After the Patriots saw their playoff campaign emphatically come to an end on Saturday, the man who left New England to further his legacy begins his quest for an eighth ring on Sunday.

Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will be expected to win in routine fashion in their Wild Card round matchup with the Philadelphia Eagles, while the team they beat in last season's Super Bowl, the Kansas City Chiefs, are anticipated to end Ben Roethlisberger's career with a routine victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Sandwiched between those two potential blowouts is the game of the weekend as two storied rivals, the San Francisco 49ers and Dallas Cowboys, contest a long overdue renewal of acquaintances in the postseason.

As Stats Perform's look at Sunday's action explains, both the Niners and the Cowboys possess the offense firepower to ensure the matchup lives up to its lofty expectations.

Philadelphia Eagles @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The defending champion Bucs are unsurprisingly the heavy favourites against an Eagles team that claimed nine wins in the regular season, none of which came against an opponent that made the postseason.

Not much stock will be put in the history of this encounter, even if it does make pleasant reading for any Eagles fans looking for reason for hope.

The Eagles and Buccaneers have split their 20 all-time meetings, with each team winning eight regular-season games and two in postseason play. Their only postseason matchup in Tampa was a 24-17 win by the Bucs in 1979, their first-ever playoff win.

All eyes at Raymond James Stadium will be on Bucs quarterback Tom Brady, who is set for another piece of history in his seemingly endless career.

Brady will be playing in his 19th postseason and in his 46th career playoff start, the most by any player in NFL history. At age 44, Brady will break his own record for the oldest quarterback to start a playoff game. Brady has more playoff wins since turning 36 years old (17) than any other QB has in his entire career.

Musa Barrow's last-minute penalty rescued a point for Gambia in their 1-1 draw with Mali at the Africa Cup of Nations.

There was late VAR drama at Stade Municipal de Limbe with referee Samir Guezzaz awarding of two spot-kicks in the final 11 minutes of the Group F encounter.

First, Ibrahima Kone slotted home from 12 yards for the second game running after Yves Bissouma was dragged down by Ebrima Adams in the box.

That was the 22nd goal that Mali have scored after half-time in the Africa Cup of Nations since 2010, with only Ivory Coast (25) doing so more often during that span.

The Eagles were on course to win their opening two games in the competition for the first time since 2004, until Bissouma was penalised for handball in the closing moments.

Having hit the crossbar with a brilliant first-half free-kick, there was no denying Barrow this time around as the Bologna forward calmly sent Ibrahim Mounkoro the wrong way to ensure a share of the spoils.

Josh Allen called on the Buffalo Bills to maintain the same urgency in their bid to reach the Super Bowl after records tumbled as they demolished the New England Patriots.

The Bills thumped AFC East rivals the Patriots 47-17 on Saturday to reach the Divisional Round of the NFL playoffs.

Buffalo led 27-3 at halftime after an explosive start and Allen set a team playoff record with five touchdown passes in a fine performance.

Sean McDermott's team inflicted the biggest margin of defeat in the playoffs for the Patriots since Bill Belichick took charge in 2000.

The rampant Allen had more touchdowns (five) than incomplete passes (four) as the Bills scored a TD on all seven drives and went the whole game without a punt, field goal or turnover – a first in the NFL playoffs.

Per Stats Perform data, Allen became the first QB in NFL history to complete at least 80 per cent of his passes, throw for 5+ TDs and also rush for 50+ yards (66) in a single game.

Up next will be either a trip to the Kansas City Chiefs in a rematch of the AFC Championship from last season or a home game against the Cincinnati Bengals.

That will be decided by the outcome of the Chiefs' matchup with the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday, but regardless of the next opponent Allen knows the Bills need more of the same.

"We feel good," Allen said, per ESPN. 

"When you are going into every game with a win-or-go-home mentality, and that's really what we've had in the last few weeks, just the attention to detail in practice – guys are more attentive.

"The urgency is there, and you're seeing us play better because of it. We're going to need that same mentality this week.

"There are some things that we can clean up and work on, but we moved on, we're on to the next one and it doesn't matter what we did – it's what we do next week."

The dominant nature of the Bills' performance gave them a rare opportunity to savour the atmosphere on a cold night at Highmark Stadium.

"It's not often in coaching you can enjoy the last six minutes of a game and kind of look up in the stands and see the fans enjoying it and at home," said head coach McDermott.

