The Arizona Cardinals have released wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins after failing to find a trade partner.

The team announced the move Friday on Twitter.

Hopkins spent three seasons with the Cardinals after being acquired via trade from the Houston Texans in March 2020.

The 30-year-old had a stellar debut season with Arizona, being voted to his fifth Pro Bowl after tying his personal best with 115 catches totalling 1,407 yards.

In 2021 and 2022, Hopkins had a combined 106 catches as a torn knee ligament and a six-game suspension for performance-enhancing substances limited his playing time.

Earlier this offseason, the Cardinals brought in a new leadership team in general manager Monti Ossenfort and defensive-minded head coach Jonathan Gannon, leading to trade rumours circling Hopkins.

Arizona were unable to find a trade partner to take on Hopkins' $22.6million salary cap hit during the draft last month, leaving the rebuilding Cardinals no other choice but to release the three-time All-Pro receiver.

Amid the offseason trade rumours, Hopkins had been notably absent from voluntary OTA workouts and caused a stir earlier this week when he discussed the NFL's top quarterbacks on a podcast and omitted now-former teammate Kyler Murray.

In three seasons with the Cardinals, Hopkins recorded 221 receptions for 2,696 yards and 17 touchdowns in 35 games.

The 10-year veteran has 853 career catches for 11,298 yards and 71 touchdowns.

Joseph O’Brien is heading to Royal Ascot with Nemonte who came with a strong late run to win the Irish EBF Auction Series Maiden on debut at the Curragh.

Although sent off an unfancied 20-1 chance for the six furlong contest, the daughter of Ten Sovereigns was staying on strongly from a patient ride by Mikey Sheehy, getting up by a neck in the shadow of the winning post. Sheehy’s brother, Danny, was on the runner-up Gaenari.

Connections of the winner could target the Albany Stakes if wishing to stay at six furlongs, but O’Brien is eyeing up a step up in trip where she could tackle the colts in the Chesham Stakes at the royal meeting.

He said: “It was a smart performance. We thought she would run well but didn’t expect her to win first time at six (furlongs). I was impressed with the way she really quickened up on her own on the wing

“It looked a good maiden with plenty on them well fancied so we’ll look to go for either the Chesham or the Albany.

“The dam won at a mile and a quarter so she qualifies for the Chesham and will probably go straight there. She probably wants to go seven.”

Fresh from saddling their first winner since joining forces last weekend, Michael Halford and Tracey Collins doubled their tally when Ostraka caused a shock at 50-1 in the Extra Place Races At Novibet Irish EBF Fillies Maiden.

The Profitable filly came from last to first under Ronan Whelan, looking a nice prospect in the process.

“Last year we brought her to a barrier trial and she disappointed. She lost a shoe and things just didn’t work out for her. She kept growing and weakened out on us so we put her away,” said Halford.

“She was working well and only getting going for us now. I thought she would come on for the run as she’s very laid back.

“She jumped a bit slow and Ronan just let her find her feet. You’d know from a long way down that she was travelling easy.

“She’s from a very fast family, the likes of Osterhase. Hopefully she’ll be a black type filly and we’ll sit down and see where we go from here.”

Bellaphina (13-2) was a first ever Flat winner for John Kinsella when winning at Limerick last month and the filly followed up under Conor Maxwell in the DNG Spring Fillies Handicap.

Aidan O’Brien’s Subzero (8-11 favourite) broke his duck at the third time of asking in the Live Music At McDonnells Bar Newbridge Irish EBF Maiden.

Lewis Hamilton had hoped his revamped Mercedes would have propelled him closer to the front after he finished sixth in practice for Sunday’s Monaco Grand Prix.

Hamilton’s Mercedes team arrived for the sixth round of the season in the sun-cooked principality armed with a major upgrade.

But after an encouraging start – with Hamilton briefly heading the order in the opening running of the weekend – the British driver ended the day half-a-second behind Max Verstappen, who finished fastest for Red Bull. George Russell was only 12th in the other Mercedes.

“It is a shame we were not as close as I hoped we would be at the end of the session,” said Hamilton.

“In P1, I thought, ‘Wow, maybe we’re looking pretty good’, but in P2 we were close to half-a-second off. I don’t think we have half a second in the bag.

“We’ve just got to keep chipping away to see if we can squeeze any more juice out of the cup.”

