against the Los Angeles Clippers (46).

Kyrie Irving (27.7 points per game, 5-8 record)

Given Irving was the Cavaliers' second man behind James, it is difficult to draw a direct comparison with Doncic. But the point guard's performances show the sort of levels Dinwiddie or Jalen Brunson may have to reach to beat the Warriors if they are at the top of their game.

Irving's 2015 Finals debut ended in Game 1 when he sustained a fractured kneecap, but he returned in 2016 and played a huge role in the Cavaliers' historic win.

Cleveland were trailing 3-1 heading into Game 5 – a deficit that had never previously been overturned – only for Irving and James each to score 41 points, becoming the first team-mates to both top 40 in a Finals game. Irving shot 70.8 per cent from the field.

As the Cavaliers recovered to win 4-3, with Irving shooting a decisive three late in Game 7, his usage rate was a lofty 30.7 per cent for the series, taking responsibility off James' shoulders. Brunson is the Mavericks' second man, although his usage rate of 29.7 per cent was boosted a little by playing three games without the ball-dominant Doncic.

Damian Lillard (27.6 points per game, 1-12 record)

If nothing else, Lillard and the Portland Trail Blazers provide an example of how not to play the Warriors. Only former Blazers team-mate Rodney Hood (0-12) has a worse record in playoff games against Golden State in the past 10 years.

A 43.7 per cent career shooter, Lillard has averaged 38.7 per cent from the field against the Warriors in the postseason. Sure, he has scored 27.6 points, but it has taken him 22.1 field goal attempts per game.

When Steph Curry and Klay Thompson are on the other side of the floor, you cannot afford to be so inefficient. Lillard's sole victory in 2016 came courtesy of his one 40-point performance – while Curry was out injured.

Only Allen Iverson (26.5) and Jordan (25.1) have attempted more field goals per playoff game than Doncic (24.3), so there is definitely scope for the Warriors to profit if he cools off – not that there has been a great deal of evidence to suggest that is likely.

Kawhi Leonard (21.9 points per game, 8-5 record)

The man who has occupied Doncic's playoff nightmares in the previous two seasons surely provides the blueprint for how to enjoy postseason success against the Warriors.

Leonard has played on two of the four teams to eliminate Golden State from the playoffs in the past 10 years; he has not lost a series to the Warriors – missing the entirety of their 4-1 defeat of the San Antonio Spurs in 2018 – and boasts the best winning percentage of any player to face Steve Kerr's winning machine on more than 10 occasions over this period.

The 2019 Finals showed the sort of standard that has been required to get the better of the Warriors in the past decade, with Leonard dominant as the outstanding player on the Toronto Raptors. He led the Raptors in points (171), rebounds (59) and steals (12) versus the Warriors, ranking second in assists (25) and blocks (seven).

 

Doncic made strides on defense over the course of the Suns series, but whether he is capable of such an all-round display is very much up for debate.

In a pre-match news conference lacking much talk of the opposition, there was one question that stood out in that regard ahead of Rangers' Europa League final clash with Eintracht Frankfurt.

Gers captain James Tavernier was pointedly asked for his opinion on Eintracht wing-back Filip Kostic, given the pair are likely to see a lot of each other on the flank they'll share.

"Obviously I respect how he's been playing, he's a top player," Tavernier said. "But, I've just got to bring the best version of myself when the game starts and try to cause him all the problems, try to make him deal with me for the majority of the game. That's all I can really do."

Tavernier's response didn't offer any particularly great insight, but his mentality of wanting to cause Kostic as many problems was at least another identifier of how their duel could be such a key battle.

Of course, it's worth pointing out that Tavernier, a right-back, remarkably heads into Wednesday's game as the Europa League's top scorer on seven goals, and realistically – or, unrealistically – only a hat-trick from Eintracht's Daichi Kamada can prevent the Englishman from at least ending the season with a share of the competition's golden boot.

Further to that, he netted 19 times over the course of the 2020-21 season and could yet match that figure this term – he also has an impressive assists haul of 17.

If it needs reiterating, he's a huge contributor for Rangers in the final third.

So, given he's technically a right-back, there's obviously an element of Tavernier needing to be solid defensively on Wednesday, but some might suggest it's even more essential he's as sharp as ever going forward as that would not only give Rangers a credible threat on the right, but it would potentially keep Kostic occupied in a deeper position.

Granted, Eintracht's set-up with a back three should always ensure they have an extra man to cover for Kostic's runs forward, while the two attacking midfielders supporting Rafael Borre up top often occupy narrow, deeper berths in order to maximise the space out wide for their biggest threat.

Yet there's always the possibility of an overload in behind Kostic if the conditions are right, such is his attacking influence.

 

After all, the frequency at which Kostic delivers into the box is frankly astonishing. This season, he has been the executor of 519 crosses and corners, 140 more than any other player in the top five leagues – Trent Alexander-Arnold is second with 379.

Kostic's 78 successful crosses from open play is also a season-high. Of course, you would expect him to lead the way given he's attempted so many more than anyone else, but his 26.8 per cent accuracy (crosses/corners) is right in line with the average (among players with at least 100 attempted). That in itself is impressive given his greater frequency.

Another way of looking at it is, he is producing one accurate open-play cross every 45.4 minutes. While that may not sound incredible on the face of it, his 12.4 expected assists (xA) is the 10th highest among players in the top five leagues, highlighting just how much of a weapon he is in terms of his creative quality.

So, while he may be classed as a wing-back in terms of his position on a team line-up graphic, the Serbian is there for his attacking tendencies.

A cursory glance at his map of open-play chances created proves that point.

 

But Rangers must also be aware of the danger posed on the opposite flank.

Ansgar Knauff has been one of the stars of Eintracht's journey to the final, with the 20-year-old becoming something of a revelation in the past few months.

As recently as mid-January he was turning out for Borussia Dortmund's second team in the third tier. Then he joined Eintracht on loan and has since scored important Europa League goals against Barcelona and West Ham.

His impact on the road to Seville has been significant, with his brilliant athleticism, bravery and confidence on the ball making him a real asset on the right-hand side.

Before Knauff's arrival, Eintracht were rather lopsided, with their other options on the right far from convincing. Sure, Kostic remains their main outlet, but Knauff's emergence has provided them with another – albeit stylistically different – threat on the other side, giving them greater balance.

 

Across all competitions since his Eintracht debut in early February, only Kostic (5.6) and Jesper Lindstrom (2.6) have amassed better xA records than Knauff, who is also fifth to those two, Borre and Kamada in terms of xA and xG (expected goals) combined.

He may not be their deadliest weapon, but he's proven he can offer them a lot, and his team-high 61 dribble attempts in that period proves he's happy to make his markers work for their money.

Oliver Glasner's team is full of neat, technical players and is also blessed with fine work ethic, as it would need to be to play their high-pressing football.

But their width and desire to attack from the flanks is fundamental to how they play – while it may be easier said than done, limiting their effectiveness out wide would go a long way to ending Rangers' 50-year European trophy drought.

While quarterback-needy teams grappled with the decision over whether to bet on a member of an underwhelming 2022 draft class at the position, those teams who were astute enough to select a signal-caller from the loaded 2021 class spent their offseasons attempting to stack the deck around the player they handpicked as the future of the franchise.

The 2022 season will be a significant one for Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson, Trey Lance, Justin Fields and Mac Jones, with questions sure to be asked of the five first-round picks if they do not show signs of vindicating their respective franchises for selecting them last year.

Jones arguably already proved himself as the most pro-ready QB of the quintet in an impressive rookie campaign, but 2022 may well reveal how high the ceiling is for the least physically gifted of the bunch. The rest are all aiming to prove they have the skill sets to join the league's expanding and increasingly youthful elite at the NFL's most important position. 

Indeed, the first four quarterbacks off the board in 2021 were all regarded as players with the potential to elevate those around them and take their offenses to new heights. But a quarterback, regardless of his athletic and mental gifts, cannot do it all himself. So who among the 2021 first-rounders has the best supporting cast to help them excel?

To help us answer that question, we at Stats Perform have gone back to look at our post-free agency positional unit baselines that inform our team rankings.

