Barcelona are reportedly in the box seat to land Leeds United winger Raphinha in the next transfer window.

Raphinha, 25, is believed to be finished with Leeds, regardless of if they remain in the Premier League for next season.

After a season where he has so far scored 10 goals and provided three assists in 34 Premier League appearances – including a goal away at Stamford Bridge – the Brazilian international is said to have his selection from some of the world's best clubs.

TOP STORY – BARCA LEAD RACE FOR LEEDS' RAPHINHA

According to 90min, Raphinha favours a move to Barcelona if all things are equal, but the Spanish giants will have plenty of competition for his services.

If Leeds are relegated to the Championship, a release clause in Raphinha's contract will mean he can be had for £25million, although it could be double that – or more – if the Whites retain their Premier League status.

Vying with Barca will reportedly be West Ham, who supposedly made a bid in the January window, as well as Newcastle United, Chelsea, Liverpool and Paris Saint-Germain.

ROUND-UP

– The Daily Mail is reporting Ilkay Gundogan will be allowed to leave Manchester City in the upcoming transfer window, with one year remaining on his deal.

– According to The Guardian, Chelsea have entered the Robert Lewandowski sweepstakes, although he is believed to be destined for Barcelona.

Newcastle will test the waters to see if Jose Mourinho could be lured away from Roma, according to Marca.

– Marca also reports that Kylian Mbappe has agreed to a five-year deal with Real Madrid, although The Athletic insists no paperwork has been signed and PSG still hope to retain the France star.

Bayern Munich are showing interest in Barcelona's Ousmane Dembele ahead of his contract expiring in a month's time, per Sky Sports.

The New York Yankees continued their red-hot start to the season with a 6-2 away win against the Baltimore Orioles on Monday.

With the win, the Yankees are now 26-9, and sit three games clear atop the standings.

As has been the story with the Pinstripes this season, their power was again the driving force in their success, with every run scoring as a result of an extra-base hit.

New York took the lead in the third inning through a Giancarlo Stanton RBI double, before Jose Trevino gave the Yanks some breathing room with a three-run homer an inning later.

Anthony Santander launched his own long-ball in response for the Orioles, making it 4-1 later in the fourth inning, and that score would hold all the way through to the ninth frame.

After Luis Severino pitched six terrific innings, allowing just one hit – Santander's home run – with two walks, the big bats came back to the plate to put the icing on the cake.

Josh Donaldson blasted the longest shot of the night for a 395-foot solo shot, before Rizzo topped it as the very next batter, sending his solo home run 406 feet through the Baltimore sky.

In a consolation for the home fans who stuck around, Santander hit his second bomb of the night in the bottom of the ninth.


Cubs go crazy in first inning

The Chicago Cubs wasted no time putting their 9-0 win against the Pittsburgh Pirates to bed, jumping out to a 8-0 lead in the first inning.

Pirates starting pitcher Dillon Peters was only able to get two outs before being pulled from the game as the Cubs piled on eight hits and two walks for their eight runs, highlighted by a grand-slam from Willson Contreras in his second plate appearance of the inning.

Cubs pitcher Wade Miley was lights-out, retiring 12 straight batters through the fourth inning, and finished with just one hit allowed, and no walks, through seven complete frames.

Brewers battle for 1-0 win

A wild pitch was the only thing that could bring in a run in the Milwaukee Brewers' 1-0 win against the Atlanta Braves.

Freddy Peralta was spectacular on the mound for the Brewers, striking out 10 batters in seven full innings, conceding just two hits and one walk.

Ian Anderson was not much worse for the Braves, giving up four hits and two walks in his six innings, but a costly wild pitch in the sixth inning while a runner was on third base gifted the Brewers the game's only run, and the win. 

Two years after meeting in the 2020 Eastern Conference finals, the Boston Celtics are on a mission to flip the script on the Miami Heat.

In that 2020 series, which the Heat won 4-2 in 'the bubble' to advance to the NBA Finals, the Celtics were the higher seed, and were playing in their third Eastern Conference Finals in the space of four seasons.

