Leicester City striker Jamie Vardy is set to be sidelined for up to four weeks with a hamstring injury.

Manager Brendan Rodgers revealed Vardy initially sustained the injury in the EFL Cup clash against Liverpool, in which the Foxes were eliminated on penalties after a 3-3 draw.

The 34-year-old was rested for the 6-3 defeat against Manchester City as a result, but played the full 90 minutes in the 1-0 Premier League clash with the Reds, where he aggravated the problem.

It comes as a huge blow to Leicester, with Vardy – their top scorer in the Premier League on nine goals – set to miss the next four games. As it stands, he would be back in contention to face Liverpool again in February.

"[Vardy] wasn't sure whether it was [a challenge from Joel Matip] or he felt something before, but you could see he could sort of run on and soldier on and wanted to," Rodgers said.

"But the scan has shown up that he could be [out for] three to four weeks. 

"He felt it in the game at Liverpool in the [EFL] Cup. If you saw that game, you could see the last half hour it was hindering his performance, but it felt like it could play on and obviously, we couldn't make any more changes.

"We didn't involve him at the weekend [against City] to give them that sort of maximum rest, even though he was on the bench, but he was never really going to be available to play.

"And then obviously, the other night he just felt it towards the end of the game. I just think the combination of games we've had affects the recovery time. It's just a difficult period for players, especially for recovery."

Vardy is Leicester's third most used Premier League player, having played 1321 minutes – behind only Kasper Schmeichel (1620) and Caglar Soyuncu (1418).

With Patson Daka still recovering from an injury of his own and Kelechi Iheanacho set to link up with Nigeria at the Africa Cup of Nations after the upcoming clash with Norwich City, the Foxes are set to endure a spell without a fit senior striker.

Jack Grealish and Phil Foden were again named as substitutes by Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola for the visit of Leicester City.

The England pair were pictured on a night out after City's 7-0 rout against Leeds United earlier in December and dropped out of Guardiola's starting line-up for the 4-0 win over Newcastle United last Sunday.

City staff were reported to be disappointed by the condition of the pair when they reported for a recovery session after the Leeds game and Guardiola reminded City players of their responsibilities once more on Friday.

Guardiola again decided Grealish and Foden should be among the substitutes for the Boxing Day clash with Leicester.

Raheem Sterling, Kevin De Bruyne and Riyad Mahrez were the three selected to start in the frontline for the reigning Premier League champions, tasked with breaching Leicester's shaky defence.

The visiting Foxes also named Jamie Vardy on the bench for the game at the Etihad Stadium, where the forward scored a hat-trick in a 5-2 win in this fixture last season.

Vardy scored a first-half brace before the EFL Cup penalty shoot-out defeat against Liverpool in midweek, with the striker not fit enough to take a spot-kick after suffering from a hamstring injury.

Leicester manager Brendan Rodgers opted for caution with his selection, given his side again face Jurgen Klopp's side in the league on Tuesday, with Vardy dropping to the bench as former Manchester City forward Kelechi Iheanacho started up top.

The visitors were without Timothy Castagne and Jonny Evans as Rodgers remained hampered by injuries in defence, while Harvey Barnes also missed out with Ademola Lookman taking over his usual slot on the left wing.

Liverpool are through to the EFL Cup semi-finals after edging Leicester City 5-4 in a penalty shootout having overturned a two-goal deficit in a gripping 3-3 draw.

Caoimhin Kelleher saved two Leicester penalties before Diogo Jota – a key figure off the bench – converted the crucial kick to send Jurgen Klopp's much-changed Reds through.

A Vardy brace had initially put the visitors 2-0 up early on at Anfield, and although Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain got Liverpool on the scoreboard, a spectacular Maddison strike had Leicester cruising at the break.

But half-time substitute Jota reduced the deficit again after the hour and Takumi Minamino equalised deep into stoppage time to force a shootout.

Minamino was the sole Red to miss his kick, but it mattered not as Kelleher denied Luke Thomas and Ryan Bertrand to allow Jota to wrap things up.

 

Mohamed Salah equalled Jamie Vardy's record of scoring or assisting in 15 consecutive Premier League games after netting against Newcastle United on Thursday.

Liverpool found themselves behind to a Jonjo Shelvey curler, but soon restored parity as Diogo Jota converted before Salah tapped in from close range to record a goal involvement in his 15th straight league game.

The former Chelsea man has now found the net in five consecutive top-flight home games against Newcastle as well, his best 100 per cent scoring run against one side at Anfield in the competition.

He also now has 24 Premier League goal involvements this season (15 goals, nine assists), in Premier League history only Alan Shearer in 1994-95 has registered more before Christmas.

With Jota's earlier strike, Liverpool also made it 32 consecutive games across all competitions in which they have found the net - a new club record after a 31-match run between 1957 and 1958.

