Isco was booed after making an angry gesture during Real Madrid's shock defeat to CSKA Moscow in midweek, but Santiago Solari does not believe it was aimed at the fans.

The Spain international has played a bit-part role for Madrid since returning from acute appendicitis in October, with Solari yet to start the midfielder in a LaLiga match.

Isco raised his arms and shouted when a miss in the surprise 3-0 Champions League loss to CSKA drew jeers from supporters.

The 26-year-old also received criticism for appearing to refuse the captain's armband, although Marcelo clarified he wanted it to be given to the Brazilian's replacement Dani Carvajal instead.

Solari said after the match he did not see Isco's gesture and he was keen not to place too much importance on it ahead of Saturday's meeting with Rayo Vallecano.

"I got the impression he was claiming for a corner or a foul, I don't know," Solari told a news conference.

"I understand the media's work, but ours must be something else. We are focused on playing Rayo Vallecano with the attitude shown in the vast majority of games. We have won eight out of 10 games and this is our path.

"Isco is a mature man, a professional. He has given a lot of joy to this club and he will continue to do so.

"The most unpleasant task of a coach is picking who plays, who is on the pitch and who is left out.

"The fans express themselves, we respect that and we always seek their support. Everything that has been achieved in the club's 115-year history has been thanks to this unity and we hope on Saturday they will push us and encourage us."

The cities of Manchester, Singapore, Tokyo and Turin have earned the right to challenge London to host the ATP Finals from 2021 until 2025.

The season-ending tournament has been held at London's O2 Arena since 2009 and the English capital is contracted through 2020, but the ATP is open to a new location thereafter.

Over 40 cities worldwide submitted bids and the governing body has narrowed the options down to four cities that will go up against London.

The ATP will now visit the candidate cities and a decision will be made no sooner than March 2019.

"The ATP Finals have never stood still, remaining vibrant and relevant to fans, sponsors and media worldwide at every turn," said ATP president Chris Kermode.

"There's no question that London has set a very high benchmark and, with the final shortlist announced today, we believe we will be well placed to determine the next exciting chapter of a tournament that has come to represent the absolute pinnacle in men's professional tennis."

The Finals have previously been held in several locations worldwide, starting in Tokyo in 1970, with Shanghai hosting the tournament from 2005 to 2008.

Alexander Zverev was the 2018 champion at the O2, beating world number one Novak Djokovic in the November final.

Philip Rivers was the Los Angeles Chargers' hero as they punched their ticket to the playoffs on Thursday, but he worried he had cost his team at the Kansas City Chiefs.

Having lost their previous nine against the Chiefs, the Chargers were up against it in Kansas City and, while Patrick Mahomes starred again for the home team, Rivers threw a couple of early interceptions.

Yet those errors mattered little as a remarkable finish saw Los Angeles, trailing by a point, go for a two-point conversion in the dying seconds in a bid to clinch the win.

Rivers picked out Mike Williams for a simple catch on a busted coverage and the Chargers were able to celebrate their return to the postseason for the first time since 2013, with their quarterback grateful to his team-mates for their efforts.

"We just kept playing. This place is unbelievable to play in," he told FOX. "It was hard, tough, and we'd lost a handful in a row [against the Chiefs].

"But this team just kept fighting. And what a call by coach [Anthony] Lynn to go for two, to say, 'Heck, let's just win it now'.

"I had two terrible turnovers in the first half and I thought it was going to cost us. In every other category, we held our own. We just turned the ball over and I was afraid it was going to cost us, but we overcame it as a team. It's a heck of a team win."

On the game-winning two-point conversion, Rivers explained: "Our first touchdown to Mike was that same play. We dressed it up a bit. I motioned to Travis [Benjamin] to come to the other side and it bust the coverage.

"It's just a heck of a team win. It didn't look good there for a long time. Our guys just kept fighting. It's a fun team to be around. This just means we're in the tournament. We know we've got a long way to go, but it's nice to be in. It's been a while."

Williams was central to the Chargers' win, scoring three touchdowns before he was left wide open at the last, and the wide receiver similarly lauded his team-mates' spirit.

"This is a group who don't quit until the end," Williams said. "We've had a lot of close games this year and we find ways to win.

"Last year, we weren't winning those games. This year, we are finding ways to win and you can see the fight in this group."

Leonardo fumed that AC Milan's Europa League elimination at the hands of Olympiacos was "unjust" due to poor refereeing decisions.

Milan went to Piraeus with a three-point advantage over the Greek side in Group F, but a 3-1 defeat sent them crashing out of the competition.

