There is a "good chance" Brooklyn Nets star Kevin Durant will leave the NBA's coronavirus protocols this week, according to head coach Steve Nash.

The 11-time All-Star entered the health and safety protocols on December 18, but he could be out and ready to face the Philadelphia 76ers on Thursday.

Kyrie Irving, who went into protocols on the same day as Durant, is further away from a return to action.

"I think there's a good chance Kevin will be [fit for Thursday]," Nash told reporters.

"With Kyrie, I'm not so sure but it's coming. He's already been in protocols since December 18; he's got to be getting close."

Brooklyn earlier stated that Irving will re-join the NBA championship-chasing franchise for road games outside of New York and Toronto.

Irving is yet to play for the Eastern Conference-leading Nets this season due to his refusal to be vaccinated against coronavirus, which has prevented him from practising or playing with the team – New York has a mandate in place that states players must have had a COVID-19 jab.

At the start of the season, the Nets announced they would not accept Irving playing on a part-time basis and thus overlooked him for selection until he is vaccinated.

But due to injuries and a COVID-19 outbreak, Brooklyn have opted to bring Irving back.

Victor Lindelof has become the latest Manchester United player to be sidelined by a case of COVID-19, forcing him out of Monday's game at Newcastle United.

The Swedish centre-back did not make the trip to St James' Park after testing positive for the coronavirus.

Interim manager Ralf Rangnick revealed the news shortly before kick-off when he named Raphael Varane to take over from Lindelof alongside captain Harry Maguire.

The situation affecting Lindelof is the latest COVID-19 blow to hit United, whose games against Brentford and Brighton and Hove Albion had to be postponed due to an outbreak in Rangnick's squad.

After closing their Carrington training base briefly, it has reopened and United were able to prepare for the trip to Newcastle in near-normal conditions.

Rangnick told Sky Sports: "We resumed for training last Tuesday and, on Thursday, we had almost the whole team apart from Paul Pogba.

"Unfortunately, Victor Lindelof tested positive yesterday so he cannot play, but the good thing is we have Raphael Varane available again and that's why he's in the starting line-up.

"I would say since last Tuesday, and even more so since last Thursday, we had two or three training sessions on a very high, good level before we had to close down Carrington, as you know, for four days because, before that, we had only eight outfield players. In the last three or four days, we had some good training sessions."

Lindelof experienced breathing difficulties in United's 1-0 win at Norwich City on December 11 and was substituted in the second half as a consequence.

Former Real Madrid defender Varane came in for his first appearance since starting the Champions League game against Atalanta on November 2, a game in which he sustained a hamstring injury.

Robert Lewandowski says he is paying no attention to speculation over his future as he eyes more glory for Bayern Munich.

The Poland striker, who has scored 30 goals in 25 appearances in all competitions this season, is contracted to the Bundesliga champions until June 2023

Appearing at the Globe Soccer Awards in Dubai on Monday, Lewandowski stated that he will not be distracted by "rumours" that he could look to leave Bayern.

"In my football life, I have always done what I have chosen," the 33-year-old said. "I can play for many more years.

"I haven't thought about the future in a few years. Maybe I can do it but now everything is going well, I'm focused on the season, on the next games, on what I want this season.

"Every year there are rumours, for me it's nothing new. I'm focused on the field, on training. It's difficult, if you hear all these voices.

"The important thing is to be happy where you are."

Lewandowski recently scored his 43rd league goal of 2021, beating the record set by the legendary Gerd Muller for most goals in the German top flight in a calendar year (42 goals in 1972).

However, the former Borussia Dortmund man was pipped to the main award in Dubai, just as he was when finishing runner-up to Lionel Messi in the voting for the Ballon d'Or last month.

The Globe Soccer men's player of the year award for 2021 instead went to Messi's Paris Saint-Germain team-mate Kylian Mbappe.

Lewandowski did win the fans' player of the year award, as well as the Maradona award for the best goalscorer.

