New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton does not have an issue with the Los Angeles Rams' Marcus Peters.

While there was plenty of action during the NFC divisional round matchup between the Dallas Cowboys and the Los Angeles Rams, there were a few postgame highlights as well.

Dejan Lovren has been given a one-match ban by UEFA for comments made on social media following Croatia's Nations League win over Spain.

Bayern Munich have fined Franck Ribery for his outburst following criticism of a social media post in which he posed with a gold-coated steak.

Ribery uploaded a video to his Instagram page this week when he visited celebrity chef Nusret Gokce, an internet sensation nicknamed Salt Bae, at his Dubai restaurant.

The winger was criticised by some followers for what was perceived as a brazen display of wealth, with the dish said to cost €1,200, but he responded in foul-mouthed fashion.

"For 2019, let's dot the 'i's and cross the 't's," he wrote. "Let's start with the jealous, the haters, those clearly born from a condom with a hole in: **** your mothers, your grandmothers and even your family tree.

"I owe you nothing. My success is above all thanks to God, thanks to myself and thanks to my loved ones, who believed in me. The others are nothing more than pebbles in my socks."

Ribery also hit out at journalists for reporting the story, but his reaction has been met with condemnation from Bayern.

"He has used words that we as Bayern Munich cannot accept and that Franck can never use as a role model, as a player of Bayern," said sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic via the club's website.

"Yesterday [Saturday], I talked to Franck for a long time and told him that he would get a heavy fine. He accepted this punishment."

The incident is the latest in what has been a difficult season for Ribery, who is expected to leave to leave Bayern at the end of the season when his contract expires.

The former France international, who has managed only nine Bundesliga starts this term, apologised to a journalist after an altercation following Bayern's dramatic 3-2 defeat to league leaders Borussia Dortmund in November.

 

Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott lauded one another after leading the Dallas Cowboys to a playoff win against the Seattle Seahawks.

The Cowboys had not won a postseason game since Prescott and Elliott arrived in Dallas in the 2016 NFL Draft, but the team's star performers stepped up to the mark on Saturday in a 24-22 triumph.

Quarterback Prescott threw one touchdown and decisively rushed for another in the fourth quarter, while running back Elliott had 26 carries for 137 yards as well as a touchdown.

On the field in the moments after sealing victory, Elliott told FOX of Prescott's contribution: "He's a grown-a** man. That's what it is. That's how he played today."

And Prescott's assessment of Elliott was similarly glowing, adding: "He's a hell of a player and he always wants the ball.

"When you've got a player like this – the best guy in the NFL with the ball in his hands – we try to do as much as we can to give him the ball. I'm thankful to have him, my best friend."

The love-in then continued as the pair analysed the game with reporters.

"[Prescott was] legendary," Elliott said. "He came out there and made plays when we needed them, especially in his running game.

"Whenever you see a quarterback who can run like that and break tackles – he's done it a couple of times this year – it's really tough on their defense. Dak came out there and he played his tail off."

Prescott said of Elliott's use of the word "legendary": "I'm in a young career. I'm three years in. For him to say that, I may have to tell him to not say that again, or to wait until later. It's a hell of a compliment."

Franck Ribery accused his critics of being "jealous haters" as he defended a social media post in which he posed with a gold-coated steak.

The Bayern Munich winger, who is set to leave the Bundesliga champions at the end of the season, uploaded a video to his Instagram page earlier this week as he visited Turkish chef Nusret Gokce.

Internet phenomenon Gokce, nicknamed Salt Bae, could be seen slicing up a gold-coated steak before Ribery sprinkled salt over the meat in his accomplice's trademark manner.

Ribery captioned the video: "No better way than to start the year than with a dash of salt and a visit to my Turkish brother."

But the post drew criticism from several of the former France international's social media followers, with the meat said to be worth €1,200.

Ribery responded on Saturday, posting a lengthy message on his Instagram story, which was copied to his Twitter page.

"For 2019, let's dot the 'i's and cross the 't's," he wrote.

"Let's start with the jealous, the haters, those clearly born from a condom with a hole in: **** your mothers, your grandmothers and even your family tree.

