Arsenal have moved to bolster their defence with the signing of England international Ben White from Brighton and Hove Albion for a reported £50million fee.

White has signed a long-term deal at the Emirates Stadium in a move that was completed on Friday.

The 23-year-old had agreed a four-year deal with Brighton in 2020 after impressing on loan with Leeds United in the 2019-20 season.

White went on to establish himself as a key part of Graham Potter's side, making 36 Premier League appearances last term.

His form was rewarded with a call up to England's provisional squad for Euro 2020, with White then replacing the injured Trent Alexander-Arnold in Gareth Southgate's 26-man selection.

Though he did not make an appearance at the Euros, Arsenal have nevertheless committed to a huge outlay on the youngster. Mikel Arteta's side are short at the back having allowed David Luiz to leave upon the expiration of his contract.

Russell Westbrook is preparing for life on a fourth different team in as many years, with LeBron James welcoming his new running mate to the Los Angeles Lakers following a blockbuster trade.

The Lakers overshadowed the NBA Draft by completing a deal to get Westbrook from the Washington Wizards, who receive Kyle Kuzma, Montrezl Harrell and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope in return.

The Wizards also got the 22nd pick in Thursday's first round – Isaiah Jackson was taken at that slot, then traded to the Indiana Pacers in exchange for point guard Aaron Holiday – while the Lakers gained two second-round selections in future drafts, according to reports.

For Westbrook, it means yet another fresh start. The 32-year-old ended his long association with the Oklahoma City Thunder when reuniting with James Harden at the Houston Rockets in 2019, only to then leave for Washington a year later.

Despite only spending one season with the Wizards, Westbrook declared his appreciation for all connected with the franchise in an Instagram post after news of the deal had emerged.

"Thank you DC! You welcomed my family and I with open arms from day one," he wrote.

"Everyone from the front office to the training staff, the coaches, my team-mates, and the fans. I’m grateful y'all took a chance on me and supported me every step of the way.

"I'm blessed to have been a part of such a stand-up organisation. It didn't take long to make a home in DC, and I will forever be grateful and appreciative of my experience with the organisation. Thank you."

LeBron, meanwhile, used his Instagram account to put up a picture of himself and fellow Lakers star Anthony Davis standing either side of the team's latest recruit, along with the caption "Brodie", which is Westbrook's nickname.

The addition is a move aimed at getting the 2019-20 NBA champions back into contention. The title defence did not go to plan last term, long-term injuries to their two stars leading to a struggle just to make the postseason. While they did qualify, the holders were knocked out in the first round by the Phoenix Suns.

As for Westbrook, his year with the Wizards included a key role in a late charge to make the playoffs via the play-in tournament, though they were beaten 4-1 in the first round by the Philadelphia 76ers, after which it was announced head coach Scott Brooks would be leaving his role.

Westbrook had broken an NBA record that had stood for 47 years during the regular season, moving beyond Oscar Robertson to top the list for career triple-double games.

He led the league for assists with 11.7 per game, as well as shooting 31.5 per cent from three-point range - his best return from deep sine the 2016-17 season. It will be fascinating to see how he fits into the Lakers' current roster, though it remains to be seen if they are finished making offseason moves just yet, considering free agency is around the corner.

There was speculation L.A. were also in negotiations to bring in Buddy Hield from the Sacramento Kings. The 28-year-old would add some much-needed outside scoring, seen as he is a career 40.6 per cent shooter from deep.

The Lakers finished at 35.4 per cent as a team from three-point range, ranking them 21st in the entire league. Caldwell-Pope was one of their more successful players when it came to taking aim from distance, finishing up at 41.0 per cent, but he has been moved on in order to add a new playmaking presence.

Westbrook, who is from California and played at UCLA during his college career, will earn $44.2million in 2021-22, then has a player option worth $47m for the following year.

Jack Grealish could soon be a Manchester City player.

The Premier League champions have long been linked with the Aston Villa captain who, along with Tottenham talisman Harry Kane, reportedly represents City's top target as Pep Guardiola looks to add further creativity to an attacking unit which is already the envy of European football.

On Friday, reports emerged that City had lodged a £100million bid for the 25-year-old, who helped England reach the final of Euro 2020 earlier this month.

City and Villa both refused to comment on the rumours. 

As speculation continues, Stats Perform has assessed what Grealish could bring to City, should the deal – which would be a Premier League record – go through.

 

THE NUMBERS

Grealish played 26 times in the league last season, missing 12 games towards the end of the campaign due to a shin injury.

He scored six times, adding 10 assists. His 70 chances created from open play was 26 more than any other Villa player, and only seven shy of Bruno Fernandes' league-leading 77.

When counting chances created in total, including from set plays, Grealish (81) ranked third in the league, behind Mason Mount (87) and Fernandes (95), though they played 10 and 11 games more than the Villa captain respectively.

Grealish outscored his expected goals tally of 4.65, while only Harry Kane (14), Kevin De Bruyne (12) and Fernandes (12) supplied more assists.

The playmaker, who often played on the left flank for Villa, attempted 110 dribbles, tallying up a success rate of 59.09 per cent, the seventh-best out of Premier League players to attempt 100 or more dribbles.

