Giannis Antetokounmpo has produced a performance for the ages to lead the Milwaukee Bucks to their first NBA title since 1971 after a 105-98 win over the Phoenix Suns on Tuesday.

The Greek forward scored 50 points with 14 rebounds and five blocks in a monster Game 6 performance, including a 20-point third quarter after the Suns charged back in the second.

Antetokounmpo's haul was his third 40-plus-point display in the NBA Finals, while he reached 20 points in a quarter for the second time in the series, which is a feat which had not been achieved since Michael Jordan in 1993.

The 26-year-old, who shook off his demons to be exceptional from the free-throw line with 17-from-19, also becomes only the seventh player in the history of NBA Finals to have a 50-point game.

It came as no surprise as Antetokounmpo was named MVP of the NBA Finals after a heroic series. His achievement is more remarkable given he overcame injury after he hyperextended his knee in the Conference Finals.

Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday were subdued early in Game 6, with Antetokounmpo ably taking the lead role. Middleton came through with some key late buckets, finishing with 17 points, while Holiday had 12 points, nine rebounds and 11 assists.

Veteran Suns guard Chris Paul scored 26 points with five assists, while Devin Booker's shooting radar was off, with 19 points at 36.4 per cent from the field.

Antetokounmpo was the lead act as the Bucks ended their half-century wait for an NBA title, helping Milwaukee get off to a flying start with a 29-16 opening quarter at the Fiserv Forum.

Bobby Portis provided early support with 10 points as Holiday struggled for offensive impact, before the Suns responded with an 8-0 second-quarter run to lead 47-42 at half-time.

Phoenix led by as much as seven points early in the third quarter but Antetokounmpo was at the forefront of the Bucks' response, with a memorable 20-point period.

The Suns got as close as four points with less than 90 seconds remaining after Jae Crowder's pair of free-throws, but Middleton's jumper followed by a duo from the stripe sealed victory for the Bucks.

Pace pair Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood have fired Australia to a 133-run Duckworth-Lewis victory in the opening One Day International (ODI) of the three-game series against the West Indies in Barbados on Tuesday.

Player of the Match Starc claimed 48-5 from eight overs while the economical Hazlewood finished with 11-3 from six overs as the tourists responded after their 4-1 T20I series defeat.

Missing captain Aaron Finch, the Australians had managed 252-9 from 49 overs with the bat, led by stand-in skipper Alex Carey's 67 and Ashton Turner's 49 from 45 balls.

Leg-spinner Hayden Walsh continued his good form with the ball, taking 39-5 for his maiden ODI five-wicket haul.

Australia turned the game with the ball, with Starc dismissing opener Evin Lewis caught and bowled first ball, while Jason Mohammed (two), Darren Bravo (two) and Nicholas Pooran (duck) did not last long either.

Starc and Hazlewood took three wickets each as the West Indies slumped to 27-6 inside eight overs, before captain Kieron Pollard's lone rearguard.

Left-arm quick Starc had Pollard caught by Turner for 56 from 57 balls, effectively ending the resistance with Walsh last to fall to Adam Zampa with the West Indies 123 all out.

POSITIVE DAY FOR AUSSIE DEBUTANTS

Australia got the response they wanted after a disappointing T20I series, even with three ODI debutants in the side; Wes Agar, Josh Philippe and Ben McDermott.

The Aussies were also missing captain Finch, but first-time captain Carey showed his composure and quality with his steady knock after Australia had been in some trouble at 114-4 at the halfway mark.

Starc said about Carey: "He's pretty calm and collected today. He did fantastic with the bat.

"If he had any nerves, that probably helped him settle down. It's nice to get him a win in his first game as captain and three young fellas on debut."

Australia have long struggled in the shortest format but are much more adept in 50-over cricket as five-time World Cup winners.

POLLARD DEMANDS FOR 'FIGHT'

Australia's quicks dominated the early overs with the ball, decimating the West Indies' top order leaving captain Pollard scratching his head.

The West Indies' top five combined for a total of 15 runs, as Starc and Hazlewood bowled brilliantly, while normally reliable all-rounder Jason Holder also fell for a duck.

"The biggest thing is I want our guys to fight," Pollard said. "The ball was swinging but we can't just give it away. The most disappointing factor for me is we didn’t show that fight.

"We have to find a way to get through that first six to 10 overs when the ball is actually moving a lot and see where that takes us."

When asked about Starc and Hazlewood's spell, Carey simply said "wow". He added: "I probably haven’t seen a powerplay like that before."

The Los Angeles Rams had one of the better rushing attacks in the NFL last season, but their odds of improving the ground game in 2021 suffered a blow on Tuesday.

Running back Cam Akers, whom the Rams selected in the second round of the 2020 draft, will miss his second year in the league with a torn Achilles.

