Juventus have announced the departure of head coach Andrea Pirlo as Massimiliano Allegri looks set to return to the club as his successor.

Pirlo signed a two-year deal to take over from Maurizio Sarri as Bianconeri boss last August, but the 42-year-old rookie boss failed to live up to expectations.

The former Italy playmaker failed to guide Juve to what would have been a 10th consecutive Serie A title and has paid the price after just one season in charge.

Juventus edged into the Champions League for 2021-22 by finishing fourth as Inter won the Scudetto.

The Turin giants tumbled out of this season's Champions League in March at the hands of Porto, losing on away goals at the round-of-16 stage.

Juventus have announced the departure of head coach Andrea Pirlo as Massimiliano Allegri looks set to return to the club as his successor.

Pirlo signed a two-year deal to take over from Maurizio Sarri as Bianconeri boss last August, but the 42-year-old rookie boss failed to live up to expectations.

The former Italy playmaker failed to guide Juve to what would have been a 10th consecutive Serie A title and has paid the price after just one season in charge.

Juventus edged into the Champions League for 2021-22 by finishing fourth as Inter won the Scudetto.

The Turin giants tumbled out of this season's Champions League in March at the hands of Porto, losing on away goals at the round-of-16 stage.

Juventus announced Pirlo's departure in a manner that spoke of the esteem in which he is held at the club, and in a way that highlighted achievements over shortcomings.

"Thank you, Andrea," the club statement began. "These are the first words that all of us need to say at the end of this special experience together.

"A few months ago, Andrea Pirlo, an icon of world football, began his new adventure, his first as a coach.

"To do this, first of all, it takes courage, as well as awareness of one's own means, especially in a period marked by thousands of difficulties, with the world forced by the pandemic to reinvent its own rules day after day."

The statement, posted on the club's website, added: "Pirlo has just begun the first steps of what will no doubt become a brilliant career as a coach. An adventure of transformation, seeking, and often managing, to bring his ideas and his experience as a champion on the pitch from the 'other side' of the fence.

"And since in football, what counts are the victories, let's remember them: in the space of a few short months Pirlo's Juve has raised two trophies: The Italian Supercup and the Coppa Italia. And he, as coach, brought home brilliant victories on the most prestigious of fields, from San Siro to Camp Nou.

"For all this, for the courage, the dedication, the passion with which he demonstrated every day, our thanks go to the maestro, the coach and to Andrea, that really comes from the heart. As well as our good luck for the future that will surely be a wonderful one."

Allegri has been out of work since leaving the Turin giants two years ago. He had been linked with Real Madrid before news emerged on Thursday of a likely change at Juventus.

Juventus were champions of Italy in five consecutive seasons under the experienced Allegri, who has the highest Serie A win percentage at the club with 74.74 per cent.

They were beaten Champions League finalists with the 53-year-old at the helm in 2014-15 and 2016-17, while Allegri's side also lifted the Coppa Italia on four occasions during his first stint with Juve.

Pirlo was promoted from a briefly-held role as Juventus under-23 coach, and although he won the Coppa Italia and Supercoppa Italiana, the former midfield maestro is now on the lookout for a new challenge.

A lifetime of going toe-to-toe with bigger boys stands Phil Foden in perfect stead for the biggest game in European club football on Saturday.

Foden, who turned 21 on Friday, has enjoyed a superb season for Premier League champions Manchester City, progressing from undoubted talent and potential to be one of the first names on Pep Guardiola's team sheet.

The attacking midfielder's rise has delighted Steve Eyre, a former youth coach at City who oversaw some of Foden's earliest steps on the road to stardom.

"It's amazing, really. He just keeps evolving and getting better. As a supporter, first and foremost, I am mesmerised by some of his performances and capabilities," Eyre told Stats Perform ahead of the Champions League final between City and Chelsea at Estadio do Dragao this weekend.

"His temperament has come to the fore recently, now that the opposition are more aware of him. There are more people wanting to foul him, there are more people wanting to mark him tighter."

Foden joined City as an eight-year-old and Eyre said: "He's got such a hunger and such a desire to affect the scoreline in a variety of positions now that I don’t think the lad himself knows what his best position is."

Nedum Onuoha was a product of the youth set-up, overseen by Jim Cassell – viewed by Eyre as "the best academy manager of his generation" – that serviced City's first team after the turn of the century, producing the likes of Shaun Wright-Phillips, Micah Richards, Daniel Sturridge and Kieran Trippier.

Nevertheless, despite that esteemed list of internationals, ex-City defender Onuoha believes Foden's gifts put him on another level.

"I wouldn't necessarily say there are going to be a ton of people like Foden to come after him, because for me - not to downplay the people that came before - he's the best player I've ever seen come out of our academy," Onuoha told Stats Perform.

