Liverpool's squad players were describes as "Ferraris in the garage" by Jurgen Klopp after the title chasers came from behind to beat Southampton.

Klopp made nine changes to his line-up for the trip to St Mary's on Tuesday, where Liverpool realistically had to win to keep hopes of winning the Premier League title alive.

Although the Reds fell behind to Nathan Redmond's opener, Takumi Minamino pulled them level before half-time and Joel Matip's header secured a huge three points.

Minamino also scored in his most recent previous Premier League start for Liverpool – a 7-0 win over Crystal Palace in December 2020. That gap of 514 days between scoring in consecutive starts for a top-flight club is the longest since Duncan Ferguson's 533 days for Everton from April 2002 until September 2003.

Klopp was proud of the result and said any further success that EFL Cup and FA Cup winners Liverpool experience this season is down to the strength in depth they possess.

"I'm so happy about the performance, it was a bit touching, to be honest," Klopp told a post-match news conference.

"These boys, it's like having Ferraris in the garage. Harvey [Elliott], I'm not sure when he played last. Curtis [Jones], no rhythm, he played from time to time. Takumi Minamino, it's a crime he's not playing more often. Oxlade [Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain] didn't even play and he's in outstanding shape.

"It's really tough for the boys, but whatever happens this year happened because of this group. It's exceptional, and tonight they showed that again."

Klopp added to Sky Sports: "I've never had a group like this. Because we win most of the time there are not a lot of things you can really argue about. But there are two opportunities how you can deal with it: you give up, or you play your role in the group, and this group push each other constantly.

"In the end it's absolutely outstanding. We came here and had to do what we did, and it worked out because of the boys." 

Joe Gomez hobbled off injured at half-time and did not return for the second half. Klopp was hopeful the defender had avoided a serious injury, though he reportedly left the stadium on crutches.

"I hope we are lucky. Joe himself has pain but not too much, but it was really like a shock to the system,” Klopp said.

“He was sitting in the dressing room, when I spoke to him he was in a good mood so I think we were probably lucky, but we have to figure that out."

Liverpool are one point behind leaders Manchester City, and will have to beat Wolves at Anfield on Sunday to stand any chance of winning the Premier League.

City will be entertaining Aston Villa at the same time, but Klopp is not planning to chat to Steven Gerrard before he takes his side to the Etihad Stadium.

"No, of course not … There's no reason to talk to him [Gerrard]. We all know Villa wants to win because Villa wants to win," said Klopp.

"We have to first win our game, we can't talk about Wolves as if they will not be there. It's difficult enough.

"Imagine we went there with one ear in Manchester and [Raul] Jimenez headed in the ball. We will be 100 per cent focused.

"So many things happened in this second half of the season. If we become champions it would be deserved as well, but for that we have to win."

Ajla Tomljanovic reached the quarter-finals of the Grand Prix Sar La Princesse Lalla Meryem in Rabat, while Sorana Cirstea crashed out in Strasbourg.

Second seed Tomljanovic was a 7-5 6-2 victor against Anna Karolina Schmiedlova, reeling off the last four games in succession to advance in Morocco.

Fellow Australian Astra Sharma joined her in the last eight by overcoming wildcard Petra Marcinko 5-7 6-3 6-3.

Kristina Mladenovic had to save a match point after passing up two herself to finally get over the line with a 6-3 3-6 7-6 (9-7) success - her first singles win of the year - over lucky loser Tessah Andrianjafitrimo in a first-round clash.

At the Internationaux de Strasbourg, third seed Cirstea stormed to a one-set advantage against Ekaterina Makarova but soon fell away and succumbed to a 1-6 6-3 6-2 loss. 

Magda Linette breezed past Heather Watson 6-1 6-1 to reach the quarter-finals, where she was joined by Maryna Zanevska after the Belgian's 4-6 7-5 6-1 comeback win against Harmony Tan. 

Top seed Karolina Pliskova awaits American Bernarda Pera who defeated Elena-Gabriela Ruse in straight sets, while Anna-Lena Friedsam will take on Elise Mertens after rallying to beat Daria Saville 4-6 6-3 7-6 (7-5).

Joel Matip ensured the Premier League title race will go to the final day as Liverpool came from behind to win 2-1 at Southampton.

