Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen will renew their thrilling Formula One world title battle at the Turkish Grand Prix this week.

The Mercedes driver leads his Red Bull rival by two points, the smallest margin between the top two after 15 races since 2006, when Fernando Alonso had the same narrow lead in his famous scrap with Michael Schumacher.

This week will mark five years since Nico Rosberg claimed his last pole position and race victory. 

He is the last person other than Hamilton to win the drivers' championship, but the Briton knows he still has much more work to do if he is to stop Verstappen from ending that run with seven races to go.

The latest instalment of the rivalry will take place at Istanbul Park in an event which returned to the F1 calendar after a nine-year absence last year.

Verstappen is looking to win his eighth race of 2021. Apart from when Hamilton lost out to Rosberg in 2016, every other driver who has won that amount of races has gone on to be crowned champion.
 

LAST TIME OUT

It was an incredible race in Russia, with Hamilton ultimately claiming his 100th Formula One victory, having failed in his previous four attempts to reach the milestone.

Lando Norris had secured pole position and was eyeing a maiden victory, but he spun off the track with three laps to go after opting not to pit for new tyres as rain started to cause chaos in Sochi.

That allowed Hamilton to capitalise and McLaren were left heartbroken as Norris limped to a seventh-placed finish after coming so close to following up team-mate Daniel Ricciardo's win in Italy with one of his own.

The drama in front meant Verstappen made up important ground to finish second, an unlikely bonus after he started from the back of the grid when Red Bull had a new engine installed.

Carlos Sainz claimed the final spot on the podium, with Ricciardo, Valtteri Bottas and Alonso rounding out the top six.
 

WHAT TO EXPECT IN TURKEY

Turkey is one of just four out of 34 F1 venues where Hamilton is yet to claim a pole position, but he has won here twice, including a famous win in the wet last year that clinched his seventh championship.

His chances of repeating the feat this week may depend on whether he opts to receive a grid penalty for taking a new power unit, which Toto Wolff has suggested could be a possibility.

Should Hamilton triumph, he will equal Felipe Massa's F1 record of three victories in Turkey.

But there are other teams getting involved at the front which could provide an added complication to the championship contenders.

McLaren won in Monza and almost repeated the feat in Russia, with they and Ferrari – who have recently introduced an upgraded power unit with a new hybrid system - picking up some impressive results.

Having served his penalty and impressively limited the damage last time out, though, it is Verstappen who goes into the race weekend as narrow favourite for victory.
 

TOP FIVE OPTA FACTS

Grid position key - Seven out of eight winners in Turkey have come from the first row of the grid, with the only exception last year when Hamilton won from sixth place. Only in Germany three years ago has the Brit recorded a F1 victory from a worse starting position (14th).

Fine track for Ferrari – The Italian team have won most races in Turkey (three), achieved eight podiums, set three fastest laps and taken three pole positions.

Red Bull run – With eight wins this year, the team are one victory away from equalling their third-best season (nine in 2010). They have only surpassed that in 2011 (12) and 2013 (13), while they have already matched their best total of pole positions (eight).

McLaren impress – Having set two straight fastest laps (Ricciardo in Italy and Norris in Russia), the team could set three in a row for the first time since 2011 when Hamilton and Jenson Button were their drivers.

Hamilton could level up – If the seven-time world champion wins without being on pole, he will equal up his record of wins to pole at 101 for each category –  this would be the first time they have been the same since 2007, when he went 2-2 at the United States Grand Prix.
 

CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS

Drivers

1. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 246.5
2. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) 244.5
3. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) 151
4. Lando Norris (McLaren) 139
5. Sergio Perez (Red Bull) 120

Constructors

1. Mercedes 397.5
2. Red Bull 364.5
3. McLaren 234
4. Ferrari 216.5
5. Alpine 103

Alex Cora praised the calm of Nathan Eovaldi as he put his previous performance against the New York Yankees to bed to lead the Boston Red Sox to victory in their Wild Card clash.

Eovaldi was given the start on the mound at Fenway Park on Tuesday as the most famous rivals in baseball squared off for a place in the American League Division Series.

That meant Eovaldi dispelling memories of 11 days prior when he gave up seven runs on seven hits in an 8-3 loss to the Yankees in a series in which New York claimed a critical sweep to propel them to the Wild Card game.

Eovaldi lasted fewer than three innings in that game, which saw him fail to strike out a single hitter and issue two walks.