After giving up on this season’s car on the eve of the opening race in Bahrain, Mercedes have spent the ensuing dozen weeks working on a new design philosophy.

The Silver Arrows have abandoned their controversial zero-sidepod concept and introduced a new front suspension, new floor and cooling system in a drastic change of development on a car which has contributed to the longest losing streak of Hamilton’s career.

On Sunday, it will be 539 days since Hamilton last stood on the top step of the podium at the penultimate round of the contentious 2021 season in Saudi Arabia.

And although Mercedes are keen not to draw too many conclusions at this week’s unique Monte Carlo configuration – and believe the following round at the well-trodden Circuit de Catalunya venue on the outskirts of Barcelona will present them with a better understanding of where they stand – the evidence of practice suggests they are no closer to providing a real challenge to Red Bull.

Hamilton added: “It’s not really the place to test an upgrade, but the car was generally feeling good.

“It’s very clear where the lack of performance is, and we will talk about that in the debrief. Hopefully this gives us a platform to build on moving forwards.”

Verstappen and team-mate Sergio Perez are the only men to have won a race this year, but their rapid Red Bull is not necessarily suited to the narrow and slow-speed track in Monaco.

However, despite Perez managing only seventh in practice, Verstappen’s pace indicates he could still be the driver to beat.

Home favourite Charles Leclerc is ready to pounce – after he finished just 0.065 seconds back – with his Ferrari team-mate Carlos Sainz, who crashed out of second practice remaining following a mistake at the high-speed swimming pool chicane, third.

Fernando Alonso could be a contender, too. The Aston Martin driver, 41, took fourth spot, 0.220 sec adrift of Verstappen. Lando Norris finished fifth in his McLaren.

Owen Farrell insists Saracens return to the Gallagher Premiership final with more strings to their bow as a result of last year’s Twickenham heartache.

Leicester were crowned champions at Saracens’ expense and although it was a narrow 15-12 defeat, a disappointing performance prompted a tactical rethink that has produced greater emphasis on attack.

Now they face the ultimate test of their progress in the winner-takes-all clash with Sale on Saturday.

“It took us a while to figure out how to get the best out of ourselves after last year’s final because we didn’t do that in that game,” Farrell said.

“What happened probably allowed us to change a bit more than we usually would after a final. It got us looking at ourselves a bit more than usual.

“Just simply because we were nowhere near our best and we didn’t give the best version of ourselves.

“Obviously Leicester played a massive part in that, but we don’t want to come off the field feeling like that again. That 80 minutes made us look at everything and look at how we can be better.

“Everyone talks about us now like we have turned into a team that plays attacking rugby this year alone. We’ve won stuff before playing good rugby.

“We have always had a solid basis behind us and we still have but there were times during the year and sometimes in big pressure games that we were trying to stay in the fight whereas now we want to take opportunities and make good decisions.

“Part of that could be staying in the fight – we want to be good at that – and part of that could be moving the ball. It could be anything – kick pass, run.

“We want to be good enough to play any way the game demands of us and we feel like we have taken a step forward with that this year. Hopefully that plays a big part in what we have do on Saturday.”

A key battle that will shape the contest is Farrell’s fly-half duel with George Ford, his long-term friend and former England team-mate who has been hugely influential for Sale since returning from an Achilles injury.

“I have known George since I was a kid. When you come up against him, first and foremost you know you are playing against a quality player,” Farrell said.

“You know you are playing against someone who knows what they are doing and as he has shown since coming back into the Sale team, he has been outstanding.

“He’s in a good place, he looks calm, he looks in control and I am sure he is a big driver behind this Sale team so I am looking forward to it.”

George Ford says it is not about individual match-ups ahead of an intriguing Twickenham battle with friend and England colleague Owen Farrell.

Ford will pull the tactical strings for Sale on their first appearance in a Gallagher Premiership final since 2006.

His rival fly-half Farrell, meanwhile, is key to Saracens’ hopes of securing a sixth Premiership title on Saturday following the crushing disappointment that accompanied their defeat against Leicester at Twickenham last season.

“We understand Owen has an unbelievable influence on the Saracens team, but he is one of only 15 men on the field at that particular time,” Sale playmaker Ford said.

“There are threats everywhere, and we are like that ourselves. I am one of only 15 at a time for Sale.