Kylian Mbappe and Robert Lewandowski have expressed concerns about the lack of rest players will get if plans for a biennial World Cup come to fruition.

FIFA's proposal to host the tournament every two years instead of four has largely been met with scepticism.

Both Paris Saint-Germain forward Mbappe and Bayern Munich striker Lewandowski are not in favour of the change, with the former suggesting that the quality of the spectacle would suffer if the health of players is not taken into account. 

"We like to play but it's too much," Mbappe said in Dubai, where he was named men's player of the year at the Globe Soccer Awards. "If people want to see quality, we have to take a break.

"Playing the World Cup every two years would make this competition 'normal' and that shouldn't be the case. The World Cup, the Nations League... we love to play but it's too much.

"If people want to see quality, I think we have to take a break."

Lewandowski echoed the France international's sentiments, stating that the schedule is already congested even without the added burden of an increased number of World Cups.

"We have a lot of games in the year, very dense weeks," Lewandowski said at the same event. "If you want to give the fans something different, you need a break.

"We have to look into the future, if we want to play a World Cup every two years, the level will drop. It's impossible for the body and the mind to perform at the same level."

Lewis Hamilton is relaxing at the ski slopes and doing "fine" after losing out to Max Verstappen in the battle for the Formula One title, his brother Nicolas has said.

Seven-time champion Hamilton was denied a record-breaking eighth title when he was beaten in a controversial finish to the second-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on December 12.

Mercedes were furious with how race rules were applied in a safety-car situation and challenged the result, believing Hamilton was unfairly denied victory in the race and the championship when Dutchman Verstappen passed him on the last lap.

The crushing blow has led to speculation Hamilton could retire from motor racing, with the 36-year-old and his team left distraught by the outcome.

Former F1 chief Bernie Ecclestone last week cast doubt on whether Hamilton would return to the sport in 2022, when he is due to partner George Russell for Mercedes.

Since being denied another title, Hamilton has gone quiet on social media and stopped following the select few Instagram accounts that he previously watched.

But Nicolas Hamilton says his superstar brother is merely unwinding with family, saying on livestreaming service Twitch: "Lewis is fine. I think he's just having a bit of a social media break which I don't blame him for.

"Social media can be a very toxic place. But he's cool though. He's fine. Yeah, he's all right. He's watching the kids ski at the moment."

Hamilton also missed out in the F1 team principals' driver of the year vote, coming in second to champion Verstappen.

The result of a poll of team chiefs was revealed on the official F1 website on Monday, with Red Bull star Verstappen top of that particular podium too.

With principals appraising drivers based on the race system, where first place earns 25 points and 10th takes only one, Verstappen scored a total of 213 points, with Hamilton scoring 192 in second place.

Team principals' driver of the year result: 1. Max Verstappen 213, 2. Lewis Hamilton 192, 3. Lando Norris 110, 4. Carlos Sainz 85, 5. Charles Leclerc 70, 6. Fernando Alonso 69, 7. Pierre Gasly 64, 8. George Russell 44, 9. Valtteri Bottas 43, 10. Esteban Ocon 41.

Jayson Tatum has entered NBA health and safety protocols and will miss the Boston Celtics' game against the Minnesota Timberwolves on Monday.

Tatum joins eight fellow Celtics players on the list after 13 were sidelined due to COVID-19 protocols recently.

Players must wait 10 days or return two negative COVID-19 tests within 24 hours of each other before they are allowed to return to action.

Tatum contracted COVID-19 in January and was out of action for a short period before returning, when he explained he was suffering long-term effects of having the virus, requiring an inhaler for some time.

The forward leads the Celtics in scoring (25.6) and rebounds (8.6 – level with Robert Williams) per game and is also averaging 3.8 assists and 1.0 steals in a strong season for the 23-year-old.

His absence for the Timberwolves game was announced by the Celtics on their official Twitter page.

The Celtics are ninth in the Eastern Conference with a record of 16-17 and have lost six of their last nine games ahead of their clash with the Timberwolves, who are ninth themselves in the Western Conference.

