Tiger Woods on Tuesday confirmed he is planning to make a sensational Masters comeback this week.

The 46-year-old acknowledged he cheated death in a car crash that left him with serious leg and foot injuries in February 2021.

Woods was unable to walk unaided for several months and has not played competitive golf since, but says he plans to tee off at Augusta on Thursday as it stands.

The legendary American said in a news conference: "As of right now I feel like I'm going to play."

Woods has played practice rounds over the last week at Augusta to test his body on the hilly course, and he feels ready to take part.

"I'm going to play nine more holes tomorrow. My recovery has been good, I'm very excited about how I've recovered each and every day," he added.

This year marks 25 years since Woods first triumphed at the Georgia course, when he famously won by a record 12 shots to back up the hype that was already surrounding him.

Woods has had four more Masters victories since then, most recently in 2019 when he produced a stirring success, having gone 11 years without landing a major.

He sits second on the list of all-time Masters winners, one shy of Jack Nicklaus' six titles, and is eligible to play due to past champions receiving a lifetime exemption.

Woods has not played on the PGA Tour since November 2020, and at the time of his car accident he was recovering from back surgery. He is the world number 973, having been inactive for almost 18 months, and no longer a young man.

Back problems have plagued Woods in the latter half of his career, meaning that expectations he would fly past Nicklaus' record of 18 majors have proven presumptuous.

Whether he can be anywhere close to competitive seems doubtful, but comebacks have to start somewhere, and Woods has decided there is no place better than Augusta.

West Indies T20I and ODI captain Kieron Pollard was selected by the London Spirit with the first pick in the draft for the 2022 edition of The Hundred on Tuesday.

Pollard will join the likes of Mark Wood and Glenn Maxwell for the Spirit in the 100-ball per team tournament.

His Trinidadian countrymen Sunil Narine and Dwayne Bravo will turn out for the Northern Superchargers and Oval Invincibles, respectively, while Andre Russell was the first selection for the Manchester Originals. All four West Indians were taken at the highest price range of 125,000 pounds sterling.

The second edition of the Hundred will run from August 3-September 3. The inaugural edition in 2021 was won by the Southern Braves.

 

Alphonso Davies is poised for his first Bayern Munich appearance in almost four months after getting the all-clear from doctors monitoring his heart.

The attacking left-back has not featured for Bayern since December 17, after first testing positive for COVID-19 and then being sidelined when checks revealed a mild heart inflammation.

Davies, newly named as the CONCACAF men's player of the year, will be heading to the World Cup with Canada later this year after they qualified for the first time since the 1986 tournament.

On Wednesday, he should begin his comeback in the first leg of the Champions League quarter-final against Spanish outfit Villarreal.

Bayern head coach Julian Nagelsmann confirmed that 21-year-old Davies had been given the green light to play by the medics dealing with his myocarditis.

"Phonzie will be in the squad, and the results of his medical mean that he has been cleared to start," Nagelsmann told a news conference.

"We will make a decision over the course of the day. In general, I am leaning towards having him in the starting XI."

News of Davies' condition emerged in mid-January, by which stage the youngster had started 22 of Bayern's 27 matches this season – only Manuel Neuer, Thomas Muller and Robert Lewandowski had started more regularly, which is a reflection of his importance to the team.

He had made 16 appearances in the Bundesliga and at the time he led the way in the division for dribbles attempted (97) and completed (61).

Nagelsmann said he had settled on seven or eight of the players who would start against Villarreal, with winger Serge Gnabry possibly set to get the nod ahead of Leroy Sane.

However, Sane has an outstanding record in the competition this season, which may influence Nagelsmann's choice. The former Manchester City man has been directly involved in 12 goals in eight games for Bayern in the Champions League this term (six goals, six assists).

Only Sane's team-mate Lewandowski (15) and Ajax's Sebastien Haller (13) have had more goal involvements in the current campaign.

"We'll rotate a bit, but not too much. We're used to this Saturday-Wednesday rhythm. We'll rotate a little more against Augsburg [in the Bundesliga on Saturday]," Nagelsmann said.