It was a case of extremely unfortunate timing for Akers, who sustained the injury a week before the Rams were due to start training camp.

"I just want to thank any and every person sending prayers my way and wishing me well," Akers posted on Twitter. 

"I hate this happened but I'm in great spirits and I understand God makes no mistakes. I'll be back better than ever in no time I'm a soldier. Again, thank you."

And it leaves the Rams without a player who came on extremely strong down the stretch in his rookie year.

Indeed, Akers racked up 424 of his 625 rushing yards from Week 12 to Week 17, with that tally the 10th-most among running backs in that period.

His efforts helped the Rams finish 10th in average rush yards per game with 126.1, while his four rushes of 10 yards or more in Los Angeles' two playoff games trailed only Nick Chubb, Leonard Fournette and Darrel Williams (all five).

Akers was tied for 19th in yards after contact per attempt, according to Stats Perform data, gaining an average of 2.05 yards following first contact by a defender. The league-wide average for running backs was 1.91.

In other words, Akers was a difficult back to bring down quickly and was very much finding his feet in the league before the Rams' 2020 season was brought to an end by the Green Bay Packers in the Divisional Round.

He had been expected to form a one-two punch with Darrell Henderson, who may now instead have to take on the burden of being the lead back.

Henderson produced a mediocre yards after contact average of 1.94 in 2020, though his yards per carry average of 4.52 was superior to that of Akers (4.31).

Selected in the third round in 2019 after amassing 4,303 yards and 44 touchdowns from scrimmage in his college career at Memphis, where Henderson has a significant edge over Akers is as a receiver.

In the passing game, Henderson produced a big play, defined as plays where the receiver wins his matchup for a gain of 20 yards or for a touchdown, on 25.4 per cent of his targets, putting him sixth among all running backs and fullbacks last year.

Yet passes to running backs are unlikely to be as significant of a feature of the Rams' attack in 2021. With the arrival of Matthew Stafford at quarterback, theirs is an offense that should be much more aggressive in going downfield and the onus will be on Henderson to take advantage of the running opportunities that the threat of the deep pass will open.

Henderson is the most versatile running back the Rams have and, with the four backs below him having never taken an offensive snap at the NFL level, he must use that well-rounded skill set to excel as the undisputed lead back and ensure the Los Angeles ground game remains among the elite.

Deepak Chahar was India's unlikely batting hero as his 69 not out inspired a thrilling ODI series-clinching win over Sri Lanka by three wickets.

India coasted to victory with 80 balls to spare in the first match of the three-game rubber in Colombo but they were left with a tall task when a magical leg-spin display from Wanindu Hasaranga (3-37) left them 193-7 after 35.1 overs in pursuit of 275-9.

Chahar, who has a highest first-class score of 57 not out, rode his luck at times and found a willing ally in fellow tailender Bhuveneshwar Kumar (19 not out), before swiping the winning runs through midwicket off Kasun Rajitha from the first ball of the final over.

Chahar also took 2-53 with the ball and began in a more customary new-ball partnership with Kumar, although the first-wicket stand had reached 77 by the time leg-spinner Yuzvendra Chahal (3-50) had Minod Bhanuka held at midwicket for 36.

Bhanuka Rajapaksa was then caught behind first ball off a Chahal top-spinner, although patient half-centuries by opener Aviskha Fernando (50) and Charith Asalanka (65) – both dismissed by Kumar (3-54) – were the foundations of a solid Sri Lanka innings. Chamika Karunaratne provided some welcome late acceleration with 44 not out from 33 balls.

Hasaranga bowled the dangerous Prithvi Shaw with a googly and trapped stand-in India skipper Shikhar Dhawan lbw for 29, Ishan Kishan having dragged on a Rajitha long-hop.

Manish Pandey was unfortunate to be run out for 37 when Dasun Shanaka tipped a shot back down the ground onto the stumps from Suryakumar, who looked like playing a decisive hand before bring trapped lbw by Lakshan Sandakan for 53.

Sri Lanka captain Shanaka also removed the dangerous Hardik Pandya for nought, with his brother Krunal bowled by a beauty from Hasaranga to clear the way for Chahar to set up a grandstand finish.

Chahar in dreamland

India are now undefeated in their past 12 ODI series against Sri Lanka, winning 10, but they were left in the unusual position of needing a significant lower-order contribution. Chahar's undefeated 69 is the second-highest score by anyone in this format for his country batting at number eight or lower.

"Only one thing was going on in my mind: this is the kind of innings I've been dreaming of," he beamed while being named player of the match.

Sri Lanka fail to match Hasaranga heroics

Hasaranga dearly deserved to finish on the winning side, but the difference between his efforts and those of Sri Lanka's other frontline bowlers was significant. The wrist-spinner's economy rate of 3.7 was not backed up by Rajitha (7.4), Sandakan (7.1) or Dushmantha Chameera (6.5), who went wicketless in his 10 overs. Shanaka contributed 1-10 from his three overs, leaving himself curiously under-bowled.