Lyon were expelled from the Coupe de France on Monday, paying the price for crowd trouble that caused their last-64 tie at Paris FC to be abandoned.

Paris FC were also banished from the competition and served with a five-game stadium closure, while Lyon's supporters have been banned from travelling to all domestic away games for the rest of the season.

The December 17 tie between the sides was called off at half-time as fans clashed at the Charlety stadium. Supporters appeared to be fighting in the stands and several flares were thrown before a number of fans made their way onto the pitch.

Lyon declared they would look to identify the individuals responsible and serve them with lifetime stadium bans, and the French Football Federation (FFF) has now handed down severe punishments to both clubs. The winner of the game had been due to play Nice in the next round.

An FFF disciplinary commission met on Monday and decided both teams should be ruled to have lost the match, imposing the stadium ban and a fine of €10,000 on Paris FC.

The FFF stated that Lyon fans would be banned from attending away games until the end of the 2021-22 campaign, in "a sanction that applies to all competitions organised by the FFF and the LFP [Ligue de Football Professionnel] in which the first team is involved".

Lyon have also received a suspended ban from next year's Coupe de France, which could be imposed in the event of supporters causing trouble again. On top of that, the Ligue 1 club were fined €52,000 and ordered to meet the costs of repairing seats damaged by their supporters at Charlety.

It was the second time a recent game involving Lyon has had to be ended prematurely, with their Ligue 1 encounter at home to Marseille on November 21 also abandoned after a spectator threw a bottle that struck Dimitri Payet inside the opening five minutes. That led to Lyon being docked a point as punishment.

Lyon have been usurped by Paris Saint-Germain as France's leading team in the past decade. Beginning in 2001-02, Lyon won seven consecutive Ligue 1 titles. They finished fourth last season and sit 13th this term, in a congested mid-table.

Paris FC, a club living in PSG's shadows, are third in Ligue 2.

Ralf Rangnick says Anthony Martial's desire to leave Manchester United is "understandable".

Martial's playing time has been limited this season, with just four starts across all competitions and a further six substitute appearances totalling just 358 minutes.

Rangnick said the France international had expressed his desire to leave, and while he can see the player's point of view, he is not opposed to keeping Martial around to maintain the squad's depth.

"We spoke at length on Wednesday," Rangnick said reporters.

"He explained to me he's been at Manchester United now for the last seven years and he feels it's the right time for a change, to go somewhere else.

"I think in a way this is understandable, I could follow his thoughts but on the other hand, it's also important to see the situation of the club.

"We have Covid times, we have three competitions in which we still have high ambitions and want to be as successful as we can be."

Sevilla are reportedly among the clubs to have shown an interest in the forward, but Rangnick revealed that no formal offers have arrived for the 26-year-old.

"I told him, listen, as long as there is no club showing interest in him, and it should not only be in the interest of the player, it should also be in the interest of the club," Rangnick continued.

"So far, as far as I know, there has been no offer from any other club and as long as this is the case he will stay."

Should a move fail to materialise, Martial is likely to have to continue to bide his time on the bench, with Cristiano Ronaldo, Mason Greenwood, Jadon Sancho and Marcus Rashford all ahead of him in the pecking order.

Rangnick outlined his approach to the transfer window in which he seeks to balance the desires of an individual player with what is best for the club as a whole.

"If a player wants to leave because he feels he will not get enough game-time here with us then we can speak about that, but it's not only about what the player wants, it's also about the situation of the club," Rangnick said.

"Two things need to come together if a player wants to leave – one thing is if he wants to leave, but on the other hand, the needs of the club need to be satisfied."

Antonio Conte insisted he never doubted Harry Kane during the striker's dry spell of goals for Tottenham.

Kane, who has won the Premier League Golden Boot award on three occasions, managed just one goal in his opening 13 league games in the 2021-22 campaign, but new head coach Conte remained enthusiastic over his forward's qualities.

The England international has responded to that support by finding the net twice in his past two league games against Liverpool and Crystal Palace respectively.

