The Chicago White Sox further enhanced their MLB World Series potential after pounding the Minnesota Twins 16-4.

Having made no secret of their World Series aspirations at the start of the season, the White Sox continue to impress following Monday's crushing win over the Twins.

American League (AL) Central leaders the White Sox – who have won nine of their past 11 games – posted season highs in hits (18) and runs.

Nick Madrigal had three hits, including his maiden MLB homer and White Sox team-mate Danny Mendick launched his first career grand slam in Minneapolis.

For the ninth time in White Sox history, a player hit their first career homer and first career grand slam, however, Monday was the first time it was achieved by two different players.

Yasmani Grandal became the first player in White Sox history with three four-plus walk games in a season, while team-mate Yermin Mercedes is the first player in franchise history to homer off a position player pitcher since 1955.

White Sox ace Dallas Keuchel pitched seven innings, allowing three runs on seven hits against the hapless Twins.

Meanwhile, two-way star Shohei Ohtani was at it again as the Los Angeles Angels took down the Cleveland Indians 7-4.

Ohtani hit his MLB-leading 13th home run of the season – a three-run homer in the second inning.

 

Cole makes history

The New York Yankees were beaten 5-2 by the Texas Rangers but it was a memorable outing for ace Gerrit Cole, who recorded the most strikeouts without a walk (61) in any stretch of a season since 1983, eclipsing the 58 tallied by Corbin Burnes earlier this season. The Rangers snapped a six-game skid in the victory.

The San Francisco Giants trumped the Cincinnati Reds 6-3 behind six shut-out innings from Logan Webb, who gave up six hits, struck out four and walked a batter.

 

Pillar left bloodied in scary incident

The New York Mets topped the Atlanta Braves 3-1 but it came at a cost. Right fielder Kevin Pillar was hit in the nose by a pitch from Atlanta's Jacob Webb in the seventh inning. Pillar fell straight to the ground as blood poured from his nose. The incident left Mets and Braves players shaken in Atlanta.

Angels star Mike Trout exited in the first inning of the team's victory. Trout walked and reached second base before sustaining a right calf strain.

 

Pujols makes immediate impact

Future Hall of Famer Albert Pujols signed a one-year contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers on Monday, following his exit from city rivals the Angels. The 41-year-old slugger – a two-time World Series champion, three-time MVP and 10-time All-Star – made his first appearance for the Dodgers that day, his first hit an RBI single. It brought in star Mookie Betts to score in the World Series champions' 3-1 win over the Arizona Diamondbacks.

 

Monday's results

San Francisco Giants 6-3 Cincinnati Reds
New York Mets 3-1 Atlanta Braves
Chicago White Sox 16-4 Minnesota Twins
Chicago Cubs 7-3 Washington Nationals
Texas Rangers 5-2 New York Yankees
Los Angeles Angels 7-4 Cleveland Indians
Los Angeles Dodgers 3-1 Arizona Diamondbacks
San Diego Padres 7-0 Colorado Rockies
Detroit Tigers 4-1 Seattle Mariners

 

Red Sox at Blue Jays

AL East leaders the Boston Red Sox (25-17) will travel to Dunedin for their series opener against division rivals the Toronto Blue Jays (22-17) on Tuesday. Blue Jays ace Ryu Hyun-jin takes to the mound, while the Red Sox counter with Eduardo Rodriguez.

Washington Wizards star Bradley Beal conceded he will not be "100 per cent" for the NBA play-in tournament showdown against the Boston Celtics.

Beal returned from a hamstring injury for Sunday's regular-season finale against the Charlotte Hornets, scoring 25 points as the Wizards secured eighth position in the Eastern Conference with a 115-110 win.

The three-time All-Star, who missed three of the team's final four games, is gearing up for a clash with the seventh-seeded Celtics in pursuit of the playoffs.

"There's no setbacks which is good," Beal said on Monday. "I didn't injure it any worse than what it was.

"Obviously it still probably won't be 100 percent. It is just a matter of managing it as best I can."

Beal was pipped to the NBA scoring title by Golden State Warriors superstar Stephen Curry on Sunday.

The Wizards star has been averaging a career-high 31.3 points per game this season, just adrift of Curry (32.0).

Beal, who has also been averaging 4.7 rebounds and 4.4 assists, boasts career highs in field-goal percentage (48.5) and free-throw percentage (88.9).

The play-in tournament will include teams with the seventh through 10th-highest winning percentages in each conference, starting on Tuesday with the playoffs due to begin on May 22.

Chelsea head coach Thomas Tuchel admitted Champions League qualification is more important than winning the FA Cup.

After missing out on the FA Cup trophy to Leicester City on Saturday, Chelsea and the Foxes will lock horns again in a blockbuster Premier League clash on Tuesday.

Chelsea are fourth in the table, only a point above fifth-placed Liverpool with two rounds remaining, while Leicester are third and two points better off than Tuchel's side.

As Liverpool lurk, Tuchel talked up the importance of securing a spot in Europe's premier club competition next season, which can also be clinched if Chelsea beat Manchester City in the Champions League final on May 29.