He was at his best when it mattered most in the postseason opener, however, pitching a shutout through five innings and striking out eight Yankees before being removed by manager Cora in the sixth following a home run from Anthony Rizzo.

His display laid the platform for the bullpen to finish the job, as the Red Sox clinched a 6-2 victory.

"He's so calm. When he shows up to the ballpark, he's the same guy when he pitches and when he doesn't. He was waiting for this one," Cora said of Eovaldi in his post-game media conference. 

"They [the Yankees] did an amazing job on Friday [September 24]. They took some pitches away, they hunted pitches in certain spots, and they did damage. Like I said, we learned a lot from that.

"He's just a great person. He's not only a great pitcher but he's a great person. He cares about everybody; the way he goes about it in the training room, in the weight room, when he doesn't pitch, he's a plus. We had the right guy on the mound today."

The Red Sox now face the challenge of taking on another AL East rival, the Tampa Bay Rays, in the ALDS.

Tampa Bay finished the regular season 100-62, the third-best record in baseball and the best in the American League.

"Now we go to the next one, and we've just got to be ready to face a great baseball team," added Cora. 

"Probably coming into the season, everybody talked about them being the best team in the big leagues, and we have a huge challenge. But we're ready for it."

Australia captain Aaron Finch has confirmed he will open the batting with the out-of-form David Warner at the T20 World Cup.

Warner has made only two runs in as many innings for bottom side Sunrisers Hyderabad since the Indian Premier League resumed in the UAE, finding himself dropped for a second time in the tournament.

The 34-year-old lost the captaincy before the competition was halted in India due to the coronavirus pandemic and has not played a T20 for his country for over a year.

Finch expects to be ready for Australia's opening game of the T20 World Cup against South Africa in Dubai on October 23 as he recovers from knee surgery and the skipper has given his backing to Warner.

Asked if Warner will be his opening partner, he replied: "Yep, absolutely. He's one of the best players to ever play the game for Australia.

"I've got no doubt that his preparation, while he would love to be playing for Hyderabad no doubt, I know that he's still training away. He'll be good to go."

 

Finch went under the knife in August and has stepped up his rehabilitation with the World Cup fast approaching.

"Over the last couple of weeks my recovery has progressed really well so it's looking more and more likely that I'll be fit and ready to go for them," he said.

"And just in terms of the intensity that I've been able to train, the amount of accelerations, decelerations, putting load through my knee, that's all really positive. So, yeah, I've got no issues.

"I had probably my biggest session in terms of fielding, changing direction, and all that stuff with batting involved as well so that's gone as well as it could. I had a meeting with the surgeon yesterday and he was really happy with where it's at."

Lockdown restrictions have hampered Australia's preparations, but Finch is confident that should not be too much of an issue.

He said: "Training indoors or training just in the nets is no comparison obviously to game intensity so the two warm-up games and the lead-in to the World Cup is going to be really crucial.

"We get out of quarantine, I think there's three days of practice scheduled, and then two warm-up games, so they're going to be really important to get guys up to speed as quick as possible.

"But I've got a lot of confidence in the experience of the group. We've got guys who have come off long lay-offs before. We've got guys who have come off injuries before, and it's not really all that much different when you're trying to get yourself up to speed quickly.

"I think that will play into their hands and might allow us to be a little bit fresher, to be honest."

Manchester United's owners have put 9.5million shares up for sale as they look to relinquish eight per cent of their controlling stake.

The club released a statement to the New York Stock Exchange on Tuesday, confirming the sales will be made in the names of Kevin and Edward Glazer.

It is thought the sale of the shares in question will raise £137.12m, though United's statement made clear that 100 per cent of the money will be kept by the Glazers.

"Manchester United will not receive any proceeds from the sale of any Class A ordinary shares by the selling shareholders," it read.

Joel Glazer, United co-chairman, had promised at a fan forum back in June that the club were planning to offload more shares, potentially allowing supporters to buy them as the ownership group attempted to build bridges in the wake of the European Super League fiasco.

United and 11 other major European teams attempted to form a breakaway competition that would rival the Champions League, but a stunning backlash from fans quickly led to all six English clubs involved backing out.

The Glazers' relationship with fans had been rocky at best ever since the family plunged the club into massive debt when Malcolm Glazer financed his initial takeover in 2003 with loans that were secured against United assets.

Their involvement in the Super League's attempted coup of elite club football further exacerbated ill-feeling among supporters, forcing the Glazers into crisis management – June's fan forum was Joel Glazer's first such appearance in 15 years as part-owner.