While the future of Harry Kane looks set to be the dominant talking point among Tottenham fans for the remainder of the transfer window, there does at least appear to be positive news for Spurs on the horizon regarding a potential incoming.

Granted, it's probably not going to be the kind of deal that immediately has Kane thinking, 'Hang on, this is all the proof I need that I can win trophies here'. But ambition is certainly at the root of the latest developments.

According to Sky Italia, Spurs are close to the signing of Bryan Gil for £21.6million (€25m) plus Erik Lamela. Should it go through, it's arguably one of those rare deals that actually looks like good business for all involved.

For sure, if you consider Lamela to be worth somewhere between £15-20m, it's obviously a lot of money for a player barely out of his teens, particularly when you consider the transfer could reportedly involve an extra £4.3m and a percentage of any future transfer.

But Bryan is arguably among the top three under-21 players in Spain with Ansu Fati and Pedri, and like them has already been capped by Spain. Although there's no guarantee of success, the potential is there.

Bryan Giggs?

It was in Bryan's third Segunda B game for Sevilla's second team, Sevilla Atletico, that he truly announced himself in September 2018. Although he switched between the two flanks, he was at his liveliest on the left and his abilities caused chaos for the opposition, San Fernando.

Even at the age of 17, he was clearly a cut above everyone else on the pitch, his direct yet mazy runs conjuring up images of a young Ryan Giggs as he looked to weave his through the crowds in his way.

He got the first goal, an emphatic finish from the centre of the box, drew the foul that saw a San Fernando player sent off, and then brilliantly beat his full-back before darting along the byline and cutting the ball back to set up what proved to be a 90th-minute winner.

While that game saw Bryan grab the attentions of a few more Sevilla fans, those who had worked with him before were already well-accustomed to his ability.

Sevilla have a link-up with a local school, and their football team CD Altair has seen numerous players come through their side en route to Los Nervionenses' first team. Jose Campana, Antonio Luna, Sergio Rico, Carlos Fernandez and many others have made that journey, while Carlos Alvarez – their next potential homegrown superstar – featured for the first team in a recent friendly at the age of 17.

The technical secretary of Altair, Miguel Mora Lopez, considers Bryan to be one of the two standouts.

"Altair has had a good relationship with Sevilla for many years now," Mora told Stats Perform.

"Throughout our history there are countless professional players who have passed through our ranks in their early years, but it's true that Bryan or Carlos [Alvarez] are the most outstanding so far.

"We always thought that Bryan would succeed in professional football. He was with us only one season when he was 14 years old, but we liked his game. He was creative and very incisive in attack."

 

Talented but incompatible

January 2019 saw Bryan make his first appearance in LaLiga for Sevilla, and he went on to make 10 more before the season was up, becoming the first player born this century to get an assist in the top five European leagues. Everything pointed towards him potentially becoming a regular in 2019-20.

While the appointment of Julen Lopetegui has generally been extremely fruitful for Sevilla as a whole – a Europa League crown and back-to-back top-four finishes – it's difficult to not now see that as the beginning of the end for Bryan at his boyhood club.

Spurs fans might be inclined to see this as a red flag. 'If Lopetegui doesn't rate him then why are we signing Bryan?' It seemingly comes down to the style of player that he is.

Bryan is above all quite an old-fashioned winger. Though he is adept at coming inside even from the left – and a future as a number 10 certainly isn't outside the realms of possibility given his technical ability – a lot of his game is about running at his man, beating him and getting a cross into the box.

 

For example, his tally of 122 open-play crosses was the fifth-highest in LaLiga last term. He's certainly persistent, and in theory this should be perfect for the system Lopetegui likes to operate, with a big and physical centre-forward to get on the end of deliveries. After all, Youssef En-Nesyri came third behind Ante Budimir (seven) and Karim Benzema (six) for among the most headed goals in 2020-21.

But in reality, Lopetegui prefers to use inverted wingers while overlapping full-backs provide more of the 'traditional' wing play. Lucas Ocampos, Suso, Alejandro Gomez, Rony Lopes and Oussama Idrissi are all wingers signed since Lopetegui took over – all like to cut in from the flank and on to their stronger foot.

Bryan played just two league games in 2019-20 prior to joining Leganes on loan for the second half of the season and was then allowed to join Eibar for 2020-21. It proved to be a stroke of genius in some ways.

Although Eibar suffered relegation, Jose Luis Mendilibar's 4-4-2 setup helped bring out the best in Bryan. Their high-pressing system showcased his tenacity and work rate, while their two-man attack meant wing play was essential without a bona fide number 10.

He quickly blossomed into a key player.