"That academy has seen players come through who've won Premier Leagues, not just at City, like Kasper Schmeichel. You've had players come through and play for England. But in terms of actual talent and ability, the fact Phil can fit into this City team, like he has done over the past couple of years, says a lot about how good he actually is.

"From hearing little things, from players and people who spend time with him, he's got this obsession with winning and an obsession with getting better. And a true love for the football club."

Foden's capacity to excel was spotted quickly by Cassell's team and Eyre had a conversation with the player's father, asking if he could train for an extra night a week to mix it with the older age groups.

"He said 'no problem', he agreed," the coach recalled, before explaining the rationale.

"It's very important that you don't divorce a boy from his childhood. It's important that he plays with lads his own age and mixes and socialises with them. The challenge for Phil – we think it suited him; it doesn't necessarily suit others – was to design a mixed age-group programme for him.

"Very quickly he had to find a way to make space and find space to avoid contact with the big boys. When everything became a bit more familiar, they wanted to get stuck into him a little bit and make sure he didn’t have everything his own way. What he had to do then was the opposite and learn how to take contact.

"What you see now, with his incredible balance, is he's absolutely amazing at avoiding contact.

"When he takes contact these days, he either wins the physical battle with upper-body strength or if he's thrown to the floor he's very, very durable and he just pulls his socks back up, looks at the referee for a little bit of support, gets on his feet and gets playing again."

Even if emulating Foden will prove beyond most of the hopefuls who tread the pitches at the City Football Academy, Onuoha believes his progress to become a first-team star for Pep Guardiola and England boss Gareth Southgate provides a shining light for City's next generation.

"It does matter because it justifies the academy, it justifies why your kid comes into the place," Onuoha said. "If you don't have somebody in the first team who's come through the ranks, you start to ask bigger questions about what's the point.

"But ultimately, City do invest in their academy. It doesn't guarantee that everybody will play for the first team, but it shows that you can. Seeing an academy face, especially a Mancunian one for fans, that really, really matters and it makes you feel excited. It shows that pathway is still there."

Onuoha added: "When Phil was growing up, there were people in City's first team who he was looking up to, like a David Silva. Who's to say that the next Phil Foden-level talent isn't looking at him now? They're 10 years old, thinking, 'I want to be like Phil Foden'."

Phil Foden turned 21 on Friday, the day before he will play for Manchester City in arguably the biggest game in his boyhood club's history.

For all Foden's understated public persona and the unfussy way he goes about his business on the field, such a high-stakes landmark has felt inevitable since he emerged as a precocious and remarkably fully formed talent four years ago.

"I don't have words. I would like to have the right words to describe what I saw," Pep Guardiola told reporters after Foden sparkled in an International Champions Cup friendly against Manchester United in Houston, Texas.

"You are lucky guys, believe me, you are the guys who saw his first game in the first team at Manchester City. I've not seen something like I saw today for a long time. His performance was another level."

It is a level at which Foden has largely remained, meaning Guardiola frequently had to resist clamour to give the youngster more game-time. Over the past six months, he has become one of the first names on the team-sheet, so that is no longer a problem.

Ilkay Gundogan, the only City player to have previously featured in a Champions League final, when Borussia Dortmund lost to Bayern Munich in 2013, expects Foden to take Saturday's encounter with Chelsea at Estadio do Dragao smoothly in his stride.

"Phil has become one of our main players throughout the season," Gundogan said. "He's doing incredibly well, he improved in so many details of his game, mainly in taking the right decisions at crucial times.

"For such a young age it is really impressive. I wouldn't recommend him to change anything from what he's done over the past few weeks. He is one of the game-changers for us and he can be one on Saturday."

Next on the horizon will be the European Championship, where Gareth Southgate will have designs on Foden being a game-changer for England. It could be a momentous few weeks for the quicksilver attacker, so it feels like a very good time to have a look at some of the numbers – from one to 21 – that got him to this point.

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Foden has scored 31 times for City in all competitions but few have been as important as goal number one in the Premier League. Starting for just the second time in the top-flight, he showed an aptitude for timing runs into the box to nod home Sergio Aguero's header across goal against Tottenham in April 2019. It was the only goal of the game, coming four days after Spurs knocked City out of the Champions League in dramatic fashion and at the business end of a knife-edge title battle with Liverpool, where Guardiola's side prevailed by a point, 98 to 97.

In the book Pep's City by Pol Ballus and Lu Martin, Foden was described as "lighting up the darkness that engulfed the first team squad in training" after the Champions League heartbreak.

