The Premier League will reach a new milestone on Sunday when Manchester City face Liverpool in a titanic title tussle.

This will be the 50th match between the top two teams in the division in the competition's history, with City boasting a one-point advantage over Liverpool heading into this encounter.

Victory would move Jurgen Klopp's men top for the first time since October, having trailed by as many as 14 points back in January.

Of the 49 previous top-two meetings, the leaders have come out on top in 20, 11 have been drawn and 18 won by the second-placed team – including one of only two previous examples when City and Liverpool have been the sides at the summit. City thrashed newly crowned champions Liverpool 4-0 in July 2020.

The title race may already have been run on that occasion, but the hunters have consistently fared better than the hunted in such clashes across recent seasons.

The top team have beaten their nearest rivals in only one of the past eight matches to take place in the final 10 games of a season.

Consensus has it that victory for Liverpool at the Etihad Stadium – following that theme – would be followed by a successful title charge for the Reds.

But it has not always been so straightforward, as Stats Perform analyses a history of Premier League title deciders.

United rewarded for holding their nerve (1992-97)

Manchester United won four of the first five Premier League titles after three times holding their nerve against fellow contenders during the run-in.

Norwich City may now prop up the table, but they led the way at the start of April in the inaugural 1992-93 campaign, while United were back in third.

Although that is not the latest eventual champions have emerged from outside the top two – City were third at the start of May in 2013-14 – United had to do it the hard way by heading to Carrow Road in their next match.

Their performance there set the standard for two decades of dominance, as a scintillating first-half display saw three stunning breakaway goals in a 3-1 win. Five days later, Steve Bruce scored a pair of famous late goals against Sheffield Wednesday and United were top.

Alex Ferguson's side retained their title despite losing late in the next campaign to Blackburn Rovers, who were themselves champions the following season, but one of the most notable deciders went United's way in 1995-96. The Red Devils had trailed Newcastle United by 12 points in January but knew a win at St James' Park would trim the deficit to a single point.

That was exactly how it played out, too, as Eric Cantona – who created the first and netted the third at Norwich in 1993 – hit a winner against the run of play.

That was the start of a career-best run of six games in a row in which Cantona scored and the first of five consecutive United goals that came courtesy of their talisman – a feat since repeated only three times (Ruud van Nistelrooy in 2003, Cristiano Ronaldo in 2007 and Robin van Persie in 2013). Four of the six games ended 1-0.

Newcastle would also end 1996-97 as United's closest challengers, but it was the turn of Liverpool – who finished fourth – to blow a big lead.

The gap to United was 10 points in December, when Ferguson's side were sixth, yet Liverpool were two points behind by the time they welcomed their rivals to Anfield in mid-April. A pair of David James errors gave the visitors a precious victory en route to another title triumph.

Double delight for Arsenal at Old Trafford (1997-2004)

From the 1997-98 season onwards, United had consistent title rivals in Arsenal. And although United finished top in four of the next seven seasons to Arsenal's three, there were a pair of painful defeats for Ferguson.

While Newcastle's collapse from 12 points in front is most widely remembered – chiefly because the Magpies are still to win the Premier League – the competition record belongs to United's class of 1997-98, who allowed Arsenal to make up a 13-point deficit in the first season after Cantona's retirement.

There were still nine points between the sides before they met at Old Trafford in mid-March, but Arsenal had three games in hand and won 1-0 courtesy of a Marc Overmars goal – their first away to United in the Premier League – that capped a dazzling individual display. They led the table a month later.

That season ended with a double for Arsenal, and so too did the 2001-02 campaign, in which they again claimed a 1-0 victory at United. The Sylvain Wiltord-inspired success, days after winning the FA Cup, came in the penultimate game of the season and made Arsenal champions.

It was the first of only two occasions on which the title has been won in a match between two teams who were still in the running, while the top two in the Premier League have never met later in a campaign.

Chelsea take challenge to United (2004-2011)

Chelsea replaced Arsenal as perennial threats to United and their second consecutive title in 2005-06 was sealed with a 3-0 win over Ferguson's men, although the championship was essentially a formality at that point.

Meetings in subsequent years were more keenly contested. There was precious little between the two teams in 2007-08, when the Champions League final was decided on penalties, and a late-season Chelsea win at Stamford Bridge moved the teams level on points. However, the Blues' inferior goal difference and final-day draw with Bolton Wanderers allowed United to take the title regardless.

It was a different story in 2009-10, though. There was just a point separating leaders United from chasing Chelsea this time, and an away win at Old Trafford through goals from Joe Cole and Didier Drogba put the Blues in command, able to themselves seal the deal on the final day.

And yet the two dominant teams of this era were not done there. A May meeting back at Old Trafford the following season could have seen Chelsea snatch the championship away from United again, but Javier Hernandez scored inside a matter of seconds to set the Red Devils on course for a victory that crucially moved them six clear. That represents the last time the leaders beat the second-placed team during the run-in.

City serene since crucial Kompany winner (2011-2022)

United have won the title only once since 2010-11, while neighbours City have been crowned on five occasions in that time – and they have largely avoided the drama Ferguson's side made their benchmark.

