The neutral has plenty to be thankful for in this thrilling 2021 NFL season.

But all that drama, driven by a series of stunning against-the-odds upsets, can make life miserable for fantasy players, even at this celebratory time of year.

Want to maintain your cheer through another seemingly unpredictable slate of games this Thanksgiving week? Turn to Stats Perform for the below data-powered picks.

Quarterback: Jalen Hurts, Philadelphia Eagles @ New York Giants

The Eagles head into Week 12 rejuvenated, having won three of their past four games to improve to 5-6 ahead of a big NFC East matchup. Those three wins have all had one thing in common: Philadelphia have exceeded 200 yards rushing.

This run-heavy approach – with a league-high 49.6 rush percentage – wisely plays to the strengths of quarterback Hurts, who had three rushing scores last week against the New Orleans Saints as he surpassed 50 yards on the ground for the fifth straight game.

That was Hurts' 15th QB start. He ranks second through 15 QB starts since 1950 for rushing touchdowns (11 – behind Cam Newton, 14) and second through 15 QB starts since 1960 for rushing yards (890 – behind Lamar Jackson, 1,193).

The Giants – reeling from a bad defeat to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers – have given up 4.38 yards per rush play, ranking a mediocre 19th, and have not yet played any of the six best offenses in that regard. The Eagles' offense (4.99 yards per rush), led by Hurts, sits third and will be eyeing further big gains.

Running back: Joe Mixon, Cincinnati Bengals vs. Pittsburgh Steelers

Mixon is already enjoying a career year with nine rushing TDs, and the 2021 season might be about to get a whole lot better for the running back – and any fantasy players who can count on him – as the Bengals face an injury-ravaged Steelers defense.

Pittsburgh have now given up the most yards per rush play (4.76) after a tough two weeks in which their roster was hit by absences and it showed on the field. The winless Detroit Lions tallied 229 rushing yards and two TDs in their Week 10 tie, before the Los Angeles Chargers averaged 6.12 yards per rush as Austin Ekeler's two scores headlined a Week 11 win.

Mixon, who has rushing TDs in four straight games and last week ran for over 100 yards for the first time since Week 1, should get free rein against a Steelers defense that successfully disrupts the run on just 24.62 per cent of attempts.

Even if Pittsburgh can fix a problem that has persisted throughout the season and got worse of late, Mixon ranks 12th among running backs (min. 10 carries) with 3.74 yards per carry on disrupted runs.

Wide receiver: Deebo Samuel, San Francisco 49ers vs. Minnesota Vikings

A significant shift towards a run-heavy approach – the 49ers averaged 25.6 rushes per game through Week 9 but 43.0 per game since – would be an issue for most wide receivers, but Samuel is not most wide receivers.

It is his versatility that has helped accommodate a change that has potentially brought San Francisco back into contention.

Samuel caught only one pass against the Jacksonville Jaguars last week but rushed for 79 yards and a TD in the absence of injured rookie Elijah Mitchell. The previous week, with Mitchell involved against the Los Angeles Rams, Samuel had rushing and receiving scores in the same game for the first time in his career.

With the Vikings' rush defense matching the Steelers' in giving up 4.76 yards per rush, expect Samuel and the Niners to run the ball again and do it well.

Tight end: Kyle Pitts, Atlanta Falcons @ Jacksonville Jaguars

Pitts is the sixth-most targeted tight end this season (69) but has the third-most receiving yards (635), boosted massively by 100-yard games against the New York Jets and the Miami Dolphins either side of the Falcons' Week 6 bye.

The schedule slowed that momentum somewhat – Atlanta were held to three points across defeats to the Dallas Cowboys and the New England Patriots – but a trip to Jacksonville gives Pitts the opportunity to put his name up in lights once again.

The Jaguars have given up 7.20 yards per pass play in 2021, meaning this is unlikely to be the defense to keep Pitts in check. He has got open on 34.41 per cent of his 93 matchups, up on the tight end average of 18.10 per cent.

Defense: New England Patriots vs. Tennessee Titans

The Titans head into this week as the top seed in the AFC, but the Patriots may well take that spot from them over the next two weeks, hosting Tennessee before going to the Buffalo Bills in Monday Night Football.

While Mac Jones is enjoying a fine rookie year at QB, it will be New England's defense that puts them in contention, having given up only 5.07 yards per play while securing 21 total takeaways – ranking third in both regards.

And the Pats will expect to dominate the Titans, whose injury list has only grown since Derrick Henry went down. A.J. Brown is the latest offensive weapon to be unhealthy, while Julio Jones is not expected back for another two weeks.

These problems contributed to a woeful defeat to the Houston Texans last time out, when Ryan Tannehill threw four picks. Elsewhere in Week 10, New England caught four interceptions against the Falcons.