"I am not a good loser but I want to be a respectful loser and I am not here to play the match [the FA Cup final] down because of financial reasons," he said.

"We lost a big match, it was a huge match for us, we put out the best team possible, we did not rest anybody because we had the feeling that this game tomorrow is more important.

"But there is a but. Do we want to play Champions League next season? Yes, this is the target when I stepped into this club. I want to be very clear, the task was, 'let's try everything to be in the top four'.

"The task was not, 'let's try everything to win the FA Cup' because the FA Cup, as big as it is, does not bring you to Champions League football next season. It's the top four that brings us that.

"So, yes, tomorrow is another huge game. But like I said, the FA Cup final was big for us. Once you can collect silverware you try everything simply out of respect.

"And me and the players – be very sure about this – we think zero about how much money we earn [by qualifying for the Champions League]. This is not in our heads."

Chelsea are winless in their last six Premier League meetings with Leicester (D4 L2), having won nine of their previous 11 against them in the competition (D1 L1).

Meanwhile, Chelsea have not lost their final home league game in any of the last 18 seasons (W12 D6), since losing 3-1 against Aston Villa in the 2001-02 campaign.

Albert Pujols will continue his remarkable MLB career with World Series champions the Los Angeles Dodgers after leaving city rivals the Los Angeles Angels.

Pujols' future was in limbo after the Angels designated the future Hall of Famer for assignment earlier this month, less than two months into the last season of the slugger's 10-year, $240million contract.

Following speculation over his next move, 10-time All-Star and two-time World Series champion Pujols signed a one-year deal with the Dodgers on Monday.

The stacked Dodgers now boast four former MVPs in Pujols, Clayton Kershaw, Mookie Betts and Cody Bellinger.

"I feel like I've still got some gasoline left in my tank," the 41-year-old told reporters during his introductory news conference.

The oldest active player in the majors and one of the greatest sluggers in baseball history, Pujols' 667 home runs rank fifth while his 669 doubles are also fifth-most of all time, but he has been batting mere .198 this season, though has homered five times and is fourth on the Angels with 12 RBIs.

Only Hank Aaron has more RBIs than Pujols' 2,112 since it became an official statistic in 1920, and Pujols is 13th on the all-time hits list with 3,253.

"They were really excited to have me here, and that's what led me to make this decision to come here," Pujols said. "I'm really excited to help this organisation this year to get another ring."

Pujols enjoyed great success with the St Louis Cardinals, where he led the franchise to two World Series championships, one other National League (NL) pennant and six division crowns.

A unanimous NL Rookie of the Year Award winner in 2001 when he hit .329 with 37 home runs and 130 RBIs, Pujols made his first of nine All-Star selections with the Cardinals.

In his 11 seasons in St Louis, Pujols won three NL MVP Awards and finished in the top five in voting seven other times. 

He left St Louis after helping the Cardinals win the 2011 World Series to sign a lucrative deal with the Angels.

After slugging 445 home runs with 455 doubles while slashing .328/.420/.617 for a 1.037 OPS in 1,705 games over 11 seasons with the Cardinals, Pujols never lived up to expectations over 10 seasons with the Angels, hitting 222 homers with 214 doubles with a .256/.311/.447 slash line for a .758 OPS in 1,181 games.

His production dropped off significantly in the past four seasons, with 53 homers and a .239/.290/.414 slash line for a .704 OPS in 311 games.

He only earned one trip to the All-Star game since joining the Angels and the franchise made just one postseason appearance, getting swept by the Kansas City Royals in the 2014 American League Division Series (ALDS).

"I told them I'm here to do whatever -- pinch-hit, first base, whatever they want," Pujols said regarding his role with the Dodgers. "I think at the end of the day, I'm just excited to have this opportunity to wear this uniform.

"I've been playing against this organisation long enough on the other side. I can see how they go about it. That's something that I wanted to be part of."

Pujols added: "I don't have to show the Angels or anybody. I'm just going to go be myself out there and play the game. I love this game. I enjoy this game."

Sassuolo forward Giacomo Raspadori is in line for an Italy debut after Roberto Mancini named him in an initial 33-man squad ahead of Euro 2020.

On the day Mancini extended his contract until after the 2026 World Cup, the Azzurri head coach confirmed a first group to face San Marino in a May 28 friendly.

Italy have to trim that selection to 26 men for the rescheduled European Championship finals, with a second warm-up fixture following against the Czech Republic on June 4.

Raspadori will hope he can impress Mancini in order to play a part having come to the fore for Sassuolo since the March international break.

The 21-year-old had a goal and an assist across just 110 minutes in the European Under-21 Championship group stage during that period, having only made his Italy U21 bow in September.

Raspadori has since scored five goals in nine Serie A games for Sassuolo, netting with 31.3 per cent of his shots at a rate of one every 127 minutes. He had only a single goal in 18 league matches prior to this run.

The forward joins the usual established Azzurri stars, including Marco Verratti, Ciro Immobile and Leonardo Bonucci.


