Thomas Tuchel insisted there was nothing personal about his decision to bench Thomas Muller for both legs of Bayern Munich's Champions League quarter-final against Manchester City.

The 33-year-old was omitted from the starting line-up in Manchester and Munich, and Bayern slipped to a 4-1 aggregate defeat to slide out at the last-eight stage for a third consecutive season.

Muller is the most decorated player in Bayern's history, winning 11 Bundesliga titles and two Champions League crowns during his stellar career with the Bavarians.

He has a chance of another domestic league title this season, but that is all Bayern have left to challenge for after their European exit and defeat to Freiburg in the DFB-Pokal quarters.

It would be a calamity if recently appointed Tuchel fell out with club legend Muller, but the coach denies there is any problem between the pair. Indeed, he said he was "extremely impressed" with how Muller accepted his team selections.

"I am a big Thomas Muller fan myself. He has a world-class indefinability," Tuchel said in Friday's pre-match press conference.

"The Manchester games haven't suited him perfectly. Otherwise, he probably would have played. Many games are Muller games.

"Everything is OK at the moment. I was pleased with his reaction on the training ground yesterday. I was extremely impressed. He handled it in an exemplary manner. He just stepped on the gas and pulled the team along.

"But I have to make my decisions, sometimes they are hard. There is no personal note in it. Everyone has to accept it in a competitive situation."

Muller, who made brief substitute appearances in both City games, is likely to start on Saturday when Tuchel goes up against Mainz, one of the Bayern coach's former clubs.

Tuchel has called on Bayern to show more swagger in their remaining games, saying the team have lacked "a dash of determination and a dash of egoism".

"It's important how the team handles the situation. A lot has happened this season," said Tuchel. "The team has experienced a lot."

Bayern lead the Bundesliga by two points from Borussia Dortmund with six rounds of games remaining, and Tuchel stressed the domestic league must not be seen as a consolation prize for a team who craved European glory.

"I experienced it myself in Paris [when coaching Paris Saint-Germain], how sad it is that the championship is taken for granted," Tuchel said.

"It must not be taken for granted. Sure, we won't be celebrated as if an underdog became champion. We will not artificially downplay our claim to become champions.

"A championship is less prone to failure because you have time over a longer period of time. We fight for the title. We shouldn't be ashamed of that."

Jurgen Klopp told Liverpool's forwards counter-pressing will always be the "ticket" into his starting lineup, as Roberto Firmino was ruled out of Saturday's game against Nottingham Forest.

Liverpool ended a five-match winless run by thrashing Leeds United 6-1 last time out, with attacking quartet Cody Gakpo, Mohamed Salah, Diogo Jota and Darwin Nunez all on target.

Liverpool are looking to move within six points of the Premier League's top four when they host Forest, before Champions League contenders Newcastle United and Tottenham face off on Sunday.

The Reds will be without Firmino for their next game after he sustained a muscle injury, which could also force him to sit out meetings with West Ham and Tottenham next week.

"Unfortunately Bobby picked up a muscle issue, we'll see how long that takes," Klopp said.

"It's not too serious, but he's definitely out for tomorrow and next week we have two more games. I'd say those are impossible as well, we will see. We have to take it day by day."

With Luis Diaz's return from injury adding to Liverpool's options in attack, Klopp was asked how he selects a three-man frontline from the six elite forwards in his squad.

"The ticket into this team will definitely be counter-pressing," he said. "That's where everything started, I wouldn't say that we lost it a little bit… but we had so many games where I didn't like that.

"That's a pretty strict thing. All five available right now – six with Bobby – can do it pretty well. But if you do it in the games you play, you have the chance to start again.

"Everybody's super important and everyone will play, but again, the ticket will be the desire to win the ball back as soon as we lose it, because we had so many times where that made a difference."

The fierce competition for places in Liverpool's attack has seen Nunez start their last two games on the bench, and Klopp says the Uruguayan is still adapting amid a difficult debut season.