Kane Williamson insists New Zealand will not be favourites when they start the defence of their World Test Championship title against an under-strength India side in Kanpur on Thursday.

The Black Caps beat India by eight wickets in the inaugural World Test Championship at the Ageas Bowl in June, so India will be out for revenge in the two-match series on home soil.

Virat Kohli has been rested for the first Test, so Ajinkya Rahane takes charge of a team that will not include Rohit Sharma, KL Rahul, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammad Shami and Rishabh Pant.

Rohit, Bumrah, Shami and Pant have been given a rest for both games, while Rahul misses out due to a thigh strain.

India have plenty of strength in depth, though, and you have to go back 33 years for the last time they lost a home match against the Black Caps in the longest format.

New Zealand captain Williamson sat out India's 3-0 T20I whitewash of the tourists, which came so soon after his side had been beaten by Australia in the T20 World Cup final in Dubai.

The prolific batsman knows the Black Caps face a huge challenge, particularly without the opportunity to play any warm-up games.

He said: "I don't think we are favourites. One of the key strengths of Indian cricket is its depth. India has great knowledge of their own conditions, we know the challenge is a big one."

Williamson added: "As we have seen in this part of the world, the spin component has been very large and it has played a big role in changing the complexion of the game.

"I am sure throughout the whole series, the spin component will be a factor and it will be no different in Kanpur. It will be all about assessing the conditions as quickly as possible."

 

Opportunity knocks for Iyer

Shreyas Iyer will make his debut after Rahul was ruled out and is set to come into the middle order, with Shubman Gill to open with Mayank Agarwal.

The 26-year-old right-hander averages 52.18 in first-class cricket, scoring 12 centuries and boasting a strike-rate of 81.54.

Rahane hinted that India may play three spinners, stating: "We are not too sure of the combination. But in India you generally get spin-friendly wickets, the ball generally keeps slightly low and slow.

"We expect that but not too sure how the wicket will play. We will have to wait until tomorrow and assess from there."

Refreshed Jamieson closing in on half-century

Kyle Jamieson joined Williamson in missing the T20I series as the Black Caps managed his workload.

The paceman has made an outstanding start to his Test career and was man of the match when New Zealand beat India in the final in Southampton, having claimed match figures of 7-61.

Four wickets shy of 50 in the longest format, it would be a surprise if Jamieson does not come straight back into the team, particularly with Trent Boult not involved in the series.

New Zealand, who are unbeaten in nine Tests and have never gone 10 without defeat, must decide who replaces Devon Conway (broken hand) at the top of the order, with Will Young appearing set to get the nod.

Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola will be looking to seal top spot in Group A of the Champions League on Wednesday with a win against Paris Saint-Germain at the Etihad Stadium, having lost the reverse fixture 2-0 in the French capital in September.

Carlo Ancelotti and Real Madrid will also be seeking revenge as they visit Sheriff after the Moldovan outfit famously won 2-1 at the Santiago Bernabeu on matchday two.

After losing their first league game of the season at the weekend, Milan must find the first win of their European campaign if they are to keep their hopes of qualification alive when they travel to Atletico Madrid.

Stats Perform picks out the key Opta facts ahead of Wednesday's Champions League action.

 

Manchester City v Paris Saint-Germain: Messi aims to smite Guardiola again

Despite failing to find the net in Paris, only Bayern Munich (17) have scored more goals than Manchester City (15) in the Champions League this season. The Citizens are averaging 3.4 expected goals per game in the competition this term; since the start of 2013-14, this is the highest per-game average by a team in the group stage in a single Champions League campaign. 

PSG are winless in their past three away games in the Champions League (D2 L1), and could go without an away victory in the group stage of the competition in a single season for the first time since 2004-05. 

Lionel Messi, who fired home a brilliant second in the reverse game, has scored seven goals in seven Champions League appearances against City, the second-most by a player against an English club in the competition after his own haul of nine goals in six appearances against Arsenal.

7 - Lionel Messi has scored more UEFA Champions League goals against Man City (7) than any other player, while his seven goals against sides managed by Pep Guardiola (two vs Bayern Munich, five against Man City with him as manager) are also the most of any player. Haunting. pic.twitter.com/wPAYIZTx2R

— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) September 28, 2021

 

Sheriff v Real Madrid: Can Benzema keep up his form?

Real Madrid have won both of their away games in the Champions League this season without conceding a goal (1-0 v Inter and 5-0 v Shakhtar Donetsk), while they last managed this in three consecutive away games in the competition between October 2014 and February 2015, during Carlo Ancelotti’s first spell in charge of the club.