"I'm happy for them more than anything. For us as a team this year, it's one game. 

"[The Patriots] – that is a good football team and they've been at the top for so long. So, we have a lot of respect for them. We've just got to keep moving on."

Asked about the fantastic display from Allen, he added: "It's fun to watch young players develop. There's a lot that goes into that. 

"Number one is the player, in this case Josh, taking greater ownership of his development and his preparation this week. That is what led him to the results you saw on the field. It's pretty black and white that way."

Russell Westbrook accepts Magic Johnson's damning assessment of the Los Angeles Lakers' form, but says the legendary figure does not know what is going on internally.

The Lakers slumped to a third defeat in a row with a heavy 133-96 loss at the hands of the Denver Nuggets on Saturday.

Frank Vogel's side, who were without injured Carmelo Anthony for a third straight game, now have a 21-22 record for the season and are seventh in the Western Conference.

The defeat to a Nikola Jokic-inspired Nuggets was the second biggest of LeBron James' 19-year career, and one fellow Lakers icon Johnson felt showed a lack of effort.

"After being blown out by the Nuggets, we as Lakers fans can accept being outplayed but we deserve more than a lack of effort and no sense of urgency," Johnson tweeted. 

"Owner Jeanie Buss, you deserve better."

Westbrook, who scored 19 points on 7-for-15 shooting, did not want to be drawn into a war of words with Johnson when asked for his reaction to the social media post.

"I do not have a reaction," he said. "Everybody is entitled, in this world, to their opinion – regardless of what that it is. 

"You can either take it and run with it or you can take it and put it in one ear and out the other or you cannot respond to it.

"Magic's entitled to his opinion. And he's not here every day. He's not around us every day. He's not aware of what's going on internally with us and trying to figure things out. 

"But I have no response to that. Like I said, everyone in this world is entitled to their opinion and that's that."

Reigning MVP Jokic recorded another triple-double as the Lakers slumped below .500 again in their defeat to the Nuggets.

Jokic finished with 17 points, 12 rebounds and 13 assists as Denver piled on 73 first-half points before restricting the Lakers to only 36 points in the second half.

And on the back of a humiliating loss, Westbrook concedes his side have to step up ahead of back-to-back home games with the Utah Jazz and the Indiana Pacers. 

"We just got to play hard," he said. "Sometimes, the schemes and how you play doesn't really matter. 

"You got to just play hard sometimes. Teams are playing harder than us, simple as that."

Dwight Howard, whose average of 5.4 points-per-game through 33 outings this season is the lowest of his career, echoed the thoughts of Westbrook.

"It's not too much I can really say about it. We've been saying it all year. I shouldn't have to keep saying. But, you know, he's right," Howard said.

"You can't stop believing that you're gonna win and just say, 'Ah, f**** it, let's give up.

"We know we've put ourselves in a pretty tough predicament, but all it takes is a couple games and some good energy and some positivity. We've just got to stay positive."

The Lakers' 37-point loss to Denver was their largest ever in this fixture and follows defeats to the Memphis Grizzlies and the Sacramento Kings in the past week.

"We've got to get back to the drawing board and get our defense right," head coach Vogel said. "We haven't performed well enough in the last two games on that side of the ball."

Kevin Durant missing time to injury would be "tough" for the Brooklyn Nets to take and James Harden would be set for an increased workload as a result, admits coach Steve Nash.

The Nets earned a comfortable 120-105 win at home to the New Orleans Pelicans on Saturday, improving their record to 27-15.

Harden starred with 27 points, 15 assists and eight rebounds but the win was marred by a second-quarter injury to Durant.

Durant suffered what the team described as a sprain to his left knee and will undergo an MRI scan on Sunday.

He had racked up 12 points in 12 minutes of action before the injury, which occurred when Nets guard Bruce Brown fell backwards into the two-time NBA champion.

Durant leads the NBA in scoring this season and had come into the game fresh after being rested against his former team, the Oklahoma City Thunder, on Thursday.

"Of course it would be tough to lose him," Nash said, per ESPN, about Durant after the win. 

"No one wants to see that and we'll obviously hope for the best outcome.

"But regardless of the outcome we have to continue to work, build and grow and get better and compete."

Harden played for 40 minutes against the Pelicans and Nash acknowledged the former Houston Rockets guard can expect more of the same over the short-term.

Nash added: "It's tough – no Kyrie [Irving], no Kevin, no Joe [Harris]; he [Harden] is going to have to play a lot.

