Pep Guardiola has long known the lot of the holding midfielder.

During his playing days, Guardiola operated at the base of Barcelona's engine room as the likes of Michael Laudrup, Romario, Hristo Stoichkov, Luis Figo, Luis Enrique and Ronaldo took the plaudits higher up the field.

In his Manchester City side, who claimed a 15th successive win across all competitions this week to set a new record in English top-flight history, the attacking stars also trip off the tongue.

Ilkay Gundogan is enjoying the most prolific season of his career from midfield and was named Premier League Player of the Month on Friday, while Phil Foden's rapid rise is firing enthusiasm over England's Euro 2020 prospects.

City's all-time leading scorer Sergio Aguero and star playmaker Kevin De Bruyne are still to return to the mix after spells on the sidelines, but another less-glamorous player has been there throughout the dominant run.

No one in Guardiola's squad has made more than Rodri's 21 appearances, the Spain international having made the anchor role his own.

"The best holding midfielders never appear in the newspapers, in the front pages," the City manager said ahead of Saturday's game against Tottenham.

"They hide behind the team but when [the team] plays good it is because they are playing outstanding."

Since a 2-0 defeat to Spurs last November, City are undefeated in 22 matches - something that reflects very well indeed on Rodri in Guardiola's eyes.

 

A £62.8million signing from Atletico Madrid in July 2019, the 24-year-old's first season in English football proved a struggle at times.

Without Aymeric Laporte through injury for large chunks of the season, the defence Rodri was charged with protecting often looked vulnerable.

Fernandinho being pressed into action at centre-back meant the new man was left to learn on the job as Guardiola sought and struggled for midfield balance.

But Rodri has started to thrive in the months since City last tasted defeat, with Ruben Dias at the heart of defence and an attacking line ahead of him displaying its fluidity of old.

"He adapted quickly, immediately. He's still young and there are some issues that he still has to learn but he will learn them," Guardiola said. "He's a really important player for us."

No Premier League player has attempted more than Rodri's 1,723 passes this season and he retains an impressive 90.3 per cent accuracy across that volume of work.

The quality of possession Rodri plays a part in and often launches is notable.

According to Opta, he has initiated 36 open play sequences leading to a shot and five resulting in goals - both league-best returns.

Similarly, Rodri is out on his own with 81 involvements in open play build-ups concluding with a shot, while weekend opponent Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg is the only man who can match the Spaniard's 11 involvements in build-ups preceding a goal.

Smoothness on the ball is a pre-requisite for any Guardiola player, especially one operating in the Catalan's old position, but Rodri has also shown an aptitude for the dirty work required to keep City's pristine machine on the road.

None of his team-mates can boast more than his 174 recoveries this term - 10th in the Premier League overall. Rodri also leads the way at City for tackles (40) and duels won (128), while winning 52 of 70 aerials contested – that is unmatched in the top-flight leaders' squad as well.

"A good holding midfielder plays for the other ones and not for himself. These are the best holding midfielders," Guardiola said.

"They think what's happening, what they have to do to correct the mistakes of the other ones and don't play for the highlights."

Leicester City's Champions League aspirations suffered a major blow with the news full-back James Justin will require surgery on an anterior cruciate ligament injury.

Justin hurt his knee in Leicester's FA Cup win over Brighton and Hove Albion on Wednesday and was taken off on a stretcher.

Manager Brendan Rodgers confirmed the severity of the injury in Friday's pre-match media conference ahead of their Premier League meeting with Liverpool.

"Sadly the scan hasn't shown up so well, which is a massive blow for us," Rodgers said.

"He looks like he's done his ACL, which is a devastating blow for us because he's been incredible since he came into the team last year.

"He's played in many positions. Wherever I've asked him to play, whatever position, he's been a minimum eight out of 10 and developing as a top Premier League player."

Rodgers' words are supported by the Opta data, with Justin clearly emerging as one of the better attacking full-backs in the league and among Leicester's top outlets going forward.