One player who will not be involved is Corentin Tolisso, who will be hoping he has not played his last game for Bayern after suffering a torn thigh muscle in the weekend Bundesliga win over Freiburg.

Tolisso is out of contract at the end of the season and Bayern reportedly decided earlier this season not to renew his deal.

"I actually thought that Coco had a stomach problem," Nagelsmann said. "I only found out after the game in Freiburg that he had a torn ligament. It's not an easy situation for him. He's in France now to get his mind off things a bit."

Nagelsmann believes Bayern have what it takes to get past Unai Emery's Villarreal, who stunned Juventus in the previous round.

Bayern are unbeaten in their last five games when playing away from home in the first leg of a Champions League knockout tie (W3 D2), although their last such defeat came in Spain in the 2015-16 semi-final against Atletico Madrid.

Emery will be taking charge of his 50th game in the Champions League (W21 D10 L18), and it will be his first quarter-final tie.

The Bayern coach said of Villarreal: "It's a very experienced team. They have a coach who is especially experienced internationally [in club games].

"They play different formations, you have to adapt to different situations. It's a team that opens up with risk. It's an experienced team of players, who have already experienced something and which has to be cracked first. However, I am confident that we will prevail."

After two years of disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic, things are back to normal at Augusta National for this year's much-anticipated Masters – though choosing a winner is as tough as ever.

Dustin Johnson won the delayed 2020 event with a record score after it was pushed back by seven months from its usual slot, while Hideki Matsuyama made history of his own last year by becoming the first Japanese male to win a major.

Matsuyama's triumph was a memorable one, albeit with only a limited number of patrons present in Georgia due to social distancing measures being in place, though the build-up to his title defence has been far from ideal as he continues to battle a back injury.

Golf's elite can look forward to the return of spectators for the 86th edition of the most prestigious tournament of them all – and if excitement was not already at fever pitch, Augusta could also see the return of Tiger Woods, who has not played on the PGA Tour since November 2020 after being involved in a car accident.

But exactly who is best placed to claim the green jacket in the first major of the year? The expert team at Stats Perform have a go at answering that question ahead of the tee off on Thursday.

RAHM TO ADD TO US OPEN SUCCESS – Daniel Lewis

Despite being usurped by Scottie Scheffler at the top of the Official World Golf Ranking after an admittedly slow start to the year, Jon Rahm remains the man to beat heading into the Masters. The 27-year-old has posted top-four finishes in each major, while also finishing inside the top 10 in each of his last five participations. Following his success at the US Open at Torrey Pines 10 months ago, this is Rahm's time to shine at Augusta. 

SMITH TO GO ONE BETTER THAN 2020 – Patric Ridge

Less than a month on from his triumph at the Players' Championship, world number six Cameron Smith seems well placed to go on and seal a maiden major triumph. The Australian finished T2 at Augusta in 2020, albeit five strokes back from Johnson. But he comes into this tournament ranked higher than ever before in his career, and the 28-year-old has won two of the five events he has featured in this year. A T10 placing in last year's Masters will have been a disappointment, but Smith has the tools, and the form, to challenge this time around.

GOOD WILL HUNTING FOR GREEN JACKET – Peter Hanson

A year ago, you could be forgiven for not knowing a lot about Will Zalatoris. But the then 24-year-old finished just one stroke shy of eventual winner Matsuyama, and his clean ball striking will be a big advantage on a typically unforgiving Augusta course. Voted PGA Tour Rookie of the Year for 2021, Zalatoris has three top-10 finishes in 2022, including losing a play-off to Luke List at the Farmers Insurance Open. And how about this if you want more persuading: eight of the past 10 Masters champions were at 1.7 or better strokes gained tee to green in the three months leading into the Masters. Zalatoris is one of eight players who meet that criteria heading into the 2022 instalment.