"So we obviously will have to be careful as to how many games he plays and what number of minutes, but we definitely are going to need him out there."

Irving is not allowed to play in home games due to COVID-19 vaccination rules in New York City while there are other key absentees for the Eastern Conference contenders.

Harden agreed the Nets had been snake bitten for much of this season, saying: "Yes, with what happened with K and then [Irving] being able to play road games only and Joe, Nic [Claxton], LaMarcus [Aldridge].

"But we have been a resilient group all year since I've been here. We just got to keep going. Keep pushing, keep pushing. Guys got to step up. It's simple.

"Obviously, we know how great of a player KD is and what he brings to the table each and every night consistently. So guys got to step up and fill that role and just continue to compete our butts off."

Durant leads the league with 29.3 points per game, while Harden is in a tie with Chris Paul atop the assists charts with 10.0.

The Nets are now just 0.5 games behind the Chicago Bulls in the East despite winning just four of their last 10.

They are back in action on Monday with a trip to play the Cleveland Cavaliers (26-18), a contest which starts a run of four straight road games.

Eric Weddle is showing "great energy" after coming out of retirement and is primed to play a part against the Arizona Cardinals, says Sean McVay.

In a stunning move, six-time Pro Bowler Weddle re-joined the Los Angeles Rams this week for the playoffs, having previously retired after the 2019 season.

The safety will make his comeback against NFC West rivals the Cardinals on Monday, which will be 750 days since his last NFL appearance.

The roster move with Weddle came with the Rams having issues in their secondary.

Jordan Fuller was ruled out for the season due an ankle injury, while free safety Taylor Rapp has not cleared concussion protocol and will miss the game.

That could lead to significant snaps for the 37-year-old Weddle, who quit two years ago after 13 successful seasons in the league.

Rams head coach McVay revealed there are a range of outcomes over how involved Weddle will be in his first game back but is convinced the veteran will be ready.

"He's done a great job," McVay said, per ESPN, when asked about Weddle's progress. "He's brought a great energy. He's a great communicator. He's a great leader. 

"He'll be ready to go. What exactly that role looks like, we're still working through, but I do know as a competitor when he's out there, if he's going and he gets into the flow, he's gonna want to go.

"If he's feeling good and there's no risk and we're in a good flow, we'll kind of just take it a snap at a time. 

"It's hard for me to realistically put a parameter around it because this is something that's never been done before. 

"It could be 10 [snaps]; it could be 30. I think in a lot of instances too, it depends on what kind of personnel groupings we're presenting to the Cardinals' offense as well.

"[Rapp] is a big loss. He's doing everything in his power to get back as quickly as possible, but we have got a lot of confidence in Nick Scott and Terrell Burgess as well."

 

Weddle discussed his return earlier this week, insisting he had kept physically fit in retirement.

He said: "Even though I haven’t been playing football, I still train like I’m playing football.

"It [returning] was never even a remote possibility ever over the last year and a half because I was pretty much set in my decision and very happy. 

"This is by no means me having an itch or anything like that. It was just the opportunity of a lifetime.

"I just kept coming back to I would regret it if I didn’t come and take this chance to try to help out the guys that I love, a coach that I love and try to help this team out, whatever role that is.

"It didn't take much persuading. It was kind of just going through the avenues with all the coaches and reaching out to some players.

"I didn't want to come in and ruffle any feathers or be someone who gets in the way, but once all that was on the same page, it was a no brainer in my mind."

The Rams are at home for the Wild Card game after edging the Cardinals to win the NFC West.

Two games between the teams in the regular season were split, with each team winning on the road (37-20 Cardinals in L.A., 30-23 Rams in Arizona).

Arizona fared well on the road this season, going 8-1, but struggled to a 3-5 record at home.

Per Stats Perform data, in modern NFL history (since 1933), the only other team to have as many as five more road wins than home victories in a season is the Miami Dolphins, who went 6-2 on the road and 1-7 at home in 2010.

The tennis season has begun with Rafael Nadal, Ash Barty, Paula Badosa and Thanasi Kokkinakis among the champions at small-scale events in Australia.

Yet there has been one dominant story in the sport and little else has had a look-in in the lead-up to the Australian Open.

Now that Novak Djokovic knows his fate, there is the welcome prospect of eyes turning to matters on the tennis court, rather than the Federal Court.

