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."

Sergio Ramos, Achraf Hakimi, Georginio Wijnaldum and Gianluigi Donnarumma have all joined Paris Saint-Germain this transfer window - a haul of signings Mauricio Pochettino feels are befitting of the Ligue 1 giants.

Having been appointed in January to replace Thomas Tuchel, the Argentine led his side to semi-final elimination in the Champions League at the hands of Manchester City and they finished second to Lille domestically.

After bringing in numerous big names, Pochettino is preparing to bounce back in the 2021-22 season and has surrounded himself with some stars of European football.

"A club like Paris Saint-Germain deserves players of the highest level", Pochettino told the club's in-house media on Monday.

"And when you talk about players like Wijnaldum, Ramos, Hakimi or Donnarumma, these are all players who have shown their quality at other clubs and who have proven that they have the quality to play for Paris Saint-Germain."

Donnarumma, whose shoot-out heroics led Italy to their first European Championship triumph since 1968, will provide additional defensive solidarity - a characteristic synonymous with Ramos.

The former Real Madrid centre-back kept 206 clean sheets during his time with Los Blancos, while he is the only defender to score 100 goals in one of the top-five European leagues since the turn of the century.

Hakimi offers further quality at both ends for PSG. The wing-back contributed seven goals and nine assists last season for Inter, a total bettered by four defenders across Europe's top-five leagues.

 

And Pochettino appreciated the impact that experience could have on his team preparing for their next campaign.

"What we are looking for in all players that we want to see in the Paris Saint-Germain shirt is personality and a winning mentality," the former Southampton and Tottenham boss said.

"These players that we have signed have won things at different clubs, but most importantly, they haven't won anything here yet and they will do everything they can in order to do so."

Last season, PSG ranked 11th in Ligue 1 in terms of the number of times they recovered possession and Pochettino insisted this is an area that his team must improve if they are to succeed.

While PSG recorded 2,250 recoveries across the Ligue 1 campaign, champions Lille were the hardest working, recovering possession 2,460 times. The signing of Wijnaldum, who ranked fourth in terms of recoveries for Liverpool last season, may help their cause.

"The key lies in the way we recover the ball, the commitment and desire that each of the 11 players that are out on the pitch show when we don't have the ball", Pochettino added.

"That we have that aggression and collective effort in order to leave the opposition with very few options. I think that will be the key."

Australia are hoping captain Aaron Finch can overcome injury to lead the side in the ODI series against West Indies in Barbados, which starts on Tuesday.

Finch twisted his knee while fielding in the closing T20I in St Lucia before going on to score 34 – despite his movements being visibly compromised – as Australia lost by 16 runs and slumped to a 4-1 series defeat.

Matthew Wade is the most likely candidate to take the captaincy if Finch is absent, having done so in the T20I series against India last year.

The 34-year-old opener would be a big miss to an Australia side already without Steve Smith and David Warner, who are injured and rested respectively. Ashton Agar (hamstring) and Ben McDermott (quadriceps) are progressing well.

Australia named an expanded squad for their limited-overs trip to the West Indies to mitigate against the possibility of any coronavirus absentees, although reserves Nathan Ellis and Tanveer Sangha are both bowlers.

Handily illustrating the contrasting state in which both teams approach this three-match rubber, while the tourists are trying to scrabble together a serviceable top order, West Indies head coach Phil Simmons is asking his batsmen to kick on from recent success and post consistently imposing totals.

Shai Hope, Evin Lewis and Darren Bravo each hit centuries in the 3-0 win over Sri Lanka earlier in the year, although each of those successes came when batting second – meaning there was no need for the Windies to extend themselves to 300 and beyond.

 

"We are looking for the way we batted to continue and improvements have to be made in the middle overs from 20-39 in order for us to get from 280-290 to the 320-330 we'll need against Australia," Simmons said, as quoted by ESPNCricinfo. "We've been discussing that since the Sri Lanka series so now it's time to put it into action."

Finch's opposite number Kieron Pollard is closing in on a return having sat out the T20I series due to a hamstring complaint while fellow all-rounder Jason Holder is set to return after being rested.