Of course, their breakthrough triumph in 2011-12 was an exception to that, as City had to beat United even before Sergio Aguero's last-day heroics. Vincent Kompany's header moved the teams level on points, with goal difference vitally working in his side's favour.

Only four times since then have the top two faced off over the final 10 matches of the season, including Liverpool's 2013-14 defeat to Chelsea when neither team won the title and City's 2019-20 thrashing off the Reds when the league had already been settled.

City, in 2012-13, and United, in 2017-18, each claimed away derby wins that restored pride but could not prevent title processions. United's win at least denied City the delight of clinching the title against their neighbours.

The closest City and Liverpool have come to a true decider might be a January epic in 2018-19, but that should all change on Sunday.

Jurgen Klopp is savouring the sporting battle between Liverpool and Manchester City despite the high stakes that accompany Sunday's possible title decider, describing their rivalry as "cool".

In order to beat Manchester City in the 2019-20 season and win Liverpool's first domestic league title in three decades, Klopp's side had to claim 99 points, achieving a record-equalling 18 consecutive wins.

Whoever claims three points on Sunday would not only earn potentially decisive breathing room in the Premier League title race but would also crack the 75-point mark with seven games still to play.

Speaking at his pre-match news conference, the Liverpool boss made specific reference to the remarkable levels of consistency the two teams have pushed each other to, especially in the traditionally competitive Premier League.

"It's cool," Klopp said. "The last four years since we stepped up and could close the gap to City slightly, it's interesting absolutely. We push each other to incredible points tallies, madness. I would have never thought these kind of things are possible, especially not in this league.

"The consistency both teams have shown in that period is absolutely crazy.

"In sports, what helps you the most is a strong opponent. Especially, [Rafael] Nadal and [Roger] Federer enjoyed a lot the rivalry they had. I wouldn't say I'm thankful that City is that good but it didn't deny our development."

It is set to be the biggest match the Premier League has seen since, well, since the last time these two met during a fierce title race.

In 2019, Manchester City and Liverpool were slugging it out at the top of the table when they met at the Etihad Stadium, with Pep Guardiola's men edging a tight encounter 2-1, ultimately winning the league by a single point, 98 to 97.

That clash came in the January, though. This time, with both teams again separated by just one point, and with only eight games to go, it feels like it could be all or nothing when they meet on Sunday.

Both behemoths have numerous players who could play a crucial role, with match winners all over the pitch in either sky blue or red shirts.

However, two players in particular could arguably be held up as representations of both their teams, their approaches and their identity.

The journeys from transition to world-class of these City and Liverpool teams did not happen overnight, just like it didn't for two players who are now among the best full-backs in the game.

It has been said that Joao Cancelo and Trent Alexander-Arnold are redefining the role in their own unique ways, and in doing so, becoming defining players in their respective teams.

It is strange to think that during his first season at City in 2019-20, there were doubts raised about Cancelo's signing, valued at around £60m as part of a swap deal for the outgoing Danilo, who replaced Cancelo at Juventus.

However, the Portugal international was a key part of his team's recovery from a poor start last season to eventually ease to the Premier League title, before featuring prominently again this time around as Pep Guardiola's men chase a treble.

Cancelo was signed as a right-back but has shown his quality further still by adapting to playing at left-back, which is where he has recently been most effective for City, despite being right-footed.

Alexander-Arnold came through Liverpool's youth ranks, interestingly enough as a central midfielder, only moving to right-back as it seemed the quickest route into the first team.

Some early teething problems due to inexperience and size were understandable, but by the age of 21, he had already won the Champions League and Premier League.

He recently received one of the ultimate compliments, with Barcelona legend Dani Alves listing him as one of his favourite right-backs in the modern game.

The Brazilian – who is back at Barca for a second spell – told FourFourTwo magazine: "I admire Trent Alexander-Arnold very much. He's a fantastic footballer – this guy has got world-class skills."

How do they compare, though?

In an attacking sense, per game this season in all competitions, Cancelo has taken more shots than Alexander-Arnold (1.90 to 1.54) as well as having more touches (106.87 to 98.44), more touches in the opposition box (2.67 to 2.26) and more passes ending in the final third (30.86 to 28.21).

The Liverpool man is, perhaps unsurprisingly, more creative, having twice as many assists (16 to eight), more chances created from open play per game (1.56 to 1.05), more successful long passes (6.37 to 4.05) and almost twice as many passes played into the box (12.07 to 6.82).

No player in the Premier League comes close to Alexander-Arnold when it comes to switching flanks and moving the opposition across the pitch, with the England international doing so 57 times in the league this season, 20 times more than anyone else (Ruben Neves of Wolves is second with 37). Cancelo is third in the league overall for this, having done so 32 times so far.

Going the other way, Alexander-Arnold gets more than his fair share of scrutiny for his defending, but the numbers suggest this is unfair, or at least that there are aspects of his game that are better than Cancelo, who is correctly considered to be a very capable defender.

No City player has made more tackles (63) or interceptions (49) than Cancelo in the Premier League this season.