After their famous win in Spain this season, Sheriff could become just the fourth team to win their first two meetings with Madrid in European competition, after Liverpool (1981, 2009), Galatasaray (2000, 2001) and Benfica (1962, 1965).

One rather big obstacle to stop that from happening is Karim Benzema, who has scored in each of his previous three Champions League appearances (four goals), and will be looking to do so in four in succession for the first time since 2016-17. His brace against Shakhtar last time out took him to 100 direct goal involvements in the Champions League (75 goals and 25 assists). 

 

Atletico Madrid v Milan: Must-win for the Rossoneri

Stefano Pioli's side need a win to keep their slim hopes of qualification for the knockout stages alive, having amassed just one point from their four games, but the numbers do not bode well for the Rossoneri. Atletico Madrid have a 100 per cent record against Milan in European competition, winning all three of their meetings, which have all been in the Champions League – 1-0 away and 4-1 at home in 2013-14, and 2-1 away from home this season. 

Joao Felix has been directly involved in four of Atletico's previous five goals at the Wanda Metropolitano in the Champions League, scoring three times himself and providing an assist for Antoine Griezmann against Liverpool in October.

Milan have only won one of their past 16 games against Spanish opponents in the Champions League (D6 L9), beating Barcelona 2-0 at home in the round of 16 in 2012-13. Indeed, they are winless in their previous six such games (D1 L5), suffering defeats in each of the most recent four. 

 

Liverpool v Porto: Salah still a threat despite no jeopardy for Reds

Liverpool may have already sewn up top spot in Group B, but they will want to keep up their impressive record against Porto. The Reds are unbeaten in their nine meetings in European competition (W6 D3), with five of those games coming during Jurgen Klopp's reign (W4 D1). 

Since the start of 2017-18 – Mohamed Salah's first season as a Liverpool player – the Egypt star has scored 30 goals in 47 Champions League appearances. Only four of these have been penalties, with Robert Lewandowski (33) being the only player to have netted more non-penalty goals in the competition than Salah (26) during this period.

Porto defender Pepe could make his 100th career start in the Champions League in this game. In doing so, he would become just the second Portuguese player in the history of the competition to start a century of games, after Cristiano Ronaldo.


Other fixtures:

Besiktas v Ajax

5 – Besiktas have lost all five of their meetings with Ajax across all European competitions – only against Dynamo Kyiv (six) have they suffered more defeats.

4 – Ajax are one of only four teams with a 100 per cent record through the opening four matchdays of the 2021-22 Champions League. The Amsterdam side will be looking to become only the second Dutch team to win their opening five games of a European Cup/Champions League campaign, after Feyenoord in 1971-72.

Inter v Shakhtar Donetsk

0 – The previous three meetings between Inter and Shakhtar Donetsk in the Champions League have finished goalless, with all three coming since the start of last season. There have been 66 shots recorded in these previous three games (43 by Inter and 23 by Shakhtar), without a goal being scored.

2 – Shakhtar Donetsk have only lost two of their past six away games against Italian sides in the Champions League (W2 D2), going unbeaten in the most recent two – 2-1 versus Atalanta in October 2019 and 0-0 v Inter in December 2020.

Club Brugge v Leipzig

1 – Club Brugge have only won one of their past 15 home games in the Champions League (D6 L8), with that lone victory coming against Zenit in December 2020 (3-0). This was the only game in this run in which the Belgian side managed to score more than one goal, netting just 10 across the 15 games in total.

0 – RB Leipzig are winless in their past six Champions League games, suffering five defeats in this run (D1). The Bundesliga outfit have also conceded more goals in the competition in 2021 than any other team, shipping 17 in six games this calendar year.

Sporting CP v Borussia Dortmund

– Only Salah (3.01), Lewandowski (4.77) and Sebastien Haller (5.51) have accumulated a higher xG tally (excluding penalties) in this season's Champions League than Sporting's Paulinho (2.96), who has scored with three of his six shots on target to date.

– Without Erling Haaland, who is already ruled out of this contest through injury, Dortmund have managed just five goals in four Champions League matches (1.25 on average), compared to 20 in 12 with him in the side (1.7) since his debut for the club in February 2020.

Real Salt Lake produced a major upset to knock out Seattle Sounders on penalties and secure their spot in the MLS Cup Western Conference semi-finals.

The Sounders, who led the Western Conference for long periods of the season and let top spot slip on the final day, went down 6-5 on penalties after a goalless draw where RSL did not have a shot on goal across 120 minutes on Tuesday.

RSL goalkeeper David Ochoa was the hero, denying Kelyn Rowe with the first spotkick in sudden death, before Justen Glad's effort went in off the post to clinch their progress to a Western Conference semi-final against Sporting Kansas City.