"Darwin is a player with a different skillset to all our other players. He's a real handful and he already scored a decent number of goals," Klopp said.

"Of course, he's still adapting, his English is still not great if it exists at all – we are working on that. 

"It's not helpful to go through a difficult debut season for the whole team. How can a striker shine when the whole team is struggling? 

"It's no problem at all, this is a long-term project. I understand that he wants to play from the beginning, but we have to find a way of playing that works for us, then fit in the players." 

Nick Nurse has been evicted from the Toronto Raptors hot seat, four years on from leading the franchise to their first NBA championship.

According to reports on Friday, coach Nurse has left the team in the wake of their failure to reach the playoffs.

The Athletic and ESPN reported Nurse was fired, nine days on from the Raptors losing 109-105 to the Chicago Bulls in their play-in game.

Nurse, whose Raptors finished the regular season with a 41-41 record for ninth place in the Eastern Conference, has been touted as a candidate to take charge of the Houston Rockets.

At the end of Toronto's campaign, Nurse said: "I love it here. We've built a really strong culture here. We've all got to evaluate where we can get back to being a playoff team... and then getting to a level of winning it all."

That will not be Nurse's task, with the team now needing new leadership.

Nurse had five years as assistant coach with Toronto before being promoted in 2018 to succeed Dwane Casey as head coach, achieving immediate success as his first season climaxed with victory over the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals.

Following the April 12 loss to the Bulls, Nurse reflected on Toronto's 2022-23 season and said: "It was tough. I think we had some up and downs. I thought we came out of the gates playing pretty well. Then we had to weather some injuries and we did that, and once we got everybody back, that got us out of rhythm and took a couple of tough losses.

"I've told the guys several times in the last two weeks, I'm proud of them for getting back to .500 when they were six or seven games below .500, because we did coach them hard and work them hard to rebuilding some of the foundational stuff."

England captain Leah Williamson will miss the World Cup after it was confirmed she has ruptured her anterior cruciate ligament.

Williamson suffered the injury during Arsenal's 1-0 defeat to Manchester United in the Women's Super League on Wednesday after catching her studs in the turf at Leigh Sports Village.

With the World Cup starting on July 20, Lionesses head coach Sarina Wiegman will need to consider her other options at centre-back without Williamson, who helped lead her country to European Championships glory on home soil last year.

A statement from Arsenal on Friday confirmed the diagnosis, saying: "We can confirm that Leah Williamson suffered a ruptured anterior cruciate ligament in our Barclays Women's Super League match against Manchester United on Wednesday night.

"Leah was substituted in the first half of the game at Leigh Sports Village and underwent further assessment on Thursday to determine the extent of the injury.

"Leah will now begin a period of rehabilitation and is set for an extended spell on the sidelines. She will undergo surgery in due course.

"Everyone at Arsenal will be supporting Leah closely throughout the journey ahead and we would ask that her privacy is respected at this time."

It is the same injury sustained by Williamson's club and country team-mate Beth Mead in November, with Mead in a race against time to make it back in time for the World Cup in Australia and New Zealand.

Reacting at a press conference, boss of Arsenal's WSL title rivals Manchester City, Gareth Taylor, said: "It's obviously not good for Leah or for Arsenal or for England as well."

Taylor backed Williamson to come back strongly, saying: "She's young, she's capable enough of recovering," and pointed out the injury was "very similar to what happened with Chloe [Kelly] two seasons ago", with the striker able to return to action and hit England's winner in the European Championship final against Germany last July.

Jurgen Klopp has no interest in looking beyond Saturday's Premier League game against Nottingham Forest, knowing Liverpool must realistically win every match to have a hope of qualifying for the Champions League.

The Reds are nine points behind fourth-placed Newcastle United with only eight games to play.

Although they have a favourable schedule, time is running out for a team who have been wildly inconsistent.