Bryan the brave

Spurs fans looking to learn more about Bryan may see his goals (four) and assists (three) output in LaLiga as perhaps a little underwhelming, though that doesn't really give the clearest picture of his effectiveness.

 

For starters, we have to remember Bryan was playing in a team that finished bottom of LaLiga, with Getafe (28) the only team to score fewer goals than them (29).

It's fair to say that was more about those finishing the chances as opposed to Bryan's creativity. His 0.18 xA (expected assists) per 90 minutewas bettered by only five wingers/wide midfielders (minimum 1,500 minutes played) last term, while it was a fair bit higher than his 0.12 actual assists each game.

Similarly, among the same group of players, Bryan ranked fourth for the most open-play key passes per 90 minutes (1.4), which again makes him something of an outlier considering Eibar's relegation.

It's also worth pointing out relegation battles aren't generally the situations managers tend to chuck teenagers into without any consideration of their mentality and qualities – but Mora's assessment brings further credence to the idea that Bryan's just a bit different.

"He wasn't shy at all," Mora added. "Yes, he was a skilled player who moved the ball well and made very precise crosses, but he also added bravery on the field. He never avoided a 'melee' with any opponent."

That bravery can manifest itself in several ways. One of them is tenacity – his average of 12.7 duels per game is impressive for a wide player. Most of those who rank higher than him (minimum 1,000 mins played) are central strikers. For further context, Lionel Messi recorded 14.9 in 2020-21.

 

Additionally, Bryan won the ball back in the final third 1.2 times every match, a figure only two players could beat in 2020-21 (min. 1,000 mins).

And the other area where his courageous streak comes into play is with regards to dribbling, probably his biggest asset. Alberto Perea (6.1) and Ousmane Dembele (5.5) were the two individuals to attempt more take-ons per game than Bryan (5.2), while over the course of the season, he set up 16 chances following a ball carry. Among those considered by Opta to have played predominantly as a winger/wide midfielder in 2020-21, Bryan's 16 ranked only behind Goncalo Guedes (17) and Dembele (23).

 

System adaptation may be required

There's little doubt Bryan has a lot to offer, and although his rather scrawny stature might lead to concerns over his physical suitability, he's demonstrably a player who isn't shy or withdrawn.

But stylistically it will be intriguing to see how he settles into the team should the deal go through. At Eibar last season he played in a side that was almost characterised by its high press, their 363 high turnovers being more than any other side in LaLiga. By contrast, Spurs recorded just 228 while new coach Nuno Espirito Santo's Wolves managed just 205 – both were among the bottom three in that metric.

 

But Spurs' 68 direct attacks were 28 more than Eibar, and Bryan's pace, ability on the ball and eagerness to get in a cross could potentially suit that rather well, while Nuno tended to play with two genuine wingers at Wolves.

Of course, the deal does represent something of a gamble, but is there really such thing as a 'Premier League guarantee'? We've seen countless players do well at one Premier League club before tanking at the next. Alexis Sanchez, anyone?

The important thing here is that Bryan's undoubtedly an exceptional talent and his skillset – at least in theory – seems to lend itself quite well to the fast and furious Premier League.

The last winger to make his way from Sevilla to the Premier League was Jesus Navas. For all his critics, he didn't do too badly, and Bryan already appears rather more equipped.

The Milwaukee Bucks can clinch a first NBA title since 1971 with victory over the Phoenix Suns in Game 6 of the Finals on Tuesday, with Giannis Antetokounmpo preaching the importance of a team-first approach and staying in the moment.

Having fallen 2-0 behind in the series with back-to-back defeats in Phoenix, the Bucks are on the cusp of glory having reeled off three successive wins.

Milwaukee clinched a dramatic Game 5 triumph in Phoenix on Saturday, Jrue Holiday combining with Antetokounmpo for the defining play late in the fourth quarter as he stole the ball from Devin Booker and then lofted a pass for the two-time MVP to send down a thunderous dunk.

That has set the stage for the Bucks to end their 50-year wait in front of their home fans, but Antetokounmpo is not focusing on the potential celebrations should the Bucks close out the series.

"It's going to be amazing. Hopefully we can focus what we got to do and be in the present, compete as much as possible, play good basketball and be the team that wins at the end," said Antetokounmpo 

"Hopefully we can enjoy it with our family and with the fans and they can enjoy it also. I feel like it's something that you can feel the excitement in the city. The last time we were in the NBA Finals was 1974.

"It's been a while. I'm happy that the fans are enjoying it. There's 20,000 people in the arena, 25,000 people outside the arena. But we got to focus. We got to do our job. Then they can do their job celebrating at the end. But we got to do our job first.

"So we got to be in the present as much as possible. I can't focus on celebrating. I can't focus on that right now because I feel like you get too ahead of yourself. We got to focus. I got to focus right now, and then when the game comes tomorrow, focus on each possession at a time, a possession at a time.