Seattle appeared on their way to victory in the shootout when Stefan Frei saved from the second kick from Pablo Ruiz but it was re-taken, and converted, due to the goalkeeper coming off his line prematurely.

The Sounders had come closest to scoring during regulation time, with Raul Ruidiaz's second-half effort hitting the crossbar.

Hany Mukhtar's double earned second-year franchise Nashville a 3-1 come-from-behind victory over Orlando City in their MLS Cup first round clash.

US international Daryl Dike had headed Orlando into a 14th-minute lead, but Nashville equalised seven minutes later via Mukhtar's deflected strike from just outside the box.

Mukhtar put Nashville ahead in the 74th minute after a spectacular run into the box before unleashing a low left-foot shot which beat Orlando goalkeeper Pedro Gallese.

Jhonder Cadiz added another deep into stoppage time to seal Nashville's passage into the Eastern Conference semi-finals where they will face Philadelphia Union.

The Los Angeles Lakers were without suspended superstar LeBron James and not even a Russell Westbrook triple-double could fuel the title hopefuls as they were beaten 106-100 by the New York Knicks.

James was not on the court because of a ban handed down – the first of his illustrious career – for his ejection against the Detroit Pistons, the four-time NBA champion struck Isaiah Stewart in the face and drew blood, sparking a melee.

Since James joined the Lakers in 2018, the team had been averaging 113.0 points and with a winning percentage of 64.6 when he plays heading into the matchup, while averaging 107.4 points with a 39.7 winning percentage when he does not.

In his absence, former MVP Westbrook had 31 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists but the Lakers still lost on the road against the Knicks on Tuesday.

Westbrook posted 18 points in the third quarter to tie the game after the Lakers (9-10) had fallen in a 25-point hole, however, the Knicks recovered to beat the storied franchise for the ninth time in 11 games.

Anthony Davis put a pre-game illness aside to battle for 20 points, six rebounds and three assists in 34 minutes.

Julius Randle inspired the Knicks (10-8) with 20 points, 16 rebounds and five assists, while Evan Fournier contributed a team-high 26 points.

 

 

Porzingis achieves career first as Mavs win

For the first time in his career, Kristaps Porzingis (30 points) scored 20 or more points in seven straight games after helping the Dallas Mavericks trump the Los Angeles Clippers 112-104 in over-time.

 

Denver's slide continues as Jokic sits out again

Reigning MVP Nikola Jokic missed his third straight game due to a right wrist sprain and the Denver Nuggets went down 119-100 to the Portland Trail Blazers. The Nuggets have lost five consecutive games – their worst run since a five-game skid in January 2017.

The number one pick in the NBA Draft, it is safe to say Cade Cunningham's rookie season has been a baptism of fire. The first-year Pistons teenager has been criticised for his performances. In a 100-92 loss to the Miami Heat, he was just two-of-10 shooting – making one of seven three-pointers – for six points in 29 minutes, while he had four turnovers.

Lionel Messi's Paris Saint-Germain team-mate Marco Verratti says it is easy to forget the six-time Ballon d'Or winner is a "perfectly normal person".

Messi's arrival at PSG garnered huge fanfare and interest and Verratti admitted players treated the Argentinean as the "king of the locker room" upon his arrival.

However, the Italy international said now he had got to know Messi he had realised that he is a "simple guy".

"We forget at times that Messi is a perfectly normal person like everyone else," Verratti told Sky Sport Italia.

"It was a difficult start for him, he is settling in more and more, we welcomed him like a king to the locker room and it’s a privilege to play alongside him.

"He’s spectacular and enjoys himself in training too. He’s a really simple guy without airs and I like people like him, because I am the same. We get along both on and off the field."

Messi scored a Barcelona club-record 672 goals across 778 appearances, and has netted four goals in nine games in all competitions for PSG since his August move.

Sergio Ramos was another big off-season addition for PSG, signing as a free agent from Real Madrid and he is homing in on his long-awaited debut after a calf injury.

PSG head coach Mauricio Pochettino has admitted that Ramos is in contention to debut against Manchester City in the Champions League on Wednesday and Verratti was excited about his potential impact.

"Sergio Ramos is a player who needs no introduction," Verratti added. "He has done great things with Real Madrid for many years.

"When we played against him, it was difficult to counter him because he is a player with a great personality, who understands the game well, what he has to do. He is a dangerous player in attack, he is a player who defends well, he is a complete player.

"He has shown that throughout his career. We are happy that he can return to the group. It was already a pleasure to train with him during the week. I think that when he's at his best, he can help us a lot. "

The New York Giants fired offensive co-ordinator Jason Garrett following Monday's loss to NFL Super Bowl champions the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Garrett lost his job on Tuesday after the struggling Giants fell to 3-7 for the season on the back of a 30-10 defeat to Tom Brady's Buccaneers.