Australia need more Mitch-hitting

In the absence of Smith, Warner and possibly Finch, there will be even more onus on Mitchell Marsh. The powerful batting all-rounder enjoyed a superb series batting at number three during the T20Is and his 219 runs were the most by any player on either side. Marsh's ODI batting average of 34.36 is his best across the three international formats.

Windies opener Evin the time of his life

Fresh from plundering an explosive 79 to be named player of the match in St Lucia, thumping nine sixes from 34 deliveries, opener Lewis will be relishing taking his sparkling form onto the 50-over stage. The destructive left-hander followed 65 in the first match against Sri Lanka at North Sound with 103 – his fourth ODI century to stand alongside nine fifties.

Key Opta facts

- Australia have won 10 of their past 11 ODIs against West Indies but this will be just their second 50-over meeting in five years.
- West Indies' last ODI series win against Australia came in 1995; they have lost four of six since.
- Hope has posted a score in excess of 50 in each of his previous six ODI innings, including two centuries. Only Pakistan great Javed Miandad has bettered this streak in history, when he passed 50 nine consecutive times between March and October in 1987.
- Four of Shimron Hetmyer's past seven dismissals in ODIs cricket for West Indies have been against spin, more times than in his 14 prior (three).
- Finch is 69 runs shy of becoming the sixth player to score 2,000 runs for Australia as captain in ODIs. His batting average of 49.5 as skipper is the highest of any player to have captained Australia at least five times.

Tabraiz Shamsi's 4-27 ensured a routine 33-run win for South Africa over Ireland to secure a 1-0 series lead in the first bilateral men's T20I between the two sides in Malahide on Monday.

Quinton de Kock's 20 off nine balls threatened a promising start but came to an end as he found Paul Stirling's hands off the bowling of Mark Adair and that laid the foundations for a stuttering first-innings performance from the Proteas.

The visitors lost wickets at regular intervals, with Rassie van der Dussen (25 off 18), Aiden Markram (39 off 30) and David Miller (28 off 21) all showing incentive before failing to capitalise as South Africa reached 165-7, a touch above the average first-innings score of 152 in Malahide.

Simi Singh (2-19), Josh Little (2-27) and Adair (3-39) were the pick of the Ireland bowlers despite the latter being bludgeoned for four consecutive fours by Kagiso Rabada in the 20th over, which leaked 17 runs.

Stirling hoisted George Linde's first ball of Ireland's reply for six but that did not prove a sign of things to come given he was immediately bowled around his legs by the following delivery.

Captain Andy Balbirnie's 22 off 16 balls offered minor resistance as he watched his side struggle to 38-4 at the end of the six-over powerplay, courtesy of two wickets for Lungi Ngidi's wickets and one a piece for Linde and Rabada.

Linde and the world's number-one ranked T20I bowler Shamsi then rolled through the hosts' batting line-up to take 2-26 and 4-27 from their respective allocations and restrict Ireland to 132-9, with Harry Tector's 36 off 34 balls and Barry McCarthy's lower-order cameo of 30 off 25 balls offering the smallest of boosts for Ireland's poor batting showing.

Spin it to win it

Singh's maiden ODI hundred proved in vain in the third ODI defeat for Ireland but he proved his worth with the ball in Malahide, producing an economical four-over spell that saw him go for just one boundary.

Linde enjoyed similar spinning success, though, it was Shamsi who stole the show once again for the Proteas.

The left-arm leg-spinner is the most economical bowler in T20I cricket since the start of 2020 and, barring a trio of wides and two avoidable boundaries, Shamsi displayed his quality as he frequently spun the Ireland batsmen into a tangle.

 

O'Brien's ominous struggles

After playing five internationals and scoring just 27 runs, including a duck and three single-score returns, in 2021 heading into this match, Kevin O'Brien fell for another first-ball dismissal as he was caught and bowled by Rabada.

Turning out for Leinster Lightning in Ireland's inter-provincial T20 tournament, O'Brien has endured a lean domestic spell, too, managing a meagre 47 runs in six matches with a top score of 16.

O'Brien, scorer of Ireland's only hundred in the shortest limited-overs format, will be desperate to find form before the T20 World Cup gets underway in October.

Milan have re-signed forward Brahim Diaz on a two-year loan deal from Real Madrid.