Justin has created 20 chances in the league this season, level with attacking midfielder Harvey Barnes and behind only James Maddison, who has crafted double that amount in an excellent campaign, among Leicester players.

The gap between Maddison and Justin in chances created from open play is significantly closer. Maddison still has the edge, but only by a 24-19 margin.

Marc Albrighton (5) is the only Leicester player to set up more 'big chances' for his team-mates than Justin (4).

Only one of Justin's chances created has resulted in an assist, though his proficiency in starting attacks is illustrated by his accuracy on passes into the final third.

He has been successful with 74 per cent of such passes, second only to Maddison (75).

Among Premier League defenders who have played at least 10 games, Justin has created the 12th-most chances and the fifth-most big chances.

Just seven defenders have generated more chances from open play, Joao Cancelo leading the way with (30), while seven defenders have a higher number of passes into the final third than Justin's 312.

Leicester will face the top two players in that regard, Andrew Robertson (577) and Trent Alexander-Arnold (508), when they welcome Liverpool to the King Power Stadium on Saturday.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer confirmed on Friday that teenagers Shola Shoretire and Hannibal Mejbri will be promoted to Manchester United's senior squad.

The young attackers have been playing for United's Under-23s this season and blossomed in Neil Wood's free-scoring team.

Still just 17 and 18, respectively, Shoretire and Mejbri are seemingly now considered a level above that which United's second team play, with both looking destined for big futures.

Shoretire was spotted training with the United first-team squad last week and Mejbri is set to join him, with Solskjaer confirming it is his plan to integrate both into the senior group.

Speaking to reporters on Friday, Solskjaer said: "Yeah, we've moved Shola up with us, Hannibal will probably join us, and we'll keep them with us for a while.

"Of course, it's a decision we have to make – are they going to train with us and travel by themselves and not be a part of the Under-23s group?

"We felt, with Shola, it was time for him to train with us. In the Under-23s games, he's just got to travel by himself; he can't be in the dressing room, but we felt it was the right thing to do for him.

"I think it's the next step in their development and we've just got to take the hit on them when they play in the Under-23s – that they've got to travel by themselves, because they're in our [first-team] bubble."

Shoretire and Mejbri have long been considered among the best prospects in United's academy, but what can they offer?

 

HANNIBAL MEJBRI, 18 – ATTACKING MIDFIELDER

Many will have had an eye on Mejbri's development ever since he joined the club from Monaco in August 2019 in a deal that could potentially cost €10million (£8.75m).

A France youth international, Mejbri quickly progressed to United's Under-23s last term despite only being 17 and has become a regular.

A technically gifted attack-minded midfielder, Mejbri has impressed not only with his ability on the ball, but his knack of crafting opportunities for team-mates.

In Premier League 2 Division One, his 42 chances created in 13 games is more than any other player, while his six assists is a joint-best for the league.

He has combined his creativity and comfort in possession to good effect as well, as evidenced by the fact seven of his carries (a movement of more than five metres with the ball) have led to chances created, a figured bettered by only five.

Mejbri has also attempted 49 dribbles, the fourth-most in the division, and won a remarkable 94 fouls – almost three times as many as anyone else – two of which secured penalties in the recent 6-3 win over Liverpool's Under-23s.

In fact, Wood recently urged referees to do more to protect him from such rough treatment, concerned Mejbri will suffer a serious injury if it continues.

He can expect similar attention if he does get minutes in the top flight, though Wood is adamant Mejbri does not let it get to him, saying: "I think he's the type that he wants the ball all the time, he's not going to shy away from it and that's what we want, you don't want your top players being worried, he just needs a bit of protection or it could result in him being badly injured."

SHOLA SHORETIRE, 17 – FORWARD

Shoretire joined the United academy in 2014 having previously played for Newcastle United, and for several years now he has looked like one of the next high-potential kids to come off the Old Trafford production line.

He made his debut for the club's Under-18s in 2018, in doing so becoming the youngest player to ever feature in UEFA's Youth League at 14 years and 314 days.