"As I said, play good basketball, compete as hard as possible and put ourselves in a position to be able to win that game. That's all can you ask for. Hopefully we win.

"If we win, great. If we don't, we have one more chance. But if we win, it would be nice to celebrate with the fans inside and outside and with our families, because this is something historical that is happening in the city right now."

While Antetokounmpo is averaging a double-double in the series with 32.2 points and 13 rebounds, Holiday and Khris Middleton have each played a pivotal role for the Bucks.

The Bucks have scored 344 points in the Finals when that trio have been on the court, with images of Antetokounmpo leaning on Holiday or Middleton a frequent feature of this series.

 

Asked if he has improved at making it a "we not me" journey, Antetokounmpo replied: "Have to. Everybody is a part of this process. I don't think there's been anybody that has gone through this process by himself and go all the way and win the NBA championship.

"We have to do it together. I need Khris to be great, I need Jrue to be great, I need Bobby [Portis], all of those guys to be great.

"I'm tired. I look next to me, Khris is tired and Jrue is tired or whatever the case might be. It's like they're my brothers. That's when you want to hug them, put your arm around them and, like, we got this, we got this together, we got to keep doing this together until the end."

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Milwaukee Bucks – Jrue Holiday 

All the focus will be on Antetokounmpo but, as he proved in Game 5, Holiday is just as key to the Bucks' hopes.

He is averaging a series-high nine assists per game in the Finals, and his influence on Antetokounmpo is clear.

Antetokounmpo is averaging 41.1 points per 100 possessions with Holiday on the court in the Finals, compared to 38.2 when he is off the floor.

The Finals' top facilitator and top scorer must each be at their best to ensure the Bucks are celebrating come the final buzzer.

Phoenix Suns - Chris Paul

Paul had a double-double in Game 5 with 21 points and 11 assists, but there is evidence to suggest his influence has waned over the course of the series.

He had a plus/minus of -6 on Saturday, the third consecutive game he has finished in the negative column in that regard.

If the Suns are to keep their hopes of a first title alive, they may need a repeat of his 32-point showing from Game 1. 

Arguably England's best player in their last three knockout fixtures at Euro 2020, Luke Shaw reportedly struggled through games against Ukraine, Denmark and Italy with broken ribs.

The left-back was part of Gareth Southgate's side that suffered shoot-out heartbreak against Italy in the final, but it has become apparent that Shaw was playing through the pain for his country, after suffering a blow to his ribs against Germany in the last 16.

According to the Telegraph, Manchester United will now wait to assess the left-back, whose sole goal at the European Championship represented the fastest to be scored in a final since 1964, ahead of the 2021-22 campaign.

The former Southampton academy product was in scintillating form throughout Euro 2020 as he recorded three assists in six games to add to his final strike past Gianluigi Donnarumma.

 

His three assists, two against Ukraine and one against Germany, could only be bettered by Switzerland's Steven Zuber (four).

The 26-year-old (10) created two more chances than any other player for England and, amongst the defenders at the tournament, only Spain's Jordi Alba (12) provided more opportunities.

Shaw was as testing down the left flank for United throughout the domestic season, too, as he created 72 chances. Bruno Fernandes (95) was the sole United player with more to his name.

The Red Devils must now wait for news of Shaw's fitness - potential another post-Euros blow for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer after Marcus Rashford underwent shoulder surgery.

Milan announced the re-signing of Real Madrid's Brahim Diaz on Monday on a two-year loan deal and the 21-year-old feels the Rossoneri can compete to achieve "great" things under Stefano Pioli.

Diaz spent the 2020-21 campaign on a season-long loan at the San Siro, managing four goals and three assists in 27 Serie A outings, 17 of which Pioli's men ran out victors in.

Formerly of Manchester City, Milan's loanee is aware of the pressures that come with a club like the Rossoneri but he insists he will not shy away from the battle next campaign.

"I'll give my all to show my talent and I'll give my blood, sweat and tears for this great club", Diaz told the in-house media on Tuesday.

"I'll fight to make it a great season. I've learnt how important Milan are and this season I hope to have an even better season. Last season was great, but this is a new season.

"Milan deserves a team worthy of the club. I am confident we are all ready to do our best and achieve great things."

Last campaign, out of the forwards at the San Siro, Diaz (1.31) ranked second behind Ante Rebic (1.77) for chances created from open play per 90 minutes.

The Spaniard (0.81) was also the most fouled player in the final third for Milan to frequently offer the likes of Theo Hernandez and Hakan Calhanoglu set-piece opportunities.

 

Diaz also spoke highly of Pioli, who guided Milan to second last season, their highest Serie A finish since their Scudetto-winning performance in the 2010-11 season.