But in hindsight, it was Miami who were built to win that series, despite it being their first time past the second round since LeBron James carried them to the finals in 2014.

Jimmy Butler was invigorated in his first year in Miami, in his physical prime at 30 years old and was determined to show he was not at fault for pushing his way out of the Minnesota Timberwolves and being traded from the Philadelphia 76ers in the space of a year.

He was also supported by Goran Dragic, just two years removed from his lone All-Star appearance, who in the series averaged 20.5 points and 4.7 assists per game in 34 minutes.

As well as having two strong initiators, the Heat also had a complete mismatch in the form of Bam Adebayo against a Celtics team starting Daniel Theis at center, with no competent back-up. Adebayo averaged 21.8 points while shooting over 60 per cent from the field, with 11 rebounds and five assists per game, and was clearly the most dominant player in the series.

When taking into account an outlier 37-point showing from Tyler Herro on 14-of-of-21 shooting that single-handedly won Game 4 112-109 for the Heat – making it a 3-1 series lead instead of 2-2 heading back to Boston – it begins to become clear that there was not much the Celtics could do, given their personnel.

Fast-forward a couple of years, 22-year-old Jayson Tatum is now 24 and in the midst of a rapid ascension into the game's best players, 23-year-old Jaylen Brown is now 25 and has developed into a true number-two option, Marcus Smart is now 28 years old and the NBA Defensive Player of the Year, and, more importantly, the supporting cast is built for the long-haul.

 

Replacing Theis with Al Horford may be the most consequential addition or subtraction on either side, with the potential to nullify the series-altering presence of Adebayo on the inside. Horford will also have help in the form of Robert Williams III – who became one of the best defensive players in the league this season – while Theis remains as a 'break glass in case of emergency' option.

Adding to the rise of the Celtics has been the emergence of Grant Williams as a reliable two-way player, capable of slowing down Giannis Antetokounmpo while hitting over 40 per cent of his threes, as well as the trade to add Derrick White as a second defensively sound 'small' guard next to Smart.

For a team with a real defensive identity – willing to 'switch' every screen and allow their small guards to take on bigger assignments – being able to replace Kemba Walker with a trustworthy, stout defender completely takes away an avenue of attack for a sharp offensive team like Miami.

What it also means is that the Celtics will not have to waste any minutes on players who have no business in big playoff series – such as Brad Wanamaker and Semi Ojeleye, who combined for 21.8 minutes per game in the 2020 series.

A run to the NBA Finals would be fulfilling the promises of Boston's advanced numbers, which after the All-Star break had the Celtics as not just a legitimate title contender, but as the favourite, and a historic team.

During that stretch, the Celtics were the number one offense – with a gap to the Charlotte Hornets at number two – and the number three defense, with a net-rating of 12.7. The Memphis Grizzlies (7.6) were the only other team with a net-rating above 6.0.

For the Heat, Dragic has been replaced by Kyle Lowry, who is now 36 years old and recovering from his second hamstring injury of the playoffs, and the veteran presences of Andre Iguodala and Jae Crowder have been replaced by a combination of Max Strus, Gabe Vincent and the shell of Victor Oladipo.

Erik Spoelstra boasts arguably the deepest bench in the entire NBA, but this is playoff basketball, which generally comes down to each side's best seven players, nullifying their advantage on the back-end of their roster.

The identity of this Miami offense through the playoffs has largely relied on the brilliance of Jimmy Butler, who at 32 years old is putting together the best playoff run of his career, averaging 28.7 points per game on 52.7 per cent shooting, with 7.6 rebounds, 5.4 assists and 2.1 steals.

 

Miami's second-best scorer this postseason has been Adebayo, way down at 14.6 points per game compared to his 19.1 for the regular season.

Butler was perfectly matched up against the Philadelphia 76ers, who have no wing defenders capable of matching the Heat star physically – but the Celtics do not have the same problem.

The Celtics have at least four players – Tatum, Brown, G. Williams and R. Williams – who match up well with Butler, and they showed against the Milwaukee Bucks that they were more than happy to play straight-up defense and force one player to try and beat them with isolations all day.