Salah moved to within one of the Leicester City striker's tally after scoring a penalty in the 1-0 win over Steven Gerrard's Aston Villa on December 11. 

It was the 15th straight Premier League spot-kick the Egypt international had converted - the second-longest such run in the competition after Matt Le Tissier (23 between 1994 and 2000).

Salah's haul of 21 goals and nine assists prior to Thursday's contribution on Merseyside was achieved with an expected goals tally of just 16.58 and an expected assists tally of only 3.75, suggesting Liverpool have benefited from some especially clinical finishing this term.

Mohamed Salah matched Jamie Vardy's record of scoring or assisting in 15 consecutive Premier League games after netting against Newcastle United on Thursday.

Liverpool found themselves behind to a Jonjo Shelvey curler, but soon restored parity as Diogo Jota converted before Salah tapped in from close range to record a goal involvement in his 15th straight game.

The former Chelsea man has now found the net in five consecutive top-flight home games against Newcastle as well, his best 100 per cent scoring run against one side at Anfield in the competition.

He also now has 24 Premier League goal involvements this season (15 goals, nine assists), in Premier League history only Alan Shearer in 1994-95 has registered more before Christmas.

With Jota's earlier strike, Liverpool also made it 32 consecutive games across all competitions in which they have found the net - a new club record after a 31-match run between 1957 and 1958.

Salah moved to within one of the Leicester City striker's tally after scoring a penalty in the 1-0 win over Steven Gerrard's Aston Villa on December 11. 

It was the 15th straight Premier League spot-kick the Egypt international had converted - the second-longest such run in the competition after Matt Le Tissier (23 between 1994 and 2000).

Salah's haul of 21 goals and nine assists prior to Thursday's contribution on Merseyside was achieved with an expected goals tally of just 16.58 and an expected assists tally of only 3.75, suggesting Liverpool have benefited from some especially clinical finishing this term.

Leicester City goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel confessed he is at a loss to explain the club's poor defensive record.

The Foxes came from behind to claim a point against Spartak Moscow in Europa League Group C on Thursday after Daniel Amartey cancelled out Victor Moses' opener.

Leicester had a chance to secure victory when Moses gave away a penalty but substitute Jamie Vardy saw his spot-kick saved.

Moses' goal meant Brendan Rodgers' side have failed to keep a clean sheet in each of their last nine games in all competitions, and have only managed one in their last 15.

Schmeichel told BT Sport: "We are conceding too many goals at the moment but had enough chances to win it.

"Why are we conceding? If I knew it wouldn't be happening. It is something we are working on every single day but is not working too well at the minute.

"The game was there to be won. We dominated most of the game and they had a couple of chances and scored. We are conceding too many goals at the moment but had enough chances to win it.

"When you are not getting the luck you have to dig in and work harder. We have to look at ourselves, we cannot blame anyone else and have a massive Premier League game coming up against Leeds United."

Leicester have won just one of their last six games in the Europa League (drawn three, lost two), while failing to keep a clean sheet in each of the last five.

They were poor in front of goal against the Russian side, with just three of their 13 attempts on target despite enjoying 76.9 per cent of possession.

Group C is wide open, though, with third-placed Leicester a point behind second-placed Legia Warsaw and two behind leaders Napoli.

The Foxes play both sides in their remaining two fixtures which means their fate is in their own hands.

Kelechi Iheanacho acknowledged Leicester's forward players were equally culpable as their defensive colleagues for the draw with Spartak and they must improve in front of goal to qualify for the knockout phase.

"It was a frustrating game, we conceded a sloppy goal but got back into the game," added the Foxes striker.

"We were on them for the last 10 minutes, tried every means to score but we have to focus on the next two games now. Hopefully we will win and go through.

"The first half we kept the ball well and moved it quickly, in the second half we came out well but it was one of those games. We have to do a bit more.

"We missed a couple, we need to do more in the offensive side. It didn't come tonight.

"Everyone is down at the moment, we need to now focus on the next games. The Premier League first then look to progress in the Europa League."

Jamie Vardy missed a second-half penalty as Leicester City could only draw 1-1 with Spartak Moscow on Thursday to leave Europa League Group C wide open.

Victor Moses put Spartak ahead early in the second half when he escaped the attentions of Leicester's defence and planted a firm header low into the corner of the net.

The Foxes equalised shortly afterwards when Daniel Amartey headed in from a corner, before Moses gave away a penalty when he hauled down Ademola Lookman.

Substitute Vardy stepped up to take the spot-kick, but Spartak goalkeeper Alexander Selikhov guessed correctly and saved well.

Leicester's positive intent almost brought an early opener as Ayoze Perez headed wide from a good position, before Selikhov saved well from Kelechi Iheanacho.

Spartak were content to sit deep, giving Boubakary Soumare the time to shoot from distance as he struck the underside of the bar with a spectacular effort.

