Brendan Rodgers expressed his concern that "the rules of society have changed" after a Leicester City fan attacked Nottingham Forest players in Sunday's FA Cup match.

The holders were thrashed 4-1 by the Championship side at the City Ground as their disappointing season took another negative turn.

As Forest celebrated their third goal, scored by Joe Worrall, a man emerged from the section for away supporters and appeared to swing punches at the group of home players before stewards wrestled him away.

He was later arrested and will reportedly face a life ban from all Leicester games.

Rodgers said the incident was symptomatic of "people feeling entitled" to act as they please in wider society.

"The rules of society have changed. There's a total lack of respect," said the Leicester boss.

"It's not just in football, it's in life. I speak to many business people and people in the military, all across society. It's the lack of respect and people feeling entitled that they can do things.

"The rules of society need to change, and we see that lack of respect today. We've seen it for the last couple of years. Supporters breaking into stadiums, what is that about?

"You come, you support your team and win, lose or draw, you have respect. It's lacking in society and it spreads into other aspects of life.

"It's behaviour that you never want to see. Whatever goes on in the field, it has to be a safe environment for the players, and we must always retain the respect in football.

"Unfortunately the guy has come on to the pitch and was clearly, clearly disappointed by what he was watching."

The result meant Leicester became the first FA Cup holders to lose a match in the following season's competition by three or more goals since Liverpool against Luton Town in January 1987.

They have now conceded 58 goals in all competitions this season, at least 10 more than any other Premier League club.

Leicester City's FA Cup defence was ended in emphatic fashion in the fourth round by rivals Nottingham Forest.

Brendan Rodgers' Foxes won the cup last season for the first time in their history, with Youri Tielemans' stunning strike defeating Chelsea in the Wembley final.

But there will be no repeat in 2021-22 after a humbling encounter with second-tier Forest ended in a 4-1 defeat for the holders at the City Ground.

Leicester named a strong side yet left captain Kasper Schmeichel on the bench, and stand-in Danny Ward picked the ball out of his net three times before half-time.

A highly motivated Forest side led through Philip Zinckernagel after 23 minutes, before 20-year-old talisman Brennan Johnson made it 2-0 only 87 seconds later, squeezing a cute finish through Ward's legs.

Joe Worrall soon nodded a third, although Leicester were given a lifeline when Brice Samba advanced from his line and meekly pulled out of a challenge with Kelechi Iheanacho, giving the forward an open goal to aim into.

There was no dramatic second-half fightback, however, as Forest right-back Djed Spence charged through to net the fourth – the 58th goal Leicester have conceded in all competitions this season, 10 more than any other Premier League club.

Forest, who knocked out Arsenal in the third round, will host Huddersfield Town in the last 16, while Leicester – 10th in the Premier League and out of the Europa League – reflect on the latest setback of a tough season.

Middlesbrough's reward for knocking Manchester United out of the FA Cup is a home tie with Tottenham in the fifth round.

Chris Wilder's Boro eliminated the Red Devils on Friday on penalties after a 1-1 draw at Old Trafford and will now face Antonio Conte's Spurs, who beat Brighton 3-1 on Saturday.

Only one guaranteed all-Premier League tie was drawn for the fifth round with Southampton hosting West Ham after David Moyes' side survived a scare at National League North outfit Kidderminster Harriers.

Among the Premier League elite, Chelsea will travel to Luton Town,  Manchester City are away to Peterborough United, and Liverpool will welcome Norwich City to Anfield should they get past Cardiff City on Sunday.

Cup holders Leicester will be at home to Huddersfield Town if they beat Nottingham Forest, while Stoke City travel to Selhurst Park to face Crystal Palace.

Frank Lampard's Everton will play either Bournemouth or Boreham Wood at Goodison Park, where the former Chelsea boss got off to a tremendous start with a 4-1 win over Brentford on Saturday.

FA Cup fifth-round draw in full:

Luton Town v Chelsea, Crystal Palace v Stoke City, Peterborough United v Manchester City, Liverpool or Cardiff City v Norwich City, Southampton v West Ham, Middlesbrough v Tottenham, Nottingham Forest or Leicester City v Huddersfield Town, Everton v Bournemouth or Boreham Wood.

Ties will be played week commencing February 28.

