Cristiano Ronaldo marked his second Manchester United debut with two goals to inspire a 4-1 win over Newcastle United at Old Trafford.

One of United's greatest ever players returned in style to the delight of home supporters, although Newcastle goalkeeper Freddie Woodman was complicit in both goals.

Ronaldo boosted his United tally to 120 as he pounced on a first-half error and then blasted straight through Woodman after the break, setting Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's men on course for the top of the Premier League table.

Newcastle had equalised through Javier Manquillo between those strikes but otherwise lacked the cutting edge that Ronaldo displayed, which was also in evidence when Bruno Fernandes and Jesse Lingard wrapped up the points late on.

United were predictably dominant from the outset and Raphael Varane headed across the face of goal, yet they were given a scare when Joe Willock stole possession from Fernandes in the home area, only to blaze over with team-mates up in support.

The moment a raucous Old Trafford crowd had been waiting for arrived on the stroke of half-time as a low Mason Greenwood strike escaped Woodman's clutches and fell kindly for Ronaldo to slam home.

Newcastle had been growing into the game and did not allow that setback to dampen their spirits, quickly levelling in the second half when Miguel Almiron led a counter-attack and Allan Saint-Maximin slipped in Manquillo to finish.

But a United break proved every bit as efficient, with Luke Shaw carrying the ball forward and feeding Ronaldo to fire between Woodman's legs.

David de Gea stood tall to block from Joelinton when Newcastle threatened another equaliser, but sublime finishes from Fernandes – from around 25 yards – and Lingard, skipping past Jamal Lewis in the box, made the game safe amid a party atmosphere.

Patrick Vieira got one over on Tottenham as the former Arsenal captain savoured a London derby win with Crystal Palace over his old foes.

Gunners great Vieira, a key member of the 2003-04 'Invincibles' team, had seen his Palace side take just two points from their opening three Premier League games.

However, a thumping 3-0 victory over out-of-sorts Spurs showed what they might be capable under French manager Vieira.

The outstanding Wilfried Zaha rolled in a penalty to give Palace the lead in the 76th minute, and Odsonne Edouard's late double, after coming off the bench to make his debut, made it a comfortable win.

Tottenham had defender Japhet Tanganga sent off just before the hour mark, but their goal was already coming under siege and their attacking was barely a factor, Harry Kane making no impact.

"Today, everything was perfect," Vieira said. "The atmosphere of the stadium, the quality of the game we played. We took the three points and I'm really pleased about that.

"Wilfried is part of the leaders and when he is at this level that he was today, other players behind just follow him.

"There is a really good team spirit, players who are prepared to work hard because they want to do well for this football club."

Vieira told BT Sport he was "really pleased" for Edouard, a late transfer window acquisition from Scottish giants Celtic.

Edouard called it "a dream debut" and his boss concurred.

"The way he finished, it just showed he's a proper goalscorer," Vieira said. "I think he's a player inside the box who will take his chances. He's a goalscorer and I think there's more to come from him."

Vieira hopes star winger Zaha can kick on too and enjoy a memorable campaign.

Before this game, Zaha had faced Tottenham more often without registering a single goal or assist than he had any other side in the competition (12), but his penalty and his pass that set up Edouard's first goal put paid to that statistic.

Zaha hit a career-high 11 Premier League goals for Palace last season, and Vieira is looking for another healthy haul.

"I would like him to score more goals. I think he can do that," Vieira said. "Today, he was unstoppable, I think he worked fantastically well. Wilfried can score a lot of goals for us."

Zaha converted both penalties that he took in the league last season, and although Luka Milivojevic has a history of success from the spot, the time may have come for the Ivory Coast man to be Palace's regular taker.

"I've been practising," Zaha said. "I don't see why I can't take penalties so I'm happy I managed to take one and score for the team."

Cristiano Ronaldo made a scoring return to the Manchester United team, netting a debut goal against Newcastle United on Saturday.

Ronaldo was thrust straight into the United XI at Old Trafford after sealing his move from Juventus shortly before the international break.

Twelve years and 118 days on from his previous Premier League appearance, it marked the longest gap between outings in the competition's history.

And Ronaldo was immediately involved in the final third, attempting a game-high five shots in the first half.

The fifth of those found the net to put United 1-0 up, profiting on Freddie Woodman's fumble from a deflected Mason Greenwood strike.

Only Matt Jackson (13 years and 187 days between May 1993 and November 2006) has gone longer between Premier League goals, with Ronaldo's previous effort coming 12 years and 124 days earlier against Manchester City in May 2009.

At 36, Ronaldo became United's oldest Premier League goalscorer since a 39-year-old Ryan Giggs' final goal in the competition in February 2013. Only Giggs and Paul Scholes have netted for United in the competition at an older age than Ronaldo.

Harry Kane proved even the greats can experience off days as the Tottenham striker failed to have a shot or even a touch in the opposition penalty area in the painful defeat to Crystal Palace.

