Serena Williams made an incredible exit from the Australian Open on Wednesday, giving up a 5-1 final-set lead to Karolina Pliskova in their quarter-final. 

Williams rolled her ankle during the seventh game of the final set as she served for a spot to face Naomi Osaka in the last four in Melbourne. 

Instead, the 23-time grand slam champion squandered four match points and lost six straight games, beaten 6-4 4-6 7-5 on Rod Laver Arena. 

Williams lost 25 of the final 33 points of the match – including all 11 on serve – but was full of praise for Pliskova afterwards, while insisting she did not choke. 

We take a closer look at how the match points, and crucial others, unfolded.

Williams serving at 5-1, 40-30
After being called for a foot fault, Williams is moved around the court by Pliskova, who dictates with her forehand to win the point as her opponent rolls her left ankle.

Williams serving at 5-1, 40-40
Looking troubled by her ankle, Williams puts two serves into the net.

Williams serving at 5-1, 40-AD
After missing another first serve, Williams sends a backhand almost halfway up the net to drop serve.

Pliskova serving at 2-5, 30-30
Two points from defeat, Pliskova produces an ace out wide.

Williams serving at 5-3, 0-15
Williams serves another double fault.

Pliskova serving at 4-5, 15-40
Williams' second match point is saved when Pliskova serves out wide and then hits a clean backhand winner down the line.

Pliskova serving at 4-5, 30-40
Pliskova's first serve only just misses down the T, but a forehand cross-court forces Williams into an error.

Pliskova serving at 4-5, 40-AD
A fourth chance for Williams goes begging when Pliskova paints the baseline with a huge forehand.

Williams serving at 5-5, 0-15
Williams serves a third double fault in as many games, although these are long. She produced just four double faults for the match.

Pliskova serving at 6-5, 40-30
The comeback is completed when Pliskova hits a big serve down the T, controls the point and Williams puts a forehand into the net.

Stefanos Tsitsipas shocked the world at the Australian Open and the Greek star is creating quite the buzz in Melbourne.

Stefanos Tsitsipas was billed as a future star when he turned professional in 2016 and the promising Greek came of age by defeating Roger Federer at the Australian Open.

Mick Schumacher has been signed up to the Ferrari Driver Academy, joining the team with whom his father dominated the sport for five years in the early 2000s.

Michael Schumacher won the drivers' title every year from 2000 to 2004 and is regarded as one of Formula One's greatest.

But son Mick has been forging his own path in motorsport over recent years and won the Formula 3 European Championship in 2018.

He will now have the full support of Ferrari in achieving the ultimate goal of reaching F1 and will surely also have the backing of the fans who idolised his father in years gone by.

Here we take a look at the drivers who made it from the Ferrari Driver Academy to the F1 grid and how they fared.

 

Jules Bianchi

Bianchi was the first recruit to the programme in 2009, signing up to a long-term deal with the Italian giants after impressing during a young drivers test in Jerez. The French driver was made Ferrari test driver in 2010, replacing a trio of veterans in the position with Giancarlo Fisichella, Luca Badoer and Marc Gene having previously fulfilled that function.

After driving in practice sessions for Force India in 2012, Bianchi landed his first F1 seat in 2013, driving for Marussia, and steered the struggling team to a top-10 finish at the 2014 Monaco Grand Prix. Bianchi was tragically killed at the Japanese Grand Prix later that year when his car collided with a recovery vehicle.

 

Sergio Perez

Perez was part of the academy at the same time as Bianchi and is now one of the most experienced drivers on the F1 grid. The Mexican was given a drive with Sauber only a year into his time with Ferrari and was released from the programme in 2012 after being snapped up by McLaren for the 2013 campaign.

He has spent the past five seasons with the former Force India team and boasts eight podium finishes from his 155 race starts. On the current grid, only Nico Hulkenberg has started more races without picking up a victory.

Lance Stroll

Perez's team-mate at the new Racing Point outfit for 2019 will be another academy graduate in the form of Lance Stroll. Stroll was only 11 years old when he joined the programme in 2010 - the same year as Perez - and Williams spotted his potential when they took him on board as a test driver for 2016.

