Pep Guardiola insisted he "did the selection best to win the game" after Manchester City slumped to a 1-0 Champions League defeat against Chelsea in Porto.

Kai Havertz's 42nd-minute goal on the end of Mason Mount's brilliant throughball was enough to deny City their first success in Europe's top competition.

Premier League champions City lacked their usual fluency and mustered a solitary shot on target over the course of the contest, despite sending record goalscorer Sergio Aguero on for a farewell appearance late on.

The Opta expected goals (xG) figures for the match were 1.35-0.45 in Chelsea's favour.

Guardiola sprung a selectorial surprise before kick-off by omitting Fernandinho and Rodri and starting with Ilkay Gundogan at the base of his midfield.

The ploy backfired as City struggled for control throughout the match, especially in the first half, but Guardiola insisted his process was the same as the one that preceded this season's triumphs over Borussia Dortmund and Paris Saint-Germain, along with last year's similarly dispiriting quarter-final reverse against Lyon.

"I did my best in the selection. Like last season against Olympique Lyon, like it was against PSG and Dortmund," the City manager told a post-match new conference.

"I did the selection best to win the game, the players know it. I think Gundogan played good, was exceptional. We missed a little but in the first half to break the lines. In the second half it was much better.

"It was a tight game. We had enormous almost chances.

"Against Chelsea it's not easy but it wasn't for them either. They had the goal and Werner's shot in the first half and Pulisic in the second half.

"We struggled a little bit for the long balls, they used the second balls and after they run.

"In that moment, you need inspiration and quality. There were three or four moments with crosses from the byline but we did not arrive."

In City's 61 matches across all competitions in 2020-21, this was only the second time neither Rodri or Fernandinho featured in a starting line-up.

Explaining his rationale, Guardiola said he hoped Gundogan would quicken the tempo of City's play.

The Germany international completed an impressive 76 of his 80 passes (95 per cent) but the club's top scorer this season was unable to have a decisive influence as he created a solitary chance and did not attempt a single shot.

"I decided a decision to have quality players," Guardiola said.

"Gundogan played many years in this position, to have speed on the ball, find the small players, the brilliant players in between the lines and this was the decision."

Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel conceded Guardiola's gambit had led to some raised eyebrows in his camp.

"I expected Fernandinho to start," he said. "He chose a very offensive line-up, a very technical line-up, it was very hard to steal the balls and recover the balls.

"Everything else we more or less expected. We expected them to try and pin us on the sides very wide, so it was very important that we stepped out with Toni [Antonio Rudiger] and Azpi [Cesar Azpilicueta] to support our midfield.

"It was important to stay in a block in the front five to avoid diagonal switches of play for the number 10s. We had to play with a strong bond and a genuine belief and this is what we did."

City's cause was not helped by Kevin De Bruyne departing with a nasty-looking head injury following a collision with Rudiger before the hour, for which the Chelsea defender was booked.

"I don't know about the pain he has in his face, I didn't see him or speak to the doctor because I came to speak with all of you, Hopefully it will not be a big problem," said Guardiola, who was also keen to flag the achievements overall of a campaign where City won a third top-flight title in four years and a fourth consecutive EFL Cup.

"I would like to say it was an exceptional, exceptional season for us. It is a dream being here, unfortunately we could not win," he added.

"We tried, we could not do it and we will work to come back one day."

Chelsea star Mason Mount savoured the climax to "a long, long journey" after the Blues beat Manchester City 1-0 to win the Champions League on Saturday.

Premier League champions City were eyeing a 2020-21 treble, and instead Chelsea claimed their second Champions League crown thanks to Kai Havertz's 42nd-minute goal.

Mount split City's defence with a sublime throughball for Havertz, who became the first player to score his maiden Champions League goal in the final since Ilkay Gundogan in 2013.

Thomas Tuchel's Chelsea nullified City to become the third English side to win the Champions League on two occasions, after Liverpool (2004-05 and 2018-19) and Manchester United (1998-99 and 2007-08).

Mount – the first English player to provide a Champions League final assist since Manchester United's Wes Brown in 2008 – revelled in the feat afterwards.

"I can't put it into words – it's impossible," Mount told BT Sport. "I've played in two finals for Chelsea, FA Cup and we've lost them both, and the way that hurt.

"To go all the way in the UEFA Champions League, I can't put it into words – it's such a special occasion.

"City have top, top players, it was such a tough game. We get one goal, kind of on the break, and then we defended for our lives.

"What it means to us is unbelievable; it's a long, long journey to get to this moment here."

Chelsea have lifted the trophy in six of their seven major European finals in their history, with this their fourth European success in the Roman Abramovich era alone (Champions League in 2020-21 and 2011-12, Europa League in 2012-13 and 2018-19).

Kai Havertz takes the glory and Timo Werner did everything but score, running Manchester City ragged for over an hour, rewriting the narrative surrounding Chelsea's spending spree of last year.

But perhaps the smartest move by those pulling the strings at Chelsea has been to keep N'Golo Kante, a colossus of this Champions League final; crowding, cramping City's style, always lurking and looking, Kante was absolutely pivotal to the dark blues bossing this match.

The talk was, going back 12 months, that Chelsea were thinking about selling Kante.

Billy Gilmour was emerging, Mason Mount was everything Frank Lampard has ever looked for in a midfielder, and with a big-money Havertz deal in the pipeline it seemed the face of Chelsea's midfield would be a young one.

Kante had endured injuries, and then he was reluctant to immediately return to training when the Premier League's lockdown ended in June, seeking clear assurances of coronavirus safety where others were perhaps in a hurry to get back to Cobham.

Was he as committed as others? Was his injury track record a worry? Lampard – remember him? – memorably killed the Kante exit talk at a stroke last June when he labelled the Frenchman "one of the best midfield players in the world".

