Leandro Trossard and Hans Vanaken scored twice as Belgium eased past Belarus 8-0 to move to the top of their World Cup 2022 qualifying group in style.

Belgium fell behind in their first two Group E games - a 3-1 win comeback win over Wales and 1-1 draw with Czech Republic - but were four goals ahead at half-time on Tuesday.

Michy Batshuayi opened the scoring for Belgium after 14 minutes at Den Dreef in Leuven in the absence of the rested Romelu Lukaku and Vanaken added a quickfire second for the home side.

Trossard and Jeremy Doku were also on the scoresheet before half-time and further strikes followed after the interval from Dennis Praet and Christian Benteke, before Trossard and Vanaken completed the rout - Belarus' heaviest-ever loss.

Batshuayi failed to beat Aleksandr Gutor from close range early on but he made amends by picking out the roof of the net from a tight angle from the next chance that fell his way.

Vanaken doubled Belgium's lead three minutes later with a thumping volley from six yards and Trossard sent a glorious third into the top-left corner from long range.

Martinez's men were home and dry before the interval as Doku beat Gutor with a well-taken strike after being played in by Praet.

Praet went from provider to goalscorer four minutes into the second half with a precise drive from outside the box to join Vanaken and Trossard in scoring his first senior international goal.

Belgium squandered some presentable opportunities before Benteke guided Toby Alderweireld's cross into the bottom-right corner with a crisp first-time finish for a sixth goal. 

Vanaken was somehow denied his second by a Gutor save on the line, but he would go on to round off the scoring late on after Trossard had doubled his own tally with a shot through the legs of the Belarus goalkeeper.

England boss Gareth Southgate expects Poland to be highly motivated for Wednesday's World Cup qualifier at Wembley in the absence of captain and leading goalscorer Robert Lewandowski.

The Bayern Munich striker sustained a knee injury in Sunday's 3-0 win over Andorra - a game in which he scored twice - and it was confirmed by his club on Tuesday that he will miss the next month.

Lewandowski has scored 66 goals in 118 appearances for Poland, including nine goals in his last nine starts in all competitions.

But Southgate rejected the notion that England will be boosted by the prolific striker's absence for the clash between Group I's top two seeds.

"From our perspective, you're going to have players who are hungry to fill that opportunity," Southgate said at a pre-match news conference on Tuesday.

"They're a good side with some good players. They will all fight for the cause and they're a good football team. They've got high motivation. 

"We've got to keep improving. We've shown a good level and we've got to keep stepping up.

"I understand the question, but I think Poland have excellent players. We would be naive to think they are less of a threat. 

"If we think of taking our foot off the gas, we'll get hurt. Of course, the public want to see the star names, but a team isn't about one player."

England will be looking to make it three wins from three in their March fixtures after following up a 5-0 win over San Marino with a 2-0 victory in Albania on Sunday.

Mason Mount was among the scorers in Tirana and has enjoyed an impressive campaign at club level with Chelsea.

He has played the most minutes of any Chelsea player (2,231) this term, while his 69 chances created is 41 more than anyone else. 

The 168 passes Mount has played into the opposition box is also by far the most among Chelsea players, form that he has carried over onto the international stage.

There had been doubts over the midfielder's fitness after he sat out part of training on Tuesday, but Southgate expects to have one of his key men available for the visit of Poland.

"He didn't warm up with the team but he did the rest of the session with his team-mates," Southgate said. "He should be fine. They are all available as far as we are aware.

"We've managed the team through the matches and the training sessions. We've been very cautious. We've got to balance that freshness. 

"We were very happy with the performance the other day. Around Europe, most countries have taken a similar slant."

Poland may be without their leading marksman for the game, but England have a fit and firing Harry Kane to lead their line.

The Tottenham striker's club future has been the subject of much speculation during the international break, but Southgate reiterated his captain will not be distracted by the rumours.

"He's so focused. I had a chat with him and he's very positive about the club," Southgate said. 

"He was talking about being a few points off the Champions League, into the EFL Cup final. I've got no worries about Harry Kane. He's a fantastic professional.

"Harry is highly motivated. All players want to win. He's got an opportunity with his club to do that."

Kane has scored on six days of the week for England but has never managed to do so on a Wednesday, failing in three different games on that day so far. 

Only Frank Lampard and Wayne Rooney have scored on all seven of the days of the week for the Three Lions.

Sergio Aguero can lay claim to being the greatest striker in Premier League history, according to former Manchester City team-mate Richard Dunne.

The Argentina international confirmed on Monday that he would leave City when his contract expires at the end of this season, bringing an end to his 10-year spell with the club.

Aguero joined from Atletico Madrid in 2011 and has established himself as a City legend, his 257 goals representing a club record.

He has won four Premier League titles, one FA Cup and five EFL Cups at City, with a fifth top-flight title on the horizon this term and silverware still up for grabs domestically and in the Champions League.

With Aguero's stunning goal haul having come in 384 games, Dunne put the 32-year-old top of his all-time list of Premier League forwards for his remarkable consistency.