Despite enjoying 73.7 per cent of possession in the first half, that was as close as the Foxes went before the interval and Spartak took the lead six minutes into the second half – Mikhail Ignatov's right-wing cross allowing the unmarked Moses to guide a header beyond Kasper Schmeichel.

Leicester levelled just before the hour when Perez flicked on Ryan Bertrand's in-swinging corner and Amartey outmuscled Roman Zobnin to head in.

Shortly after replacing Patson Daka, Vardy was presented with a chance from the penalty spot with 14 minutes left after Moses felled Lookman, but Selikhov dived low to his left to save superbly.

Leicester had a final chance through Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall's saved header, with Iheanacho unable to pounce on the rebound.

Premier League football takes a back seat again for the best part of a fortnight now as the international break arrives, but the past weekend gave us plenty to chew on in the interim.

Liverpool and Manchester City played out a belter of a match at Anfield on Sunday, as Mohamed Salah shone yet again on English football's biggest stage.

That contest provided further evidence of the gap between those two and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's Manchester United, though Bruno Fernandes' latest achievement suggests the Norwegian should be doing better given the talent at his disposal.

Below, Stats Perform looks at some of the quirky Opta facts from the weekend…

Salah a double threat

Sunday's 2-2 draw between Liverpool and Manchester City at Anfield was utterly engrossing, and Mohamed Salah played a key role in that.

Not only did he set up Sadio Mane's opener with a brilliant run and pass, he then got Liverpool's second at the end of an incredible run that saw him evade most of the City defence.

That was the 20th time he has both scored and assisted during a single Premier League game, which is six more than anyone else in the top-flight since his Reds debut on 2017-18 — Son Heung-min is next with 14.

There is also no Liverpool player particularly close to him in that regard in the club's entire Premier League history, with Steven Gerrard second to Salah with 16 instances of getting a goal and assist in the same game.

Fernandes setting the pace

Manchester United may be erratic, but Bruno Fernandes certainly isn't when it comes to decisive moments in the Premier League.

He set up Anthony Martial with a lovely turn and throughball for the first goal in United's 1-1 draw with Everton on Saturday, that assist taking him to 50 goal involvements in 58 Premier League matches — only Andy Cole (43), Alan Shearer and Eric Cantona (both 54) reached that mark in fewer games.

But putting his achievement into modern-day context, Fernandes (30 goals, 20 assists) sits top of the pile for most involvements since his debut, his 50 being four more than Salah (34 goals, 12 assists).

The only other player on more than 40 in that time is Harry Kane (44 involvements, 30 goals, 14 assists).

The Premier League's deadliest attack… Sort of

So, you think you know which team is the most clinical in the Premier League this season? Well, you're wrong.

It's not Chelsea, Liverpool or Manchester City. It's certainly not Tottenham or Arsenal… It's Brentford. In a way.

When it comes to the amount of goals scored from their shots on target, the Premier League new boys have been the most clinical, netting 10 (or 45.5 per cent) of their 22 accurate attempts following the 2-1 win at West Ham.

Liverpool are the league's leading scorers with 17, but those goals have come from 53 shots on target, meaning only 32.1 per cent of their accurate efforts are beating the goalkeeper.

Norwich City prop up the table (11.8 per cent), with Spurs (18.8 per cent) and Arsenal (19.2 per cent) also in the bottom three.

Vardy almost the 'golden oldie'

Jamie Vardy's story is a familiar one these days. His journey to the top wasn't straightforward, but since getting there he's been absolutely devastating.

Of course, his 24-goal haul was essential in Leicester City's incredible title triumph of 2015-16, but he's continued at a great level, only recording under 15 Premier League goals in a single season once since.

He already looks well on track to better his tally of 15 from 2020-21 this season, with the former England man on six in seven league games, and now he's closing in on a record.

Vardy's goal against Crystal Palace at the weekend was his 90th in the top-flight since turning 30 in January 2017, with Arsenal great Ian Wright (93) the only player in the competition's history to score more after his 30th birthday.

Manchester City made something of a statement in their 1-0 win over potential title challengers Chelsea on Saturday, whereas Manchester United seemed to take another step back as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's reign stuttered again.

But Solskjaer is certainly not the only top-flight manager feeling the heat – Nuno Espirito Santo's honeymoon period as Tottenham boss is well and truly over, with the Portuguese now among the favourites to be the first Premier League boss sacked this season following a 3-1 defeat in the north London derby.

Without any further ado, here are some of the more curious facts and stats from across the Premier League this past weekend…

City defence putting the 'guard' in Guardiola

It may not have been the thrill ride neutrals were likely hoping for, but City's 1-0 win at Stamford Bridge was another impressive indicator of just how good Pep Guardiola's team is as a unit.