                               *********************

Foden probably overhauled that Spurs goal twice in the eight days when he made it two winning goals in two against Borussia Dortmund in this season's Champions League quarter-finals. First, he struck in stoppage time for a 2-1 win in Manchester after Marco Reus equalised for the visitors, and then he smashed home from a short corner to spark frenzied touchline celebrations with Guardiola as City won by the same scoreline at Signal Iduna Park.

It meant Foden was the second player under the age of 21 to score in both legs of a Champions League quarter-final after Kylian Mbappe, who did so for Monaco against Dortmund in 2017. Considering the prolific start to Mbappe's career in Europe's elite club competition and his exclusive use as a forward, Foden shapes up pretty well by comparison. In 1,544 minutes of Champions League football he has 11 goal involvements (six goals, five assists). After 1,540 minutes in the tournament, Mbappe had 17 (12 goals, five assists).

                               *********************

The 2020-21 season saw Foden make it three Premier League winners' medals for his personal collection. He has played a far bigger part this time around. All of his five appearances in 2017-18 came from the bench. When City retained the league the following year, that vital winner versus Spurs was his only goal involvement in three starts and 10 outings as a sub.

This time around, Foden played in 28 of City's 38 matches, starting 17. His final-day goal against Everton took his Premier League tally to nine, alongside five assists.

                               *********************

After his first trip away with the England senior side ended in ignominy last September, Foden needed something special to fire himself back into the Euro 2020 reckoning upon his return. He duly delivered in November with a first international goal against Iceland at Wembley. His second followed four minutes later.

At 20 years and 174 days, he was the youngest England player in history to score more than once in a game at Wembley.

                               *********************

Foden has truly excelled since making the left-wing spot his own at City this season. When Aston Villa arrived at the Etihad Stadium for a thrilling encounter in January he was in full flight. Five shots and six chances created over the course of a 2-0 win made him the youngest player to register 10+ shot involvements in a game under Guardiola at 20 years and 237 days.

He overtook a certain Lionel Messi, who managed the feat against Sporting Gijon at 21 years and 89 days in 2008 – during Guardiola's first season in charge of Barcelona – giving a timely reminder that Foden has come under his tutelage at an earlier stage of development.

"I didn't meet Leo Messi at 17 years old like when I met Phil. And at that age, I never saw a player with this potential," Guardiola told BT Sport. "But you have to see them on pitch in the biggest stages, and he is a guy who is comfortable, who loves to play."

                                    *********************

Following his first pre-season tour with the senior City squad, Foden served loud notice of his potential by standing above his peers in England's 2017 FIFA U-17 World Cup win. Featuring in all seven of his country's games in India, scoring three times, including two in the 5-2 final victory over Spain, Foden was named player of the tournament.

                               *********************

The prizes have continued to stack up for Foden, with this season's Premier League being a major trophy number eight in City colours. Alongside three league titles are four EFL Cups in succession and the 2019 FA Cup, where he scored three times over the course of the competition to help complete a domestic treble.

He also starred in Community Shield triumphs against Chelsea and Liverpool in 2018 and 2019 respectively, but we're not counting those as major honours. Don't tell Pep!

                               *********************

Although a knack for scoring crucial goals has been a defining feature of his early career, Foden's reputation is built upon his exceptional creative skills. In 2019-20, as his prominence in Guardiola's plans was increasing, he supplied nine assists from 41 chances created, placing him fifth overall for City in all competitions as Kevin De Bruyne led the way with an absurd 22 assists from 177 chances created.

This season, De Bruyne is still out in front (18 assists, 111 chances created) but Foden is up next on 10 assists. He has created 75 chances overall, 13 of which have been classed as big chances by Opta.

                               *********************

But back to those goals, because this is certainly an area where he has shifted rapidly through the gears. In 2020, Foden completed the calendar year with 11 to his name. He already has the same amount in 2021 heading into Saturday's final.

"I am feeling really confident in front of goal. Every chance I get, I feel like I am going to score,” he told Sky Sports last year, having put his time to good use during lockdown..

"I was in okay form before we broke up, if I am honest, but I have come back flying. Through quarantine I tried to work on some things like one-on-ones and come back stronger."

                           *********************

Much like the goals and assists stats, another Foden figure that is likely to climb rapidly over the coming months and years is the fact he has only started 12 competitive games against the other members of English football's 'big six', including Community Shield meetings with Chelsea and Liverpool.

"Now Phil is demanding other things from the manager," Guardiola said in his BT Sport interview with Rio Ferdinand. "Before, play five minutes, 20 minutes he is happy; play Carabao Cup, he is happy. Now next season, don't play him in a Champions League game, see what happens. He is another status, he is going to demand."

This status looks like being beneficial to Guardiola, given Foden's overall record in City colours, which reads: played 123, won 100, drawn 10 and lost 13. In matches he has started this season, the English champions are W30 D3 L2 and W17 D3 L5 when Foden has been on the bench or missing, a win percentage drop from 85.7 to 68.