"I don't think you'd ever put him behind anybody," the former City defender told Stats Perform News.

"I think the way that he plays, all them strikers we speak about historically have scored a lot of goals, all different types of players.

"I certainly wouldn't put Aguero behind any of them, I think he's a player who could have played in any team, in any era or generation.

"It all comes down to who's your favourite, who's your preferred sort of striker. There's plenty who will say Aguero is the best – his goalscoring ratio is fantastic.

"He's been a bit unfortunate, because he tended to miss little periods of every season, but always managed to get over the 20 goals.

"He was someone that you could just rely on massively. Someone who when you'd go into a big game, and you need the goals, he's a name that you would go, he's starting because he's just incredible."

Chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak revealed a statue of Aguero has already been commissioned to stand alongside those of his former team-mates, David Silva and Vincent Kompany, outside the Etihad Stadium.

Dunne said that would be a fitting tribute for a player whose impending departure from City is likely to have put a host of big clubs on high alert, with the Irishman tipping him to join compatriot Lionel Messi at Barcelona.

"I'd imagine there'd be loads of interested parties," said Dunne. "Teams at the top end of European football, will still believe that they can get another couple of seasons out of Aguero.

"I wouldn't be surprised to see him go to Barcelona. He obviously seems to be close friends with Messi as well. It would be a nice fit for the pair of them."

Aguero's glittering legacy has at its centre the last-gasp goal he scored against Queens Park Rangers to secure a 3-2 win and with it City's first Premier League title in 2012. 

Ideally, they would have liked more of one of the NFL's most tortured fanbases in the stadium to see it, but the Cleveland Browns will forever reflect on 2020 as the year the drought finally ended.

Kevin Stefanski's first season as head coach resulted in a first playoff berth since the 2002 season, with long-awaited revenge for a Wild Card defeat to the Pittsburgh Steelers 18 years earlier coming as the Browns trounced Pittsburgh in their own back yard to clinch their first postseason win since Bill Belichick was head coach.

Little went right for the Browns following their trip to the Divisional Round in the 1994 season, Belichick enduring a losing final year in charge before the team spent three years out of the league following a controversial relocation to Baltimore.

But every sign points to the Browns writing more positive chapters in the history books in the coming years after Stefanski helped a deep roster realise its potential.

What do the Browns need to do to take the next step towards Super Bowl contention? We used Stats Perform data to reflect on a memorable 2020 campaign, analyse their offseason moves so far and look at what should still be on their to-do list heading towards the draft.

Offense

Any doubts around Stefanski's ability to get consistent production out of the Browns' offense were put to bed in his first season at the helm.

The Browns narrowly missed out on finishing top 10 in yards per play in 2020, their average of 5.79 putting them 11th.

Unsurprisingly for a coach experienced in running the Shanahan-Kubiak type offense that is en vogue in the NFL, the Browns' success was built around an extremely efficient run game.

Cleveland's yards per rush average of 4.8 was fifth in the league, with the Browns' offensive line doing an excellent job in opening holes for two elite running back talents in Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt.

Chubb (34) and Hunt (29), each finished in the top 10 in rushes of 10 or more yards, with each excelling at picking up yards after first contact by a defender.

Indeed, Chubb's average of 2.5 yards after contact per attempt was tied-second among running backs with at least 50 carries, just behind J.K. Dobbins of the Baltimore Ravens (2.6).

Hunt (2.2) was 10th in the same category, and they each ranked in the top three in broken tackles. Chubb was tied for first with Dalvin Cook on 14, just ahead of Hunt on 13.

The passing game ranked in the top half of the league in yards per play (11th with 6.72), with starting quarterback Baker Mayfield making obvious progress in protecting the football.

Having thrown 21 interceptions in 2019, Mayfield was picked off only eight times in 2020, his touchdown to interception ratio of 3.25 good enough for ninth in the NFL.

Yet the upside of Cleveland's passing game still appeared limited. Mayfield was a disappointing tied for 17th with 43 completions of 20 yards or more.

However, with the Browns' signal-caller ranking sixth in the NFL in passer rating (118.4) on throws of 21 air yards or more among quarterbacks with at least 25 such attempts, there is reason to believe that Cleveland's offense could offer a significantly greater downfield threat if Mayfield and Stefankski are willing to be more aggressive in 2021.

That change in approach may only come if the offense gets better support from the defense.

Defense

A defense blessed with one of the premier pass rushers in the NFL should be better at stopping opposing aerial attacks.

Despite the best efforts of Myles Garrett, named a first-team All-Pro for the first time in his career, quarterbacks had it too easy against the Browns in 2021.

Garrett racked up 12 sacks, sixth-most in the NFL, 18 quarterback hits and four forced fumbles. He was fifth in combined knockdowns and hurries with a total of 70.

But the Browns failed to properly capitalise on the pressure he created across the course of the season.

They allowed 31 passing touchdowns, the eighth-most in the league, with 11 of those scores coming on throws of at least 20 yards. Only five teams gave up more passing touchdowns of that distance.