 

HOW HE COULD FIT IN

Capable of playing centrally or wide, Grealish will add another high-quality, versatile option to Guardiola's already packed squad. His 81 chances created leads the way out of City and Villa players from last term, with De Bruyne (80) a close second.

No Villa or City player attempted or completed more dribbles than Grealish, whose ability to carry the ball into dangerous positions and then release a timely pass will surely be a big draw for Guardiola, though he will want sharp, snappy passing to be brought into the midfielder's game.

Based on City's current options, Grealish would likely be competing with De Bruyne, Bernardo Silva, Ilkay Gundogan, Phil Foden, Raheem Sterling and Riyad Mahrez – though several of those players have been linked with moves away – for a place in the team, either as a central midfielder or a wide attacker in the champions' preferred 4-3-3 system.

Of those players, only De Bruyne played more passes, including crosses, into the penalty area – the Belgium star doing so on 239 occasions – than Grealish. However, he was some 90 ahead, while playing one game less.

Grealish's shot count of 50 ranked him fifth out of those seven players, with his shot conversion rate of 12 per cent also the fifth-best.

De Bruyne (7.4 per cent from 80) and Silva (7.14 per cent from 28) had a lower conversion percentage, though logic would suggest Grealish will have more opportunities to shoot in a City team that managed 599 attempts last season, 79 more than Villa's total.

 

HOW WOULD VILLA MANAGE?

Should Villa collect £100m, they would be well placed to reinvest, but there is no doubt Grealish would be a huge miss for Dean Smith's team.

Villa have gone some way to mitigating the damage a potential transfer would cause, with Emiliano Buendia – a creative fulcrum for Norwich City last season – arriving earlier in the transfer window.

Ashley Young has made a return to Villa Park on a free transfer from Serie A champions Inter, while Villa also made several bids for Arsenal's Emile Smith Rowe before the 20-year-old signed a new deal with the Gunners.

Leon Bailey, Bayer Leverkusen's flying winger, has also been linked. The Jamaica international scored 15 goals and provided 10 assists in 40 appearances last season, and his arrival would certainly soften the blow somewhat, though there is a chance he may need time to adapt from the Bundesliga.

Bailey created 63 chances in total, with 11 of these classed as "big chances" – Grealish, by comparison, created 14 big opportunities in league football in 2020-21.

While Villa would certainly have to adapt, the options they could pursue with £100m to spend would present an opportunity for significant upgrades elsewhere in the squad as Smith looks to push for European qualification.

City, meanwhile, would be bringing in one of English football's best talents, with Grealish having the opportunity to head into his prime years at one of Europe's biggest clubs.

The United States and Canada will do battle in the semi-finals of the women's football tournament at Tokyo 2020 after edging into the final four.

USA - winners of the Olympic tournament four times previously - managed to beat the Netherlands 4-2 on penalties in their quarter-final after the game finished 2-2 at the end of extra time.

Having finished with fewer than six points in the group stage of a major event for the first time in their history, the USA knew a much-improved display was needed against a Dutch side who scored 21 times in their opening three games, the most of any women's side at a single Olympics.

They duly delivered a strong display as they twice took the lead only for Vivianne Miedema to continue her sensational form, scoring twice to cancel out goals from Samantha Mewis and Lynn Williams in an engrossing contest in Yokohama.

Megan Rapinoe swept the decisive penalty kick high into the net after Alyssa Naeher had made two stops to her right.


BRAZIL FALL SHORT AGAIN

Canada await USA after they inflicted further heartbreak on Brazil, whose wait for gold in this event goes on.

Beaten semi-finalists in Rio five years ago, Brazil were held to a 0-0 draw before suffering another defeat on penalties to the 2016 bronze medallists.

Goalkeeper Stephanie Labbe, who was injured in the closing stages of extra time, recovered to make two critical saves in the shoot-out to secure a 4-3 win.

"In the moment, it was about trusting myself, trusting my instincts, and trusting my ability to make a save," she said afterwards.

"Pain is temporary. We have our eyes on the prize."

 

WHITE TREBLE NOT ENOUGH AS MATILDAS WIN CLASSIC

The stand-out quarter-final took place between Australia and Great Britain, a seven-goal thriller eventually ending in a 4-3 victory for the Matildas.

Two goals from Ellen White had turned the game on its head and looked to be enough to send Hege Riise's side through, but Chelsea star Sam Kerr levelled in the 89th minute with a crisp low strike.

The contest then swung Australia's way in a dramatic minute in extra time, Mary Fowler's deflected shot finding the top corner after Caroline Weir had a penalty saved at the other end.

Kerr scored another before White completed her hat-trick with a deft header to set up a frantic finale, with Australia just holding on for a famous win.

Remarkably, they overperformed in terms of expected goals by 3.2, their highest such figure at these finals.

Australia will contest their semi-final against Sweden, who ended Japan's quest for a medal on home soil with a 3-1 victory.

Mina Tanaka cancelled out Magdalena Eriksson's sixth-minute opener, but Sweden took control in the second half through further goals from Stina Blackstenius and Kosovare Asllani.

 

Marcus Rashford could miss almost three months of the 2021-22 Premier League season after opting to undergo surgery on a long-term shoulder injury.