The Giants parted ways with former Dallas Cowboys head coach Garrett amid the team's offensive woes in 2021.

"We made a decision to move on from Jason Garrett as the offensive coordinator of the New York Giants," Giants head coach Joe Judge said. "Look, I have a lot of respect for Jason as a person, as a coach.

"He's been a tremendous asset for me as a young head coach. He's helped our development here. He's built very strong relationships in the building with the players, along with other support staff members.

"He's done a good job putting the team first. I have a lot of respect and appreciation for everything he's done for us."

The Giants hired Garrett in January 2020 after he left the Cowboys following nine and a half seasons as coach.

This season, only the Detroit Lions, Jacksonville Jaguars (both eight) and Chicago Bears (seven) have thrown fewer touchdowns than the Giants (10).

The Giants are 25th in the NFL with an average of 18.9 points a game, while they have scored fewer than 20 points five times and have not reached 30 points since October 11 last year in a 37-34 loss in Dallas – their 21-game streak with less than 30 points is the league's second-longest, behind Jacksonville's 24.

Also, the Giants are last in the NFL with a 44.4 red zone touchdown percentage (12 TDs in 27 trips inside the 20).

"I feel we have to be more productive as an offense," Judge said. "Generally speaking, the offense's job is to score points. I don't believe we're scoring enough points.

"It's my job as the head coach to make sure I give our players the opportunity to go out there and make plays."

The Giants – bottom of the NFC East – have not reached the playoffs since a Wild Card defeat to the Green Bay Packers in 2016.

Manchester United caretaker manager Michael Carrick hailed Cristiano Ronaldo after the Red Devils superstar made more Champions League history in the 2-0 victory over Villarreal.

Ronaldo became the first player to score in the first five matches of a European Cup/Champions League campaign for an English team as United qualified for the last 16 courtesy of Tuesday's Group F win at Villarreal.

In the first match of the post-Ole Gunnar Solskjaer era, with interim boss Carrick on the sidelines following the Norwegian's sacking, Ronaldo broke the deadlock 12 minutes from the end for his 799th career goal before team-mate Jadon Sancho sealed the victory at the death away from home.

Ronaldo's strike against Villarreal was the third time he has scored the match-winning goal in the final 15 minutes of a Champions League match this season – the most a single player has ever done so in a single season in the competition (excluding extra time).

The 36-year-old has also scored six goals for United in this season's Champions League; only Ruud van Nistelrooy in 2004-05 (eight) has ever scored more for an English club in a single group phase of the competition.

Carrick – who became the first English manager to win his first match in charge of United (excluding second spells) since 1931 – heaped praise on Ronaldo post-game, telling reporters: "There's not much more I can really say about Cristiano that hasn't been said over quite a number of years.

"It's what he does in the big games and the big moments when you need a goal and you need that little bit of something he's there to deliver. And he's got such a kind of cold, calculated mentality that he's so calm when he gets that and he doesn't snatch at the chances. That's what he's been gifted with. I say gifted with, he's worked very hard at being as good as he is, so delighted to obviously have him and not surprised at all that he managed to come up with a goal for us tonight.

"He played mixed positions. We started him off on the left to put Anthony [Martial] through the middle. And just as the flexibility we have as a forward line, the chopping and changing positions at times, but I thought whatever position they ended up, they defended responsibly and disciplined.

"That [helps] us look a much stronger team and helped an awful lot. In the end, you get your rewards. Like I said before, for Jadon, it's the same thing. If you work well as a team and you put the full package together, you end up getting your rewards and we did tonight."

It has been a turbulent time for United, who had only won two of their previous eight games heading into the matchday five fixture.

Sancho – a big-money signing from Borussia Dortmund at the start of the season – scored his first ever United goal in what was his 15th appearance and from his 11th attempted shot in all competitions.

Carrick added: "I think he'll be better off tonight after playing how he played tonight. The goal for everyone is the obvious one, I think. And for Jadon himself, it'll give him a massive boost.

"It was a big goal for him. But I thought his performance overall, I know how much Jadon likes the ball at his feet and he wants it where he's happiest. You see the smile on his face when he's got the ball on his feet and he's trying to make things happen. But actually, the most pleasant thing for me is the effort and the application that he put on and off the ball. 

"And at times he wasn't seeing a lot of the ball, but he was doing a job and he was playing a big part in the team's performance. In the end, that's what happens. You get your rewards and you kind of get what you deserve and you earn it. So I was delighted for Jadon, kind of epitomised the team's performance, really of how much we had to dig in. Grit and determination at certain times.

"But actually how much we enjoyed the ball as well at other times. So I was delighted for Jadon. It's obviously up to Jadon out of what happens next and how he kicks on because he's got all the talent in the world and he'll have all our support, that's for sure."