DON'T BE A-DOUBTING THOMAS, BACK JUSTIN – John Skilbeck

Until his challenged fizzled out over the weekend last year, when he went from only three shots back to finish tied for 21st place, Justin Thomas was following a trajectory that seemed sure to lead to Masters glory. His record showed year-on-year progress, going from a tie for 39th in 2016, to a tie for 22nd a year later, then tied 17th in 2017, tied 12th in 2019, and fourth outright in 2020. Amid this, he won the 2017 US PGA Championship, and Thomas is too good a player to sit too long on just one major. He has the second-lowest scoring average this season on the PGA Tour, has three top-10 finishes in the past two months, and Augusta practice rounds with his great friend Tiger Woods can hardly have hindered his cause.

TIGER... JUST IMAGINE! – Russell Greaves

Lazarus was a one-trick pony, but if Woods were to win the Masters again it would constitute the second bona fide sporting miracle of his remarkable career. Woods' triumph in 2019 – his fifth at Augusta National – was his 15th major success, coming 11 years after his previous one. He became only the third golfer over 40 to win a major on US soil, joining Vijay Singh and Phil Mickelson. Now 46 and absent from competitive action since 2020 following his car accident, a win here would surpass anything Woods has ever achieved. He needs one more to equal Jack Nicklaus' six Masters titles, but would be putting a proud record on the line if he does choose to compete, as Woods has made the cut in each of his 21 appearances at this event.

Julian Nagelsmann launched a withering attack on Freiburg as Bayern Munich's substitution blunder risks costing them points.

A nine-point lead over Borussia Dortmund could be trimmed to six if Bayern's 4-1 win at Freiburg on Saturday is overturned.

That is a live possibility after Freiburg went to the German football association (DFB) with their concerns about the episode, late in the game, that saw Bayern have 12 players on the field for a matter of seconds.

Nagelsmann questioned how Freiburg could justify their complaint, given they were soundly beaten, and said the Champions League hopefuls would have to look at themselves if they get into Europe's top club competition thanks to being handed three points from such a game.

Bayern were 3-1 up when Nagelsmann removed Corentin Tolisso and Kingsley Coman and sent on Marcel Sabitzer and Niklas Sule.

However, Coman did not realise he was being replaced after his number was not raised, and he did not leave the pitch immediately, with referee Christian Dingert resuming the game before the error was noticed.

The DFB will consider the case, and its rules appear to indicate Freiburg may be awarded a 2-0 win.

"In the end I'm not surprised, to be honest," Nagelsmann said. "It is a procedure that lies with the DFB sports court. It has to make a judgement. In my opinion it can only go one way.

"From a personal point of view I don't understand it. Freiburg would not have scored two goals in those 18 seconds.

"I personally wouldn't have done it. I find that you are exploiting the mistakes of a third party to maybe score points yourself.

"I don't know if you can pat yourself on the back with the sponsors at the AGM in November if you play internationally because of the three points you won, which you actually didn't win in sporting terms.

"I wouldn't be so happy if that were the case. I would have clearly communicated to the club that we would not appeal. In the end everyone has to decide for themselves."

Nagelsmann was speaking in Bayern's pre-match news conference for their Champions League quarter-final first leg at Villarreal.

The topic of the Freiburg game is one that Nagelsmann would love to brush aside, given how unwelcome it is as a distraction when there is so much on the line.

Freiburg indicated they had reluctantly pursued an appeal, detailing an "intensive and extremely differentiated process of deliberation" before going ahead.

Eddie Jones declared England's Test series against Australia a "vital" staging post on the road to the World Cup, as it was revealed the Sydney Cricket Ground will host the potential tour decider.

England trailed home a distant third in the recent Six Nations, winning just two of five matches for the second successive year, and the progress the Rugby Football Union (RFU) would have hoped to witness was difficult to detect.

With the 2023 Rugby World Cup now less than 18 months away, England will be hoping to show significant improvement when they tackle the Wallabies in three July Tests.

The dates and venues for those fixtures were confirmed on Tuesday, with Perth's Optus Stadium hosting the first game on July 2, before the teams battle at Brisbane's Suncorp Stadium seven days later.

Sydney's SCG will then put on the third game on July 16, with international rugby returning to the famous cricket venue for the first time since 1986.

England last toured Australia in 2016, when Jones' then Six Nations grand slam winners got up and running with a 39-28 victory at Suncorp Stadium, on their way to a 3-0 series clean sweep.