The Canadian won the Formula 3 European Championship that year and was promoted to a race seat with Williams for the following campaign. Stroll's father Lawrence is part of the consortium that bought Force India last season and, as widely expected, he will make it a family affair with the team next season.

 

Antonio Giovinazzi

Giovinazzi is the first member of this list who is still a member of the Ferrari Driver Academy and in 2019 will get his first real taste of F1.

Giovinazzi did contest the first two races of 2017 for Sauber in the absence of the injured Pascal Wehrlein, but the seat is his for the season this time around and he could not have asked for better mentor to drive alongside, with Kimi Raikkonen - drivers' champion with Ferrari in 2007 - having returned to the team for 2019.

 

Charles Leclerc

Leclerc is now the example all young drivers in Ferrari's academy can aspire to, and - depending on his performances this season - proof that the system works.

The Monegasque driver tested for Haas and Sauber in his first two years on the programme and, after an impressive 10 top-10 finishes for the latter in his first full season on the grid, he was chosen by Ferrari to succeed Raikkonen as team-mate to four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel, putting him in a competitive car for 2019 despite only having a year of senior F1 experience under his belt.

The NFC Championship Game between the New Orleans Saints and Los Angeles Rams should be one for the ages.

His 2017-18 campaign may have been impressive, but reigning MVP James Harden is having a career year in 2018-19.

The Houston guard has been in incredible form for the 25-19 Rockets, scoring 30-plus points in an NBA-record 18 successive games and putting up a staggering 115 points in his last two appearances alone.

Harden led the league in scoring, three-pointers and 50-point games in a Houston team that won more regular-season matches than anyone in 2017-18, but the individual contribution of 'The Beard' has been even greater this term.

Here, we look at the numbers behind the man seemingly on course to win back-to-back MVP awards.

 

A plethora of points

Last season, through 41 matches, Harden was averaging 30.9 points per appearance. At the same point in this campaign, his average is up to 35.4.

No one had as many 50-point games as Harden's four last year, and he has already reached that haul this term thanks to his recent displays against the Memphis Grizzlies and Brooklyn Nets.

The 29-year-old has also scored at least 40 points on 15 occasions, compared to 11 at the equivalent stage in 2017-18.

 

Assists, rebounds and efficiency

With six triple-doubles, Harden already has more than he did throughout his entire MVP campaign (four), with an average of 6.3 rebounds per fixture this time around compared to 4.9 boards last season.

And while he is undoubtedly the focal point of the Houston offense, Harden is in the league's top five for assists, though his average is down from 9.0 to 8.5 per game.

His field-goal percentage has dropped marginally from 44.3 to 43.8 and he is proving slightly less effective beyond the arc - 38.7 per cent in 2017-18 to 37.5 per cent in 2018-19.

 

The Chris Paul effect

Harden's statistical explosion has happened when the Rockets have been without Chris Paul, who picked up a hamstring injury prior to Christmas.

In the last 13 contests without Paul, Harden has poured in a whopping 43.2 points per game, compared to 31.8 prior to his team-mate's injury, and he has failed to score fewer than 40 only four times.

Harden has averaged 16.9 shots from beyond the arc - sinking 6.2 per game - having averaged only 11.1 attempts before Paul went down.

The annual NBA game in London seemingly came a year too soon for the New York Knicks. 

Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray were leading the charge the last time the Australian Open saw what is happening in Melbourne in 2019.

Nadal, then 22, went on to win his first and, thus far, only title in the opening slam of the calendar by beating Roger Federer in the final.

A 21-year-old Djokovic, defending his maiden grand slam title, fell in the quarter-finals, while Murray got to the fourth round, months after losing a US Open decider to Federer.

The year was 2009. That trio was helping to form a dominant era in men's tennis alongside Federer and, 10 years on, the world still waits for the 'Next Gen' to break through.