Klopp acknowledged that inconsistency on Friday as he described Liverpool's "average season" that has included "a couple of the highest results in this club's history".

Ahead of the first of five remaining home matches, Klopp's full focus was on Forest.

"When you are in a super moment in a season, the only game you have to worry about is the next one," he said. "If you are not in a super moment, you also only have to worry about the next one.

"I could not care less about where we are playing after tomorrow, to be honest. 

"Whatever we can do this season, the only thing that gives us any chance is to win our games. All our focus is on Nottingham."

Forest are on a 10-match winless run but won the reverse fixture, even if Steve Cooper recognises this is a very different task.

"Playing Liverpool at Anfield is different and we know everything that comes with that, but the moment we stop believing we can win games that's when it becomes really difficult," Cooper said.

"It's a big challenge but a great challenge as well and one we're really tackling."


Liverpool – Trent Alexander-Arnold

Alexander-Arnold is thriving in a new hybrid midfield role, tallying three assists across his past two games, including the 50th of his Premier League career against Leeds United on Monday. He is the third-youngest player to hit that mark and is coming back into form at a key stage of the season.

Nottingham Forest – Taiwo Awoniyi

Awoniyi returned to the line-up against Manchester United last time out, making just his 10th start of the league season three months on from his ninth. He has been restricted to just four goals, but three of those have come in 1-0 wins, including against Liverpool. Now would be a good time to come up with another.



Both the form book and the history books are quite clear on this one. Liverpool have lost only one of their past 37 home league games, while they are unbeaten in 23 home league games against Forest.

That last Forest league win at Anfield was back in 1969, and to end that barren run would mean becoming only the third promoted team to do the double over Liverpool in the Premier League era.

Including in the reverse match at the City Ground, Forest have only won this season when keeping a clean sheet, yet they have now conceded in 10 consecutive games, hence their winless run.


Liverpool – 76.7 per cent

Forest – 7.1 per cent

Draw – 16.2 per cent

Trent Alexander-Arnold's ability to step into midfield was never in doubt, says Jurgen Klopp, but the Liverpool boss has warned his new hybrid role cannot solve all the Reds' problems.

Alexander-Arnold produced an impressive display in Monday's 6-1 rout of Leeds United at Elland Road, drifting infield from his right-back position to register two assists.

By teeing up goals for Cody Gakpo and Darwin Nunez, Alexander-Arnold reached 50 Premier League assists – only Kevin De Bruyne (84), Andrew Robertson (53) and Mohamed Salah (53) have managed more in the competition since his December 2016 debut.

Alexander-Arnold's position has been the subject of much debate this term, with his defensive shortcomings being criticised amid a poor campaign for Liverpool.  

Asked whether Alexander-Arnold would remain in his new role for the long term, Klopp said: "We will see that. 

"In all the positions he played for us, Trent has always been a super important player. This slightly advanced role, at the moment, suits him really well. It's good.

"It's a challenge for everybody else to cover the spaces when we lose the ball, theoretically, but with him there we didn't lose many balls [against Leeds], which was helpful. 

"It's not written in stone or whatever. He can play in different ways, and how he played in the last two games was really, really good. That's true."


Having only registered two assists in his first 27 Premier League appearances this season, Alexander-Arnold has three in his last two ahead of Saturday's meeting with Nottingham Forest at Anfield.

Liverpool approach that game nine points adrift of the Premier League's top four, and while Klopp has been delighted with Alexander-Arnold's impact in his new role, he knows the 24-year-old cannot solve all the team's problems.

"It's not the first time we played it like that. It's slightly different, but not as different," Klopp continued. "Trent's a smart player, but it's more about how we set up around Trent. 

"Whether he could play the position was never in doubt, but you have to set up around him, because there are moments when we lose the ball and have a different formation.

"How do we get him on the ball? Obviously that's important. Maybe we'll do it like this tomorrow – we will see – but maybe Trent shows up there and gets a man-marker.