“I never see it as just a match-up between me and him. There is so much more that goes into a game of rugby.

“Obviously, both of us will want to do our job as well as we can, of course we do, for our team, and that is making as many good decisions and executing as well as we can.

“He is a great friend, and we understand we are just a cog in a machine of two teams, I suppose, that hopefully have an influence on the game one way or another.

“That consistency that he (Farrell) plays at very rarely dips. You see the influence he has on the teams he plays in and the way he drives it.

“He is obviously driving their variety in terms of the way they attack when they have the ball, and he is probably as ferocious as ever in defence.

“A lot of the stuff in rugby comes down to not just one player against another, it comes down to many things.

“Who has got momentum, who’s got speed of ball, who has got field position, who’s building pressure the most? And then it is about who executes better in those moments.

“Saracens have added variety to their game, everybody knows about that, in terms of the last 12 months, the way they play with the ball.

“But it comes down to who executes the best under pressure, because both teams are going to try to put each other under pressure. Who can handle that?”

Ford started for Leicester in last season’s final but a serious Achilles injury suffered during the first half of that game meant a lengthy rehabilitation programme and his Sale debut being delayed until earlier this year.

He now has a chance to win silverware in his first campaign with the Sharks, backing Ford’s long-held view that Sale can be challenging for trophies.

Reflecting on the move north, he added: “It was the reasons of coming up to where I grew up, coming up to be close to my family, coming to a team I knew had unbelievable potential to start competing and hopefully start challenging for titles in the Premiership.

“Also, to have a new challenge. Sometimes, the easier decision as a player is to be more comfortable, stick with what you know, understand where you are within that team.

“But also you’ve a decision where you can maybe come out of your comfort zone, come to a new team and you are at a stage where you have to start influencing, you’ve got to start proving yourself again to a whole new group of people and see what you can do with that team.

“I think that brings the best out of you sometimes. I certainly felt that coming back from injury. I have loved it.”

Sports stars and clubs across the world continue to provide an insight into their lives on social media.

Here, the PA news agency looks at some of the best examples from May 26.


Harry Kane was proud of his award.

Manchester United players celebrated a Champions League spot.

United and Aston Villa looked back on European glory.

Mohamed Salah apologised for Liverpool’s “failed” season.

The club’s ground staff had a parting gift for James Milner.

Barnsley set out on a journey they hope will take them to the Championship.

Goalkeepers’ union.

Morecambe remembered their former defender Christian Mbulu on the anniversary of his death.

Rachel Brown-Finnis helped the next generation.

New threads.

Formula One

The glamour of Monaco.

Pic of the day?


Conor McGregor had something to say to Floyd Mayweather.

Carlos Alcaraz is ready to take top billing at a grand slam for the first time as he steps into Rafael Nadal’s clay-court shoes.

With the 14-time champion choosing to sit out a chunk of the season ahead of an expected swansong next year, Spanish hopes at the French Open now rest on Alcaraz’s broad shoulders.

The 20-year-old claimed his first grand slam title at the US Open last summer but was forced to sit out the Australian Open through injury so will be entering a major as a slam champion for the first time.


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He is also the number one seed after surpassing Novak Djokovic following back-to-back titles in Barcelona and Madrid.

“For me it’s still crazy to see myself as top seed in a grand slam,” he said. “But at the same time it’s great. It’s something that I work for to be there. I’m really happy to be number one seed here at Roland Garros.”

Alcaraz’s swift rise and instant popularity has been a gift to the sport as it faces losing all of its long-time figureheads.

Nadal will miss the tournament for the first time since 2004, and his young compatriot said: “I felt bad when I heard that Rafa, he was not able to play here in Roland Garros and probably the rest of the year.

“As a fan of tennis, I always want to watch Rafa playing. I always want to watch the best players in the world playing the tournaments. And of course learning from them really close, here in the locker rooms, around the club, the tournament, for me is great.

“When I heard that it was tough to understand how it’s going to be without Rafa this year. Hopefully we’ll see him next year and he’s 100 per cent.”

Nadal cited the Paris Olympics, where the tennis will be held at Roland Garros, as a key target for next season, and Alcaraz welcomed the idea of the two men playing doubles together for Spain.