Erling Haaland has revealed he studies Jamie Vardy's game closely as he believes the Leicester City striker is "maybe the best in the world" at running in behind defenders.

Borussia Dortmund star Haaland has become one of the most sought-after players in world football after scoring 80 goals in 79 games during his two years at the Bundesliga club.

That is a tally bettered only by Bayern Munich's Robert Lewandowski (107) – who has played 11 more games – among players from teams in Europe's top five leagues.

Haaland has been linked with the likes of Manchester City, Real Madrid and Bayern, with reports suggesting he has a €75million release clause that will activate in July.

Despite his impressive exploits, Haaland acknowledges there are still areas of his game he can improve, with an unlikely player proving to be a source of inspiration.

"I've been watching a lot of players. Let's take for example the run in behind the centre-back when the number 10 has the ball," he told Sky Sports. 

"You have maybe the best in the world at that, Jamie Vardy. I've been looking a lot at him on exactly this. I have always been watching a lot of football and I still do. 

"When we play Saturday, I go home on Sunday and watch football all day."

Vardy has scored 122 goals in 227 Premier League appearances since the start of the 2015-16 campaign, which famously ended with Leicester winning the title.

The 35-year-old ranks 10th in terms of the most prolific strikers in Europe's top five leagues over that time, a metric that Lewandowski also leads with 209 goals in 208 games.

 

Vardy has also spoken of his admiration for ex-Arsenal and Manchester United striker Robin van Persie.

"Van Persie I watched a lot because he was also left-footed," Haaland said. 

"I watched him scoring a lot of goals and as a left-footer as well it was natural for me to watch him a lot. I've been watching a lot of players, especially strikers."

Of the 80 goals scored by Haaland for Dortmund, 64 have come via his left foot, nine with his right and the other seven from headers.

The former Salzburg striker has been likened to a number of iconic figures, Zlatan Ibrahimovic among them, but he is not interested in comparisons.

"Ibrahimovic is a cool guy, and I think he is also himself 100 per cent on the pitch. He does everything he can to win," Haaland said.

"I don't want to compare myself to anyone. I think I am a bit special, with my physical abilities. 

"My mother was really quick, my grandmother was really quick, my father was really quick, but not so quick."

Chelsea once again downed Tottenham at Stamford Bridge in the headline clash of the weekend's Premier League fixtures.

Fellow title hopefuls Liverpool, who still have a game in hand, closed the gap on leaders Manchester City to nine points with victory over Crystal Palace in south London.

Staying in the capital, Arsenal were held to a goalless draw by lowly Burnley as they lost ground in the race for the top four, while Leicester City shared the points with Brighton and Hove Albion.

With the action all over for a couple of weeks, Stats Perform unpacks the pick of the data from Sunday's fixtures.

Crystal Palace 1-3 Liverpool: Reds down Eagles again as Robertson delivers

Liverpool reduced Manchester City's advantage at the top to nine points after a 3-1 victory over Palace, who have lost each of their last 10 league meetings with the Reds.

Virgil van Dijk placed Jurgen Klopp's side in control after just eight minutes at Selhurst Park with his 10th headed goal in the competition – only Sami Hyypia (17) has scored more headers for the Reds in the Premier League.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain added a second after the half-hour mark as he scored in back-to-back top-flight matches for the first time since February 2020.

Both of those goals were created by Andrew Robertson, who now sits joint-second with team-mate Trent Alexander-Arnold (both 43) for the most assists in the league since the start of the 2017-18 season, with only Kevin De Bruyne boasting more (52).

Odsonne Edouard halved the deficit in the second half, but Fabinho secured three points with Liverpool's 169th Premier League spot-kick – the joint-most awarded to a team in the competition's history along with Manchester United.

Arsenal 0-0 Burnley: Gunners fail to fire against Clarets

Arsenal have failed to win any of their opening five games of a calendar year for the first time since 1995 after being held to a 0-0 draw by Burnley.

Nick Pope was in excellent form, while Alexandre Lacazette spurned a glorious open-goal opportunity, as the Clarets conceded 20 shots – the most they have faced in the Premier League without conceding since May 2021 (21 versus Fulham).

Lacazette's profligacy meant the Gunners have failed to score in four consecutive matches across all competitions for the first time since December 2005.

