Louis Oosthuizen has come agonisingly close to a second major championship title several times over the past decade, and he is in contention once again at the US PGA Championship. 

The South African shot a 68 Friday under difficult conditions at the Ocean Course at Kiawah Island to share the second-round lead with Phil Mickelson at five under par. 

Now more than a decade removed from his 2010 Open Championship triumph, the 38-year-old said he has grown more confident in his ability to handle the pressure that comes with contending for a major over the weekend. 

"Look, anyone playing last group or second to last group ... it'll be nervous. You'll be a little nervous," Oosthuizen said.

"But I know that, and I know how to deal with it or know what I have to do.

"I am definitely more comfortable playing in majors now than before.

"Hitting it well and knowing your game is there, it makes it a little less stress, but you still need to hit the shots and play in the moment and play well."

He did that throughout his round Friday, carding birdies on three of the first six holes before taking a share of the lead after a lovely chip to kick-in distance on the 11th, then taking sole ownership of the lead with a birdie at 12. 

A bogey on 18 was the only blemish on his scorecard, but he had no complaints about his round overall. 

"Drove it as good as I can drive it, and ball-striking was pretty good with the irons," he said. "With really windy conditions, you need that ball-striking to be on song."

Oosthuizen figures to need more of the same in the final two rounds as he looks to get over the hump and return to major glory. 

Since that stunning win at St Andrews, he has finished second or tied for second four times at major championships -- once at each -- falling in play-offs to Bubba Watson at the 2012 Masters and Zach Johnson at the 2015 Open. 

"I don't think it's a case of not being able to or thinking that I can't get the second," he said. "It's just both times I was outplayed.

"Look, it'll be great to get a second major. There's a lot of golf left, and I just feel whenever I get to a major, I sort of have my game where I want to have it, and mentally I feel very strong at a major week."

Two-time US PGA Championship winner Brooks Koepka has rated his second day performance at this year's event as a "C-plus" despite remaining firmly in contention at the halfway mark.

Koepka shot a three-under-par 69 on Thursday for a tie for second, before a one-under 71 on Friday at the Ocean Course at Kiawah Island in South Carolina.

The four-time major winner remains second, one shot behind joint leaders Phil Mickelson and Louis Oosthuizen who carded 69 and 68 respectively on Friday.

Koepka, who has been battling a knee issue, bogeyed twice in his opening six holes on Friday, before an eagle on the seventh got him back on an even ledger.

He eagled the 11th, birdied the 12th before bogeys on the 15th and 17th, needing a big putt on the 18th to finish one-under for the day.

"C-plus. I missed that short one on four, missed a short one there again on 16," Koepka said. "I thought I struck it great. I drove it a lot better but it's tough to putt in this wind.

"Sometimes you're playing the wind, and sometimes you don't. The wind might take it a little bit, but you're also not trying to firm it either, and have another three-footer coming back.

"I understand everybody else is probably going to miss a few short ones with this wind, but I ball struck my way around this golf course.

"One-under in these conditions, it's okay."

Koepka has battled injuries since his back-to-back PGA Championship titles, having undergone knee surgery in March.

The 31-year-old American had missed the cut in his past two events, including last month's Masters, but insisted injury would not be an issue this week.

"It's a major. It's going to be tough, especially with the wind blowing," he said. "It doesn't matter, just go out and go play.

He added: "This was all easy. Everything I did in rehab was a hell of a lot harder, I can promise you that."

Phil Mickelson and Louis Oosthuizen topped a leaderboard filled with major winners at the US PGA Championship, setting up a fascinating weekend at the Ocean Course at Kiawah Island. 

Mickelson started early and roared to the finish, carding five birdies on the back nine on the way to a 69 that left him at five under par for the tournament before Oosthuizen shot 68 in the afternoon for a share of the overall lead. 

Two-time US PGA winner Brooks Koepka (71) was one stroke back after recording a pair of eagles on Friday, followed by 2021 Masters champion Hideki Matsuyama (68) at three under. 

Oosthuizen's fellow South Africans Branden Grace (71) and Christiaan Bezuidenhout (70) also were two back of the leaders. 