"Our success was thanks to coach Pioli. He created a good team from the experienced players and young players who are growing," Diaz added.

"We have all learnt a lot from the coach, he taught me a lot and, under his guidance, last season we had a good season.

"Now we must improve and in the coach's hands, we certainly will."

Liverpool midfielder Marko Grujic has joined Porto on a permanent deal.

The 25-year-old spent 2020-21 on loan with the Primeira Liga club, making 39 appearances in all competitions.

That was Grujic's latest spell away from Liverpool, whom he joined from Red Star Belgrade in 2016, having also previously spent half a season with Cardiff City and two years at Hertha Berlin.

He was the first signing of ​the Jurgen Klopp era at Anfield but featured just 16 times for the Reds in all competitions.

Serbia international Grujic linked up with the Liverpool squad for this month's pre-season training camp in Austria, but the Merseyside outfit confirmed on Tuesday that he has officially ended his five-year association with the club.

"Everyone at Liverpool FC thanks Marko for his contributions to the club and wishes him the best in his future career," the 2019-20 Premier League champions said in a statement.

Porto are reported to have paid an initial €12.15million (£10.5m) for Grujic, who was also rumoured to be a target for fellow Portuguese side Sporting CP and Italian club Sassuolo.

Grujic scored twice as Porto finished second to Sporting in the Primeira Liga last season and featured eight times in Sergio Conceicao's side's run to the Champions League quarter-finals.

The 6.94 aerial duels Grujic won per 90 minutes in the Portuguese top flight last season was behind only Pedro Henrique (7.94) and Rio Ave's Ronan (8.62) among those to have featured more than three times in the competition.

Grujic also won more tackles per 90 minutes than any other Porto player who started six or more games in the league last season, the Serbian's tally of 1.32 putting him slightly ahead of Otavio (1.31).

Jack Grealish's refusal to shy away from wanting the ball is a talent that makes him "outstanding", according to former Chelsea and Italy star Gianfranco Zola.

The Aston Villa captain led his side to an 11th-place finish in their first season back in the Premier League, before enduring a quiet summer for England at Euro 2020, where he managed two assists across 173 minutes of action.

Grealish was streaks ahead in terms of creativity last term, creating 70 chances in the Premier League from open play – 26 more than any of his team-mates and just seven fewer than Bruno Fernandes' league-high 77.

Those figures translated into 10 assists for Dean Smith's main man – making him joint-fourth in the league with Son Heung-Min - despite his expected assists being just over 6.5.

A former number 10 himself, Zola is a fan of Grealish and what he offers to both Villa and England.

"I really like Grealish for his courage and his initiatives. Maybe sometimes it could be hard to give him a tactical task because he likes to be creative in every part of the forward front.", Zola told Stats Perform.

"But he always creates something important and, again, he never flinches. He always wants the ball and creates. These are qualities that will make him even more outstanding."

Grealish's ball carrying does not solely create chances from open play either, given he won the most fouls in the final third (41) – seven more than nearest competitor Wilfried Zaha – and regularly offers Smith's side opportunities from set-pieces, too.

Villa (62) ranked third in the league in terms of chances created from set-pieces behind Manchester United (64) and Chelsea (68), which means Grealish's direct running offers another facet to the Villans' attack.

The 25-year-old midfielder may want to add goals to his game, though – while he did net six times last campaign, the positions he gets himself into suggest he should be scoring more.

Contrastingly, however, Grealish outperformed his expected goals (4.65), therefore criticism of his finishing may seem a tad harsh and unwarranted.

With Smith at the helm and with Grealish hopefully staying at Villa Park, Zola saw reason for optimism amongst the Villa faithful.

"Aston Villa are not a random club. They have had a great season and ended in the left part of the table, always improving.", the former Azzurri forward added.

"They have a very good manager that is making the squad grow."

Eduardo Camavinga's future at Rennes hangs in the balance as the French club's president suggested the midfielder may be sold if a new deal cannot be agreed.

The 18-year-old made his debut for boyhood club Rennes in April 2019 and has emerged as one of football's most sought-after talents.

Camavinga, who has less than 12 months to run on his contract at Roazhon Park, is a rumoured target for the likes of Real Madrid, Juventus, Paris Saint-Germain, Manchester United and Arsenal.

With a number of high-profile suitors monitoring the youngster, Rennes chief Nicolas Holveck is not ruling out a transfer during the current window.

"One of our priorities is to reduce the workforce. We have eight or nine players to leave," Holveck told RMC Sport.

"As for Eduardo, everything is still open, either for a possible departure or to prolong his stay. This is the big topic.

"He will not leave for nothing. We've had a lot of exchanges but nothing is done in one direction or the other."

 

Camavinga has appeared 82 times for Rennes in all competitions, with 67 of those appearances coming in Ligue 1.