Arsenal will be desperate to improve upon their torrid run of form to challenge for the top four, with this stalemate being the first time the Gunners have failed to beat the team starting the day bottom of the table at home for the first time since October 2008.

Leicester City 1-1 Brighton and Hove Albion: Foxes tamed by away specialists

Leicester remained unbeaten at home to Brighton in the Premier League, though Brendan Rodgers may feel they should have claimed victory after a 1-1 draw.

Patson Daka broke the deadlock as he became just the second Foxes player to score in each of his first three home starts in the competition, after Leonardo Ulloa in the 2014-15 season.

The Zambia striker found the net just 26 seconds after the interval, the quickest goal scored in the second half of a top-flight game since February 2020.

However, Danny Welbeck levelled things up as he scored his fourth goal against Leicester in the Premier League, only bettering that haul in games with Aston Villa (five).

Neither side could find a late winner, ensuring the Foxes remain unbeaten at home to the Seagulls in the top flight since December 1980, while Graham Potter's side have only lost one of their last 11 away leagues games – a joint-low with Manchester City.

Chelsea 2-0 Tottenham: Blues make London derby history  

Chelsea registered their fourth win in all competitions this season – and third in January alone – over London rivals Tottenham with a 2-0 triumph at Stamford Bridge.

Harry Kane thought he had struck first before the break but a slight push on Thiago Silva saw his finish ruled out before Hakim Ziyech expertly curled in his fifth league goal for Chelsea – all five of those having come at different venues.

Silva added a second soon after as he became the oldest player (37 years, 123 days) to score in the Premier League since February 2013 to condemn Antonio Conte to his first top-flight defeat as Spurs head coach.

The defender's header was set up by a free-kick from Mason Mount, who provided his 20th assist since the start of the 2019-20 campaign – the most by any Chelsea player across all competitions in that period.

Spurs were unable to breach the Blues' goal, meaning they have now gone six matches across all competitions since last scoring against Chelsea, who became the first side to collect 500 points in Premier League London derby matches (501 points from 272 derbies).

The race for Erling Haaland's signature will be a huge story in 2022.

The 21-year-old sensation has interest from some of Europe's biggest clubs.

Haaland has netted 63 goals in the past 18 months for Borussia Dortmund.

 

TOP STORY – MAN UTD GIVE UP ON HAALAND

Manchester United have pulled out of the race to sign Dortmund's Haaland, according to ESPN.

The Red Devils will focus on alternative attacking options with uncertainty around Edinson Cavani and Cristiano Ronaldo's futures at the club while Haaland is favouring a move to Real Madrid.

United have had a long-standing interest in the Norwegian, who has a €75 million (£62m) release clause on his Dortmund contract.

 

ROUND-UP

- Manchester City are closing in on a deal for River Plate's 21-year-old Argentina international Julian Alvarez, claims The Telegraph. As part of the imminent deal, Alvarez – who has interest from Milan, Inter and Juventus – will remain with River until June. The fee is expected to be no less than £20m.

- Liverpool have joined the race to sign Borussia Monchengladbach's Denis Zakaria, according to ESPN. The Reds will rival Dortmund and Bayern Munich who are both keen on the Swiss midfielder.

- Ajax's Mexico international Edson Alvarez is attracting interest from Premier League trio Chelsea, Leicester City and Crystal Palace, reports Football Insider.

- Leeds United have opened contract talks with Brazilian superstar Raphinha,  according to the Daily Star, amid interest from Chelsea and Liverpool .

- French club Nice are set to offer Tottenham's Bryan Gil a loan deal, according to L'Equipe. The Spaniard has struggled for impact since his move to England.

- Diario AS claims that Valencia are working on a January deal for Athletic Bilbao defender Unai Nunez .

Antonio Conte saluted Tottenham's fighting spirit after Steven Bergwijn's stoppage-time double snatched a stunning 3-2 win at Leicester City in a Premier League thriller.

Spurs were on the brink of suffering a first top-flight defeat under Conte after James Maddison put the Foxes in front for the second time in the 76th minute at the King Power Stadium on Wednesday.

Patson Daka had opening the scoring, but Harry Kane equalised in the first half with the 250th club goal of his career.