                           *********************

Foden's enhanced standing means he is now less likely to be a victim of the dreaded Guardiola "overthink". This is, of course a disingenuous tag attached to a coach who gets so deeply into his work he has spent press conferences eulogising over the terrifying qualities of Nathan Redmond and Sam Vokes. If he overthinks, he does it every single game, for better and for worse.

However, plenty of City fans will dread an unusual team selection in Porto, such as the 3-5-2 that collapsed in a heap against Lyon in last season's quarter-final. Foden had started in the previous round's second leg against Real Madrid as a false nine and had 14 goal involvements for the season (eight goals, six assists), but looked on as an unused substitute in Lisbon. His blossoming is one of the reasons the City team sheet should be more predictable this time around.

                           *********************

Having led his country to glory in India, Foden graduated to England Under-21 level, where he was similarly dazzling over the course of 15 caps and four goals.

He scored both in a 2-0 win over Kosovo and curled in a wonderful free-kick in Albania. The Young Lions flopped badly at Under-21 Euro 2019, but Foden's deft solo goal in a 2-1 defeat to France marked a rare high point.

                           *********************

Only Gundogan has managed more than Foden's 16 in a season where City have shared the goals around. Although plenty would back him should a key opportunity fall his way at Estadio do Dragao, there is room to become more clinical.

In terms of expected goals overperformance among City players to have scored 10 or more times this season, Foden is in a good place, over-performing his xG of 10.88 at a similar rate to Gundogan (17 goals, xG 11.69).

A shot conversion rate of 16.2 puts him below Gundogan, Ferran Torres and Gabriel Jesus within this group of players, while he has scored seven and missed eight big chances (46.7 per cent).

                           *********************

Foden's early breakthrough at City meant he achieved a cluster of age-related records. At 17 years and 283 days, he became the youngest English player to feature in a Champions League knockout match when Guardiola shuffled his pack thanks to a 4-0 first-leg advantage over Basel in the 2017-18 round of 16.

The next season, the cherished moment of Foden's first senior goal arrived, at the start of one of those triumphant EFL Cup campaigns against Oxford United. By now 18 years and 120 days, he was the first City player to score for the club having been born since the turn of the millennium.

                           *********************

When the following season's competition concluded, at a full Wembley a couple of weeks before the pandemic took hold of the UK, Foden was a surprise starter and man of the match at 19 in a 2-1 win over Villa.

Along with an assist for Sergio Aguero's goal, he completed 90 per cent of his 41 passes in the opposition half, made 70 touches overall and won seven out of 10 duels.

He was all over the contest and his prominence has increased exponentially since that point. This February, when City roared to a 4-1 win at Liverpool – their first away win in the fixture since 2003 – Foden bent the game to his will and crowned victory with a blistering individual strike. At 20 years and 255 days, he was the youngest player to score and assist in a Premier League game against Liverpool at Anfield.

                           *********************

And now, to another big game. The biggest.

The day after he turns 21, Foden will take all of this prodigious talent and elite experience and try to build upon it in pursuit of European glory. And we all get to watch.

"You are lucky guys, believe me."

Anthony Davis gave the Los Angeles Lakers an injury scare but vowed he would be ready for Game Four in the NBA playoffs series against the Phoenix Suns.

After posting 34 points and 11 rebounds in a 109-95 win on Thursday, Davis reflected on the moment in the second quarter when he made a chase-down block on Devin Booker but fell and hurt his knee.

The Lakers lead the series 2-1 and the next game comes on Sunday, with Davis optimistic he will be available to the Lakers for that one.

"We've got two days in between so I'm going to get it looked at, checked out," Davis said.

"I landed awkwardly and tried not to fall on Book, and I guess it's maybe hyperextended a little bit, but I was just keeping it warm, keeping it loose, and I just want to keep going.

"It felt fine the rest of the game, I really didn't have any problems with it. We'll see how I feel [on Friday], get some treatment Saturday and be ready for Sunday.

"I had a little discomfort but not enough to keep me out. I didn't think about it, I just kept playing, and just said in my mind that I've got two days to get it right, so leave it on the floor and fight through it. After the first couple of minutes of the third I didn't think about it, I was able to go out there and just play."

The reigning NBA champions were playing in front of a crowd of around 7,500 at Staples Center in their first home playoff game since 2013, with last year's postseason having been staged in Florida.

Booker was ejected for a two-handed push on Dennis Schroder, who was in full flight, and Davis described that incident as "a scary play", going beyond the spirit of the game.

"It was a physical game, all game guys chirping. But that's playoff basketball, guys are gonna chirp, guys are gonna talk," Davis said.