If Miami cannot figure out a way to unleash a second scorer in a real way – be it Herro, Adebayo, or even Strus, who averaged 20.5 points in his two matchups against Boston this season – they may be playing straight into the Celtics hands. 

The one advantage Miami will have is the rest-factor. It will be five days since the Heat's Game 6 win against the 76ers, while the Celtics will only have one true rest day after handling their business in Game 7 on Monday night.

For the regular season, the Heat won all three of their games with at least three days rest, although the Celtics were the fourth-best team in the NBA coming off one day of rest (28-13, .683 winning percentage).

If the Heat can take advantage of their fresh legs and win Game 1, anything could happen, but ultimately, just like the Celtics were almost helpless in 2020, the Heat just may not have the horses this time around.

Miami Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra said the Eastern Conference Finals will be an old-school defensive slugfest, and that he feels the best two teams made it.

The Heat needed six games to triumph over the Philadelphia 76ers, while the Boston Celtics came back from 3-2 down against the Milwaukee Bucks to get the job done in Game 7.

As a reward for getting their series out of the way early, the Heat will have five days of rest before Tuesday's Game 1, while the Celtics have just one proper rest day between series.

Speaking to the media after Monday's practice, Spoelstra said it is shaping up as a series that will warm the heart of Heat president Pat Riley.

"Pat's [Riley] probably is going to enjoy this," he said. "This is like a throwback series. 

"If both teams are really on top of their games, this should be a series where neither team is scoring 130 points. Both teams hang their hats on rock-solid team defense, and making multiple efforts and being disciplined to schemes. 

"So it will be a lot of plays and things in the margins… really, we were the two best teams in the East most of the season and it's fitting that we're moving into the conference finals.

"Boston has played as well as anyone in the entire league once they got to 2022. It's not by accident. They're playing very strong basketball. They do it on both ends."

Heat star Jimmy Butler was asked about his potential matchup against Jayson Tatum, and he had nothing but praise for the Celtics' best player.

"He's one of the best in the game right now," he said. "As much attention as he draws on the offensive end – and then I think what's really impressive is the way that he's picked up his defensive intensity. 

"You got to tip your hat to that and respect him, I think those are the guys that you want to go up against."

Miami Heat guard Kyle Lowry has been ruled out of Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Boston Celtics with a hamstring injury.

Lowry, 36, averaged 13.4 points, 7.5 assists and 4.5 rebounds per game in 63 regular season starts, but has been plagued by injuries in the postseason.

Miami's point guard initially suffered a hamstring injury in Game 3 of the Heat's first round series against the Atlanta Hawks, missing the remainder of the first round and the first two games of their round two clash against the Philadelphia 76ers.

Lowry scored zero points in his return for Game 3, and then re-injured his hamstring in Game 4 as the Heat lost both games before rallying back to win the series in six.

Game 1 against the Celtics will be around 10 days removed from the aggravation of the injury, and given the timetable of hamstring injuries, particularly in older players, it can safely be assumed Lowry remains at least a week away from a possible return.

Top seeds Karolina Pliskova and Angelique Kerber strolled to straight-sets wins in the first round of the Internationaux de Strasbourg, keeping the two former world number ones on course for a final meeting.

Having endured an injury-hit season to date, world number eight Pliskova made the perfect start to her campaign in France with a routine 6-4 6-2 win over Ukrainian 19-year-old Marta Kostyuk. 

Kerber, who is only missing a victory at the French Open – which begins later this month – to complete a Career Grand Slam, overcame teenager Diane Parry 6-3 6-4 in her opener, setting up a round-of-16 clash with world number 45 Aliaksandra Sasnovich.

Some of the other big names participating in Strasbourg, however, were not so lucky, with 5th and 6th seeds Shuai Zhang and Sloane Stephens crashing to first-round exits.

Shuai went down 6-2 6-3 to Belgium's Maryna Zanevska and Stephens capitulated to a 2-6 6-4 6-1 loss to Nefisa Berberovic, while Heather Watson set up a last-16 meeting with eighth seed Magda Linette by beating Katharina Hobgarski 6-4 6-1.