But perhaps they are answering the challenge because 2019 marks the first time since a decade ago that at least seven players aged 22 or under have reached the last 32 at the Australian Open.

Back then, it was Nadal, Djokovic, Murray, Marin Cilic, Juan Martin del Potro, Richard Gasquet and Gael Monfils. Only the two Frenchmen have been unable to go on and win a grand slam crown.

This year, there are 10 still standing – Alexander Zverev (21), Borna Coric (22), Stefanos Tsitsipas (20), Denis Shapovalov (19), Karen Khachanov (22), Daniil Medvedev (22), Alex de Minaur (19), Frances Tiafoe (20), Taylor Fritz (21) and Alexei Popyrin (19).

With Murray potentially having made his last Australian Open appearance due to his troublesome hip, it seems the time is just about right for the next generation.

Still, record six-time champions Federer and Djokovic, and Nadal, stand in their way. After all, one of the 'Big Four' have won 13 of the past 15 Australian Opens. They have won 53 of the previous 60 grand slams. This is dominance that will take some ending.

The youngsters will get their chances. Shapovalov faces Djokovic in the third round. If they make it that far, Medvedev could get the subsequent engagement with the Serbian great. Zverev and Coric are in the second quarter. Whoever makes the most of their opportunity may face Djokovic in a semi-final, although Milos Raonic appears a huge danger.

Tsitsipas could get a shot at his idol Federer in what would be an entertaining fourth-round clash, while De Minaur faces Nadal in the third round in the bottom half of the draw.

When Nadal won the title in 2009, Federer ended the run of Del Potro, while Andy Roddick beat Djokovic and Murray lost a five-setter to Fernando Verdasco.

The 'Next Gen' has seemed to be getting closer to a major breakthrough in the past 12 months, with Zverev, Khachanov, Coric, Tsitsipas and Medvedev all ranked in the top 20.

It will take something special to stop Federer, Nadal or Djokovic, but the youngsters are at least giving themselves a chance.

Carlos Tevez, Hulk, Oscar and Ezequiel Lavezzi are among the stars Mousa Dembele is following by joining a club in the Chinese Super League.

Belgium international Dembele has completed a move to Guangzhou R and F, ending a seven-and-a-half-year stay at Tottenham.

Dembele is far from the first star of the game to have headed to Asia, but recent history suggests high-class players do not always succeed in China.

Here, we look at eight stars who have moved to the CSL - and assess how they fared.

 

Carlos Tevez (Shanghai Shenhua)

Although probably the biggest name to join the CSL, Tevez's time in China was far from settled. The striker later described a 2017 spell at Shanghai Shenhua as a "holiday" and he returned to boyhood club Boca Juniors after a season in which he managed only four CSL goals, despite earning a reported $40million-a-year.

Oscar (Shanghai SIPG)

Eyebrows were raised when Oscar opted to leave Chelsea to move to the CSL, joining Shanghai SIPG for the 2017 season. Oscar's performance levels have been good in Shanghai, but the most notable moment of his time at SIPG was when he was handed an eight-match ban and a $5,000 fine for blasting the ball at an opponent, sparking a mass brawl in a game against Dembele's new club Guangzhou R and F. Oscar has not played for Brazil since heading to China.

Ezequiel Lavezzi (Hebei China Fortune)

A reasonable success on the pitch, Lavezzi has been embroiled in controversy of it in the CSL. The Hebei China Fortune striker - who has hit 32 CSL goals in 63 appearances - apologised after a picture of him appearing to mimic Chinese facial characteristics went viral. Much like Oscar, his international career has all but ended since moving to China. Although he was initially still getting picked, Lavezzi has now not played for Argentina since March 2017. 

Jackson Martinez (Guangzhou Evergrande)

Once considered among Europe's deadliest strikers - he hit at least 20 league goals in three consecutive seasons for Porto - Martinez's time at Guangzhou Evergrande entirely failed to catch light. The €42million signing from Atletico Madrid contributed just four CSL goals in 2016 and saw his contract cancelled as a result. He is now back in Portugal, having signed for Portimonense at the start of the season.