"But we can't allow plays like that to happen, just to push a guy out there with two hands, whether it was out of frustration or not.

"It's a scary play. Luckily, Dennis is all right, but sometimes it can end badly for a player. We don't want to let the chirping lead to something like that."

At long last, Manchester City have made it to the Champions League final – ever since their 2008 takeover, becoming the major force in Europe has been one of their main targets.

Achieving that goal is finally within their grasp, with Saturday's showpiece being the club’s first final in the competition.

For all the success during Sheikh Mansour's ownership, the Champions League has been the missing piece of the puzzle, a situation City set out to remedy in 2016 when they hired Pep Guardiola.

It is no surprise the Catalan coach has been the man to get them to the edge of glory, such is his pedigree and reputation, though it may have taken a little longer than some expected.

However, success in Porto on Saturday is by no means a foregone conclusion, with Thomas Tuchel's Chelsea standing in their way.

Ahead of the biggest match in European football, Stats Perform looks at the key Opta data…

The Coaches

Much of the focus until now has been centred around the two coaches, whose situations are rather different.

While Guardiola may be taking charge of Champions League final newcomers, he of course has a stellar reputation in the competition and will become only the third manager to win it three times if City prevail – the others being Carlo Ancelotti and Zinedine Zidane.

Tuchel, on the other hand, was here just last year in charge of Paris Saint-Germain, who were defeated in the final by Bayern Munich. He is already the first coach to reach successive Champions League/European Cup finals with different teams, while only Marcello Lippi and Hector Cuper have lost two in a row.

Nevertheless, Guardiola has lost more matches to Chelsea in all competitions across his managerial (seven) than any other club, including the past two.

The Records

City have already made history by getting this far, with this their first European final in 51 years since beating Gornik Zabrze 2-1 in the 1970 Cup Winners' Cup final – it's the longest gap between finals for a team, beating the 41 years that Sporting CP chalked up between 1964 and 2005.

Another record in sight for City is Real Madrid's benchmark of 12 wins in a single Champions League campaign, with Guardiola's side on 11. However, Los Blancos' haul is a little less impressive when you consider their 12 victories came from 17 matches – City have played 13 so far.

Although both clubs have become European mainstays this century, they have only actually played each other outside of domestic football once, meeting in the two-legged 1970-71 Cup Winners' Cup semi-final when Chelsea won 2-0 on aggregate.

City's regularity in this competition has been impressive, though as previously mentioned it will be their first final, which means it will be the third year running that a new team contests the main event, following on from Tottenham and PSG – this last occurred from 1986 to 1988 when Steaua Bucharest, Porto and PSV contested finals.

The Star Names

As with any Champions League final, there will be an impressive array of quality on show, including Kevin De Bruyne, a former Chelsea player.

Along with Riyad Mahrez, the Belgian has scored in the quarter-final and semi-final this season. If they both net in the final, they will be the first duo to accomplish the impressive hat-trick since Real Madrid greats Alfredo Di Stefano and Ferenc Puskas in 1959-60.

Phil Foden's career trajectory already suggests this will not be his last European final, and if he is named in the starting XI he will be the third-youngest Englishman (21 years, one day) to start a Champions League decider after Owen Hargreaves (20y 123d) and Trent Alexander-Arnold (19y 231d in 2018 and 20y 237d in 2019).

Foden is also on the second-longest unbeaten run in Champions League history at 21 matches, a streak that stretches back to a defeat to Basel in March 2018.

And the longest unbeaten run in Champion League belongs to? That's right, another City player: Bernardo Silva. He hasn't lost in the competition since September 2018, a sequence of 26 appearances.

Sergio Aguero will play his final match for City should he make an appearance, and few would bet against that given he has scored 13 times against Chelsea, a record he has only bettered against Newcastle United.

Standing in City's way, however, will be Edouard Mendy – Chelsea hope. The Senegal international suffered a knock against Aston Villa and the Blues will be desperate for him to be make it given he has kept eight clean sheets in Europe this term. Only Santi Canizares and Keylor Navas have ever kept nine in a single campaign.

Another man who has been key to Chelsea's defensive solidity this term, particularly since Tuchel took over, is Thiago Silva. The Brazilian is set to become only the fifth player to feature in consecutive finals with different teams.

The others? Marcel Desailly (1993 Marseille, 1994 Milan), Paulo Sousa (1996 Juventus, 1997 Borussia Dortmund), Samuel Eto'o (2009 Barcelona, 2010 Inter Milan) and Alvaro Morata (2014 Real Madrid, 2015 Juventus) – now there is a quiz question for you.

Toronto Blue Jays prospect Alek Manoah produced six scoreless innings in a history-making MLB debut against the New York Yankees on Thursday.