Juventus head coach Massimiliano Allegri is not angry with his side, despite slumping to the club's worst-ever Champions League defeat in their 4-0 drubbing at the hands of titleholders Chelsea.

Tuesday's rout was Juve's record Champions League defeat, and second worst in the European Cup/Champions League overall, behind a 7-0 loss to Wiener Sport-Club in October 1958.

It was also the first time Juventus lost by four goals in any competition in 17 years, dating back to February 2004 in a 4-0 Serie A defeat to rivals Roma.

Allegri's Juve had already qualified for the Champions League last 16, with Chelsea moving above them in Group H while clinching their own passage into the knockout stage.

Chelsea led 1-0 at the break from Trevor Chalobah's 25th-minute strike, before piling on three second-half goals via Reece James, Callum Hudson-Odoi and Timo Werner.

"I'm not angry with the lads, but we had to play better in the second half," Allegri told reporters in London.

"[Dejan] Kulusevski went to the dentist yesterday, he had a problem and wasn't in any condition to start today. [Paulo] Dybala only had 30 minutes in his legs. But no excuses, we know that we have to play better than in the second half."

Chelsea registered 21 shots to Juventus' eight, including eight to two on target, despite a relative advantage with 55 percent of possession.

Allegri took comfort in Juventus having already secured qualification for the last 16, along with their 1-0 reverse fixture victory over Chelsea.

"We are disappointed with the four goals we conceded but our objective, which was qualification, has been achieved," he said.

"There were times when we lost possession trying to get forward immediately, when we had to keep the ball more.

"In Turin, we were attentive to the defensive aspect of our game for 90 minutes, but today we only did it for 45, then gave up. We know what our strengths and weaknesses are. Even after evenings like this, we will improve."

He added: "Chelsea are a great team, they are European champions... Today, we had a good first half, but we were punished in the second."

Juventus, who have 12 points from five games along with leaders Chelsea, will finish their group phase at home to Malmo while the Blues go to Zenit.

Klay Thompson is back in full-team practice for the first time in more than two years and believes his return can help the Golden State Warriors win the NBA title.

Thompson was a key member of championship-winning teams in 2015, 2017 and 2018 but sustained an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tear as the Warriors' 'three-peat' bid failed against the Toronto Raptors in the 2019 Finals.

The guard then suffered an Achilles tendon injury while recovering, meaning he missed the entirety of two seasons prior to 2021-22.

But Thompson is now close to his long-awaited return, with his 19.5 career points per game and 41.9 per cent three-point shooting set to boost a Warriors team already leading the league.

Back practising alongside his team-mates on Tuesday, Thompson said: "It's so exciting. Just to be running up and down the court and playing basketball, it's truly a blessing and it makes coming to work so easy.

"The boring stuff's behind me and now it's just getting back in game shape. I've got to stay patient because I can be an overeager person to get out there and play, but I'm just incredibly grateful to be out there.

"The work the training staff and I have done over the last two years is really paying off, and it's hard to put into words how grateful I am to be playing basketball again."

After two tougher years following Thompson's injury and Kevin Durant's departure, Golden State are an outstanding 15-2. Only in 2015-16, when they had won each of their first 17 games, have the team enjoyed a better start.

The need for Thompson to return is not as desperate as had been imagined, as Stephen Curry is averaging 28.4 points in an MVP-calibre season while Andrew Wiggins (19.1) and Jordan Poole (18.4) have each also provided consistent scoring.

But adding Thompson into the mix is only going to improve the Warriors' chances, the man himself believes.

"We're 15-2. That's a great indicator of [being able to win a title]," he said.

"And our defence, I think it's top three in the league [allowing 101.1 points per game, ranked first], as well as our offense [scoring 114.2 points per game, also ranked first] – and I'm not even out there yet. Think about that. Really think about that.

"I'm more motivated than ever as well. I want a championship so bad. More than anything."

Warriors head coach Steve Kerr will not rush back his most reliable second man, though, explaining: "We don't have a target date.

"What we have is a number of weeks ahead of us for certain where we're going to play it out, keep letting him scrimmage as often as possible so that he'll build that endurance.

"And I would think within a few weeks we'll be able to finally sort of get a target date, but we don't have one right now."

Benfica's Jorge Jesus says in his 30 years as a coach he has never seen anything like Haris Seferovic's glaring late miss in Tuesday's 0-0 Champions League draw at Barcelona.

The Portuguese outfit could have moved above Barcelona in Group E ahead of the final matchday with victory but Seferovic put wide a golden opportunity on the break having got past goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen.

Darwin Nunez broke clear in a two-on-one situation in a last-gasp counter, squaring to Seferovic who dinked past Ter Stegen before poking wide from less than 12 yards with Eric Garcia scrambling to cover an empty net.