Injuries in the secondary did not help the Browns' cause - rookie safety Grant Delpit did not play a snap in his rookie year and a nerve injury in his shoulder robbed Greedy Williams of his 2020 campaign.

That meant a stellar season from former fourth overall pick Denzel Ward was somewhat undermined by the lack of talent around him in the secondary, Ward tied second in the NFL with 18 pass breakups.

Where the Browns did excel was in preventing big plays from opposing rushing attacks.

They were tied seventh for the fewest opponent running plays of 10 or more yards, giving up 43, with the average distance of those carries (14.8), the fourth-lowest in the league.

Even with their efforts in keeping running backs in check, the Browns were a lowly 26th in opponent touchdown efficiency, allowing teams to find the endzone on 48 of 165 defensive drives.

The Browns will not legitimately threaten the AFC's elite without an improvement in pass defense, and their offseason to this point suggests they recognise that.

Offseason

Cleveland made one of the best signings of free agency when they inked safety John Johnson to a three-year, $33.75milion deal.

The price may have been slightly rich in a safety market that was predictably slow, but Johnson certainly justified it over the course of his four years with the Rams.

Johnson had 32 pass breakups between 2017 and 2020, tied for the eighth-most among safeties, and that total would almost certainly have been higher had he not missed 10 games through injury in 2019.

Joining Johnson in Cleveland is former Rams team-mate Troy Hill, the cornerback arriving on a two-year deal, while the Browns also took a flier on edge rusher Takkarist McKinley on a one-year deal.

The secondary and the pass rush could still use reinforcement, especially with interior defensive lineman Larry Ogunjobi leaving for the Cincinnati Bengals, but it is the middle of the defense that stands out as the most pressing area of concern for the Browns.

Signing Anthony Walker Jr. to a one-year deal and retaining Malcolm Smith and Elijah Lee should not prohibit the Browns from targeting a linebacker in the draft, with a lack of athleticism at that position coming to the fore as Chiefs backup Chad Henne's fourth-quarter scramble effectively sealed their playoff elimination.

Athletic linebackers who can excel in coverage and play sideline to sideline against the run are a must in the modern NFL. The Browns have a deficiency there but, beyond that position, they have few obvious holes and their performance in Kansas City was reflective of a team ready to become a consistent contender in the AFC.

Years of struggle and stockpiling draft picks are finally beginning to bear fruit and, if the Browns can add the final piece of the puzzle on defense and give Mayfield more licence to go downfield in 2021, there is no reason they cannot threaten to go deeper into the playoffs next season.

Robert Lewandowski will miss both Champions League quarter-final clashes with Paris Saint-Germain after Bayern Munich confirmed he is to be sidelined for a month with a knee injury.

Lewandowski sustained damage to his right knee during Poland's 3-0 World Cup qualifying win over Andorra on Sunday, a game in which he scored twice.

Poland subsequently confirmed he was to play no part in the upcoming clash with England and that he was due to return to Bayern for treatment.

It was initially thought the 32-year-old would only be absent for up to 10 days, however, Bayern confirmed on Tuesday that the issue is slightly more serious than first suspected.

A statement revealed Lewandowski is now expected to be out for most of April.

It read: "Robert Lewandowski has strained a ligament in his right knee. The FC Bayern striker will be out for around four weeks.

"After Poland's 3-0 win over Andorra, Lewandowski returned early to Munich, where a diagnosis was made by the German record champions' medical team."

While losing Lewandowski for so long would be a major blow regardless of the opponents Bayern have lined up, his forced absence comes at a particularly critical moment in the season.

The reigning Bundesliga champions face title rivals RB Leipzig this weekend, before meetings with PSG in the Champions League either side of Union Berlin's visit.

Those contests with PSG will be repeats of last season's Champions League final, which Bayern emerged from as 1-0 victors last August.

Losing Lewandowski will cause Bayern significant concern in attack, with their squad not possessing another senior central striker, meaning either Thomas Muller will be moved in to deputise or Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting will take on a more important role for the time being.

On a personal level, losing a month of the season could derail Lewandowski's hopes of breaking Gerd Muller's record of 40 goals in a single Bundesliga campaign.

The former West Germany star achieved the feat in 1971-72 with Bayern and Lewandowski is just five adrift, having netted 35 in 25 games this term.

Assuming Lewandowski is out for exactly four weeks, he will have three matches to score five or more goals – those games coming against Borussia Monchengladbach, Freiburg and Augsburg.

England could be without Mason Mount for Wednesday's World Cup qualifier against Poland at Wembley.

Mount was absent from Tuesday's training session, with the Chelsea midfielder undergoing work with the medical and performance team, though no injury details were revealed.

It would represent a blow to England, with Mount having scored in Sunday's 2-0 win over Albania.

That result made it back-to-back victories for the Three Lions in Group I, in which Poland likely pose their greatest threat.

Mount has been a key man for Chelsea this term, playing more minutes (2,231) than any of his team-mates, while his 69 chances created is 41 more than anyone else. 