Meanwhile, Garbine Muguruza made a winning start to her campaign at the Grand Prix Sar La Princesse Lalla Meryem in Morocco, as the world number 10 builds towards a tilt at French Open glory having triumphed at Roland Garros back in 2016.

Muguruza had few difficulties in beating Anna Danilina 6-3 6-2, and will face Martina Trevisan in the round-of-16 after the Italian beat China's You Xiadoi 6-0 6-4.

Third seed Nuria Parrizas-Diaz had to come through a more difficult challenge in Rabat, overcoming Carol Zhao 7-6 (7-4) 1-6 6-2, while eighth seed Anna Kalinskaya was the highest-ranked player to fall at the first hurdle, going down 6-3 6-7 (5-7) 6-3 to Lucia Bronzetti.

Dominic Thiem will head to the French Open on the back of six consecutive defeats after he was knocked out of the Geneva Open by Marco Cecchinato.

Thiem missed the second half of last season due to a wrist injury and has won only one set in six matches since returning at an ATP Challenger Tour event in Marbella in March.

The 2020 US Open champion's latest loss came at the hands of Marco Cecchinato, who prevailed 6-3 6-4 to reach the second round on Monday.

A two-time runner-up at Roland Garros, Austrian Thiem will travel to Paris struggling to return to form following such a long absence.

Cecchinato had lost all 11 matches this year, but has won three in Geneva without losing a set after coming through qualifying and will now face Kamil Majchrzak.

Federico Delbonis, the seventh seed, beat Ricardas Berankis 6-4 6-4, while French duo Richard Gasquet and Benoit Paire made it through to the last 16 along with Ilya Ivashka.

There will be no fairytale win for Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, who will retire after the French Open, at the Lyon Open after he suffered a 6-4 6-4 loss to Alex Molcan.

Eighth seed Pedro Martinez was knocked out by Yosuke Watanuki in the first round, but Karen Khachanov beat Gilles Simon 6-1 6-4 and Lucas Pouille was also beaten in his homeland, falling to Oscar Otte.

Arsenal midfielder Granit Xhaka was furious after his side's 2-0 Premier League defeat against Newcastle United, saying Mikel Arteta's team "don't deserve" Champions League qualification after the damaging reverse.

A Ben White own goal gave the Magpies the lead in a must-win clash for the Gunners, before Bruno Guimaraes sealed Newcastle's victory late on, leaving Arsenal's top-four hopes hanging by a thread.

Arsenal are now two points behind Tottenham in the standings with one match remaining, where Spurs will need to lose to Norwich City to allow the Gunners a chance to sneak back into the top four, courtesy of their inferior goal difference.

The Gunners were comprehensively outclassed in the crucial encounter, producing just 0.40 expected goals compared to Newcastle's 1.38, and only controlling 33 per cent of the first-half possession.

Speaking to Sky Sports after the loss, Xhaka called it a "disaster performance", accusing his team-mates of not following Arteta's gameplan and asserting the team did not deserve European football after producing such a showing.

"So difficult to find right words after the game," he said. "We came here to show a different game, but from the first minute until the 90th minute we didn't deserve to be on the pitch today.

"I can't explain why we didn't do what the game-plan was. Not listening to the coach, [it] was a disaster performance.

"[If you] play like this you don't deserve Champions League, don't even deserve Europa league. Very hard to take it at the moment, I don't know why we are not doing what the coach is asking of us."

Xhaka went on to declare Arsenal had not shown the necessary fight at St James' Park and his told team-mates that if they didn't "have the balls", they should have stayed at home.

"I don't know if someone is not ready for this game, stay at home." he added. "Doesn't matter the age. You can be 30, 35, you can be 10, you can be 18 – [if you're] not ready, stay on the bench, stay at home, don't come here. 

"We need people to have the balls - sorry to say that - to come here to play, because we knew this game is maybe one of the most important games for us.

"A performance like this… [we cannot] accept it, very very sad for us. Sorry for the people that came over here to support us. I feel sorry for Arsenal supporters, this is the only thing I can say – to say sorry to them."