Of course, they won the Premier League only a few months ago, so saying City are "good" probably won't cut it for analysis – but what is really making people sit up and take note at the moment is how their unity and cohesion is translating into defensive solidity.

City have conceded just one goal in their six Premier League games this term, the fewest they've ever shipped at this stage of any league campaign.

Let's not forget that Chelsea had been widely praised for their own start to 2021-22, yet on Saturday they were prevented from having a single shot on target in a home league game since November 2012, which coincidentally was also against City.

But even more impressive from City's perspective was the fact Chelsea's expected goals (xG) value was just 0.2, the worst they've recorded in a home Premier League game since Opta records began in 2008-09.

While Chelsea fans will understandably be frustrated, it would seem their struggles on Saturday were more down to City being in a groove defensively.

They've only faced six shots on target this season, a record no Premier League has bettered over the first six matches in a campaign since at least 2003-04. If they keep this up, the title will surely be staying at the Etihad Stadium.

Fernandes' penalty miss not Man Utd's big issue

It was another day to forget for United on Saturday as they lost 1-0 at home to Aston Villa.

They were presented with a great opportunity to equalise in second-half stoppage time, but Bruno Fernandes sent his penalty over the crossbar.

Much of the focus afterwards was on Fernandes and his miss, though it would be unfair to pin the blame on him – after all, of the 23 spot-kicks he has taken since his United debut, he's only failed to convert two.

In the same time period, Cristiano Ronaldo – seemingly Fernandes' main penalty rival now – has taken 22 and missed four. This is not a problem that United need to dwell on much.

Instead, they'd be wise to look into their glaring tactical inefficiencies, with Solskjaer's team sorely lacking identity, cohesion and a defined playing style. Too often they are bailed out by moments of individual brilliance, which is an unsustainable approach to solely rely on in a title challenge.

Against Villa, those instances of individual excellence never arrived, despite United mustering 28 shots. That was the most efforts attempted by United without scoring in a home league game since October 2016 (38 shots in 0-0 draw with Burnley).

They have now conceded in each of their past eight league games at Old Trafford, their worst such run in 49 years, and lost three successive home matches (all competitions) for the first time since 1962.

Norwich set new benchmark for worst start

With every match that passes, the light at the end of the tunnel seems to become ever dimmer for Norwich City.

A 2-0 defeat at Everton on Saturday leaves Norwich pointless and with a -14 goal difference after six matches – that makes their start to the season the worst after six matches in Premier League history.

Only twice before had a Premier League side begun a campaign without a single point from six games, the last of which was Frank de Boer's infamous Crystal Palace team in 2017-18 – the Dutchman was sacked after the fourth match in that sequence.

Norwich have at least been a little more patient than Palace, with Daniel Farke's record of overseeing two promotions seemingly ensuring he retains some good will at the club, even if he now has the highest loss percentage (75 per cent, 33/44) of any manager to take charge of at least 20 games in the Premier League.

Most would already consider Norwich to be doomed for relegation, though perhaps there is some reason for optimism.

There have only been nine teams to start a top-flight season (prior to 2021-22) with six or more successive losses, but four of them – including Palace – have avoided relegation.

Vardy joins exclusive club

Jamie Vardy ended up having a peculiar day when Leicester City drew 2-2 with Burnley on Saturday, the former England striker scoring three of the four goals.

It was his own goal that gave Burnley an early lead, while he also got both Leicester equalisers, including one late in the day.

That was his first own goal ever in 360 appearances for Leicester, while he became the first player to net at both ends for the club in a single Premier League game.

It's happened to some of the best, though. He joins an illustrious list containing 11 others who have scored at least 100 goals but also put past their own goalkeeper, with Harry Kane, Steven Gerrard, Paul Scholes, Frank Lampard and Wayne Rooney among them.

On top of that, Vardy is now only one of five players in Premier League history to score at least twice at the right end and an own goal in the same game after John Barnes (Liverpool v Spurs 1995), Niall Quinn (Sunderland v Charlton Athletic 2001), Rooney (Man Utd v Stoke City 2012) and Tammy Abraham (Chelsea v Wolves 2019).

But he is still doing more than his fair share at the other end, his brace in this game taking him to eight goal involvements in his past seven league games, which is 89 per cent (8/9) of Leicester's goals in that time.

Bad omens stacking up for Nuno

After three wins from his first three Premier League games in charge, everything was looking rather rosy for Tottenham boss Nuno.

Three matches and three defeats later, some will doubt whether he'll still be in charge this time next month, let alone this time next season.

Sunday's north London derby was his 10th in charge of Spurs and the 3-1 loss made him the first manager to lose as many as four of his first 10 matches at the helm of the club since Glenn Hoddle in 2001.

Hoddle was also the last Spurs boss to conceded at least three goals in three consecutive league games in September 2003, and he was sacked after that run.