The baselines were produced for seven different units: quarterback, pass blocking, run blocking, route runners/pass catchers, pass rush, run defense and pass defense. The units are comprised of projected playing time for players on the roster combined with the player baselines linked to each of those units.

An individual player has a year-over-year baseline for a unit input (i.e. pass blocking for a team's projected left tackle). His baseline is combined with those of his team-mates and then adjusted for the importance of the position to that unit to produce an overall unit baseline.

The six non-quarterback baselines, plus a look at some of the moves made in the draft by each quarterback's respective team, provide a picture that reveals which of the second-year signal-callers have the talent around them to thrive.

5. Justin Fields, Chicago Bears

Even though the numbers are not impressive, there were clear flashes of promise in Fields' rookie season with the Bears.

While he only finished with a 70.9 well-thrown percentage – seven percentage points below the average for quarterbacks with at least 50 throws – and had a pickable pass rate of 5.36 per cent that was the eighth-worst among that group, Fields did display the upside that led the Bears to trade up for him.

Only two quarterbacks averaged more air yards per attempt than Fields' 10.02 and his three passing plays of 50 yards or more were the most of all rookie quarterbacks and as many as Josh Allen and Justin Herbert managed all season.

You would think, therefore, that the Bears' focus this offseason would be on giving Fields the weapons to produce further explosive plays in 2022. Not so, the Bears waited until the third round to add a wide receiver in the draft – 25-year-old return specialist Velus Jones Jr.

The Bears' reluctance to add to a group of pass-catchers that prior to the draft had the sixth-lowest unit baseline in the NFL hardly suggests at a sophomore surge for Fields in 2022.

And with Chicago's offensive line among the worst in the league for pass protection and run-blocking baseline and its defense in the bottom six for pass defense and bottom three for pass rush, it appears likely to be another year when Fields is swimming against a tide engineered by his own franchise.

4. Trevor Lawrence, Jacksonville Jaguars

Simply having an adult in the room with experience of winning at the NFL level should help Lawrence's cause, with Doug Pederson a substantial improvement on Urban Meyer as head coach.

As is the case with Fields in Chicago, Pederson will hope Lwrence can build on last season's flashes of the talent that led some to label him as the best quarterback prospect since Andrew Luck in 2012. Lawrence's well-thrown percentage of 76.3 was significantly better than that of Fields, but his 26 pickable passes were the fourth-most in the league.

Unlike the Bears, the Jags invested heavily in getting Lawrence receiving help, doing so in a bemusing manner as they threw eye-watering amounts of money at players who fit best as secondary targets rather than as the leading receiver for a player dubbed a 'generational' quarterback prospect.

Indeed, the lucrative deals handed out to the likes of Christian Kirk and Zay Jones only put them 20th in pass-catching unit baseline prior to the draft. The hope will be that Kirk, who was seventh among receivers with at least 100 targets with a big-play rate of 35.6 per cent last year, can help Lawrence generate more explosives in year two.

And while much of the Jags' roster still reeks of mediocrity, an offensive line that ranked fourth in pass-block win rate in 2021 may give him the time to help justify the Jags' belief in Kirk and Lawrence's other new weapons.

3. Zach Wilson, New York Jets

The Jets received almost universal praise for their draft, acquiring cornerback Sauce Gardner, wide receiver Garrett Wilson and edge rusher Jermaine Johnson II in the first round before then adding the consensus top running back in the class – Iowa State's Breece Hall – in the second.

Their roster looks in significantly better shape than it did at the end of the 2021 campaign, but the Jets were working from a pretty low starting point.

Coming out of free agency, only six teams had a lower unit baseline among their pass-catchers than the Jets, whose offensive line was in the bottom half of the league in pass protection baseline and in the run-blocking baseline.

Johnson's arrival and the return of fellow edge rusher Carl Lawson from injury should provide a clear boost to a pass rush that was fourth in unit baseline last year while a secondary that exited free agency just outside the top 10 in pass defense baseline appears much better equipped to provide support to Wilson and the offense.

However, Wilson had the worst well-thrown percentage (66.6) of any rookie quarterback last season, with Fields (5.36) and fellow rookie Davis Mills (5.56) the only two quarterbacks with at least 200 attempts to have a higher pickable pass rate than Wilson's 5.21 per cent.

The Jets are relying on Mekhi Becton to get healthy and play a full season at left tackle and, though they have some more established options at tight end and receiver, are also putting a lot on a rookie receiver in likely leaning heavily on Garrett Wilson to elevate his second-year quarterback.

It has been a successful offseason for the Jets, but a lot needs to happen for their hopes of a second-year leap for team and quarterback to come to fruition.

2. Mac Jones, New England Patriots

Were it not for the outstanding season enjoyed by Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase, Jones may well have won NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year.

The outstanding accuracy Jones demonstrated at Alabama translated to the pros, Jones producing a well-thrown ball on 80.1 per cent of attempts. He achieved that feat while averaging more air yards per attempt (8.11) than both Lawrence and Wilson, yet there is reason for trepidation around thoughts of him progressing significantly in his second year.

Jones' passer rating on throws of 21 or more air yards was 65.4 – 31st among the 41 quarterbacks to attempt at least 10, illustrating the limited ceiling of a quarterback whose arm is not on the level of his fellow 2021 first-rounders.

Yet Jones does have the benefit of one of the best offensive lines in the NFL. After free agency, the Patriots' O-Line was tied for sixth in pass protection unit baseline and fifth in run blocking baseline.

They replaced guard Shaq Mason, who was surprisingly traded to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, by making the similarly eyebrow-raising move of selecting Chattanooga guard Cole Strange in the first round of the draft. Strange's arrival should solidify the interior of the line and allow the Patriots to stick to a formula of leaning on the run game to take the pressure off Jones.

New England's receiving corps is at best uninspiring and the Patriots' failure to address a depleted secondary may prohibit playoff aspirations, but the strength in the trenches means Jones is in a better position to achieve short-term success than most of his second-year contemporaries.

1. Trey Lance, San Francisco 49ers

The 49ers are set to step into the unknown in 2021, with all signs pointing to Lance playing his first full season since his lone campaign as the starting quarterback at North Dakota State in 2019 despite Jimmy Garoppolo's continued presence on the roster.

Handing the keys to an offense that was in the NFC championship Game over to a quarterback with only two career starts to his name represents a substantial risk, but it is a risk the Niners are in an excellent position to take.

While there remains no sign of the impasse between San Francisco and All-Pro wide receiver Deebo Samuel coming to an end, the Niners left free agency with a group of pass-catchers ranked sixth in the league in unit baseline. They added to that group in the draft by selecting SMU speedster Danny Gray in the third round.

San Francisco's pass defense was also in the top half of the league in that regard going into the draft, while its pass rush was third in unit baseline and could have an even higher ceiling in 2022 if Drake Jackson adapts quickly to the pros. The Niners' second-round pick registered a pressure rate of 24.2 that was the fifth-best among edge rushers in this draft class in 2021.

The Niners ranked in the top 10 in pass block win rate and seventh in run block win rate last season, yet their biggest issue may be maintaining that standard after losing left guard Laken Tomlinson to the Jets amid doubts over whether center Alex Mack would retire.

Lance could, therefore, be playing behind a largely inexperienced O-Line this coming season. However, the data from his small sample size last year hinted at him having what it takes to elevate those around him. He averaged 10.10 air yards per attempt – the second-most in the NFL – and no player to average at least 9.0 air yards had a better well-thrown percentage than Lance's 77.1.

His challenge will be to maintain that combination of aggression and accuracy over the course of a full season.

If the Niners can come to an understanding with Samuel, Lance will have one of the most versatile weapons in the NFL to help him build on those encouraging flashes. He'll also benefit from the support of a stout defense built on the strength of its front and a diverse running game that will likely grow even more varied with him under center.

The trump card for Lance is head coach Kyle Shanahan, who is arguably the pre-eminent offensive mind of the modern NFL. Between the talent on both sides of the ball and Shanahan's ability to draw up a running game and put receivers in space, the Niners are a high-floor, high ceiling team.