Pape Abou Cisse and an own goal from Cristian Zapata put Olympiacos 2-0 up, before the Colombian centre-back pulled one back for Gennaro Gattuso's team in the 72nd minute.

However, referee Benoit Bastien deemed that Ignazio Abate fouled Vasilis Torosidis when the former Roma man attempted to get his head to a corner and awarded a penalty that Kostas Fortounis tucked home eight minutes from time.

Milan sporting director Leonardo criticised Bastien's decision and lamented the fact VAR will not be used in the Europa League until next season.

"It looks to me as if the penalty was non-existent," Leonardo told Sky Sport Italia.

"On a couple of occasions too, they had this system of putting a hand on a corner as if to wait for someone else and then taking it. [Samuel] Castillejo tried it and the referee whistled to stop us.

"If you go out of the Europa League for something like that, in the days of VAR, it becomes difficult to just accept a result. It's ridiculous that a system like VAR that everyone now uses cannot be used in a European tournament.

"There was also a strange noise every time we went to attack. I don't know what it was, but it's not fair to use a sound like that to distract us every time we go forward.

"It was genuinely irritating. The referee should've stopped play and told them to stop it. After they scored, it actually got louder.

"We were three points ahead of Olympiacos, it was a difficult situation for them to win and it was in fact totally decided by these incidents.

"We know our problems and we have some players out, but I can say this was unjust."

Chris Paul was left wide-eyed after James Harden delivered a masterclass to help the Houston Rockets beat the Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday.

Harden got the better of LeBron James, becoming the first player in NBA history to produce four triple-doubles with 50 points or more, as the Rockets recorded a much-needed 126-111 victory.

Paul told ESPN: "That's crazy. That's sick.

"I ain't never had a team-mate that's capable of doing that."

Rockets center Clint Capela felt Harden was in for a big night when he snarled and flexed both arms following his first basket - a departure from his usual cool demeanour.

"I was like, 'wow!'" said Capela. "I've never seen James like that, especially flexing after a dunk. Is that a new James in front of me or what? I've never seen him like that in five years. That was something - and it sent a message to everybody."

Harden himself hopes the win will enable the Rockets to kick on after an underwhelming start following last season's run to the Western Conference Finals.

"We're in a hole right now, and we've got to find a way to get out of this hole, and we will," he said after Houston improved to 13-14.

"Me and Chris are the leaders. We have to go out there and play well and put ourselves in position every single night. That's what we have on the line."

James, who managed 29 points for the Lakers in a losing cause, lamented his side's ill-discipline that allowed Harden 18 points from the free-throw line.

"You can't put him on the line," said James.

"We put him on the line 20 times. He's already talented as s*** offensively, can put the ball in the hole multiple ways - drive, step-back threes. But you give him easy points...

"When you put a guy like that on the line, you can't put [Kevin Durant] on the line for 20 free throws.

"You can't put any of our scorers that we have in our league on the line 20 times because they just see the ball go in the hole."

Liverpool host Manchester United on Sunday when the gulf between the two great rivals has arguably never been greater in the Premier League era.

United travel to Anfield trailing the Reds by 16 points, with Jurgen Klopp's men top of the table and looking a far more accomplished side than their rivals.

Jose Mourinho has taken the brunt of the criticism from United's perspective, with the coach failing to get the best out of many of his players and playing a drab brand of football, while Klopp has had contrasting fortunes.

Liverpool's feared attacking trio are pivotal to their title chances and leading the way for them again this season, so they have presumably been significantly better statistically than their United counterparts.

Well, Opta data brings some surprising conclusions, suggesting Mourinho ought to be putting more faith in his three main forwards…

 

Mohamed Salah v Romelu Lukaku

Salah has picked up where he left off last term having scored 10 goals in 16 Premier League games, but Lukaku is enduring a difficult season, with his record of netting just six times in 15 outings perhaps indicative of United's struggles.  

Salah's record of 33 chances created is also 20 more than Lukaku, but the Belgian's shot conversion of 21.4 per cent (compared to the 17.5 per cent recorded by his rival) suggests it is the service to him which has been the problem.

Further evidence of that is Lukaku had had 28 shots, 29 fewer than Salah (57). While criticism of the United star's first touch may be understandable, statistics seem to suggest his team-mates could be doing more to help.  

 

 

Sadio Mane v Anthony Martial

It has been a peculiar start to campaign for Martial, finding himself in and out of the team, yet he has still probably been one of United's most consistent players with seven goals from just nine starts.

The Frenchman is averaging a goal every 112 minutes, far better than his Liverpool counterpart Mane, who is netting a goal per 196 minutes. Martial's tally of 16 chances created is also two more than the Reds forward.