With the action getting under way in Melbourne on Monday, Stats Perform looks at the main protagonists and what the numbers tell us about another high-stakes grand slam.

Djokovic absence blows open men's draw

As defending champion Djokovic heads for home, it is worth a reminder of how he has dominated this tournament.

Nine of his grand slam titles have come in Melbourne, and he has taken the trophy in each of the last three years, helping him cosy up alongside Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal on 20 majors, an all-time record they share. Of the 'Big Three', only Nadal is in the draw this year, with Federer currently on the injured list.

Djokovic has the highest win percentage in the Open Era (since 1969) at the Australian Open, among players with 20 or more wins (91.1 per cent – W82 L8). He was hoping to join Nadal (13 French Opens) and Margaret Court (11 Australian Opens) in the exclusive club of players to reach double figures for singles titles at one slam.

The Serb was also aspiring to become the first man in the Open Era to win four consecutive Australian Opens. It happened once before the tour turned professional, with Roy Emerson winning five in a row from 1963 to 1967. Djokovic has left Melbourne with the title every time that he has made it through to the semi-finals.

 

So who takes the title now?

Only Bjorn Borg (89.2 per cent) has a higher winning percentage in grand slam matches than Nadal (87.7 per cent) and Djokovic (87.5 per cent) in the Open Era, among players with 100 or more wins. So why not Nadal?

The 35-year-old and Djokovic have carved up 12 of the last 14 grand slam titles, Nadal winning four of those (three French Opens, one US Open). He is battling back from a foot injury lay-off and coronavirus, and might need to get the early rounds out of the way without undue stress to stand a chance at the business end.

The two exceptions in the Nadal-Djokovic sequence of slam dominance have come at the US Open, with Dominic Thiem winning in New York in 2020 and Daniil Medvedev triumphing at Djokovic's expense in last year's Flushing Meadows final. Thiem is not in Australia, but world number two Medvedev is, looking to become the third Russian man to win two slams, after Yevgeny Kafelnikov and Marat Safin.

The last man other than Federer, Nadal and Djokovic to secure back-to-back slam singles title was Andre Agassi (US Open 1999 and Australian Open 2000), but that is Medvedev's objective now, and he has the game to pull it off.

Nadal has reached at least the quarter-final stage in 15 of his last 16 grand slam appearances, winning six of those majors (four French Opens and two US Opens), so he may well be a factor.

Who else is in the frame? Alexander Zverev probably, having reached the quarter-finals in Australia in the last two seasons (SF in 2020 and QF in 2021). He won the Olympic Games and ATP Finals titles last year, so a grand slam is an obvious next step. He might want to keep double faults in check though, having served a tour-high 113 in slams last season.

Stefanos Tsitsipas reached the Australian semi-finals in 2019 and 2021, so throw him into the mix too, and Matteo Berrettini might be a threat. The Italian, a runner-up to Djokovic at Wimbledon in July, served more aces than any other player in grand slams last year (311 aces, 16.4 on average per match).

 

Others have more modest ambitions

Andy Murray is back at the Australian Open for the first time since 2019, when he lost in the first round against Roberto Bautista Agut in five sets and was more or less given his last rites as a tennis pro after the match, having indicated he was close to retirement.

The five-time Australian Open runner-up last won a match in this tournament in 2017, when he reached round four. A tough opener against Nikoloz Basilashvili awaits.

Spanish 40-year-old Feliciano Lopez will make his 80th appearance in a grand slam and become the second man in the Open Era with 80 or more appearances at the four majors, after Federer (81).

Do not expect an Australian to be men's champion, by the way. The last time an Australian reached the men's singles final was 2005, when Lleyton Hewitt lost against Safin, and the last home champion was Mark Edmondson in 1976.

Barty backed in stacked women's draw

For the first time since 1997, neither Serena nor Venus Williams will take part in the Australian Open. Yet the women's tour is in rude health, even without those great bastions.

Ash Barty is world number one and a standout pick for many, only enhancing her claims after winning an Adelaide International title in the run-up to this fortnight.

But there is staggering depth on the women's side at present, and Barty will face stiff competition.

Incredibly, the last five grand slam finals have featured 10 different women, and teenager Emma Raducanu's against-all-odds US Open triumph in September shows best of all that new stars are emerging.

Yet since 2000, only three non-seeded players have reached the women's singles final at the Australian Open: Serena Williams in 2007, Justine Henin in 2010 and Garbine Muguruza in 2020. 