There may be doubts about Lance, but there should be no doubt he is the quarterback in the best situation to silence those concerns.

James Tavernier's first Europa League run appeared likely to be his last.

The right-back finally got his chance at Newcastle United in 2012-13 as Alan Pardew's first-team squad was stretched to breaking point.

However, Tavernier's chance equated to just eight appearances and five starts in all competitions, utilised right across the defence. He played 301 minutes in Europe (including qualifiers) but looked a little out of his depth.

By the time Newcastle reached the quarter-finals of the competition, Tavernier had played his last game for the club.

The following season brought the fifth and sixth loan moves of his career – all to League One or below. A permanent transfer to Wigan Athletic followed, but Tavernier was soon back out on loan again – to League One again.

This underwhelming sequence of temporary moves to the third tier for a player once seen as a potential Premier League starter was interrupted then by Rangers. Heading to the Scottish Championship, it would have taken incredible foresight to even imagine how Tavernier's career might be transformed.

Newcastle may not have had another European campaign in the past nine years, but Tavernier has enjoyed five – and now, in Seville, a final.

The right-back goal machine

Rangers hoped for goals when they struck a deal with Wigan to bring Martyn Waghorn and Tavernier to Ibrox in 2015. Waghorn delivered in the club's promotion campaign, scoring 28 times in all competitions, but Rangers surely could not have anticipated Tavernier would also chip in with 15.

While Waghorn is long gone, having not performed at quite the same level on Rangers' return to the top tier, Tavernier has since maintained his staggering standard. In 345 Rangers appearances, the defender has scored 83 goals.

This season, Tavernier has scored 18 goals and assisted a further 16 for 34 goal involvements.

Having either scored or assisted every 147 minutes on average in 2021-22, Tavernier is operating in the same sort of range as Rafael Leao (141), Dejan Kulusevski (144), Luis Suarez (153) and, incredibly, Sadio Mane (157).

Nahuel Molina, the highest-scoring defender in Europe's top five leagues, has scored just eight times, while even Trent Alexander-Arnold's leading goal involvements tally of 20 is dwarfed by the man playing north of the border.

Tavernier's status as Rangers' penalty taker boosts his numbers, of course, but he still has six goals and 22 goal involvements discounting his dozen efforts from 12 yards.

The standard of the competition in Scotland might also be counted against Tavernier, yet his 16 European appearances alone have yielded seven goals (three non-penalty goals), three assists and 10 goal involvements – again at a rate of one every 147 minutes.

Top marksman with Morelos missing

Tavernier's first goal involvement of this European campaign saw the Rangers captain lift a pass in behind the Alashkert defence for Alfredo Morelos to score what proved to be the decisive goal of their Europa League play-off, getting the then Scottish champions back on track after Champions League qualifying heartbreak.

Wednesday's final against Eintracht Frankfurt would not have been possible without that August example of this most effective assister-scorer combination.

Unfortunately, Rangers will not be able to rely on that link-up again this week, with Morelos ruled out for the season when he underwent thigh surgery last month, seemingly dealing a sizeable blow to his side's hopes of European glory.

Morelos, with 29 goals, is Rangers' all-time leading European marksman, while he this season also became their top scorer discounting qualifiers as he brought his total to 15.

"It is a big blow to us, because he is our striker and we now don't have him any more this season, so we are disappointed," manager Giovanni van Bronckhorst said.

"But we know what the problem is, how long he's out, and we have to move on. That's the only thing we have to do now."

Tavernier has since ensured the talismanic forward has not been missed. His seven goals are the most ever by a Rangers player in a European campaign (excluding qualifiers) – Morelos in 2019-20 had a share of the previous record of six – and remarkably make him the leading scorer in this season's Europa League.

The man for the big occasion, each of Tavernier's goals have come in the knockout stage, including opening the scoring in each of Rangers' four home legs.

When Kemar Roofe joined Morelos on the sidelines against RB Leipzig in the semi-finals, it was Tavernier who appeared in the centre-forward position to level the tie in Glasgow with his 15th European goal (10 excluding qualifiers).

Trent of the Europa League

The first of Tavernier's European goals came back in July 2018, by which point Alexander-Arnold had already played in a Champions League final for Liverpool.

Alexander-Arnold might be seven years Tavernier's junior, but he has been a source of inspiration in recent seasons for the Rangers skipper, who named him alongside Liverpool team-mate Andy Robertson and Brazil greats Dani Alves, Marcelo and Cafu in October 2020 as a standard-bearer in the full-back role.

And comparisons between the pair, both of whom are preparing for European finals, come easily.

Alexander-Arnold has created 19 chances in the Champions League this season, just behind Tavernier's 20 in the Europa League, with the pair each highly influential both in open play and from set-pieces.

Tavernier makes a long list of English right-backs who remain uncapped at international level due to the incredible competition in Gareth Southgate's Three Lions squad, and former Rangers captain Lorenzo Amoruso tells Stats Perform: "I showcased him in Italy, but nobody cared because, of course, it happened to me, too: the best player in Scotland, thanks to some unbelievable performances, but never a call for the national team.

"I think I deserved it – at least as a reward or out of curiosity. This Amoruso, as a defender, becomes the best player in Scotland... it is not something that happens every day. The same applies to Tavernier."

Yet even Alexander-Arnold has only turned out 16 times for England, clearly behind Kyle Walker, Kieran Trippier and now Reece James in the pecking order.

The explanations for Alexander-Arnold's limited opportunities often focus on his defensive shortcomings – the same attributes for which Tavernier has come under scrutiny.

However, neither have committed an error leading to a shot, let alone a goal, in the Champions League or Europa League this season, and Tavernier actually measures favourably next to Alexander-Arnold by several defensive metrics.

Alexander-Arnold has made 1.9 tackles and 0.9 interceptions per 90 minutes to Tavernier's 1.6 tackles and 1.2 interceptions, but the Liverpool man has been dribbled past every 54 minutes on average and won only 48.2 per cent of his duels. Tavernier has been dribbled past every 150 minutes and won 56.3 per cent of his duels.

Those numbers will perhaps regress a little next season if Tavernier is playing in the Champions League, but he has to get there first by beating Frankfurt. And Rangers will likely be more concerned by their right-back's attacking output on Wednesday than his work going the other way.

None of us truly know where this life is going to take us, and what highs and lows we will experience along the way.

That is especially true for anyone associated with Rangers Football Club if you had told them after the 2008 UEFA Cup final they would next reach another European showpiece 14 years later.

As the Gers players trudged off the field at the Etihad Stadium having been thoroughly outplayed by Zenit, the disappointment was tempered with a belief that at least this was a team that had made a final and may have been on the way to more.

It took nearly a decade and a half, but on Wednesday they find themselves heading to Spain to line up opposite Eintracht Frankfurt to contest the Europa League final.

Here, Stats Perform takes a look at how Rangers got from Manchester to Seville, with one of the bumpiest rides football has ever seen.

A night to forget in Manchester

Under the guidance of legendary manager Walter Smith in 2007-08, Rangers were looking to overthrow rivals Celtic in the league, having been bested by the Hoops the previous two seasons.

It was no good as Celtic made it a third Scottish title in a row, beating Rangers by three points, but there was a silver lining for the blue half of Glasgow.

Having finished third in their Champions League group behind Barcelona and Lyon, Rangers found themselves in the UEFA Cup.

They overcame Panathinaikos on away goals first up, before beating Werder Bremen 2-0 at Ibrox in first leg of the last 16, one of only two wins they actually managed in their entire run.

After getting past Sporting Lisbon in the quarter-finals, a penalty shoot-out success after 210 goalless minutes against Fiorentina sent Smith's side to the final.

However, it was a step too far for Rangers as they succumbed to defeat in Manchester, losing 2-0 to a Zenit team containing Andrei Arshavin and Anatoliy Tymoshchuk, and managed by former Gers boss Dick Advocaat.

It was a blow but Rangers went on to win the next three Scottish titles until things began to unravel in the 2011-12 season, with poor form and a points deduction for financial issues seeing Celtic take the crown back.

That was far from the worst thing that happened to the club that year, though.