Cancelo competes in far more duels than his Liverpool rival per game in all competitions (11.54 to 5.42), with a success rate only slightly lower (1.27 to 1.32), while also making more tackles per game (2.05 to 1.23) and interceptions (1.85 to 1.31).

However, Alexander-Arnold has won possession more often (7.32 times per game to 5.7), conceded fewer fouls per game (0.31 to 1.07) and been dribbled past by an opponent fewer times per game (1.06 to 1.2).

The statistic that most people associate with Cancelo is the amount of touches he takes, comfortably the most in the Premier League, currently at 3,070 this season.

Alexander-Arnold has taken the next most with 2,490, ahead of Rodri (2,489), Aymeric Laporte (2,453) and Virgil van Dijk (2,402).

The Liverpool right-back, on the other hand, is more known for his creativity, and like Cancelo, the numbers back him up again this season.

In all competitions and across the top five European leagues, no player has created more than his 23 big chances – which is an opportunity from which a player would be reasonably expected to score – while in Premier League games, no player has created more than his 77 chances.

It is not just these more obvious metrics where the two are influencing things, though.

In terms of open play sequences involved in – defined as passages of open play that belong to one team and are ended by defensive actions, stoppages in play or a shot – they both lead the way in the Premier League this season, with Cancelo on 1,737 (62.3 per 90) and Alexander-Arnold on 1,555 (60.5 per 90), ahead of Rodri in third place on 1,447 (59.4 per 90).

Cancelo has also been involved in more open play shot-ending sequences than any other City player this season (191, or 6.9 per 90), while Alexander-Arnold ranks third among Liverpool players (144, or 5.6 per 90), behind only Mohamed Salah (192, or 7.4 per 90) and Sadio Mane (150, or 6.0 per 90).

With numbers like this, it is tempting to suggest that both could play in midfield, but that would be to do a disservice to the roles they currently fill at full back. They dominate from there with ease, and where is the sense in meddling with that?

They impressed again in midweek as their teams secured leads in the first legs of their Champions League quarter-finals, with Alexander-Arnold playing an incredible long ball to Luis Diaz to set up Liverpool's second goal at Benfica.

Both men are at the top of their games, and will need to be again when they meet in one of the biggest games the Premier League has ever seen on Sunday.

Manchester City remain the likely Premier League champions and are on course to pip weekend opponents Liverpool to the title as the race reaches its home straight.

The top two each have eight games remaining and the first comes on Sunday when they go head-to-head at the Etihad Stadium in what many are billing a title decider.

That is hyperbole of course, but for City it is the last time they will face a team currently in the top five, so by that logical reasoning it is the game where they are most likely to slip up.

Arsenal are the team likeliest to snatch fourth place and a Champions League ticket for next season, while at the foot of the table it is almost too close to call between Everton and Burnley for the third relegation place, with Leeds United now standing just a 12.2 per cent chance of sliding down to the Championship.

Stats Perform AI analysis has given us a strong sense of how the standings might look come the season's final whistle on Sunday, May 22, but the figures also show us there remains plenty to play for.

PEP TO WIN THE TITLE BATTLE AGAIN?

Pep Guardiola's City head into the crucial contest with a one-point advantage over a Liverpool side who have been closing the gap since trailing by 14 points on January 15, albeit with Jurgen Klopp's Reds having played two fewer games at that time.

It is clear this remains a title race that could yet go either way, but City stand a 65.6 per cent chance of carrying off the trophy for a second season in a row, with Liverpool, their lone rivals for silverware, having a 34.4 per cent opportunity.

Diego Simeone described City as "an extraordinary rival" after Atletico Madrid's 1-0 defeat at the Etihad Stadium on Tuesday, and the second leg of that Champions League tie follows three days after the Liverpool game.

City's Premier League opponents for the remainder of the campaign will then be, in order: Brighton (home), Watford (home), Leeds United (away), Newcastle United (home), West Ham (away) and Aston Villa (home), with a trip to Wolves also to be arranged for a date to be confirmed.

Liverpool, also with Champions League commitments and an FA Cup semi-final against City to come, have what looks a more daunting Premier League run-in after this weekend, beginning with two huge Anfield games: Manchester United (home), Everton (home), Newcastle (away), Tottenham (home), Aston Villa (away), Southampton (away), Wolves (home).

They are 64.7 per cent likely to finish as runners-up, the Stats Perform prediction shows, and 0.9 per cent likely to be caught by Chelsea for second place. City are 0.3 per cent likely to throw it away and finish third. Now that would be some story.

Of all teams in the top flight, third-placed Chelsea are the most likely to finish in their current position. That is calculated as a 94.5 per cent probability.

GO FOURTH AND PROSPER?

The last Champions League qualifying berth is the prize that looks to be a slug-off between north London rivals Tottenham and Arsenal, who will meet in a May 12 derby.

Both sit on 54 points heading into this weekend, with Tottenham fourth for now but Arsenal having played one fewer game.

Momentum could change considerably, but for now Arsenal are predicted to have a 59.1 per cent chance of taking fourth spot, with Tottenham given a 31.9 per cent shot (50.8 per cent to be fifth).