Alex Teixeira (Jiangsu Suning)

Liverpool were among the clubs linked with signing Teixeira but the Brazilian midfielder opted for CSL side Jiangsu Suning when he left Shakhtar Donetsk in 2016, having won five Ukrainian titles. The 29-year-old has burnished his reputation with a series of stunning individual performances and scored 32 league goals in 75 appearances. A move back to Europe remains a possibility, although his chances of earning a Brazil call-up look remote.

Hulk (Shanghai SIPG)

Another success, Hulk has been consistently among the best players in the CSL since his arrival in China in 2016, SIPG having paid €55m to sign the powerful forward from Zenit. Hulk hit 17 goals in his first full season to rank among the league's top goalscorers but SIPG finished second in the table and also lost in the cup final. In 2018 he was effective again, scoring 13 and setting up another 12 in 25 outings but, like compatriot Oscar, Hulk is in the midst of an exile at international level.

Axel Witsel (Tianjin Quanjian)

Another Zenit alumnus, Witsel cost a reported €20m when he moved to Tianjin Quanjian in time for the 2017 season. He contributed four goals as his new club finished third in the CSL and continued to be selected in the Belgium squad after moving to Asia, helping the Red Devils to the World Cup semi-finals. After impressing in Russia, he earned a return to Europe with Borussia Dortmund and has been one of the signings of the season in Germany.

Yannick Carrasco (Dalian Yifang)

Joining Dalian in a double swoop that also saw Nico Gaitan make the exact same transfer, Carrasco caught people by surprise when he left Atletico Madrid in 2018. Having previously looked a potential superstar in Spain, this was seen as a massive get for the CSL, given his age, reputation and ability, even if his third campaign in LaLiga was unimpressive. The 25-year-old has not set the world alight in China but remains well-regarded in Europe, with Arsenal reportedly interested.

The New Orleans Saints and Los Angeles Rams will meet for the second time this season on Sunday in the NFC Championship Game, and both will look to their not-so-secret weapons in order to punch their ticket to the Super Bowl.

In the teams' previous matchup in Week 9, things were a little different for the visiting Los Angeles squad, while New Orleans enjoyed the home-field advantage in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

Now, the Rams will hope to use their high-powered rushing attack, which has boosted the offense after the midseason loss of wide receiver Cooper Kupp. At the same time, the Saints, who will again be hosting the Rams, will rely on their biggest playmaker, receiver Michael Thomas, to expose an inconsistent secondary.

Here we take a look at each team's X-factors as both franchises bid to ensure they are still playing in February.

Los Angeles Rams

X-factor: The run game

There has only been one other playoff performance in the past decade that was like Todd Gurley and C.J. Anderson's display last week. It was in 2013 when former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick and Frank Gore each had 100-plus receiving yards, and the last pair of Rams to complete the feat were Marshall Faulk and Trung Canidate when they combined for 328 yards in 2001.

Gurley and Anderson combined for 238 yards and three touchdowns in the win over the Dallas Cowboys, who had allowed just 3.8 yards per carry during the regular season — the fourth-best run defense in the NFL. By all accounts, it should have been difficult for Gurley to finish his seventh game with 100-plus yards (115) and Anderson to have his third consecutive games with 120-or-more yards (123), but the pair got it done behind a stout offensive line.

The two will again need to bring that sort of form to the table again against the Saints. But it will not be easy.

New Orleans finished the regular season with the second-best rushing defense and allowed only 3.6 yards per carry. The Saints have talent in four-time Pro Bowl defensive end Cameron Jordan and there have only been a handful of times they have given up more than 100 yards on the ground.

In Week 9, the Rams rushed for 92 yards. It was their second game up to that point with fewer than 100 rushing yards. Meanwhile, the Saints had only allowed 100-or-more rushing yards once before their first meeting with Los Angeles. Since then, three other teams have been able to rack up yards on the ground against New Orleans, and the Rams will need to add their name to the list.