As Spurs slumped to a 3-0 loss at Selhurst Park, Kane was a passive presence, the England captain perhaps feeling the effects of international duty over the past fortnight.

The result meant Palace ended a 12-match winless run in league games against Spurs, and it also halted an 11-game sequence of failing to record a victory in all Premier League London derbies.

For Kane, it was an afternoon to forget. Opta said it was the first time in his Premier League career where he had completed the full 90 minutes and failed to have a goal attempt or at least touch the ball in the opponent's 18-yard box.

Kane scored in each of England's three World Cup qualifiers during the break, netting against Hungary, Andorra and Poland, but the latter of those fixtures took place on Wednesday evening in Warsaw.

To be back on club duty on Saturday lunchtime in London was a stretch, even for the player who ranks second on Spurs' list of all-time leading scorers, and his impact was minimal.

Kane played 20 passes, of which only 13 were accurate, and had just 37 touches, the fewest of all outfield Spurs players who played the full game.

He also lost possession 16 times and did not win it back once.

Tottenham boss Nuno Espirito Santo admitted it had been a tough outing for his overwhelmed team, whose hopes were dealt a telling blow when Japhet Tanganga was sent off for two reckless challenges in quick succession, early in the second half.

Wilfried Zaha netted a 76th-minute penalty, before Odsonne Edouard's late double piled on the agony for Spurs, who had only two goal attempts across the 90 minutes – both by Lucas Moura.

"A lot of obstacles but a lot of mistakes also, so not a good game," Nuno told BT Sport.

"We have to look at ourselves and today we didn't play good. We never found the way to play the game in terms of possession.

"At the beginning of the second half the idea was to have more attacking situations, and we didn't achieve it, so after that all the issues that happened – the red card and all these things – made the job harder against a good team."

Spurs were also without South American trio Davinson Sanchez, Cristian Romero and Giovani Lo Celso, who are currently in Croatia having travelled back from countries on the United Kingdom's travel red list.

Wilfried Zaha scored against Tottenham in the Premier League for the first time and Odsonne Edouard hit a late debut brace as Crystal Palace comfortably saw off their lacklustre visitors 3-0 at Selhurst Park.

Flying winger Zaha had faced Tottenham on 12 occasions in the league without registering a single goal or an assist, but he capped a fine display with a 76th-minute penalty before then setting up Edouard.

By the time he rolled his spot-kick past Hugo Lloris, Tottenham were down to 10 men having lost Japhet Tanganga in the 58th minute after the defender lost his cool and picked up two yellow cards for chopping down Zaha and Jordan Ayew.

Tottenham had arrived in south London as Premier League leaders, but they were poor, Harry Kane practically anonymous as the visitors had just two attempts at goal all game.

Substitute Edouard, newly arrived from Celtic, made sure of the points when he fired in from Zaha's pass in the 84th minute just seconds after coming off the bench before getting a second deep into stoppage time.

Cristiano Ronaldo was handed his second Manchester United debut after he was named in their starting XI for Saturday's visit of Newcastle United.

The five-time Ballon d'Or winner completed his return to the club when he arrived from Juventus two weeks ago for an initial fee of £12.9million (€15m) on a two-year deal with the option of a third.

After being granted permission to leave Portugal duty early and then serving a period of isolation, Ronaldo reported to United's training ground for the first time on Tuesday.

He began training with his new team-mates the next day and is now set to play his first Premier League game since May 2009 – the longest gap between appearances in the competition's history.

United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer confirmed on Friday that Ronaldo would at the very least play as a substitute, but with Edinson Cavani – who allowed the Portugal captain to take over the number seven jersey – absent, the 36-year-old starting seemed inevitable.

Ronaldo scored 118 goals in 292 games in his first spell at United, which lasted for six years before he joined Real Madrid in 2009.

Despite that return in front of goal, the Portugal captain scored just one hat-trick across that previous stint – coincidentally, that came against Saturday's opponents Newcastle in January 2008.

It is fair to say Ronaldo made a habit of trebles in the 12 years after leaving Old Trafford, plundering 44 at Real Madrid and three for Juventus – long-time rival Lionel Messi has 46 since the Sporting CP product's first club hat-trick.

Of course, Ronaldo's reliability from the penalty spot has helped his goals tally, with his 84 spot-kicks since August 2009 being 31 more than any other player (Messi, 53) across the top five European leagues.

That could impact Bruno Fernandes' numbers, given he has been United's regular taker since joining from Sporting last year, missing just one of 22 attempts.

Nevertheless, United fans will be eager to see the two Portugal team-mates link up for the first time at club level, and Fernandes will be the main danger supporting Ronaldo in attack, while the in-form Mason Greenwood and Jadon Sancho can provide threat from the flanks.