Italy squad in full:

Alessio Cragno (Cagliari), Gianluigi Donnarumma (Milan), Alex Meret (Napoli), Salvatore Sirigu (Torino); Francesco Acerbi (Lazio), Alessandro Bastoni (Inter), Cristiano Biraghi (Fiorentina), Leonardo Bonucci (Juventus), Giorgio Chiellini (Juventus), Giovanni Di Lorenzo (Napoli), Alessandro Florenzi (Paris Saint-Germain), Manuel Lazzari (Lazio), Gianluca Mancini (Roma), Leonardo Spinazzola (Roma), Rafael Toloi (Atalanta); Nicolo Barella (Inter), Gaetano Castrovilli (Fiorentina), Bryan Cristante (Roma), Manuel Locatelli (Sassuolo), Lorenzo Pellegrini (Roma), Matteo Pessina (Atalanta), Stefano Sensi (Inter), Marco Verratti (Paris Saint-Germain); Andrea Belotti (Torino), Domenico Berardi (Sassuolo), Federico Bernardeschi (Juventus), Federico Chiesa (Juventus), Vincenzo Grifo (Freiburg), Ciro Immobile (Lazio), Lorenzo Insigne (Napoli), Moise Kean (Paris Saint-Germain), Matteo Politano (Napoli), Giacomo Raspadori (Sassuolo).

Tottenham have urged "everyone" to focus on finishing the 2020-21 season as well as possible amid reports Harry Kane has informed the club he wishes to leave.

Kane is a product of Spurs' academy and has developed into one of the world's best strikers, but over the past two years the club have seemingly struggled to match his ambitions.

The England captain has regularly been linked with moves away from Tottenham over the years, though those reports have rarely appeared to carry much substance – until now.

Sky Sports News claimed on Monday that Kane has told the club he wants to leave at the end of the season, with trophies on his agenda.

Spurs have not won silverware since the 2007-08 EFL Cup, with Kane a part of the sides that lost the finals of the 2018-19 Champions League and this season's EFL Cup.

He reiterated his need to challenge for major trophies after that EFL Cup defeat to Manchester City last month when he was named Premier League Player of the Year at the London Football Awards.

He said: "Individual awards are great, they are fantastic achievements. Probably when I look back at the end of my career, I will go over and take in a little bit more.

"The goal right now as a player is to win team trophies. As much as this is great, I want to be winning the biggest prizes that there is to offer as a team, and we are not quite doing that.

"It is bittersweet. I would rather be winning team trophies than this one. It is what it is. I am proud to win it. It means it has been a good season on the pitch, so I have just got to try to continue what I am doing."

Manchester United, Manchester City and Chelsea are all thought to be keen on Kane given their respective desires for reinforcements at the top end of the pitch.

Spurs responded to the rumours with a statement that will likely do little to ease the worries of supporters dreading Kane's exit.

The widely reported statement read: "Our focus is on finishing the season as strongly as possible. That's what everyone should be focused on."

Kane has been in excellent form again this season, his 35 goal involvements (22 goals, 13 assists) in the Premier League being the third-most among Europe's top five leagues – only Robert Lewandowski (47 – 40 goals, seven assists) and Lionel Messi (39 – 30 goals, nine assists) boast a better record in 2020-21.

His overall Premier League tally stands at 165, meaning he has a very real chance of breaking Alan Shearer's all-time record of 260, an achievement that would clearly be aided by him staying in England should he leave Spurs.

Kane's 22 goals this season have him level with Mohamed Salah in the race for the Golden Boot, though he has played two matches fewer than the Egypt forward, who has also netted six penalties to his rival's four.

Should he beat Salah and the rest, Kane would become only the third player after Shearer and Thierry Henry to win the Golden Boot three times, having also claimed it in 2015-16 and 2016-17.

Despite Kane's brilliance, Spurs look unlikely to secure a return to the Champions League for 2021-22, as they head into their final two matches of the season five points adrift of Chelsea in fourth.

The results will not be confirmed until later in the postseason, but the NBA's MVP race has been run and there appears to be a clear winner.

After a season in which Joel Embiid and LeBron James were each favourites at a time, and while a number of other contenders made impressive runs, Nikola Jokic is seemingly set to scoop the league's top individual award.

Jokic achieved what the others could not in remaining healthy, starting all 72 games for the Denver Nuggets as they finished third in the Western Conference.

But the 'Joker' was more than just the last man standing in a gruelling campaign, earning his recognition by averaging 26.4 points, 10.8 rebounds and 8.3 assists per game – the combined total of 45.5 leading the NBA alongside triple-double king Russell Westbrook.

A worthy winner, the Nuggets center shot 56.6 per cent from the field, 38.8 per cent from beyond the arc and 86.8 per cent from the free-throw line. No player to attempt 30 or more field goals across a season in NBA history has topped Jokic in all three metrics.

Stats Perform reflects on how Jokic ultimately outperformed his opponents to establish himself as the league's main man in 2020-21.
 

Month one: LeBron leaps above Luka

Luka Doncic and Giannis Antetokounmpo were the preseason MVP favourites, while Los Angeles Lakers duo James and Anthony Davis appeared well set as both Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant returned from injuries.