Manoah was scheduled to make his highly anticipated bow on Wednesday, but those plans were pushed back a day due to the forecast of inclement weather in New York midweek.

In the opening game of a doubleheader, Manoah dominated the Yankees with six innings of two-hit ball as the Blue Jays won 2-0 behind back-to-back homers from Marcus Semien and Bo Bichette.

Manoah struck out seven batters and walked two as he became the only pitcher in Blue Jays history with six-plus scoreless innings and seven or more strikeouts on debut.

The 23-year-old also became the second Blue Jays starting pitcher to throw six scoreless innings in his debut after Mauro Gozzo in 1989.

"I just want to take it all in, and just really enjoy the moment," Manoah said. "Obviously. there's another outing in five days, so I got to get ready for that, but just for today, just want to hug my whole family and I think that's what I'm going to enjoy the most ,is how many people came out to see me, called off [work] sick, made excuses whatever the case may be.

"They made sure to be here, so I think that's what I'll remember the most."

Toronto lost the second game 5-3 as Aaron Judge's two-run homer inspired the Yankees in the American League (AL) East showdown.

 

Bassitt's two-hitter lifts A's

Chris Bassitt tossed a gem as the Oakland Athletics blanked the Los Angeles Angels 5-0. A's ace Bassitt pitched a two-hitter for his first career complete game. Bassitt struck out nine and walked one.

World Series champions the Los Angeles Dodgers outlasted rivals the San Francisco Giants 4-3 behind Max Muncy's solo homer in the sixth inning. It snapped the Giants' seven-game road winning streak.

 

Orioles lose… again

The Baltimore Orioles' skid continued following a 5-1 loss at the hands of the high-flying Chicago White Sox. Baltimore have now lost 10 consecutive games.

 

Baez's magic act

Javier Baez produced a stunning moment of magic to help the Chicago Cubs trump the Pittsburgh Pirates 5-3. With two outs in the top of the third inning, Baez appeared stranded after grounding to Erik Gonzalez. The throw to first base was wide but a tag to Baez was readied. That prompted Baez to retreat to home plate. Pittsburgh made a mess of the situation as Willson Contreras rounded third in the meantime before Baez taking off for first plate and eventually second following another wild throw.

 

Thursday's results

Washington Nationals 5-3 Cincinnati Reds
Cincinnati Reds 3-0 Washington Nationals
New York Mets 1-0 Colorado Rockies
New York Mets 4-2 Colorado Rockies
Philadelphia Phillies 3-2 Miami Marlins
Chicago Cubs 5-3 Pittsburgh Pirates
Cleveland Indians 5-2 Detroit Tigers
Milwaukee Brewers 6-5 San Diego Padres
Tampa Bay Rays 7-2 Kansas City Royals
Toronto Blue Jays 2-0 New York Yankees
New York Yankees 5-3 Toronto Blue Jays
Chicago White Sox 5-1 Baltimore Orioles
Oakland Athletics 5-0 Los Angeles Angels
St Louis Cardinals 5-4 Arizona Diamondbacks
Los Angeles Dodgers 4-3 San Francisco Giants
Seattle Mariners 5-0 Texas Rangers

 

Angels at Athletics

The Angels (22-28) and Athletics (30-22) will lock horns again in Oakland on Friday. Two-way Angels star Shohei Ohtani will take to the mound after being scratched from his scheduled start on Thursday due to traffic, which prevent him from making it in time to the ballpark for his regular pre-game routine. The A's counter with Sean Manaea.

The Los Angeles Lakers issued a reminder of their quality as the reigning NBA champions outclassed the Phoenix Suns 109-95 to seize control in the Western Conference first-round series.

Injuries crippled the Lakers for most of the season as they slipped down to the play-in tournament and the seventh seed, but Anthony Davis and LeBron James starred at Staples Center on Thursday.

Davis posted a dominant double-double of 34 points and 11 rebounds and James put up 21 points as the Lakers claimed a 2-1 series lead following back-to-back victories against the second seeds in the playoffs.

Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks, meanwhile, are poised to sweep the Miami Heat after easing to a 113-84 win.

Bucks superstar Antetokounmpo posted 17 points and 17 rebounds to go with five assists, while Khris Middleton (team-high 22 points) and Jrue Holiday (19 points and 12 assists) contributed en route to a commanding 3-0 series lead.

The Bucks – who are eyeing their first championship since 1971 – can seal a sweep on Saturday.

 

Jokic inspires Nuggets

MVP frontrunner Nikola Jokic was at his brilliant best as the Denver Nuggets outlasted the Portland Trail Blazers 120-115 on the road. Jokic scored 36 points and collected 10 rebounds to guide the third-seeded Nuggets to a 2-1 series lead in the west. Damian Lillard's 37 points and Jusuf Nurkic's 13-point, 13-rebound double-double were not enough for the Trail Blazers.