Antoine Griezmann will return for Atletico Madrid against Espanyol but head coach Diego Simeone insisted his focus is on the team dynamic and ensuring his talented attacking options click, rather than individuals.

The France forward made a remarkable move back from Barcelona, initially joining the reigning LaLiga champions on loan with either club holding the option to extend for a further year.

Griezmann scored 133 goals across 257 games in his first spell before that ultimately ill-fated €120million move to the Catalan giants in 2019, and Simeone revealed his new loanee is relishing a homecoming.

"I found [Antoine] Griezmann eager to return to Atletico Madrid, very enthusiastic about the situation of returning to the team," Simeone told reporters on Saturday.

However, the 51-year-old head coach wanted to avoid focusing on individuals as Atletico look to end a three-game winless away run at Espanyol in LaLiga.

 

Luis Suarez, who has been involved in 15 goals in 11 top-flight appearances against Sunday's opponents, could link up with his former Barca colleague Griezmann again, though the France star will face a fight for a place in the side given Atletico now boast a wealth of attacking talent among their ranks.

Angel Correa has thrived as a support striker, scoring three times in the first two LaLiga games, as Atletico opened with back-to-back wins for the fourth time in the Simeone era.

Versatile attacker Matheus Cunha then arrived from Hertha Berlin for a reported €26m fee late in the transfer window.

The Brazil forward created 54 chances – ranking him sixth among forwards in Germany – last season, while only five forwards across the top five European leagues completed more dribbles than Cunha's 123 since his arrival in Berlin back in January 2020.

Yannick Carrasco was the only Atletico player to complete 100 dribbles in that time and the Belgian winger – often used as a wing-back last term – led club charts for chances created (47) in LaLiga in 2020-21.

Add the likes of Joao Felix, Thomas Lemar, Marcos Llorente and Rodrigo De Paul to the equation and Simeone has a wealth of creative talents to call on. Now he can look to Griezmann as well.

Although his Barcelona spell may not have lived up to expectations, he still netted 20 times across 51 appearances in all competitions last season, providing 12 assists and creating 67 chances for Ronald Koeman's side. That was two more than he managed in 2017-18, arguably the finest individual campaign of Griezmann's career.

But Simeone is not kidding himself. While he has great talent at his disposal, he needs them to click.

"Internal competition has grown and that leads us to compete better," Simeone continued.

"At first it is easy to speak from the names. I believe in men and in how a team is executed. We are absolutely always looking for a team.

"Names don't team up, men do. We will go in that search of that commitment we have towards the club, always looking for the best."

Miralem Pjanic revealed his desire to re-join Juventus last transfer window and encouraged Paulo Dybala to renew his contract in Turin.

Pjanic, 31, made 108 Serie A starts for Juve before departing to Barcelona in 2020, where he clashed with head coach Ronald Koeman and subsequently joined Besiktas on loan in September.

However, with former boss Massimiliano Allegri back in charge in Turin, the midfielder expressed his love for the Bianconeri and admitted he wanted to re-join.

"With Juve there have been contacts and appointments with my agent, but the transfer market is never easy," Pjanic told Tuttosport.

"I would have liked to come back and I would have done everything to find [Massimiliano] Allegri, a guarantee.

"No one is better than him in these situations. Max makes all the players feel important and he doesn't deny anyone a chance. I consider him number one, he's a coach who talks to you for better or for worse."

Allegri's second spell has not started well, picking up just one point in his opening two games – Juve having only failed to win any of their first three Serie A games once in 51 seasons, under the same coach in 2015-16.

Dybala, who has been involved in four goals in his last four league games, will be absent for the trip to Napoli but Pjanic implored his former team-mate to commit his future to the club.

"[Paulo] Dybala is top, but Iike with everyone, he needs the team," the Bosnia-Herzegovina midfielder continued. "I would advise him to stay at Juventus, where they love him.

"But these are personal choices, difficult to judge from the outside, because sometimes one feels the need for new challenges."

Leylah Fernandez and Emma Raducanu have taken New York by storm: Saturday's US Open final is one that nobody would have predicted and nobody should miss.

The teenagers from Montreal and London are ranked at 73 and 150 by the WTA, which runs the women's tour, and have sent a clutch of household names scuttling for the Flushing Meadows exits.

In the absence of the familiar formidable presence of Serena Williams, this remarkable duo have taken the grand slam by the scruff of the neck and made it their own, thrilling crowds with their bravura.

Ahead of their clash in Saturday's final, where a life-changing title is up for grabs, Stats Perform looks at how Fernandez and Raducanu have come so far, and the feats left for them still to achieve in the Big Apple.

 

RADUCANU ON A ROLL, MAKING HER FIRST MILLION

It was no secret in British tennis circles that Raducanu was a bright talent, but she prioritised her studies ahead of going on tour and this year's Wimbledon marked her first senior grand slam main-draw appearance. Precocious potential often goes unfulfilled, but Raducanu proved she had the game as well as the wit to handle the big stage as she powered through to the fourth round at the All England Club.