Kane struck against Jurgen Klopp's side with his first home league goal since May and just his second of the season, before he again netted the opener against Palace on Sunday.

The latter strike was Kane's sixth consecutive Boxing Day appearance with a goal as he equalled Robbie Fowler's Premier League scoring record of nine goals on the day after Christmas, and Conte claimed he always knew his forward would return to form.

"When I say that we have top players and for sure Harry is one of these," Conte told reporters.

"We are talking about a top-class striker, and I wasn't worried when he didn't score. And I know in every game we created chances and to have Harry is a good thing for me and therefore for my team.

"Now I repeat, we have to continue to work and improve the link also with the strikers, with the wing-backs, with the midfielders.

"We need to improve the confidence and to take more and more personality, to play football and to control the game more. 

"Sometimes we lose the control and I think a great team, a big team has to stay in every moment, into the game to understand what is happening."

Spurs have been reinvigorated under Conte, who became just the third Tottenham manager to remain unbeaten in his first six league games in charge after Jacques Santini in 2004-05 and Tim Sherwood in 2013-14.

The former Inter head coach afforded Kane 25 minutes of rest in a dominant 3-0 win over 10-man Palace, but hinted at potentially rotating his other players ahead of Tuesday's trip to Southampton.

"It is not easy for us, for every team to play after 48 hours is not simple," he added.

"When you have this type of situation if you have a strong squad it's easier, because you can make rotation and try to give rest and have a fresher team. We will see tomorrow [Tuesday] because I want to understand the real physical condition of my squad.

"It's normal when you change many players that it's not simple. You can have a fresh team on one hand but on the other you can lose a bit of identity.

"We will try and make the best decision but it won't be easy."

The Premier League has revealed new cases of COVID-19 at its clubs have topped 100 for the first time in a seven-day period.

League chiefs said there were 103 freshly discovered cases in the week from Monday December 20 to Sunday December 26.

That follows the announcement of 90 new positive cases for the previous week, which was more than double the previous high.

It comes as more games fall by the wayside due to clubs being overwhelmed by new cases. Together with mid-season injury tolls, the cases have left several teams unable to field sides.

Three of nine games scheduled for Boxing Day could not be played.

Those were the games between Liverpool and Leeds United, Wolves and Watford, and Burnley and Everton.

Games scheduled for Tuesday between Aston Villa and Leeds, and Arsenal and Wolves, have also been postponed.

In a statement issued on Monday, the Premier League said: "The league can today confirm that between Monday 20 December and Sunday 26 December, 15,186 COVID-19 tests were administered on players and club staff. Of these, there were 103 new positive cases."

Testing efforts have been stepped up dramatically since the omicron variant of the virus began to take hold in England. In the week from December 6-12, there were 3,805 tests carried out, which jumped to 12,345 a week later and has again risen as clubs and league officials attempt to contain the virus and enable games to be played.

Supporters are also facing checks before entering stadiums, being instructed to prove they are free from the coronavirus before being allowed into grounds.

Last week, it was disclosed that 16 per cent of players in the Premier League had not yet had a first vaccination during the pandemic.

Jurgen Klopp has echoed recent calls from Ralf Rangnick and Thomas Tuchel for the Premier League to allow five substitutions to be made in games but does not think it will happen any time soon.

The Premier League introduced the five substitutes rule when football resumed in June 2020 following the enforced break due to the coronavirus pandemci, but the competition reverted back to the usual three permitted alterations ahead of the 2020-21 campaign.

Other major European leagues including Serie A, LaLiga, Ligue 1 and the Bundesliga still allow five substitutions, as does the Champions League and the EFL Cup.

Premier League clubs voted on the matter last December, with the majority deciding to keep the rule the same, but allowing for nine instead of seven players to be named on the bench.

Tuchel voiced his frustration after his team's win 3-1 at Aston Villa on Sunday after he was forced to make all three substitutions by the 63rd minute due to injuries to Thiago Silva and N'Golo Kante, having already taken Trevor Chalobah off at half-time, saying: "We are the only league that play in winter, which I love, but we're not protecting the players.