The Rossoneri announced on Monday the 21-year-old Spaniard will be tied to the Serie A club until June 30, 2023 and will wear the number 10 shirt.

Diaz spent last season on loan at San Siro where he scored four goals and provided three assists in 27 games in Serie A, 17 of which ended in victories for Stefano Pioli's side.

The former Manchester City man, who signed for Madrid from the Premier League club in January 2019, had 26 shots for Milan last season with a conversion rate of 15.38.

Diaz, a technically gifted and skilful attacker, joined City in 2015 after showing promise in Malaga's youth ranks.

Although he was regarded as one of City's best prospects alongside Jadon Sancho and Phil Foden, Diaz followed the former in leaving the club in search of more opportunities.

He won his first cap for Spain in June when he started and scored in a 4-0 friendly win over Lithuania, a match where Luis Enrique was forced to call up his country's under-21 squad en masse. Sergio Busquet's positive COVID-19 test in the build-up to Euro 2020 left La Roja's senior team in isolation.

"Happy to be back. Thank you for all the love I have received," Diaz posted on his Twitter account.

 

 

New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley does not know if he will be ready for Week 1 of the NFL season, though he is "feeling good".

The progress of the 24-year-old's injury recovery remains uncertain ahead of the start of training camp next week.

Barkley suffered a torn ACL in Week 2 of the 2020 season, a blow that contributed to a miserable 1-7 start for the Giants.

Optimism is high for New York in 2021, though, with reinforcements arriving in free agency after the team rallied to win five of their last eight games and finish 6-10.

The expected return of Barkley – who took the league by storm as the Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2018 – is part of that feel-good factor, but he is still unsure as to when he will make his comeback.

"I don't know," Barkley said, per SNY and the New York Post, when asked if he would be ready for Week 1 when the Giants play the Denver Broncos on September 12.

Asked if he was trying to keep his status a mystery, he replied: "I've been asked a lot - I guess that's the theme of the summer, going to be when I'll be back.

"But no, I don't have that answer, to be honest. I'm not trying to lead it up to it or something like that or put something up. 

"It's a fun process, but it's a tough process at the same time. Just have to continue to listen to my body, listen to my trainers, listen to the coaches and take it day by day."

Barkley ended on a positive note, adding: "I'm feeling good. I'm doing good, taking it day by day, trying to get one percent better every single day.

"I'm enjoying my time. Obviously, camp is approaching soon, so I'm enjoying time with my family and still trying to get the work in that I can before things ramp up."

In his first two seasons in the league, there were only five running backs who rushed for more yards than Barkley (2,310), while his yards per carry average of 4.83 was ninth during that span.

A huge part of former number two overall pick Barkley's value comes from his receiving ability out of the backfield.

His 143 receptions and 1,159 yards through the air in his first two seasons put him in the top six among running backs for both categories.

Barkley was third behind only Christian McCaffrey and Ezekiel Elliott with 3,469 scrimmage yards over the two-year period, with quarterback Daniel Jones eager to have him back in the offense for a pivotal year.

The pressure is on for the Giants, who have not won a playoff game since their 2011 Super Bowl success.

Italy and England combined to produce a nail-biting finale to Euro 2020, which was enjoyed by an average audience of 6.4 million viewers in the United States.

Those staggering viewership numbers meant the 2020 showpiece became the most-watched European Championship final in the USA, surpassing the previous record from the Euro 2012 final (4.5 million for Spain v Italy). Viewership increased 43 per cent on the 2016 final.

Even the first two games of the NBA Finals failed to produce better viewing figures, with the USA appearing to have savoured a memorable European Championship.

In fact, as Gianluigi Donnarumma's shoot-out heroics clinched Italy's first European Championship title since 1968, the audience in the United States peaked at 8.1 million, according to ESPN figures.

The final, as expected, had the most American viewers glued to their screens but Euro 2020 produced wholesale improvements throughout the tournament.

Across all 51 matches at Euro 2020, ABC, ESPN and ESPN2 delivered an average viewership of 1.3 million, a 31 per cent increase on the previous edition in 2016.

The round-of-16 fixtures and semi-final clashes provided the most significant improvements from 2016, with those rounds producing 38 and 37 per cent increases to draw in 1.8 million and 2.5 million viewers on average respectively.