Rashford is reported to have suffered a muscle tear in his shoulder last November but he played through the pain for the rest of the season, and then featured for England at Euro 2020.

The forward chose to put off treatment on the injury until after the Euros in order to take part in a tournament that England ultimately reached the final of – though Rashford was one of three players to miss a penalty in the final's decisive shoot-out against Italy.

He played for just 84 minutes of England's campaign in total, failing to score, assist or create a chance.

The 23-year-old's form had suffered towards the end of 2020-21, with his last 10 Premier League appearances profiting just five goal contributions. 

But Rashford is also said to have been carrying back and foot complaints for the best part of two years, meaning a period on the sidelines could provide him with a much-needed rest.

After initial reports emerged earlier this month that Rashford would undergo surgery, United decided to wait and seek further medical opinions before making a final decision.

But on Friday it was confirmed that Rashford would indeed go under the knife.

"Following consultation between Marcus, the manager, club medical staff and specialists, Marcus will undergo surgery imminently to resolve his shoulder injury," read a statement from United.

“He will now focus on his rehabilitation in order to return as soon as possible."

United did not release a timetable for his return but reports suggest he could miss 12 weeks of action. The club start their Premier League campaign at home to Leeds United on August 14.

Since Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's first match in charge of United in December 2018, Victor Lindelof (10,289 minutes) is the only player to feature more regularly for the Red Devils than Rashford (9,671 mins) across all competitions.

While Harry Maguire (11,197 mins) and Aaron Wan-Bissaka (10,555 mins) have also played more over the same period, including games for other clubs, Rashford arguably plays a more intense role.

United should be well-stocked to cope with Rashford's absence, however, with Anthony Martial set to return from an injury absence of his own, while the options of Mason Greenwood, Edinson Cavani and Daniel James have been added to with the arrival of Jadon Sancho.

Reigning champion Connor Fields is "awake and awaiting further medical evaluation" after a sickening crash in the semi-finals of the men's BMX racing at the Tokyo Olympics.

The American 2016 gold medallist was stretchered off the course and taken to hospital after the major crash with Twan van Gendt of the Netherlands and Sylvain Andre of France in the third run of the semi-final heats.

"We can confirm that Connor Fields is awake and awaiting further medical evaluation. We will share additional updates as they become available," a USA team doctor said.

Fields, appearing in his third Olympics, had already qualified for the final but was unable to take his place, given the injuries sustained, with Niek Kimmann from the Netherlands taking out the gold.

Great Britain's Kye Whyte claimed silver with Colombia's Carlos Alberto Ramirez Yepes winning the bronze.

Another gold medal contender, Australia's Saya Sakakibara, also crashed out in the women's BMX racing.

Sakakibara, whose brother Kai suffered life-changing head injuries from a crash in the sport 15 months ago, was carried off the course on a stretcher but later able to perform media interviews.

The Australian had been leading the pack ahead of the last turn in the third run of the semi-finals, before a clash of wheels with USA's Alise Willoughby brought the pair down.

Australia's Olympic team tweeted that Sakakibara had "sustained a few bumps and bruises and will continue to be monitored over the next 24 hours as a precaution".

Sakakibara told Channel 7: "This is so disappointing. I feel like I have let everyone down. I let everyone down, especially my brother."

Great Britain's Bethany Shriever went on to win the gold medal, ahead of Colombia's Mariana Pajon and the Netherlands' Merel Smulders.

 

SCHOENMAKER SMASHES WORLD RECORD

South African Tatjana Schoenmaker improved on her 100 metres women's breaststroke silver medal with a gold in Friday's 200m, as well as smashing the world record.

Schoenmaker finished in two minutes and 18.95 seconds, breaking Rikke Moller Pedersen's pre-existing mark of 2:19.11, as she beat USA pair Lilly King and Annie Lazor.

"I wasn't expecting that at all," Schoenmaker said about her world record, having appeared visibly stunned upon realising her time. "I was really trying to focus on my own race. [King] definitely pushed me, knowing that her first 100 is so good."

Russia Olympic Committee's Evgeny Rylov swam an Olympic record time to win the men's 200m backstroke, having won gold in the 100m earlier this week.

Rylov, who swam 1:53:27, beat USA's Ryan Murphy and Great Britain's Luke Greenbank.

Australian Emma McKeon also marked an Olympic record as she won gold in the women's 100m freestyle ahead of Hong Kong's Siobhan Haughey and countrywoman Cate Campbell.

China's Wang Shun won the men's 200m individual medley from Britain's Duncan Scott and Switzerland's Jeremy Desplanches.

 

KIWIS DOMINATE THE ROWING

New Zealand picked up a handsome share of the rowing medals at the Sea Forest Waterway, with two golds and a silver from the four events on Friday.

Emma Twigg triumphed with an Olympic-best time of 7:13.97 in the women's single sculls, finishing ahead of Russia Olympic Committee's Hanna Prakatsen and Austria's Magdalena Lobnig.

New Zealand also won in a thrilling finish from Germany and Great Britain in the men's eight final, edging out the Germans by less than a second.