A Reds team showing nine changes from the weekend's FA Cup final over Chelsea found themselves down early through a fine Nathan Redmond strike.

However, Liverpool responded through a thunderous Takumi Minamino strike before the break and went on to secure the win in the second half as Matip headed home a corner in the 67th minute.

Victory moved Jurgen Klopp's men to just a point behind Manchester City at the summit, meaning the teams' respective final-day showdowns with Wolves and Aston Villa will decide the destination of the title.

Liverpool enjoyed plenty of the ball early on but were given a scare when Armando Broja escaped on the break before being denied by the trailing leg of Alisson.

A failure to heed that warning was punished with just 13 minutes gone as another Southampton counter ended with Redmond cutting in off the left to thrash a curling effort into the top-right corner.

Klopp was incensed by the failure to award a foul on Diogo Jota in the build-up to that goal, but that did not stop his team responding well to the setback.

They were denied an equaliser when Roberto Firmino was flagged offside in heading home a free-kick, but restored parity after 27 minutes as Minamino smashed home a cute Diogo Jota pass at close range.

That prompted a spell of Liverpool dominance, though they were unable to punish some lax Saints defending before a half-time break that saw Joe Gomez withdrawn due to injury. Jota poked the ball inches wide shortly after the restart following great work from Kostas Tsimikas.

The chances kept coming, Harvey Elliott hitting the side-netting, Jota skewing wide, and Firmino sending in a weak shot from distance. As such, it was no real surprise when the goal eventually came and, in fact, neither was the method.

Only Leicester City had conceded more headers than Southampton in the Premier League this term, while Liverpool had scored a league-high 15 goals in that manner and added another when Matip met Tsimikas' corner to loop one in.

Southampton tried to rally from there, but struggled to see much of the ball as Liverpool ensured City still have work to do on the final day.

Daniil Medvedev was defeated on his ATP Tour return at the Geneva Open by a sparkling Richard Gasquet, a blow to the Russian ahead of the French Open

World number two Medvedev was making his first appearance since March after undergoing a hernia operation and fell to a 6-2 7-6 (7-5) defeat.

The Russian's rustiness was clear in the last-16 tussle as he racked up seven double faults and struggled to make inroads on Gasquet's second serve, with the Frenchman winning 61 per cent of points behind it.

It was the first time Gasquet overcame an opponent ranked in the top two since beating Roger Federer at the 2005 Monte Carlo Masters.

Next up for Gasquet will be Kamil Majchrzak, who beat Marco Cecchinato 6-2 6-3.

At the last-32 stage, Fabio Fognini went down 6-4 6-3 to Thanasi Kokkinakis and Albert Ramos-Vinolas succumbed to a 7-6 (7-5) 6-4 loss against Christopher O'Connell.

Johan Nikles, Nikoloz Basilashvili and Joao Sousa also advanced to the second round.

Top seed Cameron Norrie cruised into the quarter-finals of the Lyon Open by beating Francisco Cerundolo 6-4 6-4.

The Briton will face another Argentinian next in the form of Sebastian Baez, who came from a set down to beat Oscar Otte 5-7 6-4 6-2. 

Alex De Minaur also had to rally for a 1-6 6-3 6-2 win against Ugo Humbert, with Yosuke Watanuki awaiting in the last eight after the world number 263 beat Soonwoo Kwon 6-3 6-4.

West Indies cricketer Chris Gayle and South African batsman AB De Villiers have become the first cricketers to be inducted into the hall of fame of Indian Premier League (IPL) franchise Royal Challengers Bangalore.

The 42-year-old Gayle represented the franchise between 2011 and 2017.  The batsman never won a title at the club but set a number of records while there, including the highest ever individual T20 score of 175 during the 2013 IPL season. 

Former RCB skipper Virat Kohli thanked the two greats for their contribution to making the IPL what it is today. Gayle thanked the club for the special honour.  

"I want to thank the RCB family for the opportunity, for everything. It's been special to me as well. And to be inducted is something fantastic, and I will always keep RCB close to my heart. I share a lot of memories with some special players and some special coaches,” Gayle said.