"I actually would have loved to play with him, the type of player he is," Lampard said in a news conference. "He has everything, and coming back to Chelsea and managing this club, having N'Golo Kante, is something I really wanted to appreciate and work with."

Lampard presumably watched this final, regardless of his sacking by Chelsea in January, and how he must have again admired the Parisian's all-action efforts.

At full-time, former England and Manchester United captain Rio Ferdinand declared on BT Sport: "Kante put on a masterclass in how to retrieve the ball, to defend, to then break things up and be a menace in that midfield. He controlled the game."

Joe Cole, the former Chelsea playmaker, went one step further, saying: "I don't think there's a more important player for his team in world football than Kante. We've watched a showpiece game and with him it looked like man against boys. He drove that Chelsea team."

Before this game, Kante had started seven games and came off the bench six more times in the Champions League this season.

Heading into the final, there had been just six midfielders in this season's competition with a passing accuracy above 85 per cent (Kante: 86.39), an accuracy into the final third of above 80 per cent (82.14), more than 40 ball recoveries (63), over 500 touches (511) and 25 possession wins in the midfield third of the pitch (42).

The others have been Real Madrid's Luka Modric and Toni Kroos – hopes of silverware for Los Blancos ended with the semi-final defeat to Chelsea – plus Atletico Madrid's Koke and the City pair of Rodri and Fernandinho.

That's the City pair who started this final on the substitutes' bench, both having been almost ever-present throughout the European campaign, victims of Pep Guardiola's latest big-match team selection twaddle.

By half-time, Chelsea were in front and Kante was in charge.

Former City midfield hardman Nigel de Jong tweeted: "Not the first half you want to see as a city fan... Kante is running the show at the moment stretching that midfield out. Restore a holding midfielder is key here."

De Jong had nailed it. Thomas Tuchel, the Chelsea boss, must have been relieved the Dutchman sent the message on social media rather than as a text to the City dugout.

Ben Chilwell had made an early dash down the left and Kante burst forward, the furthest Chelsea man upfield. Although the move came to nothing, it was a sign he would not simply sit deep.

Moments later, Kante was helping out right-back Reece James against Phil Foden. In the 12th minute it was Kante bursting on to a pass on the edge of the City penalty area, albeit without having the sass to outwit Ruben Dias.

When City broke at pace after Werner twice went close, it was Kante on the edge of the 18-yard box there to make the crucial interception, and a minute later the five foot, seven inch Frenchman was winning the ball in the air at the other end of the pitch but heading just off target from left-back Chilwell's cross.

Proving a terrific nuisance, a hawk constantly surveying the field for his next prey, Kante pinched the ball from Kevin de Bruyne and raced from his own half deep into City territory, feeding Havertz who might have done better but had the ball whipped away from his left foot as he prepared to unload a shot.

Havertz, suddenly with a taste for goal, did better just before the break after Mount's delicious throughball, the young Englishman stepping into an area of the pitch where on another day he might have encountered Fernandinho or Rodri.

Kante teed up Werner for a half-chance before the whistle came for the interval, a cute chip into the penalty area from the right wing showing another unsung aspect of his repertoire.

It continued into the second half, Kante sliding in to take the ball off De Bruyne with a clean tackle as the Belgian darted towards the edge of the Chelsea box.

When De Bruyne went off, dazed by Antonio Rudiger's bodycheck, he might well have been seeing double. But he had endured an hour of that with Kante anyway, or at least it must have felt that way, more often than not finding the Frenchman on his heels.

And so Chelsea's other players raised their game to match Kante, and now they are European champions again. He won 11 of 15 duels, recovered the ball 10 times for his team, and the shortest man on the pitch won four out of seven aerial duels – nobody on his team won more.

In every way possible, he rose to the challenge.

Kai Havertz scored the only goal of the game as Chelsea won the Champions League for a second time by beating Manchester City 1-0 in an all-English final in Porto.

Chelsea forward Havertz saved his first Champions League goal for the biggest stage at Estadio do Dragao on Saturday, opening the scoring late in the first half.

Thomas Tuchel's hugely impressive, well-drilled side held on to break City hearts, denying the Premier League champions a treble in their first Champions League final.

Tuchel had suffered the agony of defeat in the biggest game in European club football last year as Paris Saint-Germain boss, but his fellow German Havertz ensured he got the better of Pep Guardiola for a third time in just over a month.

City, surprisingly starting without both Fernandinho and Rodri for only the second time this season, had the first chance when Ederson sent Raheem Sterling clear with a brilliant pass, but the forward's poor touch allowed a combination of Reece James and Edouard Mendy to advert the danger.

Timo Werner's intelligent runs and pace was unsettling the City defence, but he missed his kick when Germany team-mate Havertz picked him out before finishing tamely after Mason Mount presented him with a glorious chance.

A magnificent tackle from Antonio Rudiger denied Phil Foden when he looked set to open the scoring and it was Chelsea who took the lead after Thiago Silva had limped off.

Mount was the architect, spotting a huge hole at the heart of the City defence and threading a pinpoint throughball for Havertz, who rounded Ederson and slotted home three minutes before the break.

City suffered another big blow early in the second half when a tearful and shaken Kevin De Bruyne was forced off with a black eye following a collision with Rudiger, who was shown a yellow card.

The verdict from referee Antonio Miguel Mateu Lahoz and the VAR was no penalty when City thought James had handled before Fernandinho replaced Bernardo Silva.

Substitute Christian Pulisic spurned a golden opportunity to give Chelsea breathing space 18 minutes from time, failing to hit the target after Havertz played him in on a blistering break.

Guardiola sent on Sergio Augero for his final City appearance but there was no dream swansong for City's record goalscorer, Riyad Mahrez slicing a shot just wide deep into seven minutes of stoppage time as Chelsea held on to be crowned champions of Europe.

Trae Young helped the Atlanta Hawks regain the advantage in their first-round series against the New York Knicks, who saw Julius Randle endure another playoff outing to forget in Game 3.