Who else might take fourth and secure the riches that come with Champions League involvement? Well, Chelsea are reckoned to have a 4.0 per cent prospect of slipping there (and a 0.3 per cent chance of nose-diving to fifth), while Manchester United are three points adrift of Spurs and the Gunners, sitting in seventh ahead of a weekend trip to struggling Everton, and are given a 4.2 per cent hope of finishing so high.

That would be a massive boost to United's next boss, but it remains a slim hope. In fact, United's most likely finishing position, according to the predictor, is sixth place (46.1 per cent).

Former Red Devils boss David Moyes has probably seen his West Ham side's hopes of a top-four finish slip away. The Hammers are also just three points behind Tottenham and Arsenal but have played more games than both and are given a trifling 0.7 per cent chance of coming home fourth.

GOING DOWN WITH THE NORWICH?

The Canaries of Norwich are so far down the relegation pit of despair they can surely smell Championship gas. They stand a 1.3 per chance of survival, and are 81.3 per cent likely to finish rock bottom.

Second-bottom Watford are given an 18 per cent chance of staying up by the predictor, and home games against Leeds, Brentford, Burnley, Everton and Leicester City mean that door to survival should be considered just slightly ajar.

Leeds could yet plummet, but if Norwich and Watford are the likeliest two sides to exit the Premier League, then Burnley and Everton are the two most obviously jostling to avoid joining them.

For now, after a bruising 3-2 defeat at Burnley on Wednesday, Everton are rated 49.4 per cent shots to finish inside the bottom three, compared to 53.2 per cent for Sean Dyche's Clarets.

It is knife-edge stuff, hardly the end of the table where Frank Lampard is at his most comfortable.

Come the final day, Lampard's Everton might need something from a trip to Arsenal, who in turn might need points in that fourth-place battle.

HOW THE NUMBERS ARE WORKED OUT

Stats Perform's League Prediction model simulates the outcomes of the remaining matches to estimate the likelihood of teams finishing in each position.

The model estimates the probability of each match outcome (win, draw or loss) from the latest available betting market odds data or, when not available, by using an internal win probability model that is powered by historical team strengths.

Based on these probabilities, the results of the remaining matches can be simulated. The outcome of the season is simulated 10,000 separate times in order to estimate the likelihood of each team finishing in each league position.

Manchester City and Liverpool goalkeepers Ederson and Alisson are two of the best shot-stoppers in world football, and David James concedes it is a struggle to pick an outright favourite.

Brazil duo Ederson and Alisson will meet on Sunday as Manchester City host Liverpool in a crucial game in the Premier League title race.

The goalkeepers have been the standout shot-stoppers in the Premier League in recent seasons. While Ederson has three league titles to his name, Alisson has helped Liverpool to a top-flight triumph and Champions League success.

This season, both goalkeepers have performed to similarly high levels. Alisson has made 60 saves in the league from 78 shots on target faced, leaving him with a save percentage of 76.9, while Ederson has made 50 stops, registering a save percentage of 72.3.

Based on Opta's expected goals on target conceded (xGOT) model, Alisson has performed slightly better when it comes to the number of goals he has prevented with the quality of his shot-stopping.

Alisson has prevented 2.9 goals in the top-flight, while Ederson has prevented 1.7.

With the margins between the pair so tight, former England number one James says it is difficult to pick which goalie he prefers.

"My favourite two goalkeepers in the Premier League, absolutely," the former City and Liverpool goalkeeper told Stats Perform.

"Even off the field, these two guys are fantastic people. I can admire them from the goalkeeping art, but when you've got wonderful people doing it, then it just adds another layer to it.

"They're very good friends as well, which makes it even more interesting, team-mates on the international scene, your mates off the field, and then you're competing in pretty much every tournament."

 

However, James does believe that Alisson, due to Liverpool's more open style of play, is tested more regularly.

"If I had a favourite, it's very difficult because their attributes are different," he continued.

"When you look at Ederson, the guy who can kick the ball 90 metres, hardly ever kicks the ball 40 metres, and everything is pretty much played in his own half now.

"It's more a demonstration of the dominance of City and because of that dominance he's not actually being called upon so much.

"Whereas if you look at Allison, who's got the freedom to get an assist if he wants, but has been called upon time and again, this even going into the game on the weekend, you're looking at it and thinking well 'case history would argue that Allison has made more saves in the last two months, possibly in one game than Ederson has had to do'.

"So Allison's kind of winning at the moment because he's doing more but I wouldn't want to pick one as my ultimate favourite."

Pep Guardiola dismissed the discussion of Liverpool recovering a 14-point deficit to Manchester City, claiming the January gap "was fake" due to the Reds' games in hand.

There is just a point between leaders City and second-placed Liverpool heading into their encounter on Sunday, which many are billing as a title decider.

But back in mid-January, Liverpool was in third, 14 points behind City – who had a 13-point advantage over Chelsea.

Should Liverpool go on to win the Premier League title, this season would mark the greatest comeback in terms of points, breaking the 1997-98 record held by Arsenal.