New Orleans Saints

X-factor: Michael Thomas

Yes, Drew Brees orchestrated another come-from-behind win last week to put the Saints one game away from their second Super Bowl appearance. But if Brees is the conductor then Thomas is just waiting for his solo.

Thomas, who led the league in catches in the regular season with 125 receptions for 1,405 yards, helped the team to a 20-14 win over the reigning Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles in the divisional round. He had 12 catches and one touchdown, which gave the Saints a lead they would not relinquish. He set a franchise playoff record with 171 receiving yards that included a handful of catches that would be difficult for anyone not named Michael Thomas.

But what is more impressive than his colossal numbers is that it was not even his best performance of the season. The two-time Pro Bowl receiver has had two other games with 180 yards or more — Week 1 (180 yards) and Week 9 (211). His 211-yard day was against the hot-and-cold Rams defense.

Los Angeles boasts a defensive front that includes the likes of Aaron Donald, Ndamukong Suh and Michael Brockers. The three have 26 combined sacks and will pressure quarterback Brees every opportunity they get. It is the Rams' secondary that should cause concern, especially against Thomas.

In Thomas' previous matchup against the Rams, cornerback Marcus Peters was exposed on big plays more than he made them. Los Angeles employed a zone defense which Brees and a wide-open Thomas took full advantage of, and when Peters was playing man coverage Thomas overpowered him to snag the ball for 12 receptions — his second highest total of the season. Peters, who can and does have the ability to make those big plays, had a pass breakup that nearly resulted in an interception.

It just depends on which secondary shows up to face Thomas.

Similar to the AFC, Sunday's NFC championship game will pit a young gun against a savvy veteran under center.

Los Angeles Rams third-year quarterback Jared Goff takes his squad to New Orleans with the hope of defeating Saints QB Drew Brees after the 40-year-old helped his team secure the top seed in the NFL playoffs and best odds to win the Super Bowl.

Brees and the 24-year-old Goff have an age gap of nearly 16 years, which is the third largest between two quarterbacks in postseason history. While much of Goff's history remains unwritten, Brees has sealed his status as a Hall of Famer.

Here, we break down their season to this point and what to expect from Sunday's showdown.

How they stack up this season


Regular season

Jared Goff
Completion percentage:
64.9
Yards: 4,688
Touchdowns: 32
Interceptions: 12
Rating: 101.1

Drew Brees
Completion percentage: 74.4
Yards: 3,992
Touchdowns: 32
Interceptions: 5
Rating: 115.7

 

Post divisional round

Goff v Dallas Cowboys
Completion percentage:
53.6
Yards: 186
Touchdowns: 0
Interceptions: 0
Rating: 74.4

Brees v Philadelphia Eagles
Completion percentage: 73.7
Yards: 301
Touchdowns: 2
Interceptions: 1
Rating: 103.1

 

Beyond the numbers

While Goff's offense seemed to sputter toward the end of the season, Brees' only got better, and it could be argued that his supporting cast gave him the edge.

Yet, the Saints could be slowed by the Rams' dominating defensive front led by NFL Defensive Player of The Year favourite Aaron Donald, Ndamukong Suh and Michael Brockers.

 

Getting Goff going

Though the Kansas City Chiefs' Patrick Mahomes stole the show under center during the regular season, Goff was still in the mix for MVP along with Brees, Tom Brady and Philip Rivers. However, Goff's performance cooled down the stretch before igniting once again in the final two weeks before the postseason began. He then put on a lacklustre performance at the Dallas Cowboys in the divisional round, leaving his consistency in question entering a crucial rematch in New Orleans.

Los Angeles were the league's lone undefeated team when they visited the Saints in week nine but left with a 45-35 loss after a lopsided outing. That outcome was in line with Goff's overall struggles on the road this season, as he has thrown for 10 touchdowns with nine inteceptions and a 82.7 passer rating away from the Coliseum.

 

Breesing on through

Brees has been in top form this season, playing as well as ever in his 18th year in the league. While the regular season marked the first time since 2005 that he did not throw for more than 4,000 yards, he achieved three notable milestones through the first 10 weeks of action in becoming the NFL's all-time passing leader while also reaching the second-most passing touchdowns and most career completions.