Nuno will probably make it to the next match but the last team to begin a season with three wins and then lost the next three (Everton, 1993-94) finish as low down as 17th.

His future arguably rests on getting something out of Kane, who's failed to score in five straight league games for the first time since August 2016, but things aren't looking great given Spurs' 35 open-play shots is the second fewest in the division and their expected goals (xG) total is just 3.2, only higher than three teams.

While a lack of quality chances might usually be masked by Kane's excellence, he's not bailing them out any longer – if that continues, it's difficult to see Nuno keeping his job for the long term.

The Premier League table already looks to be taking shape, with a thrilling title race potentially in store.

Two of the favourites meet early on Saturday, as Chelsea welcome Manchester City to Stamford Bridge.

At the same time, Manchester United – joint-top alongside the Blues and Liverpool – host Aston Villa at Old Trafford.

With the season really kicking into gear, so are the title races in fantasy leagues. So, to avoid getting left behind, take heed of our Opta-powered picks for matchday six...

 

DAVID DE GEA (Manchester United v Aston Villa)

Despite their EFL Cup defeat to West Ham on Wednesday, United remain unbeaten in the league and moved onto 13 points thanks to some late drama last Sunday, also in a match against David Moyes' Hammers.

Jesse Lingard came off the bench to score against the club for whom he starred on loan last term, but West Ham were awarded a last-gasp penalty and a chance to rescue a draw. However, substitute Mark Noble, with his first touch, saw his penalty saved by David de Gea.

It ended a run of 40 penalties without a save from De Gea, who has now this season prevented more goals (2.5) than any other keeper in the Premier League, according to expected goals on target data.

SHANE DUFFY (Crystal Palace v Brighton and Hove Albion)

Has Graham Potter's luck at Brighton and Hove Albion finally changed? His team have impressed over the past few seasons, yet a clinical edge was often missing. Now, though, the Seagulls have won four of their five games and sit pretty on 12 points.

A key figure in their strong start has been Shane Duffy. The centre-back's career looked to be petering out after a poor loan spell at Celtic last season, but he has come back strong this term.

No Premier League defender has had more shots (10) or scored more goals (one) than Duffy so far this season, while only Man City have faced fewer shots on target than Brighton in 2021-22.

REECE JAMES (Chelsea v Manchester City)

Reece James is of course an expensive option for fantasy players, though it is an investment worth making, given his ability going forward and the fact he plays for one of the competition's strongest teams.

Despite only playing 158 minutes so far in the league, James has been directly involved in three goals, more than any other defender.

He has scored once and provided two assists, averaging a goal involvement every 53 minutes.

BRUNO FERNANDES (Manchester United v Aston Villa)

Given the hype around Cristiano Ronaldo's return to Old Trafford, it would be understandable if many fantasy players had elected to sacrifice his compatriot Bruno Fernandes in order to free up funds for the former Real Madrid and Juventus superstar.

But Fernandes is still one of the most reliable players in the league when it comes to accumulating fantasy points, and he would have had an assist in the win over West Ham had Ronaldo's initial effort gone in before he netted the rebound.

Fernandes has scored in all three of his Premier League appearances against Villa, with all three of his goals coming from the penalty spot. Only one player has scored more goals against an opponent with 100 per cent of them being penalties in the competition – Troy Deeney against United (four). No player has more goal involvements (49) than Fernandes since he made his debut in February 2020.

DEMARAI GRAY (Everton v Norwich City)

Rafael Benitez's unbeaten start at Everton came to an end at Aston Villa last week, before the Toffees then crashed out of the EFL Cup in midweek, with James Rodriguez's departure to Qatar completing a difficult few days.

Benitez, a contentious pick as Everton manager, could do with a win on Saturday against Norwich City, who are on a 15-match losing streak in the Premier League.

With Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Richarlison likely to miss the game through injury, Everton need Demarai Gray to carry on his fine form. He has scored three goals so far this season from just three attempts on target. Only in 2018-19 has the winger scored more goals in a single top-flight season (four).

RAUL JIMENEZ (Southampton v Wolves)

After winning at Watford to finally get their first points on the board, Wolves went down 2-0 at home to 10-man Brentford last time out.

Wolves have played some exciting football under new boss Bruno Lage, but they need to start converting their chances, and Raul Jimenez coming back into form would be key to doing just that.

Although he has yet to score or assist in the Premier League this season, Jimenez has been directly involved in 29 shots (14 shots, 15 chances created). Only Mohamed Salah (37) and Sadio Mane (31) have been involved in more. The Mexican has created the most chances without an assist and taken the joint-most shots without a goal, so surely his luck will change soon. 

JAMIE VARDY (Leicester City v Burnley)

It has not been a flying start to the season for FA Cup holders Leicester City, who have had some inconsistent results and performances to match.