She still had not climbed far enough in the rankings to earn an automatic place in the US Open, so won three qualifying rounds to earn her place. Astonishingly, she has since lost just 27 games in six main-draw matches and has not dropped a set. Serena Williams was the last player to win this title without losing a set, losing 32 games in her 2014 campaign.

The 18-year-old is the first qualifier in tennis history to reach a grand slam final, and just the second woman to reach a final after fewer than three appearances in the majors, after Pam Shriver at the 1978 US Open, her second slam. Shriver lost in her final to Chris Evert, so Raducanu can set a women's tour record for winning a title at the earliest point of a grand slam career, in those terms.

Raducanu is the second Briton to reach the women's final in New York in the Open Era, after 1968 champion Virginia Wade, who has been in the New York crowd this week.

The youngster's career prize money stood at $303,376 before this tournament, and she will become a tennis millionaire whatever the result of the final. The winner takes away $2.5million and the runner-up collects $1.25million.

Previously coached by Andy Murray's father-in-law Nigel Sears, Raducanu has been working under the guidance of former British tennis player Andrew Richardson in recent months, and this run has made her the youngest women's grand slam finalist since a 17-year-old Maria Sharapova took the title at Wimbledon in 2004.

At the US Open, she has become the youngest player to reach the title match since 1999, when a 17-year-old Serena Williams beat Martina Hingis to land the first of 23 singles slams to date.

She is the lowest-ranked player to reach a women's US Open final, besides Kim Clijsters who was a former number one but unranked after coming out of a short-lived retirement to triumph at the 2009 tournament.

FERNANDEZ FLOORS THE STARS, BUT CAN SHE RATTLE RADUCANU?

While Raducanu can count Olympic champion Belinda Bencic among her victims, it has been Fernandez who has been the real giant-killer over this fortnight.

Since making an unassuming start with wins over Ana Konjuh and Kaia Kanepi to reach round three, Fernandez's run has gone into overdrive.

Sinking defending champion Naomi Osaka marked the kick-starting of one of the great charges through a draw, as the Japanese star became the first of three top-five stars to lose to the youngster, Elina Svitolina and Aryna Sabalenka being the others.

Fernandez, who turned 19 on Monday, overcame former US Open winner Angelique Kerber, too, and each of those four wins from the third round on has been epic, going to three sets each time and chock-full of tension.

She has become the youngest player to beat more than one player from the top five at the same slam since Serena Williams saw off Monica Seles, Lindsay Davenport and Hingis from the quarter-finals onwards at the 1999 US Open.

What does she have left? And can Fernandez overcome a dismal record against British players? Remarkably she has a 1-6 record at all levels against British opponents, according to the WTA, and only last month she was beaten by Harriet Dart in Montreal.

This will be the first women's grand slam final between two unseeded players. There have only ever been 21 unseeded women's finalists and seven at the US Open, and if one or both of them freezes in the spotlight it would be excusable, but that prospect appears unlikely given their shared brio and sense of belonging at this level.

Fernandez has been a masterful conductor of the crowd, and has become the third Canadian woman to reach a slam final, after Eugenie Bouchard at Wimbledon in 2014 and Bianca Andreescu at the US Open two years ago. Bouchard was runner-up to Petra Kvitova, while Andreescu beat Serena Williams.

Like Raducanu, her career earnings will be transformed whatever the outcome of the trophy match, with Fernandez having banked $786,772 before this spellbinding run.

RISE OF THE TEENAGER

This will be the fourth US Open women's final in the Open Era to be contest by two teenagers, following on from Steffi Graf's win over Gabriela Sabatini in 1988, which sealed a calendar Grand Slam, the victory by Hingis over Venus Williams in 1997, and Serena's win against Hingis two years later.

Although Raducanu and Fernandez are young, they are put in the shade somewhat by the fact a 16-year-old Hingis played a 17-year-old Venus in that 1997 final.

Overall, it will be the ninth Open Era women's final between two teenagers at the majors, and whoever wins will be the youngest champion since Sharapova's Wimbledon triumph.

NATIONAL PRIDE

Raducanu has come from almost nowhere to become British number one, which will be confirmed in the new WTA rankings next week. Should she win the title, she will move to 24 on the global list, and a defeat would mean she sits at number 32, while Fernandez will be 19th if she carries off the trophy and number 27 should she fall short.

The title would make Fernandez Canada's number one, leapfrogging Andreescu.

At around 16:00 in New York on Saturday, two teenagers will step on court, likely to the wild acclaim they richly deserve. Both might have been able to walk the grounds unnoticed a fortnight ago, but Raducanu and Fernandez are globally recognised now.

At a tournament that has been missing a galaxy of stars – the Williams sisters, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal to name but four, and we should probably get used to that – these flamboyant greenhorns have shown tennis might just have a future as thrilling as its immediate present.