"At the end, there wasn't even a goalkeeper in goal for our final chance," Jorge Jesus told Eleven Sports.

"I've been a coach for 30 years and I've never seen anything like that in my life, but unfortunately it happened to me and Benfica."

He added: "It was a strong defensive display. It's true that during the 94 minutes Barcelona had one or two chances to score."

Barcelona had 66 percent possession with nearly double the number of passes (643-347) while they generated 14 shots compared to Benfica's seven, with both sides having three on target.

The draw means the Blaugrana remain second with seven points ahead of Benfica on five. Barca go to Bayern Munich, who are already confirmed as group winners, in the final matchday while Benfica host eliminated Dynamo Kiev.

"I want to congratulate the team for their defensive organisation," Jorge Jesus said. "We left here with a result that still leaves us dreaming but we are not dependent on our results.

"I keep saying the same thing: Barcelona are one of the best teams in the world and we are competing for qualification with them.

"This should make the fans, players and coach proud – today we were at the level of a great team."

Benfica defender Nicolas Otamendi, who made a key late block to deny Ousmane Dembele, refused to blame Seferovic.

"In the end we could have won, but it didn't happen," Otamendi said. "Seferovic tried, it didn't go in – it's football. We now have a final at home – we'll try to play to win and try to qualify.

"We have to keep the mentality of today and be organised. We tried not to let Barcelona build and we tried to get out fast, so now we want to repeat that in the next game."

Ajax head coach and rumoured Manchester United target Erik ten Hag said "it's always nice when you are linked to clubs with this status", though the Dutchman stressed his commitment to the Eredivisie champions.

Paris Saint-Germain boss Mauricio Pochettino is reportedly the favourite to replace Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, who was sacked on Sunday following a humiliating 4-1 Premier League rout at Watford.

However, Ten Hag is believed to be United's second choice to fill the United vacancy should the Red Devils miss out on Pochettino.

Ajax's Ten Hag has impressed in his time in Amsterdam, where he has delivered two Eredivisie titles and embarked on a memorable run to the 2018-19 Champions League semi-finals.

Ten Hag's men have been the entertainers of Europe this term, dazzling their way into the Champions League round of 16, while topping the Eredivisie ahead of rivals PSV on goal difference.

Having fielded questions about United's reported interest after Sunday's 5-0 demolition of RKC Waalwijk, Ten Hag was again quizzed by reporters on the eve of Wednesday's Champions League clash with Besiktas.

"It's always nice when you are linked to clubs with this status," the 51-year-old Ten Hag – previously linked to Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Newcastle United – said during a news conference in Istanbul.

Ten Hag added: "I am busy with Ajax. No one contacted me, I can confirm this. I want to win titles here.

"If we approach this game like you do [the media], we will have a very difficult night," he said.

Ajax will be looking to become only the second Dutch outfit to win their opening five games of a European Cup/Champions League campaign, after Feyenoord in 1971-72.

The Amsterdam club have produced more shots from high turnovers (11) – sequences that start within 40 metres of the opponent's goal – than any other team in the 2021-22 Champions League.

Ten Hag's high-pressing side have also scored two goals following high turnovers; one of only two teams to have netted more than once from these situations (along with Real Madrid, two).

Thomas Tuchel hailed an "amazing" performance from Chelsea after they put Juventus to the sword in a 4-0 victory to qualify for the Champions League last 16.

Chelsea cruised through with a game to spare and replaced Juve at the top of Group H with an emphatic win at Stamford Bridge on Tuesday.

Trevoh Chalobah marked his first start in the competition by scoring a contentious opening goal after Antonio Rudiger appeared to have handled the ball in the penalty area and the outstanding Reece James doubled Chelsea's lead with a rasping drive.

Callum Hudson-Odoi added a third and the fit-again Timo Werner put the icing on the cake by coming off the bench to complete the scoring with the last kick of the game, consigning Juve to their heaviest Champions League defeat.

Champions League holders Chelsea outclassed the Bianconeri as they extended their unbeaten run to 10 matches since losing to the Serie A side in September and head coach Tuchel was full of praise for his players.

"We wanted to stay patient but at the same time not fall asleep," Tuchel told BT Sport. "We wanted to increase the rhythm and intensity. It's so tough to create and score but we created so much. An amazing performance and a fantastic result.

"We were sharper than in Turin, we took more risks, something we lacked in Turin. We had control, but by pure control you cannot hurt Juventus – you need to penetrate, you need runs off the ball. We were very good and scored nice goals."

The Premier League leaders' resounding win appeared to come at a cost, though, as Ben Chilwell and N'Golo Kante sustained knee injuries.