The Gunners, in their first Premier League title-winning campaign, were 13 points behind pace-setters Manchester United in sixth in late December. They also had a game in hand.

Although topped by Arsenal, perhaps the most notable collapse in the competition's history saw Newcastle United 12 points clear of United in January of the 1995-96 season. Kevin Keegan's side, who finished second, had played the same number of games as their title rivals.

"I'm going to tell you something: 14 points, it was fake. You were wrong," Guardiola said ahead of the game at the Etihad Stadium. "[Liverpool] had two more games in hand. It's fake."

 The City manager, therefore, refused to criticise his team for allowing that significant gap to be closed.

"I have to analyse the games where we dropped points — Crystal Palace, especially, and Southampton," he said.

"We were brilliant, I would say more than brilliant. We were not effective, we were not clinical, but we were brilliant.

"We won against Southampton in the FA Cup quarter-finals 4-1. It was miles away worse, worse than the game where we drew 1-1 when we could've won 4-1. But it's football, it's unpredictable.

"It was the same with Crystal Palace. Crystal Palace is in the semi-finals of the FA Cup, and we were amazing the way we played. It's football."

And Guardiola is not surprised by Liverpool's recovery, declaring them "one of the best teams in decades".

"When we were 14 points ahead of Liverpool, even myself I could not believe it because I know the incredible opponent we have to face," he added.

"It's Liverpool, one of the best teams in decades in this country, in Europe.

"The reality is one point right now, this is the normal reality. It's an honour to be there, to fight to beat them to win the Premier League."

Frank Lampard is finding it tough going but should be able to keep Everton in the Premier League, according to former England boss Sven-Goran Eriksson.

Since his appointment at the end of January, Lampard has lost seven of nine league games with the Toffees, a sticky start to his assignment at Goodison Park.

The poor run has continued a trend that began under predecessor Rafael Benitez, who got a tune out of the squad in the early weeks of the season before Everton hit bum note after bum note.

It means that Everton could be relegated for the first time in the Premier League era, given they sit just one point above third-bottom Burnley going into their final nine games of the season.

They have Manchester United, Liverpool and Chelsea coming up in the next five games, along with two matches against Leicester City, and Everton appear to have only downwards momentum for now.

Eriksson had Lampard as a key figure in his England teams for Euro 2004 and the 2006 World Cup, and got to know the man as well as the player.

And while the veteran Swede has not been convinced by every step Lampard has taken so far in his coaching career, notably during his time at Chelsea, he can see the 43-year-old guiding Everton to safety.

"Lampard got tough and strange when he had Chelsea. And I think maybe too early he took one of the biggest teams in Premier League and in Europe," Eriksson said. "Because it's not easy to come straight from a player to make a coach. Especially in the club you've been playing in, so I felt sorry for him.

"And now Everton, they're fighting, but Everton will stay, they will not go down."

Eriksson was speaking to Stats Perform ahead of Everton's defeat at Burnley on Wednesday evening, when a 3-2 loss compounded the team's recent poor form.

Lampard has lost all five of his top-flight away games in charge of Everton, making him the first manager to lose his first five away matches at a Premier League club since Jan Siewert at Huddersfield Town in 2019, who lost his first seven.

Now 74, Eriksson in his England days strove to find a system in which Lampard and Steven Gerrard could thrive. It would be a struggle for subsequent England bosses too, with both players having such attacking instincts from central midfield that it led to many a selection conundrum. Eriksson would instruct one to sit back when the other went forward, in an effort to ensure gaps were not left for the opposition to exploit.

Few doubted the qualities of either man on the pitch, but they are having to prove themselves in a management capacity now, and many playing greats have failed to establish such careers.

With Gerrard at mid-table Aston Villa, after a successful spell in Rangers, it remains to be seen whether there is room in the Premier League for both men next season.

Eriksson said: "I'm very happy to see them both. And I could imagine that both of them would be coaches in the future when I had them as players because they are both extremely, extremely intelligent as football players and as human beings, but they know football.

"They were not one of those players just going out playing and saying, ‘Give me the ball’, or whatever it is. No, tactically, they were very, very strong.

"For me, they played together in the midfield. They could attack, both of them. They could defend, both of them. So, if one went the other one stayed, and it's a pleasure.

"I'm sure both of them will have good career. And you can almost take a bet that when [Jurgen] Klopp is finished at Liverpool who's going to have that job. I'm quite sure that Steven Gerrard will be a strong contender for that."

Barcelona have asserted they will not break the bank in pursuit of Erling Haaland, but they remain keen on a striker to help Xavi's rebuild.

Robert Lewandowski is seen as a potential option if does not extend his deal at Bayern Munich.

According to reports, Lewandowski is weighing up his options, as Barcelona prepare themselves for a possible move.

 

TOP STORY – DEST TO BE USED AS MAKEWEIGHT?

Sergino Dest will be added as a sweetener to get a potential deal for Bayern's Lewandowski to Barcelona over the line, Sport reports.

Bayern already made a transfer request during the previous off-season's transfer window for the 21-year-old United States international, who has struggled for consistent minutes since Xavi took over as coach in November.