Albert Sambi Lokonga's football intelligence can be a huge asset to Arsenal after the Belgium Under-21 international won the admiration of a Premier League great.

Mikel Arteta made Lokonga his second signing of the close season on Monday - the Gunners wrapping up a deal reported to be worth an initial £15million with Anderlecht.

Lokonga was coached by Vincent Kompany at Anderlecht and Arteta, who worked with the ex-Manchester City captain when he was part of Pep Guardiola's staff, did the expected background work on the highly rated midfielder.

"Albert is a very intelligent player who has shown great maturity in his performances during his development," Arteta told his club's official website.

"He has been coached well by Vincent Kompany and his team at Anderlecht. I know Vincent very well and he talks so highly about Albert and the positive impact he had to Anderlecht in recent seasons.

"We're confident Albert's ready for the next stage in his development and we’re looking forward to welcoming a new member to our squad with his quality and presence."

Lokonga made his Belgian Pro League debut in December 2017 and Opta statistics from his performances since then measure up well to those produced by Arsenal players over the same period.

Noted for his ability to play in front of the defence, the 21-year-old made 115 tackles and won 77 in 69 league appearances.

Somewhat predictably, Granit Xhaka is the only Arsenal player to have racked up more – 195 tackles and 114 won – during this time, although the Switzerland star did so over 111 games.

Lucas Torreira, who spent last season on loan at Atletico Madrid, perhaps provides a better point of comparison. In 63 Premier League games for the Gunners, the combative Uruguay international made 98 tackles and won 70.

Of Arsenal outfield players to have featured in 30 or more league games since December 2017, only the now departed Shkodran Mustafi (64.29 per cent) has a better duel success rate than Lokonga (60.7).

Overall, he has won possession 414 times – again a figure only bettered by Xhaka on 746, with Torriera (327) off the pace set by the new signing.

Lokonga is also accomplished in possession, with 86.1 per cent passing accuracy and 67 chances created in the top-flight for Anderlecht suggesting he is not afraid of operating in a progressive manner on the ball.

Xhaka, while continuing to bear in mind his greater game time, has made 94 key passes during the time in question, with attackers Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang the only other current Arsenal players to have supplied more.

Roberto Mancini believes he and Gianluca Vialli came 'full circle' at Wembley Stadium, making amends for Sampdoria's European Cup final defeat against Barcelona by succeeding with Italy against England in the Euro 2020 final.

Mancini guided his country to their first European Championship triumph since 1968 with a shoot-out victory over Gareth Southgate's men, courtesy of Gianluigi Donnarumma's penalty-saving heroics.

Tasked with rebuilding after failing to qualify for the World Cup in 2018, Mancini led his side to a 34-game unbeaten run that culminated in the Euro 2020 success.

After the failure of 2018, the first year in which the Azzurri had failed to reach a World Cup since 1958, Mancini told SPORT1 "Italy was down".

"You [Italy] immediately felt that everyone wanted reparations and were ready to work their a***s for the country", the former Manchester City head coach added.

But Italy's title did not just represent success for this current crop of players, it also provided comfort for Mancini and the Azzurri's team delegation chief Vialli, who came up short with Sampdoria against Barcelona at Wembley in 1992.

"I still remember that game [the 1992 European Cup final] very well. We shouldn't have lost it, it wasn't deserved," said Mancini.

"But now the circle has come full. 30 years later. Madness! I'm also happy because this trophy also belongs to the Sampdoria fans to a certain extent. Unfortunately, they had to accept the bitter defeat at the time. Now the wounds are being healed."

Italy's impressive defence propelled them to their success as they conceded just four goals at Euro 2020, with England (two), Belgium and Finland (three each), the only teams able to boast better defensive records.

Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci, whose 12 interceptions topped the defensive rankings alongside Ukraine's Mykola Matvienko, marshalled the backline in front of shoot-out hero Donnarumma and Mancini feels the pair deserve significant credit.

"Giorgio [Chiellini] and Leo [Bonucci], of course, have a very large part in our wonderful success. They deserve it so much because they represent 20 years of Italian football history," he explained.

The praise of Chiellini and Bonucci aside, Mancini batted off questions surrounding immortality and history to conclude: "This title is for all the Italians in our country.