Jones, England's Australian head coach, must know there will be pressure on his shoulders if his team fail to perform Down Under this time.

For now, the RFU has his back, with chief executive Bill Sweeney continuing to endorse the 62-year-old's leadership.

Jones said: "The Australia tour is a great opportunity for growth for this team and a good challenge at the end of the season.

"It will be the first time many of the younger players have toured abroad with England and it will be vital practice and experience ahead of the World Cup, along with the 2023 Six Nations. We last went there in 2016 and had a very successful tour.

"Australia will be a good challenge for this team. They have rebuilt strongly and they are well coached by Dave Rennie. We're looking forward to getting out there and continuing the development and journey of this England side."

Wallabies boss Rennie, whose side lost to Scotland, England and Wales on tour last November, is also looking to show that Australia can build momentum for the World Cup in France.

Rennie said: "We talk a lot about wanting to challenge ourselves against the best teams in the world and three Test matches in a row against England is the perfect opportunity to do that."

World number one Scottie Scheffler has welcomed the possible participation of Tiger Woods at the Masters ahead of the start of the Augusta tournament.

Fifteen-time major winner Woods, who has triumphed five times at the tournament, has not played on the PGA Tour since failing to defend his 2019 Masters title in November 2020.

After undergoing back surgery the following month, the 46-year-old then sustained major injuries in a car accident in February last year.

However, some 25 years on from his first triumph at Augusta, the American was listed among the expected 91 participants for the Masters, which begins on Thursday.

Speaking to Sky Sports, Scheffler said when asked if the spectre of Woods had deflected attention: "I would say having Tiger anywhere deflects a lot of attention from any of us. It's definitely easier to fly under the radar and we're all excited, hopefully he can come out and play this week, it should be a fun week if he does."

Woods famously won the 2019 Masters after returning from multiple back surgeries.

Scheffler recently shot up the rankings from fifth to first after a series of tournament wins, including last month's WGC Match Play, but insists he will not take his new position for granted.

"I haven't had too much time to reflect, just been trying to get some rest at home," he said. "I've been working hard for my whole life to play out here on the PGA Tour and I've had some success recently. I'm very happy to have had that but I'm not going to take it for granted.

"I only checked it once [the ranking] and it was there! Number one was never something I looked for, you set milestones and really just getting into the top 50 so you can play in the majors, that's where you try to get to. After that you're really just playing tournaments. I've been fortunate to win a few recently."

The 25-year-old also revealed he is keeping his feet firmly grounded, assisted by an incident in which he was mistaken for world number 10, Xander Schauffele.

"I've been humbled a couple of times already, showing up here," he added. "The guy who picked me up in the cart this morning called me Xander, so that brought me down to earth real quick.

"It's been great, really looking forward to this week."

Sven-Goran Eriksson believes Liverpool and Manchester City are the two best teams in the world and talked up the possibility of the Premier League rivals meeting in this season's Champions League final.

The two teams have led the way in England in recent years, winning each of the last four Premier League titles between them and being the two front-runners again this season.

City sit one point ahead of the Reds at the top of the table, with the two rivals set to meet in a crunch clash at the Etihad Stadium next weekend.

However, while Jurgen Klopp won the 2019 Champions League with Liverpool, Pep Guardiola is yet to taste success in Europe's premier competition with City, despite reaching last season's final.

Speaking exclusively to Stats Perform, Eriksson outlined why he thinks both English sides stand out at the top of European football at the moment.

"I think Liverpool and Manchester City are the two best football teams in the world in this moment," he said. "Barcelona is not what it has been in many, many years. Real Madrid, so and so. Bayern Munich? Paris Saint Germain? No, I don't think so. So these two teams for me are the best in the world.

"They play the best football and they defend extremely well, both of them. They attack very good, different styles a little bit. But both managers are doing a great, great job with a lot of good football players. When these two meet, it's incredible if you look at the value of these 22 [players] starting the game. And also the benches.

"So, good coaches, of course good managers, but also many, many good football players. There are two extremely expensive teams going out next Sunday."