Thomas Tuchel revealed Saul Niguez has been a long-term target for Chelsea and the Atletico Madrid loanee could be in line for his debut against Aston Villa.

The 26-year-old won LaLiga with Atletico last term before joining the Blues on a season-long loan, Tuchel's men reportedly holding a purchase option for £30million (€34m) after paying an initial loan fee of £5m (€5.8m).

As Chelsea look to become the second team, after Manchester United, to reach 600 Premier League wins, Tuchel explained his new recruit's debut has been years in the making.

"He was with us now for two weeks," Tuchel told reporters. "He played on the highest level. I think the picture is very clear. The club follows him for years.

"We know the player very well. He had a quick adaptation with Marcos Alonso and Kepa [Arrizabalaga], in welcoming him into the group.

"He is in the squad for tomorrow. Jorginho can never say no when Italy plays, even when they are 5-0 up, so he is quite tired. It's absolutely possible Saul plays for us."

Saul only managed 22 league starts last campaign, his fewest since 2014-15, but still ranked fourth for attempted tackles in LaLiga for Atletico (57).

Indeed, prior to his departure, only Real Madrid's Casemiro (190) had attempted more tackles by a midfielder than Saul (159) in the Spanish top flight since August 2019.

With N'Golo Kante out injured with an ankle problem sustained against Liverpool, the Spain midfielder could provide vital legs in Tuchel's midfield.

But Tuchel credited those above him in the Chelsea hierarchy for securing the deal from Diego Simeone's side.

"Marina [Granovskaia] was in charge, the best person," the Blues head coach continued. "We were in contact. We knew about the situation.

"We knew things could happen later, we were very aware. I assured everybody that I'm also happy if we cannot bring a player in. We would find a solution in the squad. It was clear, we would try for [Jules] Kounde and Saul.

"In the end, it was possible to get Saul which was a key position for us to have more alternatives. A lot of competition [is] now going on. It's my job to be a good moderator."

Rafael Benitez says James Rodriguez is working to adapt to Everton's new style of play despite a move away from Goodison Park failing to materialise.

James arrived as a marquee signing on a free transfer from Real Madrid in September 2020, with Carlo Ancelotti keen to reunite with the playmaker.

However, James was absent for much of Everton's run-in as the Toffees missed out on Europe, ultimately ending the season in 10th place.

With Ancelotti gone and Everton turning to Benitez – who did not seem to trust James during his short stint as Madrid boss – speculation mounted that he would leave Everton.

A part-exchange deal with Porto for James' compatriot Luis Diaz was worked on but did not come to fruition, though as late as this week Everton were still seemingly willing to let the 30-year-old leave, with Istanbul Basaksehir reportedly agreeing a loan move.

James elected to stay put, but Benitez warned he must now work hard to regain his place.

"He's training with the team. Obviously we have been talking about his future, we had some clubs interested. He still is here, he is training with the rest of the team-mates," Benitez said when asked if James could feature for the first time in 2021-22 when Everton host Burnley on Monday.

"I was not in the conversations, I know there was some clubs interested. If the offer was good, you know the financial fair play rules that we have with salaries and to bring players in so it was important for us to create some space with other players but we couldn't manage that.

"The team is doing well, the players understand what we want to do and he has to understand that. Then we have to bring the best from each player, in this case he has to adapt to the team and then we will try to get the best from everyone."

Difference maker?

Though injuries restricted him to 26 games in all competitions last season, James scored six goals and provided eight assists, creating 54 chances, placing him second in Everton's squad behind Gylfi Sigurdsson (60), who made 18 appearances more.

James led the way for Everton with chances created from open play (38) and when it came to crafting big chances (defined by Opta as a situation where a player should reasonably be expected to score). 

Per 90 minutes played, James created 0.56 big chances in the Premier League, putting him just below Jack Grealish and Bruno Fernandes (0.58), ranking sixth in the competition in that metric from players to play 20 or more matches.

Benitez's tenure at Everton has started with two wins and a draw in the league, as well as progression in the EFL Cup. Only West Ham and Manchester City (both 10) have scored more goals, while the Toffees' xG (expected goals) value of 5.34 is the fifth-best in the division.

On the face of it, having a player of James' undoubted quality to drop into the side could only improve matters.

"It was not easy because he was available in the transfer window. Now he has realised he has to focus and show his commitment and it's what he is trying to do and that is good news for us," Benitez added.

"It is good news for us because he can give us something more, we don’t have any doubt about his quality but we have to be sure that we have players playing 90 minutes with intensity and the quality that they have."

Completing games may well be the biggest challenge for James. He was substituted in 16 matches last season, more than any other Everton player.

Australia are looking for a lift and have turned to Quade Cooper to provide guile from number 10 against South Africa as the Rugby Championship resumes.