Shoretire – whose name is pronounced 'Shor-ay-ti-reh' – is most-often used as a winger (on either flank) for the Under-23s, but given his excellent dribbling, vision and finishing abilities, he could potentially have a future as a more central striker.

He signed his first professional contract on Monday, just three days after netting a hat-trick against Blackburn Rovers' Under-23s.

That took him to five goals in 13 appearances this term, while he also has four assists from 22 chances created.

Where he comes out particularly well is with regards to goal-ending passing sequences, of which he has been involved in 13 – only Mejbri (14) has a better record here.

Like Mejbri, Shoretire also has a penchant for taking the game to his opponents, as showcased by the fact he has created eight chances at the end of ball carries, the fifth-most in the league.

Given United's packed schedule over the next few weeks, with their European campaign set to resume, it wouldn't be a surprise to see these two make their first-team bows.

Even if they don't this season, it is surely only a matter of time.

Evin Lewis, Darren Bravo, and Rovman Powell are among 19 West Indies players who have been shortlisted for the Indian Premier League draft set for Chennai on February 18 at the ITC Grand Chola.

J.J. Watt's brilliant 10-year run with the Houston Texans has come to an end after the team released the three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year on Friday. 

The decision came at Watt's request and continues an offseason of tremendous turmoil and upheaval for the Texans franchise.

The star defensive lineman, who turns 32 in March, had one year remaining on his contract and did not wish to be part of an extensive rebuild coming to a team that finished 4-12 in 2020. 

"The connection I have with the people of Houston is special, and I will never take that for granted because I know how rare it is. I just want you to know to know that I love you and I appreciate you," Watt told Texans fans in a social media message.

"I want to thank the McNair family for drafting me and giving me my first opportunity in the NFL.

"Thank you, Houston."

Watt had spent his entire NFL career with Houston after being selected by the Texans with the 10th overall pick of the 2011 draft, and his 101 sacks and 172 tackles for loss are far and away the most in team history. 

"Simply put, there has been no person in the past decade who has made a greater impact on the Texans organisation than J.J. Watt," Texans co-founder and Senior Chair Janice S. McNair said in a statement. "J.J.'s dominance on the field was unprecedented and resulted in countless moments that will go down in Texans history."

Watt earned his first NFL Defensive Player of the Year award in his second season after recording a league-leading 20.5 sacks in 2012. He matched that total in 2014 while being named the NFL's top defender that season as well, then repeated the honour in 2015 after again leading the league with 17.5 sacks.

Injuries have lessened Watt's impact in recent years, however. He was limited to three games in 2016 by a herniated disc that required back surgery, and five in 2017 by a fractured left leg. The five-time first team All-Pro rebounded the following season with 16 sacks in 16 games, but missed eight games in 2019 after tearing his pectoral muscle.

Watt returned to play in all 16 games this past season and logged 52 tackles, five sacks and one interception.

The Wisconsin native is also renowned and lauded for his extensive charitable efforts in the Houston community. Watt was named the NFL's Man of the Year in 2017 after he raised over $40million through a social media fundraising effort to assist the city after it was struck by Hurricane Harvey.  

"Change is never easy, especially when it involves the ones you love. J.J.'s impact on not only our organisation, but the entire Houston community, is unlike any player in our franchise's history," Texans CEO Cal McNair said.

"I told J.J. earlier this week that we will forever consider him a Texan. We take solace in knowing that this is not a goodbye but a 'see you soon'." 

Change has been rampant within the Texans' ranks ever since McNair fired coach and general manager Bill O'Brien in October following an 0-4 start. 

Houston hired former Patriots executive Nick Caserio to fill the GM role in January and tabbed ex-Ravens assistant David Culley to be their new head coach, though both moves were not without controversy. 

Deshaun Watson's lack of involvement in the hiring processes prompted the star quarterback to issue a trade request, and longtime team president Jamey Rootes resigned earlier this week to pursue outside opportunities.  