He has been a creative pillar for the Blues, as further evidenced by his 168 passes into the box being by far the most among Chelsea players, while the fact he quickly won his place back after being left out for Thomas Tuchel's first game in charge speaks to his impressive mentality. 

Poland suffered a huge injury setback of their own when record goalscorer Robert Lewandowski was forced to return to Bayern Munich to receive treatment on a knee injury.

The striker sustained damage to the collateral ligament of his right knee during the 3-0 win over Andorra, in which he scored twice.

Poland issued a statement on Monday to confirm Lewandowski would miss Wednesday's match in order to avoid the risk of aggravating the injury.

The 32-year-old has instead returned to Germany for further treatment, which is expected to last from five to 10 days.

Poland have also lost Grzegorz Krychowiak and Kamil Piatkowski, who become the latest players to test positive for coronavirus.

Midfielder Mateusz Klich was the first squad member to return a positive COVID-19 test last week and it was revealed on Saturday that goalkeeper Łukasz Skorupski had also contracted the virus.

Real Madrid must do what is required to keep Sergio Ramos at the club, according to Jose Antonio Camacho.

Former Madrid player and coach Camacho believes keeping the 35-year-old with the Spanish champions should be a top priority.

Ramos is out of contract at the end of the season, having signed 16 years ago from Sevilla.

He has been linked with Manchester United and Paris Saint-Germain, as well as a switch to MLS.

"Sergio Ramos is one of those players who was born to win everything," Camacho told Radio MARCA.

"I would like him to keep wearing the Real Madrid shirt.

"I would make an effort for him. All Real Madrid fans would like him to stay."

RAMOS STILL KEY TO MADRID

Ramos has only recently returned to action after two months out with a knee injury.

In LaLiga this season, the club have a better win percentage (66.7) with him than without him (61.5).

They have won 10 and lost just two of the 15 top-flight games he has played. In the 13 he has missed, Madrid have won only eight with three draws and two defeats.

There is not a huge difference in the average goals against with Ramos (0.9) and without (0.8).

Ramos' presence has made a more notable difference in the Champions League.

Madrid have won three and drawn one of the four games he has started. The other four matches have seen them lose twice.

A SLIGHT DECLINE?

There has, though, been a drop-off from Ramos in some defensive categories this season.

He is winning and making far fewer tackles per 90 minutes, albeit at a decent success rate.He is attempting 0.9 tackles per 90 minutes in all competitions, the first time he has dipped below 1 per game in his career, though he is winning 0.69 P90.

It is similar for blocks (0.32 P90), as he is at a career-low for that statistic, while 1.43 interceptions per game is his lowest total over the course of a season since 2008.

Raphael Varane, Nacho and Eder Militao are the club's other main centre-back options.

Russell Westbrook took an NBA record in his stride after landing a dazzling triple-double in the Washington Wizards' 132-124 win over the Indiana Pacers.

Former MVP Westbrook had 35 points, 14 rebounds and 21 assists, becoming the first player in NBA history with at least 35 points, 10 rebounds and 20 assists in the same game.

The 32-year-old said: "One thing I always cherish and enjoy about this game is that you get to go out and compete. One thing I always pride myself on is making sure I leave it out on the floor every single night.

"I've been blessed with an opportunity to be able to do that and I don't take it for granted. Along those lines, different records and different things may happen.

"But one thing I always do is stay humble, stay true to myself, and always continue to give everything I have and pride myself on being (able to) create some consistency for my team-mates."

Speaking about his rebounding ability, Westbrook said: "Being athletic helps me being able to get it, but I don't know if anybody's better at my size at rebounding the basketball consistently."

Scoring 20 or more points, grabbing 10-plus rebounds and at least 20 assists has been achieved only six times since 1963-64 in the NBA, and Westbrook has had four such games, with Magic Johnson and Rod Strickland the other two players on that list.

Earlier in March, Westbrook also became the first player in franchise history to record at least 35 points, 15 rebounds and 10 assists in a game.

New team-mate Chandler Hutchison, formerly of the Chicago Bulls, was impressed with his first experience of having Westbrook on his side.

Hutchison scored 18 points, his second-highest haul in a game behind the 21 points he scored for the Bulls in January 2020 - which also came in a clash against the Pacers.

Hutchison said of Westbrook: "He just commands an energy that's extremely contagious. You see and you hear and you read all sorts of things about how he is as a player and as a person.

"I knew I was going to figure out who he really was, and just with being here a couple of days I already know the type of team-mate he is. He cares a bunch about his team-mates.

"It just shows with his ability to be unselfish and make the right plays. And obviously he's a heck of a talent to be able to go out there and put up a statline like he did tonight and carry us to a win."

Brooklyn Nets superstar James Harden produced a dominant performance to fuel a 112-107 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Harden posted 38 points, 13 assists and 11 rebounds for a franchise record-tying 12th triple-double of the NBA season on Monday.