Eriksson, who managed City in the 2007-2008 season, has backed both teams to go all the way in the Champions League, therefore potentially meeting in the final in Paris.

Both play their respective quarter-final first legs on Tuesday, with his former club hosting Atletico Madrid while Liverpool travel to Benfica.

"I think they have the capacity to win, both of them, easily," the former England manager added. "You're talking about 'the players are tired' and so on, they can change the level, and the strength of the team will not change anything. They have a lot of good football players.

"I'm quite sure that Liverpool goes to [the] semi-final and because they play Benfica, another [former] team of mine. I'd like them to give Liverpool a hard time.

"City have a little bit more [of a] difficult [tie], they play Atletico Madrid at home.

"Both of them can go to the final in Champions League, I'm quite sure about that."

Thibaut Courtois said "the adventure continues" as he spoke about his desire to win the Champions League with Real Madrid ahead of a reunion with former club Chelsea.

Los Blancos travel to Stamford Bridge for the first leg of their quarter-final on Wednesday, a repeat of last year's semi-final, which Thomas Tuchel's side won 3-1 on aggregate before eventually lifting the trophy.

Despite winning numerous honours throughout his career, it is a competition Courtois has never gone all the way in and the Belgian stopper is aiming to do something about that this season.

Speaking to Madrid's official website ahead of the first-leg clash in London, Courtois said: "I've won many trophies, but the Champions League is the biggest in club football and I haven't won it yet.

"It would obviously be very special for me to win it before I retire. I've still got time. I'll keep on trying to follow my dreams and the Champions League is one of them. The adventure continues."

 

The 29-year-old was a runner-up in the 2014 Champions League final while playing for Atletico Madrid, coincidentally losing to his current team in Lisbon.

Courtois also made 154 appearances in all competitions for Chelsea before moving to the Santiago Bernabeu in 2018, and is hoping he gets a welcoming reception.

"I hope it's a happy return to Stamford Bridge," he said. "We're now rivals. They'll want to win and the same goes for me too and so I'm not expecting any applause from the fans. I hope that they don't boo me, but you never know.

"I’m prepared for whatever comes and we'll have to see how it goes. I'm happy to be returning there with fans in the stands because last year when we played them the stadium was empty."

It is always fascinating when polar opposites collide. 

In the Premier League, Pep Guardiola's methodical Manchester City are leading the way, up against the juggernaut of Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool.

While Guardiola and Klopp are by no means cut from the same cloth, they do share similarities in their approach; relentless pressing, rapid counter-pressing and machine-like efficiency.

Yet in Diego Simeone, it is difficult to imagine an elite-level coach that contrasts with Guardiola quite so much. On Tuesday, we will see just how the styles match up.

It has been almost six years since a team coached by Guardiola went up against Simeone's Atletico Madrid, when Bayern Munich faced Los Colchoneros in the Champions League semi-finals.

Simeone triumphed on that occasion, albeit on away goals. Atleti went on to lose to city rivals Real Madrid in the final, while Guardiola has only been further in UEFA's competition once since then – last season, when City lost to Chelsea in the final in Porto.

Indeed, only three times in total have Simeone and Guardiola gone up against each other. Pep holds the edge in terms of wins (at least on the night), 2-1, with his Barcelona side seeing off Atleti 2-1 in LaLiga in February 2012, during his final season at Camp Nou.

Another two games will be added to that head-to-head record over the coming weeks in a Champions League quarter-final tie that represents a true clash of styles.

Possession obsession

Guardiola's death by a thousand cuts approach has yielded unprecedented success. City are a joy to watch at their best. Slick, swift, sublime. Everything you would associate with a team at the very top of the game.

As has been the case throughout his managerial career, Guardiola wants to dominate possession, control the opposition by simply not allowing them to have the ball and, if they do have it, then you can bet his team will win it back within seconds, or commit a timely foul (Fernandinho, anyone?).

Just taking this season into account, City average 66.9 per cent possession across all competitions, while they have attempted 30,155 passes, completing 27,067 (at an average of 601 successful passes per game).