Three months earlier, Avram Glazer put 5m shares on the market at a valuation of £72.2m. None of the proceeds went to the club.

Brooklyn Nets head coach Steve Nash said the team will not move practice so Kyrie Irving can bypass the COVID-19 vaccine requirement.

Irving missed Tuesday's practice due to New York's coronavirus vaccination protocols, with local mandates restricting unvaccinated persons from entering sports arenas, restaurants and other public spaces.

Nets star Irving faces being unable to play home games while losing significant portions of his salary if he is not vaccinated.

Asked if the Nets considered moving training outside of New York, Nash told reporters: "No, this is our home. This is where we're going to practice and we have almost a whole group.

"So that's a positive, and we're just working at getting better every day and focusing on the things we can control."

Addressing the Irving situation, Nash said: "No further update. We support him. We are here for him. Things change. When there's a resolution, we're here for him."

"I'm not really worried about anything," Nash added, with the Nets due to open their season against champions the Milwaukee Bucks on October 19. "We're just trying to work every day.

"We came in today and had a great practice and we'll do the same tomorrow, and that's kind of where I leave it."

Irving was unable to attend the Nets' media day in person in Brooklyn on September 27.

"I know that I'll be there every day no matter what and just be present for my teammates as one of the leaders on the team and be there for my growing tribe off the court," Irving said remotely.

"I know the focus has to be at an all-time high, no distractions. This is the last thing I wanted to create, was more distractions and more hoopla and more drama around this. I'm doing my best to maintain this with good intentions and a good heart."

In 2020-21, Irving averaged 26.9 points, 4.8 rebounds and 6.0 assists per game as the Nets lost in the Eastern Conference semi-finals.

Irving enjoyed a career-high 50.6 field-goal percentage and joint-career best 92.2 free-throw percentage last season.

Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin said under-fire quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is "absolutely" the best option to lead the team's struggling offense.

Roethlisberger struggled again in Week 4 of the NFL season as the Steelers (1-3) suffered a third consecutive defeat, a 27-17 loss to the Green Bay Packers on Sunday.

The 39-year-old two-time Super Bowl champion was just 26-of-40 passing for 232 yards a touchdown, interception and two sacks with a 78.3 quarterback rating.

Roethlisberger's 78.9 passer rating is fifth-worst this season, only ahead of Miami Dolphins QB Jacoby Brissett (77.8), Jacksonville Jaguars rookie Trevor Lawrence (66.4), first-year New York Jets quarterback Zach Wilson (62.8) and Davis Mills (50.4) of the Houston Texans.

"Absolutely," Tomlin told reporters on Tuesday when asked whether Roethlisberger remains the right quarterback for the offense.

"What he does and what he's done makes me really comfortable in saying that."

Tomlin added: "It's him some, it's us collectively some. We've just got to keep working. Sometimes it can be attributed to the altering of plans late in the week because of player availability or guys not being available. ...

"We've had some big-play opportunities, we [haven't] cashed in on them. We need to cash in on them.

"They're a big component of moving the ball and scoring, particularly when you're not working as efficiently as you like on possession downs, which we aren't. ... We're also going to work to connect on a higher percentages of these chunk opportunities because that aids us in terms of ringing up the scoreboard, as well."

Through four games, seven-time Pro Bowler Roethlisberger has 109 completions 1,033 yards, four touchdowns and four interceptions with 10 sacks.

Roethlisberger's completion percentage (64.1) is tied for 21st in the league, while his touchdown percentage (2.4) is the third worst in the NFL.

Asked if he was concerned about the level of Roethlisberger's safety behind the line, Tomlin said: "Not out of the ordinary. I'm sure if you reviewed the tape and looked at these visits [news conferences] from the first 11 weeks of last year and probably said similar things. He was upright and we were undefeated.

"There's probably a component of just being in your late 30s and playing this game and playing that position and particularly when you're not playing winning football and you get somewhat one dimensional, there's collateral damage that gets associated with that for him and for us."

"Ben used to be able to run really good when he was young," Tomlin said of this week's clash with the Denver Broncos. "Those days are behind him.

"Other than that, I don't see much that's not a discussion in terms of technical alterations or quality of play that can be improved."

Bryson DeChambeau and Brooks Koepka will take their rivalry to another level when they go head-to-head in 'The Match' in Las Vegas next month.