Kyrie Irving returned from a three-game absence to score 27 points for the Nets, who won for the 18th time in 21 games.

The Nets are only a half-game behind the Eastern Conference-leading Philadelphia 76ers.

Karl-Anthony Towns (31 points and 12 rebounds) and Anthony Edwards (23 points and 10 rebounds) both had double-doubles for the Timberwolves.

As for Russell Westbrook, the Washington Wizards star tallied his own triple-double to lead the team past the Indiana Pacers 132-124 in the absence of star team-mate Bradley Beal (hip).

Westbrook had 35 points, 14 rebounds and 21 assists, becoming the first player in NBA history with at least 35 points, 10 rebounds and 20 assists in the same game.

Domantas Sabonis' 35 points, 11 rebounds and six assists were not enough for the Pacers.

 

Clippers and Jazz roll on

The Los Angeles Clippers extended their winning streak to six games after defeating the slumping Milwaukee Bucks 129-105. Starters Kawhi Leonard (23 points), Marcus Morris Sr. (25 points), Luke Kennard (21 points) and Reggie Jackson (20 points) all had double-digit points for the Clippers as the Bucks lost their third straight game, despite 32 points from Giannis Antetokounmpo.

The NBA-leading Utah Jazz are also in the midst of a six-game winning run after crushing the Cleveland Cavaliers 114-75. Utah have won 20 successive games at home.

Stephen Curry returned from a bruised tailbone to guide the Golden State Warriors to a 116-102 victory against the Chicago Bulls. Curry finished with 32 points as the Warriors snapped a four-game skid.

Jonas Valanciunas posted a season-high 30 points to go with 15 rebounds as the Memphis Grizzlies topped the lowly Houston Rockets 120-110.

 

Forgettable Fournier debut

A deadline-day acquisition from the Orlando Magic, Boston Celtics recruit Evan Fournier struggled badly in a 115-109 loss to the New Orleans Pelicans. Fournier was scoreless on 0-for-10 shooting in 33 minutes, while he also missed all five three-point attempts. It was the most scoreless minutes by a Celtics player with 10-plus attempts since the three-point era (1980).

 

Draymond goes bang!

Curry is usually the Warriors player draining long-range threes, but team-mate Draymond Green nailed a half-court attempt against the Bulls.

 

Monday's results

Washington Wizards 132-124 Indiana Pacers
New Orleans Pelicans 115-109 Boston Celtics
Brooklyn Nets 112-107 Minnesota Timberwolves
Miami Heat 98-88 New York Knicks
Detroit Pistons 118-104 Toronto Raptors
Memphis Grizzlies 120-110 Houston Rockets
Dallas Mavericks 127-106 Oklahoma City Thunder
Sacramento Kings 132-115 San Antonio Spurs
Utah Jazz 114-75 Cleveland Cavaliers
Los Angeles Clippers 129-105 Milwaukee Bucks
Golden State Warriors 116-102 Chicago Bulls

 

76ers at Nuggets

The 76ers (32-14) will look to preserve their lead atop the east when they visit the Denver Nuggets (28-18) on Tuesday.

Kyrie Irving said the Brooklyn Nets are supporting superstar James Harden in his bid to win a second NBA MVP award.

Harden was crowned the league's Most Valuable Player in 2018 and he has thrust himself into this season's mix following his exploits for the Nets.

The nine-time All-Star has been a dominant force since joining the Nets in a blockbuster trade with the Houston Rockets in January, Harden continuing his red-hot run with a triple-double in Monday's 112-107 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Harden posted 38 points, 13 assists and 11 rebounds for a franchise record-tying 12th triple-double of the season.

Asked about Harden's MVP case, fellow star Irving – who returned from a three-game absence to score 27 points – said: "He's self-motivated which makes him great. You've got to have some type of self-motivation to get yourself up for these games and consistently show up.

"He's done a great job all season for us [of] being consistent and just kind of leading our team, whether I am out of the line-up or [Kevin Durant] is out of the line-up, you know different guys are playing with him and he's been able to adjust and adapt quickly. And when you throw some great pieces around a great player that is able to play point guard out there and just kind of be who he is – it is our job out there to be responsible for our roles, play at a high level and complement him and visa versa.

"We support him and it's a team effort. It's team basketball out there. You know, our record is a reflection of how great we are as a team, but in this league individuals are very special and you have got to give credit when credit is due. And so, us as a team, we just want to continue to support him."

Harden has been averaging 26.1 points, a league-best 11.2 assists and 8.2 rebounds per game for the Nets, who are second and only a half-game adrift of the Philadelphia 76ers in the Eastern Conference.

Brooklyn's Harden – who is averaging the most minutes per game (38.1) in the NBA this season – has led the way for the Nets, with Kevin Durant (hamstring) sidelined since February and Irving missing time throughout 2020-21.

"I think we have a target on our back, teams are coming in and playing well and I think that's pretty much it," said Harden, whose Nets have acquired former All-Stars Blake Griffin and LaMarcus Aldridge.