They lost to Brighton last week, going down 2-1, with Jamie Vardy scoring his 150th goal in all competitions for the Foxes.

Vardy has been directly involved in six goals in his past six Premier League games (five goals, one assist), with these involvements accounting for 86 per cent of Leicester's total goals in that run (six of seven).

Pep Guardiola compared Ferran Torres to Jamie Vardy after his two-goal display in Manchester City's 5-0 dismantling of Arsenal on Saturday.

Just this week City saw long-term target Harry Kane confirm he will not be leaving Tottenham this year despite apparently trying to force a move away and then they missed out on the signing of Cristiano Ronaldo to Manchester United.

The central striker position is an area of the team City have been particularly keen to strengthen given no one scored more than 17 goals for them across all competitions in 2020-21, and Sergio Aguero – who missed much of the season through injury – left for Barcelona.

But Guardiola reiterated that he is perfectly happy with the options he currently has in attack after blowing 10-man Arsenal away – Torres led the way with a brace, while Gabriel Jesus, Ilkay Gundogan and Rodri all got one each.

The Spaniard drew much of the focus after the match, with Guardiola shooting down suggestions he was underwhelming last season when his 13 goals across all competitions was bettered by just five City players, all of whom played at least 726 minutes more than him.

Similarly, of those five with more goals, only Gundogan (24.3 per cent) boasted a better conversion rate than Torres (21 per cent), who showed a real clinical streak with his xG overperformance of 3.2 – Vardy, as a base for comparison, only scored 17 from 22.7 xG.

"Last season, the way he played was exceptional," Guardiola said of Torres in his post-match news conference.

"His numbers in terms of goals and assists… he played incredibly well. But in this position, a striker, he made movements like some of the best strikers' movements in behind – Jamie Vardy, these types of players.

"He moves incredibly well. He's a good finisher, so young. We did an incredible job buying him with a nice price and he can play in the three positions up front, and he's an incredible finisher.

"We're pleased for his movements, his work ethic and learning, many, many things. We're pleased for his performance even aside from the goals."

But Guardiola, while happy with his squad, was not getting carried away with the suggestion Saturday's win proves they do not necessarily need attacking reinforcements.

"We don't need a striker if we score five goals, if we don't score five goals then we need a striker," Guardiola added.

"You'll see throughout the season, if we don't score in games people say we need a striker. We tried but it was not possible. This team is still fantastic.

"Thanks to all the people working in the scouting department from day one to now for the players they gave me. The squad is really good and we're very pleased for this result. We scored a goal without deserving, sometimes it happens, and after 2-0 and the sending off the game was completely free."

Granit Xhaka was the man to see red for the Gunners – it was his fourth Premier League dismissal since the start of 2016-17, a joint high for the competition.

But even before that point, City were 2-0 up and cruising, ultimately becoming just the third side in Premier League to win three successive home games by five or more goals (after City themselves in October 2017 and Chelsea, August 2010).

City restricted Arsenal to just one shot, which came in the sixth minute, the Gunners' lowest such tally in a league game since Opta began recording such data (2003-04).

The Premier League is back. Yes, already.

After the packed schedule of 2020-21, the delayed Euro 2020, Copa America and Tokyo Olympics and a pre-season still impacted by travel restrictions, the new season in England's top flight will, hopefully, be a bit more like normal.

With fans set to return to grounds across the country, the anticipation for this opening weekend has been greater than many others – and, we assume, that same excitement extends to fantasy football.

To that end, Stats Perform's Fantasy Picks series has returned to point you in the right direction for those all-important choices. Whether you're squad-filling, striker-selecting or triple-captaining, these suggested selections - all backed by Opta data - should hopefully get you off to a flyer.

 

ROBERT SANCHEZ (Burnley v Brighton and Hove Albion)

Robert Sanchez was one of the more surprising names in Luis Enrique's Spain squad for Euro 2020. Given his form this year, perhaps he shouldn't have been such a shock.

The only goalkeepers to keep more Premier League clean sheets since the start of January are Ederson (12) and Edouard Mendy (10), with Sanchez's nine helping Brighton to secure survival.

They start their campaign away to Burnley, where they have lost only once in their past seven league visits. Indeed, the Clarets are on a 10-game winless run at Turf Moor.

 

TRENT ALEXANDER-ARNOLD (Norwich City v Liverpool)

Having declared himself fully fit and feeling confident, 2021-22 could be the season where we see Trent Alexander-Arnold back to his scintillating best.

That said, even his more difficult campaign last term had impressive elements. Since the turn of this year, his expected assists figure of 5.37 is the highest of any defender and second only to Bruno Fernandes (5.62) in the whole competition.

Liverpool average 2.8 goals per game against Norwich City in the Premier League and it's safe to back this man to provide the chances again at Carrow Road, particularly with Virgil van Dijk set to return to offer an extra set-piece threat.