Doncic's hopes quickly took a hit once the campaign got under way, however, as the Dallas Mavericks slumped to 7-7 over the first month, the same middle-of-the-road record that ensured Jokic was not immediately thrust to the forefront of the conversation on a .500 Nuggets team.

Yet the Serbian quietly built the foundations for his awards challenge in that spell. He had five triple-doubles, including three in his first four games, and averaged 25.1 points, 11.4 rebounds and 10.0 assists.

A 12-4 start for the Lakers meant the anticipated early James calls grew louder, the four-time winner an ever-present and averaging 24.4 points with an impressive 9.3 plus/minus rating.

Month two: Sixers star Embiid emerges

The PAR (points plus assists plus rebounds) chart Jokic topped in month one was led by Antetokounmpo in month two, with Jokic sliding to fourth behind Embiid and Doncic despite averaging 27.8 points over his next 16 games.

James was sixth, adding 27.0 points, 8.7 rebounds and 8.3 assists per game to his totals between January 22 and February 21, but Embiid emerged as a serious contender.

As their star center put up a league-leading 33.9 points over the period, the Philadelphia 76ers improved to 20-11 to lead the East.

Missed games would ultimately cost Embiid, but they added to his case at this stage. He featured in 25 of the Sixers' first 31 outings, sitting out five defeats and only a single win.

Month three: Injuries interrupt favourites

Events in mid-March blew the MVP race wide open.

In the 76ers' win at the Washington Wizards on March 12, Embiid suffered a knee injury. However, James was the clear favourite for just eight days before he sustained a high ankle sprain as the Lakers lost to the Atlanta Hawks.

Curry could not capitalise as a tailbone issue kept him on the sidelines over the same stretch, instead allowing James Harden to improbably enter the reckoning.

A high-profile yet polarising trade to the Brooklyn Nets should have removed Harden from awards consideration, many argued, but his performances and stat line made a compelling argument.

Between his Nets debut on January 16 and March 21 – the end of the third month of the season – Harden became the key man in his new team's 'big three' and led the league in playmaking with 11.3 assists as Brooklyn went 22-7 with the 2018 MVP on the court.

Month four: Nuggets make their move

Although Harden, Antetokounmpo and Damian Lillard – who has long led the league in 'clutch' points this year – all made runs, Jokic was the favourite at the time of James' injury, then with an even more impressive stat line, including 41.6 per cent shooting from three. Month four consolidated that position.

As Harden and Antetokounmpo each sustained injuries in early April, Jokic was boosted by the arrival of Aaron Gordon at the trade deadline.

The Nuggets got only five games (four wins) out of a Jamal Murray-Will Barton-Michael Porter Jr-Gordon-Jokic line-up, yet no five-man group in the league this season which played over 100 minutes averaged more than their 55.6 points per game.

Another injury disrupted Denver, but it was Murray rather than Jokic who went down, the guard tearing the ACL in his left knee.

The Nuggets were on a four-game winning run regardless by April 21 to improve to 38-20, giving Jokic a clear edge over Curry on a Golden State Warriors team hovering below .500.

Month five: Still in the thick of the action

As the playoff picture took shape over the final weeks of the season, a number of stars racked up DNPs to protect themselves for the challenges ahead. Jokic, despite repeatedly insisting he had no interest in the MVP award, did not.

The apparent winner finished the year having played 2,488 minutes, trailing only New York Knicks pair Julius Randle and RJ Barrett.

Sunday's final-day defeat to the Portland Trail Blazers was the first time all year Jokic dipped below 26 minutes in a game, limiting the damage to his impressive numbers.

It meant he protected a healthy lead in the awards race, despite Curry's continued excellence in the final month. The scoring champion averaged an outstanding 35.6 points across his final 12 games to take the Warriors to eighth place.

Denver ended the year on a 13-5 run following Murray's injury, with Jokic putting up 26.9 points. Few can argue he is not a worthy MVP winner.

Julian Draxler is hopeful Paris Saint-Germain will see the "best Draxler ever" after he signed a three-year contract extension with the club.

The attacking midfielder will remain with PSG until June 2024 having agreed to a deal following a season in which he has made only 12 league starts.

Despite being used in a rotational role behind the established front three of Neymar, Kylian Mbappe and Angel Di Maria, Draxler has excelled as a creative force for PSG.

Indeed, he has created 30 chances in Ligue 1 in 2020-21, more than any other PSG player outside of their starting attacking trident.

Across Draxler's PSG career, that tally is only topped by the 41 chances he laid on for his team-mates in the 2018-19 campaign, when he provided seven assists.

And Draxler is hopeful of not only recapturing that form but improving on it after extending his stay with a PSG side that must better Lille's result on Sunday to avoid losing the Ligue 1 title for the first time since 2017.

 

"The club's ambitions have become a reality. We played in the semi-final of the Champions League this season and in the final last season," Draxler told PSG's official website.

"We have progressed a lot, and even though we have been through highs and lows, the project is a very attractive one and I am happy to be able to continue here.

"I have been playing a lot more in recent weeks, it's important for me to be able to maintain my rhythm and play matches.