“It's been fantastic. I wish I were there to give this speech, look into you guys' eyes, and tell you exactly how I feel. AB mentioned it's going to be emotional because it's very touching for such a franchise that has been created over the years. It's fantastic. And to Virat, thank you for the kind words as well. Fantastic sharing the dressing room with you guys as well."

 

Tiger Woods has decided to leave great rival Phil Mickelson alone with his thoughts after the reigning US PGA Championship winner pulled out of his planned title defence. 

Amid a continuing backlash over Mickelson's comments about the Saudi-backed breakaway tour, the 51-year-old has elected to skip this week's major. 

Mickelson has not played since February after angering many in the game with his remarks about the Super Golf League – now officially called the LIV Golf Invitational Series.  

The veteran American, who became the oldest major winner in history when he triumphed at Kiawah Island last year, said Saudi Arabia has "a horrible record on human rights" but added he was willing to commit to the league as it was "a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reshape how the PGA Tour operates". 

Mickelson has apologised but missed the Masters and is not ready to return to the PGA Tour yet. He, along with several other golfers, has asked for a release from the PGA Tour to compete in the LIV Golf Invitational Series, which is due to start next month, but those requests have been refused. 

Woods was asked about Mickelson in a news conference at Southern Hills, Tulsa, ahead of the US PGA getting under way on Thursday. 

"I have not reached out to him. I have not spoken to him," Woods said. "A lot of it has not to do with, I think, personal issues. It was our viewpoints of how the Tour should be run and could be run, and what players are playing for and how we are playing for it. I have a completely different stance. 

"I don't know what he's going through. But I know the comments he made about the Tour and the way that it should be run, it could be run; it could be run differently and all the different financials that could have happened, I just have a very different opinion on that. And so no, I have not reached out to him." 

Woods said it was "always disappointing" for a major champion to be absent rather than defending a title. 

"Phil has said some things that I think a lot of us who are committed to the Tour and committed to the legacy of the Tour have pushed back against, and he's taken some personal time, and we all understand that," Woods said. 

"But I think that some of his views on how the Tour could be run, should be run, [there has] been a lot of disagreement there." 

Woods described Mickelson's comments about the PGA Tour as "polarising" and pointed to the PGA Tour's long history, as well as its current lucrative events, as reason to show it full support. 

The 46-year-old pointed to how Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer had been instrumental in the Tour breaking away from the PGA of America in 1968, creating greater earning potential for the players. 

"I just think that what Jack and Arnold have done in starting the Tour and breaking away from the PGA of America and creating our Tour ... I just think there's a legacy to that," Woods said. 

"I still think that the Tour has so much to offer, so much opportunity. I believe in legacies. I believe in major championships. I believe in big events, comparisons to historical figures of the past. 

"There's plenty of money out here. The Tour is growing. But it's just like any other sport. It's like tennis. You have to go out there and earn it. You've got to go out there and play for it. We have opportunity to go ahead and do it. It's just not guaranteed up front." 

Woods, in his second major since returning from injuries sustained in a horrific February 2021 car crash, is feeling increasingly optimistic his body can help his skill set deliver a 16th major championship. 

"I feel like I can, definitely. I just have to go out there and do it," he said. "I have to do my work. Starts on Thursday and I'll be ready." 

Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova has withdrawn from the French Open, with last year's runner-up in Paris ruled out for the rest of the season with a knee injury.

Russia's world number 21 enjoyed her best grand slam run at Roland Garros 12 months ago, reaching the final before suffering defeat to Barbora Krejcikova. 

The 30-year-old lost in the first round of the singles at the Internazionali d'Italia last week but won the women's doubles alongside Veronika Kudermetova.

However, playing in four matches that went the distance made her realise she needed to take a break for her knee to recover.

Pavlyuchenkova posted on Instagram: "I'm very sad to say that I'm forced to withdraw from Roland Garros and the rest of the tournaments this year!

"I have been playing this in my head for the last week and it has been a really tough decision to make, as Roland Garros was always very special to me, especially after a dream run last year!

"But due to the pain for a long time, now the injury is limiting me physically and mentally to compete and practise fully.

"After rehabbing for months this year and only playing at three events, the last two tournaments showed me that the pain was still there and I wasn't ready, so I have decided to take more time and come back stronger next year!" 