JAMES TARKOWSKI (Burnley v Brighton and Hove Albion)

James Tarkowski has long been admired as a stopper at the heart of the Burnley defence, but he is a greater threat going forward than six league goals in six seasons would suggest.

Last season, the 28-year-old had the most touches in the opposition box (66) and the highest expected goals tally (3.37) of any centre-back in the Premier League.

Goals in this fixture are rare – just 1.5 per game on average – so gambling on a clean sheet and a set-piece winner from Tarkowski could be worthwhile.

 

MOHAMED SALAH (Norwich City v Liverpool)

In the past four seasons, Liverpool's opening Premier League goal of the season has been scored by Mohamed Salah. He got three in their win over Leeds United a year ago.

No player has ever scored on the opening day for five consecutive Premier League seasons but, given Salah's record, you would not bet against him.

It's worth adding that Liverpool have won seven away games in a row against Norwich in the top flight.

MASON GREENWOOD (Manchester United v Leeds United)

With Marcus Rashford recovering from shoulder surgery and Jadon Sancho still adjusting to new surroundings, it's highly likely Mason Greenwood will start on Saturday.

After scoring just once in 23 games, Greenwood ended last season with six goals in eight league appearances to take his tally to 19.

Manchester United scored six when Leeds United visited last season, and it's been 30 years since the Yorkshire club last won a league game at Old Trafford.

JAMIE VARDY (Leicester City v Wolves)

Along with Salah, Jamie Vardy is the only current Premier League player to score six goals in six opening matches of the season. He's a striker who hits the ground running, and running hard.

Leicester City are also enjoying a run of one defeat in 24 home league games against Wolves - and that was back in May 2007 in the Championship.

Wolves have gone eight seasons without losing their opening league match, but they have a new man in charge in Bruno Lage, and five of the previous seven managers whose first Premier League game came against Leicester were defeated.

 

CALLUM WILSON (Newcastle United v West Ham United)

Losing Callum Wilson to injury last term was a major reason behind Newcastle United's struggles, and it was his double in that shock 4-2 win away to Leicester that effectively secured their survival in May.

The Magpies begin 2021-22 against one of Wilson's favourite opponents. He has scored eight goals in 10 Premier League games against West Ham, more than he has against any other side in the competition.

The striker got his opening top-flight goals for both Bournemouth and Newcastle against the Hammers.

Leicester City missed out on Champions League qualification as a Kasper Schmeichel own goal and a late double from Gareth Bale condemned the Foxes to a 4-2 defeat by Tottenham on the final day of the season. 

Chelsea's 2-1 loss to Aston Villa meant Brendan Rodgers' side would have sealed a top-four finish with victory over Spurs and they started well, Jamie Vardy putting them ahead from the penalty spot. 

Harry Kane – in what could prove to be his final game for the club amid rumours he wants to leave – pulled Spurs level before the interval, though, with a goal that secured this season's Golden Boot ahead of Liverpool's Mohamed Salah. 

Another Vardy spot-kick restored Leicester's lead early in the second half, but there was late heartache for the hosts when Schmeichel – one of the heroes of last weekend's FA Cup final win over Chelsea – punched into his own net from a corner 14 miniutes from full-time.

Bale's late brace then ensured Brendan Rodgers' side finished the campaign a point adrift of Thomas Tuchel's fourth-placed side.

 

Jamie Vardy will be remembered as Leicester City's greatest ever player, according to his former team-mate Andy King.

Vardy's goals fired Leicester to an unforgettable Premier League title triumph in 2015-16, when he was named the FWA Footballer of the Year and went on to play and score for England at Euro 2016.

While the likes of Riyad Mahrez and N'Golo Kante went on to seek pastures new, Vardy remained as the Foxes' talisman and on Saturday added the club's first FA Cup to their maiden top-flight title when Youri Tielemans' thunderbolt sunk Chelsea 1-0 at Wembley.

The 34-year-old's fairy tale ascent from non-league football has been well documented and, with 116 goals, he lies 19th on the Premier League's all-time goalscorers list.

Vardy will have his eye on climbing a few more places yet, as he is under contract to Leicester until 2023. When the time comes for him to move on, Wales international King believes there will be a virtually impossible void to fill.

"Everyone wants to know what the secret is or what he's like," King told Stats Perform.

"But he has no secret over things which he does. You guys know that because he's been telling everyone he drinks his coffee, drinks his Red Bull, he eats what he wants and then he goes out and scores two goals and runs around like a madman.

"What you see is what you get with him. Like with Wes [Morgan] and Kasper [Schmeichel], first and foremost he has great affection for the club, the people at the club and the owner.

"He's such a good guy to have in the changing room and to have off the pitch as well.