But Martial's most impressive facet this season is his conversion rate of 38.9 per cent. Mane's is the best of Liverpool's attack, but even his 18.2 conversion percentage is dwarfed by the United star.

 

Roberto Firmino v Marcus Rashford

Brazil international Firmino has not been quite at his best this term, as highlighted by his record of four goals and three assists from 14 Premier League starts.

Rashford has played 436 minutes fewer than Firmino, yet still he has set up more goals (five) and scored just one less than him. The United youngster's five assists come from just 14 chances created, as opposed to the 21 laid on by the Livepool forward.

Firmino's shot conversion (14.3 per cent) is the worst of all six players, while Rashford's 17.6 per cent makes him slightly more accurate than Salah, though the England international has only attempted 17 shots.

 

Saul 'Canelo' Alvarez will not rule out completing a trilogy with middleweight rival Gennady Golovkin in 2019 – a fight his promoter Oscar de la Hoya believes the world wants to see.

Alvarez steps up to super-middleweight to take on WBA 'regular' champion Rocky Fielding on Saturday in his first bout since claiming a gripping majority-decision triumph over the previously unbeaten Golovkin.

That saw the 28-year-old Mexican collect the WBA and WBC titles at 160lbs after their initial bout in September 2017 ended in a hotly disputed draw.

A heavy favourite to become a three-weight champion against Fielding at Madison Square Garden, Alvarez told Omnisport that he feels his long-term future lies at middleweight – bringing Canelo-GGG III tantalisingly into view.

"It's not a secret that we want to win this fight on Saturday and then come back down to our division, which is 160lbs," he said.

"But we can make combinations, between 160 and 168lbs. We'll see what the future has prepared.

"What I can assure you right now is that we will definitely go back to 160lbs."

On the prospect of agreeing a second rematch with Golovkin, who believes he should have been awarded the verdict in each of their meetings, Alvarez added: "We'll see. We had two good fights and maybe in 2019 we can have a third fight.

"Right now I'm 100 per cent focused on Saturday but I do know that I fight in May and September next year.

"So, we'll see and I'll do what I always do, which is to give great fights to the public."

This weekend's clash with Fielding is the first of Alvarez's 11-fight deal with sports streaming service DAZN.

Golovkin is currently a free agent in terms of his broadcast deal and, depending upon where the cards fall, De La Hoya wants to make the match again - although he was keen to point out the array of options his man has.

"The world wants to see another fight with Triple G, I want to see it, we want to make it happen," he told Omnisport.

"There's a lot of great challenges for Canelo at 160, including the likes of the Charlo brothers [Jermall and Jermell], Danny Jacobs, Billy Joe Saunders.

"I think Canelo has the opportunity to make some really good history for himself in this sport for many years to come."

How that history is written will define where Alvarez places himself within the lineage of great Mexican fighters such as Julio Cesar Chavez, Marco Antonio Barrera and Juan Manuel Marquez.

"I think that, at the tender age of 28 years old, he'll be top three already," De La Hoya said, considering the prospect of beating Fielding, who won his belt with an upset win over Tyron Zeuge last time out.

"And he still has a long way to go. I think the fact that Canelo has a lot of great fights ahead of him, the fact that he's still young [means he] has the opportunity to be one of the elite, if not the elite fighter in the history of Mexican boxing."

Alvarez himself knows such a lofty status only remains open to him if he does the business at Madison Square Garden.

"It's very important to enter into that list of very good fighters from Mexico, to be one of very few fighters who become three-division world champions from Mexico," he added.

"To enter history, that's what I want – to make history.

"When you make history, doors open. So I'm happy and I'm motivated to win this fight."

Houston Rockets star James Harden reminded everyone why he won the NBA MVP last season, starring against the Los Angeles Lakers.

The 29-year-old guard posted his NBA record fourth 50-point triple-double with 50 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds in a 126-111 win over the Lakers on Thursday.

The Rockets are 13-14 this season and in 13th in the Western Conference, but are 2-0 against LeBron James' Lakers (17-11).

"We're in a hole right now, you look at the standings and we're in the [13th] spot and it's kind of depressing," Harden told TNT after the game. "But we've got to figure it out.

"We continue to fight our way through it, then we had injuries, a lot of new players, we're trying to figure it out, but the last two games we've been playing pretty well."

Houston have now won back-to-back games over probable playoff teams in the Lakers and Portland Trail Blazers. They handed Los Angeles just their second loss in the last eight games.

James scored a team-high 29 points with five rebounds and four assists in the loss.