Hamish Bond was part of the New Zealand eight, having won golds in 2012 and 2016 in the coxless pair, before focusing on cycling in 2017, only to revert back to rowing for Tokyo.

Bond said: "The thing about an eight is it doesn't matter what you do as individuals, it's how you can collectively harness that potential."

Canada won the women's equivalent, pipping New Zealand across the line by 0.91 seconds, with China in third.

Greece won their first medal of the Games in style, with Stefanos Ntouskos claiming gold in the men's single sculls from Norway's Kjetil Borch and Croatia's Damir Martin.

 

WOMEN'S 100M HEATS UP

The track events got under way, with the women's 100m heats the main attraction at the Olympic Stadium, headlined by Ivory Coast's Marie-Josee Ta Lou with the joint fourth quickest legal time ever seen at the Games.

Two-time World Championship silver medallist Ta Lou ran a personal best time of 10.78 seconds.

Jamaican duo Elaine Thompson-Herah – the reigning Olympic champion – and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce were the next fastest, with 10:82 and 10:84 respectively.

With the field stacked with quality, Fraser-Pryce said: "There's rivalry with everybody. All female athletes are showing up and you're competing so I don't focus on just one individual."

These have been some tough months for the grand old city of Liverpool, the men in red losing a Premier League title first and then the waterfront being stripped of its UNESCO World Heritage status.

The cause of the latter bitter blow might be boiled down to a rush to regenerate. United Nations cultural blazers were ultimately at odds with city chiefs over the merit in complementing an elegant Victorian window on the world with shiny towers, sharp-angled business premises and apartment buildings. There's an arena too, and, perhaps the straw that broke the camel's back, a gleaming new stadium for Everton.

Goodison is going, and perhaps UNESCO is privately upset to see another of Archibald Leitch's greatest hits bite the dust.

Quite what has gone wrong at Liverpool Football Club is far from as easily deciphered, and if we were to ignore the wild journey that has led to where they stand today, perhaps there would be no real cause for worry in the first place.

Third in the Premier League last season means the Champions League awaits the Reds in 2021-22. And third after first place in 2020-21 does not sound like the worst of outcomes, a solid enough follow-up season, if just a touch deflating. Owners Fenway Sports Group will know another truckload of UEFA coinage is heading for the bank vaults, and Jurgen Klopp has been able to carry out a tweak or two to his squad, with more surely to come.

Yet with four weeks of last season remaining, Klopp's team were toiling in sixth place, the manager showing signs of feeling pressure as his team scrambled for the form that would conceal the imperfections of the previous eight months.

Ahead of the new campaign, Stats Perform looks at how Liverpool, with a long-awaited championship now long out of their system, could evolve as they bid to close the gap to the Manchester giants, United and City.


RED PERIL, OR RED HERRING?

With a little hindsight, might the drama that encircled Liverpool last season have been overblown? Anyone can lose 7-2 at Aston Villa, right?

And six consecutive home defeats... well, that occasionally happens to the best teams, doesn't it? Were three of those Anfield raiders – Brighton and Hove Albion, Burnley and Fulham – perhaps better sides than our memories recall?

Weren't Everton due a win on the other side of Stanley Park?

And above all, didn't it seem like Klopp essentially had the situation under control?

Sorry to come across all 2 Unlimited, but no, no, no-no, no-no.

Liverpool are coming off a honker of a season that they rescued rather too easily as their nearest top-four rivals waved them through. Wins over Southampton, Manchester United, West Brom, Burnley and Crystal Palace in May papered over quite substantial cracks.

"In the harder moments you can show the most and we really stuck together all the time," Klopp said.


WHAT MADE THE NEAR-INVINCIBLES SO FALLIBLE?

The injuries to Virgil van Dijk, Joe Gomez and Joel Matip are an obvious but credible answer here. Klopp took flak for not having top-class back-up to his back-up defenders, and when captain Jordan Henderson suffered a groin injury in the Everton defeat in February that was his season over too.

A strong spine turned, if not to jelly, then to something suddenly highly penetrable.

Opta data shows Liverpool gained 19 points from a losing position last season, just as they did when landing their first Premier League title in the 2019-20 campaign.

That looks admirable, and only Manchester United (31 points) and Leicester City (20) hauled back as many from being in deficit, but Liverpool also dropped 15 points from a winning position, when in the title year they let just five slip away in such a circumstance.

In the Premier League, Liverpool's players were involved in 3,736 duels in 2019-20 and a near-identical 3,729 in 2020-21. (Opta defines a duel as a 50-50 contest for the ball.)

But tellingly, Liverpool's success rate in such duels slipped from 50.55 per cent in the championship-winning campaign to 47.78 per cent.

And if that sounds like a small dip, consider that only two teams in the past two Premier League seasons have won a lower percentage of duels across a season: Bournemouth in 2019-20 with a 47.69 per cent rate, and Sheffield United with 46.55 in 2020-21. Both those sides were relegated.

It feels telling, and Klopp will want the pendulum to swing back above 50 per cent in the new campaign. Marginal gains in this area can have an enormous impact.

Mid-table Everton (52.92 per cent) and Aston Villa (52.58) led the way last season, and both had spells where they threatened to snatch a top-six place, while champions Manchester City were third, followed by Leicester and Manchester United.