First-round leader Corey Conners (75) and 2019 U.S. Open winner Gary Woodland (72) were at two under, with reigning U.S. open champion Bryson DeChambeau (71) dropping back to one under after a bogey on 18. 

Players battled windy conditions throughout the day and had an especially difficult time with the last two holes.

Oosthuizen lost his chance to stand alone atop the leaderboard with a bogey on 18 that ensured no one would post a bogey-free round on the first two days of competition, while Grace dropped three strokes on 17 and 18 to mar an otherwise stellar round.

Rory McIlroy (72) saw a move for contention disintegrate with bogeys on the final three holes that left him eight back of the leaders entering Saturday, and Jordan Spieth (75) was in the same spot after bogeys at 17 and 18.

The four-time major champion Koepka had perhaps the most erratic day of any contender, carding just one birdie to go with his eagles at the seventh and 11th and four bogeys. 

Among the notables missing the five-over cut line by one stroke were Dustin Johnson (74), Sergio Garcia (73), Adam Scott (72) and Justin Thomas.

Former major winners also missing out on the weekend include Zach Johnson (78), Jason Dufner (81), Martin Kaymer (77), Rich Beem (77), Charl Schwartzel (79) and John Daly (86). 

The 2009 US PGA Championship winner, Y.E. Yang, was disqualified after signing an incorrect scorecard but would have missed the cut anyway. 

The play-in tournament may be here to stay with NBA commissioner Adam Silver stating that his personal preference is for it to continue beyond this season.

Teams ranked seventh to 10th in both the Western and Eastern Conference have faced off in the play-in tournament for the seventh and eighth seeds in the 2020-21 season.

The additional spots available for the playoffs added intrigue late in the NBA season, with 24 of the 30 franchises maintaining the possibility of playing in the postseason in the final fortnight.

The play-in tournament has been criticized for being unfair, with Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James publicly vocal in his dislike of the concept.

"Whoever came up with that needs to be fired," James said earlier this month.

But Silver defended the play-in tournament, insisting it added vital viewership interest to the season, given the incentives for teams to compete.

"I haven't made any secret that I want it to be [around long term]," Silver told ESPN Radio.

"I have two constituencies I need to convince of that. One is the 30 teams, and I think for the most part they've supported it. I understand the sentiment if I were a team - a seven-seed in particular - the notion [that] after a long season, you could potentially play out of the playoffs. I understand those feelings.

"I think at the same time, the teams recognize the amount of additional interest we've created over the last month of the season plus those play-in games make it worth it.

"Of course, the other constituency is the players. For example, one player, who is on the executive committee of the union, said to me yesterday that he really likes the play-in tournament but he felt it could potentially be a bit unfair.

"For example, if you were the seventh seed and you were a significant number of games ahead of the eight-seed, the notion that you could somehow lose two games and be out of the playoffs seems unfair."

The sides who finished seventh in both conferences won their play-in games to claim seventh seed, while the Washington Wizards eventually took the eighth seed in the East with victory over the Indiana Pacers after finishing eighth.

The Golden State Warriors, who finished eighth on the Western Conference standings, play the Memphis Grizzlies for the eighth seed in the last play-in game on Friday.

Silver said it is possible that the league will tinker with the current play-in format.

He added: "I'm going to wait only because I know there's people on both sides of it.

"Beyond the individual ratings, and some games have been pretty good and some haven't been as close, but putting aside those games and adding those games to our schedule and the amount of interest in them is where I think the play-in tournament had an impact.

"[It] was causing teams who frankly otherwise may have thrown in the towel some number of weeks back to fight for those last playoff spots."

For the second season in a row, the Los Angeles Clippers and Dallas Mavericks meet in the first round of the NBA playoffs.

It is the same, only different.

A year ago, when the league moved en masse to Florida to finish a season badly disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic, the Mavs went up against a team expected to not only make it beyond the first round, but several more after that.

The Clippers were tested, eventually prevailing by a 4-2 scoreline. However, they fell at the next hurdle, letting slip a 3-1 series lead in the Western Conference semi-finals against the Denver Nuggets. That defeat, and particularly the nature of it, has loomed over them since. Their attempts to bury the memory of such a dramatic collapse begin on Saturday against familiar foes.