Simeone is far less concerned with his side having the ball, but instead the focus is on staying compact and robust defensively, drawing a mistake – a stray pass, a heavy touch – out of the opposition and pouncing. And in relative terms, his approach has been just as successful.

Not that this is Simeone's approach across the board. Atleti have played some wonderful football during his tenure too, and had some sensational attacking players. Indeed, their current frontline options of Joao Felix, Luis Suarez, Antoine Griezmann, Angel Correa and Matheus Cunha is the envy of most teams.

Yet this season, Atleti average only 48.8 per cent possession across 41 matches. They have completed 14,533 passes, with 7,317 of these coming in the opponents' half. In comparison, City have registered almost 16,000 successful passes in opposition territory.

However, the difference is not so stark when it comes to balls played into the box, with City's 1,730 accounting for 11 per cent of their passes in the opposition half. That value jumps to 16.5 per cent for Atleti (1,209).

Simeone's men get a higher proportion of their passes in the other team's half into the area, though City have had 1,870 touches in the opposition box, with Atleti managing 964.

In the league alone, City have had 715 sequences involving 10 or more passes. In LaLiga, Atleti have had just 278.

City's possession does, of course, lead to shots – 837 of them this season in total. That dwarves Atleti's 490, though the Spanish side do have a better conversion rate (14.7 compared to 13.5).

Fierce off the ball

One similarity when it comes to Guardiola and Simeone is their desire to be aggressive in their approach to winning the ball back. While Guardiola's team will swarm an opposing player, Simeone's men will be tenacious and full-blooded.

So far this season, Atletico players have gone into 4,263 duels, while City have attempted 3,848. However, the success rate is closer, with the Spanish champions winning 52 per cent, and City 51.1.

Another major difference, however, is how City press.

In the Premier League, only Liverpool (354) and Brighton and Hove Albion (290) have forced more high turnovers than City (285), and Guardiola's side rank second when it comes to the average starting distance of their attacks from their own goal (45.1 metres).

When it comes to passes allowed per defensive action (PPDA), a measurement to quantify the extent and aggression of high presses, City rank joint-second, along with Liverpool, in the Premier League, with their 9.9 only bettered by Leeds United's 9.5.

Atleti's 207 high turnovers ranks ninth in LaLiga. However, their seven goals from direct attacks is joint-best in Spain's top tier. City have scored four times from such breaks this term.

Solidity comes first

This season, admittedly, Atleti have been unusually sloppy at the back, conceding 50 times and keeping 12 clean sheets, which is 17 more and 10 fewer than City, respectively.

Tracked over the previous five full seasons, however (since Guardiola joined City in 2016), only once have Atleti conceded more times than City, in 2018-19 (44 to 39).

Guardiola's teams take more risks in possession and City have made 42 errors leading to goals across his time at the club. It's been worth the pay off, but Simeone's more conservative approach has yielded just 21 such mistakes in the same timeframe.

Defensive grit is the bedrock of Simeone's success, and since the start of 2016-17, Atleti have kept 144 clean sheets. Yet, it is City who top the charts across Europe's top five leagues, with an outstanding 152.

Given City have scored 113 goals already this season – 41 more than Atleti – perhaps this quarter-final will not quite be as even as it might have been in seasons gone by, and it is the side from Manchester who must be considered favourites.

But, as proved with their clinical display at Old Trafford in the round of 16, Atleti still have the ability to frustrate and pick their moments to shine in attack. 

This is further evidenced by Atleti's LaLiga-leading expected goals (xG) differential of +8.5 this season. In stark contrast, City have scored 6.2 goals fewer than the quality of their opportunities would have suggested.

However the tie plays out, it is sure to be an enthralling tussle.

Kylian Mbappe could help Real Madrid score "triple" the amount of goals if he were to join from Paris Saint-Germain, according to Los Blancos striker Karim Benzema.

France superstar Mbappe is nearing the end of his PSG contract and has been continually linked with a move to the Santiago Bernabeu, a transfer that would see him link up with Les Bleus team-mate Benzema.

Mbappe has 28 goals and 20 assists from 38 appearances across all competitions this season, while Benzema is top of LaLiga's goalscoring charts with 24.