NAME NAMES!

Among defenders, only Leeds United's Luke Ayling (279) made more ball recoveries than Andy Robertson (229) and Trent Alexander-Arnold (258).

There, that's a good thing.

Less good: among defenders who played at least five games, Liverpool's Alexander-Arnold (25.49 times), Neco Williams (23.59) and Robertson (20.39) stood first, second and fourth on the list of Premier League players who lost the ball the most often per 90 minutes.

Rhys Williams, who like namesake Neco had more opportunities in the top flight than he might have anticipated, achieved the Premier League's highest duel success rate among all defenders (76 per cent from nine appearances; 38 of 50 duels).

That sounds promising for the future, and Nat Phillips was another game stand-in, winning a defender's league-high 7.92 duels per 90 minutes.

Phillips stood sixth on the list of the most duels contested per 90 minutes by a defender too (13.05), and here's a statistic that won't have passed Klopp by: Liverpool won 11, drew two and lost only two games when Phillips started in the Premier League.

That is a massive 73.3 per cent win rate, and they went 9-7-7 without him (39.1 per cent win rate).

The 24-year-old was the Reds' player of the month for March, and perhaps Klopp would do well to keep him around the first team, even with Matip, Van Dijk and Gomez back for the new term.


A SOFT CENTRE?

Thiago Alcantara's first season with Liverpool proved largely anticlimactic and Klopp will expect more from the Spaniard in the new campaign. Goodness knows, with Georginio Wijnaldum now at Paris Saint-Germain, Klopp needs to find something extra in midfield, which has begun to look increasingly like the team's problem area.

Liverpool were hindered last season by losing Fabinho to a central defensive role at times, and it seems imperative Klopp has the Brazilian and Thiago forging an alliance in the coming months.

In the 21 games where skipper Henderson featured, he made 8.86 ball recoveries per 90 minutes, which put him fifth overall among midfielders and top among the squad's engine-room stars.

Henderson, playing the role of disruptor and creator, also attempted the most throughballs of any Liverpool midfielder (averaging 0.21 such passes per 90 minutes) and Klopp must long for a genuine playmaker who might get closer to the numbers posted by the likes of City's Kevin De Bruyne (0.58 per 90 minutes), United's Bruno Fernandes (0.35) or even Everton's James Rodriguez (0.41).

Liverpool did not have a midfielder in the top 20 for open-play goal assists per 90 minutes among those to have played at least 15 games, with Curtis Jones having 0.15 per 90 to sit in a tie for 21st on the list. When the assists from the flying full-backs dry up, as they rather did in the league last season, Liverpool need to do better in midfield.

MARGINAL PAINS

Liverpool had more big chances – where a player should reasonably be expected to score – than any other team in the Premier League last term. Being more clinical could have made it a very different season.

They only scored from 37.61 per cent of those 109 opportunities, however. Pep Guardiola's City stuck away 44.34 per cent of their 106 big chances and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's United netted 45.74 per cent of their 94 such openings. The Manchester giants duly finished first and second.

Liverpool also had more passes into the final third (2,508) than any other side, so clearly they are doing a lot right, yet when their players see the whites of the opposition goalkeeper's eyes, their aim has not been as precise as would be ideal.

Their overall shot conversion percentage tumbled from 14.38 to 11.18 – from the league's highest rate in 2019-20 to only the 11th-ranked in the 2020-21 campaign.

Mohamed Salah scored 22 times with a shot conversion rate of 17.46 per cent, and Klopp would settle for a repeat of that in 2021-22, but Sadio Mane's form in front of goal has left a lot to be desired in the league.

Mane's conversion rate dipped from an impressive 23.38 per cent in the title campaign to a wholly underwhelming 11.7 per cent in the hangover season, with the addition of Diogo Jota to Liverpool's attacking ranks not proving perhaps the spur to the existing strike force that the manager might have expected.

Roberto Firmino's 9.09 per cent strike rate was tolerable in the championship year because so many others were banging goals in, but with those drying up by comparison in 2020-21, nine goals from a conversion rate of 10.84 was not what Doctor Klopp ordered.


BETTER CALL FOR SAUL?

Like just about every club, Liverpool have been hit hard financially by the coronavirus pandemic and it remains to be seen if there is a significant transfer kitty for Klopp, who has already invested by bringing in promising young French defender Ibrahima Konate from RB Leipzig.

Atletico Madrid's LaLiga-winning midfielder Saul Niguez is a rumoured target and would be a handy acquisition, but the Spaniard has also been linked with United.

Should Saul go to Old Trafford, joining Jadon Sancho and the expected addition of Raphael Varane to Solskjaer's ranks, then the team in red challenging City for supremacy next season would seem more likely to be the record 20-time English champions, and not Liverpool.

But the numbers here tell us that Klopp's team are perhaps not as far away from City as the 17-point gap from last season may suggest.

Just like a rock star's guitar, Klopp's heavy metal football only truly works when the tuning is right, and when the entire band is in sync.

Last season, Liverpool without Van Dijk were like Black Sabbath without Ozzy, Motorhead without Lemmy. They were not themselves but just about got away with it.