He leads the way in the French top flight for tackles attempted (226) and tackles won (138) since his debut, followed by Marseille's Valentin Rongier in both categories (194 and 125 respectively).

At international level, the teenage midfielder became the youngest player to be capped by France in 106 years when he made his senior international debut in September 2020.

The following month he became the second youngest goalscorer for Les Bleus when he found the net against Ukraine aged 17 years and 11 months.

Asked what type of fee Rennes are seeking for Camavinga, Holveck replied: "Setting a price limit during this atypical market would be presumptuous."

Memphis Depay says his attacking game is perfectly suited to Barcelona and is hopeful of winning many trophies during his time at Camp Nou.

Barca confirmed the signing of Depay on June 19 and the 27-year-old's move officially went through on July 1 when his contract with Lyon expired.

After a short break following the Netherlands' last-16 exit to the Czech Republic at Euro 2020 last month, Depay arrived in Catalonia on Monday ready to begin pre-season preparations.

The Dutchman, who got his career back on track at Lyon following a disappointing spell with Manchester United, believes his style of play will help him thrive at LaLiga giants Barca.

 

"This is a special day for me. I am very excited about going to this club, to this stadium," he told Barca TV.

"I hope to win a lot of trophies, which is why I moved to this beautiful club with a very rich history. I'm looking forward to meeting everyone.

"I just got back from vacation and I have to focus on the season and be fully focused, be settled in as quick as possible. I will try to adapt as soon as possible.

"I like attacking football, I like to create chances, give assists and score goals myself. The style of Barca is perfect for me, I am happy."

Depay scored 76 goals in 178 appearances for Lyon after joining from Manchester United in January 2017.

He enjoyed an impressive final season in Ligue 1 with 20 goals, trailing only Paris Saint-Germain star Kylian Mbappe (27 goals).

The former PSV youth product's 12 assists and 94 chances created were more than any other player managed in France's top flight in 2020-21.

In all competitions, meanwhile, Depay scored 22 goals last term at an average of one goal every 141.5 minutes, making it his second-best season since arriving.

He massively exceeded his expected goals (xG) tally of 12.38 and also had 12 assists, down on his 2017-18 best of 17.

While the Netherlands ultimately disappointed at Euro 2020 with their exit in the first knockout round, Depay stood out with two goals and an assist in his four appearances.

Depay previously played under Barca boss Ronald Koeman for the Oranje and is looking forward to reuniting with his compatriot at Camp Nou.

"I had a great relationship with Koeman with the national team," Depay said. "He gave me confidence and helped me when I was injured.

"He supported my transfer here, to the best club in the world. I am glad that he is here and I am ready to fight for him."

The top two teams in MLB opened a four-game series at Dodger Stadium on Monday, with the San Francisco Giants taking a 7-2 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers. 

The latest installment in the decades-old rivalry started with a bang, as the Giants got home runs from Buster Posey and Wilmer Flores in the top of the first inning and the Dodgers answered with two of their own from Max Muncy and Justin Turner in the bottom half.

But the pitchers recovered from there and the teams went scoreless until the seventh, when the Giants put four more on the board thanks to a sacrifice fly from Jason Vosler and run-scoring doubles by Thairo Estrada and Austin Slater.

That proved to be the winning margin as the Dodgers' bats went silent. After Giants starter Kevin Gausman escaped a bases-loaded jam in the second by striking out Will Smith to end the inning, San Francisco pitchers allowed only two more Dodgers to reach base the rest of the game.

The victory improved San Francisco's MLB-best record to 59-34 and gave the Giants a two-game lead on the Dodgers in the National League (NL) West.

 

Red Sox explode early against Jays

The Boston Red Sox got a grand slam from Hunter Renfroe and two-run homers from Jarren Duran and Kike Hernandez in an eight-run first inning, then added three more homers later in the game on the way to a 13-4 rout of the Toronto Blue Jays.

The Oakland Athletics had no luck against Shohei Ohtani, so they bided their time until he left the mound. After Ohtani limited them to three hits in six scoreless innings, Oakland pounced on Los Angeles Angels reliever Steve Cishek in the seventh, with Ramon Laureano's three-run homer providing all the offence they needed in a 4-1 win.

A day after rallying from a 6-0 first-inning deficit, the New York Mets won another wild game, this time in Cincinnati. Trailing 7-3 after two innings, the Mets fought back to take a 9-8 lead in the eighth, saw the Reds tie it in the ninth, then scored five in the top of the 11th for a 15-11 victory, hitting seven home runs in all.

 

Rangers blanked again

After being shut out in both games of a doubleheader against the Toronto Blue Jays on Sunday, the Texas Rangers lost 14-0 to the Detroit Tigers on Monday. They have not scored a run since putting two on the board in the ninth against the Blue Jays on Friday, giving them 23 consecutive scoreless innings, and have been outscored 39-2 since the All-Star break.