Dallas ended the regular season as the fifth seeds in the West, though their 42-30 record was not a huge improvement on a year ago, when a 43-32 finish was good enough to only get seventh spot.

However, since the All-Star break, they have gone 24-14. In Luka Doncic, they have a superstar who has shown little interest in sticking to the schedule, developing at such a rate that, despite averaging 27.7 points per game in his third season, it is perhaps a little surprising he did not force himself more into the MVP conversation.

Doncic had to carry much of the burden against the Clippers a year ago. Kristaps Porzingis' impact diminished due to a knee injury that eventually forced him to miss the final three games. He had also managed to get thrown out in the opener too, having taken umbrage at the attention his young team-mate was receiving to get a second technical foul.

Still, even with a healthy Porzingis available this time around, Dallas will ride or die on the performances of Doncic, whose first playoff experience saw him finish up averaging 31.0 points and 8.7 assists.

Looking back, it seems astonishing that two teams passed up the opportunity to select the dynamic, do-it-all guard in 2018, while a third – the Atlanta Hawks – opted to trade him away to get Trae Young.

At 22, the Slovenian has scored 5,115 points through 199 regular-season games. To put that number into context, LeBron James had 5,097 to his name when he reached the milestone of 200 outings.

Indeed, since 1985-86, the only player to manage 4,000 points, 100 or more assists and hit at least 500 three-pointers though their first 200 games is Damian Lillard – and Doncic is well ahead in all three categories.

His buzzer-beating shot at the end of overtime in the fourth game against the Clippers tied the series at 2-2 in 2020, but that was as good as it got for Dallas. This time around, they hope to make sure the outcome is different.

For that to happen, though, they will have to find a way of keeping quiet a superstar coming off a career year – and whose name is not Kawhi Leonard.

Paul George admitted to finding life difficult in the bubble. "I was just in a dark place," he said after helping the Clippers edge ahead 3-2 in the Dallas series. "I'd checked out. These past couple of games it was just difficult but shout out to the people who stood behind me and were in my corner."

While averaging 18.5 points in the end, he was successful with only 20 of his 69 attempts through the opening four games against the Mavs, including going 2-of-15 from deep in the third and fourth meeting.

This season, however, he has looked far more at home, in more ways than one.

The seven-time All-Star finished the regular season averaging 23.3 points, including shooting an impressive 41.1 per cent from beyond the arc (up on his overall mark of 38.4 per cent). Under Ty Lue, the team as a whole averaged 41.1 per cent from beyond the arc, ranking them first in the entire league.

Leonard remains the number one for the Clippers – he was the only player to average at least 24.5 points, 6.5 rebounds, 5.0 assists and 1.5 steals per game in the regular season – but George will be pivotal to his team's hopes of making a deep run, in the process exorcising their playoff ghosts.

Forget familiarity breeding contempt: these teams getting acquainted again in a seven-game series offers up an absorbing clash where both have a point to prove.

Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel suggested there could be something of a frenzy among the world's best football managers for Harry Kane in the coming months, adamant every coach will want the England star.

Media reports this week claimed Kane has informed Tottenham of his desire to leave the club, and Spurs' response did little to reassure supporters as they urged "everyone" to focus on the end of the season.

The stories have not gone away since, with Kane acknowledging on Thursday in an interview with former England and Manchester United defender Gary Neville that he feels he is at a "crossroads" in his career.

Kane spoke of his yearning to challenge for trophies and reach the level of Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, before stoking links with Manchester City when naming Kevin De Bruyne as the player who would help him score even more.

While Kane also insisted he would never say he wants to leave Spurs, the rumours combined with the decision to grant a major interview suggest he may well be angling for a move.

Although the rivalry between the two clubs could be a hindrance, Chelsea have also been tentatively linked with the Tottenham star, and Thomas Tuchel was asked about any interest on Friday.

The German was unequivocal in his admiration for Kane.

When asked if Chelsea were interested in Kane, a chuckling Tuchel said: "Good one!