The fall and rise of Rangers

The financial issues were worse than first feared. Owing significant money to HM Revenue and Customs, The Rangers Football Club plc entered liquidation on 31 October 2012.

The club was forced to reform under the new ownership of Charles Green and a vote from other member clubs of the Scottish Football League meant Rangers were forced to begin again at the bottom, in the third division.

Although they had to sell most of their players to raise money and because few fancied playing in Scotland's fourth tier, Rangers still boasted by far the strongest squad in the third division, while manager Ally McCoist had also stayed on to try and take them back to the top.

They unsurprisingly won the league by 24 points in their first season, and had even fewer problems in the second division, now called League One, going unbeaten and drawing only three of their 36 games, securing 102 points and promotion at the first time of asking again.

The Championship was a different prospect altogether, though, as Rangers found themselves in with both Hibernian and Hearts. The two Edinburgh clubs ultimately finished above them, though Rangers beat both Queen of the South and Hibs in the playoffs, before losing to Motherwell in the final, meaning they would have to try again.

Stuart McCall was in charge by that point, and the former Scotland midfielder was able to get the job done in 2015-16, finishing 11 points ahead of second-placed Falkirk.

For the first time in four years, Rangers were back at the top table in Scotland, but this was always going to be the biggest leap. Their first Old Firm derby back in the top flight ended in a 5-1 drubbing by Celtic.

During the winter break, Rangers had played RB Leipzig in a friendly, losing 4-0 to the German side, which was perhaps a prophetic sign of how far they would need to rise to get back to where they felt they belonged.

Rangers finished third in their first two seasons back in the Premiership and decided to bring in a big name to try and force their way into the title picture. Steven Gerrard.

The former Liverpool star was new to management but was able to secure second place in 2018-19, though also back in Europe, Rangers were unable to get out of the Europa League group stage.

They made it to the round of 16 the following season before going out to Bayer Leverkusen, and despite putting up more of a fight in the league, a wobble in the second half of the campaign saw Celtic claim their ninth consecutive title.

Rangers fans everywhere wanted Gerrard to do everything he could to stop their great rivals from making it 10 in a row, and despite none of them being able to witness it thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, Gerrard and his players did just that.

They had done it emphatically as well, going undefeated and collecting 102 points to win the Premiership, averaging 2.42 goals for per game, and just 0.34 goals against across their 38 league matches.

Full circle

It felt like Rangers were ready to take the next step, and many assumed that was by getting back into the group stage of the Champions League in 2021-22.

However, those plans were scuppered as they were beaten home and away by Malmo in qualifying, so back to the Europa League it was.

After losing their first two group games to Lyon and Sparta Prague without scoring, few will have had any hopes about making it to the knockout round playoffs, let alone where they ended up.

Home wins against Brondby and Sparta as well as away draws with Brondby and Lyon saw them advance a point ahead of the Czech side, though they were given a daunting tie against Borussia Dortmund.

On top of that, Gerrard had left for Aston Villa in November, with former player Giovanni van Bronckhorst taking over.

A stunning effort in Signal Iduna Park saw them win 4-2, before completing the job with a 2-2 draw back at Ibrox.

Hard-fought aggregate victories against Red Star Belgrade and Braga sent them to the semi-finals, and a date with more Bundesliga opposition, the very same they had lost convincingly to in that 2017 friendly.

Leipzig will have been wondering how they only won 1-0 at Red Bull Arena in the first leg, but Ibrox was a different matter, with a raucous crowd again cheering Rangers to a famous 3-1 win, and their first European final since 2008.

The second leg came nine years and one day after beating Berwick Rangers 1-0 at Ibrox in their final game in the third division.

It has been quite a ride since Manchester in 2008. Whatever happens in Seville, it is not always about the destination. It's about the journey.

Pep Guardiola saw Manchester City squander a glorious chance to all but make sure of the Premier League title, and their quest could go to the final day.

City rallied from two goals down to draw 2-2 at West Ham, but Riyad Mahrez's late penalty miss might yet be a telling moment in the race for silverware.

Tottenham piled pressure on Arsenal in the battle for fourth after a narrow win over a Burnley side who would have been devastated by Leeds United's late leveller against Brighton and Hove Albion, shaking up the relegation battle.

Everton might have seen the visit of Brentford as a chance to banish their own worries about dropping into the second tier, but a home defeat keeps the Toffees on unsteady ground, as Opta data tells the story of the day.

West Ham 2-2 Manchester City: Bowen's bullseye strikes and Mahrez's miss keep title race alive

Jarrod Bowen's double carried West Ham into a 2-0 interval lead, but Jack Grealish and Vladimir Coufal's own goal hauled City level.

This match almost produced a Premier League first for City; however, Mahrez's spot-kick was saved by Lukasz Fabianski in the closing stages to mean they could not complete the turnaround.

This was only the second time City had avoided defeat from two or more down at half-time (D2 L51), but that probably felt like scant consolation, given Liverpool are back in the hunt, providing the FA Cup winners collect three points at Southampton on Tuesday.

Mahrez has missed two penalties in all competitions for City – his first was against Liverpool in October 2018. Between that and the miss at the London Stadium, the Algerian had converted nine consecutive penalties.

Bowen has scored 12 times and provided 10 assists in the Premier League this season, with his 22 goal involvements the third most in a single campaign in the competition by a West Ham player, after Paolo Di Canio (29 in 1999-00) and John Hartson (23 in 1997-98).

Fabianski, the toast of east London and large parts of Liverpool, saved a penalty for the 10th time in the Premier League. Only David James (13) and Thomas Sorensen (12) have saved more in the competition.

Leeds United 1-1 Brighton and Hove Albion: Late Struijk lifts Marsch men

Pascal Struijk headed a last-gasp leveller to negate the impact of Danny Welbeck's opener as Leeds gave themselves a relegation lifeline, climbing above Burnley to reach 17th place.

This felt significant, with Leeds avoiding defeat in a Premier League home game after conceding the opening goal for the first time since October (1-1 v Wolves), having lost each of their last seven such games.

Former Manchester United man Welbeck was looking like delivering three points for Brighton, and his first-half goal means the ex-England international has scored in both of his two Premier League appearances against Leeds. Indeed, they are the only opponent he has scored in his first two Premier League games against.

The Leeds late show has become a habit. Only Manchester City (9) have scored more goals in the 90th minute or stoppage time than Leeds (7) in the Premier League this season, with all seven of their goals in this period being scored by different players (Luke Ayling, Patrick Bamford, Joe Gelhardt, Daniel James, Raphinha, Rodrigo and Struijk).

Tottenham 1-0 Burnley: Cool-eye Kane keeps Spurs in hunt for fourth

When Harry Kane stepped up for a penalty that would have ramifications at each end of the table, the outcome was entirely predictable. Of course Kane scored, just as he now has with each of the last 21 penalties he has taken in all competitions for Tottenham, excluding shoot-outs, and each of his last 15 in the Premier League.

That match-winning spot-kick for Tottenham, after 52 minutes and 36 seconds of play, was the second-latest first-half goal scored in a Premier League game since Opta has exact times available (from 2006-07), behind only Trincao’s strike for Wolves against Leeds in March this year (55mins 11secs).

Kane has scored more Premier League goals against Burnley than any other player, with his ninth strike against the Clarets seeing him overtake Mahrez and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (both eight). Burnley are the fourth side that Kane is the outright top Premier League goalscorer against, along with Arsenal (13 goals), Leicester (17) and West Brom (nine).

Burnley, who have games against Aston Villa and Newcastle United to come, need to find at least one point to stand hope of survival. Points at Tottenham have been hard to come by for Burnley, so this defeat came as little surprise. They have lost nine of their last 10 away league games at Spurs (D1).

Everton 2-3 Brentford: Red, red, whine

Everton had Jarrad Branthwaite and Salomon Rondon sent off in this one, with boss Frank Lampard complaining afterwards: "The reality is we're on the bad end of a lot of decisions this season."

Nineteen-year-old Branthwaite became the first teenager to receive a red card in a Premier League game for Everton since a 17-year-old Wayne Rooney in December 2002 against Birmingham City. Indeed, Everton have been shown more red cards than any other side in Premier League history (104).