With the talismanic Dutchman and the inspirational Henderson over their injuries, there is just that nagging feeling that those treasured big hits could get another airing.

The New York Yankees have been one of MLB's most aggressive teams ahead of Friday's trade deadline, and their performance against the Tampa Bay Rays on Thursday showed they have plenty of room for improvement. 

The Rays scored four times in the first inning before exploding for 10 runs in the sixth on the way to a 14-0 victory as they handed Yankees ace Gerrit Cole his worst loss of the season. 

Austin Meadows' three-run homer off Cole was the big blow as Tampa Bay took an early lead, and Meadows added a two-run homer in the sixth to cap the scoring. 

The Rays also got a grand slam from Brett Phillips and a two-run shot from Ji-Man Choi in that inning as they drove Cole from the game. 

The Yankees starter was charged with a season-high eight runs, seven of them earned, despite striking out 10 in 5.1 innings, but it was Albert Abreu who let the game get out of hand for New York. 

The reliever faced six batters in the sixth and did not retire any of them, allowing all three Rays homers in the inning while also surrendering a single and walking two. 

New York's hitters did not provide much help, as they managed only four hits off Rays starter Luis Patino and two relievers, but they know reinforcements are coming after trading for Joey Gallo and Anthony Rizzo the last two days. 

 

Blue Jays pound Red Sox

The Rays-Yankees game was not the only blowout among American League (AL) East rivals Thursday, as the Toronto Blue Jays hammered the Boston Red Sox in a 13-1 win at Fenway Park. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. hit his 33rd home run of the year amid the onslaught, a three-run drive in the fifth inning, as Toronto starter Hyun Jin Ryu allowed just two hits in six shutout innings. 

The San Francisco Giants claimed their second series victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers in as many weeks, winning 5-0 as their bullpen turned in 4.1 perfect innings to back up Johnny Cueto's strong start. 

Manny Pina homered in the sixth and eighth innings, driving in five runs as the Milwaukee Brewers pulled away late for a 12-0 win and three-game sweep of the Pittsburgh Pirates. 

Joey Votto homered for the sixth consecutive game, helping the Cincinnati Reds to a 7-4 win over the Chicago Cubs. 

Miguel Cabrera hit the 496th and 497th home runs of his career as the Detroit Tigers beat the Baltimore Orioles 6-2. 

 

Royals take series from White Sox

The first-placed Chicago White Sox fell to the Kansas City Royals for the third time in their four-game series, losing 5-0 as they collected only five hits off Carlos Hernandez and two relievers. 

 

Phillies avoid sweep in dramatic fashion

After dropping the first game of their doubleheader against the Washington Nationals, the Philadelphia Phillies were on the verge of being swept before scoring three in the bottom of the seventh to tie the game. After Washington scored in the top of the eighth, Brad Miller hit a grand slam in the bottom half for the walk-off win. 

 

Thursday's results

Toronto Blue Jays 13-1 Boston Red Sox
Milwaukee Brewers 12-0 Pittsburgh Pirates
Detroit Tigers 6-2 Baltimore Orioles
Atlanta Braves 6-3 New York Mets
Tampa Bay Rays 14-0 New York Yankees
Cincinnati Reds 7-4 Chicago Cubs
Kansas City Royals 5-0 Chicago White Sox
Oakland Athletics 4-0 Los Angeles Angels
San Francisco Giants 5-0 Los Angeles Dodgers
San Diego Padres 3-0 Colorado Rockies
Washington Nationals 3-1 Philadelphia Phillies
Philadelphia Phillies 11-8 Washington Nationals

 

Astros at Giants

Opening a matchup of division leaders, the Houston Astros (63-40) send Framber Valdez to the mound against All-Star Kevin Gausman and the San Francisco Giants (64-38). 

Cameron Norrie breezed past Nick Kyrgios and John Isner downed countryman Jack Sock to advance to the quarter-finals at the Atlanta Open on Thursday. 

The third-seeded Norrie defeated Kyrgios 6-1 6-4 in less than an hour as he tries for a second consecutive title after collecting his first ATP Tour championship at Los Cabos last week. 

The former University of Georgia star Isner, a five-time champion in Atlanta, beat Sock 7-6 (8-6) 6-4 despite serving only 13 aces after hitting 36 in his previous match. 

Second-seeded Jannik Sinner fell 7-6 (9-7) 6-4 to Australian qualifier Christopher O'Connell, leaving the tournament without its top two seeds after Milos Raonic was upset by Brandon Nakashima on Wednesday. 

O'Connell, ranked 132 in the world to Sinner's 23, had not won a main-draw match this year before defeating Denis Kudla in the opening round and will now face Isner in the quarters.

Norrie will meet Emil Ruusuvuori, who advanced when Benoit Paire retired down 3-0 in the third set after the pair had split the first two sets 4-6 6-4. 

Ruusuvuori is into his second career ATP quarter-final after making it to the semis at Nur-Sultan last year. 

After missing the first two practices of camp, second overall draft pick Zach Wilson came to an agreement with the New York Jets on his rookie contract on Thursday.

Wilson, the last of the first rounders to sign, received a fully guaranteed contract that will pay him $35.15million over four years. The deal includes a fifth-year team option and a $22.9m signing bonus.