Oliver Glasner has prepared Eintracht Frankfurt to face "a mixture of Barcelona and West Ham" when they go up against Rangers in Wednesday's Europa League final.

Eintracht and Rangers both hope to end lengthy European trophy droughts when they tussle at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan in Seville on Wednesday.

The Germans last enjoyed such a success in 1980 when they won the UEFA Cup, while Rangers' most recent continental triumph came eight years earlier in the European Cup Winners' Cup.

Neither side was expected to reach the showpiece, with Eintracht impressively seeing off Barcelona before knocking out West Ham, while Borussia Dortmund and RB Leipzig were among the teams dispatched by Rangers.

Of course, both BVB and Leipzig enjoyed significantly superior seasons domestically than Eintracht, who ultimately finished 16 points behind the latter in fourth.

But he dismissed the importance of Rangers already beating two teams who are supposedly better than Die Adler.

"You can't do these calculations. If you win versus second and fourth in the Bundesliga then you are favourite because we were 11th in the Bundesliga? It doesn't matter. Both teams deserve to play this final," Glasner told reporters.

The Eintracht coach also seemingly believes the previous assignments against Barca and the Hammers will have put Eintracht in a good position to get to grips with what Rangers can offer.

"We've analysed Rangers – they're a mixture of West Ham and Barcelona," he added. "You can see the Dutch influence [of coach Giovanni van Bronckhorst] with the passing triangles, but [they have] a British mentality.

"We have to be in top form tomorrow. We are in great shape so we will be playing with lots of enthusiasm. The whole of Europe is looking forward to this match."

Asked to elaborate on what defines a "British mentality", Glasner said: "Rangers are a team that play lots of duels, and they are very robust in those duels.

"They have great desire to run back after losing ball, and not just the full-backs. [James] Tavernier is top scorer in Europa League, which shows he runs a lot; the defensive midfielders want to work hard there as well, they're always ready with this readiness to defend but also to go forward.

"That is combined with a very good [style of] football. They play fast with few contacts [direct], so this is how they scored their goals.

"They can cross early, against [Sporting] Braga and Leipzig they scored like this. This is the British mentality."

Sebastian Rode is a key man for Eintracht, with his experience and leadership on the pitch important commodities for Glasner.

While Rode has enjoyed a distinguished career, representing Dortmund and Bayern Much in the past, even he recognises Wednesday's final will be the pinnacle for him.

"This is the highlight of my career, it's one game and it'll be gigantic tomorrow," he said.

"We of course in the last few weeks have seen the euphoria. If you go shopping everyone talks about [their route to the final] and that everyone wants us to win.

"We get goosebumps thinking about that. Both fans will create a crazy atmosphere."

Sunrisers Hyderabad kept their Indian Premier League play-off hopes alive with a dramatic three-run win over Mumbai Indians.

Rahul Tripathi's 76 helped Sunrisers post an imposing total of 193-6 at the Wankhede Stadium.

Despite an opening partnership of 95 between Mumbai captain Rohit Sharma (48) and Ishan Kishan (43), Sunrisers appeared to be coasting to victory when Rohit's side were reduced to 144-5 in the 17th over.

But the subsequent over brought chaos as Tim David clobbered Thangarasu Natarajan (0-60) for four sixes, including three in succession.

The final ball of the over, however, saw David run out for 46 as he chased an ill-advised single.

Mumbai could not recover the initiative from there, Bhuvneshwar Kumar's excellent wicket-maiden 19th over leaving them with too much to do in the final six balls.

With one game to play, Sunrisers are among three teams two points behind fourth-placed Delhi Capitals but will need help to reach the play-offs given their negative net run rate.

Game turns on 18th over chaos

David appeared set to end Sunrisers' hopes as he punished Natarajan for a series of dismal full tosses, his fourth six of the 18th over a 114-metre blast that marked the second-longest of the tournament.

But his decision to chase the strike for the start of the 19th with a single that never looked on effectively ensured victory for Hyderabad.

Sunrisers streak stopped

A win that was too close for comfort ended a run of five straight defeats for Sunrisers, though that streak will likely still keep them out of the play-offs.

The Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) on Tuesday unveiled a 20-man squad for the Reggae Boyz international friendly against Catalonia on May 25, 2022.

The squad includes several overseas-based players including Peterborough United’s Jonson Clarke-Harris, Huddersfield Town’s Rolando Aarons and Arsenal’s Omari Hutchinson who will be sporting the Jamaican colours for the first time.

The full squad is as follows: Corey Addai (Esbjerg fB), Dillon Barnes (Queens Park Rangers), Kaheem Parris (FC Koper), Ajeanie Talbot (Harbour View FC), Jordan Cousins (Wigan Athletic), Blair Turgott (BK Hacken) Oquassa Chong (Esbjerg fB), Omari Hutchinson (Arsenal), Joel Latibeaudiere (Swansea City), Tarick Ximines (Mount Pleasant), Jonson Clarke-Harris (Peterborough United), Ramone Howell (Waterhouse FC), Junior Flemmings (Toulouse), Tyreek Magee (Eupen), Neco Brett (New Mexico United), Kenroy Campbell (Cavalier SC), Ricardo Thomas (Waterhouse FC), Rolando Aarons (Huddersfield Town), Kameron Lacey (Charlotte 49ers), Jamoi Topey (Mount Pleasant).

 

Tiger Woods will be joined in a golfing super-group by Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy for the first two rounds of the US PGA Championship.

The trio, who between them have landed 22 titles at the majors, will begin on Thursday at 08:11 local time (13:11GMT) at Southern Hills, the Oklahoma course that is staging the tournament for a fifth time.

Woods, who won the last of his four US PGA titles at Southern Hills in 2007, has played only one tournament this season, making the cut at the Masters in April.

He is continuing to recover from the foot and leg injuries he sustained in a car crash in February of last year, but there were flickers of the old Woods during his performance at Augusta.

Woods said in a news conference on Tuesday: "It's better than the last time I played a tournament, which is good

"We've been working hard. I have days when it is tough and days where we can push through, but we keep working at it."

Woods has 15 majors to his name, McIlroy has four, including two at the US PGA, and Spieth needs a win at this event to complete a career grand slam, having won each of the other three majors once.

McIlroy believes 46-year-old Woods would not have entered this week if he did not believe it possible to contend come Sunday.

"Six weeks is a long enough time to recover from that week [at the Masters] and then build yourself back up again. He certainly hasn't chosen two of the easiest walks in golf to come back to, Augusta and here," McIlroy said.

"But he's stubborn, he's determined. This is what he lives for. He lives for these major championships, and if he believes he can get around 18 holes, he believes he can win."

Biniam Girmay became the first black African winner of a Grand Tour stage on a historic and eventful day at the Giro d'Italia.

The Eritrean outpaced Mathieu van der Poel in a pulsating sprint finish to win stage 10 in Jesi on Tuesday. Reports said Girmay was then hit in the eye by a cork from a bottle of sparkling wine as he celebrated the win, needing hospital treatment.

Girmay and Van der Poel had burst away from the pack, and the Intermarche-Wanty-Gobert rider fended off the Belgian to put his name in the record books.

Van der Poel gave the 22-year-old history-maker the thumbs-up followed by a warm embrace after they crossed the line at the end of a hilly 196-kilometre ride from Pescara.

Girmay had finished second on the opening stage of the race and secured another four top-five finishes before finally taking the top step of the podium.

An elated Girmay said: "It's unbelievable, I'm really grateful and happy.

"Since the start, we controlled [the stage]. I don't have any words for my team for what they did today."

Juan Pedro Lopez retained the maglia rosa – the leader's jersey – and a 12-second lead from Joao Almeida after having his advantage slashed on Sunday.

There had been a shake-up in the general classification battle on Sunday, but Lopez remains the man to catch and Romain Bardet kept third place - with 14 seconds to make up the leader.

 

Girmay's 'best moment ever' arrives

Girmay had stated before this race that "it's going to be, I think, the best moment ever" when a black African rider won a Grand Tour stage.

He added: "It's a dream of all African cyclists to win in a Grand Tour, especially the Tour [de France] or Giro. A black rider has never won a Grand Tour stage."

Girmay did not have long for that moment to arrive and there will surely be more to come for the youngster.
 