There are more unwanted statistics starting to emerge in Everton's dismal season. They have conceded 59 goals now, their joint-most in a 38-game Premier League campaign alongside 2000-01.

Seamus Coleman, who put the ball into his own net for a first-half Brentford equaliser, has scored more Premier League own goals (5) than any other Everton player, while the Toffees have put through their own net the most often in Premier League history (58).

Brentford, who twice trailed after Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Richarlison scored either side of Coleman's own goal, have gained the most points from losing positions in the Premier League this term (15).

This was just the fourth match in Premier League history to see a first-half red card (Branthwaite), own goal (Coleman) and penalty (Richarlison), after Coventry v Wimbledon (November 1995), Charlton v Aston Villa (April 2001) and Tottenham v Fulham (February 2003).

Liverpool may have lost ground in the Premier League title race to Manchester City, but they could claim a second trophy of the campaign when they face Chelsea in the FA Cup final on Saturday.

A Wembley Stadium meeting between the Blues and the Reds is, of course, nothing new, with Thomas Tuchel paying the penalty – literally – for his ill-fated introduction of Kepa Arrizabalaga in February's EFL Cup final loss.

Revenge will certainly be on Chelsea's minds after substitute Kepa missed the decisive spot-kick in the shoot-out at the end of that goalless draw, and they will be desperate to avoid becoming the first team to lose both domestic English cup finals in the same season since Middlesbrough in 1996-97.

For Liverpool, meanwhile, their pursuit of the quadruple, and with it, footballing immortality, hinges on their ability to see off the Blues.

Who will be crowned the latest winners of football's oldest national competition? Stats Perform takes a look at the key Opta numbers ahead of these two rivals' fourth meeting of the season.

Wembley regulars hunting cup success

Chelsea and Liverpool have met in the final of the FA Cup on just one previous occasion, with Ramires and Didier Drogba firing the London club – then managed by Roberto Di Matteo – to victory just over a decade ago on May 5, 2012.

Both sides have significant pedigree in the competition, with Chelsea making their 16th final appearance and Liverpool featuring in their 15th – only Arsenal (21) and Manchester United (20) have made more such appearances than the duo.

However, neither side have had it all their own way when making it this far, with Chelsea losing each of the last two finals.

The Blues are the first team to qualify for three consecutive finals since Arsenal between 2000-01 and 2002-03, but another defeat would make them the first team since Newcastle United in 1998-99 to lose on their last three final appearances (1973-74, 1997-98, and 1998-99).

Liverpool, however, have lifted the trophy on just 50 per cent of their previous final appearances (7/14). Only two teams have a worse success rate having reached 10 or more finals (Everton, 5/13, and Newcastle, 6/13).

 

Fourth time lucky as deadlocked rivals meet again?

Having both made their names coaching Bundesliga sides Mainz and Borussia Dortmund, Tuchel and Klopp are no strangers to one another, and have become accustomed to head-to-head meetings this season.

Chelsea and Liverpool have already met three times this campaign, twice in the Premier League and once in the EFL Cup final, with each of those games ending level.

Having clung on with 10-men to earn a 1-1 draw at Anfield in August, Chelsea fought back from two goals down in a 2-2 draw at Stamford Bridge in January before enduring penalty heartache at Wembley the following month.

 

The last fixture between two English top-fight teams to see more draws in the same campaign was Arsenal v Chelsea in 2017-18 (four).

Fans of a penalty shoot-out, then, could be in for more entertainment on Saturday. 

The Mane for the big occasion

The electrifying form of January arrival Luis Diaz means Klopp's Reds have never had such attacking depth available, but could one of his longest-serving attackers make the difference here?

Since arriving at Anfield in 2016, Sadio Mane has scored six times against Chelsea, with no other player scoring more often against the Blues in that time.

Mane made an important contribution to Liverpool's 3-2 semi-final win over Manchester City, becoming the first player to score a Wembley brace for the club since Steve McManaman in the 1995 League Cup final against Bolton Wanderers.

Should Mane again find the net against one of his favourite opponents, he would become the first Liverpool player to score in consecutive Wembley appearances (when used as a neutral venue) since Phillipe Coutinho in April 2015 and February 2016.

 

Can Werner haunt his former suitors? 

Chelsea forward Timo Werner made headlines on Friday after claiming to have chosen Stamford Bridge over Anfield when he left RB Leipzig in 2020.

And the Germany international will hope to continue his excellent FA Cup campaign if he is chosen to lead the line at Wembley.

No player has made more goal contributions in the competition than Werner this season, with the 26-year-old recording two goals and three assists in the Blues' cup run.

While that tally is more than any Liverpool player has managed in the competition this term, it's also the most any Chelsea player has registered in a single FA Cup campaign since Pedro (six) and Willian (seven) both impressed in 2016-17.

However, Chelsea ended that season by falling to a 2-1 final defeat to Arsene Wenger's Arsenal, so Werner will be hoping any contribution he can make will prove more decisive.

 

We are at the penultimate gameweek of the Premier League fantasy football season and a slab of fixtures means double matches for Aston Villa, Leicester City, Crystal Palace, Burnley and Everton.

Balancing between premium players and those who can provide particular value could be the difference at this time of the season, whether you need to consolidate or make up ground.

Stats Perform has you covered with some Opta-powered recommendations below, so here are our suggestions for this week's picks.

ROBERT SANCHEZ (Leeds United v Brighton and Hove Albion)

While only one of these teams will have something significant to play for, Brighton come to Elland Road in good form, winning four of their past six Premier League matches.

Brighton shot-stopper Sanchez has claimed more clean sheets this season (11) than over the previous term (10), with shutouts achieved in Brighton's past two matches.

The 24-year-old has been a big contributor in that regard, with a save rate of 68.4 per cent from shots in the penalty area, trailing only Alisson, Jose Sa and David Raya.

TRENT ALEXANDER-ARNOLD (Southampton v Liverpool)

Setting aside Saturday's FA Cup final on Saturday, Liverpool need to win to keep their Premier League hopes alive, and they will likely have the majority of the ball against Southampton on Tuesday. Expect crosses and dead balls.

Alexander-Arnold has been involved in more goals among defenders than any other in the Premier League this season, with 12 assists among 14 goal involvements.

While the Reds right-back trails Reece James (1.92) from chances created in open play per 90 minutes (1.53) this term, among defenders he leads the competition for chances created per 90 overall with 2.74.

SON HEUNG-MIN (Tottenham v Burnley)

Seeking to back up Thursday's critical win over arch rivals Arsenal, there can be no let-up from Tottenham in the race for the final Champions League spot.

Spurs have leaned on Son for goals this season and he has obliged, already beating his best tally for goal involvements in a single Premier League season of 27, with 28 for the term so far. 

The 29-year-old has 21 goals, only trailing Mohamed Salah's 22. Among players with 10 or more goals, Son leads the competition for shot conversion at 27.3 per cent. His seven assists have also come in handy.

DANNY INGS (Aston Villa v Crystal Palace, Burnley)

Aston Villa's next two opponents are Crystal Palace and Burnley, against whom Ings has scored a combined nine goals.

With five goal involvements (goals and assists) against both clubs respectively, Ings has only had more goal involvements against Everton (eight) and Norwich City (six) in the Premier League.

The 29-year-old has the most goal involvements for Villa this season, with seven goals and six assists.

Even when Jack Grealish charged into the penalty area in the 87th at the Santiago Bernabeu last week and saw his shot cleared off the line by Ferland Mendy, there seemed no way Manchester City wouldn't be in the Champions League final.

They were already 1-0 up on the night, 5-3 up on aggregate. Real Madrid had three minutes plus stoppage time to turn things around – even for a side that produced some memorable comebacks en route to the semi-finals, turning things around looked impossible.

Yet we all know how the tale unfolded in a matter of minutes, with City's Champions League aspirations dissolving for another season.

Over the course of the two legs, City were comfortably the better team and few would disagree with the idea that they're almost certainly better equipped than Madrid to stop Liverpool in the final.