The sides had reportedly been hung up on the contract’s offset language, which protects the team financially if the player is cut before the end of the deal.

Wilson is assumed to be the Jets’ Week One starting quarterback after the club moved on from Sam Darnold during the offseason and invested the franchise’s highest draft pick since 1996 in the 21-year-old quarterback.

About 30 minutes before the deal was made public, new head coach Robert Saleh indicated he was not worried about Wilson missing the first two camp practices.

“You're not going to see me panic,” he said after practice on Thursday. “Like I've said, there are 89 guys that are counting on us to prepare them the best way we know how. And right now, they've got our full attention.

“Zach's going to sign. And when it happens is when it happens. I don't try to worry about things I have no control over. So when it gets done, it'll be awesome to get him back.”

Wilson participated in the team’s minicamp and offseason activities, making some impressive throws but also showing some expected signs of his inexperience.

While adjusting to the speed and complexity of the pro game, Wilson will also be forced to adapt to the bright lights of Broadway after growing up in Utah and playing his college football at Brigham Young University.

Wilson played 30 games in three seasons at BYU but made a leap in his junior season, completing 73.1 percent of his passes and piling up 32 touchdowns to just three interceptions while adding 10 scores on the ground.

Saleh said he last spoke to Wilson earlier this week and added that offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur has been texting the quarterback about the playbook to keep him from falling behind.

“We'll be excited when he gets here,” Saleh said with a smile. “And it'll be good to not have to answer questions about it.”

Paris Saint-Germain will look to start making amends for last season's underwhelming efforts by seeking revenge against Lille in the Trophee des Champions, according to star forward Mauro Icardi.

Mauricio Pochettino's men finished as runners-up in Ligue 1 to Lille, falling short domestically after their Champions League semi-final exit against Manchester City.

However, Icardi is confident PSG will hit the ground running in Pochettino's first full season in charge, and they will look to start strong against Lille in Sunday's Trophee des Champions clash.

"We will be out for revenge," Icardi said to the club's media on Thursday. "If we start the season by winning a title, we can start the league the following week in the best possible way."

"It's true that we didn't have a good start to the league last year, with the Champions League final, the early return to the competition and the lack of preparation. It was a bit difficult. We lost points from the start and we paid the price afterwards."

Icardi was PSG's fitth-most clinical player last Ligue 1 campaign, netting 17.95 per cent of the chances that came his way – Kylian Mbappe led the charts as he converted just over one of every four attempts.

In total, Icardi only managed seven goals in 20 French top-flight games, largely due to a stop-start season that was hampered by injuries at frequent intervals throughout.

The 28-year-old does have previous experience of success in the Trophee des Champions, though, after grabbing the opener in his man-of-the-match performance against Marseille in January.

"It's true that it's a good memory," Icardi added. "I scored a goal and I was voted best player of the match. But the most important thing is that we won the title.

"When you are a striker, there is nothing better than helping the team by scoring goals. It's the best feeling, especially when it leads to a trophy.

"My goal now is to win more titles with Paris Saint-Germain. And score even more goals."

Having enjoyed a productive transfer window which has seen Achraf Hakimi, Sergio Ramos and Gianluigi Donnarumma all move to Paris, Pochettino is assembling a side capable of recapturing their Ligue 1 title and challenging in Europe once more.

"It's a final and there's a trophy to go and win so we have to give our best to win it and start the season well," Icardi continued.

"We have a chance to start with an important final and I'm not thinking about anything else but winning."

Sri Lanka claimed a first ever T20I series victory over India as they beat their depleted opponents by seven wickets in the third and final match.

India were undefeated in the previous four series between the nations, yet a COVID-19 outbreak – nine players were put into isolation following a positive test for Krunal Pandya – had further decimated their ranks, considering several regulars are absent with the Test squad in England.

They did win the toss for the decider but were only able to post 81-8 from 20 overs, their third lowest total in the shortest format.

Wanindu Hasaranga was the star for Sri Lanka with the ball, claiming figures of 4-9 from his four overs of leg-spin, and Dasun Shanaka claimed two wickets.

Sri Lanka had few issues chasing such a meagre target, despite a sluggish start to their reply. Avishka Fernando (12), Minod Bhanuka (18) and Sadeera Samarawickrama (6) were the batsmen dismissed, all to the impressive Rahul Chahar (3-15).

Dhananjaya de Silva and Hasaranga made sure victory was secured with plenty of time to spare, finishing up on 23 and 14 not out respectively as the game finished midway through the 15th over following a wide bowled by Varun Chakravarthy.


Short of options, lacking in runs

India's squad suffered a further blow with Navdeep Saini ruled out of the winner-takes-all clash through injury. Sandeep Warrier, who had initially made the trip as a net bowler, was handed a debut, but the pace bowler had little to work with after the tourists' top order collapsed.

Captain Shikhar Dhawan fell for a first-ball duck as India slumped to 25-4 after 30 deliveries. Kuldeep Yadav finished up as the top scorer with 23 not out, one of just three players to reach double figures.

Happy birthday, Hasaranga! 