Point guard Young led his team with 21 points as all five of Atlanta's starters reached double figures in a 105-94 triumph on Friday.

His eight-for-19 shooting performance was supplemented by 14 assists, making the 22-year-old just the third player since the merger with 80 or more points and at least 30 assists in his first three career playoff games, a feat also achieved by Kevin Johnson and Chris Paul.  

"I feel like I've prepared my whole life for these days, these moments," Young said after helping his team go 2-1 up in the best-of-seven series in the Eastern Conference.

However, it was the defensive effort that was the bedrock for Atlanta's victory, including keeping the struggling Knicks to just 13 points in the second quarter.

The visitors were unable to claw back the deficit after trailing 58-44 at half-time, not aided by Randle remaining cold on offense.

The 26-year-old made just two of his 15 attempts in total, with both successes coming from beyond the arc. He became the first Knick to go 0-for-eight or worse on two-point shots in a playoff game since Patrick Ewing did so 27 years ago.

Randle is now shooting 20.6 per cent on two-pointers across the series, making just seven of his 34 tries. It is the lowest success rate in a three-game span by any player with that many attempts in the past 30 postseasons.

His meagre offensive output is in stark contrast to his efforts in the regular season: Randle averaged a career-high 24.1 points per game to help the franchise end an eight-year playoff drought, while he became an All-Star for the first time.

For Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau, the key is reacting to the situation on each possession, particularly as Atlanta's ploy of sending two and three players at Randle is leaving others open elsewhere.

"They loaded up on him pretty good. When a team does that, when they put two or three guys on you, you've got to make the play," Thibodeau said in his post-game media conference.

"You've either got to get easy buckets in transition, or off drive-and-kick, you've got to keep moving around.

"He's seen a lot of that this year, but when you have a second and a third guy, that can make it tough. But that should lead to rebounding and open threes on the back side, so we've got to trust the pass."

He added: "The big thing is to get rid of the ball and make plays early. When you do that, you can usually get high-percentage shots. When you get the second defender on the ball, their responsibility is to get rid of it and make plays for their team-mates."

Game 4 of the series takes place in Atlanta on Sunday.

Kai Havertz became the first player to score his maiden Champions League goal in the final since Ilkay Gundogan in 2013 when he broke the deadlock for Chelsea against Manchester City on Saturday.

Germany international Havertz – a big-money signing from Bayer Leverkusen ahead of the 2020-21 campaign – put Thomas Tuchel's side ahead three minutes before the interval in Porto. 

The 21-year-old had made 20 appearances in the competition with the Blues and Leverkusen without scoring prior to that strike. 

He was teed up by Mason Mount, who became the first English player to provide a Champions League final assist since Manchester United's Wes Brown against the Blues in 2008. 

Havertz is the youngest German player to have netted in the European showpiece match since Lars Ricken for Borussia Dortmund against Juventus in 1997.

Thiago Silva, meanwhile, became Chelsea's oldest player to appear in a major European final, aged 36 years and 249 days. He overtook Claude Makelele, who was 35 years and 93 days when he faced United 13 years ago.

The Brazilian's game ended early, however, the Brazil international substituted with an injury in the 39th minute. 

Marc Marquez apologised to Maverick Vinales for his persistent towing at the Italian Grand Prix as Fabio Quartararo secured a fourth consecutive pole position in style. 

Vinales was visibly frustrated after Marquez followed him out of the pits for the final Q1 run and stuck with him when he abandoned his out-lap. 

After moving ahead of Vinales in the pit lane Marquez then dropped back in behind him for their flying lap knowing the Monster Yahama rider could not pull in again. 

It worked perfectly for Marquez, who pulled to the top of the timesheets ahead of Vinales with only a lap to go.

Vinales, meanwhile, was pushed down to third by Aleix Espargaro, leaving him 13th on the grid and out of Q2.

Marquez, who will start Sunday's Grand Prix from 11th, apologised to Vinales but insisted what he did was in the rules. 

"We checked the list, the fastest guy was Vinales, so we chose him because he was the fastest guy [not to get into Q2 directly], but if it was another one [faster] we would choose another one," the six-time world champion said. 

"And then just I followed him, it was the tactic because it was the only way to improve.

"I would like to be in another level and another position to push in front and have the others follow me, like many times in the past. But I'm not like this.

"But I know, because I had that feeling in the past, how Maverick can feel. For that reason, I saw Vinales after the session and we spoke about it and I apologised.

"But in the end, it's inside the rules. In the limit but inside the rules, and what I did was try to find the perfect situation to do my 100 per cent and to take the best result possible."

Vinales' team-mate Quartararo, meanwhile, was in supreme form, sealing another pole position courtesy of a new lap record of one minute and 45.187 seconds. 

Quartararo became the first Yamaha rider to secure pole at Mugello in the premier class since Valentino Rossi, and the 22-year-old hailed his record lap as the best of his life. 

"This was probably the best lap I have ever done in my life," he said. "This is the type of track where you can really feel the adrenaline. I was on the limit everywhere. In the first sector, I was moving all the time, but I just said 'I'm going to send it'. 

"I really wanted to do the fastest lap today, and it worked. I'm actually really looking forward to seeing the onboard lap, because for sure it will look amazing.

"Today was a good day. I really wanted this pole position, because I know it's important for us for the race. I enjoyed that lap."


Provisional classification

1. Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha) 1:45.187
2. Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati Team) +0.230s
3. Johann Zarco (Pramac Ducati) +0.245s
4. Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Gresini) +0.351s
5. Jack Miller (Ducati Team) +0.411s
6. Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM) +0.556s
7. Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM) +0.558s
8. Alex Rins (Suzuki Ecstar) +0.809s
9. Joan Mir (Suzuki Ecstar) +0.889s
10. Franco Morbidelli (Petronas Yamaha) +0.897s
11. Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda) +0.938s
12. Pol Espargaro (Repsol Honda) +1.206s

Memphis Depay hopes Barcelona keep faith with Ronald Koeman as president Joan Laporta scours for a superior alternative.