"It's not the solution to all the problems we had this year. He has the potential to play that position, that was always clear. We will see where it leads to."

Pep Guardiola will not entertain talk of a Manchester City treble until after they have won both the Premier League and the FA Cup, having been bemused by the suggestion they are "just 11 games" away.

City are through the semi-finals of both the FA Cup, playing Sheffield United on Saturday, and the Champions League, having eliminated Bayern Munich in the last eight this week.

As the league champions close on Arsenal at the top of the table, too, there is the potential for City to emulate rivals Manchester United's feat of 1999.

But Guardiola's side face a gruelling schedule, with the manager already complaining of fatigue following the Bayern game even before reaching a two-legged semi against Real Madrid.

For that reason, he sought to shut down the topic of the treble ahead of travelling to Wembley this weekend.

"I'm so happy you spent 10 questions before the first question about the treble," Guardiola said eight minutes into Friday's media briefing. "It was so nice.

"We will start to talk about the treble when we've won the Premier League and after we've won the FA Cup, before the final of the Champions League.

"Look how far away it is to start to talk about that."

The reporter asking the question replied: "But it's just 11 games, it's not long."

To that, a smirking Guardiola countered: "Oh, 'just', yes, 'just' 11 games. We are far away.

"I've said many times: how many times in this amazing country are trebles done? How many years? How many times? It's one. Our neighbours did it [once] in how many centuries?"

Asked if he was excited, Guardiola responded: "About the treble? Not at all."

City play Arsenal next in the Premier League on Wednesday, but their manager insisted he would not pick his team for Saturday with that game in mind.

Instead, he would be reflecting on the energy that was used in Munich, where Nathan Ake succumbed to an injury that will keep him out of this tie.

Even then, Guardiola is wary of a repeat of previous seasons, having exited the FA Cup at the semi-final stage in three straight years. In the past two, those defeats followed immediately after coming through a Champions League quarter-final.

"For Arsenal, we have four days; we have one more day than we have now," he said. "I would have loved to have played on Sunday, but I understand. United played yesterday, so that's why they have to play on Sunday.

"In the past, when I rotated the team, it was not because the next game was the FA Cup semi-final; it was just for the fatigue we had, with Atletico Madrid last season or Dortmund two seasons ago.

"It was away, after a demanding, demanding game, and that was the reason why. I have to evaluate with my backroom staff who is the best."

James Allison has returned to the role of technical director in a Mercedes leadership reshuffle.

Allison replaces Mike Elliott, who will remain with the Formula One team as chief technical officer.

Elliott had taken over as technical director in 2021, when Alisson switched to become chief technical offer combined with other work such as being part of the INEOS Britannia America's Cup team.

With Red Bull having replaced Mercedes as the dominant force in F1 following regulation changes, the Silver Arrows are striving to turn their fortunes around as they sit third in the early-season constructor standings.

An off-track change was confirmed by the team on Friday, with Alisson and Eliott switching jobs once again.

"Mike has led a review of our technical organisation to ensure we have the right structure to deliver sustainable success in the future," said a Mercedes spokesperson.

"We are focused on building the best racing car – and building the best team to develop that car, with everybody playing to their greatest strengths in the organisation."

Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff told Autosport: "This was very much driven by Mike Elliott owning the process. So, we have reversed the roles.

"Mike has moved up to CTO, as he has a brilliant switched-on scientific mind. And James Allison has returned to his technical director position, reporting into Mike.

"What Mike's assessment was, and the introspection is really admirable, is that with James we have a gladiator on the field and the troops are going to go through the fire for him and with him.

"Mike came to the conclusion that the way he approaches things, his skill set, is best utilised in developing the organisation going forward: from technical capabilities to human capabilities and putting together the structure that can be successful for many years to come."

Carlo Ancelotti accused football's authorities of punishing players by packing the calendar with too many games as the Real Madrid boss faces a hectic finish to the season.