Three weeks on from the second round of games, Australia and the Springboks go head to head, and New Zealand tackle Argentina, with both games being played on Sunday at Cbus Super Stadium on the Gold Coast.

The Wallabies took a Bledisloe Cup drubbing at the hands of the All Blacks, losing all three games in that series, with two of those forming part of this tournament, so they are looking for a spark and will hope Cooper, making his first international appearance in over four years, can provide that.

The 33-year-old last featured, briefly, against Italy in June 2017 and now plays for Japanese team Kintetsu Liners.

His career looked to be in steep decline at one point, as Cooper lost his place in not only the Australia squad during Michael Cheika's reign as coach, but also fell out of favour with the Queensland Reds.

Now he is set for a 71st Test appearance, having been originally beckoned into Dave Rennie's squad as a training player.

South Africa make seven changes to their starting XV for the match, with number eight Duane Vermeulen selected to make his first appearance for the Boks since the 2019 World Cup final after recovering from ankle surgery.

There are changes afoot for New Zealand too, with lock Brodie Retallick named captain for the clash with Argentina as Ardie Savea sits the game out after taking a knock to the head last week.

Ahead of the crunch double-header, the third of six rounds of games in the championship, Stats Perform looks at the key Opta facts.

NEW ZEALAND v ARGENTINA

Form

The All Blacks are inevitably on a high after crushing the Bledisloe Cup aspirations of their trans-Tasman rivals and duly making a strong start to the championship. They have full-back Jordie Barrett available despite his red card against Australia last time out after the punishment was rescinded on appeal in midweek.

New Zealand have won their last seven men's Tests on the bounce by an average margin of 40 points per game. The last time they won more in succession was a nine-game streak from November 2017 to September 2018 which included a 46-24 win over Argentina.

They have not always had it easy against the South American powerhouses, though. Their clashes in last year's Tri-Nations were memorable, with Argentina scoring a stunning 25-15 win over the All Blacks on November 14, 2020, only to then lose 38-0 when they met again a fortnight later. New Zealand have won 29 of their 31 Tests against Argentina (D1, L1).

New Zealand have had just 12 minutes and 53 seconds of possession per game in this year's Rugby Championship, the lowest of any team in the competition. Despite this, they lead the competition in metres gained (615), clean breaks (15), and points scored (48) per game.

Argentina's two defeats to South Africa in the opening two rounds suggest they might find the going tough this weekend.

Ones to watch

Blindside flanker Akira Ioane has crossed the gainline on 17 of his 18 gainline carries for New Zealand in the competition so far. His 94 per cent rate is the highest of any player to have made at least 10 gainline carries in this tournament.

Retallick will carry the responsibility of leadership after he was favoured ahead of Beauden Barrett who, at fly-half, was judged to have enough going on without having to issue orders.

Coach Ian Foster said of Retallick, who has returned to Test action this year after a spell in Japan: "He's back, he's confident, he's got the smile on his face, and that's part of the biggest thing with Brodie. When he's settled and he loves the environment, then he can go out and express himself.

"And I don't want a lot to change with that captaincy band. It's one of the challenges of giving it to someone like Brodie, do you force him into someone that he's not? But I'm really comfortable. He knows his role, he's clear and the boys certainly want to follow him."

Discipline will be important for both sides, with Argentina having received six yellow cards and one red card in their last six men's Tests, including two yellow cards against the Boks last time out. They had received only one yellow card and one red card in their previous 25 Tests.

SOUTH AFRICA v AUSTRALIA

Form

After the tussle between the All Blacks and Pumas, perhaps this can be considered the headline match of the weekend, an embattled Australia facing World Cup winners who are aiming for a statement victory.

For COVID-19 reasons, Queensland is staging the remainder of this tournament, and Australia coach Rennie will look for a response from his players to their sequence of losses.

The three-in-a-row streak is a concern, and the last time the Wallabies lost more in succession was a four-game stretch from June to August in 2018. They lost twice to Ireland and twice to New Zealand before ending that losing run with a 23-18 success against South Africa.

Australia have won 19 of their last 24 men's Tests at home against South Africa, logging just three defeats in that span (D2). They are undefeated in their last five such fixtures (W4, D1), yet each of those games has featured a margin of fewer than seven points on the day.

It could be tight again, with South Africa having won 15 of their 18 Tests since the beginning of 2019. They have won their last four on the bounce, and their 83 per cent win rate since the beginning of 2019 is the best of any top-tier team in that time.

South Africa defeated Argentina 29-10 in the second round, while Australia went down 38-21 to New Zealand in Perth.

The Springboks have missed the fewest tackles per game (16) so far in the championship and have the highest tackle success rate (89 per cent) of any team. Australia’s tackle success rate of 82 per cent is the lowest of the four sides, but the context is that they were facing the All Blacks.

South Africa have created 20 mauls throughout this tournament, which is twice as many as any other team and five times as many as Australia (4); the Springboks have gained 56 metres and scored one try from those mauls.