Furthermore, Brees is an even bigger threat in front of a home crowd as he posted a 133.3 passer rating at the Superdome in the regular season.

Brees' experience gives the Saints an advantage at the game's most important position in most matchups, and Sunday is no exception.

Sunday's AFC championship game will showcase a special matchup that features the NFL's past and future: the greatest of all time against the kid.

Patriots veteran Tom Brady will head to Kansas City for New England's eighth straight conference title game appearance as the Chiefs host their first AFC championship game with second-year gunslinger Patrick Mahomes leading the way.

Brady, 41, and Mahomes, 23, are separated by the largest age gap between two starting quarterbacks in postseason history, but they share common ground in the NFL record books.

Here, we break down their season to this point and what to expect from Sunday's showdown.

 

How they stack up this season

Regular season

Patrick Mahomes
Completion percentage: 66.0
Yards: 5,097
Touchdowns: 50
Interceptions: 12
Rating: 113.8

Tom Brady
Completion percentage:
65.8
Yards: 4,355
Touchdowns: 29
Interceptions: 11
Rating: 97.7

Post divisional round

Mahomes v Indianapolis Colts
Completion percentage: 65.9
Yards: 278
Touchdowns: 0
Interceptions: 0
Rating: 85.2

Brady v Los Angeles Chargers
Completion percentage: 77.3
Yards: 343
Touchdowns: 1
Interceptions: 0
Rating: 106.5

 

More than numbers

Mahomes has outperformed Brady in only his second season in the league, both from a statistical standpoint and a talent perspective as he flawlessly threw left-handed and no-look passes during his 2018-19 campaign as a first-year starter.

On the other hand, Brady will be in an unusual spot on Sunday as the Patriots are underdogs for just the second time since 2007 entering Arrowhead Stadium. And if his outing in the divisional round against the Chargers is any indication, Brady will not be playing like he did during the regular season. In fact, it could be argued that the pressure brings out his best performances.

 

Mahomes just getting started

This season has been all about Mahomes and his magnificent growth after former starter Alex Smith was traded to the Washington Redskins last January. Mahomes capped his MVP-worthy season in historic fashion when he became just the second NFL player to throw for 50 touchdowns and 5,000 passing yards in a single season.

He then helped the Chiefs secure their first playoff victory since 2015 and first at Arrowhead since 1993.

But Mahomes has seen the Brady effect firsthand before. Kansas City rallied from a 15-point deficit against New England in week six but fell 43-40 on a Stephen Gostkowski field goal as time expired. The loss was a learning experience for Mahomes as he realised his team "cannot make mistakes" even after he threw for an impressive 352 yards and four touchdowns.

 

Brady or bust

With five Super Bowl rings and eight AFC titles, Brady is the most successful postseason quarterback in the league's history. But even the most seasoned signal-callers get worn down eventually.

Despite no signs of slowing down, retirement has been a common topic last offseason and likely will be again in 2019. However, Brady's focus now is firmly on helping the Patriots win their first playoff game on the road since the 2006 season.

In contests Brady has started, New England had been favoured in 67 straight games. The probability of him winning on Sunday, however, has taken a hit as his age was exposed at times this season.

Fifteen quarterbacks in NFL history have started games after turning 40. Come Sunday, that number will rise to 16.

New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees celebrated his milestone birthday on Tuesday and is poised to keep his record-breaking season going strong into the NFC championship against the Rams and possibly to Super Bowl 53 in Atlanta next month. The Saints haven't been to the championship game since they capped their 2009-10 season with the Lombardi Trophy.

In that time, Brees has broken numerous records, with many coming this season as he led the Saints to a 13-3 record and an NFC South title for the second straight season.

Here we take a look at Drew Brees' milestones and numbers to know — with the help of Opta. 