Barty could become the first Australian to be women's champion since Chris O'Neil in 1978, and the first to reach the final since Wendy Turnbull lost to Hana Mandlikova in 1980.

The Queenslander is the top seed, and the last time the number one failed to reach at least the fourth round at Melbourne Park was in 1979, when Virginia Ruzici lost her opening match. Barty ended a long wait for an Australian winner of the women's title at Wimbledon last year, so why not closer to home as well?

 

Naomi Osaka is back, so what should we expect?

Truth be told, that's hard to know. Osaka took time out from tennis after the US Open to focus on her mental health and enjoyed hanging out with friends, before deciding she missed tennis enough to go back on tour.

She had three wins at the Melbourne Summer Set tournament recently before withdrawing from a fourth match, saying her body had "got a shock" from the intensity. As defending champion in the season's first major, she has a target on her back and will need to find a way to handle that.

Over the past six seasons, only Osaka has managed to win back-to-back grand slam singles titles among the women, and she has done so twice (US Open 2018 and Australian Open 2019, plus US Open 2020 and Australian Open 2021).

The last player to win back-to-back women's Australian Open singles titles was Victoria Azarenka (2012 and 2013), so it does not happen regularly.

Osaka has an 85 per cent win rate at this tournament: since 2000, only Jennifer Capriati (90 per cent) and Serena Williams (89 per cent) have had a higher win percentage in the main draw.

 

You want challengers to the big two? Try sticking a pin in the draw

The Daphne Akhurst Memorial Cup, which goes to the champion, is a trophy that upwards of a dozen women will seriously believe they can win.

Aryna Sabalenka has reached the semi-finals of the last two slams but is mired in some kind of hellish serving groove, having made 74 double faults in her last four matches and lost the last three in a row.

Anett Kontaveit won a tour-high 39 matches on hard courts last year but has only been to one grand slam quarter-final – last year in Australia, losing to Simona Halep.

What about Ons Jabeur, who matched Kontaveit for a tour-high 48 wins across all surfaces last year? The Tunisian is queen of the drop shot, making 147 successful such plays on tour last year, more than any other player, and recently reached the top 10 in the WTA rankings for the first time.

Maria Sakkari reached two slam semi-finals last year, the first of her career, and the form of Barbora Krejcikova and Badosa in the past week in Melbourne marks them out as contenders. Both are recent fast-risers, Krejcikova already with a French Open title to show.

WTA Finals champion Muguruza could be the second Spaniard to twice reach the Melbourne title match, after Arantxa Sanchez Vicario (1994 v Steffi Graf and 1995 v Mary Pierce). Spain has never had an Australian Open women's singles winner: former French Open and Wimbledon champ Muguruza is an authentic contender.

Halep was runner-up to Caroline Wozniacki in 2018, a semi-finalist in 2020 and quarter-finalist last year, and a Melbourne Summer Set title was a handy warm-up for the Romanian. Consider her, too.

Monica Seles, in 1991, was the last player to triumph on her debut in the main draw, but she was already a grand slam winner (1990 French Open). Given the strength of the line-up, the prospect of a bolter coming through this field is unlikely, even if the example of Raducanu tells us anything is possible.

Reigning MVP Nikola Jokic recorded another triple-double as the Los Angeles Lakers slumped below .500 again following a 133-96 humiliation at the hands of the Denver Nuggets on Saturday.

Nuggets center Jokic finished with 17 points, 12 rebounds and 13 assists and brought up his triple-double in the third quarter, as Denver piled on 73 first-half points before restricting the Lakers to only 36 points in the second half.

LeBron James scored 25 points with nine rebounds and two blocks for the Lakers, while Russell Westbrook had 19 points, five rebounds and three assists.

The defeat means the Lakers, who are still without Anthony Davis due to injury, move to a 21-22 record after losing three games in a row.

Bones Hyland was brilliant off the bench for Denver, who improve to 22-19, with a career-high 27 points including six triples and 10 rebounds.

 

Durant injured as Nets win

Kevin Durant limped out with a knee sprain as James Harden had 27 points, eight rebounds and 15 assists while Patty Mills scored 21 points as the Brooklyn Nets won 120-105 over the New Orleans Pelicans.

Pascal Siakam over-shadowed Giannis Antetokounmpo with a triple-double with 30 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists as the Toronto Raptors won 103-96 over the Milwaukee Bucks. Antetokounmpo scored 30 points with six rebounds and four assists.