"If you find any coach around the world who would not like to have Harry Kane in his team, call me again.

"I'd like to speak with the guy and hear about his ideas of scoring and attacking. Of course, everybody loves Kane.

"But let's be very, very clear, he's a player for Tottenham on a long-term contract, and we will not get involved in any press conference with any disrespectful comments about that."

One reason behind links between Kane and Chelsea is the fact the Blues' top-scorer in the Premier League this term is Jorginho with seven, all of which have been penalties.

Tuchel accepts that is not an ideal scenario.

"Is that what we want, Jorginho our top scorer? No. Not because we don't like Jorgi – he deserves all the fame and all the praise – but, of course, we don't want him to be our top scorer.

"But turn it around: if we let Timo take all the penalties, he could have seven more. Mason [Mount] scored from a penalty already and Jorgi has also missed. Timo missed [too].

"So, he could have had another 10 more goals and we have a very different discussion with the exact same performance.

"A lot of top scorers in Europe use penalties to improve their numbers to score. That's not with Timo. He is not that type of player.

"We try – in general we don't need to hide – we try to improve our statistics offensively. First of all, we do that with the guys who are here."

Douglas Costa looks to have played his last match for Juventus – or Bayern Munich for that matter – after agreeing a year-long loan move to Gremio.

The winger is contracted to Juventus through to the end of the 2021-22 sesson but he will spend that time back in his native Brazil, with the club at which he began his career.

Costa, 30, started this season at Juventus but joined another of his former teams, Bayern Munich, on a temporary basis in October and spent the rest of the campaign until now with the Bundesliga giants.

An injury-hit campaign meant Costa was not expected to extend that stay at Bayern, and his loan to the German giants was formally terminated on Friday.

Now the former Brazil international is heading back home, after 11 and a half years in Europe. He was initially acquired by Shakhtar Donetsk from Gremio in January 2010.

Juventus announced on their website: "Douglas Costa has officially signed for Gremio on a free loan from Juventus.

"The Brazilian winger, who joined Juventus back in 2017 and spent this past season on loan at Bayern Munich, will wear the shirt of the Porto Alegre outfit until 30 June 2022."

Costa won a league championship in every season but one of his career in Europe.

He helped Shakhtar win the Ukrainian title every year from 2010 to 2014 before they were denied by Dynamo Kiev in 2015, going on to lift the Bundesliga in 2016, 2017 and 2021 with Bayern, and Serie A in 2018, 2019 and 2020 with Juventus.

Gianni Infantino has denied FIFA colluded with clubs on the controversial Super League but stopped short of saying there had been no talks about the project.

The president of world football's governing body spoke out on Friday after the FIFA congress, describing the Super League attempted breakaway as "a rupture" in the game.

Asked whether FIFA had any involvement in the Super League planning or if it had offered support, Infantino gave a nine-minute response in which he said it was his job to always listen to anybody in the game considering a new format.

LaLiga president Javier Tebas recently accused Infantino of encouraging the Super League, but the FIFA chief rebutted that claim.

"Let me tell you that when we are analysing these questions, we should look at the facts and not rumours or corridor gossip, especially not coming from certain parts," Infantino said.

The proposed new competition was announced and quashed in the space of around 48 hours in April, a breath-taking episode that saw players, coaches, supporter groups, national associations, politicians and even royalty express dismay at the closed-door concept.

Liverpool, Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea, Arsenal and Tottenham announced they would be taking part, as did Barcelona, Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid from LaLiga, and Serie A giants Juventus, Milan and Inter also signed up. The project, a major threat to the UEFA Champions League, collapsed dramatically, but there are some who expect it to be revived.

"I know many clubs," Infantino told reporters in a conference call. "I speak with clubs for many years, since my days at UEFA, and when speaking to European clubs the Super League topic always is a topic for discussion.

"Everyone in football knows that, so let's not play games here. Everyone in football knows for years clubs have been studying and preparing for this or similar projects.

"In the 16 years I was in UEFA we always managed that, and I can tell you there were projects that were far more advanced than the one we have seen recently.