While a combination of Ronald Araujo, Dani Alves and Oscar Mingueza have all filled in at right back this season, Dest has been increasingly viewed as expendable under Xavi's tenure.

Lewandowski's contract runs out in 2023, but a move at the end of this season is still on the cards. Barca could use Dest to partly subsidise what is sure to be a huge asking price.

 

ROUND-UP

– The agent of Chelsea and Germany forward Timo Werner has been in Italy meeting with representatives from MilanJuventus and Atalanta, according to Corriere dello Sport.

– Ajax and Netherlands midfielder Ryan Gravenberch has agreed personal terms with Bayern Munich, per Bild.

– The Mirror is reporting senior figures at Inter are now more open to the idea of a return for Chelsea and Belgium striker Romelu Lukaku.

– Villarreal and Netherlands winger Arnaut Danjuma is viewed by Liverpool as a potential replacement for Sadio Mane, Goal has reported, but the Reds are not expected to make a bid until 2023.

Andrew Robertson laughed off having lighters thrown at him during Liverpool's win over Benfica, quipping "maybe it will help them stop smoking".

Liverpool won 3-1 in the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final in Lisbon on Wednesday, thanks to goals from Ibrahima Konate, Sadio Mane and Luis Diaz.

However, late in the match, Robertson had objects, including lighters, directed his way from the stands while he lined up to take a corner.

Robertson took the incident in his stride, though insisted such examples of abuse must not be tolerated.

"I had quite a few lighters thrown at me – maybe it will help them stop smoking," the Scotland international joked in an interview with BT Sport.

"You've got to take the positives. We've seen it a lot, people getting hit, luckily they were all quite close to me but they didn't hit me.

"It's tough when it's late in the game and the fans are frustrated but you should not throw stuff onto the pitch. It could hurt people.

"I was just trying to take the corner and get out of there as quick as possible."

Robertson certainly had the last laugh, with Liverpool able to take a comfortable lead back to Anfield for the second leg.

The left-back was typically crucial to the Reds' attacking play, creating a joint game-high three chances, along with Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson, including an assist for Konate's opener.

His nine crosses also led the way in the match, with six of those coming from open play.

Liverpool have now won each of their last eight away games in all competitions, their longest ever such winning run in the club's history.

Given Liverpool have also progressed from 12 of their previous 13 Champions League knockout ties when winning the first leg, Jurgen Klopp's team look good to go on and reach the final four.

Xavi's rebuild at Barcelona has had to take place with tighter purse strings than you might usually expect.

The club that reportedly spent a combined €275million on Ousmane Dembele and Philippe Coutinho in the same season are now on the hunt for a new winger, and Raphinha seemingly fits the criteria.

Whether they can convince Leeds to sell for a price that suits all parties will apparently be made clear in the next few weeks.

 

TOP STORY – BARCA EYE RAPHINHA

Talks have commenced for Raphinha's potential move from Leeds United to Barcelona, per Nicolo Schira.

Raphinha's agent, former Barcelona and Chelsea star Deco, has been in contact with the Catalan giants since early March, but the Brazilian winger's €70m release clause has been a roadblock for the cash-strapped club.

The Blaugrana remain the preferred destination for the 25-year-old, who has tallied nine goals and three assists in 28 appearances for embattled Leeds.

It is reported Barcelona will try to come up with an acceptable package for the Premier League club in the coming weeks.

 

ROUND-UP

– The Manchester Evening News is reporting Paris Saint-Germain have made an offer to Manchester United's Paul Pogba, as he enters the final months of his contract.

– Tottenham and England striker Harry Kane would consider an offer from Manchester United before weighing up his long-term future, according to The Athletic.

Manchester City are hopeful of agreeing a new contract with 21-year-old England midfielder Phil Foden, per 90min.

– Despite interest from Liverpool and Manchester United, Ronald Araujo's agent has disclosed to ESPN that a new long-term deal with Barcelona is imminent.

Jurgen Klopp has revealed he expected nothing less than the stern examination Liverpool were given en route to a 3-1 win at Benfica.

The Reds took control of the sides' Champions League quarter-final tie with victory in Portugal but the game was far less comfortable than the scoreline perhaps suggests.

The hosts created a string of chances after Darwin Nunez had halved the deficit early in the second period and were somewhat unfortunate to concede a potentially decisive Luis Diaz goal late on.

However, the challenge posed by Benfica certainly did not surprise Reds boss Klopp, who said: "In the end, coming here in an away game in the Champions League is tough. Obviously, Benfica fought for their lives. 

"We opened the door a little bit too much but they deserved the goal as well, even when we could have defended probably better. It's not that had absolutely no situations before.

"It was a tough game, what I expected, especially when they scored the crowd was there immediately. We knew it, we always know it, 2-0 is nothing, it's nice but not more. 

"They scored the goal and it was much more open than we wanted but, in the end, we should have scored [more] in the first half, could have scored in the second. 

"They played a really good game but the goalie was anyway the best player, he made a couple of really good saves. That's it, we won it, two goals up, half-time, not more, not less, let's keep going."