Kuzma shines for Lakers

Lakers forward Kyle Kuzma had 24 points, five assists and three rebounds in the loss to the Rockets.

Spurs forward LaMarcus Aldridge scored 27 points on 12-of-14 shooting in a 125-87 win over the Clippers.

 

Caldwell-Pope fails to fire

Lakers guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope had trouble shooting the ball as he went one of six from beyond the arc while scoring eight points.

 

House, Nowitzki produce highlights

Rockets forward Danuel House Jr. threw one down on a fast break.

Dirk Nowitzki set an NBA record by playing in Thursday's game against the Suns. He has now played in more seasons with one team (21) than any player in history. He also knocked down the first shot he took in typical Dirk fashion.

Thursday's results

Houston Rockets 126-111 Los Angeles Lakers
San Antonio Spurs 125-87 Los Angeles Clippers
Orlando Magic 97-91 Chicago Bulls
Phoenix Suns 99-89 Dallas Mavericks

 

Pacers at 76ers

The number four (Pacers) and three (76ers) teams in the Eastern Conference match up on Friday in Philadelphia. The Pacers just got star guard Victor Oladipo back from injury while the 76ers are coming off a tough loss in overtime to the Nets.

The Los Angeles Chargers clinched a playoff spot with a thrilling 29-28 win over the Kansas City Chiefs in the NFL on Thursday.

Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes certainly brought the magic, but it was veteran play-caller Philip Rivers that brought just a little bit more.

The long-time quarterback engineered a come-from-behind victory, highlighted by a gutsy two-point conversion, to stop the streaking Kansas City and clinch the team's first playoff berth since 2013. The win was also the first time the Chargers have topped the Chiefs after nine consecutive losses.

Los Angeles had to rely on some new faces in light of injuries to key role players, Mahomes still managed to impress despite the loss and while Kansas City did not clinch the AFC West, coach Andy Reid appears poised to make a deep playoff run with his talented squad.

Injuries didn't stop the visiting Chargers 

The Chargers had to dig deep to fill their backfield. Los Angeles were missing both Melvin Gordon (hip) and his backup Austin Ekeler (head/concussion), and the team continued to be plagued with injuries throughout the game.

So, they used some new (and old) faces to complete some of their most important plays.

The Chargers failed to establish the run early, so they relied on Rivers to find his talented receivers as he tried to outmanoeuvre the Chiefs, who at one point boasted a 21-7 lead. But, their already depleted offense was further halted when Keenan Allen (hip) exited the game and never returned.

Tyrell Williams and second-year receiver Mike Williams helped with the load and Justin Jackson led the team on the ground. Veteran Antonio Gates also had a few big plays when Rivers needed him most, including a first-down grab that extended a late Los Angeles scoring drive, which brought the Chargers within one touchdown.

Mike Williams finished with three total touchdowns, including the final scoring reception that put the Chargers in position for their game-winning play. He had seven receptions for a team-leading 76 yards and two scores. He also had one carry for 19 yards and a touchdown.

Tyrell Williams had six catches for 71 yards and Jackson finished with 16 carries for 58 yards and one score. Gates ended with 54 yards on four receptions.

 

What more can we expect from Mahomes?

We have seen the jaw-dropping plays from Mahomes, and even after the no-look pass he debuted on Sunday, it was almost impossible to fathom he would have more up his sleeves. But, he did.

Mahomes continued to make the impossible possible by escaping tackles, making incredible throws and extending drives with decisions that would shame an average quarterback.

Mahomes even found a receiver who was on the opposite side of the end zone, which went for a touchdown.

Mahomes continued to impress throughout the game despite the loss. He finished 24-of-24 passing for 243 yards with two touchdowns and no picks.

 

Will Reid's destiny be fulfilled?

Reid is a great coach. He is also a coach without a championship and only a handful of coaches have made the Hall of Fame without hoisting the Vince Lombardi Trophy, including George Allen and Marv Levy. 

But, that could all change this year. Reid, who is eighth in NFL history with 194 wins, has fielded good teams with plenty of talent but this particular Chiefs team – with Mahomes under center – seems like his best chance at a Super Bowl, as it is still one of the best teams in the AFC, despite the loss.

The 20-year head coach, who is in his sixth season in Kansas City, is used to the bright lights, as he has won his respective division eight times and made it to five divisional championship games. But, can he bring it home?

The Chiefs will close out their season with a trip to Seattle to face the Seahawks in week 16 and host the lowly Raiders before the start of the postseason.

Suns owner Robert Sarver is committed to finding a solution that will keep the team in Phoenix.