"At FIFA it is also my responsibility and our responsibility to discuss with football stakeholders. Now to listen to some clubs and to speak with some clubs doesn't certainly mean in any way whatsoever that FIFA was behind, was colluding, was plotting or I don't know what words you used for any Super League project."

Infantino pointed to a FIFA statement issued in January that said a breakaway competition would not be recognised by the world body.

"In that moment, the rupture was of course becoming inevitable and the rupture is never good, it's not good for anyone," Infantino said on Friday. "No war is good – never. We are ready to defend football from projects we know are wrong."

He added: "I don't close the doors to any discussion with anyone – never – about new formats, new ideas, new competitions. I'm ready to listen to everyone.

"This is my job ... the way I live the presidency of FIFA.

"I'm aware some people prefer to spin these discussions in a different way and I can understand that attacking me or FIFA is a good way to divert the attention from real problems that have never been addressed in the last years."

Infantino did not specify his target for that remark, but said: "I hope that as of today we can move to the real issues that football is facing."

Phil Mickelson played himself right into contention to become the oldest major champion in history after taking the clubhouse lead on day two of the US PGA Championship.

The 50-year-old looked in good shape in his first round on Thursday and he went a step further on Friday, finding himself top of the leaderboard having gone around the Ocean Course at Kiawah Island in 69.

It meant the American was on five under for the tournament, and he was leading by two shots shortly after he had finished for the day.

For much of Friday it looked as though Branden Grace was going to be in charge, the South African sitting pretty at six under for the tournament as he stepped up to the tee on the 17th.

But he finished his round with a double-bogey and a bogey as the breezy conditions took their toll on the two holes regarded as the toughest on the entire course, meaning he walked off after his final hole three under for the tournament.

Mickelson had similar issues on the same two holes earlier in the day after starting on the 10th, though the five-time major winner only dropped two shots across the 17th and 18th – it clearly was not enough of a wobble to really impact his mood.

The 2005 US PGA Championship winner has not had a single top-10 finish on the PGA Tour this season, but he has a great chance to end that here.

Opening up on his brilliant start at Kiawah Island, he said: "Physically I've felt as good as ever, I've been able to perform to play the shots, but I haven't been able to be as present or sharp mentally to visualise the shots I want to play.

"Meditation has been a big part of me being able to play the shots I want. It's gotten more difficult as I've got older to focus. Your mind is like a muscle, you have to exercise.

"That's what I've been doing, some days playing [as many as] 40-45 holes to make sure I can concentrate longer than just 18."

Mickelson carded five birdies after the turn, playing a huge role in putting him into contention to surpass Julius Boros as the oldest ever major winner at 48 in 1968.

Additionally, he is the first man aged 50 or over to be in top-five contention after 36 holes at a major since 2013.

His form here is made all the more remarkable by the fact he needed a special exemption to even qualify for next month's US Open, given his current ranking of 115.

"I'm having a lot of fun," he added. "To play well, to know I'm playing well heading into the weekend, to be in contention, to have a good opportunity, I'm having a blast. I'm excited for the weekend."

Ian Poulter looked to be putting himself into contention as well only to fall apart in the latter stages of his round, carding four bogeys in his final five holes – he was previously six under for the day.

Similarly, overnight leader Corey Conners' dropped down to two under for the tournament thanks to a difficult three-over second round.

Meanwhile, world number one Dustin Johnson will almost certainly not be returning on Saturday as he followed up a shocking first day with comparatively poor two over on Friday, leaving him on six over.

Jordan Spieth faces a nervy wait, he sits at four over following a second-round 75.

Stefanos Tsitsipas insists it must be purely business when he tackles Italian teenager and fellow tennis artisan Lorenzo Musetti in the Lyon Open semi-finals.

Ahead of a tilt at the French Open, for which he is among the favourites, world number five Tsitsipas has been tuning up his game at this week's ATP 250 tournament.

The Greek star was sharp in posting a 6-3 6-4 win over Japan's Yoshihito Nishioka, and 19-year-old Italian Musetti awaits him on Saturday.