"I owe you nothing. My success is above all thanks to God, thanks to myself and thanks to my loved ones, who believed in me. The others are nothing more than pebbles in my socks."

He continued: "Next, about those pseudo-journalists, who have always been critical of me and my actions (the latest example being the price of what I eat): when I give – because I was taught to give when I receive a lot – why do the national media not discuss this?

"No, you prefer to talk about the holidays I have with my family, you monitor my actions, what I eat, etc. Oh yes, you're here for that kind of futility."

Ribery has played 14 times in the Bundesliga this season, starting nine matches, and has scored four goals.

The 35-year-old apologised to a journalist earlier this campaign following an altercation after Bayern's dramatic 3-2 defeat to league leaders Borussia Dortmund.

He would have to reflect on back-to-back losses against Crystal Palace and Leicester City and a damaged Premier League title defence for a little longer, but Pep Guardiola leaned mischievously forward on his desk and broke into a grin.

Speaking ahead of Sunday's restorative 3-1 win over Southampton, the Manchester City manager was asked whether the playing philosophy he was told would struggle under Premier League scrutiny – only to yield 100 points last term– might be due for a rethink during this mid-season turbulence.

"Oh, I was waiting for that question," he said before adding, with a deliberate head shake: "That is not going to happen.

"No way. Why should I change? Because I lost two games? No way – that is not going to happen."

There had been a similar sparky dismissiveness from Jurgen Klopp, whose relentless Liverpool mean Guardiola must face such questions, before his team swatted aside Newcastle United on Boxing Day.

"I heard all these things about the last 10 years when you were first at Christmas you won the title, only Liverpool didn't – wow," Klopp said, recounting a much-repeated statistical anomaly with hammed-up bemusement.  

"I know it, but it's all b******* stories. It was a different team, a different time, it's not interesting."

On Thursday, City and Liverpool's teams of the here and now meet at the Etihad Stadium. It promises to be very interesting indeed.

Klopp's fine-tuning brings role reversal

Ahead of the 4-0 win over Newcastle, which preceded Saturday's 5-1 demolition of Arsenal, Klopp dismissed the notion of the title being Liverpool's to lose as "crazy". If they beat City in Manchester to go 10 points clear, it will be somewhere close to crazy to think otherwise.

After 20 games last season, Guardiola was the operator of an undefeated winning machine. City had 58 points from 19 wins and a draw; Liverpool's 54 points at the same stage outstrips the 39 they had in fourth 12 months ago.

By May, they were 25 shy of the champions in the same position. But three wins over City in the Premier League and Champions League meant Liverpool felt the most likely challengers to the crown in 2018-19.

Until Arsenal were brutally punished for having the audacity to take a 1-0 lead on Merseyside there was a sense of a side playing with the handbrake slightly applied. Yet, Opta numbers do not suggest a radical change in playing style.

Klopp has often operated with two deeper-lying midfielders to counter his lack of a dominating number six – a factor that possibly contributes to Liverpool putting together almost two more sequences of 10 passes or more per game when compared to last season (18.7 to 16.8 up to and including Boxing Day) -  while Mohamed Salah's awesome goal threat now generally comes from centrally as opposed to the right wing.

Nothing from Liverpool's number of shots per game and their ratios of short to long passes has altered much. The only figures to alter hugely are goals conceded and clean sheets. Alisson and Virgil van Dijk are huge upgrades who have changed the competence of Klopp's backline beyond all recognition.

Given the variables at play, the Liverpool boss' hit-rate in the transfer market is remarkably high. Xherdan Shaqiri scoring game-changing goals against Manchester United, having been relegated with Stoke City six months earlier, echoes the shrewd recruitment of unknown and/or unwanted players who performed impeccably during Klopp's Borussia Dortmund glory days.

Guardiola the master frontrunner faces the chill of the chase

Dortmund had already ceded the Bundesliga title to Bayern Munich by the time Guardiola arrived in Bavaria.