City's failure served to highlight a key deficiency in their squad. Whether that's fair or not is up for debate, because they look destined to win the Premier League title again and no one would've questioned the legitimacy of them seeing off Madrid, but when the victor is led by the type of figure the loser is lacking, it's an easy conclusion to jump to.

Karim Benzema may not have been at his unplayable best in the second leg last week, but he won and converted the ultimately decisive penalty, and the effectiveness with which he led the line in the first leg ensured Madrid were still in with a shout upon the return to Spain.

City will now hope they have such a goalscoring talisman in Erling Haaland.

The club confirmed on Tuesday that Haaland will join at the end of the season, with City apparently set to pay £51.3million (€60m) to Borussia Dortmund for his transfer. Even when you consider the apparently significant agents' fees et cetera, it's difficult to see this as anything other than a bargain for City.

Of course, while the timing of the signing might frame it as a reaction to Champions League elimination, it's clearly not. Reports have suggested for weeks that the deal was virtually done and Haaland was going to follow in his father's footsteps by signing for City.

However, it's hard not to look at the deal through the prism of Champions League failure because of what will now be expected – rather than hoped for – with a player like Haaland in the team.

When trying to understand what has specifically gone wrong for City in the Champions League since Guardiola was hired, most people seem to have different opinions. Some might point to an apparent lack of on-field leaders, others highlight wastefulness at crucial moments, and of course there are many who have bemoaned Pep's dreaded "overthinking".

The idea of there being a lack of on-field leaders has always seemed wide of the mark, while no one can accuse Guardiola of overcomplicating his selections against Madrid – even if they did try to claim that, City were on course for the final until the 90th minute of the second leg.

Similarly, wastefulness is something most clubs can be accused of at one time or another and, in fact, across all the Champions League ties from which City have been eliminated under Guardiola, they have scored 17 times from 16.99 expected goals (xG). Granted, there were occasions where they didn't score as often as they should have, but over time it evens itself out.

Yet perhaps this is where Haaland can make the difference. Sure, City's xG has evened out over the unsuccessful ties in question, but with a striker as freakishly deadly as the Norwegian, there becomes a greater opportunity to finish chances that maybe you wouldn't generally expect to.

Haaland is a pure finisher unlike any other player in the world. Since his Bundesliga debut on January 18, 2020, he has scored 85 times from 69.7 xG across all competitions. Similarly, when excluding penalties he remains almost as potent, with 75 goals from 60.2 np-xG.

In both instances he has scored roughly 15 more goals than he should have based on the quality of his chances – among players with 30 or more goals over the same period, only Son Heung-min (16.1 and 16.5) can boast better xG differential figures. Again, ordinarily you'd expect this to even out over time, with such form usually unsustainable – but when you make the implausible look routine, this is the output you can produce.

One thing you cannot accuse City of is being ineffective when it comes to controlling football matches and creating chances – they wouldn't be about to claim a third Premier League title in four years if they were.

But in knockout ties when there is such a limited amount of time to respond to setbacks or make amends for certain mistakes, whether that's defensive or in front of goal, the value of the greatest strikers can shine through even more: Benzema showed that against City.

While there are likely to be stylistic compatibility questions to be asked regarding City and Haaland, particularly given the Premier League champions-elect haven't really played with an out-and-out striker for a couple of years now, they suddenly have arguably the finest finisher of his generation in their arsenal.

If Haaland isn't the final piece of the puzzle in City's quest for a maiden Champions League crown, Guardiola might as well give up.

The worst-kept secret in football is finally out – Erling Haaland will be a Manchester City player from next season onwards.

The Norway international will bring the curtain down on a two-and-a-half-year stay with Borussia Dortmund in the Bundesliga to join the Premier League champions, who confirmed a deal in principle on Tuesday.

The arrival of the Leeds-born forward at the Etihad Stadium – to a club where his father played two decades ago – brings one of the game's hottest talents to British shores.

In addition, it fills the gap Pep Guardiola has sought to occupy since Sergio Aguero's exit at the end of last term and further bolsters City's already fearsome arsenal.

As the Opta numbers from his time at Dortmund illustrate, Haaland could well prove to be the man that finally makes the difference for City in the Champions League.

3 – The number of minutes it took Haaland to score on debut for Dortmund against Augsburg, after coming on as a second-half substitute. He went on to score a hat-trick.

85  Haaland has scored 85 goals since arriving in Germany from Salzburg at the start of 2020. Bayern Munich's Robert Lewandowski (122) and Paris Saint-Germain's Kylian Mbappe (89) are the only two players across Europe's top five leagues to have scored more in that span.

86.84 – The minutes-per-goal average posted so far by Haaland across his Dortmund career in the Bundesliga. He has recorded a marginally lesser 86.90 this season alone.

23 – Haaland's all-time goal haul in the Champions League, the most a player has scored by the age of 21, two ahead of Mbappe.

2 – The number of players to have scored more Champions League goals than Haaland since his competition debut – Lewandowski (33) and Karim Benzema (26).

14  Haaland needed just 14 games to score 20 goals in the Champions League, the fewest in the competition's history ahead of Harry Kane (24).

64  His minutes-per-goal ratio in the Champions League, which is the best among players to have scored 20-plus goals in the competition. Mario Gomez (102) is second.

32.31 – The conversion rate enjoyed by the Norway star in the Bundesliga this term.

It is finally official. Manchester City will be the new home of Erling Haaland next season after the announcement of an agreement with Borussia Dortmund for the superstar's capture.

Barring an unexpected issue with personal terms, the striker will arrive after two and a half years in the Bundesliga to bring even more firepower to the Premier League champions.

Having flirted with Tottenham's Harry Kane throughout last year's pre-season transfer window without landing their man, City have decided to go down the Haaland route to finally bring in the number nine they have sought since Sergio Aguero left.

Pep Guardiola has told anyone who will listen all season how incredible it is that his team has maintained the standards they have "without a striker", which can't have made Gabriel Jesus feel all that good about himself, let's be honest.

But can Haaland replace the significant impact of club legend Aguero? Stats Perform has taken a look at the numbers to determine the potential impact of the Norway sensation.

More than just "Agueroooo"

When you reel off a list of the greatest players to don a City shirt, Aguero's name is likely to feature prominently.

The Argentine striker played a huge role in taking the club from top-four contenders to the most dominant team in England, winning five Premier League titles, six EFL Cups and an FA Cup.

Aguero scored 260 goals in 390 games for City, averaging a goal every 107 minutes over his 10 years at the club.

He, of course, will also forever be synonymous with the famous stoppage time goal against QPR in 2012 that sealed City's first Premier League title, snatching it from the hands of Manchester United with almost the last kick of the season.

Despite his undoubted quality, there were some questions about how he would fare under Guardiola when the Catalan coach arrived in 2016.

While Guardiola had played with orthodox strikers before, arguably his crowning achievement was cultivating a Barcelona team that many still believe to this day is the greatest club side the game has ever seen – and that broadly played without a number nine, with Lionel Messi often used in a false nine role.

He did utilise Robert Lewandowski to good effect while at Bayern Munich, though, and while he did not exactly make Aguero his first name on the teamsheet every week, the overall development in quality of the team led to the striker actually improving his own numbers.

Under Guardiola, Aguero played 182 games, scoring 124 goals at a rate of 102 minutes per goal.

Unfortunately, injuries hindered Aguero in his final two seasons before he bade a tearful goodbye at the end of last season to join Barcelona. He was then forced to retire from the game altogether in December on health grounds, but the forward's significant impact at City will never be in question.

 

Step forward the second-generation sensation

It almost sounds like something out of the Football Manager computer game series. The son of former Leeds United and City player Alf-Inge Haaland goes on to become one of the best strikers in world football? Yeah, sure.

Well, it's true. Haaland burst onto the scene as he scored goals at rates rarely seen before at Salzburg, before making the move to Dortmund in the January transfer window of 2020, and he has not looked back since.

Haaland has bagged 85 goals in 88 games for BVB in all competitions, which works out at a goal every 84 minutes. Not bad for someone who only turns 22 in July.

But how does he compare to Aguero? It is difficult to make comparisons given the difference in style, experience and leagues, but to try to get a good idea, let's look at Haaland's two and a half years in the Bundesliga compared to Aguero's first three Premier League campaigns under Guardiola.