Tsitsipas dropped just four games when he crushed Musetti in an Acapulco semi-final in March, but he senses more of a threat this time from the exciting youngster.

"We played in different conditions. Acapulco was a hardcourt match and with altitude," said Tsitsipas, speaking on Amazon Prime. "The conditions here are different. He's someone who enjoys playing on clay.

"We share a similar game style I think with a one-handed backhand, which is beautiful to see, but tomorrow it's going to be serious business I knew he can play good on this surface. I know he can elevate his game, so it's important for me to be in the semi-finals."

Musetti overcame Slovenian Aljaz Bedene 6-3 7-6 (7-2) in their quarter-final, scrambling through a chaotic second set in which he trailed 5-2 at one stage but then reeled off four straight games, only to fail to serve out.

Thankfully for the youngster, he pulled through the tie-break.

"It was a crazy end," said Musetti. "I was 6-5 up, and at 30-30 played a really bad volley and hit an underarm serve. Sometimes I go out of my mind. I am really proud of myself as I was 2-5 down in the second set and I stayed focused. I tried to play each point at my best."

Russian Karen Khachanov marked his 25th birthday with a 6-1 7-6 (7-3) win over Frenchman Richard Gasquet, veteran doyen of the single-handed backhand.

Khachanov faced a wait to learn who he must face in the semi-finals, however, with Cameron Norrie and Arthur Rinderknech level at one set all overnight, after rain forced an early end to play.

At the Geneva Open, Norway's Casper Ruud will tackle Canadian Denis Shapovalov in Saturday's final.

Ruud saw off Spaniard Pablo Andujar 6-3 6-2, while Shapovalov earned a 6-4 7-5 win against Uruguayan qualifier Pablo Cuevas.

Coco Gauff battled through to the second WTA final of her burgeoning career as the 17-year-old American sank the title hopes of Katerina Siniakova in Parma.

At the Emilia-Romagna Open, Gauff scored a 7-5 1-6 6-2 victory over the player who shocked top seed Serena Williams in round two of the clay-court tournament.

It means Gauff faces a first final appearance since landing the Linz Open title as a 15-year-old in October 2019, with Wang Qiang awaiting her in the title match after a dramatic win over former US Open champion Sloane Stephens.

Gauff served eight double faults against Siniakova, a familiar weakness in her game, but her opponent was similarly afflicted and coughed up 10 doubles across the two hours and eight minutes of their contest.

Having reached the semi-finals of the WTA 1000 event in Rome last week, Gauff is enjoying her stay in Italy ahead of competing at the French Open.

"I need to play more aggressive. I learned to trust my shots and they ended up working out," she said on Amazon Prime. "The Italians, they cheer me on and bring me good luck, and hopefully I can keep this going tomorrow."

Wang beat Stephens 6-2 7-6 (7-3), but the scoreline barely told the story of the second semi-final. It seemed sure to go to a third set as Stephens raced to a 5-1 lead in the second, but Wang reeled her in before easing through the tie-break.

Chinese star Wang, coached by former Wimbledon champion Pat Cash, said: "I just tried to hang in there and focus on the court, try to hit every ball back. It will be my first time to play [Gauff] and I will make a plan tonight."

At the Serbia Open, promising Colombian teenager Maria Camila Osorio Serrano set up a semi-final against Croatian Ana Konjuh by beating world number 50 Aliaksandra Sasnovich.

Osorio Serrano secured a 6-4 6-2 success, while Konjuh saw off Argentinian Nadia Podoroska 6-4 6-3. In the top half of the quarter-final draw, Spain's Paula Badosa was a 6-2 6-4 victor over Swedish player Rebecca Peterson, and Bulgarian Viktoriya Tomova edged out Hungarian Reka-Luca Jani 6-1 2-6 7-5.

Giacomo Nizzolo finally came out on top in a sprint finish at the Giro d’Italia to win stage 13 as Egan Bernal retained his overall lead in the race.

Nizzolo had finished second on 11 occasions previously in the race, including missing out this year to Tim Merlier on stage two and Caleb Ewan at the end of stage five.