Speaking with L'Equipe, Benzema said he is excited by the prospect of playing alongside Mbappe at Madrid.

"I like to play with [Mbappe] in the national team, and I would like to play with him in the club," he said.

"I think [Madrid] would score twice as many goals – or maybe even triple."

Benzema also discussed his goals with the national team after returning from a six-year exile last year.

"[Playing for France] is a pride for me, and I am happy," he said.

"There is a good adaptation, the level is very high, and that is what I like the most. Now I want to win a trophy with the France team."

Benzema missed Real Madrid's 4-0 El Clasico humbling at the hands of Barcelona and said it was not just the margin of victory that was concerning but the manner in which it took place.

"El Clasico, from the stands, I had a bad time," he said. "We were on a good run, and we had everything [in place] to continue.

"In fact, you can lose a match 4-0, don't worry. But not like that. 

"We didn't show anything, we didn't try, we didn't show who we were. We let them play."

Real Madrid will be back in action on Wednesday in Champions League quarter-final action at Stamford Bridge, with Benzema saying: "Chelsea are a great team, and we will try to get a good result in London."

Tuesday's Champions League fixtures feature two of the tournament favourites, but there are no easy games when the competition reaches the quarter-finals.

Manchester City are the bookmakers' favourites to lift the trophy but will need to safely navigate their way past 2020-21 LaLiga champions Atletico Madrid, starting with Tuesday's first leg at the Etihad Stadium.

Liverpool are right behind City in the odds, but the Reds face a tough trip to Portugal where they will play Benfica after the home side triumphed over a strong Ajax team in the previous round.

While the English teams are well fancied, the Opta facts show Atleti coach Diego Simeone should not be daunted by City boss Pep Guardiola, and Benfica's Estadio da Luz has been anything but a happy hunting ground for Liverpool.

Manchester City v Atletico Madrid

This will be the first ever meeting between City and Atleti in European competition, but the fourth between the respective bosses of the two clubs. None of the previous three games ended in a draw, as Guardiola won two and Simeone triumphed in the other.

While Simeone is down on the head-to-head record, his Atleti side eliminated Guardiola’s Bayern Munich in the semi-finals of the 2015-16 Champions League (2-2 on aggregate), progressing on away goals. 

Showing his side can win ugly, across the two legs, Atletico averaged just 27 per cent possession and scored their two goals from 18 shots, while Bayern netted the same number of goals from 53 attempts.

City should have some reliable avenues to goal, as only Vinicius Junior (44) has been directly involved in more shots than Riyad Mahrez (42 – 29 shots, 13 chances created) in the Champions League this season. 

 

One of Mahrez's chief suppliers is likely to be Kevin De Bruyne, who will make his 50th Champions League appearance for City if he plays in the first leg.

Since his first season at the club in 2015-16, he has more assists than any other player for an English club (17) in the competition. 

However, Atleti may be uniquely positioned to repel some of City's attacking firepower, as no goalkeeper has kept more Champions League clean sheets since 2014-15 than Jan Oblak, with 30 clean sheets in 67 appearances.

Meanwhile, City have only failed to score in one of their 28 home games under Guardiola.

Atleti are also the first side to face both Manchester United and Manchester City in the knockout stages of a European competition in a season since Juventus in the 1976-77 UEFA Cup – the Italian side would go on to progress from both of those ties before winning the whole thing.

 

Liverpool v Benfica 

Liverpool are aiming to win a fifth consecutive away game in Europe's premier competition for only the second time in their history, having last done so between 1983 and 1984 under Joe Fagan.

While Liverpool are a very different beast in recent years under Jurgen Klopp, they have lost on each of their last three away trips to face Benfica in European competition, with the most recent of those coming in the Europa League in 2009-10 under Rafa Benítez.

On the other hand, Benfica are winless in their past four homes matches against English sides in the Champions League since beating Liverpool in 2006, with one draw and three losses.

The home side will need a big performance from Darwin Nunez, who is Benfica’s top scorer in the Champions League this season, having netted four times so far. He is just one goal shy of equalling Nuno Gomes as the player with the most goals for Benfica in a single Champions League campaign (five goals in 1998-99).