BVB beat their rivals 4-2 in the 2013 DFL-Supercup – a result that launched a head-to-head record where Klopp still holds sway – but Bayern stormed to the title, finishing 19 points clear of Dortmund.

In 2014-15 they were similarly rampant and Klopp endured a nightmare first half of the season, recovering to a seventh-place finish as he bade an emotional farewell to Signal Iduna Park.

Guardiola made it three out of three in a Klopp-less Bundesliga before heading to Manchester, meaning his past four title triumphs have dominance in common. Since trading titanic blows with Real Madrid in LaLiga, the ex-Barcelona coach's slick, high-end teams have tended to lead from the front and streak clear.

Conversely, in these seasons when Guardiola sometimes appeared close to realising his idea of footballing perfection, vulnerability lurked. Three successive Champions League semi-final losses at Bayern suggested the self-applied pressure of a relentlessly attacking and intensive style left players vulnerable to the external tensions of must-win occasions against an elite opponent.

Last season's losses to Liverpool – twice conceding flurries of goals at Anfield - and the recent setbacks in the face of the Reds' furious pace at the summit indicate a glass jaw remains despite City generally sweeping all before them over the past 18 months.

No manager has proved more adept at punishing them in 90-minute segments than Klopp, but his team did so as the underdog. Thursday's game is certainly no kind of David v Goliath act and Liverpool's 29-year wait for a league title means history is starting to beckon.

Guardiola has never finished below Klopp in four completed top-flight campaigns against each other, although the German is usually a speck in his rear-view mirror by this stage.

Both men know each other inside out and should be believed when they bridle at suggestions of changing their approach or attitude. But recent weeks mean the positions they find themselves in have, for now at least, changed significantly.

It will be fascinating to see how this new reality plays out on a crackling Manchester evening.

Russell Westbrook feels he has been letting his Oklahoma City Thunder team-mates down for too long after failing to fire in a defeat to the Dallas Mavericks.

The point guard scored only nine points and was just 4-of-22 shooting in a 105-103 road loss on Sunday.

Westbrook missed all eight attempts from three-point range and the 2017 NBA MVP knows he must raise his game offensively.

"I've just got to do a better job," Westbrook said. "It's really on me. I've been s*** the last month or so. I've just got to get focused in and locked back in on what I need to do.

"I've got to help my guys out. I've been letting them down, just not being consistent on the offensive end.

"Defensively, I'm fine, but just being more consistent, because I pride myself on being the most consistent player in the league. I come out every night and compete, play hard and all that stuff.

"Missing and making shots is a part of the game, but I've got to do a better job, and that's on me. I'm going to definitely do that, so I'm not really worried. We play [Monday], and I'll be better from then on. It's on me."

Westbrook insisted it was not all doom and gloom following a third defeat in four for the Thunder (22-13), who have a home match against the Mavs on Monday.

"I've been in worse positions, man. It's not the worst thing. We're third in the West. We're winning games. It's not about me, my job is to make sure we win games," he added.

"I bring so much more to the game of basketball than offense. I'll do whatever for us to win games.

"So for me, I'm a basketball player. I'm very, very hard on myself because I'm able to do everything on the floor. And I don't really think there's many other guys in the league that play the game the way I do.

"I'm going to be tougher on myself than anybody, so I'm not worried one bit. My approach never changes. Scoring the basketball is not the only thing I can do.

"I'm the best rebounder at my position, the best passer at my position, the best defender at my position. I can do everything, and I pride myself on doing that. And every night, I put a lot of pressure on myself to do it."

LeBron James said leading the Cleveland Cavaliers to their maiden NBA championship in 2015-16 made him the "greatest player of all time".

James has been named the NBA MVP four times, won three championships and made 14 All-Star teams during his illustrious 16-year career in the league.

But James – who signed a four-year, $154.4million contract with the Los Angeles Lakers in the off-season – said guiding the Cavaliers past the Golden State Warriors in 2016 is what cemented his legacy.

The Warriors registered an NBA-record 73-9 regular-season record that season and cruised to the Finals. However, the James-inspired Cavaliers upstaged Golden State in seven games

"That one right there made me the greatest player of all time," James said during an appearance on the ESPN+ series 'More Than An Athlete'.