STAGE RESULT  

1. Biniam Girmay (Intermarche-Wanty-Gobert) 4:32:07
2. Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) same time
3. Vincenzo Albanese (Eolo-Kometa) same time
4. Wilco Kelderman (Bora-Hansgrohe) same time
5. Richard Carapaz (INEOS Grenadiers) same time

CLASSIFICATION STANDINGS   

General Classification  

1. Juan Pedro Lopez (Trek-Segafredo) 42:24:08
2. Joao Almeida (UAE Team Emirates) +0:12
3. Romain Bardet (Team DSM) +0:14

Points Classification

1. Arnaud Demare (Groupama-FDJ) 151
2. Biniam Girmay (Intermarche-Wanty-Gobert) 148
3. Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) 90

King of the Mountains  

1. Diego Rosa (Eolo-Kometa) 83
2. Koen Bouwman (Jumbo-Visma) 69
3. Lennard Kamna (Bora-Hansgrohe) 43

While quarterback-needy teams grappled with the decision over whether to bet on a member of an underwhelming 2022 draft class at the position, those teams who were astute enough to select a signal-caller from the loaded 2021 class spent their offseasons attempting to stack the deck around the player they handpicked as the future of the franchise.

The 2022 season will be a significant one for Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson, Trey Lance, Justin Fields and Mac Jones, with questions sure to be asked of the five first-round picks if they do not show signs of vindicating their respective franchises for selecting them last year.

Jones arguably already proved himself as the most pro-ready QB of the quintet in an impressive rookie campaign, but 2022 may well reveal how high the ceiling is for the least physically gifted of the bunch. The rest are all aiming to prove they have the skill sets to join the league's expanding and increasingly youthful elite at the NFL's most important position. 

Indeed, the first four quarterbacks off the board in 2021 were all regarded as players with the potential to elevate those around them and take their offenses to new heights. But a quarterback, regardless of his athletic and mental gifts, cannot do it all himself. So who among the 2021 first-rounders has the best supporting cast to help them excel?

To help us answer that question, we at Stats Perform have gone back to look at our post-free agency positional unit baselines that inform our team rankings.

The baselines were produced for seven different units: quarterback, pass blocking, run blocking, route runners/pass catchers, pass rush, run defense and pass defense. The units are comprised of projected playing time for players on the roster combined with the player baselines linked to each of those units.

An individual player has a year-over-year baseline for a unit input (i.e. pass blocking for a team's projected left tackle). His baseline is combined with those of his team-mates and then adjusted for the importance of the position to that unit to produce an overall unit baseline.

The six non-quarterback baselines, plus a look at some of the moves made in the draft by each quarterback's respective team, provide a picture that reveals which of the second-year signal-callers have the talent around them to thrive.

5. Justin Fields, Chicago Bears

Even though the numbers are not impressive, there were clear flashes of promise in Fields' rookie season with the Bears.

While he only finished with a 70.9 well-thrown percentage – seven percentage points below the average for quarterbacks with at least 50 throws – and had a pickable pass rate of 5.36 per cent that was the eighth-worst among that group, Fields did display the upside that led the Bears to trade up for him.

Only two quarterbacks averaged more air yards per attempt than Fields' 10.02 and his three passing plays of 50 yards or more were the most of all rookie quarterbacks and as many as Josh Allen and Justin Herbert managed all season.

You would think, therefore, that the Bears' focus this offseason would be on giving Fields the weapons to produce further explosive plays in 2022. Not so, the Bears waited until the third round to add a wide receiver in the draft – 25-year-old return specialist Velus Jones Jr.

The Bears' reluctance to add to a group of pass-catchers that prior to the draft had the sixth-lowest unit baseline in the NFL hardly suggests at a sophomore surge for Fields in 2022.

And with Chicago's offensive line among the worst in the league for pass protection and run-blocking baseline and its defense in the bottom six for pass defense and bottom three for pass rush, it appears likely to be another year when Fields is swimming against a tide engineered by his own franchise.

4. Trevor Lawrence, Jacksonville Jaguars

Simply having an adult in the room with experience of winning at the NFL level should help Lawrence's cause, with Doug Pederson a substantial improvement on Urban Meyer as head coach.