Arsenal play Everton at the Emirates Stadium in their final fixture of the Premier League season on Sunday.

A stunned Mikel Arteta says Newcastle United were "10 times" better than Arsenal and felt his side "could not cope" with the pressure in a 2-0 defeat that surely cost his side a Champions League place.

The Gunners needed a win at St James' Park on Monday to move back above fierce rivals Tottenham into fourth place heading into the final day of the Premier League season.

But Ben White scored a second-half own goal and Bruno Guimaraes sealed the Magpies' victory by doubling their lead with five minutes of normal time to play.

Arsenal were dominated by Eddie Howe's side on Tyneside, ensuring Spurs will head to relegated Norwich City on Sunday knowing a point will surely be enough to seal a top-four finish given they have a far superior goal difference to the Gunners.

Arteta's men have no chance of catching third-placed Chelsea and look destined for the Europa League next season ahead of an encounter with relegation-threatened Everton this weekend.

The Gunners head coach was bemused by such a poor display from his team with so much on the line.

He told Sky Sports: "Newcastle deserved to win the match and were much better than us. We had nothing in the game.

"They were much better in every department: in the duels, with second balls. We were poor with the ball and didn't defend as we have to do

"A lot of things happened during the night, with substitutions due to injuries, but it's not an excuse, Newcastle deserved to win the match because they were much better than us from the beginning. They were much better than us in everything that a football match requires to be on top of it."

Arteta says such an insipid display was hard to take.

"It's true that we could not cope with the game that we had to play here. We tried to change some things and it didn't make it better," the Spaniard added.

"We had moments where we looked better at the start of the second half, we understood better what we had to do but then the execution was so poor and the goals we gave away were extremely poor.

"It's extremely disappointing that Newcastle were 10 times better than us and fully deserved the match. The performance was nowhere near the level we need to be at if we want to play in the Champions League.

"I am incredibly disappointed. The team we have at the moment there are questions marks in a lot positions because of the injuries and suspensions that we had but it's no excuse. We were not at the races today. It's a really very painful one.

"It was in our hands and today it's not in our hands. We have to beat Everton and wait for Norwich to beat Spurs. There's always a chance in football and you have to be there just in case that chance appears."

Ben White's own goal and a Bruno Guimaraes strike put Tottenham on the brink of Champions League qualification as Arsenal suffered a 2-0 defeat at Newcastle United.

The Gunners needed a win to move back into fourth place with one Premier League game to play against Everton on Sunday, but Newcastle did Spurs a massive favour at St James' Park.

White, making his return from a hamstring injury, turned a Joelinton cross into his own net in the second half and Guimaraes added a second late on as the Magpies dominated Mikel Arteta's side.

Spurs will head to Norwich City on the final day knowing a point will almost certainly put them in the Champions League next season due to their goal difference and Chelsea are guaranteed a top-four finish, while wounded Arsenal look to be destined for the Europa League.

The Gunners made a shaky start, with Aaron Ramsdale fortunate not to gift Miguel Almiron an early goal when he took far too long on the ball following a back pass.

Dan Burn blocked a goal-bound shot from Bukayo Saka, but the Magpies continued to dictate and Ramsdale make an excellent save low to his right to deny Allan Saint-Maximin after the French winger cut in from the left at full tilt.

Arsenal lost Takehiro Tomiyasu to injury before the break and shaken Newcastle defender Fabian Schar was forced off early in the second half, having landed heavily after taking a blow to the head when he was caught by Eddie Nketiah.

It came as no surprise when Eddie Howe's side took the lead after 56 minutes, when White prevented Callum Wilson from getting on the end of Joelinton's cross but turned into his own net.

Wilson volleyed just over the crossbar and had a shot deflected wide by White, before the lively striker came close to an incredible goal with a long-range strike that went narrowly wide.

Guimaraes stuck the knife into Arsenal when he was on hand to tuck home the loose ball with five minutes to go after Ramsdale rushed out to thwart Wilson and only a sharp reaction save from the Arsenal goalkeeper prevented Ryan Fraser from adding a third.