Jayson Tatum had 23 points with 12 rebounds as the Boston Celtics won 114-112 to condemn the Eastern Conference-leading Chicago Bulls to three straight losses, while Darius Garland had 27 points and a career-high 18 assists in the Cleveland Cavaliers' comeback 107-102 win over the Oklahoma City Thunder.

 

Butler struggles as Heat go cold

Jimmy Butler struggled from the field, making one of 11 for his eight points as the Miami Heat's four-game winning streak was ended by the in-form Philadelphia 76ers 109-98. Joel Embiid had 32 points with 12 rebounds for the 76ers.

Russell Henley remains in the lead ahead of the final day of the Sony Open in Hawaii but 2021 Masters Championship winner Hideki Matsuyama surged into contention on Saturday.

Henley carded a three-under-round of 67 to maintain his lead after being three strokes ahead at the halfway mark at the Waialae Country Club.

Japanese 29-year-old Matsuyama, though, moved up the leaderboard into second spot, two shots behind Henley, with a seven-under-63 to be 16 under overall.

Henley leads at 18 under, with Matsuyama 16 under, before four players are tied at 14 under in third in Adam Svensson, Seamus Power, Matt Kuchar and Haotong Li.

The American, who won the Sony Open in 2013, had two bogeys and five birdies in his round, including a 16-foot birdie putt on the 17th hole to buffer his lead after Matsuyama made his move earlier in the day.

Matsuyama, who carded rounds of 66 and 65 on the first two days, improved with a day-three 63 headlined by four birdies in his final seven holes.

Svensson and Power both hit five-under-rounds of 65 to remain in contention, while Kuchar and Li are close but carded rounds of three-under and two-under to fail to close on Henley.

All-Star Kevin Durant has been forced out of Saturday's Brooklyn Nets game against the New Orleans Pelicans due to a left knee sprain.

Durant is expected to undergo an MRI on the injury which he sustained with just under six minutes remaining in the second quarter.

The 33-year-old two-time NBA champion was ruled out by the Nets for the remainder of the game, after teammate Bruce Brown fell on his left knee upon a drive from Pels guard Herb Jones.

Durant was making his return after he sat out Thursday's 130-109 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder.

The 2014 MVP had been averaging 29.7 points, 7.5 rebounds and 5.9 assists prior to Saturday's game.

Paulo Dybala said Juventus "don't play good football" after refusing to celebrate his goal in Saturday's 2-0 Serie A win over Udinese.

Dybala's future is in doubt as the Argentina forward's contract expires at the end of the season and the 28-year-old has been linked with a move to Serie A rivals Inter.

He did not celebrate his opener in the victory at the Allianz Stadium, instead glaring intensely towards the stands.

Asked if that was a signal to the club's directors over contract negotiations, Dybala dryly told Sky Sport Italia: "I invited a friend and couldn't see him. There are many people up there watching and I couldn’t find him."

After being asked if he was telling the truth, Dybala responded: "I don't know, that's up to you. There have been a lot of stories, and many things happened that I prefer not to talk about."

The result stretched Juve's unbeaten streak to eight games – only Inter have a longer run (12) – while they moved level on points with fourth-placed Atalanta as they chase a Champions League qualification spot.

Since the start of November, Juve have gained 26 points in Serie A – more than any other side in this period, although Inter (25) and Atalanta (22) have played two fewer games.

Dybala was less than complementary about Juve's playing style, though, and said they need to focus on working harder than their opponents during the closing months of the season.

"I think we played well. We must try to be more consistent after scoring goals, as too often we score and then start to defend more, become afraid of attacking, and we can't keep doing that," he added.

"We are Juventus, of course we are in the running for the Champions League spots and must try to win. We don't play good football; that is not our strength, so we need to focus on hunger and trying to run harder than anyone else."

Juve are next in action on Tuesday when they host Sampdoria in the last 16 of the Coppa Italia. 

Sunday's action at the Africa Cup of Nations will see two former winners go in search of much-needed points.

Algeria, champions in 1990 and three years ago, were held to a surprise draw by Sierra Leone on matchday one and sit second in Group E.

North African neighbours Tunisia, who won the tournament back in 2004, started their campaign with a 1-0 defeat to 10-man Mali and are in desperate need of a result against Mauritania.

Mali will take on Gambia, while the Ivory Coast will look to consolidate top spot in their group when they meet Sierra Leone.