Victims of their own success, Madrid have a Copa del Rey final against Osasuna coming up in May, plus two legs of a Champions League semi-final against Manchester City, while also vying to finish as high as possible in LaLiga.

They will play on every weekend and in every midweek through to the start of June, which leaves Ancelotti with a tough task to keep his players fit and healthy.

He is eager not to suggest any weakness in his ranks, stressing Madrid would be able to recover between games, but it is far from a satisfactory situation for the veteran Italian coach.

He said: "The schedule doesn't make sense. It's too tight, with too many games. You have to evaluate a little the health of the players, who are the most important part of football.

"Here everyone thinks about themselves: LaLiga, the federation, UEFA, FIFA. The players don't count for anything for them and this is not correct. Something has to be changed, there are too many games.

"I have also heard that we have given too many days off. I looked at the calendar and I told myself I was wrong but no. In four months, since December 30, we have had eight days off, not taking into account the national team break. There have been only eight."

The former Milan and Chelsea boss added: "Right now, the rotation depends only on giving rest to the players that I see as the most tired, and to have more players in good physical condition.

"I have to give minutes to keep the players physically fit in the final stretch of the season."

He spoke of the need to carefully manage the likes of veteran captain Karim Benzema, who was substituted late in the game as Madrid completed their European quarter-final win at Chelsea on Tuesday.

"I took him off in London because when I think the game is over I want to preserve the players and give them a bit more rest," Ancelotti said.

The coach said Benzema is now "fine" and in contention to start the LaLiga home clash with Celta Vigo on Saturday.

On the horizon are the clashes with Pep Guardiola's City, a repeat of last season's Champions League semi-final that Madrid won with an extraordinary late comeback in the second leg.

Ancelotti took pride from hearing former Barcelona boss Guardiola say Madrid remain the team to beat in the competition.

"Yes, Madrid are highly respected and that's a good thing," Ancelotti said. "And that a coach like Guardiola says it, it's even better."

He expects a tremendous battle against a City side who last season typically played with a 'false nine' striker but now have the most predatory goal-getter in Europe in Erling Haaland.

"We are teams that can play differently," Ancelotti said. "I don't think they have completely changed their style, just that they have such a strong striker that the way of attacking changes a bit compared to last year. City can play a transition or possession game without problems."

As for whether City are favourites this time, Ancelotti added: "I don't know. It is not a subject that is in my head. We have to know that we are very close to a final, that they are a very strong rival in a very even tie. Let's see what happens."

Madrid trail leaders Barcelona by 11 points in LaLiga, so their hopes of a successful title defence look bleak at this stage.

City rivals Atletico Madrid could help out Los Blancos by winning at Camp Nou on Sunday; however, third-placed Atletico are just two points behind Madrid, so what may appear to be a favour, should a surprise result occur, could also spell trouble for Ancelotti.

"They are going to fight until the last moment for second place, which is important," Ancelotti said of Atletico. "They are on an important run and playing very well."

Madrid will not take Celta lightly, particularly with the likes of Spain striker Iago Aspas and much-coveted midfielder Gabri Veiga in their ranks.

"Yes I like him," Ancelotti said, when asked about Veiga. "They have quality players, like Iago Aspas, who are doing very well."

Fernando Tatis Jr. was grateful to be on the field as helped the San Diego Padres to victory in his first game back after being banned for a drugs violation.

Tatis was hit with an 80-game suspension in August 2022 after testing positive for Clostebol, a performance-enhancing substance.

The star shortstop claimed he had taken a medicine containing Clostebol to treat ringworm, subsequently apologising for letting his team-mates down with the positive test.

Having undergone surgery on a wrist injury earlier in the year, Tatis sat out the entirety of the 2022 MLB season, which saw the Padres beaten by the Philadelphia Phillies in the National League Championship Series.

Tatis went 0-for-5 when making his first MLB appearance since October 2021 against the Arizona Diamondbacks on Thursday, though he did make a highlight-reel catch as the Padres clinched a 7-5 win.