 

Sergej Milinkovic-Savic scored a dramatic 96th-minute equaliser as Lazio came from two goals down to snatch a 2-2 draw with Juventus in Turin.

In a match where Juventus paid tribute to departing stars Giorgio Chiellini and Paulo Dybala, first-half goals from Dusan Vlahovic and Alvaro Morata seemed to have put the Bianconeri in control.

But after Alex Sandro's own goal halved the arrears, Maurizio Sarri's return to the Allianz Stadium ended in chaotic fashion when Milinkovic-Savic fired into the roof of the net with the last kick of the game.

As well as spoiling the farewell home appearances of Chiellini and Dybala, the result boosted Lazio's hopes of beating local rivals Roma to a fifth-place finish in Serie A.

After a year away from the sport and with his broadcast career seemingly suffering a setback, Drew Brees teased a potential NFL return on Sunday.

Future Hall of Famer Brees posted on Twitter that he was "undecided" on his future amid reports of his time as an analyst for NBC coming to an end.

He wrote: "Despite speculation from media about my future this fall, I’m currently undecided.

"I may work for NBC, I may play football again, I may focus on business and philanthropy, I may train for the pickleball tour, senior golf tour, coach my kids or all of the above. I'll let you know."

Brees called it a career after the 2020 season - his 15th with the New Orleans Saints - and, while the competitive fire may still burn for an all-time great, the numbers suggest the correct course of action for the 43-year-old would be to stay retired.

Unlike Tom Brady, who swiftly unretired 40 days after announcing his decision to quit in the wake of one of the best seasons of his storied career, Brees endured one of his most underwhelming campaigns in 2020.

Brees remained extremely accurate, completing 70.5 per cent of his passes and delivering an accurate, well-thrown ball on 81.1 per cent of pass attempts.

However, he averaged only 6.41 air yards per attempt, the fourth-fewest among quarterbacks to attempt at least 50 passes.

His 31 completions of 20 yards or more were fewer than that of then-San Francisco 49ers backup Nick Mullens (33). Brees attempted just 21 passes of 21 air yards or more, illustrating an inability to push the ball downfield as his arm strength faded in the final years of his career.

Were Brees to make a comeback, he may not be able to do so with the Saints, who re-signed Jameis Winston to a two-year deal this offseason.

Saints head coach Dennis Allen said of Brees' tweet about a possible comeback: "I think it was a comment made in jest, and we certainly haven't had any conversations in that regard."

Given the age and the numbers from his most recent season, talk of a Brees return is indeed tough to take seriously.

Marcus Smart is questionable for Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals with a mid-foot sprain.

Head coach Ime Udoka revealed the Boston Celtics star suffered the injury in their blowout win over the Milwaukee Bucks in Game 7 of their semi-finals series.

Smart is, therefore, a doubt to face the Miami Heat in the series opener in south Florida as the Celtics aim to steal the initiative against the East's one seed.

The 2021-22 Defensive Player of the Year, Smart has arguably not had the impact he would have desired so far in the postseason.

However, he played an instrumental role in forcing Game 7 against the Bucks, scoring 21 points and recording seven assists and five rebounds to help the Celtics set up a decider.

Smart had 10 assists and seven rebounds in Game 7, finishing with a plus-minus of plus-18 that was second only to Grant Williams (+25) as the Celtics routed the Bucks 109-81.

Perhaps his biggest influence in this postseason has been on the glass.

During the playoffs, opponents are averaging 43.6 rebounds per 100 possessions when Smart is on the court and 46.7 when he is off the court.

Similarly, opponents have averaged 13.5 second-chance points per 100 possessions with Smart out there compared to 15.3 against Celtics line-ups not including him in the playoffs.

The Celtics also do a better job of stealing the ball with Smart on court (7.3 per game) compared to when he is on the bench (6.2).

Boston will hope to have him out there to prevent Jimmy Butler and Miami from getting hot, and the Celtics will have center Rob Williams, who has not featured in any of the last four games due to a bone bruise, available with no minutes restriction.

Page 4 of 1397
© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.