“It could be a dream playing doubles with him in the Olympics,” he said. “So of course let’s see. Let’s see how he’s doing and how he’s going this year. Hopefully he’s going great.”


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Alcaraz could potentially meet Djokovic in the semi-finals, with Daniil Medvedev having overtaken the Serbian to claim the second seeding by virtue of winning his first tour title on clay at the Italian Open last weekend.

Medvedev lost in the first round on his first four appearances at Roland Garros before reaching the quarter-finals in 2021 and the fourth round last year.

Asked if he now believes he can win the French Open, the Russian said: “I don’t know. Because I also don’t want to put too much pressure on myself. But what happened in Rome was amazing, especially beating a lot of good players.

“That’s an amazing feeling, and I’m for sure maybe having more expectation than I usually had in Roland Garros. But I know that it’s also tricky and you have to use this confidence, but not get cocky, because that’s where the danger is.

“Sometimes you think, ‘Oh, well, I played so well, now it’s going to be easy’. Then the first round you have problems. You can get angry and maybe lose the match. So I have been in this situation many times, and I just want to try to play good tennis here in Roland Garros.”

Frank Lampard said turning around Chelsea’s fortunes will be the next manager’s problem as he prepares to bow out from his interim role after Sunday’s game against Newcastle.

The team’s wretched season slumped to a new low with a 4-1 thumping against Manchester United at Old Trafford on Thursday, the ninth defeat of Lampard’s 11 games in charge.

If results go against them on the final day they could finish as low as 14th and equal their worst placing in the Premier League era.

They are already guaranteed to end with their lowest points tally in the competition, with the fewest number of goals the club have scored in a Premier League campaign.

Mauricio Pochettino is expected to be appointed as the club’s next permanent manager in the coming days and his in-tray will include quickly slimming down a bloated first-team squad and installing cohesion in a team that has lost its way since Graham Potter was sacked in April.

Chelsea have won only once in the almost two months since Potter was removed seven months into a five-year contract, and the task of rediscovering the team’s form has seemingly grown more daunting with each defeat.

A remedy has proved beyond Lampard in his short time in charge, and he was asked whether the incoming manager will have the toughest job of any Chelsea boss in the last 20 years.

“It’s a good headline but I don’t know,” said Lampard. “It remains to be seen, I can’t jump into the future.

“I think it is a fantastic job because it is the Chelsea job and when I took it first time (in 2019) I came I probably got it it was because a lot of top managers didn’t want that, I know that for a fact.

“I enjoyed the process and I enjoyed coming in and I wish the new manager well.

“I don’t know… it’s his problem I guess – is that the headline you wanted?”

One of the hindering factors during Lampard’s reign has been the size of the squad, with 34 first-team players vying for selection following co-owner Todd Boehly’s whirlwind transfer activity during his first 12 months in control.

It has meant limited playing time for younger members of the squad, even those signed for large fees and with high expectations.

Carney Chukwuemeka joined from Aston Villa for £20million last summer but has struggled for minutes, whilst Noni Madueke arrived for £29m from PSV Eindhoven and has featured just 11 times.

Both players started the loss at Old Trafford and played 82 minutes before being substituted and Lampard said he was pleased with the application of players that came in having not been regulars in the side.

“I don’t want to go into individuals,” he said. “I thought Carney did really well (against United) coming in to midfield with personality. It has been one of the harder parts of my job with the numbers in the squad.

“Going with a team to win important games and working with the younger players who we haven’t seen before because normally there is a process and a pre-season.

“We haven’t had that time. I thought Carney did well, I thought Noni did pretty well again and the flip of that was that Azpi (Cesar Azpilicueta) was fantastic with his captaincy and attitude.

“It is 70 per cent of the game how you apply yourself and your attitude.”

Henry Candy’s Araminta continued her quick rise through the ranks to claim the William Hill Height of Fashion Stakes at Goodwood.

Only making her debut last month, she was an impressive winner in testing ground over seven furlongs at Newbury before going on to finish third over a mile in the Listed company most recently.

Upped in distance, she took the step up to 10 furlongs in her stride, quickening up smartly and then running on strongly to win by one and a half lengths at 15-2.

“She seems to go on both sorts of ground and we’ve seen here she gets the mile and a quarter well,” said Candy.

“I’m very pleased with her progression and that she can handle both types of ground.”