In a post from the team's Twitter account, Sarver directly addressed fans about the future of the franchise after it was reported he threatened city council members that he would move the team if they did not approve a multi-year, multi-million dollar renovation project for Talking Stick Resort Arena.

"I'm a strong proponent, as evidenced by the term sheet I signed last week, that we should renovate the Talking Stick Resort Arena and once again restore it to a world-class facility," Sarver said.

"I am 100 percent all-in in keeping this team right here where we stand and I want to make sure that message comes across crystal clear to every one of you."

The city council was scheduled to vote on Wednesday on the 15-year, $230million renovation project proposed, but the vote is now postponed until January 23. There will be five scheduled public hearings to discuss the proposal before the vote.

Sarver, 57, purchased the Suns for $401m in 2004.

The Los Angeles Chargers may have just lost Keenan Allen to an injury again.

Los Angeles announced the wide receiver was questionable to return to the team's Thursday matchup with the Kansas City Chiefs as he has sustained a hip injury.

Allen left the game one play after he nearly made a spectacular touchdown catch in the end zone in the second quarter.

The 26-year-old elevated for a catch, bobbled the ball and came down with it on the recovery in the corner of the end zone, but did not truly gain possession until he had gone out of bounds. It was ruled incomplete.

Jon Gruden may not have made the final call to trade Amari Cooper from the Oakland Raiders to the Dallas Cowboys.

The Raiders sent the 24-year-old wide receiver to the Cowboys in exchange for a first-round pick in late October.

But, Cooper said it was not Oakland's coach, or former general manager Reggie McKenzie, who chose to make the deal.

Cooper told reporters that Raiders owner Mark Davis made the decision.

"They were getting calls about a first for next year and they weren't going to do it," Cooper said on Thursday, via the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. "But when [Dallas owner and general manager] Jerry Jones called about a first for this year he felt he had no choice."

Davis told reporters earlier this week that Oakland traded away Cooper because he did not work well in Gruden's offense.

"He was a great, great player. We always had the fastest guy on the field no matter what," Davis said on Wednesday. "It just didn't work out in our system. In the future, we might be saying, 'Damn'."

Cooper has caught 40 passes for 642 yards and six touchdowns in six games with the NFC East-leading Cowboys. Meanwhile, the Raiders enter week 15 with a 3-10 record.

Oakland fired McKenzie earlier this week.

Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino joked chairman Daniel Levy was "worried" and "concerned" he could leave Spurs.

Pochettino has been linked to the likes of Real Madrid and Manchester United after impressing since taking charge of Tottenham in May 2014.

The Argentinian is yet to claim a trophy at the helm, but is often mentioned for a potential move.

Pochettino jokingly suggested Levy was worried about losing him amid the talk about his future.

"Daniel does not laugh. I know it gets boring but he maybe is worried, he is concerned. It is normal. It is not nice for Daniel to hear all that history of course," he told UK newspapers.

"Do I have to reassure him? No. It is like in football when the sporting director or the club president says, 'No, the manager is going to be here and we trust in him', and next game [he is] out.

"If you reassure something it is because you are thinking different things. He is a worried man because he is jealous about me."

Spurs reached the knockout stage of the Champions League after a draw at Barcelona on Tuesday.

Sitting third in the Premier League, they host Burnley on Saturday.

Yaya Toure is not a priority signing for Premier League club West Ham, Manuel Pellegrini has claimed.

Toure was linked with a move to several Premier League clubs in the close-season, but instead opted for a return to Greek giants Olympiacos.

However, the midfielder's second spell in Athens was cut short on Tuesday, with Olympiacos agreeing to terminate his contract after Toure had made just five appearances for the club.

But although Pellegrini acknowledged he spoke to the former Manchester City star – who the Chilean managed during his time at the Etihad Stadium – at the start of the campaign, he does not believe the Hammers will be prioritising the signing of the free agent, despite Toure's quality.

"I spoke with Yaya at the beginning of the season," Pellegrini said when asked about the possibility of signing the ex-Barcelona man.

"Yaya is a great player, a top player that plays in every part of the role.

"I don't know what happened with him in Greece.

"But in this moment we are just thinking about the next game that we are going to play and I don't want to talk until the end of December about the window and which players that we need.

"At this moment, I cannot answer your question. It's not a priority as in that position we already have players."

Should Toure join, he could come in alongside Samir Nasri, another player who featured under Pellegrini at City.

"Nasri is still working with us the whole month," Pellegrini added.

"The same as I said with Yaya, we are just thinking about the games rather than changes that we are going to do in January.

"Of course he is working with us, he is doing well and we will decide in the correct moment."

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