Spurs looked set to miss the chance to move above fierce rivals Arsenal into fifth place, but Bergwijn came off the bench to provide a last-gasp heroic performance.

The Netherlands forward equalised with 95 minutes gone and there was yet another incredible twice two minutes later, when he rounded Kasper Schmeichel before seeing his right-footed finish go in off the post.

Tottenham head coach Conte was proud of the way his side battled right to the end and felt they deserved all three points.

He told BBC Match of the Day: "I think we showed today that we don't want to give up. Never. The players know very well what our philosophy must be. We must fight to the end and try to also get a result.

"Today to lose this game was not right. We created many, many chances. We were unlucky when we conceded. At the end we were very good. And we believed to the end. We wanted three points and we deserved them.

"The response of the team was good from the start. I have found a group that have shown me from the first day a desire to work with me and the staff and to improve every day."

Tottenham had 27 attempts as they posed a huge threat going forward, but looked vulnerable at the back.

Kane was outstanding but could have had a hat-trick, heading against the crossbar and seeing a shot cleared off the line by Luke Thomas as Spurs wasted a whole host of chances.

Conte's men are only a point behind fourth-placed West Ham with three games in hand on David Moyes' side, while they are eight points adrift of Chelsea in third place ahead of a clash with the European champions on Sunday, but the Italian says they remain a work in progress.

He added: "We know we have a long path in front of us but for me, it is important to know they want to improve. Step by step we need to raise our level and improve quality. Today we played a good game and if I have to see one situation we need to improve, there are key moments.

"Sometimes we do not understand this, that you need to control the game. A great team does this.

"For me, it is difficult to tell you something about our target. I think we have a long path and now we have to work. We know every well we have to fight to try to reach our best result. It will be very difficult because of the level of this tournament."

Bergwijn had not scored for Tottenham this season, but ended his drought in spectacular fashion.

Leicester City only suffered a late capitulation against Tottenham because they presented them with the chance to steal three points, according to Brendan Rodgers. 

Goals from Patson Daka and James Maddison either side of Harry Kane's 250th club strike appeared to have put Leicester on course for a much-needed victory at the King Power Stadium on Wednesday. 

However, Steven Bergwijn equalised in the 95th minute and grabbed a dramatic second 79 seconds later after Youri Tielemans ceded possession from the kick-off.  

Spurs' win came despite trailing after 94 minutes and 52 seconds, which is the latest a team has been losing before going on to win a Premier League match. 

Rodgers criticised his players for failing to secure back-to-back top-flight wins for the first time since October from such a promising position. 

"It was 93 minutes of really good work. We showed good resilience in defence. The goals we scored were terrific," Rodgers told BT Sport. 

"To concede the equaliser was disappointing to happen so late, but the winner was a very poor goal to concede. It is hard to not have taken anything from the game. 

"It's managing the game. Fundamentally, we missed out on key moments leading to the second goal and the third goal, Youri knows he can never make that pass, it was really naive from him. 

"That was a great opportunity, but you have to see that through. I don't think Tottenham won the game, we presented them the three points. 

"It's bitterly disappointing but we have to get back on the training pitch and prepare again for the weekend." 

Leicester next entertain Brighton and Hove Albion, who sit four points clear of them in ninth, on Sunday. 

Steven Bergwijn scored a stunning double deep into stoppage time as Tottenham snatched a 3-2 Premier League win at Leicester City on Wednesday.

Patson Daka put the Foxes in front against the run of play in a thrilling contest on Wednesday, but Harry Kane's 250th club goal of his career brought Spurs level in a pulsating first half.

James Maddison looked to have consigned Antonio Conte to a first top-flight defeat as Spurs boss when he restored Leicester's lead 14 minutes from time.

Bergwijn had other ideas, coming off the bench to strike twice with time running out to move Spurs above fierce rivals Arsenal into fifth place.

 

Harry Kane scored the 250th club goal of his career to equalise for Tottenham in their Premier League game at Leicester City on Wednesday.

Kane had a shot cleared off the line by Luke Thomas and headed against the crossbar before Patson Daka put the Foxes in front against the run of play.

England captain Kane was not to be denied his landmark goal seven minutes before half-time, taking a pass from Harry Winks and beating Caglar Soyuncu before tucking a left-foot shot in off the post.