"I feel very good and you can see that in the final weeks of this season.

"We will have a better pre-season this summer than we did last year, we hope that everyone will be ready and that Paris will see the best Draxler ever!" 

Ferran Torres is reaping the benefits of relocating a positive outlook at Manchester City, with Pep Guardiola stating the Spain forward was "upset with the world, with many situations".

Torres netted a fine hat-trick, which began with a spectacular improvised volley, when the Premier League champions won 4-3 at Newcastle United last Friday.

Those goals moved Torres onto 19 for club and country this season, although his form tailed off considerably during the middle of the campaign – a situation that was compromised by a bout of coronavirus.

Speaking ahead of Tuesday's match at Brighton and Hove Albion, Guardiola reiterated the value he places upon players remaining upbeat when form and selection are not going their way, suggesting Torres has fallen short in this regard at times since joining from Valencia for £21.2million last August.

"The players, like teams, are not a stable situation. There is up and down with all players," Guardiola said.

"Ferran was in an incredible mood when he arrived, [then] in one period sad, upset with the world, with many situations and that's why he didn't play good. When he changed his mind and he was open and he started to smile again, always he played good.

"And the football depends on the mood, the confidence of the players. We try to help them but it depends on them. You can complain or you can move forward all the time. And the guys who move forward and they are positive, always football rewards you.

"When you start to complain all the time, then the train comes over you and other guys will take your position.

"Football doesn’t wait. If you're not in the right moment, there will be another guy who will take your position. When you are positive, the guys are always playing good."

Torres has scored 13 times for City in all competitions this season, putting him level with Gabriel Jesus. Only Ilkay Gundogan (16), Phil Foden, Riyad Mahrez and Raheem Sterling (all 14) have scored more.

The 21-year-old's minutes-per-goal rate of 159.85 is comfortably the best in Guardiola's squad, with no other player who has scored five or more times below 200 minutes.

Nevertheless, his season can be split into three fairly clear sections.

From the start of the campaign up to and including a goalscoring contribution to a home win over Newcastle on Boxing Day, Torres scored seven times for his club and also hit a hat-trick in Spain's 6-0 Nations League thrashing of Germany.

For City, he averaged 0.56 goals per 90 minutes and boasted a shot conversion rate of 20 per cent, out-performing an expected goals (xG) figure of 5.75 and vindicating Guardiola's decision to frequently deploy a natural winger at the centre of his attack.

"We used him in that position because for quite a long period of the season Gabriel and Sergio [Aguero] were injured," he said.

"We have players that can play in different positions and Ferran is one of them."

Then, COVID-19 struck and Torres became a more marginal figure, featuring 10 times between the turn of the year and the March international break and netting a solitary goal against League Two Cheltenham in the FA Cup.

That paltry return came from 15 shots over this period, amounting to a conversion rate of 6.67 per cent and an xG under-performance (2.24).

It means the stint of low mood that Guardiola mentioned is not too hard to pick out, although back-to-back goals in Spain's World Cup qualifiers against Georgia and Kosovo appear to sparkTorres once more.

In six appearances and five starts for City since, he has five goals at a rate of one every 83.2 minutes, far exceeding his 1.77 xG.

Torres' conversion rate during this most recent spell is up at 41.67 per cent and the poaching instincts that were to the fore in his second and third goals against Newcastle are borne out in the fact he has scored three of his past four "big chances", according to Opta.

His opener does not fall into that category, but such an ingenious move coming off is perhaps indicative of a player back in form and giving his manager a useful problem ahead of this month's Champions League final.

"The goal was so nice, difficult execution. An absolutely talented action," Guardiola added.

"In training sessions he always has the ability in front of goal. He is a good finisher. He has pace, quality and good decision-making."

As City continue to be linked with mega-money moves for a new striker and Aguero prepares to leave the Etihad Stadium after a record-breaking decade, maybe they have a very useful solution in-house.

Europe's top five leagues all conclude this week and there are still plenty of matters to be resolved – not least who will be crowned champions in Spain and France.

Every division has something riding on the final days of the season, whether it be top spot, European qualification, or relegation.

Ahead of what is set to be a dramatic conclusion to the Premier League, LaLiga, Ligue 1, Serie A and the Bundesliga campaigns, we look at the state of play in each league.

 

PREMIER LEAGUE

Manchester City wrapped up the Premier League title with three games to spare, making them the first team in the competition's history to win the title despite being as low as eighth on Christmas Day.

All three relegation places were also decided with three games remaining – a Premier League record – with Fulham joining Sheffield United and West Brom in dropping down a division.

That leaves just the European spots to fight for, and it is shaping up to be an entertaining end to the English top-flight season in that regard. Manchester United are guaranteed a top-four finish, but five other teams – Leicester City, Chelsea, Liverpool, Tottenham and West Ham – are in the mix for the two other Champions League berths with two rounds of games to go.

There is also the small matter of the Europa League places for the teams finishing in fifth and sixth, as well as a spot in the inaugural Europa Conference League, which goes to the team in seventh, meaning everyone from 10th-placed Leeds United to Leicester in third have something to play for. That includes Arsenal, who have not missed out on European football of some sort in 25 years.