 

Gambia v Mali

Gambia are bidding to become the first debutants to win their opening two matches at the Africa Cup of Nations since Equatorial Guinea did so in 2012.

That said, Mali are on a run of three wins in five AFCON games – as many as in their previous 15 in the competition – and are looking for consecutive victories to start the group for the first time since 2004.

In what will be a first meeting of these sides in this tournament, the advice is to keep your eye on the action in the second half: in the past 12 years, Mali have scored 21 of their 31 goals in this competition after half-time, a figure second only to Ivory Coast (25).

One to watch: Hamari Traore

Rennes captain Traore made nine final-third entries against Tunisia, the most of any player, as he proved a dangerous outlet. He could be a major threat.

 

Tunisia v Mauritania

Tunisia's shock loss to Mali was their third in a row at the AFCON, something they last suffered in 2004. They have never before lost four consecutive matches at this tournament.

The 2004 champions are also enduring a four-game winless run in the group stage and were held to a goalless draw by Mauritania in 2019 in their only previous meeting in this competition.

Mauritania, still without a victory at the Africa Cup of Nations, will at least hope to end a three-game run without a goal.

One to watch: Wahbi Khazri

Khazri missed a crucial 77th-minute penalty against Mali during a frustrating performance. The Saint-Etienne forward will be more determined that anyone to make amends.

 

Ivory Coast v Sierra Leone

Ivory Coast are seeking a third consecutive win in the AFCON group stages, something they last managed between January 2010 and January 2013.

History is on their side against Sierra Leone: they won the only previous meeting at this competition 4-0 back in 1994, in which Joel Tiehi scored a hat-trick - something no Ivory Coast player has managed since in the AFCON.

Sierra Leone have not scored in five of their previous six games at this event, only managing to do so against Burkina Faso in 1996, but they do have a man in good form at these finals...

One to watch: Mohamed Nbalie Kamara

Having studied Algeria's Riyad Mahrez by watching Manchester City footage, Sierra Leone goalkeeper became a national hero for his performance in their opening game. He even won praise from the country's president, Julius Maada Bio, who delivered a personal message of thanks on social media.

Algeria v Equatorial Guinea

The third-highest-ranked African side were frustrated on matchday one, and there will be a determination to put things right.

They do at least boast an impressive defensive record, having gone unbeaten in nine matches in this tournament and kept six clean sheets in their most recent eight games.

Equatorial Guinea have won just one AFCON match since getting two victories on their tournament debut in 2012. Still, they were unbeaten in five games before these finals and beat Tunisia in World Cup qualifying towards the end of last year.

One to watch: Youcef Belaili

Belaili created six opportunities on matchday one, taking his tally to 18 in the competition overall. That is double the amount of chances created by any other Algeria player since his debut three years ago.

 

Jurgen Klopp stressed the need for Liverpool's attackers to step up in the absence of Mohammed Salah and Sadio Mane, ahead of their Premier League clash with Brentford at Anfield.

With Salah and Mane featuring at the Africa Cup of Nations, Klopp's side struggled to create clear-cut opportunities last time out, in a goalless draw with Arsenal in the first leg of their EFL Cup semi-final.

Following a six-game winning run in November and December, Liverpool are also winless in their last three Premier League games, throwing away a lead to draw two of those games.

Speaking ahead of Brentford's first trip to Anfield since March 1989, Klopp praised the contribution of Roberto Firmino, before calling for other players in his Reds squad to step up.

"He [Firmino] is a very smart player", Klopp said in a news conference. "His game is about using his team-mates in the way that he can use them.

"It's not just about being able to score goals in this way or that way.

"In one of our biggest games in recent history we played without Mo [a 7-0 win at Crystal Palace in December 2020, where Salah spent the first hour on the bench], and we won against Manchester United [a 5-0 victory earlier this season] without Mane.

"Now both are out, and that is not cool, but we don't think [of Firmino] 'you have to be like him or like him'". 

Salah and Mane have scored 24 Premier League goals between them this season, on par with their combined expected goals (xG).

Firmino, meanwhile, has only netted four league goals this campaign, with an October hat-trick against Watford representing his only Premier League strikes since the opening day.

Klopp was also asked about the role of versatile youngster Curtis Jones, who made a lively cameo from the bench in Liverpool's frustrating draw with the Gunners, and stressed the need for Jones to show greater consistency. 