"All other leagues have five changes. Then we compete against them in the Champions League. It's a bit frustrating. It will not stop."

Speaking at his pre-match news conference ahead of Liverpool's trip to Leicester City, Reds boss Klopp was also asked for his thoughts on the issue and agreed with his fellow former Borussia Dortmund coach.

"The problem is this intensity for top class football in England is definitely at the edge," he told reporters.

"In the league we have 38 games. Two cup competitions, even if we do not go to the final, let's [estimate] another five, it's 43. Pretty much all of them play for their national teams, nine, 10 games a year? Plus, Champions League games, so you come pretty quick to more than 50 games, or higher.

"My first season here we played the [Europa League] final, I think it was the 64th game.

"The decision about [five subs] is made, and we realised again in the manager's meeting, the decision is made by 14 clubs. I think you need 14 votes to change it, and there's something wrong.

"For example, Burnley, I'm not sure how many of their players play international football, when our players have three games, they have no game. They play 38 Premier League games, cup games another two, three, four? That makes it 42.

"We talk about an issue that some [clubs and players] definitely have, but it's decided by other teams and because we make a competition of it, it is like 'no, they are better than us', and that's a real problem because [five subs] is the right decision because you bring players back after a COVID infection or after an injury and because of the games you have to play, they have to play immediately and then they go out again.

"You cannot take them off after 60 minutes because you have to change others, so that's a real problem.

"This wonderful game is so wonderful because usually the players on the pitch are in good shape, are well trained, have well recovered and go for it, and that's why we love the game.

"The best league in the world and the most intense league in the world is the only league in Europe, and maybe in the world I don't know, with still three subs, and that's not right."

Klopp believes the issue should be revisited, but was not optimistic that things would change any time soon, adding: "We still have to talk about it, we should change it but it's for the Premier League.

"[Chief Executive] Richard Masters said he would like to make this decision by himself but he can't because you need a vote, and this vote is other clubs with other problems, different problems, say 'no, we don't want to have five subs', and so I don't see a real chance to change it to be honest."

Manchester United interim manager Ralf Rangnick shared his thoughts on the matter last Thursday, telling reporters: "The five subs were implemented when COVID started, and I think it was the right decision to do that to save energy for players, especially if they have just recovered from COVID.

"The same is true right now – we are in a similar situation to the one we had one-and-a-half years ago, therefore I don't see why it shouldn't be as it was one-and-a-half years ago. As far as I know, in Europe, England is the only country where they only allow three subs."

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp confirmed Fabinho, Virgil van Dijk, Thiago and Curtis Jones are all out of their coronavirus-enforced isolation ahead of the trip to Leicester City.

The Reds called upon Thiago but were without the other three for the 3-1 victory over Newcastle on December 16 after the club announced the trio were isolating following suspected positive COVID-19 tests.

Thiago then returned a positive test before Liverpool's 2-2 draw at Tottenham three days later, with all four also missing the Reds' victory on penalties against Leicester in the Carabao Cup, prior to the postponement of their Boxing Day clash with Leeds United due to a coronavirus outbreak in Marcelo Biela's camp.

"The boys who had to isolate are back - Fab, Virg, Curtis and Thiago," Klopp told reporters as he provided an update at Monday's pre-match news conference. "Thiago trained yesterday with the team.

"We have one young player who is isolating and two staff members. We don't know which variant our guys get. We've seen our cases over the past two years. When you are vaccinated and boosted, you don't get symptoms."

Klopp added that his side were capable of facing Leeds on Sunday, though he understands the fixture had to be called off due to coronavirus issues coinciding with injury problems within Bielsa's squad.

However, the former Borussia Dortmund head coach again vented his scheduling concerns amid a chaotic festive period.

He continued: "The situation should not be like this. I say it every year. Playing on 26th [December] and 28th is not right. I say it because it's true. I think we can find solutions, it's not difficult. It would help players, even with no Covid.