It appeared certain, until recent developments, that Depay and former Netherlands boss Koeman would be reunited at Barcelona in the coming weeks, but now it is unclear whether either will start the season with the Catalan giants.

Depay has looked destined to arrive as a free agent after deciding to leave Lyon, while Koeman was chasing a LaLiga and Copa del Rey double until Barcelona's league form deserted them in the closing weeks of the season.

Now Laporta is assessing whether there is a better coaching option available to Barcelona for the new campaign, at the same time as keeping Koeman on in the event he cannot find a more accomplished boss. Reports have even suggested Laporta would like to bring Pep Guardiola back to the club, which on the face of it looks highly unlikely.

Depay says his own prospects of a move to Barcelona do not hinge on Koeman being the man in charge.

"I don't think that matters if a club like Barcelona is interested," said Depay. "It's a fantastic club, but there are more great clubs.

"Regardless of where I go, I would like it if Koeman stays there. For himself anyway."

Laporta indicated on Friday that Barcelona would begin to announce new signings over the coming week, and Depay confirmed in his interview with Dutch broadcaster NOS that "interest is there".

He is with the Netherlands squad that is preparing for Euro 2020, having qualified under the guidance of Koeman before he was tempted away by Barcelona last August.

Frank de Boer now holds Koeman's old job and Depay promised to have "100 per cent focus" on national team duties, with a June 2 warm-up game against Scotland coming up.

Depay scored 22 goals in 40 games across all competitions for Lyon in the season just ended, at an average of one goal every 141.5 minutes, his second best rate since joining the French club in January 2017 from Manchester United.

He massively exceeded his expected goals (xG) tally of 12.38 and also had 12 assists, down on his 2017-18 best of 17 for the club but still immensely useful. Of all players from Ligue 1, only Paris Saint-Germain's Angel Di Maria beat that assists total, setting up 15 goals.

For those reasons, it is easy to see why Koeman would want him, but if a contract is not inked then any incoming Barcelona coach may take a different view.

Only Lionel Messi (38) beat Depay's goals haul in 2020-21 among current Barca players, and only Jordi Alba (13) had more assists.

Going into the Euros, Depay stands to be prominent for the Dutch, who last won the European Championship in 1988, when Ruud Gullit and Marco van Basten, along with the likes of Koeman, made them a devastating side.

Koeman more recently lifted the gloom surrounding the national team, after they shockingly failed to qualify for Euro 2016 and the 2018 World Cup.

"You see, as has already been shown in the past, that the Netherlands can go a long way. We want to do that again," Depay said. "I think this team can do a lot.

"We are finally back and everyone is super happy about that. But now it is time to show why we are there."

Brentford captain Pontus Jansson heaped praise on Leeds United manager Marcelo Bielsa after the Bees were promoted to the Premier League for the first time.

Ivan Toney's penalty, swiftly followed by a fierce first-time strike from Emiliano Marcondes, secured a 2-0 win for Brentford in the Championship play-off final against Swansea City.

Brentford lost to Fulham at the same stage last year, Jansson's first with the club after leaving Bielsa's Leeds, who were promoted as champions and have this term enjoyed a spectacular return to the Premier League, finishing ninth.

But, speaking to Sky Sports, Jansson explained how what he learned from Bielsa played a pivotal role in Brentford ending a 74-year absence from the top flight.

"Last year a lot of Leeds fans was against me, this year so many Leeds fans have been with me and with Brentford, probably because they are already there and they wanted me to come and join them," Jansson said.

"I love Leeds, Brentford fans know I love Leeds, Leeds is one of the favourite clubs I have, of course I love Brentford as much, I'm so proud, I'm so happy, I could go home to Sweden and retire because this is what I've dreamt of for such a long time since I came to England, finally of course I will not go home, I will stay here and hopefully play Premier League football.

"I'm so thankful to Bielsa for what he gave me at Leeds, he gave me so much knowledge that I actually brought to Brentford and Brentford was so willing to listen to me and my ideas that I took from Bielsa.

 

"I thank him a lot because he's one of the best coaches in the world. People think mine and his relationship is not the best but it is, I'm so thankful to him."

Brentford scored 79 goals in the 46-game Championship season, the most in the division, increasing the tally for the campaign to 84 with their efforts in the play-offs.

The Bees scored 73 non-penalty goals across 49 matches, underperforming their xG of 74.4 but playing an expansive style of football reflective of what Jansson experienced at Leeds.

 

Toney was the talisman behind their promotion, his spot-kick taking him to 33 goals in a remarkable campaign. Twenty-two of those goals came from 135 non-penalty shots with an xG of 20.7.

Asked about what he could do in front of goal in the top tier, Toney replied: "I don't know, who knows what's to come.

"I'm a Premier League striker now and I can't wait to score goals in the Prem."

Brentford secured promotion to the Premier League for the first time in their history with a 2-0 victory over Swansea City in the Championship play-off final.

The Bees lost at this stage last season to London rivals Fulham but were in no mood to be denied this time around and were 2-0 up inside 20 minutes.

Ivan Toney's 10th-minute penalty, his 33rd goal of an amazing campaign, opened the scoring and Brentford's lead was doubled by Emiliano Marcondes just under 10 minutes later.

Swansea were much improved in the second half, but Jay Fulton's red card effectively sealed victory for Brentford as they clinched a first promotion to the top flight since 1935, ending their 74-year absence from the highest domestic level having been relegated back in 1947.

Toney had scored all 10 of his previous penalties this season and never looked likely to err after goalkeeper Freddie Woodman felled Bryan Mbeumo when he was played in by Sergi Canos' superb reverse pass.