His 250th goal came 10 years and 362 days after his first in club football for Leyton Orient, while this was the 15th past Leicester goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel at club level.

Kane has scored more goals against Leicester, where he spent a loan spell in 2013, in all competitions than any other side, with 18 in 17 matches.

Luis Suarez's future at Atletico Madrid is unclear with his contract to expire at the end of the season.

Suarez helped Atleti win LaLiga last term with 21 goals.

The Uruguayan joined Atletico from top-flight rivals Barcelona in 2020 on a two-year deal.

TOP STORY – SUAREZ WANTS GERRARD REUNION AT VILLA

Suarez wants a reunion with former Liverpool teammate Steven Gerrard at Aston Villa, reports Gerard Romero.

The Atletico Madrid forward's contract expires at the end of this season and has been sounded out by numerous Brazilian clubs.

Suarez has had offers from Palmeiras, Corinthians and Atletico Mineiro but wants to link up with Gerrard who took over at Villa in January.

 

ROUND-UP

- ESPN claims Paris Saint-Germain have opened talks with Manchester United's Paul Pogba and Milan's Franck Kessie, as part of their effort to convince Kylian Mbappe to stay in the French capital amid interest from Real Madrid.

- Juventus have made an enquiry for Borussia Monchengladbach's Denis Zakaria according to 90min as they prepare for Arthur Melo to join Arsenal .

- Arsenal's bid to sign Fiorentina's Dusan Vlahovic looks to have hit a roadblock with the Serbian only interested in joining Juventus, reports the Mail.

- Milan want to bolster their backline and are interested in a loan deal for Tottenham's Japhet Tanganga, claims Fabrizio Romano.

- Leicester City and Newcastle United may rival Brentford to sign Inter's Christian Eriksen, reports the Times.

Tottenham coach Antonio Conte believes the decision to postpone last weekend's scheduled north London derby was "very, very strange", but Leicester City counterpart Brendan Rodgers appreciates the Premier League's caution.

Arsenal submitted their request to have the game called off due to a lack of first-team player availability.

But critics accused the club of exploiting the Premier League's rules in order to get out of games while players were absent through injury, suspension or Africa Cup of Nations duty.

Arsenal had only one confirmed positive COVID-19 case at the time of their application, but the Premier League deemed they were unable to meet the required number of available players (13 outfielders and a goalkeeper) despite their Under-23s managing to field a squad of 16 on Friday.

Spurs released a statement criticising the decision, and Conte has since commented in public for the first time.

"The club made a statement and it was very clear to show our disappointment," the Italian told reporters. "It was disappointing because we prepared the game to play against Arsenal and the decision to postpone the game was very, very strange.

"My feeling is that when there is a situation to play we have to play, not to postpone games for injuries, for international duty.

"I think we have a big problem to solve and that is COVID, but only about this situation can you decide to postpone, not for other situations.

"Honestly, it's my first time in my life – and I've had a bit of experience in football – to see this type of decision."

Frustrations relating to postponements had been building over the previous couple of weeks and they seemed to reach boiling point with the decision to call off the derby.

Much of the discontent relates to certain clubs' apparent reluctance to use younger players from their second or academy teams.

Leeds United were praised on Sunday for going ahead with their match away to West Ham and winning 3-2 despite seven of their nine substitutes having no prior Premier League experience at all – one of the two who had appeared in a top-flight game before had only a three-minute cameo to his name.

Premier League rules state Under-21 players must be deemed "appropriately experienced" in order to count towards top-flight eligibility criteria for postponement purposes, and Rodgers – whose Leicester face Spurs on Wednesday – feels this is the fairest approach for the mental well-being of youngsters.

"It depends on how you frame it," Rodgers responded when asked about the apparent under-utilisation of young players.

"We have young players coming in now like [Kiernan] Dewsbury-Hall, and his timeline is that he went out on loan.

"You have to be careful. Not every Under-23 player is ready for Premier League football and you don't want to destroy a career. Development is different for players. We will look to play young players at the right time, we have been able to do that in the FA Cup.

"The rules are clear. For the Premier League, you have to have 13 plus a goalkeeper, so there is enough clarity. It doesn't say the guys out have to be out with COVID. The rules are there and clear.