LALIGA 

The Spanish title race appeared to take a dramatic twist on Sunday as Real Madrid leapfrogged Atletico Madrid at the summit for around 20 minutes. However, Atleti scored two late goals to beat Osasuna, meaning they are two points ahead of their city rivals heading into the final round of games.

Atleti, who have led the way at the top for 29 matchdays, now need to match Madrid's result against Villarreal when they travel to relegation-threatened Real Valladolid on the final day of the season. It is worth noting that Los Blancos have the superior head-to-head record, so a draw would not be enough for Atleti if Madrid win.

Barcelona are officially out of the title race, meanwhile, but they are assured of a top-four finish along with Sevilla. Real Sociedad and Real Betis occupy the Europa League spots, while Villarreal are in a Europa Conference League berth, though just one point separates the three teams so that could all yet change.

To complicate matters, Villarreal could still qualify for the Champions League by winning the Europa League final against Manchester United.

At the bottom end of the division, Eibar are already relegated and they will be joined by two of Valladolid, Elche or Huesca. Valladolid must beat Atletico in their final game to have a chance of staying up, while the onus is on Elche to better Huesca's result as they are level on points but have an inferior head-to-head record.

LIGUE 1

The Ligue 1 title battle is also going right down to the wire in a three-way dogfight. After a thrilling race that has lasted the course of the season, underdogs Lille lead heavyweights Paris Saint-Germain by one point with one matchday left.

Monaco have won seven of their previous eight games and are three points off leaders Lille, though they require both Les Dogues and PSG to slip up on the final day, as well as beating Lens. Should it come down to goal difference, PSG hold a big lead over their two title rivals.

Incredibly, PSG are still not yet technically assured of a Champions League place as Lyon in fourth are only three points worse off, although it would take a defeat for the reigning champions and victory for Lyon, plus a goal swing of 16, for them to miss out.

Monaco's opponents Lens, incidentally, also have plenty to play for at the weekend as they are sixth – enough for Europa Conference League qualification – but can still be caught by Rennes in seventh, while they could yet overtake Marseille in fifth if results go their way.

At the opposite end of the table, there may only be one spot left to be settled in the bottom three – Dijon and Nimes are both already down – but six teams are still very much in danger of the drop. Nantes occupy the relegation play-off spot, with Lorient, Brest and Strasbourg just a point better off, and Bordeaux and Reims only two points clear.

SERIE A

With Inter being crowned Scudetto winners for the first time in 11 years at the start of the month, the biggest storyline in Serie A regards Juventus' top-four fate. The dethroned champions, who had finished top nine years running before this season, are currently down in fifth.

Juve are one point behind Napoli and Milan in the two spots directly above them, while Atalanta are three points better off in second and have the better head-to-head record against the Bianconeri.

Andrea Pirlo's side are therefore in need of favours on the final day in what is poised to be a nail-biting finale in terms of those Champions League places. Lazio will finish sixth, so they are assured of Europa League football next term, while Roma hold a two-point advantage over Sassuolo in the Europa Conference League position.

Parma and Crotone are both down already and one of Benevento or Torino will join them, the latter currently three points outside of the relegation zone and with a game in hand to play on Benevento.

BUNDESLIGA

RB Leipzig provided Bayern Munich with some stern competition for a while, but the Bavarian giants' quality eventually told and they are Bundesliga champions for a ninth year running.

It's not only the title race that's done and dusted in Germany, in fact, as RB Leipzig are certain of second place, and both Borussia Dortmund and Wolfsburg will join them in the Champions League next season.

Eintracht Frankfurt and Bayer Leverkusen, meanwhile, will finish in fifth and sixth respectively regardless of events later this week.

However, Union Berlin have work to do if they are to finish seventh for a place in the Europa Conference League play-offs as Borussia Monchengladbach are a point further back, while Stuttgart and Freiburg are two behind with a game to go.

Seven-time German champions Schalke will be competing in the second tier of German football next season, but Cologne and Werder Bremen are hanging on in there, sitting two and one point behind Arminia Bielefeld respectively in 15th place.

Roberto Mancini has been given a significant vote of confidence by the Italian Football Federation (FIGC) after signing a new contract that will keep him in charge of Italy until after the 2026 World Cup.

Mancini was appointed in May 2018, taking over from caretaker manager Luigi Di Biagio after he had replaced Gian Piero Ventura the previous November.

Ventura had failed to guide Italy to the 2018 World Cup, the Azzurri losing out to Sweden in a play-off.

It was the first World Cup Italy had missed since 1958 and forced the FIGC into a serious rethink before turning to Mancini, one of the nation's most-respected coaches.

He was initially appointed only until 2020, with an automatic extension to be granted upon qualification for Euro 2020, which Italy duly achieved with three matches to spare.

That triggered a two-year extension to run until after the 2022 World Cup, but the FIGC is seemingly so impressed with Mancini that they have deemed him worthy of a long-term deal.

Speaking at the end of the FIGC's federal council meeting, president Gabriele Gravina is quoted by ANSA as saying: "It is an investment of the federation for the future, and one that we owed to the fans.