He duly made it 11 from 11 by calmly slotting beyond former Newcastle United team-mate Woodman and into the bottom-left corner, with Toney's record from the spot the best of any player in England's top four tiers in all competitions.

Swansea struggled to respond to that early setback and they were soon given a mountain to climb when Mads Rasmussen expertly picked out Marcondes at the end of a counter-attack and the Dane rifled a fine finish into the bottom-right corner.

And the Bees were almost out of sight as Toney cracked a spectacular volley against the underside of the crossbar, with Woodman grateful to see the ball bounce on the line and out.

Swansea did stem the tide thereafter and went close in the final minute of normal time in the first half as Andre Ayew sent a header off the top of the bar before starting the second half by skewing a diving header wide from Connor Roberts' cross.

Jamal Lowe crafted some promising openings for the Swans but Fulton was shown a straight red card for a reckless challenge on Mathias Jensen, giving Brentford fans cause to start the celebrations early on a landmark day for the club.

What does it mean? Brentford make it a half-century of Premier League clubs

Swansea were looking to end a three-season stay in the second tier following Premier League relegation in 2018, but Brentford will instead make their debut in the division, becoming the 50th different club to grace the league since its inception in 1992.

Their 86 years between promotions to the top flight is the second-longest gap behind Bradford City, who ended a wait of 91 years in 1999.

Ivan sets the tone

The composure Toney displayed in converting from the spot showed him to be a player ready for the magnitude of the occasion and only the woodwork prevented him from magnificently ending the game as a contest in the first half.

Just one player, Cambridge United's Paul Mullin (34), has scored more goals in all competitions than Toney this season. Brentford will hope his prolific form translates to the Premier League as they bid to stay up next season.

Woodman gets it wrong

Woodman had to be sure he was going to get the ball when he came off his line to challenge Mbeumo. His misjudgement swiftly swung the game in Brentford's favour. Though he could do little about the second goal, this was a day to forget for a goalkeeper likely to be in demand in the transfer window.

What's next?

Brentford could start the season against the European champions, with games against Manchester City and Chelsea on the horizon. For Swansea, it's another term in the Championship, with the likes of Peterborough United and Luton Town lying in wait.

Achraf Hakimi is rumoured to be on the verge of a move to Paris Saint-Germain, with reports from France claiming personal terms have already been agreed.

Following an impressive loan spell at Borussia Dortmund, Hakimi sealed a permanent switch from Real Madrid to Inter in 2020, for a reported €40million.

Hakimi played in 37 of Inter's 38 Serie A fixtures as the Nerazzurri clinched their first Scudetto crown since 2010, making 29 starts. Only Lautaro Martinez (38) featured in more top-flight games for Inter in 2020-21.

He scored seven league goals, including a double against Bologna in December, a total only bettered in Inter's ranks by Martinez (17) and Romelu Lukaku (24), as well as laying on a further eight assists.

The 22-year-old will no doubt be missed by Inter, but the club need to sell, with reports suggesting they must raise up to €100million in transfer fees to help balance their books.

Using Opta data, we look at what he will offer PSG should the move come off.

 

ATTACK THE BEST FORM OF DEFENCE

It was at Dortmund that Spain-born Morocco international Hakimi found his role as a right wing-back, and it was a logical move for Inter to bring in the youngster, given Antonio Conte's preference for a 3-5-2 system.

The move paid off. Hakimi played 3,216 minutes across 45 appearances in all competitions, and by early February had been directly involved in 10 Serie A goals, becoming the first defender to do so in Europe's top five leagues in 2020-21. Maicon – in 2009-10 – was the last Inter defender to score at least six league goals.

He created 46 opportunities, with all but one from open play, while his tally of 12 big chances crafted is a joint team-high alongside Ivan Perisic. Hakimi also delivered 145 crosses from open play, 17 more than any other Inter player, recording an accuracy of 25.52 per cent.

Hakimi is more renowned for his attacking, but helped Inter to eight clean sheets in total – of defenders, Milan Skriniar, Stefan de Vrij (both 14) and Alessandro Bastoni (15), were involved in more.

Indeed, Hakimi's tally of 38 successful tackles is a higher total than any of his fellow defensive team-mates managed.

Hakimi's ball-carrying ability is another major facet of his play. Over 370 carries, he progressed the ball 4,609 metres, at an average of 12.46m.

Sixteen of the carries resulted in a shot, and of all of the full-backs in Europe's top five leagues, Hakimi is top for carries with goals and assists (four and five respectively).

 

A CLEAR UPGRADE

Hakimi's preference to play as a wing-back means PSG may well have to switch to a system which incorporates such a role to get the best out of him.

PSG are in need of a right-back, though. Alessandro Florenzi was loaned in from Roma for 2020-21, while Colin Dagba and Thilo Kehrer – a centre-back by trade – are Mauricio Pochettino's other options.

None can be described as in the same class as Hakimi. He created 22 more chances than Florenzi, albeit having played nine games more than the Italy international, while Dabga and Kehrer only managed 12 and four respectively.

Hakimi won 21 of 56 aerial duels, more than Florenzi (20) or Dagba (two), though Kehrer won 37 of 63.

From 333 duels in total, Hakimi won 168. Kehrer, Florenzi and Dagba won 91, 82 and 57, and the former Madrid man would no doubt present a significant upgrade to PSG's armoury.

Trae Young helped the Atlanta Hawks regain the advantage in their first-round series against the New York Knicks, who saw Julius Randle endure another playoff outing to forget in Game 3.

Point guard Young led his team with 21 points as all five of Atlanta's starters reached double figures in a 105-94 triumph on Friday.

His eight-for-19 shooting performance was supplemented by 14 assists, making the 22-year-old just the third player since the merger with 80 or more points and at least 30 assists in his first three career playoff games, a feat also achieved by Kevin Johnson and Chris Paul.  