DeChambeau and Koepka have been at loggerheads on the PGA Tour and appear to have taken against one another, though the American pair come together to help the United States to a record-setting Ryder Cup triumph over Europe last month.

There has been tension since 2019 after Koepka called out DeChambeau for slow play, while the latter responded by taking aim at his fellow American's physique in 2020.

Now, 2020 U.S. Open champion DeChambeau and four-time major winner Koepka will face off in a mouth-watering 12-hole exhibition at Wynn Golf Course on November 26.

It will be the fifth edition of 'The Match' after the inaugural instalment between legendary golfer Tiger Woods and six-time major champion Phil Mickelson in 2018 – the latter earned a lucrative $9million payout.

In July, DeChambeau teamed up with Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers to beat Mickelson and Tampa Bay Buccaneers superstar Tom Brady in the fourth edition of the exhibition event.

Emma Raducanu said she will not be rushed into appointing a new coach as the US Open champion prepares to make her Indian Wells debut this week.

Teen sensation Raducanu made history when she became the first qualifier to win a grand slam title at Flushing Meadows last month.

The 18-year-old split from coach Andrew Richardson following her stunning triumph in New York, revealing she wants to work with someone who has greater WTA Tour experience. 

Raducanu will work with Jeremy Bates, the Lawn Tennis Association's national coach, when she plays her first tournament as a major champion at the Indian Wells Open in California.

The Brit, who will face Maria Camila Osorio Serrano or Aliaksandra Sasnovich first up after being given a bye into the second round, will take her time to mull over who will be her permanent coach.

She said in a press conference on Tuesday: "Jeremy is part of women's tennis at the LTA so while he's here he's helping me out.

"But going forwards I'm just going to wait and find the right person, I'm not going to rush into anything. I want to make sure I make the right decision.

"Even though I'm quite young I've got a lot of experience banked and at the end of the day you're out there on your own and you have to be your own coach on the court, so I'm pretty comfortable."

Raducanu is relishing being back in action after a whirlwind few weeks off the court following her US Open heroics.

"I'm very excited to be here," Raducanu added.

"It's my first time playing in Indian Wells, and it's a beautiful place. I just can't wait to get started. I love the facilities, everything is just so nice to be around.

"I don't really want to change anything. What got me to this point is not thinking anything differently so if I put additional thoughts in my head then that will just create a problem I think. I'm just going to keep going about my business and staying the same.

"It's been a very cool three weeks. I got to experience some great things that I probably never would have got to do before but after that I just went straight back to training and focusing on this competition and the upcoming ones that I've got lined up."

Memphis Depay insists he "would never regret" moving to Barcelona despite Los Cules' difficult start to the season.

The Dutch forward moved to Camp Nou from Lyon on a free transfer but never got the chance to link up with Lionel Messi, who left the club amid financial difficulties and joined Paris Saint-Germain.

In the Argentine's absence, Barcelona have underwhelmed, losing both their Champions League group-stage games so far 3-0 to sit bottom of the group and managing just three wins from their first seven LaLiga outings.

Depay, however, is adamant that the privilege of playing for the Catalan giants is more than enough to justify his decision to join, regardless of recent form.

"How could you ask [if I regret the timing of my move to Barcelona]? It's Barcelona. I don't think you understand how big this club is and what it means for a player if you move to a club like this. I would never regret it," Depay said.

The 27-year-old was bullish about the Blaugrana's chances of turning their season around, dismissing the notion that his new side could be written off amid the mounting pressure on head coach Ronald Koeman after their slow start.

"Despite results, I'm really happy at the club," Depay continued. "It's been a difficult time [for the team]. I don't want to talk about that much, but people are acting like the season is already over.

"There are so many games to play. Everything is still open. But as a player, you feel responsible and you take responsibility. You care. Every player takes responsibility at Barca. That's normal for a club like Barcelona.

"We know what the situation is right now. We know it's difficult. [Playing with] young players, a lot of injuries. But I think [it's just a matter of time].

"Everybody is panicking and for a club like Barcelona it's a new situation. They're used to winning everything with beautiful football. This is a new situation, but I am not worried. I'm sure we will turn things around."

Depay has started the campaign well on an individual level, scoring three goals and notching an assist in his seven league appearances, and will be hoping to bolster those numbers when Barcelona host Valencia in their next game on October 17.

UEFA has launched an investigation into alleged "discriminatory incidents" in Sparta Prague's Europa League clash with Rangers.