Tuchel said of the duo: "Ben has a sharp pain in the knee. N'Golo twisted his knee a little bit. They will both be examined tomorrow [Wednesday].

"They are very sad things because N'Golo was very good before he went off and Chilly has been in a fantastic moment."

Mason Mount dropped to the bench as Hakim Ziyech came into the team, while Werner had to settle for a substitute role with Christian Pulisic making only his second start.

Tuchel did not have to call upon Romelu Lukaku from the bench as Chelsea gave another demonstration of their strength in depth and the Blues boss says it is much easier keeping his squad happy when they are in such great form.

"The best thing to keep them happy is to win and everyone has to fight for their place," he said. "We still have some tough decisions.

"I feel like they are disappointed [when left out] but they will never let the team down and show it for too long and it doesn't affect their work ethic.

"We are in a good place. Sometimes you take tough decisions - it's like this in football. The best thing is to win and we want to keep on winning."

This was Tuchel's 50th match in charge of Chelsea in all competitions, and 32nd win (D11 L7). The Blues have kept 31 clean sheets in those 50 games, more than any other side in Europe's big-five leagues since his first game in charge in January, conceding just 24 goals.

Xavi has issued a rallying cry to Barcelona as their Champions League hopes hang in the balance following Tuesday's 0-0 draw with Benfica.

The Blaugrana missed the opportunity to seal their progress to the knockout stages of the competition, despite a dominant performance at Camp Nou.

Although Xavi became the 13th consecutive manager to avoid defeat in his first Champions League game in charge of Barca, his side were unable to break down a stubborn Benfica.

The goalless stalemate was only the eighth that Barcelona have recorded in 133 home matches in this competition, while they have mustered just two goals from their opening five games.

They remain second in Group E and two points ahead of their Portuguese counterparts, but face runaway leaders Bayern Munich in two weeks' time with their fate yet to be decided.

Xavi insists his side will travel to Germany with a positive mentality.

"We were far superior to Benfica. If we had scored, we would be talking about a good match," the Barca head coach said.

"We take a point that means very little. We have one day left, and we have to go to Germany to win.

"We have one goal in two games [since I took over] and we have scored it from a penalty. It is clear that we have to be more effective.

"You have to go to Munich to win; we are Barca."

Barca did have the ball in the net through Ronald Araujo in the 83rd minute, but the defender's volley was ruled out for offside.

The Uruguay international was pleased with the mentality demonstrated by the hosts, but admitted the result left a bitter taste in his mouth.

"We missed the goal, which was the golden key to qualify," Araujo said. "The attitude was very good, but they were very tight in defence.

"There is a bitter taste because we wanted to win the three points here, in front of our people, but we have to win now in Munich."

Cristiano Ronaldo insisted Manchester United "will never stop fighting" after the superstar sent the embattled giants through to the Champions League knockouts following another record-breaking performance.

Ronaldo became the first player to score in the first five matches of a European Cup/Champions League campaign for an English team as United qualified for the last 16 courtesy of Tuesday's 2-0 Group F win over Villarreal.

In the first match of the post-Ole Gunnar Solskjaer era, with interim boss Michael Carrick on the sidelines, Ronaldo broke the deadlock 12 minutes from the end for his 799th career goal before team-mate Jadon Sancho sealed the victory at the death away from home.

It has been a turbulent time for United, who had only won two of their previous eight games heading into the matchday five fixture, and Ronaldo revelled in the display.

"Always great to play in Spain, amazing to win in Spain, satisfying to score in Spain, a country where I always felt special," Ronaldo wrote via social media, with United reportedly targeting Paris Saint-Germain head coach Mauricio Pochettino as Solskjaer's permanent replacement.

"Congrats to the lads for a great victory that puts us where we belong!

"We are Man. United and we will never stop fighting for this club! Let's go, Devils!"

Ronaldo's strike against Villarreal was the third time he has scored the match-winning goal in the final 15 minutes of a Champions League match this season – the most a single player has ever done so in a single season in the competition (excluding extra time).

The 36-year-old has also scored six goals for United in this season's Champions League; only Ruud van Nistelrooy in 2004-05 (eight) has ever scored more for an English club in a single group phase of the competition.

United captain Harry Maguire told BT Sport: "It's massive for our season. It was tough and edgy in the first half.

"It was important to stay in the game and I thought the lads who came off the bench really helped us push on and the second-half performance was really good. The emphasis was getting a result.

"Coming away from home in Europe you have to be solid. We got what we deserved in the end because of the chances we created. We want to be on the front foot and aggressive and in the first half maybe we played with too much fear.

"But we spoke about that and the first goal came from pressure. Ronaldo has been brilliant. We need to get back to being solid because if we do that we have every chance to win games when we have him up front."

© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.