"But it is also a gift to all Italians abroad. There is boundless joy right now."

Gianfranco Zola believes midfielder Jorginho would be a deserving winner of the Ballon d'Or despite Lionel Messi's claims on the award.

Jorginho finished the 2020-21 campaign as Chelsea's leading Premier League scorer with seven goals, albeit each of those came from the penalty spot.

He carried that form into Euro 2020, playing every game for Italy in their successful campaign that ended with a penalty shoot-out win over England at Wembley.

Jorginho actually missed from the spot in the final, but he otherwise enjoyed an impeccable tournament for the Azzurri.

The Brazilian-born player led the way in terms of interceptions at Euro 2020 with 25, substantially more than Chelsea team-mate N'Golo Kante (14), who was next best.

Meanwhile, Jorginho's 484 successful passes were bettered only by Spain's Aymeric Laporte (644), leading to seven chances being created for his team-mates. Only Azzurri colleague Lorenzo Insigne (40) was involved in more shot-ending sequences than his 38.

 

Barcelona's Messi, a six-time Ballon d'Or winner, finished as LaLiga's top scorer last season with 38 goals and 12 assists across all competitions before inspiring Argentina to glory in the Copa America.

Despite Messi's pedigree former Chelsea forward Zola – who earned 35 caps for Italy and scored 10 goals between 1991 and 1997 – backed Jorginho as a worthy challenger. 

"The Ballon d'Or is usually awarded to a striker or an offensive player who can score a lot," Zola told Stats Perform. 

"Now we are talking about a fantastic player like [Lionel] Messi who did extraordinary things for the first time with his national team – and this won’t go unnoticed. 

"Should they give it to Jorginho, it would be deserved. He gives concrete balance and pace to his teams. I was lucky to have him at Chelsea and I know what he does on the pitch.

"It would be deserved because not only were his performances at a high level, but the teams he played for have been outstanding. This must be taken into account."

British and Irish Lions captain Alun Wyn Jones is "fit and raring to go" for Saturday's first Test against South Africa, according to defence coach Steve Tandy.

Jones, the most-capped international of all time with 158 appearances for Wales and the Lions, was initially ruled out of the tour after dislocating his shoulder against Japan on June 26.

However, the 35-year-old has made a remarkable comeback and played 30 minutes off the bench in the 49-3 victory against Stormers at the weekend.

That win, on what was Jones' 22nd appearance for the Lions, ensured Warren Gatland's side avoided losing two successive non-Test matches since a three-game streak in New Zealand in 1993

After coming through that match unscathed, Jones in contention to start this week's much-anticipated showdown with reigning world champions South Africa in Cape Town.

Asked if Jones – one of only four players selected to play on four Lions tours – has enough minutes under his belt to return to the starting line-up, Tandy said: "I believe so.

"Al historically does some pretty special things. He is fit, he is raring to go. He keeps himself in great shape, so there will be no issues there.

"He has got unbelievable experience. His leadership qualities are outstanding as well. He will be fine."

 

The Lions have won five of their six warm-up fixtures ahead of the three-match series with the Springboks, the exception being a 17-13 loss to South Africa A last week.

Fly-half Finn Russell is the Lions' only unavailable player for the series opener due to an Achilles issue, leaving Gatland and his coaching staff with some big selection calls.

Following a meeting that lasted more than an hour and a half on Sunday, Tandy revealed the Lions' XV for the first Test is now as good as selected.

"It is one of the toughest things I have been involved in," Tandy said. "So many players put their hands up. There will be massive decisions made and a lot of unlucky players.

"We had the initial selection meeting last night and it was a long one in fairness. There was robust discussion, but now there are just one or two things to confirm. It is mostly done.

"There will be bitter disappointment for some players, but everyone will be geared up to win the first Test and those not playing will support the team."

Liverpool youngster Harvey Elliott has been challenged to take the "next step" at Anfield this season by manager Jurgen Klopp.

Elliott has played nine times for Liverpool and impressed last season when he was loaned out to Blackburn Rovers in the Championship.

The 18-year-old had seven goals and 11 assists in 41 Blackburn outings in the league, a spell he hoped would increase his chances of getting "in and around" the Liverpool first-team in 2021-22.