"We are clear on where we are now. We were shown in a managers' meeting that it will hit different areas at different times, and different parts of the country will be hit.

"Lots of players are injured because they are having to play more. The Premier League have tried to be as fair as they can, and then there's Under-23s if they are experienced enough.

"We played the FA Cup game, but then we couldn't play the next game because we didn't have the players.

"Everyone has an opinion, but unless you're inside a club and are privy to the injuries and COVID cases, then it's probably difficult to say [games shouldn't be postponed]. All the clubs are working to get the games on."

Donny van de Beek has struggled to make much of an impression since his £35million move to Manchester United from Ajax in September 2020.

The Netherlands international was overlooked for regular selection by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and is also a fringe player under interim boss Ralf Rangnick.

But Van de Beek, who previously starred in a talented Ajax side, could be offered a route out of Old Trafford this month.


TOP STORY – DORTMUND, NEWCASTLE IN FOR VAN DE BEEK

Van de Beek is reportedly considering a move away in order to win back his place in the Netherlands side.

According to the Manchester Evening News, Bundesliga heavyweights Dortmund and Premier League strugglers Newcastle United are possible suitors for the midfielder.

However, United will have the final say on any loan deal, which would not be expected to contain an option to make the deal permanent at the end of the campaign.

The 24-year-old has featured 49 times for the Red Devils – just 19 of those being starts – since arriving at the club 16 months ago.


ROUND-UP

– Barcelona will make one final effort to sign Alvaro Morata this month, according to Sport. Memphis Depay could be used as part of any deal.

– Liverpool want to sign Jarrod Bowen and the West Ham forward is keen on the move, says Football Insider. It will not be in January, though.

– Desperate for a replacement for Kieran Trippier, Atletico Madrid are interested in Manchester United's Diogo Dalot, according to AS.

– Tuttomercatoweb says Arthur is keen on the idea of joining Arsenal on loan, but Juventus and Massimiliano Allegri have yet to okay any departure.

– Meanwhile, TMW also claims Paulo Dybala is not yet prepared to listen to offers from other clubs, with a contract summit with Juventus set for February.

– The Daily Mail reports that Arsenal are frontrunners to sign Youri Tielemans after Leicester City boss Brendan Rodgers admitted the midfielder may leave the club.

Mikel Arteta may be confident that his side can still recruit any player in the world, but Arsenal may have to wait if they are to sign Dusan Vlahovic from Fiorentina.

The in-demand Serbia international is the joint-fourth highest scorer in Europe's top five leagues this term and is wanted by an array of clubs across the continent.

While a January move has been touted, however, Fiorentina appear to be playing hardball when it comes to the future of the 21-year-old striker.


TOP STORY – FIORENTINA DEMANDS PREVENTING ARSENAL'S VLAHOVIC PURSUIT

Arsenal are reportedly willing to match Fiorentina's €75million (£62.62m) asking price for Vlahovic, which would make him the second-most expensive player in their history.

However, The Independent reports that the Serie A side want the majority of that money paid upfront, whereas Arsenal intend to spread the cost over the next four years.

The Gunners may therefore have to wait until the end of the campaign, at which point Vlahovic will have a year to run on his contract, before renegotiating with Fiorentina.

 


ROUND-UP

– It is shaping up to be a busy conclusion to the January window for Arsenal as Goal reports that the Premier League side have made contact with Juventus over a loan move for midfielder Arthur Melo, while Leicester City's Youri Tielemans is another potential target.

– L'Equipe claims that Paul Pogba remains a target for Paris Saint-Germain as he nears the end of his Manchester United contract. The midfielder has not featured since November due to injury and is not expected to return until next month.

– According to The Mail, Man Utd are eyeing a move for Brighton and Hove Albion's Tariq Lamptey as an upgrade on Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Diogo Dalot. Interim boss Ralf Rangnick is said to be a big fan of the right-sided player's versatility.

– Sticking with Rangnick and United, the German coach has put Ajax boss Erik ten Hag's name forward as the best option to replace him when his interim spell at Old Trafford ends in June. That is according to Le Parisien, with the French outlet also suggesting PSG's Mauricio Pochettino still remains in the frame.

– Ambitious Newcastle United have already brought in Kieran Trippier this month and more players look set to follow. Tuttomercato suggests that Roma's Chris Smalling could be lured to St James' Park as the Magpies desperately attempt to strengthen at centre-back.