"Every team goes through ups and down throughout the course of a year. I'm just happy that it's not even a tough time for us because we've been having to deal with injuries and things like that throughout the course of the season.

"I think we're in a fog right now because we have to find some energy. And I know once KD and LaMarcus and Landry get back, they're going to bring that, so we just gotta continue to find ways to win however they come which we've seen these last few games and keep pushing. That's the NBA season for you."

Los Angeles Lakers recruit Andre Drummond said he is ready to help the NBA champions in pursuit of back-to-back titles, while he highlighted the prospect of a "crazy" defensive trio alongside superstars LeBron James and Anthony Davis.

Drummond joined the Lakers on Sunday after clearing waivers, having agreed to a contract buyout with the Cleveland Cavaliers last week.

The two-time All-Star, however, has not played since February 12 after he and the Cavaliers agreed he would be shut down until a trade or buyout was completed, following the arrival of younger center Jarrett Allen.

Drummond, though, insisted he is ready to play for the Lakers.

"I'm not here to steal nobody's shine," Drummond told reporters on Monday.

"I'm here to help this team win as many games as possible."

Drummond is one of 20 players in league history to record more than 9,000 career points, 8,500 rebounds, 850 steals and 950 blocks.

He is also the NBA's all-time leader in seasons with at least 1,000 points, 1,000 rebounds, 100 steals and 100 blocks, having accomplished the feat four times.

"It's been almost a month [and] 10-plus days since I last played. You can imagine the hunger and excitement I have to play and step on the court," he said.

"I had an incredible month of work where I'm ready to play today."

Drummond's arrival is a boost for the Lakers (30-17), who are fourth in the Western Conference as superstar duo James (ankle) and Davis (calf) are sidelined.

The Lakers have only once scored above their seasonal average of 110.7 points since James went down, missing their leading two scorers (James 25.4 points per game, Davis 22.5).

But Drummond had 17.5 points up until February 12, when Cleveland agreed he would be shut down, which would put him third on that list.

"I think our defense is going to be really crazy when those guys come back. And I'm looking forward to it," Drummond added.

"My defensive game is going to help this team out a lot with my quick feet, quick hands," he continued. "Going to be able to recover and play one through five.

"I think for me coming here, AD could slide to the four and play his true position and be very good at it without taking all the bumps and bruises I do at the five."

Opening Day.

A term synonymous with baseball across the United States and the globe. For fans, it is nothing short of a national holiday.

The highly anticipated start to the season on April 1 is an occasion steeped in history, with tradition front and centre.

This year's Opening Day means more than most. It is the latest signal of American life and sport returning to normal amid the COVID-19 crisis.

The coronavirus pandemic led to an enforced break and a reduced 60-game regular season schedule behind closed doors, with a limited number of fans allowed to attend the playoffs as the Los Angeles Dodgers went on to end their 32-year World Series drought.

But 2021 will see the return of the usual 162-game calendar and more importantly, spectators in the stands. All but one of the 30 teams will start at reduced capacity – the Texas Rangers hosting a full house for their home opener against the Toronto Blue Jays.

As America's pastime begins anew, we preview the upcoming season, in which the Dodgers look to defend their World Series crown, using Stats Perform data.
 

Kershaw gears up for a franchise-record start

Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw – entering the final season of his three-year, $93million deal – will be on the mound when the Dodgers open their title defence against the Colorado Rockies.

It will be Kershaw's ninth Opening Day start – the most in franchise history – after injuries prevented him from beginning the 2019 and 2020 campaigns, the eight-time All-Star getting the nod ahead of Walker Buehler and high-profile recruit Trevor Bauer, the reigning National League (NL) Cy Young winner.

Future Hall of Famer Kershaw boasts a 5-1 record on Opening Day, with a 1.05 ERA (6/51.2), 59 strikeouts and eight walks. The 2014 NL MVP's only loss came in his previous start in 2018 as he allowed eight hits and one earned run, while tallying seven strikeouts in six innings against the San Francisco Giants.

Since 1913, when ERA became an official stat, Kershaw has managed the lowest Opening Day figure among pitchers with six starts – 1.05. The 32-year-old's ERA is ahead of Bob Feller (1.21), Jim Palmer (1.40), Hal Newhouser (1.41) and Walter Johnson (1.51).

As for the star-studded Dodgers, they are 74-62 (.544) all-time on Opening Day, winning nine of their 10 season openers since 2011, losing only in 2018.

Their 9-1 (.900) Opening Day record over this stretch is the best in the league, ahead of the Houston Astros (8-2), Baltimore Orioles (8-2), Seattle Mariners (7-3), Detroit Tigers (7-3) and New York Mets (7-3).
 

All eyes on Tatis and Padres

Fernando Tatis Jr. heads into the 2021 season fresh off signing his eye-popping 14-year, $340m contract with the San Diego Padres.

The Padres – winners of two NL pennants – are pinning their hopes on MLB's new poster boy delivering a first World Series to San Diego.

Tatis won a Silver Slugger award last year, having hit .277 with 17 home runs and 45 RBIs in the coronavirus-shortened 2020 season.