Milwaukee's Holiday produced another impressive display against the Heat following his 15-assist performance in Game 2 as he became the first Bucks player with back-to-back 10-plus assist games in the playoffs since Sam Cassell in 2001. The 2013 All-Star was plus-37 in Game 2 and plus-42 in Game 3. According to Stats Perform, Holiday became the first NBA player to have a plus-minus of plus-37 or better in back-to-back games since Kobe Bryant in 2003.

 

Miami's shooting woes

The less said about the Heat's shooting on Thursday, the better. As a team, Miami were just 37.6 per cent from the field – making 32 of their 85 shots. From three-point range, the Heat were only 28.1 per cent (nine of 32). Goran Dragic (eight points) finished three-for-14 shooting in 29 minutes, while Duncan Robinson (two points) was one of six from the field, having missed all four three-pointers.

Chris Paul and Devin Booker were not at their usual high standards for the Suns. Paul, who hurt his shoulder in Game 2, was three-for-eight shooting for just seven points. All-Star team-mate Booker had 19 points, but it was on six-for-19 shooting from the field in 41 minutes. He only made one of four attempts from beyond the arc.

 

Rivers lights up fourth quarter

Denver's Austin Rivers was in red-hot form in the final period against the Blazers. Rivers scored 16 of his 21 points in the fourth to help the Nuggets to victory.

 

Thursday's results

Los Angeles Lakers 109-95 Phoenix Suns
Milwaukee Bucks 113-84 Miami Heat
Denver Nuggets 120-115 Portland Trail Blazers

 

Nets at Celtics

The star-studded Brooklyn Nets visit the Boston Celtics on Friday, leading the Eastern Conference first-round series 2-0.

The Milwaukee Bucks are on the cusp of advancing to the Eastern Conference semi-finals but Giannis Antetokounmpo warned "our job is not done" against the Miami Heat.

Milwaukee are one win away from sweeping reigning Eastern Conference champions Miami in the opening round of the NBA playoffs following Thursday's 113-84 rout in Game 3.

Bucks superstar Antetokounmpo posted 17 points and 17 rebounds to go with five assists, while Khris Middleton (team-high 22 points) and Jrue Holiday (19 points and 12 assists) contributed en route to a commanding 3-0 series lead.

The Bucks – who were eliminated by the Heat in last season's Conference semi-finals 4-1 – can seal a sweep on Saturday but two-time reigning MVP Antetokounmpo is taking nothing for granted.

"We are going to stay focused," Antetokounmpo told reporters as the Bucks attempt to win their first championship since 1971. "Our job is not done here."

"The last two games haven't been easy," Antetokounmpo said. "Obviously, we were up 30, but it's not easy.

"I'll say this: I'll say by us doing our job, I'm not surprised that we're able to win a game because once we focus on ourselves, play together, have fun and be tough, good things are going to happen. And in these three games, good things have happened for us."

Holiday – an All-Star in 2013 – was acquired from the New Orleans Pelicans in November as part of Milwaukee's title pursuit.

The 30-year-old produced another impressive display against the Heat following his 15-assist performance in Game 2 as he became the first Bucks player with back-to-back 10-plus assist games in the playoffs since Sam Cassell in 2001.

"We got better from last year," Antetokounmpo said. "We've had great additions to the team that help us do that."

PJ Tucker – another recruit after he was traded to the Bucks by the Houston Rockets in March – added: "We dogs. That's all we talk about. That's all I ever talk about.

"We gotta be dogs. People's perceptions of us and what people think in the past, we're erasing all of that."

Manchester City star Raheem Sterling is confident of Champions League success, insisting "the only thing that can stop us are ourselves".

Premier League champions City and rivals Chelsea will meet in an all-English final in Porto, Portugal on Saturday.

City will contest their first Champions League final, while it is 51 years since the club's last major European decider, having won the 1970 Cup Winners' Cup – breaking the record for the longest gap between finals for a team, eclipsing Sporting CP's 41-year drought.

Pep Guardiola's City have won 11 Champions League matches this season and victory over Chelsea would see them equal the all-time record of 12 by Real Madrid in 2001-02, although the Spanish giants played 17 matches that campaign, compared to City's 13 this season.

"It is now about focusing on winning that trophy," Sterling said. "The only thing that can stop us are ourselves, if I am honest.

"We have played them [Chelsea] twice [under head coach Thomas Tuchel] and lost twice, but this is a Champions League final.

"On the day, things are a lot different. You go into it with a clean mindset. Those games that happened against them in recent times go out the window.

"It is a game where I expect a difficult test, but at the same time I expect us to pull through.