10 facts about Drew Brees on his 40th birthday:

— Since joining the Saints before the 2006 season, New Orleans have gone 125-80 in games Brees has started. The franchise had won 125 games between 1989 and 2005. Additionally, Brees has helped lead the team to an 8-5 postseason record and the one Super Bowl win. Prior to 2005, the team were 1-5 in the playoffs.

— Brees holds six career passing records, including passing yards (74,437), passing touchdowns (520) and completion percentage (67.2 percent). Additionally, he has three of the top four highest completion percentages in a single season and has the fourth-most wins of any quarterback before turning 40 (155).

— He ranks second in regular-season history in game-winning drives (48) and third in comebacks (34). He has been selected to 12 Pro Bowls — only eight players have been chosen for more.

— He has thrown four or more passing touchdowns in 34 regular-season games. Only Peyton Manning (35) has more.

— Brees has thrown 30-plus touchdown passes in 10 of the last 11 seasons. Only two other quarterbacks in league history have thrown 30-plus TD passes more than seven seasons (Brett Favre and Peyton Manning with nine).

— In the regular season, Brees has thrown touchdown passes to 66 different players. Of the four players with 500-plus passing touchdowns, only one — Tom Brady (71) — has thrown touchdown passes to more players. Marques Colston caught 72 touchdowns from Brees – the seventh-most ever for a NFL duo.

— Brees has thrown 15 touchdown passes on fourth down, tied with Peyton Manning for the most since at least 1994.

— He owns a completion percentage of 66.4 per cent in the postseason, the highest of any player with 500 or more postseason pass attempts.

— There have been eight instances of a quarterback age 40 or older throwing 10-plus touchdown passes in a season. Since becoming a starter in 2002, Brees has averaged 30.5 touchdown passes per season.

— A quarterback aged 40 or older has thrown for 4,000 or more yards in a season three times in league history (Tom Brady in 2017 and 2018, Brett Favre in 2009). This regular season marked the first time since 2005 that Brees did not throw for more than 4,000 yards (he finished with 3,992).

Harry Kane's phenomenal goalscoring exploits for Tottenham and England makes him an automatic selection for both.

As such, the news that Kane is facing at least six weeks on the sidelines with damage to his left ankle ligaments provides a major headache for Mauricio Pochettino.

England begin their Euro 2020 qualifying campaign against Czech Republic on March 22, meaning Gareth Southgate's hopes of having his captain operating at full tilt have been severely compromised.

Kane's superb returns over recent seasons have come despite three previous ankle setbacks hindering his progress.

Here, we look at when those injuries occurred and what happened next.

September 2016 – Sunderland (H)

Kane scored the only goal in a 1-0 win at White Hart Lane but was substituted during the closing stages and left the stadium on crutches with damaged right ankle ligaments. Spurs went five games unbeaten in the Premier League in Kane's absence – beating Middlesbrough and Manchester City before stringing together consecutive draws against West Brom, Bournemouth and Leicester City. Pochettino's men beat CSKA Moscow but took one point from two Champions League matches against Bayer Leverkusen before failing to make it out of the group.

Kane's replacement Vincent Janssen opened the scoring with a penalty in an EFL Cup fourth-round clash at Liverpool before a Daniel Sturridge brace sent the hosts through. Such form helped Sturridge to begin Southgate's tenure as England's first-choice striker in Kane's absence for the World Cup qualifiers versus Malta and Slovenia.

March 2017 – Millwall (H)

Ten minutes into a 6-0 rout against fellow Londoners Millwall in the sixth round of the FA Cup, Kane suffered a similar injury to his right ankle, albeit less severe. The three Premier League matches he sat out against Southampton, Burnley and Swansea City all ended in Spurs victories, while England's encounters with Germany and Lithuania later in the month were also out of the question. He was back to score in the semi-final showdown versus Chelsea but could not avert a 4-2 loss.

March 2018 – Bournemouth (A)

Kane finished Russia 2018 as the proud winner of the Golden Boot but alarm bells were ringing four months earlier when another right ankle problem struck at Bournemouth. Despite departing the Vitality Stadium in a protective boot, the forward's convalescence was brief. England's March friendlies with Netherlands and Spain came too soon, as did the FA Cup quarter-final win over Swansea, but Kane was back as a late substitute in Tottenham's next Premier League match – a long-awaited 3-1 win at Chelsea.