Paris Saint-Germain will focus on helping Neymar recover emotionally from his latest injury setback, said Mauricio Pochettino, who is confident they have the squad to win without him.

Neymar was ruled out for up to four weeks after suffering an adductor injury in PSG's Coupe de France clash with Caen on Wednesday.

He will miss Tuesday's trip to Camp Nou to face his former club Barcelona in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 clash.

The timeline also puts him in doubt for the return leg at the Parc des Princes on March 10.

Neymar spoke of his immense sadness in an Instagram following news of his injury.

And asked about the Brazil forward ahead of their Ligue 1 clash with Nice, PSG boss Pochettino said: "We have been speaking since the injury happened and, with the tests that he had yesterday, he has made his sadness and pain public.

"We are all going to help him get back as quickly as possible. And also help him recover in terms of his emotional state because it has been a tough blow for him.

"He is a tough guy and he is very mature. We have got to know him here to see what a great person he is, not just an athlete, but an extraordinary person who builds good relationships and is very likeable."

Pochettino brushed off talk of him taking an unnecessary risk by playing Neymar against Caen with Barca on the horizon.

"We are here to manage a squad of players and we make decisions that we think are for the best," explained Pochettino. 

"We make decisions together and try to apply that all the time. A player got injured and that can happen. That can happen in the Coupe de France, in training, in the league, in the Champions League.

"It is a shame that he got injured, but these things happen in football.

"We cannot look back. We have key players injured and we have to look for solutions, while also knowing that we have a squad that can still handle that and play well in these fixtures.

"Whether it is Ligue 1 or the Champions League, I have total confidence in the squad, and they are PSG players for a reason. So we are going to try to go into every game to win without any excuses."

Jose Mourinho believes Tottenham must be "perfect" to stop Manchester City racking up a 16th straight win on Saturday, and Harry Kane is poised for a key role.

City's last defeat in any competition came at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in November, when Son Heung-min and Giovani Lo Celso struck to stun Pep Guardiola's visitors.

What has become a record-breaking run of wins for any English top-flight team began in December, and it appears City are charging towards the Premier League title following last Sunday's 4-1 thrashing of Liverpool.

Spurs led the way briefly before Christmas, but their season has unravelled and they enter the weekend in eighth spot, already 14 points behind City.

The 5-4 FA Cup defeat at Everton on Wednesday was another jolt and Mourinho's stewardship is again coming under scrutiny, with the head coach seeking an upturn in momentum.

Mourinho will usually dissect the post-match data of Tottenham's game, but when presented with the file from the Everton game he recognised it was too bleak an experience to relive.

"I opened and in two seconds I closed it immediately because I didn't want to go through it," he said on Friday.

"And I don't want even to share that with my players."

Among those players, Mourinho says Kane is fit and well. The England captain came off the bench early for Spurs in the second half at Everton, with his equaliser sending the game into extra time.

Mourinho had hoped Kane would only play a fleeting role at Goodison Park, having only returned from injury in last weekend's win over West Brom.

"He played 60 minutes or so, which he didn't want and I didn't want, but it was the game that pushed us in that direction, but no negative feelings after the game, just the normal stiffness. I believe he can start," Mourinho said.

It is hard to imagine Tottenham standing any chance against this rampant City side without Kane, who has scored the opening goal in more Premier League games than any other player this season (6).

Kane remains the main man, despite Son netting six goals in his past eight games against City across all competitions, with only Leicester City's Jamie Vardy (9) having scored more against the Etihad Stadium side since Guardiola was appointed.

The Kane-Son combination makes Spurs tick, and without one or the other, their threat diminishes.

Both have 13 league goals this season, with Kane also having 11 assists and Son six.

Tottenham have played two Premier League games without Kane this season, losing both times, so to have him absent against a side of City's stature would be asking for trouble.

"They're a very, very good team with a fantastic run of results, no doubts about that," Mourinho said. "It's always difficult to play against Man City. There is nothing new about it. They are probably now the biggest candidate to win the title which is not a big surprise.