"Is it the toughest [season]? I don't know. This time of year is always tough. I can say that. It's not a problem, it's what we're used to. We prepare for a long season and part of that is December/January."

The Reds boss expects another tough task against Leicester after the Foxes were outscored in a 6-3 thriller against leaders Manchester City, who Liverpool sit six points behind with a game in hand.

"Leicester are not in a good situation," Klopp said of Tuesday's opponents. "They have injuries. We went out for training when it was 4-0 [to City] and then I was told it was 4-3.

"Wow! They were obviously close. They are a good team and what Brendan [Rodgers] is doing is exceptional."

History favours Liverpool heading into their final clash of 2021, given the Reds have not lost their final league game in any of the last seven calendar years and have won three of their last four away top-flight games at the King Power Stadium.

Rodgers is likely to be without Timothy Castagne and Jonny Evans as the Foxes' defensive issues persist, having already conceded 63 goals in 39 Premier League games this year.

Liverpool have also been boosted by the news of a delayed departure for Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah and Naby Keita, making them available for the visits to both Leicester on Tuesday and Chelsea on Sunday.

Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson says Tyler Morton "hasn't looked fazed" in his displays for the first team and believes the teenager "has a big future ahead of him".

Reds boss Jurgen Klopp has handed Morton five starts across all competitions so far this season, as well as a further two substitute appearances for a combined total of 426 first-team minutes.

The 19-year-old played the full 90 minutes in Liverpool's Champions League victories over Porto and Milan, as well as the EFL Cup fourth-round win over Preston North End, and was handed his first Premier League start in the recent 2-2 draw at Tottenham.

And Henderson has been impressed with his fellow midfielder's performances and development since the start of the season, tipping Morton to go on to big things.

"Tyler has been brilliant over the last few months, I really think he has improved," Henderson said to Liverpool's official website.

"He has obviously learned and listened to a lot of the lads around him in training and being around the lads, in the dressing room and in training, it will certainly help him.

"And I think that has helped him going into games, I think he has looked comfortable and he hasn't looked fazed at all and he has done really well.

"So hopefully he can just carry on doing that. He is a great lad as well, he has worked extremely hard and I'm sure he'll have a big future ahead of him."

Liverpool currently sit six points behind Premier League leaders Manchester City with a game in hand, and travel to the King Power Stadium to play Leicester City on Tuesday.

Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow made franchise history after completing 37 of 46 passes for 525 yards in the 41-21 victory against the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday.

It was a new Bengals record for passing yards in a single game and included four touchdowns with no interceptions as the Bengals claimed a big AFC North win to improve to 9-6 ahead of the 8-7 Ravens on a four-game skid.

The second year QB's effort was the fourth most passing yards in a game in NFL history, and he also became the fourth player in NFL history to have 500 pass yards, four pass touchdowns and zero interceptions in a game, joining Derek Carr, Ben Roethlisberger and Y.A. Tittle.

Burrow broke the record previously held by Boomer Esiason, who threw for 490 yards in an overtime game against the Los Angeles Rams in October 1990.

After the game, the 25-year-old claimed that he was not thinking about the finer details of his own statistics and was just focused on doing what it took to win the game.

"You know, I really don't think about the yards too much," said Burrow after his history-making performance. "Whatever it takes to win the game. Today, it took throwing for 525 yards."

He also admitted that the record-breaking throw to Joe Mixom for 52-yards went against the wishes of coach Zac Taylor, who had told Burrow not to scramble. He fled the pocket and threw deep to running back Mixon, who caught it for a significant gain inside the final two minutes of the fourth quarter.

"I knew I wasn't supposed to do it, but we went out there and did it anyway," Burrow added.

Wide receiver Tee Higgins also excelled against the Ravens (12 receptions for 194 yards and two touchdowns), and credited Burrow for his own showing, saying post-game: "When he's on fire like that, all your job is to do is get open and he's going to find you."

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