As is the case with Fields in Chicago, Pederson will hope Lwrence can build on last season's flashes of the talent that led some to label him as the best quarterback prospect since Andrew Luck in 2012. Lawrence's well-thrown percentage of 76.3 was significantly better than that of Fields, but his 26 pickable passes were the fourth-most in the league.

Unlike the Bears, the Jags invested heavily in getting Lawrence receiving help, doing so in a bemusing manner as they threw eye-watering amounts of money at players who fit best as secondary targets rather than as the leading receiver for a player dubbed a 'generational' quarterback prospect.

Indeed, the lucrative deals handed out to the likes of Christian Kirk and Zay Jones only put them 20th in pass-catching unit baseline prior to the draft. The hope will be that Kirk, who was seventh among receivers with at least 100 targets with a big-play rate of 35.6 per cent last year, can help Lawrence generate more explosives in year two.

And while much of the Jags' roster still reeks of mediocrity, an offensive line that ranked fourth in pass-block win rate in 2021 may give him the time to help justify the Jags' belief in Kirk and Lawrence's other new weapons.

3. Zach Wilson, New York Jets

The Jets received almost universal praise for their draft, acquiring cornerback Sauce Gardner, wide receiver Garrett Wilson and edge rusher Jermaine Johnson II in the first round before then adding the consensus top running back in the class – Iowa State's Breece Hall – in the second.

Their roster looks in significantly better shape than it did at the end of the 2021 campaign, but the Jets were working from a pretty low starting point.

Coming out of free agency, only six teams had a lower unit baseline among their pass-catchers than the Jets, whose offensive line was in the bottom half of the league in pass protection baseline and in the run-blocking baseline.

Johnson's arrival and the return of fellow edge rusher Carl Lawson from injury should provide a clear boost to a pass rush that was fourth in unit baseline last year while a secondary that exited free agency just outside the top 10 in pass defense baseline appears much better equipped to provide support to Wilson and the offense.

However, Wilson had the worst well-thrown percentage (66.6) of any rookie quarterback last season, with Fields (5.36) and fellow rookie Davis Mills (5.56) the only two quarterbacks with at least 200 attempts to have a higher pickable pass rate than Wilson's 5.21 per cent.

The Jets are relying on Mekhi Becton to get healthy and play a full season at left tackle and, though they have some more established options at tight end and receiver, are also putting a lot on a rookie receiver in likely leaning heavily on Garrett Wilson to elevate his second-year quarterback.

It has been a successful offseason for the Jets, but a lot needs to happen for their hopes of a second-year leap for team and quarterback to come to fruition.

2. Mac Jones, New England Patriots

Were it not for the outstanding season enjoyed by Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase, Jones may well have won NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year.

The outstanding accuracy Jones demonstrated at Alabama translated to the pros, Jones producing a well-thrown ball on 80.1 per cent of attempts. He achieved that feat while averaging more air yards per attempt (8.11) than both Lawrence and Wilson, yet there is reason for trepidation around thoughts of him progressing significantly in his second year.

Jones' passer rating on throws of 21 or more air yards was 65.4 – 31st among the 41 quarterbacks to attempt at least 10, illustrating the limited ceiling of a quarterback whose arm is not on the level of his fellow 2021 first-rounders.

Yet Jones does have the benefit of one of the best offensive lines in the NFL. After free agency, the Patriots' O-Line was tied for sixth in pass protection unit baseline and fifth in run blocking baseline.

They replaced guard Shaq Mason, who was surprisingly traded to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, by making the similarly eyebrow-raising move of selecting Chattanooga guard Cole Strange in the first round of the draft. Strange's arrival should solidify the interior of the line and allow the Patriots to stick to a formula of leaning on the run game to take the pressure off Jones.

New England's receiving corps is at best uninspiring and the Patriots' failure to address a depleted secondary may prohibit playoff aspirations, but the strength in the trenches means Jones is in a better position to achieve short-term success than most of his second-year contemporaries.

1. Trey Lance, San Francisco 49ers

The 49ers are set to step into the unknown in 2021, with all signs pointing to Lance playing his first full season since his lone campaign as the starting quarterback at North Dakota State in 2019 despite Jimmy Garoppolo's continued presence on the roster.