Speaking after his return, Tatis said: "It felt amazing, just to be back out there with my boys in the jungle. [I'm] just happy. Happy to get that 'W' and just to be back out there.

"Being away for a period of time – it gave me time to realise how really blessed I am to be able to play this game at the level that I play it.

"All the kids that are watching, the vibes they give me, that love they give me, it just feeds me every single time.

"There were more Padres fans here than Arizona fans. It's amazing how they show up. They were loud. I felt like we were at home."

Tatis received a predictably mixed reception when entering the batter's box for the first time, and he expects more of the same at opposing ballparks, given the nature of his ban.

"That's going to come," Tatis said. "Everybody has freedom of expression in this country, and there's nothing I can do about it. I'm just going to keep playing this game and enjoy every part of it."

Thomas Tuchel slammed speculation about the Bayern Munich future of Oliver Kahn and Hasan Salihamidzic by stating the off-field leaders "shaped the club".

This has been a tough week for Bayern, with Champions League elimination coming at the quarter-final stage for a third successive season after a 1-1 draw with Manchester City meant a 4-1 aggregate defeat.

Tuchel allowed himself a joke in Friday's pre-match conference, ahead of the clash with Mainz, when he reacted to the arrival of set-piece mastermind Anthony Barry from Chelsea by saying: "Finally there is a good coach."

Most focus has fallen on the possibility of departures, however, with reports casting some doubt on whether Bayern will continue to back CEO Kahn and sporting director Salihamidzic.

"I read absolutely nothing," said head coach Tuchel. "I come here in the morning and I feel a good energy here. I try to influence what I can influence.

"I don't want to comment on the rumours. My cooperation with the club management is goal- and solution-oriented. Oliver Kahn and Hasan Salihamidzic shaped the club."

He added: "I don't rule out that some unrest affects the players. But it will never be completely calm. We focus on the things that we can influence ourselves. I don't know any other way."

Tuchel's team must reset and train their focus on the Bundesliga, their last remaining trophy target. Bayern head into this weekend's games with a two-point lead over second-placed Borussia Dortmund after both drew their last league matches.

According to Tuchel, Bayern are not themselves at the moment. "I rather sense an insecurity, an unrest that paralyses us a bit," he said.

He said the team should look to "turn dissatisfaction into energy", and Tuchel, appointed on March 25, has seen plenty of cause for dissatisfaction.

Bayern exited the DFB-Pokal to Freiburg under his watch in early April and have not gone beyond the quarter-finals of that competition in the last three seasons.

But Tuchel said: "This is not a crisis. We must not question everything. There is always a sense of reality involved. Many big clubs didn't make it to the [Champions League] quarter-finals. But we remain ambitious and we always want more. We're still first in the Bundesliga."

The arrival of coach Barry is a timely boost, with a deal agreed to take him from Chelsea, where he and Tuchel previously collaborated.

"He just arrived," Tuchel said. "Finally there is a good coach. I am very happy. We really wanted to have him with us. The whole package is right for him: his personality, the love of the game, the love of his job, his passion and his quality. He brings a lot of energy. His work with set-pieces at Chelsea was on a whole new level for me."

Anthony Joshua says there "might be some truth" in reports that he could fight Deontay Wilder on a blockbuster night of heavyweight boxing in Saudi Arabia.

There has been talk that Joshua and Wilder could do battle on the same card as a unification bout between world champions Tyson Fury and Oleksandr Usyk in December.

American Wilder has vowed to produce the first knockout in Saudi Arabia if he steps into the ring with Joshua.

Briton Joshua, who beat Jermaine Franklin this month following back-to-back defeats to Usyk, has suggested he could do battle with Wilder at the end of the year.

"Have you ever heard of anything like that before? Two heavyweight clashes on the same night," former world champion Joshua told Sky Sports News.

"The rumours that are circulating, there might be some truth behind it."