However, the Italian made sure he would not be denied on Friday, overhauling Edoardo Affini following a 198-kilometre journey from Ravenna to Verona.

"Finally I've got a stage victory at the Giro!" Nizzolo said. "Today I decided to launch a long sprint.

"I chose to risk staying too long in the wind rather than wait for too long behind other riders with the chance of being blocked. My choice paid off."

Affini appeared set to be rewarded for his late attack from long range, yet the Jumbo-Visma rider did not quite have enough to hold off the fast-finishing Nizzolo and had to settle for second place, just ahead of Peter Sagan.

As for the general classification, Bernal was able to stay safe and conserve some energy ahead of Saturday’s potentially pivotal stage that finishes on a climb up the famous Monte Zoncolan.

The Colombian crossed the line with the peloton to remain 45 seconds clear of Aleksandr Vlasov in the battle for the maglia rosa.

"Finally we had an easy day," Bernal said.

"It would be special to win atop the Zoncolan tomorrow but that means controlling the whole peloton, so I'd be happy if I just keep the maglia rosa."

STAGE RESULT

1. Giacomo Nizzolo (Team Qhubeka Assos) 4:42:19
2. Edoardo Affini (Jumbo-Visma) +0:00
3. Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) "
4. Davide Cimolai (Israel Start-Up Nation) "
5. Fernando Gaviria Rendon (UAE Team Emirates) "

CLASSIFICATION STANDINGS

General Classification

1. Egan Bernal (INEOS Grenadiers) 53:11:42
2. Aleksandr Vlasov (Astana-Premier Tech) +0:45
3. Damiano Caruso (Bahrain Victorious) +1:12

Points Classification

1. Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) 135
2. Giacomo Nizzolo (Team Qhubeka Assos) 126
3. Davide Cimolai (Israel Start-Up Nation) 113

King of the Mountains

1. Geoffrey Bouchard (AG2R Citroen Team) 96
2. Egan Bernal (INEOS Grenadiers) 48
3. Dries De Bondt (Alpecin-Fenix) 24

One round remaining, two teams involved, and just two points separate them.

LaLiga's title race has been at its most gripping in years this term, arguably capturing the imagination more than any since 2006-07.

Back then, there were three teams in with a chance of taking home the title on the final day of the season: Real Madrid and Barcelona, of course, plus Juande Ramos' Sevilla.

As it was, Madrid and Barca won on the last day whereas Sevilla – who needed a win and for the other two to lose – lost at home to Villarreal.

Madrid finished top by virtue of a better head-to-head record over Barca, who were essentially denied the title by their local rivals Espanyol, slumping to a 2-2 draw with them on the penultimate day to hand Los Blancos the initiative.

This time there are only two teams left in the hunt on the final day, with Sevilla and Barcelona bowing out of what was, for a while, a four-way tussle at the summit.

Now it's between Atletico and Madrid, the two city rivals hoping to leave the other wallowing in misery.

Diego Simeone's side looked certainties for the title not too long ago: at the start of February, they were 11 points clear, but their form in the second half of the season has been a little underwhelming.

Having accumulated 50 points in their first 19 league matches, that haul has plummeted to 33 in the 18 matches since, hence why as many as three other teams have threatened to overtake them.

There have been thrills and spills, particularly in the past few weeks, with Atletico securing a dramatic 2-1 win over Osasuna last weekend despite falling behind in the 75th minute. Any result other than a win would have allowed Madrid to go into the final weekend top.

Yet, remarkably, the title is still in Atletico's hands thanks to Luis Suarez's 88th-minute winner on that occasion, meaning they hold the advantage heading into the final weekend.

Atletico go to relegation-threatened Real Valladolid, while Madrid host Villarreal. Who will prevail?

 

How does the predictor work?

First of all, here's how we got the data...

The data model estimates the probability of each match outcome – either a win, draw or loss – based on each team's attacking and defensive quality. Those ratings are allocated based on four years' worth of comprehensive historic data points and results, with more weighting given to recent matches to account for improvements or declines in form and performance trends.