"I feel like I've prepared my whole life for these days, these moments," Young said after helping his team go 2-1 up in the best-of-seven series in the Eastern Conference.

However, it was the defensive effort that was the bedrock for Atlanta's victory, including keeping the struggling Knicks to just 13 points in the second quarter.

The visitors were unable to claw back the deficit after trailing 58-44 at half-time, not aided by Randle remaining cold on offense.

The 26-year-old made just two of his 15 attempts in total, with both successes coming from beyond the arc. He became the first Knick to go 0-for-eight or worse on two-point shots in a playoff game since Patrick Ewing did so 27 years ago.

Randle is now shooting 20.6 per cent on two-pointers across the series, making just seven of his 34 tries. It is the lowest success rate in a three-game span by any player with that many attempts in the past 30 postseasons.

His meagre offensive output is in stark contrast to his efforts in the regular season: Randle averaged a career-high 24.1 points per game to help the franchise end an eight-year playoff drought, while he became an All-Star for the first time.

For Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau, the key is reacting to the situation on each possession, particularly as Atlanta's ploy of sending two and three players at Randle is leaving others open elsewhere.

"They loaded up on him pretty good. When a team does that, when they put two or three guys on you, you've got to make the play," Thibodeau said in his post-game media conference.

"You've either got to get easy buckets in transition, or off drive-and-kick, you've got to keep moving around.

"He's seen a lot of that this year, but when you have a second and a third guy, that can make it tough. But that should lead to rebounding and open threes on the back side, so we've got to trust the pass."

He added: "The big thing is to get rid of the ball and make plays early. When you do that, you can usually get high-percentage shots. When you get the second defender on the ball, their responsibility is to get rid of it and make plays for their team-mates."

Game 4 of the series takes place in Atlanta on Sunday.

Pep Guardiola and Thomas Tuchel's fondness for sharing a few drinks and intense tactical discussions during their time in Germany has been frequently referenced this week.

In Porto, they have a perfect setting. They could sample some of the fortified wine that takes its name from the Portuguese city, settle in for a Douro Valley red, some Vinho Verde or perhaps a pint of Super Bock or Sagres.

Of course, Saturday's Champions League final between Manchester City and Chelsea means they are unlikely to find the time and that's before we consider the 10:30pm curfew in place as part of Portugal's COVID-19 measures.

Whoever raises a glass at Estadio do Dragao will do so after a sharp change in fortunes mid-season.

Guardiola said City "were not the team I can recognise" in mid-December before a doubling down on his core principles to inspire a 21-game winning run across all competitions that propelled them towards the Premier League title, the EFL Cup and their first taste of European club football's biggest occasion.

Around the same time, Tuchel was days away from the sack at Paris Saint-Germain and Chelsea were top of the Premier League. By the end of January, he was installed at Stamford Bridge as Frank Lampard's successor to helm a team in freefall. They have not looked back.

Take the ball, pass the ball

Handily, when it comes to comparisons, Tuchel took over at the halfway point of the English top-flight season in terms of games played.

Lampard's Chelsea won eight, drew five and lost three of their 19 games this term, with Tuchel improving those returns to W11 D5 L3. Two of the three losses came in the final three games of the domestic season.

"[Keeping] the ball is the best way to defend and people have to keep the ball in difficult circumstances," Guardiola said when discussing City's newfound solidity this season – and it is a view to which Tuchel certainly subscribes.

His Blues average 654.2 passes per game in the Premier League, compared to 613 under Lampard. Despite Chelsea's well-documented struggles in terms of prolific goalscoring, their touches in the opposition box are up from 26.1 to 30.3 every 90 minutes.

At the other end, they are facing fewer shots (7.6 down from 10.1) and their expected goals against (xGA) figure has dipped from one per game to 0.6.

In short, they are keeping the ball more and facing fewer shots, partly because more of their possession is happening in the opposition box. Playing against Tuchel's Chelsea, you are likely to find the ball further away from where you ideally want it.

Three is the magic number

Once teams manage to glimpse a fleeting sight of the Chelsea goal, they tend to find a formidable three-man backline in the way. The veteran Thiago Silva has been an assured presence in the heart of defence for Tuchel, with Antonio Rudiger revitalised after struggling under Lampard.

Changing to a 3-4-2-1 formation has been the hallmark of the former Borussia Dortmund coach's reign to date.

"The upside of it is that back three can be more aggressive," former Manchester City defender Nedum Onuoha, who operated at centre-back and right-back during his playing days, told Stats Perform.

"When you're in a two, you're reluctant to go all the way with somebody because it creates a vast amount of space behind you for somebody else.

"But when you have the security of two other players, then a striker dropping short is your invitation to go all the way with them. It suits the way you play because you can defend in a more aggressive manner instead of always worrying about behind you."

While Chelsea have found instant success with this shape since Tuchel's arrival, it is one Guardiola has dabbled in at City but never found his players completely comfortable. What's more, he would probably rather not be facing three centre-backs in his first Champions League final for a decade.

Since the start of the 2019-20 season, City have a 76.7 per cent win rate against teams fielding a back four (P73 W56). This drops to 69.6 per cent versus three/five at the back (P46 W32), still a high win ratio but a notable dip given their incredibly high standards overall.

The pressing matter

Not all back threes are created equally, though. Some of the teams to have frustrated City in this shape have used it as a means to get as many men behind the ball as possible and soak up waves of pressure, with wing-backs not overly concerned about matters beyond the halfway line.

Even if Tuchel opts for the more cautious option of Cesar Azpilicueta at wing-back on Saturday, Chelsea certainly do not fall into this category. With N'Golo Kante and the playmaking talents of Jorginho stationed as a deep-lying midfield pairing in front of their central defenders, they have the capabilities to smoothly play through any opposition press.