However, a trip to Royal Ascot looks doubtful with Candy hoping to now give the daughter of Gleneagles a break while connections plot their next move.

“I think probably not because we don’t think she could quite manage a mile and a half. A mile and a quarter might be enough,” said Candy, when asked if he would consider supplementing the filly for the Ribblesdale Stakes at the royal meeting.

“She’s had three quick races so we’ll give her a bit of a break while we think about what comes next.”

It was a case of keeping it in the family in the British EBF 40th Anniversary Cocked Hat Stakes where Gregory replicated the exploits of half-brother Lionel who won the Listed event last year

Trained by John and Thady Gosden, the Golden Horn colt was an impressive winner on debut at Haydock and was sent off the 4-7 favourite to remain unbeaten on the Sussex Downs.

Ridden with patience by Robert Havlin and given plenty of time to ease his way into the contest, he was staying on strongly at the business end to grind down Frankie Dettori and Hadrianus who had been dictating the pace on the front end and was eventually passed for second by Klondike.

It was back-to-back victories in the race for owner-breeder Philippa Cooper who runs her horses under the Normandie Stud Ltd moniker and Gregory was cut to 16-1 from 25s by Paddy Power for the St Leger later in the year.

Marco Silva insists his focus is on the future with Fulham as the Cottagers seek to secure a record Premier League points return on the final day of the season.

Silva has previously said he will seek assurance that Fulham share his ambition before entering into talks over a new contract, with his current deal set to expire at the end of next season.

But the 45-year-old Portuguese – who has been linked to Saudi Arabian side Al Ahli – said he is in dialogue with the club’s hierarchy “every single day” to push Fulham forward.

“Normally I don’t talk too much about the situation,” Silva said ahead of the trip to Manchester United on Sunday.

“But we are here and I am talking every single day with people to keep planning and improving this football club as best as we can, as we did from the first day.

“This is the main focus for us. I’m under contract with this football club and this is the main thing.”

After promotion from the Sky Bet Championship last season, Fulham will end up 10th whatever happens at Old Trafford.

It will be their first top-half finish in the Premier League since coming ninth in 2012.

But Fulham have the incentive of eclipsing the 53 points they achieved in the 2008-09 season under Roy Hodgson.

Silva said: “There are three points to fight for, that is the main thing.

“From the first day they (players) know what our demands and standards are every single time.

“Even if we can not go for a difference in position right now, the points are still there and it’s for us to fight for.”

Fulham’s successful season has seen Silva join Manchester City’s Pep Guardiola, Arsenal’s Mikel Arteta, Brighton’s Roberto De Zerbi, Newcastle’s Eddie Howe and Aston Villa’s Unai Emery on a six-man shortlist for the managerial award.

“These sort of nominations make all of us proud but it is a consequence of how the team perform,” Silva said.

“Even though the name is there, it is not an individual thing, it is a collective.

“It is a consequence of the season Fulham Football Club has had, but I am proud my name is in there.”

Former United winger Daniel James could be denied the chance of an Old Trafford return because of a hamstring problem.

Another former United player, midfielder Andreas Pereira, is definitely out with a fractured ankle, while Tim Ream (arm) will also be absent.

Nashwa returns to France on Sunday to kick off her four-year-old campaign in the Prix Corrida at Saint-Cloud.

Trained by John and Thady Gosden, the daughter of Frankel’s finest hour came on the continent last June when she claimed Classic honours in the Prix de Diane and a fine 2022 season saw her add further Group One riches in the Nassau Stakes at Goodwood.

Brave efforts in defeat in both the Prix de l’Opera and Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf followed and having missed out on her intended return date in the Middleton Stakes, she now crosses the Channel once again for the Group Two contest over 10 furlongs.

“She had a wonderful season last year,” said Teddy Grimthorpe, racing manager for owner Imad Al Sagar.

“It was Imad’s first homebred Classic winner when she won the Prix de Diane which was more than exciting and she went and confirmed that in the Nassau.

“She was a little bit unlucky in the Prix de l’Opera and she missed the kick at the Breeders’ Cup.

“She’s wintered well and her preparation has been pretty straightforward. We hoped to get her back for the Middleton at York but we just ran out of a bit of time. She just hadn’t quite come to herself and really wanted an extra week or so, which she has now got.”