Ones to watch

Australia scrum-half Tate McDermott has beaten nine defenders in this year's Rugby Championship, the second-most of any player (Akira Ioane – 12). He beat seven defenders against the All Blacks in the last round, and only twice in the last decade has any scrum-half from a tier one nation made more (Antoine Dupont 9, Francois Hougaard 8).

He therefore has a pivotal role to play, and how he combines with Cooper will be keenly observed.

Rennie said he was "thrilled" to be able to be giving Cooper another chance to show his quality at this level, and it remains to be seen whether this is a one-off comeback or something that might have longer-term legs.

Michael Hooper will match George Gregan's record of 59 matches as captain of Australia as he wins a 112th cap, and there are other landmarks set to arise. Reece Hodge, who starts on the bench, and Allan Alaalatoa will each win 50th caps.

Rennie described the match as "a huge occasion" for Hooper, hailing his longevity as "testament to his leadership and resilience".

Boks coach Jacques Nienaber said of the occasion: "Australia pose a strong threat with their running rugby and they like to keep the ball in play. They will also be playing in front of a charged-up home crowd, so it will be good to have these experienced players back as they know what it takes to perform in big matches."

South Africa have won their last two Tests on the bounce against Australia, as many as they had won in their eight encounters prior (D2, L4). The last time they won more successive games against the Wallabies was a three-game winning stretch from September 2012 to September 2013.

South Africa put the disappointment of losing the ODI series behind them as they eased to a 28-run victory over Sri Lanka in the opening T20I on Friday.

Led by Aiden Markram's excellent 48 from 33 balls, the Proteas were on dominant form in Colombo, successfully defending their 163-5 total.

Making his T20I debut, South Africa captain Keshav Maharaj won the toss and chose to bat, with his openers swiftly proving that decision correct.

Quinton de Kock (36) set the tone with a boundary off the second ball and Reeza Hendricks soon skittled off 12 runs in the space of three deliveries to get South Africa up and running.

Both openers had moved into the 30s by the ninth over, though De Kock was the first to fall when he sliced a sweep to deep midwicket.

Wanindu Hasaranga picked up his and Sri Lanka's second wicket in his next over, dismissing Hendricks for 38, but Markram – with support from David Miller (26) – put South Africa back on the front foot.

Markram fell just short of a half-century in the penultimate over, though the damage was done as South Africa set a challenging target of 164.

Sri Lanka started their chase confidently, and had 34 runs in the bank by the time Avishka Fernando succumbed in the sixth over.

Yet Maharaj's first ball in a T20I brought up the Proteas' second wicket – Bhanuka Rajapaksa going for a duck – and the hosts failed to keep up the run rate.

That was despite the best efforts of Dinesh Chandimal, who top-scored with 66 not out, but Chamika Karunaratne (22no) was his only team-mate to make it above 20 as Sri Lanka were limited to 135-6.

Memorable debut for Maharaj

Installed as captain on his maiden T20I appearance, the spinner took a wicket with his very first ball, after South Africa's batsmen had shown just why the 31-year-old was right to bat first.

Maharaj has plenty of international experience, with 36 Tests and 14 ODIs under his belt, and in total he has now taken 149 wickets for his country.

Chandimal cannot carry Sri Lanka

It was a valiant effort from Chandimal, whose unbeaten 66 included five fours and two sixes. However, he did not have the necessary support from the rest of Sri Lanka's batsmen, with two going for ducks and Dhananjaya de Silva only scoring one.

Chandimal did bring up his highest score in his T20I career, though, with the wicketkeeper's previous best having been 58, a score he made twice in 2016, against Pakistan and Australia.

Nuno Espirito Santo revealed Son Heung-min is a doubt for Saturday's clash with Crystal Palace after returning injured from international duty.

The 29-year-old returned early from South Korea, missing their World Cup qualifier with Lebanon due to a calf problem suffered against Iraq.

And Nuno confirmed that Son, who has scored the most winning goals in the Premier League since the start of last term (8), may not feature at Selhurst Park.

"Like some of our players, he came back with some issues," said Nuno, who was named the Premier League's Manager of the Month for August on Friday.

"Sonny is not so well, but let's wait for the club to make the proper announcement and explain to you better what kind of injury he has."

Asked for further clarification, Nuno responded: "I don't know. Let's wait and see. The doctors will make the proper diagnostics."

The potential loss of Son will place further impetus on Harry Kane, who has been involved in 12 goals in 14 Premier League games against Palace (7 goals, 5 assists).

Indeed, only Thierry Henry (43) has scored more goals in London derbies than Kane (38) but Spurs will also be without Cristian Romero, Giovani Lo Celso and Davinson Sanchez as they look to maintain their perfect top-flight start.

When questioned on the whereabouts of his South American trio, Nuno explained: "I can tell you that they are in Croatia. That's what we decided to do to try to avoid more problems. 