This is an intriguing ploy against Guardiola's men, given the manner in which they made their pressing game more efficient this year. City led the Premier League in terms of high turnovers (377) and shot-ending high turnovers (80), meaning no team was more prolific in terms of regaining possession within 40 metres of the opposition goal.

The champions achieved this despite allowing 11.5 passes per defensive action (PPDA), down from 10.1 last season. They were a little happier to let opponents have the ball and picked their moments to press and turnover possession judiciously.

It is an astute tweak that speaks well of Guardiola's impeccable eye for what he refers to as "the small details", but against a Chelsea team so assured on the ball from deep and with the numbers in terms of centre-backs and holding midfielders in their favour, City's work without the ball in opposition territory will have to be almost perfect.

Chelsea (187) were second to City (220) for build-up attacks in the Premier League in 2020-21 and Tuchel will meet Guardiola head-on in this regard. If they end up pumping it long to Olivier Giroud at some stage, it will mean plan A has failed.

False nines and false selections

How much bearing Chelsea's two wins against City over the course of the past six weeks will have on proceedings has been a subject to ponder.

Well, not for Guardiola, who insists a 1-0 FA Cup semi-final loss and fairly bizarre 2-1 Premier League reverse will have "zero" impact.

At Friday's pre-match news conference, Tuchel acknowledged Chelsea would face a very different City in Porto but spoke in positive terms about how his team had "closed the gap" over the course of two rehearsals that showed his players the level of "struggle" required to beat these opponents.

The City line-ups for both recent encounters were heavily rotated on the weekends after their respective Champions League quarter-final and semi-final wins over Borussia Dortmund and Paris Saint-Germain.

Such is the strength of City's back-up options that their limp display at Wembley was a disappointment, but a team featuring three central defenders, four forwards and Rodri as a lone central midfielder at the Etihad Stadium looked like wanton deception from Guardiola, not wanting to give Chelsea the full City experience with the final looming. Sergio Aguero's Panenka penalty was perhaps sillier than the team sheet, although it was a close-run thing.

Now, Chelsea are likely to face the Champions League version. All fleet of foot, sleight of hand and without a recognised striker. If Phil Foden and Riyad Mahrez are charged with pegging back the considerable attacking threat provided by the opposition wing-backs, the onus will then fall on Kevin De Bruyne, Bernardo Silva and Ilkay Gundogan to move Chelsea's midfield and defensive blocks around until they feel like they've been shoved in a blender.

"It'll be interesting. Chelsea have been good at the back because they've been so front foot, but that's when you play against teams with a nine," Onuoha said. "If City go over there with no recognised striker, it puts those three centre-backs in a position they've not had to face before.

"City, as a consequence, could control the midfield more than Chelsea have seen in the past and it will frustrate [Kante and Jorginho] and the defenders, because you can't step out to affect it.

"Playing against false nines is annoying. You're playing against guys with a high football IQ. As a defender, you want to have a match-up with somebody.

"If you play against a team with a really good false nine, they're always right between the six (defensive midfielder) and yourself to the point where you can't drag the six back in to defend against them and you can't venture out that far to deal with them."

Tuchel and Guardiola have been keen dismiss the significance of their battle of wits on the touchline, but whoever prevails will have earned themselves a few big glasses of whatever they fancy.

Jayson Tatum admitted to having "just one of those nights" after scoring 50 points to help the Boston Celtics strike back in their series against the Brooklyn Nets.

The Celtics found themselves in a 2-0 hole in the playoffs after successive defeats in Brooklyn, during which Tatum managed a combined total of 31 points.

His Game 2 contribution was cut short at 21 minutes after he suffered a poke in the eye, the injury ruling him out as the Nets prevailed 130-108 to double their advantage.

However, Tatum had no issues seeing the basket on Friday when the series switched to Boston, going 16-for-30 shooting from the floor as he reached a half-century of points in a 125-119 triumph.

"It's just one of those nights." Tatum said afterwards.

"A tough shooting night the first game and I didn't get to play much the last game because I got poked in the eye."

His performance makes him just the third Celtic to score 50 in a regulation playoff game, following in the footsteps of John Havlicek (54 in 1973) and Sam Jones (51 in 1967).

Isaiah Thomas was the previous Boston player to achieve the milestone in a playoff contest, managing 53 in an overtime victory over the Washington Wizards in May 2017.

For Celtics head coach Brad Stevens, it was just the latest example of Tatum's undoubted talent.

"He is so advanced for 23 years old; I’ve said the word 'special', and I don’t say that very often, obviously," Stevens told the media.

"But he just has a unique ability to score the ball, to slither through screens and find angles to score, but also the vision to make every right move.

"He was super tonight, but he's been like that a lot this year. He's special."

The game marked Kyrie Irving’s first appearance with fans present in Boston since his departure in 2019. The point guard was booed by the home crowd throughout proceedings as he finished with 16 points and six rebounds.

Irving left in free agency after two seasons with the franchise, opting to move closer to New Jersey for family reasons as he signed with the Nets.

"It's basketball. I've been in a few environments in my life," Irving said about the reaction he received.

"Like I said, as long as it's just strictly the nature of basketball out there and there's nothing extra, I'm cool with it."

James Harden led the way with 41 points for the Nets, while Kevin Durant had 39. Game 4 of the first-round series takes place in Boston on Sunday.

In this world, nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes – a statement largely true until Rafael Nadal emerged on the scene and made the French Open his own.

Since breaking through for his first Roland Garros triumph in 2005, only three other men – Roger Federer, Stan Wawrinka and Novak Djokovic – have managed to interrupt Nadal's dominance in Paris.

Nadal has won 13 French Open men's singles titles, seven more than any other player in the Open era (Bjorn Borg, six) heading into this year's edition.

Despite being seeded third, it would take a brave person to bet against defending champion Nadal adding to his mammoth and unprecedented haul in the French capital, where the second grand slam of the year gets underway on Sunday.