"We beat them because we played so, so, so, so well in that match, and that's the only way any team can beat Man City."

Since that November defeat to Spurs, City have gone unbeaten in 14 Premier League games, winning 12 and drawing twice, conceding just three goals in that time.

"You make a defensive mistake and they'll kill you," Mourinho said. "You just look to the pragmatism of the numbers and what is Man City in this moment? It is a team that wins matches, it is a team that scores goals, and it is a team that doesn't concede goals.

"So when you play against a team with these very clear numbers, you know it is very difficult to stop them to score, because they score all the time, and you know it is difficult to score goals, because they don't concede.

"So you have to play a perfect match, like we did when we played them here at home.

"I don't see any weakness, that why I say to win the game we need to be perfect in every aspect and every minute because they are really a very strong team."

Manchester City's record-breaking winning run will count for nothing when they take to the field against Tottenham on Saturday, Pep Guardiola has warned.

City set a new best mark for an English top-flight club in midweek when a 3-1 FA Cup fifth-round triumph at Swansea City marked a 15th successive victory across all competitions.

Guardiola's side are five points clear at the top of the Premier League with a game in hand on their nearest rivals.

Spurs were the last team to defeat City, prevailing 2-0 last November - 23 matches ago.

Jose Mourinho's men are chasing a third consecutive win over their weekend opponents and Guardiola is taking nothing for granted.

"It's nice to make a good run but it is the consequence of thinking game by game," he said, with trips to Everton and Arsenal also on the agenda for City over the next nine days.

"The statistics are nice, but statistics don't help you to win the next one.

"We are not unbeatable. The 15 games in a row winning doesn't help us to start 2-0 in the next game.

"It's nice, it's good, it helps us to be where we are in the Carabao Cup, the FA Cup, the Champions League and the Premier League, but we have to start again tomorrow. It's an important week against three incredibly strong teams.

"From our game when we played there, we have to imagine what we have to do to play better and beat them."

Guardiola expects to have influential central defender Ruben Dias back in contention after he missed the Swansea game through illness, while holding midfielder Rodri is back in training after limping off during the second half at the Liberty Stadium.

Sergio Aguero could also make his return after a bout of coronavirus, with Fernandinho (thigh), Nathan Ake and Kevin De Bruyne (both hamstring) the only definite absentees confirmed by Guardiola.

The City boss was named Premier League Manager of the Month on Friday, with midfielder Ilkay Gundogan collecting the Player of the Month award.

Germany international Gundogan has hit a rich vein of form in front of goal and a brace in last Sunday's 4-1 win over Liverpool at Anfield took him to 11 for the season in all competitions - making this already the most prolific campaign of the 30-year-old's career.

"I'm happy for him. Lots of goals, lots of minutes, lots of good actions - it's more than well deserved," Guardiola said.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer applauded Fred for building a career for himself at Manchester United after a rocky start, with the midfielder preparing to make his 100th appearance for the club.

Fred joined United in 2018 for a reported £52million from Shakhtar Donetsk, the deal seen as a significant coup for the Red Devils after he had been heavily linked with bitter rivals Manchester City. 

Pep Guardiola was said to have seen Fred as the ideal long-term replacement for Fernandinho, but United fans were left underwhelmed by what they saw in his first season at Old Trafford, making just 17 Premier League appearances. 

But he showed signs of improvement last season and has become one of Solskjaer's go-to players for the biggest matches, highlighting the manager's trust. 

In 2019-20, Fred improved virtually across the board statistically, averaging more passes (66.4 to 69.5), interceptions (1.4 to 1.6) and touches (85.3 to 91.1) per game than he had in his first season. 

He has dropped off in some of those areas this term, but his increase in tackle attempts (3.2 from 2.5) and interceptions (at 1.9 this season) per game, coupled with the fact he is losing possession less often (11.5 occasions, down from 14.5 per 90 minutes) suggests he has become more comfortable with his defensive role and the speed of the English game. 