Only two players registered more assists than Elliott in the Championship last season – Emiliano Buendia (16) and Michael Olise (12).

Elliott is poised to be involved in Liverpool's two 30-minute friendlies against Wacker Innsbruck and Stuttgart on Tuesday, with another warm-up fixture against Mainz on Friday.

"Harvey made a step, I have to say. He looks in a proper shape, really, really fit," Klopp told Liverpool's official website.

"He came back in a good shape and is here now in full training obviously.

"You can see last year really worked well for him. Now let’s make the next steps together."

Elliott became the youngest player to ever start a competitive game for Liverpool at 16 years and 174 days when featuring against MK Dons in the Carabao Cup in September 2019.

The former Fulham product, who signed a new long-term contract with the Reds earlier this month, has been taking tips from Liverpool's top stars as he eyes a breakthrough season in the Premier League.

Liverpool assistant manager Pep Lijnders recently detailed how Mohammed Salah gave Elliott some advice about eating habits to the teenager during their pre-season training camp in Austria which pleased Klopp.

He added: "What is really nice about the story is that we created really an atmosphere where the boys care about each other as well, they really want to help each other.

"Most of these players were not in the same place like Harvey is in that age. 

"But everybody wants the group to be in the best shape, maybe that’s the example more for that story.

"It could happen with James Milner constantly that somebody takes something from him. That’s this team, that’s us and I really like it a lot."

Trent Alexander-Arnold is feeling pain-free and is eager to make his return for Liverpool this week after recovering from a thigh problem.

The right-back sustained the injury during England's 1-0 win over Austria in a friendly on June 2 and was subsequently ruled out of the Three Lions' Euro 2020 campaign.

He has taken part in full training during the Reds' pre-season training camp in Austria, however, and may feature in Tuesday's 30-minute friendlies against Wacker Innsbruck and Stuttgart.

"I'm fully pain-free. I've been doing a lot of rehab when we were off over the summer with the physios and the medical staff, which was good," he told Liverpool's official website.

"I feel fit, I feel healthy and I'm back in full training now, so it's good. It's good for me.

"I've done quite a few sessions with the lads now. I feel fit enough to play. But the decision comes from the manager, the staff and obviously the medical staff.

"They need to talk and see if it's worth the risk. If not, there's a game on Friday [against Mainz] as well.

"Whether it's a case of a few minutes on Tuesday and play a bit more on Friday, ease me in like that, who knows? Either way, I'll be ready to play."

Alexander-Arnold has been a Liverpool regular for the past four seasons and featured 45 times in all competitions in the last campaign.

He created an 14 Opta-defined big chances in 36 Premier League games last term, a tally bettered only by Kevin de Bruyne (19) and Bruno Fernandes (20), leading to seven assists.

Since making his debut in the competition for Liverpool in December 2016, only team-mate Andy Robertson (37) has laid on more assists than Alexander-Arnold (33) among defenders.

The academy product's return will therefore be considered a major boost for Jurgen Klopp, but the Reds will remain patient in their bid to get the defender up to full speed in time for their Premier League opener against Norwich City on August 14.

"If you give me the opportunity at any point to train at 100 per cent I would have taken it," the 22-year-old said.

"But there were still things we needed to do. We needed to finish off the last stage of rehab and make sure we ticked all the boxes before we put me back in. 

"And I think we've been able to do that. Now, being back in full training with the lads is good. It feels good and I feel good out there. 

"We've got a lot of players out here, a lot of numbers, so we've got enough players to chop and change and keep the intensity really high, which is vitally important in the early stages of pre-season.

"We've got to try to get as much intensity into the legs as possible and push each other as hard as we can without going too far."

Fellow defenders Joel Matip, Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez are also closing in on a comeback after returning from injury lay-offs of various lengths.

The absence of Van Dijk for the majority of 2020-21 undoubtedly contributed to a poor campaign for Liverpool, though they did at least recover to finish third in the Premier League.

Alexander-Arnold has talked up the influence of the Dutchman, who also missed Euro 2020 for the Netherlands, both on the field and off it.

"In and around the team, he's such a big difference for us," Alexander-Arnold said. "He's an amazing guy, an amazing player. The impact he has on us is huge. 