On the women's side, defending champion Iga Swiatek is looking to follow in the footsteps of Belgian great Justine Henin.

As all eyes shift to Court Philippe Chatrier and its surroundings, Stats Perform looks at the numbers behind this year's slam, using Opta data.

 

The 'King of Clay'

Nadal will open his title defence against Australian Alexei Popyrin. Since 2000, only Nadal (13) and Gustavo Kuerten (two) have won the French Open more than once.

The 34-year-old swept aside world number one Djokovic in straight sets last year for his fourth consecutive French Open crown and 20th slam trophy, equalling Roger Federer's all-time record. Nadal maintained his stranglehold on the major, having not dropped a set throughout the fortnight. Only three players have previously won the French Open without losing a single set: Ilie Nastase in 1973, Bjorn Borg in 1978 and 1980 and Nadal in 2008, 2010, 2017 and 2020.

Nadal is the only player to have won the same slam more than 10 times. He has lost just two of the 102 matches played in Paris (excluding walkovers), losing to Robin Soderling in the 2009 fourth round and Djokovic in the 2015 quarter-finals, while has won each of the last 30.

The record for most slam titles on the men's circuit will also be up for grabs, with Nadal and the returning Federer seeking to snap their tie.

In the last 25 years, the number one seed has won the French Open on only five occasions – Nadal (2018, 2014 and 2011), Djokovic (2016) and Kuerten (2001). It does not bode well for top seed and 18-time major champion Djokovic, who is looking to close the gap on foes Nadal and Federer.

Australian Open champion Djokovic, who will face Tennys Sandgren in the first round, has reached the final in seven of the last 10 slams he contested, claiming six titles. However, the Serbian star has only featured in five French Open deciders (W1 L4) – fewer than in any of the other three major tournaments.

 

Declining Federer, Nadal challengers?

The French Open will be a welcome sight for tennis fans as Swiss great Federer, who has not played a slam since the 2020 Australian Open due to his troublesome knee and the coronavirus pandemic, makes his comeback.

Seeded eighth ahead of his opener against Denis Istomin, 2009 French Open champion Federer has only contested nine slam finals over the last 10 years (W4 L5) after reaching that stage in 22 major events in the previous decade (W16 L6). Since the beginning of 2016, the 39-year-old has only taken part in one French Open, in 2019, where he reached the semi-finals.

Daniil Medvedev has been flirting with a breakthrough slam triumph. The second seed is a finalist at the Australian Open (2021) and US Open (2019). Medvedev has reached the semi-finals in two of his most recent three appearances at a grand slam after going further than the fourth round in only one of his previous 13 major tournaments. However, the Russian has lost in the first round in each of his four Roland Garros appearances.

US Open champion and fourth seed Dominic Thiem has played two finals at Roland Garros (2018 and 2019) – more than in any other slam – but lost both of them against Nadal. He has won 80 per cent of his games at the French Open, his best win rate in any of the four majors.

Andrey Rublev is the only player to have taken part in the quarter-finals during each of the past three grand slams, including the 2020 French Open. But the seventh seed – who fired down 53 aces at Roland Garros last year, at least 14 more than any other player – is yet to progress further than that round.

Aslan Karatsev enjoyed a fairy-tale run at Melbourne Park in February, the Russian qualifier making it all the way to the semi-finals. Only one qualifier has reached the semi-final stage at the French Open: Filip Dewulf in 1997.

 

Iga in 14-year first?

Having never progressed beyond the fourth round of a major, Polish teenager Swiatek broke through for her maiden slam title via the French Open last year, upstaging Sofia Kenin.

The 19-year-old Swiatek – who will return as the eighth seed in her defence, starting against Kaja Juvan – could become the first woman to win consecutive titles at Roland Garros since Henin in 2005-2007 (three in a row). Only three players have won multiple titles in the women's tournament at the French Open in the 21st century: Henin (four), Serena Williams (three) and Maria Sharapova (two).

Swiatek could claim the French Open and Rome's Internazionali d'Italia in the same campaign. Only Serena Williams (2002 and 2013), Sharapova (2012), Monica Seles (1990), Steffi Graf (1987) and Chris Evert (1974, 1975 and 1980) have achieved the feat previously.

Swiatek celebrated slam glory in the absence of world number one and defending champion Ash Barty in 2020. No player has won more games on clay this season than Australian top seed Barty and Veronika Kudermetova (both 13).

Only Barty (three) has won more titles than third seed Aryna Sabalenka (two) in 2021 – the Belarusian is one of two players currently ranked in the top 20 in the WTA yet to reach a major quarter-final, alongside Maria Sakkari.

In a field also including four-time slam champion and reigning Australian Open winner Naomi Osaka – the second seed – Sabalenka could become only the third woman to win the Madrid Open and French Open in the same season after Serena Williams in 2013 and Sharapova in 2014.

As for fourth seed Kenin, she could be just the fourth American player to reach back-to-back Roland Garros finals, after Serena Williams (2015-16), Martina Navratilova (1984-1987) and Evert (1973-1975, 1979-80 and 1983-1986).

 

All eyes on Serena

The queen of WTA tennis for so long, Serena Williams is one slam success away from matching Margaret Court's record of 24 major singles championships. But the 39-year-old has been stuck on 23 since reigning supreme at the Australian Open in 2017.

While the French clay is not one of her favourite surfaces, it could be the scene of a remarkable achievement following a lengthy wait.

Roland Garros is where Williams has the lowest winning percentage (84 per cent) and where she won the fewest titles (three, at least half as many as the other slams).

Williams won her maiden French Open in 2002 and could hoist the trophy aloft 19 years after her first success in Paris. The longest span between two majors wins for a single player in the Open era is already held by Williams (15 years between 1999 and 2014 at the US Open).

Irina-Camelia Begu awaits the seventh seed in the first round.

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