Joseph O’Brien’s Above The Curve is also a Group One winner in France having won the Prix Saint-Alary at ParisLongchamp last May and added the Blandford Stakes to her CV before finishing behind Nashwa in both the Opera and at the Breeders’ Cup.

She brought up the rear on her return in the Mooresbridge Stakes but that will have blown away the cobwebs and O’Brien expects her to show her true colours now.

“It looks a very good race, but she’s come out of her comeback run at the Curragh very well, she’s in very good form,” said O’Brien.

“She’s run well in France in the past which is always a help. It looks a suitable spot for her and hopefully she runs well.”

Waldemar Hickst’s India won the Prix Allez France in the capital last month, scoring by a head from Andre Fabre’s Mqse De Sevigne, and the pair clash again.

Francis-Henri Graffard’s Baiykara and Jerome Reynier’s Romagna Mia were further down the field on that occasion and complete the sextet that go to post in Paris.

Max Verstappen finished fastest in practice for the Monaco Grand Prix as Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz crashed out.

Verstappen edged out home favourite Charles Leclerc by just 0.065 seconds with his Ferrari team-mate Sainz third.

Fernando Alonso finished fourth for Aston Martin ahead of McLaren’s Lando Norris and Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton.

As Verstappen raced to the top of the charts, Sainz’s running ended with 17 minutes remaining.

The Spaniard, who was earlier quickest in the first session, clipped the entry barrier into the swimming pool chicane, damaging his right-front suspension, before heading straight into the tyre wall on the opposite side of the track.

“I crashed,” said the Spaniard. “I’m sorry.” The session was suspended for six minutes as Sainz’s wounded Ferrari was removed from the circuit.

After giving up on this season’s car on the eve of the opening race, Mercedes have arrived for the sixth round in the sun-cooked principality with a new concept.

The Silver Arrows have abandoned their controversial zero-sidepod design and introduced a new front suspension, new floor and cooling system in a change of development on a car which has contributed to the longest losing streak of Hamilton’s career.

On Sunday, it will be 539 days since Hamilton last stood on the top step of the podium at the penultimate round of the contentious 2021 season in Saudi Arabia.

However, on the evidence of practice, the seven-time world champion appears no closer to the front.

Hamilton ended the opening running in third place, but he had dropped to sixth by the conclusion of the day, half-a-second back. George Russell was a disappointing 12th in the other Mercedes, seven tenths adrift.

Verstappen and team-mate Sergio Perez are the only men to have won a race this year and their rapid Red Bull is not necessarily suited to the narrow and slow-speed confines of the unique Monte Carlo configuration.

But, despite Perez managing only seventh in practice, Verstappen’s pace on Friday suggests he might yet be the driver to beat for the remainder of the weekend.

In first practice, the red flags were deployed in the closing minutes when Alex Albon lost control of his Williams through the opening Sainte Devote corner.

The London-born Thai slammed into the wall, but, despite admitting to banging his knees, he emerged relatively unscathed from the 100mph accident.

The same could however not be said for Albon’s Williams following significant damage to the left-hand side of his machine.

He returned to the track with 11 minutes of second practice remaining following a three-hour repair job by his team.

Rory McKenzie aims to make the most of the adrenaline rush of Kilmarnock’s survival battle.

Killie maintained 10th place in the cinch Premiership with a 3-0 win at Dundee United on Wednesday but they still need a result against Ross County to avoid a relegation play-off.

McKenzie has made more than 350 appearances for Killie but he still experiences nerves ahead of occasions like Sunday’s Rugby Park clash.

The 29-year-old said: “I have tried to put a spin on it that one day I am not going to be playing football, I will have a normal job, and in a few years I won’t have this feeling.

“In a few years’ time there won’t be the adrenaline rush that I have for the next three days so I am trying to spin it that way and enjoy it the best I can.

“The worst part is now. I was quite nervous leading up to the Dundee United game and the best I felt was when I was walking out. That’s when you know you are in control of it.

“Waiting about for the game for three days, you just wish the game was tomorrow, you want to get it out the way, you want to play the game.”

Manager Derek McInnes has been clear that avoiding relegation has been the aim this season as Killie look to consolidate their Championship title win.

McKenzie said: “That’s always been the goal this season, nothing else. The fact that comes down to Sunday against a team that are fighting for the exact same thing is quite exciting. Two years in a row, it’s not good for anyone’s heart.