Freiburg's Nico Schlotterbeck is attracting plenty of interest this month, with Bayern Munich and Real Madrid among those being linked. Bayern appear to be leading that particular race if reports from Spain are anything to go by, with the defender supposedly keen to stay in the Bundesliga.

Premier League managers are already feeling the strain amid cascading numbers of COVID-19 cases and mid-season injuries. Now many top bosses stand to lose stars to the Africa Cup of Nations.

Africa's greatest football show – now commonly known as AFCON – gets under way on Sunday in Cameroon.

Although the 2019 edition was held in June and July, it has historically been a January-into-February tournament and has returned to that place on the calendar.

A host of Premier League big names are hoping to make an impact during the four-week tournament, which falls slap-bang in the middle of European club campaigns, causing a major clash of competitions.

Premier League clubs certainly cannot complain of a lack of fair warning. It was June 2020 when African football chiefs decided the 2021 edition of the tournament would have to be pushed back by 12 months to a January 2022 start, in the hope the coronavirus crisis would have eased.

Here, Stats Perform takes a look at which teams from the English top flight might feel its impact the most.

Can Reds cling on in title battle?

If Liverpool lose no further ground on leaders Manchester City by the time their stars return from AFCON, then Jurgen Klopp would surely settle for that.

The 2019-20 Premier League champions have taken two points from a possible nine to leave the title as effectively City's to lose, and now Klopp is going to have to get by without Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Naby Keita.

Egyptian striker Salah is the Premier League's leader in goals (16) and assists (9, level with Trent Alexander Arnold) so far this season. He has taken 80 shots in 20 games (38 of these have hit the target), played 12 throughballs and created 40 chances from open play: in each of those categories he is at the top of the Premier League charts for players defined by Opta as forwards.

How do you cope without such a contribution? Having Mane on hand would help, but Mane will be turning out for Senegal, a team who, like Salah's Egypt, are firmly in the mix as serious trophy contenders. Don't expect either back at the end of the group stage.

Mane has eight Premier League goals this term, including the opener at Chelsea recently. That goal return puts Mane joint-second among African scorers in the Premier League this season, level with Watford's Emmanuel Dennis, who is not in Nigeria's squad.

Mane has played 19 throughballs and has made 23 tackles to boot, which is the seventh highest number of tackles by a forward in the league this season, a rarely mentioned attribute of his game. He does not always tackle with his elbow, either.

Keita will presumably be less of a miss, with the Guinean's Anfield contribution remaining underwhelming, but Liverpool have been so hard hit by absentees recently that to lose anybody for up to five weeks is an inconvenience.

They are at least assured of Joel Matip's presence this month. The centre-back last played for Cameroon in 2015 and has retired from international duty. That is bad news for the AFCON hosts but helps Liverpool, given Matip remains a sturdy presence, with a duel success of 69.47 per cent this season ranking him third among Premier League defenders with 10 or more appearances, and a passing accuracy of 88.89 per cent putting him eighth in that metric.

Liverpool only have two league games inked in between now and the end of AFCON, against Brentford and Crystal Palace, but the Reds also have two postponed fixtures to be slipped in somewhere along the line.

Wintertime Blues?

Pep Guardiola's Manchester City hold a 10-point lead over second-placed Chelsea, with Liverpool a point further back but possessing a game in hand on the top two. Reigning champions City have won 11 straight Premier League games and the Citizens have the resources to be able to cope with the short-term loss of Riyad Mahrez, who will captain Algeria.

Mahrez's six goals and four assists this season have come at a startling rate. Given the depth in City's squad, he does not always start, so to appreciate his contribution it is worth looking at his numbers per 90 minutes on the pitch.

The former Leicester City forward is averaging 0.64 goals and 0.43 assists per 90 minutes – impressively close to Salah's return of 0.81 and 0.45 in those categories – and is one of only four Premier League players with 10 or more appearances to average at least 1.00 goal involvements per 90 (Michael Olise 1.43, Salah 1.26, Roberto Firmino 1.24, Mahrez 1.07).