"I was super, super ecstatic to win one for Cleveland because of the 52-year drought. ... The first wave of emotion was when everyone saw me crying, like, that was all for 52 years of everything in sports that's gone on in Cleveland. And then after I stopped I was like — that one right there made you the greatest player of all time."

The 34-year-old James added: "Everybody was just talking — how [the Warriors] were the greatest team of all time, like it was the greatest team ever assembled.

"And for us to come back, you know, the way we came back in that fashion I was like, 'You did, you did something special."

"That's probably one of the only times in my career I felt like, oh s***, like you did something special," James continued. "I haven't had, really had time, to really, like, sit back and think but that...that was a moment."

James is averaging 27.3 points, 8.3 rebounds and 7.1 assists in 34.6 minutes per game during his first season with Los Angeles.

He is shooting 51.8 per cent from the field and 35.6 percent from three-point range.  

James has not played since he strained his groin in the Lakers' win over the Warriors last week. He is considered day-to-day.

Two-weight UFC champion Amanda Nunes is the best female fighter of all time, according to president Dana White.

Nunes became just the third fighter - after Conor McGregor and Daniel Cormier - to hold two UFC belts simultaneously as she added to her bantamweight title with the featherweight strap on Saturday.

The Brazilian needed just 51 seconds to knock out Cris Cyborg at UFC 232, prompting White to declare her the  greatest ever.

"She's the best ever. How can you deny it? You can't deny that she's the best ever," White told a news conference. "That's what this fight was for. This fight was to find out.

"But if you look at her resume and who she beat, she's the best ever. Nobody can dispute that. You can try, you can say some stupid s***, but she's the best ever."

He added: "You think Amanda Nunes isn't going to be a star after this? I f***ing guarantee it. I promise you that.

"The place went crazy for her and I don't know what's next. On Tuesday, we'll be back in the office and we'll have a meeting and we'll figure out what's next for her."

Montrezl Harrell believes the Los Angeles Clippers deserve more respect after they pulled off a 118-107 victory over the Lakers on Friday at Staples Center. 

Lakers fans booed their own team off the court after the Clippers produced a 22-0 second-half run to secure the win in the rivals' first regular-season encounter.

Harrell was pleased to hear such dissatisfaction from the supporters, and wanted to remind the Lakers faithful that there is another team in LA.

"I love it," Harrell said, in quotes reported by ESPN. "Because they already don't recognise us as a so-called LA team, but we don't really care about that.

"But we want y'all to know that we're the LA Clippers. That means Los Angeles Clippers, man. So there's two teams in LA.

"Y'all try to overlook us, just because of everybody in that purple and gold and the history of it. Yeah, I respect that. But that don't mean s*** to me.

"Excuse my French - that don't mean nothing to me. I come out here and play for the guys that I am on the floor with. At the end of the day, y'all gonna have to recognise us, man. We are going to make you understand who we are."

Asked when people might start taking the Clippers seriously, Harrell replied: "Don't really know, don't really care, you know?

"But we're going to keep doing what we need to, to make sure y'all see that we're here."

The Clippers took advantage of a Lakers team without LeBron James (groin) and Rajon Rondo (finger) as they improved to 21-14. They sit fourth in the Western Conference, while the Lakers fell to 20-16 and are ranked seventh.

Minnesota Timberwolves fans were not pleased with Andrew Wiggins, booing the star guard following Friday's 123-120 overtime loss to the Atlanta Hawks.

Wiggins missed two free throws that could have tied or given Minnesota the lead with less than two minutes remaining in overtime.

The 2015 NBA Rookie of the Year then missed another free throw with under five seconds to play to knot up the score in Minnesota.

Wiggins was then unceremoniously booed by the home fans at the Target Center in Minnesota.

"That's fans for you," Wiggins told The Athletic after the game. "We've got some s***** fans and we've got some good fans. That's just how it works."

Wiggins went five of 14 from the floor in the game and five for 12 from the free-throw line for 16 points against the Hawks.