"So the solution was to try to get them in a country where after that they can join the group. Now they are working with the sports science, a physio, in Croatia."

The NFL returned in spectacular fashion on Thursday as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers edged the Dallas Cowboys in a thriller.

It is a remarkable appetiser to the main course of Week 1, which sees 14 more games on Sunday and another on Monday between the Baltimore Ravens and Las Vegas Raiders.

There is a mouth-watering playoff rematch to behold at Arrowhead Stadium, while a clutch of rookie quarterbacks will attempt to make sure their first steps in the league are successful ones.

Ahead of what should be an enthralling opening week, Stats Perform looks at some of the most interesting facts from Sunday's biggest games.

Cleveland Browns @ Kansas City Chiefs

Revenge will be on the minds of the Browns in the most enticing matchup of the opening week, Cleveland aiming to upset the odds after falling short against the Chiefs in the Divisional Round of last season's playoffs.

History, though, is firmly against Cleveland. The Chiefs have won three straight games against the Browns dating back to 2013, while Andy Reid is 7-0 in his career as a head coach versus the Browns, one of three teams he is undefeated against. The others are the Chiefs (3-0) and his former team the Philadelphia Eagles (2-0).

Kevin Stefanski led the Browns to an 11-5 record in 2020, his first year as an NFL head coach. It was the most wins in a season by the Browns since 1994 (also 11 wins). The last time the Browns won at least 10 games in back-to-back seasons was 1986 to 1988 (three straight).

The Chiefs set a franchise record with 14 wins in 2020 and played in the Super Bowl for the second straight season, with Kansas City the favourites to be the AFC's representative in the February showpiece yet again. Only three teams have ever made the Super Bowl in three straight seasons – the Buffalo Bills (four, 1990-93), New England Patriots (three, 2016-18) and Miami Dolphins (three, 1971-73).

Pittsburgh Steelers @ Buffalo Bills

The Bills were a game away from the Super Bowl last season and enter this clash between a new AFC heavyweight and a seemingly fading force on a regular-season winning streak.

In a campaign that saw them go 13-3 and post their best record since 1991, the Bills finished the regular season with six straight wins averaging an NFL-best 38.2 points during that span.

Pittsburgh began last season 11-0, then dropped four of their last five games, finishing with an opening-round exit to the Browns in the playoffs. The Steelers were the first team to start 11-0 since the 2015 Carolina Panthers.

And the Steelers will be looking to avoid a third straight defeat to the Bills, who made it two successive wins over Pittsburgh with last season's 26-15 victory in Week 14. The Steelers had won nine of the previous 10 meetings dating back to 1993. 

Green Bay Packers @ New Orleans Saints

The Drew Brees era is over for the Saints, who have selected Jameis Winston as his successor at quarterback. The Packers have a talented defense but the often-erratic Winston's past form suggests he should move the ball against them. Winston has averaged 12.62 yards per completion over his career, the highest mark by any QB who has debuted in the past 30 years (minimum 1,500 completions).

Two perennial NFC powers, games between New Orleans and Green Bay have been consistently high-scoring affairs. The Saints and Packers have combined to average 52.0 points per game in their 26 all-time meetings, the highest average between any two NFL teams who have met at least 20 times.

Green Bay won 13 games in each of the last two seasons but failed to make the Super Bowl in either one. The Packers joined the 2018-19 Saints as the only teams in the Super Bowl era to win 13+ games in back-to-back seasons but miss the Super Bowl in both.

Elsewhere...

It will be a season partially defined by the performance of the rookie quarterbacks, with four of the five drafted in the first round seemingly set to feature in Week 1.

The Jacksonville Jaguars drafted Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence with their first-ever number one overall pick. When he lines up against the Houston Texans, Lawrence will be the eighth different QB to start a season opener for the Jaguars since 2010, tied for second most in the NFL behind the Browns (nine). 

Second overall pick Zach Wilson is set to become the 49th starting quarterback in New York Jets history when they face the Carolina Panthers and his predecessor Sam Darnold. No Jets quarterback has started every game of a season since Ryan Fitzpatrick in 2015, which happens to be the last time the Jets had a winning record (10-6).

Trey Lance will likely see sporadic action for the San Francisco 49ers versus the Detroit Lions. However, if Jimmy Garoppolo's spotty injury history continues in 2021, Lance could soon become the undisputed starter. Garoppolo was limited to six games last season. In three of the games, Garoppolo passed for multiple touchdowns with no interceptions. In the other three, Garoppolo had no touchdown passes and at least one interception.

The New England Patriots have used just four starting quarterbacks in their season openers since 2000, with Mac Jones poised to be the fifth as he looks to become the long-term successor to Tom Brady. Only the Packers (two) and Saints (three) have had fewer season-opening starters in that span – the NFL average in that time is 7.5 quarterbacks.

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