“I probably found it mentally tougher last year, with going to win. I felt there was more pressure and I had never experienced that before. Usually it’s been about staying in the league and last year was about trying to win the league, and that was different for me.

“Don’t get me wrong, this is just as big, probably bigger but I do believe we have got what it takes.

“Against Arbroath, there was an expectation on us to win the league and I struggled with that at times.”

A draw will do Killie while County need to win.

McKenzie said: “It’s a game we just have to treat like any other and go out and try and win because we are not very good at trying to see out draws.

“We have good home form, we are good on the front foot, there will be a lot of people here, and that’s our aim, to go and win the game, not sit and wait for a draw.”

McInnes expects Kyle Vassell to play through the pain after taking a knock to an ongoing knee injury after scoring twice at Tannadice.

“We have got everybody fit from the game the other day,” the manager said.

“The only doubt is Vassell but we think he will be OK in terms of getting him out there.

“He took another knock on the injury but we are hoping he will be fine as he has been doing for the last while, not doing very much training and just getting him out there.

“Then hopefully with a positive result on Sunday we can give him a proper rest, because that’s all he needs.

“His goals have been vital but he has a charisma and confidence about him, he leads the line well, he has a bullishness about him and that rubs off. Psychologically it’s important that he is out there on Sunday.

“Joe Wright, Ryan Alebiosu and Alan Power have a chance as well.”

Geraint Thomas will wear the leader’s pink jersey into Saturday’s decisive mountain time trial at the Giro d’Italia after Primoz Roglic could take only a handful of seconds out of the Welshman’s advantage on the Queen stage in the Dolomites.

Thomas and Roglic traded attacks in the final kilometre of this beastly stage but at the very top of the Tre Cime di Lavaredo it was Roglic, who had changed bikes on the approach to the last climb to get better gearing, who was able to open up a three-second gap in the final few metres.

That cuts Thomas’ advantage to just 26 seconds going into Saturday’s race against the clock to the top of the Monte Lussari.

Joao Almeida was distanced in the last couple of hundred metres to concede 20 seconds but the Portuguese comfortably retains his spot on the podium, 59 seconds down, after Irishman Eddie Dunbar fell away late on to lose fourth place overall to Damiano Caruso.

“It was OK,” Thomas said. “When I went with 400 metres to go I realised after 100 that 400 is a long way at this altitude. I just tried to pace it and then Roglic came past in the last 100 metres or so.

“I lost a couple of seconds on the line but it was nice to gain some time on Joao, it will be super close tomorrow. I think it’s going to be exciting to watch, horrible to do.”

Santiago Buitrago took the win from what had been a 12-strong breakaway, again denying Derek Gee, the Canadian who was in a seventh break of this Giro and who had fought until the final 1500 metres before watching the Colombian dance away.

Before the stage began Thomas, who celebrated his 37th birthday on Thursday, had joked he should not still be doing this sort of thing at his age and ought to be on a beach somewhere.

Instead, the Ineos Grenadiers rider was tackling a 183km stage through the Dolomites that included almost five and a half thousand metres of climbing.

The last time the Giro visited this finish 10 years ago, Vincenzo Nibali emerged from a snowstorm at the summit to take a win which effectively sealed his overall victory.

There would be nothing so decisive here given what is still to come on Saturday, but it could be another major test ticked off for Thomas as Roglic could only put a minor dent in his lead.

The Slovenian certainly tried to do more. With 20km to go Roglic stopped to swap bikes, hopping on to a machine with a single ring on the front and a monster 44t sprocket at the back, a sign of his intentions for a finale where gradients hit 16 per cent.

As clear skies gave way to heavy rain and hail, Thomas’s Ineos Grenadiers set their usual strong tempo to whittle down the slim remnants of the peloton.

That did for Dunbar with a couple of kilometres to go. Almeida briefly moved up as riders fought for space on roads packed with excited fans.

Roglic wriggled through but Thomas reacted to stay on his wheel as they reached the sanctuary of the barriers on the approach to the line.

Thomas then made his own move with 400 metres to go and seemed to be leaving Roglic behind, only for the Slovenian to find a final kick at the end and take back three seconds, narrowly failing to catch Magnus Cort who rode in third to take the last of the bonus seconds on the line.

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