Klopp went on to provide a positive update on midfielder Fabinho, who was involved in a nasty clash of heads with Nicolas Otamendi in the final minutes of normal time.

He added: "Fabinho has a little cut – he's fine. It is a cut in the back of his head. It will need a bit of time but he should be fine.”

The German also refused to get overly excited about Liverpool's chances of progression to the semi-finals, insisting Benfica will remain dangerous at Anfield.

He continued: "It's half-time, we have a much better result than before, we know much more about the opponent. 

"They will go for it again, they won at Ajax and ground out all the results they needed in the group stage.

"We are aware of the quality and now we have a nice game in between [against Manchester City] but then we will be ready again for Benfica."

Liverpool took control of their Champions League quarter-final tie against Benfica as they claimed a hard-fought 3-1 win in Portgual.

Jurgen Klopp's side looked to be cruising into the last four after first-half goals from Ibrahima Konate and Sadio Mane gave them a deserved half-time lead.

However, Benfica were back in it when Darwin Nunez netted shortly after the restart, and they continued to threaten an equaliser before Luis Diaz wrapped things up in somewhat fortuitous fashion late on. 

The signs of the hosts' potential were evident in an encouraging start that came about thanks in no small part to a fervent crowd at the Estadio da Luz.

A fast-paced early break from Rafa seemed to hint at how Benfica might trouble their opponents and Nunez soon followed suit to provide a low cross that deserved better support.

But Liverpool, too, were creating chances and eventually took one when Konate rose highest in space to head home an Andy Robertson corner.

That marked the start of utter domination from the visitors, who double their tally just past the half-hour mark when Diaz nodded down a beauty of a Trent Alexander-Arnold pass to hand Mane a tap-in. 

Alexander-Arnold almost created another goal just before the break, an incredible pass on the turn putting in Mohamed Salah for a one-on-one that he should have done better with.

Given the one-sided nature of the first half, it did not feel like Liverpool would rue that miss, but it took just four minutes after the restart for Benfica to totally change the complexion of the game.

They visitors looked wide open even before Konate's miscued back-post clearance allowed Nunez all the time in the world to side-foot home and ignite the atmosphere once more.

Nelson Verissimo's men were subsequently transformed and went close again through a Nunez header before Everton shot straight at Alisson when he perhaps should have found a corner.

That flurry of opportunities prompted Klopp to look to his bench, Jordan Henderson, Roberto Firmino and Diogo Jota emerging all at once to try and settle things down.

The trio partially succeeded in their aim, although they weren't capable of entirely negating Benfica's threat on the break, or silencing cacophony that greeted their every burst forward.

However, unaided by any mistakes similar to that which allowed Nunez to score, the hosts failed to find a second goal.

And they were hit by a late sucker punch when a heavy deflection on a Naby Keita through-ball allow Diaz to round Odisseas Vlachodimos and pass the ball home.

Christian Eriksen has been in sparkling form since returning to action with Brentford following his cardiac arrest at Euro 2020.

Inter allowed Eriksen to end his contract after the Denmark international was unable to play in Serie A after having a cardiac device implant fitted, allowing the Bees to sign him on a six-month deal.

Eriksen has since scored for both club and country, and his form has some familiar faces swirling.

 

TOP STORY – TOTTENHAM WANT ERISKEN REUNION

With his return to health, and some form, Tottenham want to bring Eriksen back to the club where he made a name for himself in England.

Eriksen departed from Ajax in 2013, and would spend seven seasons with Spurs, scoring 69 goals in 305 appearances, before signing with Antonio Conte's Inter in Serie A.

As luck would have it, Conte is now the man in charge at Tottenham, and The Daily Mail is reporting he would like to bring Eriksen back on a free transfer when his contract expires at the end of this season.

Spurs will have some competition, though, as it is also reported that Manchester United will be seeking the Dane's services.

 

ROUND-UP

– The Liverpool Echo is reporting that Jurgen Klopp is "happy" with the fact that Mohamed Salah and "decisive parties" are talking to each other regarding a contract extension at Liverpool.

– If Salah was to leave the club, FourFourTwo is reporting that Liverpool will explore replacing him with Paris Saint-Germain superstar Kylian Mbappe – while according to RMC Sport, a third "mystery team" has entered the race for Mbappe, with Real Madrid also circling.

– Real Madrid will be offering out Eden Hazard on loan for the 2022-23 season, according to AS.

– Union Berlin's Nigerian striker Taiwo Awoniyi will fetch a price of £25million if Newcastle, West Ham or Southampton want to prise him away, per Bild.

– The Daily Mirror is reporting that Newcastle could offer England midfielder Kalvin Phillips a contract worth £120,000 per week to lure him away from Leeds United.

Tuesday's Champions League fixtures feature two of the tournament favourites, but there are no easy games when the competition reaches the quarter-finals.

Manchester City are the bookmakers' favourites to lift the trophy but will need to safely navigate their way past 2020-21 LaLiga champions Atletico Madrid, starting with Tuesday's first leg at the Etihad Stadium.

Liverpool are right behind City in the odds, but the Reds face a tough trip to Portugal where they will play Benfica after the home side triumphed over a strong Ajax team in the previous round.