January 2019 – Manchester United (H)

Pochettino will hope for a similarly ahead-of-schedule return as Spurs look towards a possible EFL Cup final, north London derby and Champions League last-16 clash with Borussia Dortmund as February turns into March. It should be noted this injury is the first to Kane's left ankle and not his right as on the three previous occasions.

Mauricio Pochettino will be without Harry Kane until early March after the Tottenham striker suffered an ankle injury in his side's Premier League defeat to Manchester United.

England captain Kane, who has scored 20 goals for Spurs in all competitions this season, is expected to miss around a dozen matches including the EFL Cup semi-final second leg against Chelsea.

Spurs rely heavily on Kane for goals and with a thin squad only boosted by one solitary signing in the last year, Pochettino does not have a lot of other attacking options from which to choose.

So, who might fill in for Kane over the course of the next six weeks? We take a look at some of the players who could help Pochettino cope without the World Cup's Golden Boot winner.

SON HEUNG-MIN

The most obvious player to fill in for Kane is Son Heung-min, who has already scored eight Premier League goals this season. Unfortunately for Spurs and Pochettino, he travelled to the United Arab Emirates to join South Korea's squad for the Asian Cup after Sunday's 1-0 loss against United. Son's return date will depend on Korea's progress, but they are among the favourites to win the tournament and the final is set for February 1. If they go all the way, Son will miss five Spurs matches before returning to face Leicester City on February 10. Pochettino will need another option, at least in the short term.

LUCAS MOURA

The man to fill the gap left by Kane, at least until Son is back in north London, could be Lucas Moura. The Brazilian started the season in brilliant form, featuring in a two-pronged attack alongside Kane, with his vibrant performances earning the Premier League's Player of the Month award for August. Lucas has gone off the boil a little since then, but the former Paris Saint-Germain attacker may thrive if he is given a central role once more. Lucas has been sidelined by a thigh injury recently, but should be fit to face Fulham on Sunday.

FERNANDO LLORENTE

Athletic Bilbao had hoped to re-sign their former striker Fernando Llorente this month, but Kane's injury will presumably mean the 33-year-old will not be allowed to leave Spurs during the January transfer window. Llorente has only played 36 minutes in the Premier League this season across six substitute appearances, but he did score a hat-trick against Tranmere Rovers in the FA Cup third round earlier this month. It is over a year since Llorente scored in the Premier League, though. The chances of Llorente's fellow striker Vincent Janssen being pushed up the pecking order by Kane's injury seem remote as he is completely out of favour under Pochettino.

DELE ALLI 

A more enterprising move than turning to either Son, Lucas or Llorente could be to push Dele Alli into a more advanced role. Kane's England team-mate typically operates in a central midfield role, but certainly has the eye for goal needed to play up front. Alli has scored 41 goals and provided 27 assists in 122 Premier League appearances for Spurs, a superb return for a player who is still only 22. Liverpool's success has come without playing a traditional striker, so could the same tactic work for Spurs?

KAZAIAH STERLING

Pochettino has shown more faith in young players than most Premier League managers, so perhaps the Argentinian could use Kane's absence as a chance to blood another exciting talent. Kazaiah Sterling is a highly rated 20-year-old in good form, having scored four goals in his last four appearances for Spurs' Under-23 side in the Premier League 2 competition. Sterling has already played in the Champions League for Spurs and although it would be some leap of faith to throw Sterling into the fray, Kane was an untested youngster once.

BUY SOMEONE?

Pochettino has worked wonders with very little recent investment in his squad, so he could certainly argue he has earned the right to use the transfer market to find a replacement for Kane. But January is not the ideal time to be shopping for players, with only those who are unwanted at their clubs usually available to be signed. Pochettino would also likely have to find a striker content to play a support role to Kane when the England captain returns to fitness.

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