"I expect a physically demanding game. Chelsea is a strong a team who have a lot of physically strong players."

City are the ninth different English team to reach a European Cup/Champions League final, at least three more than any other nation (Germany and Italy, six).

However, only one of the last 10 teams competing in their maiden final have won, with Borussia Dortmund 3-1 victors against Juventus in 1997. The last English outfit to win their first final was Aston Villa in 1982 against Bayern Munich.

Since Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed al Nahyan's takeover in 2008, City have claimed five Premier League titles, including three of the past four in England.

However, City's hierarchy have long craved European glory.

"It is a club that, since I have come here, the way they want us to go is to win the Premier League and Champions League," England international Sterling said.

"It is a massive achievement to get there, but I know that the club won't just be happy to get there. Hopefully we can do it, we can win at the weekend and make history at this club.

"I think the camp is pretty relaxed. Being in finals before with this football club, that only gives you that experience of going into a final.

"Of course, it is the Champions League final, but at the same time we are footballers and we have to not let the occasion get to us and play our football."

The Los Angeles Clippers have their backs against the wall but head coach Tyronn Lue is confident the championship-chasing franchise will show their true colours in Game 3 of the Western Conference first round.

Expectations are high with Kawhi Leonard and Paul George leading the way in Los Angeles, however the Clippers trail the Dallas Mavericks 2-0 heading into Friday's showdown in the NBA playoffs after back-to-back defeats on home court.

The fourth-seeded Clippers are looking to banish the demons of last season, which saw the team sensationally surrender a 3-1 series lead in a 4-3 defeat to the Denver Nuggets in the Conference semi-finals under former coach Doc Rivers.

"I think when you're down 2-0 and you're coming into another team's arena, it shows what you're made of," Lue said on Thursday.

"Our toughness all year, just trust, sticking together, this is going to show us tomorrow who we are and what we are made of. So I'm excited to see [it]."

Lue added: "Urgency is the right word. Pressure or panic, I don't believe in that. ... [The Clippers have to] understand the urgency and understand what we are trying to do and basically everybody get on the same page.

"That's the biggest thing for me. But like I said, we are urgent and we are ready to go. We cleaned up some things we need to clean up."

The Clippers have lost five consecutive playoffs games since last winning in the postseason – Game 4 against the Nuggets in 2019-20.

"You can't hit back if you don't swing ... We've got to bring physicality to the game," Lue, who won the championship with the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2016, said. "They've definitely been the more physical team, and I don't know why that is because we talk about that. So in order to throw a punch, you've got to swing."

"We have got to be more physical, we've got to swing and we have to come out punching and we can't keep getting behind the 8-ball in the first quarter. We have to be better defensively to start the game. We are well aware of that, and now we have to go out and execute it."

New York Mets ace Noah Syndergaard has been shut down for six weeks due to right elbow inflammation.

Syndergaard had been targeting a mid-June return, having missed the coronavirus-shortened 2020 MLB season following Tommy John surgery on his pitching elbow.

The 2016 All-Star – who threw a career-high 197.2 pitches in 2019, with 202 strikeouts but a career-worst 4.28 ERA – had felt discomfort during a minor league rehab start on Tuesday.

Now, Syndergaard and the Mets have been dealt a major blow, with the pitcher set to remain on the injured list until at least August.

"We pray that he can pitch for us this year," Mets manager Luis Rojas said of the 28-year-old – who is scheduled to become a free agent after the 2021 season – on Thursday.

"As tough as it is for us to hear, I can't imagine how tough it is for him," Rojas said. "This guy works really hard. He was in unbelievable shape.

"He was throwing the ball like you expect him to throw the ball, with all the force that he has, and probably that caused this to happen."

Rojas added: "It's big. We were just counting on him being here a month or less than a month from now, and this happening is tough.

"All in all, it's good to hear that there's no structural damage in the UCL [ulnar collateral ligament], but let's see. … I think this is the right approach, being preventative."

Riccardo Bocalon's last-gasp goal confirmed Venezia's promotion to Serie A, as they claimed a 2-1 aggregate victory over Cittadella in the Serie B play-off.

Venezia were last in Serie A in 2001-02, but having led 1-0 from the first leg, their hopes of a return to the top flight were dented when Federico Proia scored in the 26th minute to put Cittadella ahead on Thursday.

Indeed, their chances appeared to be slim as Cittadella piled on the pressure, with the visitors mustering 16 attempts in total, with five – including their goal – on target.

But a battling Venezia performance, which also included Mattia Aramu, who had already been subbed off, being sent off for foul language, came good in the 93rd minute when Bocalon struck to secure a long-awaited return to the big time.

Venezia, who finished fifth in Serie B, follow Empoli and second-placed Salernitana into the top tier for the 2021-22 campaign.

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