Hasaranga had already moved up to second in the T20I bowling rankings prior to producing career-best figures on Thursday. His dazzling spell included 15 dot balls, while he unsurprisingly did not concede a boundary. India did not manage to hit one six, either.

The birthday boy celebrated turning 24 in style, helping Sri Lanka win successive T20 games for the first time since October 2019 in the process, while India had not suffered back-to-back losses in the 20-over format since July 2017.

Sunisa Lee stepped up in the absence of Simone Biles to claim gold and maintain Team USA’s dominance in the women's gymnastics all-around event.

The 18-year-old became the sixth American woman to take the title – and fifth in a row – after beating Brazil's Rebeca Andrade and Angelina Melnikova to gold.

Despite withdrawing from the final to focus on her mental health, Biles was cheering on from the stands as her team-mate aimed to capitalise.

Lee was looking to continue her nation's impressive record in this event, which has seen triumph concurrently at both the Olympic Games and World Championships since 2010.

The teenager admitted she came close to quitting gymnastics following a difficult two years – both in and out of the gym.

Nevertheless, she duly delivered the goods by totalling 57.433 to take gold and edge out Andrade, who became the first Brazilian woman to claim an Olympic medal in artistic gymnastics.

"It feels crazy, it is so surreal. It's a dream come true," Lee said. "I don't even know what to say. It hasn't even sunk in. The past two years with COVID have been crazy. There was one point I wanted to quit. 

"To be here and to be an Olympic gold medallist is just crazy."

 

PATIENT FOX COMES GOOD

Australia's Jess Fox became the first women's canoe slalom (C1) Olympic gold medallist.

A multiple World champion, Olympic gold has eluded Fox over the years. She was a silver medallist at London in 2012, while she took home a bronze from Rio four years later.

However, her persistence finally paid off after posting a time of 105.04 seconds in the final, while Great Britain's Mallory Franklin and Andrea Herzog of Germany completed the podium.

"I can't believe it," said Fox, who also won bronze in the women's kayak earlier this week.

"I was dreaming of [a gold medal] and I really believed it was within me, but you never know what is going to happen at the Olympics.

"It is about holding your nerve and I probably didn't do that very well in the kayak a couple of days before, so it was hard to get to this point. But it has been incredible to do what I did today."

West Ham have completed the signing of goalkeeper Alphonse Areola on loan from Paris Saint-Germain.

Areola, who spent the 2019-20 campaign on loan at Real Madrid, was at Fulham last season but could not help prevent Scott Parker's team dropping down to the Championship.

The 28-year-old was nevertheless impressive during the campaign and West Ham have moved to keep him in the Premier League for at least another season.

Areola, who was part of France's 2018 World Cup squad but did not make an appearance in Russia for Les Bleus, has signed a one-year loan deal, which also sees the Hammers have the option to make the transfer permanent in 2022.

Lukasz Fabianski made 35 appearances as David Moyes' team went on to secure European football with a sixth-place finish, though Areola will now provide stern competition to the Poland international.

"Alphonse is an experienced and talented goalkeeper who has played at the highest level and performed very well in the Premier League last season," Moyes told West Ham's official website.

"As we prepare for a very busy schedule, he will provide fantastic competition for the goalkeepers already at the football club and we are going to need to use our squad to ensure compete to the best of our abilities across all competitions."

In 36 Premier League appearances last season, Areola conceded 48 goals, outperforming an expected goals against tally of 50.2, suggesting he pulled off saves which he would not have been expected to make.

Only Sam Johnstone, Aaron Ramsdale, Emiliano Martinez and Illan Meslier were forced into action more times than Areola, who made 116 saves in total and also tallied up 39 clearances (including punches), the fifth-most of any goalkeeper in the top flight.

His save percentage of 70.37 ranks him sixth out of goalkeepers to played at least 30 games, while he kept nine clean sheets – as many as Manchester United's David de Gea, though one fewer than Fabianski and 10 less than league-leader Ederson, who was of course helped by a stingy Manchester City defence.

One area where Areola presents an improvement is with his passing, his accuracy of 68.74 per cent some way better than Fabianski (54.91).

"For me it was the best opportunity to sign for this club, to sign for West Ham and to try my best to help the team," Areola said.

"We have really good squad. I watched games last season so I know the potential and the talent in this squad, so I can't wait to start."

Dani Carvajal has signed a new four-year contract at Real Madrid which will keep him at the Santiago Bernabeu until 2025.

Right-back Carvajal joins midfielder Luka Modric and versatile defender Nacho in agreeing fresh terms with the club ahead of the 2021-22 season.

Carvajal came through the youth ranks but was sold to Bundesliga side Bayer Leverkusen in July 2012 having not managed to make a single first-team appearance.

However, Madrid exercised a buy-back option on Carvajal the following year and he has since gone on to become a regular, helping the club secure plenty of silverware. He has won LaLiga twice with Madrid, as well as the Champions League on four occasions.

However, Carvajal struggled with injury problems last season, making just 13 appearances in LaLiga as Zinedine Zidane's squad were unable to defend their league crown.

A hamstring injury ruled him out of contention for Spain's squad for Euro 2020 but he has begun training with his Madrid team-mates under the watch of new head coach Carlo Ancelotti ahead of the upcoming campaign.

 

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