The Blues of Chelsea may have concerns over the absence of goalkeeper Edouard Mendy, given the Senegalese's stabilising influence at the back. His save percentage of 77.14 has only been beaten this season in the league by Wolves' Jose Sa (80.82) and Arsenal's Aaron Ramsdale (77.46).

Spaniard Kepa Arrizabalaga struggled in the early stages of his Chelsea career and is now the undoubted understudy.

Yet Kepa's form when given an opportunity this season has not given such cause for concern. The former Athletic Bilbao goalkeeper has been chiefly used in cup action, and he has achieved a remarkable save percentage of 81.48, suggesting that for a short run of games, he could be a perfectly able deputy.

Can an exodus to Africa affect the race for Europe?

Will fourth-placed Arsenal miss Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang? It seems unlikely now, given he was dropped and stripped of the captaincy after a disciplinary breach before heading off to join Gabon. He has not played for a month. The Gunners won five games in a row without him, including four in the league, before being unlucky to lose to Manchester City.

Cold facts tell us Arsenal have a points average of 1.9 per Premier League game when Aubameyang has started games this season, and 1.5 when he has been either a substitute or out of the team, but those figures may not be significant given the momentum Mikel Arteta's players have built in the recent absence of the 32-year-old. His continuing exile from the first team seems unlikely to cause much consternation.

For manager Arteta to lose Thomas Partey (Ghana) at this point is a blow though, with the former Atletico Madrid player having been excellent in the 2-1 defeat to City, having been slowly building up to such a performance. He had more touches, won more duels, made more tackles and played more successful passes than any other Arsenal player.

Arsenal have a big derby at Tottenham coming up on January 16, and they might feel Partey's absence that day, particularly given Spurs, who currently sit sixth, are sending no current first-teamers away to AFCON.

Splitting the north London rivals for now are West Ham, in fifth, and it will surely have hurt David Moyes to wave off Said Benrahma for a month of Algeria duty. The playmaker has five goals and four assists in the league this season, as well as making 83 ball recoveries and creating 21 chances in open play. That makes him one of only 13 players in the competition to top both 80 recoveries and 20 open-play chances created, and one of only five Premier League stars to tick both boxes and score at least five times. Crystal Palace's Wilfried Zaha, away with Ivory Coast, is another member of that small group.

Seventh-placed Manchester United will lose Eric Bailly to Ivory Coast too. But with Phil Jones back in the first team, will Bailly be missed? The former Villarreal centre-back has played just 217 minutes in the Premier League this season. United youth prospect Hannibal Mejbri is also away, in his case with Tunisia.

Further into mid-table, Wolves must find an alternative to the excellent Romain Saiss (tackle success rate 72.73 per cent) on the left side of their defence, after he joined up with Morocco. Brighton and Hove Albion powerhouse Yves Bissouma has the highest tackle success rate among midfielders to have made more than 40 such challenges in the Premier League this season (50 attempted, 35 won: 70 per cent hit rate) and he will line up for Mali after ending an international exile.

Leicester City sent away striker Kelechi Iheanacho (2 goals, 4 assists this season) for Nigeria service at a bad time for the Foxes, given injured Jamie Vardy faces several weeks out of action.

Palace are firmly in favour of players heading away to represent their countries, but the Eagles never particularly like to be without Zaha (5 goals, 1 assist, 86 dribbles). Since his return from Manchester United in August 2014, Palace have averaged 1.2 points and a 32.9 per cent win percentage with Zaha in their starting line-up, and 0.9 points and a 24.5 win percentage when he has not been in that matchday XI. The loss of Cheikhou Kouyate (80.56 per cent success rate from 36 tackles) to Senegal duty may also diminish the sturdiness of Patrick Vieira's Eagles spine.

Can Clarets cope without Cornet?

The relegation scrap seems more likely to be affected by transfer market activity than departures to AFCON.

Newcastle United and Norwich City, the league's bottom two, are sending nobody away, while fourth-bottom Watford have kept Dennis (8 goals, 5 assists) and it remains to be seen what happens to Ismaila Sarr (5 goals), who has been absent with injury of late but has headed for checks with Senegal doctors.

Burnley, who sit 18th, are seemingly the team to watch carefully here. Maxwel Cornet, now away with Ivory Coast, has scored six Premier League goals from just 10 shots on target, and Sean Dyche must find a way to make the Clarets impactful without the former Lyon man.

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