In Haaland's 66 league games for Dortmund – in which he has scored 61 goals, averaging 87 minutes per goal – he has attempted 3.5 shots per 90, with a shot conversion rate of 29.9 per cent, and he has scored 62.0 per cent of his 'big chances' (chances from which Opta would expect a player to score).

He has also averaged 3.3 shots from inside the penalty area per 90, notable with City spending so much time camped around opposition boxes.

Between 2016 and 2019, Aguero played 89 Premier League matches for City, scoring 62 goals at an average of one every 111 minutes.

The Argentinian averaged 4.6 shots per 90, with a shot conversion rate of 17.7 per cent, scoring from 53.9 per cent of his big chances, with an average of 3.6 shots from inside the penalty area.

It therefore appears that Haaland is actually the deadlier finisher, which is quite an achievement next to someone as good as Aguero, and one would assume Haaland's shot numbers will increase playing in a more dominant team like City, who always create plenty of chances.

 

It might be argued that goals in the Bundesliga do not always translate into goals in the Premier League. For example, Timo Werner scored 28 goals in 34 games in his last league campaign at RB Leipzig before joining Chelsea, where he has scored just 10 in 56 Premier League appearances.

However, even allowing for a period of adaption, it would take a brave person to bet against Haaland being a success in England based on his career to date.

Already outstanding in a single season without Aguero, City have seemingly identified the man to fill those big boots.

Manchester City edged closer to the Premier League title, while there was significant change at the bottom of the table on Sunday.

City were eliminated from the Champions League semi-finals in dramatic fashion by Real Madrid in midweek, but saw their domestic hopes boosted when Liverpool dropped points against Tottenham on Saturday.

Pep Guardiola's side subsequently breezed past Newcastle United to move three points clear of the Reds with three games remaining, while West Ham hit relegated Norwich City for four.

Elsewhere, Arsenal continued their charge for Champions League qualification with a narrow victory over 10-man Leeds United, who ended the day in the relegation zone after Everton triumphed at Leicester City.

Here, Stats Perform takes a look at the pick of the Opta data from the day's top-flight fixtures.

Manchester City 5-0 Newcastle United: Sterling provides as title charge continues 

Raheem Sterling was at the double as City strengthened their grasp on top spot with a 5-0 rout of Newcastle at the Etihad Stadium.

Sterling and Aymeric Laporte struck in the first half, with Joao Cancelo teeing up the England international's opener as the full-back became the fourth of Guardiola's players to reach 10 assists in all competitions this season (also Kevin de Bruyne with 13, Phil Foden and Gabriel Jesus - both 11).

City are the only team in Europe's big five leagues to have four or more different players reach 10 assists in all competitions this campaign, and Guardiola's men furthered their advantage after the interval.

Rodri then scored following a corner, as Laporte did in the first half, as City managed their 19th and 20th goals from set-piece situations this term in the league, excluding penalties. They have conceded just once from set-pieces themselves, with their plus-19 differential the best figure recorded in a single season in the Premier League since such records are available (2006-07 onwards).

Foden added a fourth before Sterling capped a fine victory with his 51st Premier League goal at the Etihad, becoming only the second player to pass 50 strikes for City at home in the competition after Sergio Aguero (106).

City have beaten Newcastle 28 times in the Premier League (D8 L8), more than they have any other side in the competition. In their league history, they have only beaten Everton (72 times) more often than the Magpies (68 times).

Meanwhile, Eddie Howe has lost all 12 of his Premier League meetings with City – 10 of those against Guardiola – the worst 100 per cent losing record a manager has against a single opponent or against another boss in the competition.

Arsenal 2-1 Leeds United: Ill-tempered Whites fall into relegation zone

An Eddie Nketiah double kept Arsenal on course for Champions League qualification as they triumphed 2-1 against 10-man Leeds, who dropped into the bottom three for the first time since October 30.

Nketiah fired the Gunners into a 2-0 lead as he became just the second Arsenal player to score twice in the opening 10 minutes of a Premier League game after Kanu (versus Sunderland in October 2002).

With Alexandre Lacazette out of favour, Nketiah has stepped up as Mikel Arteta's talisman, scoring four goals in his last four league games – just one fewer than he had managed in his first 52 top-flight appearances.

Luke Ayling was then dismissed for a mindless two-footed lunge on Gabriel Martinelli after 27 minutes, Leeds' earliest red card in the competition since April 1998 (when Lucas Radebe saw red after 17 minutes against Everton).

Tempers continued to flare before the interval as Leeds picked up their 95th and 96th yellow cards of the season, setting a new record for the most bookings for a club within a single Premier League campaign.

Diego Llorente offered Jesse Marsch's visitors brief hope as he poked home with Leeds' first shot on target, which marked the first home league goal Arsenal have conceded from a corner since February 2021 (also against Leeds).

However, Arsenal held on for victory to move four points clear of fifth-placed Tottenham, who they face on Thursday knowing victory will secure Champions League football next campaign.

Leicester City 1-2 Everton: Toffees move out of bottom three

Mason Holgate's second-half header proved the difference as Everton climbed out of the relegation zone with a battling 2-1 victory at Leicester.

Before this game, Leicester had won eight of their last nine top-flight matches against sides starting the day inside the relegation zone (D1), but the Foxes were caught cold by Vitalii Mykolenko's early volley.

That made Mykolenko the first Ukrainian to score a Premier League goal for Everton, the 39th different nationality to find the net in the competition for the Toffees, the sixth most of all clubs.

Patson Daka restored parity five minutes later, with all five of the striker's Premier League goals coming at the King Power Stadium – only Jamie Vardy (6) has netted more often at home for the club in the top-flight in 2021-22.

Holgate delivered the decisive finish in the 30th minute with his second league goal in his last five matches, one more than he had managed across his previous 109 top-flight appearances beforehand (one).

Brendan Rodgers will be left frustrated by the nature of Holgate's goal, given it was the 15th Premier League strike Leicester have conceded from a corner this campaign – the most by a side in a single campaign since Brighton and Hove Albion in 2017-18 (16).

Victory marked the first away league win in 15 games for Everton, ending a seven-game losing streak on the road as Frank Lampard's side moved a point clear of Leeds and Burnley having played one game fewer.

Norwich City 0-4 West Ham: Bowen and Benrahma on song to down Canaries

Said Benrahma scored twice as West Ham responded to Thursday's Europa League semi-final heartbreak by cruising past relegated Norwich 4-0 at Carrow Road.

Benrahma struck after 12 minutes before Michail Antonio ended his joint-longest goal drought in the top-flight with his fifth Premier League strike against the Canaries, only against Tottenham (six) has he scored more in the competition. 

Algeria international Benrahma doubled his tally before the interval, taking him to 21 direct goal contributions in the competition (nine goals, 12 assists). Since his debut in 2020, Jarrod Bowen (30) and Antonio (28) are the only other Hammers to register 20+ top-flight goal involvements.

Bowen assisted both of Benrahma's strikes as the former Hull City man became just the second player for West Ham to register at least 10 goals and 10 assists in a Premier League season, and the first since Paolo Di Canio in 1999-00 (16 goals, 13 assists).

Indeed, only Harry Kane (32) has been involved in more goals among English Premier League players in all competitions than Bowen this season (27 – 16 goals, 11 assists).

Manuel Lanzini's second-half penalty rounded off the victory as West Ham won a Premier League away game by at least a four-goal margin for just the third time, while it was the first time the Hammers have put at least four goals past a side in consecutive league visits since doing so against Tottenham in November 1966.

Meanwhile, Norwich have failed to score in 20 different league games this season, becoming the first side to do so in at least 20 matches in three different Premier League campaigns (also in 1994-95 and 2019-20).

Football in May really can be all or nothing. Some teams have nothing left to play for beyond pride, while others have everything on the line in the closing weeks of the season.

It is safe to say that Liverpool's clash with Tottenham at Anfield on Saturday is in the latter category.

Liverpool remain in the hunt for an astonishing quadruple having already won the EFL Cup and booked their place in both the FA Cup and Champions League finals, while sitting just a point behind Manchester City in the Premier League title race.