"He knows that himself and knows the role he needs to play within the team, as a leader and as one of the captains. 

"He's a big part of the team and everyone is really pleased to see him back training and in and around the team."

The New York Mets fought back from 6-0 down after a bizarre early mistake from pitcher Taijuan Walker to claim a memorable 7-6 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates on Sunday.

Mets manager Luis Rojas was ejected as he protested after Walker mistakenly batted a fair ball into foul territory from Kevin Newman's scuff, allowing the Pirates to swipe three runs.

With bases loaded, John Nogowski touched down at home, while two more runners were able to cross after the ball rolled towards the Pirates dugout with Walker not realising the marginal call.

"Obviously, I thought it was a foul,'' Walker said. "It was so close. I thought I flipped it in the dugout. I didn't even realise it was still in play. It was just one of those plays that just happen. Crazy play.''

With Rojas ejected, the Mets put the drama behind them with Travis Blankenhorn's fourth-inning home run, his career first, bringing it back to 6-4.

In the ninth inning, Michael Conforto hit a two-run home run as the Mets piled on seven unanswered runs to turn the game around spectacularly and improve to a 48-42 record and avoid a surprise Pirates sweep.

 

More Guerrero and Ohtani homers

Vladimir Guerrero Jr continues to impress with another home run in the Toronto Blue Jays' 10-0 win over the Texas Rangers. Guerrero has 31 home runs and tops the MLB charts with a .332 batting average and 78 RBI.

Shohei Ohtani is the only player in the majors ahead of Guerrero for home runs and he added another, taking his season tally to 34, as the Los Angeles Angels lost 7-4 to the Seattle Mariners.

J.T. Realmuto hit a walk-off home run to settle Saturday's suspended game as the Philadelphia Phillies won 4-2 over the Miami Marlins on Sunday. The Phillies also won Sunday's later game 7-4.

Alcides Escobar also secured a walk-off victory for the Washington Nationals as they defeated the San Diego Padres 8-7 in a see-sawing battle.

Corbin Burnes starred with 12 strikeouts as the Milwaukee Brewers crushed the previously in-form Cincinnati Reds 8-0 for a three-game sweep.

The depleted New York Yankees claimed an impressive 9-1 win over the Boston Red Sox.

 

Sloppy Dodgers drop

Los Angeles Dodgers' second baseman Chris Taylor dropped a simple Garrett Hampson high ball which proved costly as the Colorado Rockies won 6-5 after Charlie Blackmon's walk-off home run. Taylor's error came with the Dodgers 2-1 up at the bottom of the fifth inning, allowing a run too.

 

Red hot Rodon

Chicago White Sox pitcher Carlos Rodon reached eight strikeouts for the 10th straight game in his side's 4-0 win over the Houston Astros. Rodon's run of eight or more consecutive Ks is the longest active streak in MLB. Houston also only had one hit for the game. The left-hander is in the mix for the American League Cy Young award.

 

Sunday's results

Philadelphia Phillies 4-2 Miami Marlins (resumed)
San Diego Padres 10-4 Washington Nationals (resumed)
Philadelphia Phillies 7-4 Miami Marlins
Washington Nationals 8-7 San Diego Padres
New York Mets 7-6 Pittsburgh Pirates
Toronto Blue Jays 5-0 Texas Rangers
Milwaukee Brewers 8-0 Cincinnati Reds
Detroit Tigers 7-0 Minnesota Twins
Tampa Bay Rays 7-5 Atlanta Braves
Chicago White Sox 4-0 Houston Astros
Baltimore Orioles 5-0 Kansas City Royals
St Louis Cardinals 2-1 San Francisco Giants
Colorado Rockies 6-5 Los Angeles Dodgers
Seattle Mariners 7-4 Los Angeles Angels
Cleveland Indians 4-2 Oaland Athletics
Arizona Diamondbacks 6-4 Chicago Cubs
Toronto Blue Jays 10-0 Texas Rangers
New York Yankees 9-1 Boston Red Sox

 

Astros at White Sox

Reigning world champions, the Los Angeles Dodgers (58-36), take on the high-flying San Francisco Giants (58-34) in the first game of their four-game series.

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