The powerful 22-year-old is the first player in MLB history to have at least 35 home runs and 25 stolen bases within the first 150 games of his career.

Tatis – the youngest Padres player to debut on Opening Day (20 years and 85 days) in 2019 – became the fastest player in franchise history (24 team games) to reach the double-digit home run mark in a season in 2020 after hitting his 10th and 11th homers in August.

In the postseason, Tatis homered twice against the St Louis Cardinals in October, becoming the youngest Padre to ever homer in a playoff game (21 years and 273 days) and the third-youngest player in MLB history to homer twice in a postseason match, behind Carlos Correa (21 and 20 days old) and Andruw Jones (19 years, 180 days old).

When it comes to on-base plus slugging, Tatis stacks up well. Since 1920, Tatis (150.8) is only behind Juan Soto (153.9 – 2018-20), Albert Pujols (159.3 – 2001), Jimmie Foxx (160.0 – 1925-29), Ted Williams (161.5 – 1939-40) and Trout (165.0 – 2011-13) for highest OPS-plus up until the age of 21.

Across his two Opening Day appearances, Tatis has three hits in seven at-bats and two runs while slugging at .571. The Padres will be hoping he can improve on that when they host face the Arizona Diamondbacks.

By comparison, Philadelphia Phillies star Bryce Harper and New York Yankees slugger Giancarlo Stanton love Opening Day.

Harper – the 2015 NL MVP and six-time All-Star – has nine hits, five homers and six runs in eight appearances, while 2017 NL MVP Stanton has 13 hits, four homers, 10 runs and 12 RBIs through 10 games.

Blue Jays recruit George Springer, a World Series winner with the Astros, has also impressed on Opening Day following five hits, three homers and six RBIs in six games.
 

Can Abreu and Freeman go back-to-back?

Chicago White Sox star Jose Abreu was crowned the American League's best in 2020.

Becoming the 28th player to win both the MVP and Rookie of the Year in his career, Abreu beat Jose Ramirez of the Cleveland Indians and Yankees star DJ LeMahieu.

Abreu – the fourth White Sox player to win the award – was second in MLB with 19 home runs and fourth in the AL with a .317 batting average.

Freddie Freeman of the Atlanta Braves trumped Dodgers star Mookie Betts and Padres sensation Manny Machado to the NL honour.

Freeman's 1.102 OPS was the second highest in MLB, trailing only Washington Nationals outfielder Juan Soto, while he led the majors with 51 runs scored and was second in the NL in batting average (.341), on-base percentage (.462) and slugging percentage (.640).

Does it bode well for the pair in 2020?

In a season after winning the MVP award, a player averages 135.9 hits, 21.5 homers, 80.5 runs and 79.5 RBIs with a slugging percentage of .516.

There have been 13 players to win back-to-back MVPs; 11-time All-Star Miguel Cabrera (AL) was the last to do so in 2012 and 2013. The most recent player in the NL was Albert Pujols (2008-09).
 

The end of Cleveland as we know them

After 106 years, this will be the last season the franchise will be known as the Indians, following the example of the NFL's Washington Football Team, who dropped their Redskins nickname in 2020 amid a long-time controversy.

Since 1915, Cleveland have won two World Series – in 1920 and 1948 – with their current streak of 71 seasons without a World Series title the longest active run in the majors.

In 1954, Cleveland went 111-43 (.721) in the regular season, before being swept in the World Series by the Giants. It stands as the highest single-season win percentage in AL history, and the best by any MLB team in the past 100 years.

Cleveland have had a winning record in each of the past eight seasons (2013-20), making them one of four MLB teams with an active streak of eight-plus (also Yankees 28, Cardinals 13, Dodgers 10). It is tied for the second-longest streak of winning seasons in franchise history (10 straight 1947-56; eight in a row 1994-2001).

Three Cleveland players have won the AL MVP Award – George Burns (1926), Lou Boudreau (1948) and Al Rosen (1953) – while five have claimed the AL Cy Young Award: Gaylord Perry (1972), C.C. Sabathia (2007), Cliff Lee (2008), Corey Kluber (2014 and 2017) and Shane Bieber (2020).

Sergio Aguero will leave Manchester City at the end of the 2020-21 campaign with his status as one of the club's greatest ever players well and truly cemented. 

The Argentina international made an immediate impact upon joining from Atletico Madrid in 2011, plundering 23 top-flight goals – including a dramatic stoppage-time winner against QPR on the final day of the season – in his debut season to help City to a first-ever Premier League title. 

He has not looked back from there, scoring goal after goal to help City to three more Premier League crowns, one FA Cup and five EFL Cups. 

The 32-year-old became City's record scorer in November 2017 when he struck in a Champions League win over Napoli, breaking Eric Brook's 78-year record.

Using Opta data, we look at how Aguero's record in front of goal stacks up against his City team-mates, Premier League rivals and European football's heavy hitters. 