Tottenham, meanwhile, are still in with a chance of securing Champions League football for next season with a top-four finish. They are currently in fifth place, two points behind north London rivals Arsenal.

Such is the precarious position of both teams as they chase glory, any slip-up will in all likelihood spell the end for their hopes and dreams in the league, which sets up their Anfield battle nicely.

Who will end the night with their season still on track, and who will end it wondering if there is any chance of recovering? Stats Perform takes a look at the Opta numbers heading into what should be a fascinating contest.

Reds capable of blunting Spurs

With Liverpool's home record over the years, it feels like most games at Anfield start with people explaining how few wins the visitors have in recent history.

Indeed, the same is the case with Tottenham, as Liverpool have lost only one of their last 27 Premier League home games against them, and are unbeaten in their last 10 since a 2-0 loss in May 2011.

Spurs have become a dangerous opponent for anyone in recent times, which Manchester City will attest to having been beaten 3-2 at the Etihad Stadium in February, allowing Jurgen Klopp's Reds to close the gap at the top in the first place.

However, despite having won four of their five Premier League meetings with Liverpool between November 2010 and November 2012, Spurs have won just one of their last 18 against them.

Will someone pay the penalty?

This time last year, you would have been called a fool for predicting Liverpool would be anywhere near the title race now, let alone being so while potentially winning every other trophy possible as well.

The Reds had a turbulent campaign in 2020-21, which included an unthinkable six home defeats in a row at one point, with no fans or centre-backs, leaving them flailing in their own quest for Champions League qualification, though a late run of wins saw them ultimately finish third.

Since the last of those six home defeats, the Reds are unbeaten in 21 Premier League home games, scoring 52 goals and conceding just nine. They have won each of their last 12 at Anfield, including the last five while keeping a clean sheet – only once have they had a longer run of home wins without conceding in the Premier League (eight between October 2005 and January 2006).

Ensuring another shutout will be easier said than done, though, as Liverpool against Tottenham is the second highest-scoring fixture in Premier League history (170 goals in 59 meetings), while it has seen more penalties awarded than any other match-up in the competition (23).

Kane v Mane

It was a slow start to the season for Tottenham striker Harry Kane, only managing one goal in his first 13 league games, though the England captain has bagged 12 goals in 20 games since.

He also has a good record against Saturday's opponents, having been involved in nine goals in 13 Premier League appearances against Liverpool (seven goals, two assists), with five of these goal involvements coming in seven games at Anfield (four goals, one assist).

Spurs will have to be wary of Liverpool's forward threat too, with Sadio Mane on such a run of form that he is in the early conversation for this year's Ballon d'Or.

Mane also has an impeccable record at Anfield, having scored in 49 different Premier League games at the stadium (one for Southampton and 48 for Liverpool) avoiding defeat in all 49 of those matches (W44 D5) – the most games a player has scored in at a single ground in the competition's history without ever losing.

Conte can dampen Reds title hopes

Having started the season with Nuno Espirito Santo in the dugout after Antonio Conte was among a series of coaches to turn the club down, very few Spurs fans would have been expecting to see the Italian leading their charge for a top-four spot just a few months later.

Conte has unsurprisingly been a success at Tottenham since arriving in November, with 14 wins, four draws and six defeats in his 24 Premier League games so far.

Both of former Chelsea boss Conte's Premier League visits to Liverpool have finished in 1-1 draws – only four managers have avoided defeat in each of their first three away games at Anfield in the competition: Martin O'Neill, Peter Reid, Roy Hodgson and Paul Lambert.

Arguably the most impressive player so far under Conte, Son Heung-min, has scored 19 Premier League goals this season, with none of them coming from the penalty spot. The South Korea international could become just the second Spurs player to score 20 in a Premier League campaign without any of them being penalties, after Gareth Bale in 2012-13.

Three matchdays remain in Serie A, and yet there is plenty still to be decided at both ends of the table – not least which side will be crowned champions.

Milan occupy top spot in their quest for a first Scudetto since 2011, but fierce rivals Inter are just two points behind and arguably have an easier set of fixtures to conclude the campaign.

Napoli and Juventus are not officially out of the title race just yet, though they are seven and eight points off first place respectively, therefore requiring a remarkable set of results.

Both Napoli and Juventus are already assured of a top-four finish, but there are several other teams still battling it out for the three remaining European spots.

Venezia appear doomed at the opposite end of the table after losing to fellow strugglers Salernitana on Thursday, with the latter's victory lifting them out of the bottom three – in all, six teams remain in trouble.

But just how will the remaining two and a half weeks of the season unfold? Using the Stats Perform League Prediction Model, we can try to forecast the final standings.

Created by Stats Perform AI using Opta data, the model has analysed the division to assign percentages to potential outcomes for each club.

The model estimates the probability of each match outcome (win, draw or loss) based on teams' attacking and defensive qualities, which considers four years' worth of results.

Weighting is based on recency and the quality of opposition, with the rest of the matches then simulated 10,000 times to calculate the likelihood of each outcome.

Let's take a look...

 

MILAN TO SEE THE JOB THROUGH

Milan still have Hellas Verona (ninth), Atalanta (eighth) and Sassuolo (11th) to face, whereas Inter's final fixtures are against Empoli (14th), Cagliari (18th) and Sampdoria (15th).

However, it is worth noting that if they finish level on points, Milan would be crowned champions by virtue of a superior head-to-read record against their rivals this term.

With that in mind, while Inter are only two points behind, they essentially need to take three more points than Milan over the final three matchdays.

And our model suggests the Rossoneri have a 62 per cent chance of retaining top spot, compared to a 37.7 per cent chance of defending champions Inter overtaking them.

Just to highlight how unlikely it is either Napoli or Juventus will pip the current top two to the summit, they have a 0.2 and 0.1 per cent chance of winning the title respectively.

A ROME ONE-TWO FOR EUROPA LEAGUE?

The Champions League places may now officially be wrapped up, but five teams are still battling it out for the three remaining European berths.

The sides that finish in fifth and sixth, currently occupied by Roma and Lazio, will qualify for the Europa League group stage.

Roma, according to the model, have a 59.1 per cent chance of nailing down fifth place – though if they were to drop to seventh, the Europa Conference League finalists could get into the Europa League by winning UEFA's third-tier competition.

Lazio would take great enjoyment from finishing above their neighbours and have a 36.9 per cent chance of doing so.

The first priority for Maurizio Sarri will be locking down sixth, though, and there is a 46.7 per cent likelihood of achieving that with Fiorentina three points further back.

ATALANTA TO PIP FIORENTINA

While the top six are forecast to remain where they are, our model predicts seventh-placed Fiorentina will miss out to Atalanta in the Europa Conference League play-off position.

After losing three games in a row, La Viola now have a 31.2 per cent chance of staying seventh, compared to 47.6 for Atalanta, whom they are currently level with on 56 points.

Verona are four points further back and that appears to be too big a gap to bridge, with the Gialloblu seemingly certain to remain in eighth.

Indeed, the 80.8 per cent likelihood of Verona finishing in that position is bettered only by the chances of Empoli staying 14th (90.2 per cent) and Venezia remaining bottom (87.4 per cent) given the points margin either side.

VENEZIA AND TWO OTHERS TO DESCEND

Thursday's 2-1 defeat away to Salernitana looks to have spelled the end for Venezia's brief stint back in the top flight as it leaves them seven points from safety. Their chances of escaping the drop sit at 0.1 per cent.

Salernitana still have a 36.2 per cent chance of dropping into the bottom three, but given they face the team directly below them – Cagliari – and Empoli in their next two games, they will surely like those odds.

Another win for Salernitana on Sunday would be massive at the bottom, as such a result will relegate Venezia and potentially Genoa, whom the model gives only a 1.2 per cent likelihood of climbing up to 17th.

Spezia and Sampdoria aren't quite out of the woods yet, but their five-point cushions should be enough to keep them in Serie A. Everything points to Sunday's contest being almost a straight relegation play-off between Salernitana and Cagliari.

The model suggests with a 63.3 per cent probability that Cagliari will go down, but their fate is in their own hands.

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