His 3.2 tackles attempted per 90 minutes is the seventh-most of all Premier League players to have featured at least 10 times this term, and Solskjaer has no doubt where the praise should lie. 

"He's really done well. I've enjoyed working with him these past couple of seasons," Solskjaer told reporters ahead of Sunday's trip to West Brom. 

"When I came in, he was a boy who was struggling a little bit. I got numerous questions about Fred in press conferences early on. As I said then, players coming into a new country, it takes time to settle - and it took some time for Fred to settle. 

"He has settled now, he's grown in confidence. There's less time in the Premier League than what he was used to. He's quickened up his game, he's not getting caught on the ball.

"I'm not going to take any credit for that, of course. It's the coaches - I think Michael Carrick and Kieran [McKenna], they've been brilliant with him, but it's Fred himself who has had the hunger and humility to learn and want to improve, stick at it and keep working. 

"There are not a lot of people who can say they've played 100 games for Manchester United. Hopefully there will be many more [games] to come - and hopefully he will score from outside the box soon, but I'm not sure it’s going to be with his right [foot]! I've tried to tell him." 

With Solskjaer confirming Paul Pogba remains sidelined with a thigh injury, Fred looks likely to play again this weekend and his most-likely partner behind Bruno Fernandes will be another United midfielder who has attracted praise this season. 

Scott McTominay scored the extra-time winner as United beat West Ham 1-0 on Tuesday to book their place in the FA Cup quarter-finals, taking the Scotland international's tally for the season to seven goals. 

Only Bruno Fernandes (18) and Marcus Rashford (16) have more than McTominay across all competitions in 2020-21, with Anthony Martial and Edinson Cavani also on seven each, and Solskjaer is urging the midfielder to reach double figures. 

"Of course, to add goals from midfield is vital," Solskjaer continued. "Last season our three forwards were brilliant and really efficient and scored goals - 60 odd - and Bruno came in and scored goals. 

"We need more goals from midfield and Scott does have that ability to go box-to-box. He's a threat inside the box and he used to be a striker. 

"I think for us to move up the league and be successful in the cups, we need our forwards to keep on firing - getting more goals - and I wouldn't mind some midfielders adding a few.

"If Scott can get into double figures then that would be a very good season for a so-called defensive midfielder."

Jose Mourinho has blasted Gareth Bale following the under-fire Tottenham star's Instagram post, which the Portuguese coach said did not reflect reality.

The on-loan Real Madrid forward, who has failed to live up to his billing following a celebrated return to north London in September, was not included in the squad for Wednesday's remarkable 5-4 loss to Everton in the FA Cup.

Mourinho suggested after the fifth-round exit at Goodison Park that Bale had practically ruled himself out after the Welshman said he was in some discomfort and required a scan.

The Spurs boss said there was no "obvious, clear injury" but that Bale had opted to work with the club's sports scientists to help alleviate the problem, hence his omission in midweek.

However, Bale had put a post on Instagram before the game showing him apparently in full training, with the words "good session today".

It left Mourinho, who has the small matter of Saturday's trip to Premier League leaders Manchester City to contend with, baffled.

"I have to admit that his post created a need of being addressed," he said. "There was a contradiction between the post and the reality.

"Since the beginning of the season, in relation to everything, I've tried to be very private and keep everything indoors, but I felt that I needed to address the situation.

"Probably the post was not even his responsibility, but it was showing that training session was great and I'm ready, which was totally wrong. So, when questioned I had to give the reality of things.

"I repeat for the last time. He was not feeling good. He asked for a scan. He had a scan. The scan did not show an injury, but his feelings were still there. But as coaches, medical people, we can never go against the player's feelings. So, he was not ready for the game. It's as simple as that. If he's ready for tomorrow, he's selected for tomorrow."

The incident marks another unhelpful chapter in Bale's thus far deeply underwhelming return to Spurs, with the chances of a permanent switch back looking increasingly remote.

A scorer in two of his four Champions League final successes at Madrid, fitness problems dogged Bale over recent seasons as he fell out of favour with Zinedine Zidane.