"I am very happy, because as Roberto knows, it was an objective of the federation to continue this job and give it continuity in the future."

Mancini, who was also in attendance, added: "I am very happy, I thank the Federation and I thank the president.

"We have extended the contract, there will be many events and as the president said it is not easy to win, but we are trying to carry out a job that was started three years ago, which up to now has given good results.

"We have many young players to focus on, especially in the youth national teams, so our hope is that this work can bear fruit very quickly, we are very positive."

Mancini's Italy broke a longstanding national team record in November 2019 as they won 10 consecutive matches with a 3-0 result against Bosnia-Herzegovina, the streak eventually ending at 11.

They won all of their Euro 2020 qualifiers and their 10 victories in 2019 set a new record for the most wins in a calendar year for the national team.

Italy were drawn into Group A for the Euros, which start next month, meaning they will face Turkey, Wales and Switzerland for the right to reach the knockout phase.

The regular season is over. All teams have made it through 72 games in a campaign played out amid the backdrop of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

For some, the focus now switches quickly to the playoffs. Those who missed out, however, get an early start to their offseason, a time for rest, reflection and perhaps a reset ahead of the NBA Draft in late July.

The contrasting situations for teams at this time in a campaign offers opportunities to those perhaps not used to being in the spotlight. It may be the final act in the show, but it allows some players to step in and take centre stage.

Powered by Stats Perform data, here is a look at some of those who have seized the moment in the latest edition of Heat Check.

RUNNING HOT...

Jordan Clarkson

Clarkson has excelled this season with the Utah Jazz and is the overwhelming favourite to be named Sixth Man of the Year in the NBA Awards. He has averaged 18.4 points across 68 games, of which he has started in just one. His final act in the regular season was a 33-point haul in a win over the Sacramento Kings, including landing half of his 12 attempts from beyond the arc.

Despite being without Mike Conley Jr and Donovan Mitchell down the stretch, the Jazz still finished strongly to end up as the top seeds in the Western Conference. Now they wait to find out who they will face first up in the playoffs, aiming to avoid an opening-round exit for a third successive campaign.

Kelan Martin

Martin is a prime case of a player capitalising on extended game time. Having gone undrafted, he had a spell in Germany before getting an NBA debut with the Minnesota Timberwolves in 2019. However, he has looked right at home of late with the Indiana Pacers, including recording a career-high 25 points on May 10. During the past week, the 25-year-old has averaged 14.2 points per game and 2.6 successful three-point attempts.

Indiana have a play-in game to come against the Charlotte Hornets as they aim to keep their campaign alive – do not be surprised to see Martin remain involved in the rotation.

Malachi Flynn

Few teams have had it as tough as the Toronto Raptors. For starters, the Canadian franchise was relocated to Tampa due to travel restrictions in place during the global pandemic. Health and safety protocols have also taken a toll on player (and coach) availability and, with no hope of a top-10 finish in the Eastern Conference, several of their starters have been absent from duty.

That has offered further minutes for Malachi Flynn, though. The rookie guard rounded out his debut year with 26 and 27 points respectively in losses to the Dallas Mavericks and the Pacers. Across the past week, he averaged out at 3.25 successful attempts from three-point range, demonstrating his scoring touch from deep.

GOING COLD...

Elfrid Payton

To say Payton’s numbers are a concern is an understatement. The starting point guard for the playoff-bound New York Knicks has not reached double figures for points in his previous seven outings.

Indeed, across the past week, the former first-round pick by the Philadelphia 76ers has averaged 1.0ppg. One. Point. He made just two of 14 field goal attempts across four games. Considering the Knicks also have Frank Ntilikina and Derrick Rose on the roster, a change to the line-up would not be at all surprising.

Nikola Vucevic

Vucevic did not play on Sunday as the Chicago Bulls wrapped up their campaign with a win over the shorthanded Milwaukee Bucks. The center averaged 12.67 points in the three appearances across May 10-16, comfortably down on his mark of 23.9 entering the week. He struggled against the Brooklyn Nets in particular, landing just four of his 18 shots, including none of the eight attempts launched from three-point range.

Here is an example of how sometimes good intentions do not quite pan out as planned. Vucevic's arrival prior to the trade deadline was a show of intent by the Bulls to make the playoffs. Instead, they are left on the outside in the East, finishing up in 11th place in the standings for a second season in a row.

The Philadelphia Eagles have bolstered their defense with the signing of Ryan Kerrigan.

Defensive end Kerrigan has spent 10 seasons with the Washington Football Team after being picked in the first round of the 2011 draft.

A four-time Pro Bowler, Kerrigan holds the Washington franchise record for sacks with 95.5, which are the fifth-most in the NFL since 2011.

"I'll never be able to sum up what these past 10 years have meant to me in an Instagram post, but what I can say is that they have been some of the best of my life," Kerrigan wrote in a farewell message to Washington on Instagram. 

"I hope you had as much fun watching me as I did playing for you. Thank you, Washington, for everything."