While the English teams are well fancied, the Opta facts show Atleti coach Diego Simeone should not be daunted by City boss Pep Guardiola, and Benfica's Estadio da Luz has been anything but a happy hunting ground for Liverpool.

Manchester City v Atletico Madrid

This will be the first ever meeting between City and Atleti in European competition, but the fourth between the respective bosses of the two clubs. None of the previous three games ended in a draw, as Guardiola won two and Simeone triumphed in the other.

While Simeone is down on the head-to-head record, his Atleti side eliminated Guardiola’s Bayern Munich in the semi-finals of the 2015-16 Champions League (2-2 on aggregate), progressing on away goals. 

Showing his side can win ugly, across the two legs, Atletico averaged just 27 per cent possession and scored their two goals from 18 shots, while Bayern netted the same number of goals from 53 attempts.

City should have some reliable avenues to goal, as only Vinicius Junior (44) has been directly involved in more shots than Riyad Mahrez (42 – 29 shots, 13 chances created) in the Champions League this season. 

 

One of Mahrez's chief suppliers is likely to be Kevin De Bruyne, who will make his 50th Champions League appearance for City if he plays in the first leg.

Since his first season at the club in 2015-16, he has more assists than any other player for an English club (17) in the competition. 

However, Atleti may be uniquely positioned to repel some of City's attacking firepower, as no goalkeeper has kept more Champions League clean sheets since 2014-15 than Jan Oblak, with 30 clean sheets in 67 appearances.

Meanwhile, City have only failed to score in one of their 28 home games under Guardiola.

Atleti are also the first side to face both Manchester United and Manchester City in the knockout stages of a European competition in a season since Juventus in the 1976-77 UEFA Cup – the Italian side would go on to progress from both of those ties before winning the whole thing.

 

Liverpool v Benfica 

Liverpool are aiming to win a fifth consecutive away game in Europe's premier competition for only the second time in their history, having last done so between 1983 and 1984 under Joe Fagan.

While Liverpool are a very different beast in recent years under Jurgen Klopp, they have lost on each of their last three away trips to face Benfica in European competition, with the most recent of those coming in the Europa League in 2009-10 under Rafa Benítez.

On the other hand, Benfica are winless in their past four homes matches against English sides in the Champions League since beating Liverpool in 2006, with one draw and three losses.

The home side will need a big performance from Darwin Nunez, who is Benfica’s top scorer in the Champions League this season, having netted four times so far. He is just one goal shy of equalling Nuno Gomes as the player with the most goals for Benfica in a single Champions League campaign (five goals in 1998-99).

Meanwhile, Liverpool boast one of the main hopes for the Ballon D'or in Mohamed Salah, who has scored eight goals in the Champions League this season and could become the first player to score 10+ goals in multiple seasons for the Reds in the competition. 

 

The only other player from an English club to reach double-figure goals in a European Cup/Champions League campaign on more than one occasion was Ruud van Nistelrooy in 2001-02 and 2002-03 for Manchester United.

Benfica will need to be efficient going forward, as their 40 per cent possession in the Champions League this season is the lowest of any remaining team, while only Real Madrid (23) have recorded more direct attacks than the Portuguese side.

Benfica are not afraid of the challenge that awaits them in their Champions League quarter-final tie with Liverpool, according to midfielder Adel Taarabt.

Liverpool enter the first leg of their showdown with Benfica at Estadio da Luz on Tuesday as strong favourites, having won 16 of their past 17 matches in all competitions.

The Reds have also won all four away games in UEFA's flagship club competition this term – only once, between 1983 and 1984 under Joe Fagan, have they won five in a row.

But having finished above Barcelona in the group stage before eliminating an in-form Ajax in the first knockout round, Taarabt does not fear Premier League giants Liverpool.

"Of course we can compete with them," Taarabt said at a pre-match news conference on Monday. "I think we can do it. 

"They are a team we have to respect, but we're not afraid of them. We know their quality and hope to be at our best."

While Liverpool may be in good form, they have lost each of their last three trips to face Benfica in European competition, the most recent of those games coming in the 2009-10 Europa League.

The Reds are a far different proposition under Jurgen Klopp, however, as they look to add the Premier League, Champions League and FA Cup to the EFL Cup already won.

Taarabt, who spent seven years in English football with Tottenham, QPR and Fulham, puts Liverpool's successful streak in recent years down to a settled side.

"This team has been playing together now for four or five years," he said. "They have a lot of dynamics to them and play well. They are also very consistent.

"In the past there were a lot of players coming and going, though even when that was the case they were still a very good side."

Benfica beat Ajax 3-2 on aggregate to reach the Champions League quarter-finals for a fifth time, though they have never previously progressed any further.

Nothing will be decided in Tuesday's first leg and head coach Nelson Verissimo is hoping it will be all to play for at Anfield in next week's return fixture.

"In a two-legged tie it's always important how the first game ends," he said. "It was good for us when we played the first game at home against Ajax, and here it will be too.

"The result will be important to ensure the second leg remains open. It's important we start well, with the hope of progressing. But we know Liverpool's power."

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