The AI simulation takes into account the quality of the opposition that a team scores or concedes goals against and rewards them accordingly. All that data is used to simulate upcoming matches using goal predictions from the Poisson distribution – a detailed mathematical model – with the two teams' attacking and defending ratings used as inputs.

The outcome of the season is then simulated on 10,000 different occasions in order to generate the most accurate possible percentage chance of each team finishing in their ultimate league position.

Let's see how the model now predicts the final league table will look...

 

Atletico take the crown

All signs point to Atletico sealing the title, their second league crown under the guidance of Simeone and first since 2014, when they also clinched it on the final day.

Our model gives Atletico a 73.9 per cent chance of finishing top – after all, they have won 89 per cent (8/9) of their league meetings with Pucela under Simeone, a record they can only better against Elche, Las Palmas (both 100 per cent) and Osasuna (91 per cent).

Our predictor does expect Madrid to beat Villarreal, as its most likely outcome sees Los Blancos finishing with 83 points, but Atletico know their rivals' result will be irrelevant if they go to Valladolid and win.

Nevertheless, Madrid do still have a 26.1 per cent chance of successfully defending their crown, no doubt helped by the fact they boast a better head-to-head record against Atletico.

If they are ultimately successful, it will be Madrid's 35th league title and their first successive LaLiga crowns since 2006-07 and 2007-08, while Zinedine Zidane would be the first Blancos coach since Leo Beenhakker (three – 1987, 1988 and 1989) to win consecutive titles.

The omens are good for Madrid in terms of them fulfilling their end of the bargain, as Yellow Submarine coach Unai Emery has lost eight of his nine LaLiga matches away to them.

Atletico's result will also help finalise matters near the bottom of the table as well, as Valladolid need to win to avoid the drop, though even that may not be enough to save them.

The predicted table has Valladolid and Huesca – due to their inferior head-to-head record against Elche – following Eibar into La Segunda.

Nuno Espirito Santo will bring an end to his four-year spell in charge of Wolves following Sunday's final Premier League game of the season against Manchester United.

The Portuguese earned promotion to the Premier League in his first season in charge and followed that up with successive seventh-placed finishes in the top flight.

He also guided the midlands side to the quarter-finals of the Europa League last season – their best European run in nearly 50 years – when they were beaten by eventual winners Sevilla.

Amid links with a number of other clubs, Nuno put pen to paper on a new contract last September that still has another two years to run.

However, following an underwhelming 2020-21 campaign – not helped by a long-term injury sustained by Raul Jimenez in November, plus the sales of Matt Doherty and Diogo Jota – Nuno is to step down by mutual consent.

"Since the first day we arrived at Compton, our ambition was to make a positive change and push this football club forward, and I am proud to say that we did that every single day," Nuno, who departs as the club's fifth-longest serving manager of the post-war era, told Wolves' official website.

"We achieved our goals, we did it with passion and we did it together. I want to thank the supporters, who have all played such an important part in helping us reach new heights for Wolves, and the people of the city, who embraced us and made us feel at home.

"I, of course, want to thank all of the staff at Wolves, for their support and total commitment, every single day.

"Most importantly, I want to thank each and every player that we've worked with since the day we started, for their loyalty, their dedication, hard work and talent. They are the ones who have made this amazing journey possible for us.

"Sunday will be a very emotional day, but I am so happy that the fans will be back in Molineux and we can share one last special moment together, as one pack."

Wolves can finish no higher than their current 12th-placed standing heading into their last game of the campaign at home to United.

That match will be Nuno's 199th in charge of Wolves in all competitions and will be attended by a limited number of supporters at Molineux as lockdown restrictions are eased in the United Kingdom.

Some 113 of those games have come in the Premier League, with Wolves winning 43, drawing 32 and losing 38 – only eight sides have won more games over that timeframe.

Wolves executive chairman Jeff Shi praised Nuno's influence at the club and is glad the popular coach will get a fitting send-off.

"Nuno has brought us some incredibly special moments at Wolves that will never be forgotten, but every chapter comes to an end," Shi said.

"Sunday was already going to be a very special day, welcoming our supporters back for the first time in more than a year; but it will also now be a fitting goodbye for someone who will forever remain an important part of Wolves history."

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