The fixture, which the Scottish Premiership champions won 1-0, was originally due to be played behind closed doors following the racist abuse of Monaco midfielder Aurelien Tchouameni in August but around 10,000 school children and accompanying adults were allowed to attend.

The match last Thursday was marred by the booing of Rangers' black players, with Glen Kamara seemingly subjected to particularly vocal taunts.

Last March, UEFA ruled Kamara had been the victim of a racist slur from Ondrej Kudela in Rangers' fixture against Sparta's Czech rivals Slavia Prague.

European football's governing body said in a statement on Tuesday: "In accordance with Article 31(4) of the UEFA Disciplinary Regulations, a UEFA Ethics and Disciplinary Inspector has been appointed to conduct a disciplinary investigation regarding potential discriminatory incidents allegedly occurring during the 2021/22 UEFA Europa League group stage match between AC Sparta Praha and Rangers FC played on 30 September 2021."

Following the fixture, Gers boss Steven Gerrard called for harsher punishments to tackle incidents of racism.

"Sadly, these things keep raising their head far too often and, unfortunately, the punishments are not severe enough," Gerrard said.

Sparta released a statement in response, claiming that the actions of the children watching had been misunderstood and that allegations of racism were wide of the mark.

"It is absolutely unbelievable that after a match we have to watch innocent children being attacked and face unfounded accusations of racism," the statement said. 

"You are describing the behaviour of children incorrectly, arrogating to yourself the right to judge the expression of emotions of six-year-old children who have no idea what racism is. It's an impertinence."

Josh Gordon could make his Kansas City Chiefs debut against the Buffalo Bills this weekend after he was promoted to the active 53-man roster.

Wide receiver Gordon had been in the Chiefs' practice squad, but comes into contention to take on the Bills at Arrowhead Stadium on Sunday.

The 30-year-old joined Kansas City after he was reinstated by the NFL last week following a series of suspensions for violations of its policies on substances of abuse and performance-enhancing substances.

Chiefs head coach Andy Reid on Monday revealed he was weighing up whether Gordon would play a part versus the Bills.

"I'm just gonna play it by ear and see how he feels," Reid said, via the Kansas City Star's Sam McDowell.

"Really, it's more of a comfort thing with the offense. I don't want to put him in a bad situation out there."

The Chiefs also confirmed on Tuesday that DE Joshua Kaindoh has been on injured reserve.

Gordon saw a comeback with the Seattle Seahawks halted in January when the league rescinded his conditional reinstatement.

He recorded 1,646 receiving yards and nine touchdowns on 87 catches with the Cleveland Browns in 2013 but has since seen his role restricted by his various absences.

After spells with the New England Patriots and the Seahawks, he has been given another chance by a Chiefs side that is 2-2 at the bottom of the AFC West following a 42-30 win over the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday.

That victory saw Reid become the first coach in NFL history to win 100 games with two teams, having also achieved the feat with the Eagles.

Gordon is unlikely to be a primary option unless he returns to his early career form, although he did make a competitive 15.8 yards per reception in his last season in the league in 2019 – ranking 21st among WRs with 20 or more targets.

He was targeted on a relatively low 17.0 per cent of his routes, however, and got open on just 56.5 per cent of his targets – the 12th-worst rate among the same group of players.

Spanish legend Pau Gasol has announced his retirement from basketball at the age of 41.

The former Los Angeles Laker, who returned for a second spell with his first club Barcelona eight months ago, confirmed his decision to call time on his illustrious career a press conference on Tuesday.

Gasol enjoyed an extraordinarily successful NBA career spanning 18 years, playing for the Memphis Grizzlies, Los Angeles Lakers, Chicago Bulls, San Antonio Spurs and Milwaukee Bucks.

He won two NBA titles and was a six-time NBA All-Star after being named the 2001-02 NBA Rookie of the Year.

"It is a very difficult decision as you can imagine, but it's a decision that I have contemplated well," Gasol said. "It's nice to be able to retire as an active player and not on crutches, to retire having won another title with Barcelona and having played in a fifth Olympics with the national team.

"I remember when I was on the youth team coaches used to say to that the important thing was not to reach the top, but to stay there. I didn't try to stay there, I tried to improve with every game and become the best I could."

Gasol was FIBA Basketball World Cup champion in 2006, won three FIBA EuroBasket titles - earning the MVP award in 2009 and 2015 - and three Olympic medals (two silver and a bronze).

He is Eurobasket's all-time leading scorer with 1183 points in 58 appearances, averaging 19.9 points in seven tournaments.