The 23-year-old is now shooting 75 per cent from the charity stripe this season and is 13 for 25 from the spot over his last three games.

Minnesota are 16-19 this season with seven losses in their last 10 games.

Dallas Stars CEO Jim Lites called the team's two highest-paid players Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin "f****** horse-s***".

Lites held nothing back as he described the pair's performance following the Stars' 2-0 NHL win over the Nashville Predators – Benn and Seguin providing little help.

That has been a theme this season as Benn and Seguin have combined for 62 points in 38 games. There are two individual NHL players who have already eclipsed the 60-point mark this season in Nikita Kucherov (61) and Mikko Rantanen (60).

Those two players are making a combined $10million this season, while Benn and Seguin are receiving $20m.

"They are f****** horse-s***, I don't know how else to put it," Lites said, via The Athletic. "The team was ok. But [Tyler] Seguin and [Jamie] Benn were terrible."

Lites' words are strong, but Benn and Seguin told reporters they are well aware they need to be better.

"Not good enough," Seguin said, via The Athletic. "I've got to play better. I'm trying to do a job, and I haven't had the right results."

"I think it's pretty self-explanatory; if this team wants to get to the next level that starts with myself," Benn told The Athletic. "And that's exactly what needs to happen, we need to get better."

The Stars occupy the second wild-card spot in the Western Conference but they are just one point clear of the Vancouver Canucks and two points away from the Edmonton Oilers. If Benn and Seguin do not play better, Dallas could miss the playoffs.

"These guys have been great players, but we are 40 games into this season and they aren't getting it done," Lites said. "We are going to sleepwalk to another 14th place from the bottom and miss the playoffs."

Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant both took the blame after the Golden State Warriors lost again, this time to the Portland Trail Blazers.

Having "laid an egg", in the words of Curry, on Christmas Day against the Los Angeles Lakers, Golden State (23-13) were beaten again in front of their fans on Thursday, going down 110-109 in overtime.

Damian Lillard nailed a three-pointer with six seconds left to give the Trail Blazers (20-15) a lead, capitalising on Curry's seventh turnover, before Durant missed a potential game-winner from 13 feet as time expired.

"Obviously I wish I would have taken care of our possession on my end and not let [Lillard] get that opportunity," Curry said. 

"So obviously that's on me. A lot of different reasons [for our form]. Injuries and mixed line-ups. Now we've got close to a full squad, just trying to get our momentum back. But I guess if it's not one thing it's another night to night.

"We're getting teams' best shots so we got to fight our way through it, just claw and scratch and get to that 48-minute level that we dominate teams - we can get there."

While Durant added: "It's a shot I work on every day. I'm p***** I missed that one and I've got to make that shot. I've got to make it, plain and simple. It's difficult when we miss shots, especially wide open ones."

The Warriors also missed nine of their first 11 free throws, Durant branding that "unacceptable", though despite his late miss he had a triple-double of 26 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds, while Curry top-scored with 29.

Durant continued: "We have got to keep our heads when we miss the good shots and know that we generate good shots that's what we want. Down the line we will eventually get them if we are generating open looks.

"I don't like how we got down on ourselves when we miss the shots, but I thought our defense was really great.

"Damian Lillard is a Hall of Famer. So if he gets a look down two on the road, you know he pulling."

Lillard, who is from Oakland, relished playing the starring role in what, unless the teams meet in the playoffs, will be his last appearance at Oracle Arena before the Warriors move to a new stadium in San Francisco.

The two teams will meet again, this time in Portland, for a rematch on Saturday.

"That's a hell of a way to go out," Lillard said after scoring 21. "We needed this win. It was a big game for us, especially having to play them two times in a row, having to play such a solid game. That was a great win.

"I represent this city, so when I come here I want to represent myself well. I grew up coming here. It's a pleasure to be able to be a fan and then to be able to [during] my first seven years of my career come and play here in front of my family and friends.

"You wish [the stadium move] wasn't happening. You know how much it means to the city of Oakland to have something positive happening, especially with the team having so much success right now. So it's sad to see them moving on. It's unfortunate but it happens."

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