The 31-year-old has four goals in 16 appearances for Spurs this term, although only two of his six Premier League outings have been starts.

Fabien Galthie has promised France are prepared for whatever "chaos" they might encounter as they prepare to tackle Ireland in Dublin.

The thumping 50-10 win over Italy in Rome last week gave France a fast start to their Six Nations campaign, but they were always expected to win comfortably there, and taking on Ireland is a very different prospect.

Galthie has made two changes to his starting XV for Sunday's game, bringing in wing Damien Penaud and flanker Anthony Jelonch for Teddy Thomas and Dylan Cretin.

France are looking for back-to-back wins over Ireland in the Six Nations for the first time since 2010-11, having beaten them in Paris in October, but Les Bleus have lost five of the past seven encounters between the teams in the championship.

However, Galthie feels France are shaping up as an increasingly formidable force, saying: "You just have to look at the results. We won eight out of 10 matches."

The defeats in that sequence cited by Galthie came with 14 men at Murrayfield in last year's Six Nations, and in sudden death to England in the Autumn Nations Cup.

"In Scotland we lost following a red card and in London we lost in extra time. We are doing it the right way, we continue our march," Galthie said. "We will continue to make progress in many areas. We have a significant space for improvement.

"You have to be prepared for any challenge, anywhere and against anyone. You have to prepare to experience chaos with as much solidity as possible.

"This is what we prepare for without forgetting to face the unexpected."

Galthie believes Penaud may be an ideal physical fit for the task of stopping Ireland, and he said of Jelonch: "He has this ability to be tough in combat, moreover the more the intensity rises, the more he becomes dominant."

 

France: Brice Dulin, Damien Penaud, Arthur Vincent, Gael Fickou, Gabin Villiere, Matthieu Jalibert, Antoine Dupont; Cyril Baille, Julien Marchand, Mohamed Haouas, Bernard Le Roux, Paul Willemse, Anthony Jelonch, Charles Ollivon, Gregory Alldritt.

Replacements: Pierre Bourgarit, Hassane Kolingar, Uini Atonio, Romain Taofifenua, Dylan Cretin, Baptiste Serin, Anthony Bouthier, Teddy Thomas.

Novak Djokovic is unsure whether he will be able to play in the Australian Open fourth round after struggling with an abdominal injury in his five-set win over Taylor Fritz.

The world number one survived a huge injury scare to get past Fritz in the third round, winning 7-6 (7-1) 6-4 3-6 4-6 6-2 on Rod Laver Arena.

Eight-time Australian Open champion Djokovic appeared to injure his abdominal region during the third set.

It was a match which started on Friday in front of a crowd and finished on Saturday without fans as Victoria went into a five-day lockdown.

Fritz appeared set to reach the fourth round of a major for the first time in his career, but Djokovic suddenly came to life in the fifth set.

Next up for Djokovic is Milos Raonic, who he has beaten in all 11 of their meetings, on Sunday.

But the Serbian is concerned by his injury and was unable to commit to saying he would be able to take to the court.

"I really don't know," Djokovic said when asked for his thoughts about facing Raonic.

"Right now, I know it's a tear, definitely, of the muscle so I don't know if I'll manage to recover from that in less than two days.

"I don't know. I don't know. I don't know if I'm going to step out on the court or not.

"I am very proud of this achievement. Let's see what happens."

Djokovic felt for American Fritz after his brave defeat and discussed what he had gone through during a contest lasting three hours and 25 minutes.

He continued: "I want to congratulate Taylor for a great fight. I'm sorry that he lost the match obviously.

"I don't know. I just tried to stay in there and I was hopeful that whatever is happening there is going to feel better.

"Towards the end of the fourth it started to feel better, third and fourth set I just served and couldn't do much on the return.

"I was just going for my shots, was hitting two first serves and it worked, it worked well.

"This is definitely one of the more special wins in my life. It doesn't matter what round it is and against who it is.

"Under these kinds of circumstances, to pull this through is definitely something I'll remember forever."

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