"The example that Pau has given us all, that leadership even this last year, with humility, with an ability to try things that he had never even done, things that he did not even need because of his great talent," said Spain head coach Sergio Scariolo. "Another stage of respect and the consideration that we can only have towards Pau."

Gasol and his younger brother Marc, 36, announced their international retirement after playing in the Tokyo Olympics.

Pau Gasol said: "I was lucky to be a member of great teams with great team-mates, and some of them are here today.

"We started playing in the backyard of our grandparents' house and having [Marc] as my brother and playing the same sport, trying to be the big brother also in basketball, was always a great motivation for me.

"I'd like to be remembered as a player who gave it his everything, who tried to do the best he could and, at end of the day, being able to play until the age of 41 is not bad at all."

Nathan Coulter-Nile claimed his best Indian Premier League figures and Ishan Kishan smashed a half-century as Mumbai Indians stayed in the play-off hunt with an eight-wicket hammering of Rajasthan Royals.

Both sides started their penultimate match of the regular season on Tuesday knowing they needed a win to have any real chance of taking the fourth and final play-off place.

The defending champions moved level on points with the fourth-placed Kolkata Knight Riders, who have a superior run-rate, and left the sorry Royals facing an early exit by dishing out a thrashing at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium.

Coulter-Nile finished with incredible figures of 4-14 as the Royals could only post a meagre 90-9 - the second-lowest total in the full 20 overs in IPL history.

Jimmy Neesham took 3-12 and Jasprit Bumrah 2-14, with Rajasthan capitulating from 41-1 under pressure.

Mumbai had no such trouble with the bat in their run chase, reaching their target for the fall of only two wickets with 70 balls to spare.

Such an emphatic win for the holders may still not be enough for them to qualify ahead of their match against Sunrisers Hyderabad on Friday, with KKR in pole position as they prepare to face the seventh-placed Royals on Thursday.

Coulter-Nile rips through Royals

Australian paceman Coulter-Nile was the Royals' chief tormentor after they had got off to a promising start.

He ended an opening stand of 27 by getting Yashasvi Jaiswal caught behind and Rajasthan fell to pieces after Lewis was snared leg before by Bumrah.

Coulter-Nile cleaned up Glenn Phillips and struck David Miller in front before bowling Chetan Sakariya, while Neesham claimed the wickets of Sanju Samson, Shivam Dube and Rahul Tewatia on the New Zealand all-rounder's IPL return.

Sealed with a Kish

Kishan came to the wicket on the back of three failures, but he returned to form in spectacular fashion to seal victory in a hurry.

Rohit Sharma (22 off 13) became the first Indian batsman to hit 400 T20 sixes before fellow opener Kishan came to the fore.

The 23-year-old reached the 1,000 runs landmark for the franchise, clearing the rope three times and hitting a further four boundaries, dispatching Mustafizur Rahman for four and then a six to reach his half-century and wrap up a crushing win.

Roberto Mancini has insisted Italy "have to improve" ahead of their Nations League semi-final with Spain, despite the Azzurri winning Euro 2020 in July.

Italy are also unbeaten in their last 37 games - a world record - with 30 wins and seven draws across all competitions and friendlies since October 2018.

Mancini's men bested Spain in a penalty shoot-out in the last four of the European Championships after a 1-1 draw in regular time in a fixture that Spain dominated, enjoying 71 per cent possession.

The former Manchester City and Inter head coach believes Spain remain the superior side in terms of keeping the ball and feels his team can still get better in that department.

"We suffered in that [Euro 2020 semi-final against Spain]," Mancini said. "Spain put us in trouble in possession, they have been doing it for 20 years and on this, they are ahead of us.

"We have to improve this game situation, be faster. We have to improve, we also have young players who have to play important competitions. We have 14 important months and we have to play better and better, offensive and balanced.

"[The Nations League] is an important competition. It is clear that it comes after a European Championship and preparing in such a short time is not easy but they are two matches among the four best in Europe and we want to improve, that's for sure."

Mancini also responded to Luis Enrique's claim that the Azzurri's unbeaten streak would end eventually, agreeing with his counterpart.

"We always want to win, then we know it will depend on us," Mancini continued. "[Enrique's] right, sooner or later [we will lose]. We would like to go on like this until December 2022, but we know it won't be that simple."

If Italy best Spain again on October 6, they will face one of Belgium or France in the Nations League final at San Siro on October 10.

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