"I had a long talk last week with Curtis," Klopp said. "I love the boy, I love the potential he has, but we have to make sure he makes those next steps, and fulfils that potential on the pitch.

"You have these kinds of conversations when you are not 100 per cent happy with a player in that moment. We have to find a way for him to show this [potential] much more often."

Jones provided just one goal and two assists in 24 league appearances last season, featuring regularly as Liverpool battled an injury crisis, and Klopp highlighted the need for the midfielder to contribute in the absence of the side's bigger names.

"It's an ongoing process between Curtis and me. We've had a tricky period, especially with Covid, which is not helpful, but now we'll try to make sure he can show how good he can be," Klopp added.

Kylian Mbappe and Thilo Kehrer were on target as Paris Saint-Germain cruised to a 2-0 Ligue 1 win over Brest at Parc des Princes.

Mauricio Pochettino's side headed into Saturday's meeting on an 11-game unbeaten league run, albeit with four draws in their last five, and were ahead when Mbappe struck in the 32nd minute.

That strike was the 23-year-old's 10th in Ligue 1 this term, meaning he has hit double figures in six straight seasons – in the same period, no other player has done so more than three times.

Kehrer extended PSG's advantage after the interval as the hosts coasted to three points to move 11 clear of second-placed Nice at the summit.

Irvin Cardona twice forced smart stops from Gianluigi Donnarumma in the opening stages, while Mbappe drilled narrowly wide at the other end.

But there was no stopping Mbappe after 32 minutes when he fired through Brendan Chardonnet's legs and into the bottom-left corner, before Mauro Icardi saw his header disallowed for an apparent foul on Marco Bizot.

Marco Verratti almost added a second immediately after the break, only to be denied by the post, though the hosts doubled their lead soon after.

Nuno Mendes danced past Ronael Pierre-Gabriel to find Kehrer, who applied a first-time finish into the top-right corner from near the penalty spot.

Bizot then denied Marquinhos with a fantastic reflex save before making two fine stops from Mbappe to keep the scoreline respectable for Brest.

Juventus maintained their push for a Champions League qualification spot as goals from Paulo Dybala and Weston McKennie sealed a 2-0 win over Udinese at the Allianz Stadium.

Massimiliano Allegri's side produced a stirring fightback to beat Roma 4-3 last weekend, but they needed no such drama to record a 10th win in their last 13 top-flight games against Udinese on Saturday.

Dybala was comfortably Juve's brightest spark and he put them ahead in composed fashion, with McKennie adding a second late on. 

The result lifted fifth-placed Juve onto the same points as Atalanta, who occupy the last Champions League qualification spot, although Gian Piero Gasperini's men do have two games in hand. 

Juve were dominant in the early stages and deservedly went ahead in the 19th minute courtesy of Dybala's seventh Serie A goal of the season.

The Argentina international did well to adjust his feet after receiving a deflected pass from strike partner Moise Keane before coolly lifting the ball over the onrushing Daniele Padelli.

Udinese's goalkeeper pushed away a Juan Cuadrado free-kick from an acute angle on the hour mark, while Dybala whipped narrowly wide from the edge of the penalty area. 

Yet the result was wrapped up when an unmarked McKennie headed in Mattia De Sciglio's left-wing cross from six yards, the United States international's third league goal of the campaign. 

What does it mean? Juve rarely tested by tepid visitors

Juve were miles off their best but they scarcely needed to get out of second gear to ease past a poor Udinese outfit, who have lost two Serie A matches in a row for the first time since September. 

Allegri's men have now won their last six top-flight home games against Udinese, scoring at least two goals in all of them. The last time they registered a longer home winning streak against the Friulians was between 1980 and 1987 (seven).

Dybala proves his worth

Dybala, whose contract expires at the end of the season, has been linked with a move to Serie A rivals Inter and he showed here why Juve are desperate to tie him down.

The 28-year-old was his side's best player and has now scored more times against Udinese than any other side in the Italian top flight (10 goals in 17 games).

Kean off the pace

Kean struggled in attack for the hosts, taking just one shot and failing to play a single key pass before he was hauled off for Morata in the 64th minute. 

He did play a crucial part in Juve's opener, however, with his flick turned into Dybala's path by a defender's accidental touch.

What's next?

Both sides are in Coppa Italia round-of-16 action on Tuesday, with Juve hosting Sampdoria and Udinese visiting Lazio. 

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