"The hole is going to be massive when he leaves Leicester. I think he's Leicester's best ever player. And that's before adding another trophy to the collection.

"He'll be a hard one to try replace when Leicester have to do that at some point."

On the other hand, Vardy's goalscoring mantle has arguably already passed, with the veteran playing a supporting role to the prolific Kelechi Iheanacho.

Vardy's 13 goals in the Premier League this term represent a joint-lowest return since he hit the same number in 2016-17, comfortably below the 23 he netted to win the Golden Boot last term.

But his nine assists represent a career best in the competition, matching his total from the past two years combined.

This can, in part, be attributed to a slightly altered role supporting Iheanacho in a 3-5-2 system - their lethal striker partnership taking Leicester to the brink of Champions League qualification, which can be secured in Tuesday's rematch with Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.

The former Manchester City striker scored 20 times in all competitions across his previous three seasons at the King Power Stadium but he has exploded into life this time around, with 18 to his name.

Thirteen of those have come in his past 13 matches and King believes the 24-year-old's patience over the course of a lengthy acclimatisation process has been rewarded with more than just a new contract until 2024.

"When he first came in, he was in and out of the team," he said. "It must be hard adapting from Man City to go into another team where you're not going to get the chances laid on a plate for you and you're not going to have the ball for 80 per cent of the game. You've got to learn to do the other stuff as well.

"Kel was a really honest guy, he was trying really hard to learn the system. To start with, Leicester played a 4-3-3 with only one striker and Vards is always going to play.

"They changed the system when Harvey Barnes got injured, which was a big loss because he was playing really well. I don't know if Brendan said to him, 'Look, I'm going to go to a 3-5-2 and you're going to be my second striker, you know you're going to play'.

"If that was the case, he certainly rewarded the manager because for the second half of the season he has been absolutely outstanding. He's carrying Leicester at a moment to the top four, scoring goals when no one else was and his all-round play has always been good.

"Like, anyone when they're playing with confidence and knowing they're going to play the next game, it all falls into place. Strikers go on a hot streak and he's certainly on one of those at the moment."

Jamie Vardy is looking to add to his growing medal collection with Leicester City after helping the Foxes to win their first FA Cup.

Leicester, who won the Premier League with Vardy in the side in 2015-16, finally got their hands on the cup with a 1-0 win over Chelsea on Saturday.

Youri Tielemans scored the sole goal for Brendan Rodgers' team at Wembley, with a late own goal from Wes Morgan disallowed following a VAR review.

Vardy has now played in every round in the competition including the preliminary stages, having started his career in non-league football, but had a quiet final.

Neither of the striker's two shots under the arch hit the target, while he lost possession with five of his 14 touches.

It mattered not, though, as Leicester claimed the FA Cup after four previous final defeats, and that encouraged Vardy to set his sights higher still.

"It's a brilliant feeling, a really brilliant feeling. We've managed to do it," he said.

"But when the gaffer came in over two years ago, he said he wanted us to keep progressing, how he wanted us to play, he wanted us to be challenging for trophies.

"Now we've got one, we're going to be wanting some more. Now it's hard work, dedication and keep progressing as much as we can."

Leicester could cap a stunning stretch by qualifing for the Champions League if they beat Chelsea again at Stamford Bridge on Tuesday.

Such an achievement would firmly establish manager Rodgers' side among the elite in English football.

"It was the big challenge I wanted to take coming to Leicester," Rodgers told a news conference.

"Having worked at incredible clubs like [Liverpool] and Celtic, could I go to a club outside of the top six and could we challenge and could we disrupt that hierarchy within the league?

"We'll always be a way behind in terms of financial perspective, but can we compete, can we perform and can we fight to challenge?

"And then obviously, on days like today, when you have the opportunity to create history, can you do that? Thankfully, we've been able to do it."

But Rodgers, repeatedly emphasising the financial gulf between Leicester and their opponents along with the rest of the 'big six', could offer few assurances on the futures of his cup final stars.

Tielemans, who now has nine goals in all competitions this season, would surely interest rivals, it was suggested.

Leicester fans did not have to look far for reminders of past departures on Saturday as N'Golo Kante started for Chelsea and Ben Chilwell almost turned the game on its head from the bench.

Kante had a relatively quiet outing, contesting just six duels, but Chilwell drew a superb save from Peter Schmeichel and forced the own goal that was then disallowed for his offside.

"I know the direction that we're going in and I know that Leicester in the future, I'm sure, will lose players," Rodgers said.

"We don't want to, it's not something we think about so much, but it's the nature of the game.

"But it's not to think about at this stage. You can see the happiness in the players, you can see the ambition we have, and of course you see the level that they play at.

"I don't think about it so much, I don't worry about it so much.

"I've got a really talented group of young guys that want to get better, and while I'm the coach and manager, until the very last day they're at the club, I'll always continue to do that."

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