Handing the keys to an offense that was in the NFC championship Game over to a quarterback with only two career starts to his name represents a substantial risk, but it is a risk the Niners are in an excellent position to take.

While there remains no sign of the impasse between San Francisco and All-Pro wide receiver Deebo Samuel coming to an end, the Niners left free agency with a group of pass-catchers ranked sixth in the league in unit baseline. They added to that group in the draft by selecting SMU speedster Danny Gray in the third round.

San Francisco's pass defense was also in the top half of the league in that regard going into the draft, while its pass rush was third in unit baseline and could have an even higher ceiling in 2022 if Drake Jackson adapts quickly to the pros. The Niners' second-round pick registered a pressure rate of 24.2 that was the fifth-best among edge rushers in this draft class in 2021.

The Niners ranked in the top 10 in pass block win rate and seventh in run block win rate last season, yet their biggest issue may be maintaining that standard after losing left guard Laken Tomlinson to the Jets amid doubts over whether center Alex Mack would retire.

Lance could, therefore, be playing behind a largely inexperienced O-Line this coming season. However, the data from his small sample size last year hinted at him having what it takes to elevate those around him. He averaged 10.10 air yards per attempt – the second-most in the NFL – and no player to average at least 9.0 air yards had a better well-thrown percentage than Lance's 77.1.

His challenge will be to maintain that combination of aggression and accuracy over the course of a full season.

If the Niners can come to an understanding with Samuel, Lance will have one of the most versatile weapons in the NFL to help him build on those encouraging flashes. He'll also benefit from the support of a stout defense built on the strength of its front and a diverse running game that will likely grow even more varied with him under center.

The trump card for Lance is head coach Kyle Shanahan, who is arguably the pre-eminent offensive mind of the modern NFL. Between the talent on both sides of the ball and Shanahan's ability to draw up a running game and put receivers in space, the Niners are a high-floor, high ceiling team.

There may be doubts about Lance, but there should be no doubt he is the quarterback in the best situation to silence those concerns.

Real Madrid have been likened to a cat with nine lives by UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin after their dramatic run to the Champions League final.

The Spanish LaLiga winners came from 2-0 behind on aggregate with a stunning comeback against Paris Saint-Germain at the last-16 stage, then resisted a Chelsea fightback in the quarter-finals.

They topped those victories, however, with their recovery against Manchester City in the semi-finals, with Ceferin admitting he thought the Spanish giants' hopes were finally dead and buried.

An all-English final in Paris was looming when City led 5-3 on aggregate going into the 90th minute at the Santiago Bernabeu on May 4, only for a Rodrygo double and Benzema's penalty in extra time to sensationally turn the tie around.

The May 28 showpiece will now feature Madrid against Liverpool, both long-time titans of the competition, with Ceferin describing that match-up as "insanely interesting".

"Already in the semi-finals I doubted that Real could eliminate Manchester City," Ceferin said, "especially after the defeat in the first game."

City won 4-3 in Manchester and led 1-0 in Madrid through Riyad Mahrez's goal, before the late flurry from the hosts.

"They obviously have nine lives like cats," Ceferin said, in an interview with Slovenian news website 24ur.com.

The UEFA boss noted the experience in the Madrid ranks, yet he questioned the strength of Carlo Ancelotti's defence, describing it as "weak".

"But they have the miraculous Karim Benzema, for whom I have said many times that in my opinion he is one of the most underrated players in the history of football," Ceferin added.

"Luka Modric, the older he is, the better he is."

 

Benzema has scored a competition-high 15 goals for Madrid in the Champions League this season, in just 11 games. Those goals have come at a rate of one every 67.7 minutes. He is an obvious threat to Liverpool's hopes of winning a third cup competition this season, having already won the FA Cup and EFL Cup.

Ceferin believes both sides have their merits, with Madrid's experience punching against the relative youth of Liverpool.

"I wouldn't dare to predict the winner, as a rule I misjudge. It's impossible to predict," he said. "This will be an insanely interesting final."

Off the field, Ceferin says he has had no recent contact with Madrid senior officials, after the club were key players behind the failed push for a European Super League.

"The time will come when these things will be cleared up, but they will certainly not be on the pitch," Ceferin said.

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