 

Lester does it all for Nats

Washington Nationals pitcher Jon Lester turned in his first scoreless outing since his April 30 season debut, striking out seven without walking a batter in seven innings, but the real highlight of the Nats' 18-1 demolition of the Miami Marlins was Lester's fourth career home run.

Noted Slugger Jon Lester launched a 419-foot home run.

NOTED SLUGGER JON LESTER LAUNCHED A 419-FOOT HOME RUN @JLester34 // #NATITUDE pic.twitter.com/SRlV0zoFBS

— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) July 20, 2021

 

Monday's results

Minnesota Twins 3-2 Chicago White Sox
Chicago White Sox 5-3 Minnesota Twins
Washington Nationals 18-1 Miami Marlins
Baltimore Orioles 6-1 Tampa Bay Rays
New York Mets 15-11 Cincinnati Reds
Boston Red Sox 13-4 Toronto Blue Jays
Detroit Tigers 14-0 Texas Rangers
Houston Astros 4-3 Cleveland Indians
St Louis Cardinals 8-3 Chicago Cubs
Oakland Athletics 4-1 Los Angeles Angels
Arizona Diamondbacks 4-2 Pittsburgh Pirates
San Francisco Giants 7-2 Los Angeles Dodgers
San Diego Padres v Atlanta Braves (postponed)

 

Phillies at Yankees

The Philadelphia Phillies send Aaron Nola to the mound on Tuesday as they open a two-game series at the New York Yankees, who will give Domingo German the start.

In search of his first championship in his 16th NBA season, Chris Paul has written a mantra on his shoes throughout the playoffs. 

"Can't give up now" has become a rallying cry for Phoenix Suns fans and the sentiment has never been more appropriate than it is now. 

Tuesday's Game 6 of the NBA Finals against the Milwaukee Bucks will be the Suns' 22nd playoff game this season, and it will be the first in which they have faced elimination. 

"It's for real," Paul told reporters Monday. "It's no looking back now. We got to come out, be ready to play and it's either win or go home.

"Coach [Monty Williams] has said all season long, everything you want is on the other side of hard, and it doesn't get any harder than this.

"So we know that this is a must-win game for us. Nothing more than that. Now we got to hoop."

The Suns have done just that throughout their playoff run, winning nine in a row across three series at one point. 

They have now dropped three straight games for only the second time this season, the other skid coming in late January. 

Despite those setbacks after taking a 2-0 series lead, multiple Phoenix players spoke Monday about embracing the challenge. 

Suns forward Jae Crowder was in the same position as a member of the Miami Heat last season, and although they lost Game 6 and the Finals to the Los Angeles Lakers, he will take what he remembers from that disappointment into Tuesday's game. 

"As a player, it brings out a sense of desperation," he said. "It brings out a sense of urgency. It brings a sense of collectiveness within your group, knowing what you're battling and knowing what you're going up against.

"I just feel like you have to continue to fight each and every position. You have to take it a possession at a time. It's a dogfight. I've been on both sides of it. I've tried to close out teams and I know how hard it is.

"It's just a sense of desperation on our end, a sense of just collectively get the job done by any means, have a positive mindset and just have a mindset of just get the job done by any means necessary, and that's each and every possession, just giving it your all, selling out each and every possession for your team and for your team-mates."

With no margin for error, the Suns remain appreciative of the opportunity they have, particularly on the heels of a 34-39 campaign in 2019-20. 

"It's definitely exciting," said Paul. "Something that Coach and everybody has been saying: If you went to the beginning of the season and said we had a chance to be where we are right now, would you take it? Absolutely. Absolutely.

"And we get a chance to determine the outcome. It's not like the game is going to be simulated or somebody else got to play. We get a chance. We control our own destiny."

The Pittsburgh Steelers have bolstered their pass rush with the signing of veteran Melvin Ingram on a one-year deal.

Knee injuries limited the edge rusher to just seven games in the 2020 season, his final campaign with the Los Angeles Chargers.

He did not register a sack last year but the 32-year-old Ingram has been a consistently productive pass rusher in his career.

Ingram is one sack shy of 50 at the NFL level and should be in a good spot to reach that milestone playing for a Steelers defense that features one of the league's best pass rushers in T.J. Watt.

Watt led the NFL in sacks with 15 last season and was first among edge rushers with a pressure rate of 25.8 per cent.

The attention Watt commands could free up Ingram to regularly wreak havoc in the backfield and revitalise his career in Pittsburgh.

Ingram told ESPN's Josina Anderson: "I definitely feel like it's the place for me.

"I met with coach [Mike] Tomlin. You can tell he's very involved and a players' coach. That's what stood out to me.

"He wants to win and that is what I am on. My role is my role. He just told me to come in and be me. Everyone knows how I play."

© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.