In a subsequent post announcing his signing with Washington's NFC East rivals the Eagles, he wrote: "I know I probably wasn't your favourite player over the past decade, but @philadelphiaeagles fans I'm fired up to be playing for you guys now!"

He joins a Philadelphia defense that was seventh in the NFL in forcing negative passing plays in 2020 with 53 for minus 349 yards.

The Eagles are not short on talented pass rushers. Brandon Graham was fifth in the league among edge rushers last season with a pressure rate of 23.5 per cent, while Josh Sweat's adjusted sack rate of 4.4 per cent was marginally better than that of Kerrigan (4.3) in 2020.

Interior defensive lineman Fletcher Cox had 6.5 sacks and has at least 5.5 sacks in five of his past six seasons.

The Eagles will hope the addition of Kerrigan to an already talented defensive front will help them bounce back from a 4-11-1 season under new head coach Nick Sirianni.

Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is unsure whether Juan Mata will remain at Old Trafford beyond this season.

The Spanish midfielder has spent the last seven-and-a-half years at Old Trafford, racking up 271 appearances during that time.

However, he has struggled for minutes this season – featuring just 16 times in all competitions – and is due to become a free agent next month.

United have the option to trigger a 12-month extension in Mata's contract, but Solskjaer insists the player himself will have the final say over his future.

"I've kept the dialogue with Juan and we're due to speak again very soon," he said at a news conference on Monday previewing his side's home match with Fulham. 

"Of course, he's not played as much as he'd like and that's a decision that we'll make with him. He's in charge of his own future and he's been such a good servant for the club. 

"But of course, it's hard, as I've said so many times, to leave good players out, good people out of the team. 

"It's about what does he want as his next step in his career? Is it still play out his career here, or is it going somewhere else? We haven't made a final decision yet."

Mata's appearance in a much-changed United's 2-1 loss to Leicester City last week was just his fifth start of the season in the Premier League, not helped by injuries and family matters.

Prior to that rare outing against the Foxes, Mata had played just two minutes of top-flight football for United in 2021, coming on as a late substitute in February's 3-1 win against Newcastle United.

He has failed to score in the league since April 2019 but does have two assists in 2020-21, which equates to 0.42 per 90 minutes and is the best record of any United player to have played more than once this term.

Bruno Fernandes is next on the list with 0.33 assists per 90 minutes, albeit over a far greater period of 36 games compared to Mata's eight.

The 33-year-old also ranks highly for chances created, the Spaniard's 1.69 per 90 minutes behind only Luke Shaw (2.53) and Fernandes (2.81).

Serie A side Lazio are reportedly the favourites to sign the former Valencia and Chelsea man should he depart Old Trafford in the coming weeks. 

Marc-Andre ter Stegen has confirmed he will miss Germany's Euro 2020 campaign after opting to undergo a "therapeutic procedure" on his knee.

Sunday's LaLiga results – including Celta Vigo's shock win at Camp Nou – mean Barcelona can no longer win the title, with the club and Ter Stegen subsequently deciding to cut his season short.

A brief statement released by the club revealed Ter Stegen will "undergo a therapeutic procedure on the patellar tendon in his right knee on Thursday May 20 in Malmo by Dr Hakan Alfredson and under the supervision of the club's medial services".

While Barca did not outline a return date, Ter Stegen provided an update on his official Instagram account on Monday, confirming it means he will play no part at the delayed Euro 2020.

"I'm disappointed about yesterday's defeat and that now we can no longer win La Liga," he wrote.

"After a complicated start to the season, we showed good character going 19 matches unbeaten – but we weren't able to keep this form.

"I have decided together with the medical team of the club that I will do a complementary intervention on my knee.

"I'm sad that I will miss Euro 2020 this summer with Germany. For the first time in many years I will be a fan at home supporting my country, I hope we win it!

"After the summer break, when we are back on the pitch I hope to be able to play with fans [in attendance] once again, I miss it!

"Thank you for your support throughout a difficult season and stay healthy!"

Ter Stegen has featured 31 times in the league in 2020-21 for Barcelona, but his overall performance for the season has not been quite up to the high standards he has set previously.

He has conceded 32 goals from shots on target worth 29.07 expected goals on target (xGOT), meaning he has let in nearly three goals more than expected. Celta's first goal on Sunday came from a speculative Santi Mina shot worth just 0.04 xGOT.

Ter Stegen's xGOT differential of -2.93 this term is by far his worst across a single season at the club. In 2015-16, it was -1.44, though he only played seven LaLiga matches, while his next worst was -0.16 in 2019-20, a narrow margin which essentially meant he conceded as many goals as would be expected given the quality of the shots on target he faced.

But for this procedure the ex-Borussia Monchengladbach man certainly would have been a part of the Germany squad next month, though he would have been playing back-up to Bayern Munich's Manuel Neuer.

 

While Ter Stegen has let in more goals than he should have this season, Neuer has conceded 40 times in the Bundesliga from an xGOT value of 42.09, therefore preventing two goals in 2020-21.

The Neuer or Ter Stegen debate has been a hot topic for Germany for a while now, though the data suggests that, at least this season, the Bayern star remains the safer option between the posts.

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