Aguero untouchable as City's leading marksman

No City player comes close to Aguero's simply outstanding scoring record in the Premier League.

His goal against Fulham earlier this month was his 181st in 271 games in the competition, giving him a minutes-per-goal ratio of 108.34. 

The nearest player to that ratio is Edin Dzeko, who scored a goal every 141.62 minutes for City in the English top flight. 

City's second-highest scorer in the Premier League is Raheem Sterling, who is a whopping 104 goals adrift of Aguero on 77. 

Behind Sterling is Yaya Toure (62), David Silva (60), Carlos Tevez (58) and Dzeko (50).

In esteemed Premier League company

Aguero's next destination is unknown but if, as expected, he does leave the Premier League, he will exit as one of its greatest players. 

Indeed, only three players have scored more than him in the competition: Alan Shearer (260), Wayne Rooney (208) and Andrew Cole (187). 

All three, however, required significantly more minutes to score each goal, Aguero's 108.34 rate comfortably better than Shearer's 146.86, Rooney's 182.78 and Cole's 169.14. 

The nearest player to Aguero's rate in the Premier League's all-time top 30 goalscorers is Arsenal icon Thierry Henry, who took 121.79 minutes to score each of his 175 goals in the English top-flight.

Amongst Europe's elite finishers

If Aguero decides to move back to his native Argentina, his legacy as one of European football's most deadly strikers this millennium is secure. 

Only five players – Cristiano Ronaldo (470), Lionel Messi (467), Zlatan Ibrahimovic (293), Robert Lewandowski (271) and Edinson Cavani (256) – have scored more goals in Europe's 'big five' leagues than Aguero's 255 across his spells with Atleti and City. 

His minutes-per-goal rate jumps slightly to 128.89 when factoring in his time in LaLiga, which puts him 10th in the list of players to have scored more than 150 goals in the major European leagues since January 2000. 

Wherever he ends up next season, one thing is guaranteed: goals.

Sergio Aguero intends to "continue competing at the highest level" after announcing he will leave Manchester City at the end of the season. 

It was revealed on Monday that City's record goalscorer will bring down the curtain on a stunning, trophy-laden 10-year stay at the Etihad Stadium when his contract expires in June. 

The Argentina international has won four Premier League titles, one FA Cup and five EFL Cups at City, scoring 257 goals in 384 appearances.

He could add four more trophies to that haul this season – including the coveted Champions League – with Pep Guardiola's side still in a position to seal an unprecedented quadruple. 

In a statement posted on social media, Aguero paid tribute to City's fans and revealed his next destination will not be a step down.

"A huge sense of satisfaction and pride remains in me for having played with Manchester City for a whole 10 seasons – unusual for a professional player in this day and age," he wrote.

"Ten seasons with major achievements, throughout which I was able to become the top historic goalscorer and forging an indestructible bond with all those who love this club; people who will always be in my heart.

"I was to join during the reconstruction era of 2011, and with the guidance of the owners and the contributions of many players, we earned a place among the greatest of the world.

"The task to maintain this well-deserved privileged position will remain on others. As for myself, I will continue to give it my utmost for the rest of the season to win more titles and bring more joy to the fans.

"Then, a new stage with new challenges will begin, and I am ready to face them with the same passion and professionalism that I have always dedicated to continue competing at the highest level."

A proposed switch to Liverpool is "not an option" for Ibrahima Konate, according to RB Leipzig's sporting director Markus Krosche.

Reports surfaced on Monday claiming the reigning Premier League champions have made "significant progress" in their pursuit of the 21-year-old, who is said to have a €40million (£34m) release clause.

The highly rated centre-back, who was part of the France team that defeated Russia at the European Under-21 Championship on Sunday, revealed how his phone was "ringing all over the place" following the reports, though he insisted he was focused solely on the remainder of the season.  

And Krosche, speaking exclusively to Stats Perform News, said he did not think a move to Liverpool would come to fruition, insisting the Bundesliga club are the perfect fit for the defender. 

"I can't say anything on that topic. I think that this is not an option for Ibu [Konate]," Krosche explained. 

"He has a long contract with us and he knows what we mean to him and what he means to us. He was unlucky last year as he had a longer injury but this year he is in a good way and he is an extremely important player that has a lot of potential. 

"We want to help him to further develop, and we play internationally, have a very good team, so I don't see a reason for him to leave us."

Konate has not committed an error that led to a shot in any of his 15 games for Leipzig this season across all competitions.

Injuries have restricted his appearances, though, as he has played just 17 Bundesliga matches since the start of last season, and he did not feature in the Champions League last-16 tie against Liverpool.

The Reds have been linked with many prospective centre-back reinforcements after struggling with their own injury issues for much of the season.

Leipzig will be particularly keen not to lose Konate given his defensive colleague Dayot Upamecano has already agreed a move to Bayern Munich at the end of the season.

Konate and Leipzig are in the middle of a title tussle with Bayern, whom they play on Saturday, while Liverpool are languishing in seventh with the possibility of missing out on Champions League football hanging over their heads.

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