Meanwhile, Liverpool boast one of the main hopes for the Ballon D'or in Mohamed Salah, who has scored eight goals in the Champions League this season and could become the first player to score 10+ goals in multiple seasons for the Reds in the competition. 

 

The only other player from an English club to reach double-figure goals in a European Cup/Champions League campaign on more than one occasion was Ruud van Nistelrooy in 2001-02 and 2002-03 for Manchester United.

Benfica will need to be efficient going forward, as their 40 per cent possession in the Champions League this season is the lowest of any remaining team, while only Real Madrid (23) have recorded more direct attacks than the Portuguese side.

Kevin Durant believes his knee injury near the midway point of the NBA season "derailed" the Brooklyn Nets' campaign.

The Nets are sitting 10th in the Eastern Conference, occupying the last of the Play-In Tournament spots.

Durant did not play a game between January 17 and March 3 as a result of his injury, with the Nets going 3-10 in February.

If the season were to end now, the Nets would need to win on the road against the Charlotte Hornets, and then triumph again on their travels against the winner of the Cleveland Cavaliers and Atlanta Hawks' matchup in their clash for the seventh seed.

Brooklyn have a winning percentage of .513 (40-38) for the season, but that jumps to .627 in games Durant has played (32-19), and plummets to .296 (8-19) when he has been absent.

"So I'm not looking at it like we're just not a good basketball team. There wasn't a lot of continuity with me and Kyrie [Irving] out of the line-up, that's just what it is. 

"When we're all on the floor together, I like what we got."

Reflecting on what has been a hectic season off the court, the two-time Finals MVP made it clear what it takes to be in the upper echelon of such a competitive league.

"You can talk about expectations and what you see this team on paper – I always said this, but everyday matters," he said. 

"You want to be a champion every second that you step on the floor, not just when we play a good team or the playoffs coming up. 

"I think being a champion is in the habits and the work ethic, the care that you have for the game. [There's] a lot of champions out here that never won a ring, but they approach their work that way.

"So that's how I felt our team needed to approach this season – and guys have – but some stuff that's out of individuals' control is the reason why we're in certain positions. 

"That doesn't stop you from having the championship mentality every day as an individual."

Durant was emphatic when asked if he spends time thinking about all the different scenarios the Nets could be faced with due to playoff seeding.

"Who cares?" he asked reporters.

"Whoever we play, we play. I don't care who we play. I don't care that we're in the play-in. 

"Just tip the ball up, see what happens. That's all you can control. 

"It's too stressful thinking about trying to dodge a team, just play the game. We'll see what happens."

Despite Durant's knee injury, he has still played in 51 games, while Irving has played in just 25 as New York previously had a mandate preventing players unvaccinated against COVID-19 featuring in matches in the city.

Kansas pulled off the biggest comeback in the history of NCAA National Championship games, recovering from a 16-point deficit to defeat North Carolina 72-69.

Kansas last won the National Championship in 2008, finishing runners-up in 2012 and making the Final Four again in 2018, while it was North Carolina's fourth title game appearance since 2008, winning titles in 2009 and 2017 and finishing runners-up in 2016.

Despite being considered two of college basketball's premier programs, Kansas was the much better side this season, entering March Madness as a one seed while North Carolina was an eight seed.

However, the Tar Heels were not interested in the script, and after a back-and-forth start, the first half belonged to North Carolina as cult hero Brady Manek splashed three triples on the way to a 40-25 half-time advantage.

But the Jayhawks had faced adversity earlier in the tournament and stuck to the task, storming back to begin the second half as Christian Braun and Jalen Wilson ignited a 20-6 Kansas run to pull the margin back to one at 46-45.

Remy Martin was a crucial spark off the bench for Kansas, chipping in with 14 points on five-of-nine shooting, but it was center David McCormack who rose to the occasion down the stretch.

Trailing 68-69 with less than 90 seconds to play, McCormack hit two consecutive contested hook-shots out of the post to deliver the final winning margin.

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