Joshua hopes he has two more fights to come in 2023 as he builds towards trying to become a world champion for a third time.

He added: "I'm preparing for that big fight, when it comes. I'm just taking it one fight at a time and building, so that by the time I get to that finish line, I've got something in the tank. That's how I'm getting on with this year.

"I've had my first fight; I've spoken to my coach, hopefully I can fight in July or August – keep that momentum – and then by December, there's rumours going around that I'm going to be in a big showdown – and I can't wait."

Iga Swiatek believes it is "pretty confusing" to see the International Olympic Committee backing sports stars from Russia and Belarus to return to top-level sport while the invasion of Ukraine continues.

Since Russia launched its assault in February 2022, supported by Belarus, many sports have banned athletes from the two countries outright, while tennis has been among those that has largely allowed them to compete but under a neutral flag.

Swiatek, the women's tennis world number one, hails from Poland and has been a vociferous critic of the war and a fervent supporter of Ukraine.

Interim recommendations were issued by the IOC last month to international federations and organisers of events regarding the involvement of Russians and Belarusians.

The Olympic body urged federations to exclude any athletes or support personnel "who actively support the war" and said teams from either country should not be allowed to compete in international sport for now.

However, in a statement, the IOC said it should be "the sole responsibility" of sporting bodies to decide whether individuals can compete, and this should be "based on their sporting merits and not on political grounds or because of their passports".

There is a clear possibility of Russian and Belarusian athletes being allowed to compete as neutrals at the Paris 2024 Olympics, although IOC president Thomas Bach stressed there has been no decision taken on that matter.

Swiatek was asked about the IOC stance after her opening match at the Stuttgart Open, and the 21-year-old said: "Human rights are important, but I always feel like there are values that you have to kind of treat respectfully, and war is not something that we want in the world. I was pretty open about that since the beginning.

"Right now the situation is pretty complicated, because at the beginning of the war there weren't many decisions one way. At first they were kind of banned in other sports, not in tennis.

"Then it changed a little bit, and they are starting to be allowed, the Russian and Belarusian players, which is pretty confusing, because I feel like nothing changed in Ukraine and the cities are still under attack and many Ukrainian athletes are fighting in the war and actually losing their lives.

"It's heartbreaking. I just hope, no matter what the decision is going to be, the sport will be able to kind of put people together and not separate them.

"But there are tensions, so it may be tricky and hard to do. As just one athlete, I don't have full influence on what's going on, so we kind of have to just compete our best no matter what the circumstances are."

Russell Westbrook believes the Los Angeles Clippers were missing "the best in the world" as Kawhi Leonard sat out a Game 3 defeat to the Phoenix Suns.

Devin Booker scored 45 points as the Suns beat the Clippers 129-124 on Thursday to take a 2-1 lead, and only the Phoenix star is scoring more points so far in the postseason (36.3 per game) than Leonard (34.5).

But Leonard was not on the floor, watching instead from the sideline due to a knee injury.

The setback was only reported hours before the game in Los Angeles, although it was quickly clarified it was not related to the ACL injury that saw him miss the whole of last season.

Leonard could be back for Game 4, but his absence was a blow – especially as the Clippers came so close to beating the Suns even without him.

"I just feel sorry for him," team-mate Westbrook said. "He probably was playing his best basketball in a while, probably the best in the world, honestly. It just sucks just for him mentally.

"But it was good to see him be around and communicate with us on the bench. Hopefully we can see how he's feeling and see what's next.

"If he's not back, we have to rally around each other, support each other, find ways to make something happen. It's a series. First to four. Get ready for Saturday afternoon."

Coach Ty Lue added of the injury: "It's very deflating. I think more so for Kawhi.

"You have a guy who's coming off ACL, hasn't missed a rehab session, eats right, eats clean, does everything he can for his body, works extremely hard to get to this point. Then you have something like this happen.

"So, it's tough for him, for all the work that he puts in. I feel bad for him."

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