Lleyton Brooks scored his first A-League goal as Melbourne Victory ended their winless streak with a 2-1 comeback triumph over Newcastle Jets.

Brooks came on from the bench on the hour to make his third A-League appearance and it was the 20-year-old who proved decisive when he lashed home in the 79th minute.

Apostolos Stamatelopoulos put fellow strugglers Newcastle ahead, but Dylan Ryan restored parity early in the second half.

The win, after a run of six without one, lifts 12th-placed Victory onto 11 points, level with the Jets, though Melbourne have a game in hand.

Meanwhile, Victory's rivals Melbourne City forged a comeback of their own, with Jamie Maclaren's 98th-minute penalty sealing a share of the spoils against Sydney FC.

Sydney looked set to leapfrog City and move into second thanks to Kosta Barbarouses' 54th-minute opener.

Yet A-League's leading scorer Maclaren had other ideas. Sydney captain Alex Wilkinson fouled Marco Tilio, playing against his former side, and City's marksman stepped up to convert from 12 yards.

Maclaren is now on 14 A-League goals for the season and 93 outright in the competition, taking the 27-year-old into second place on the all-time top scorers list, behind only Besart Berisha (141).

City could have snatched a win moments later, but Stefan Colakovski's effort was kept out by Andrew Redmayne.

In Saturday's late game, Adelaide United failed to return to winning ways as they were held to a 1-1 draw by the 10 men of Western Sydney Wanderers.

Jose Mourinho claims Manchester United "big boss" Alex Ferguson would dismiss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's theory that cup trophies can be "an ego thing" for managers.

In almost two and a half years at the Old Trafford helm, Solskjaer has yet to deliver silverware for the club, and he says the team should be judged by their league progress.

United sit second in the Premier League table, which suggests there has been achievement on that front, and they remain in the hunt in the Europa League.

The latter is a tournament that Mourinho won with United, and he also landed an EFL Cup triumph to make it a double in the 2016-17 season.

United lost only five times in the Premier League in that campaign but a league-high 15 draws meant they could only finish sixth, yet in the following campaign they were runners-up to Manchester City.

Mourinho's United career began to unravel, but he left knowing he had helped to replenish the trophy cabinet, and he disagrees with Solskjaer that such moments can be ego-stroking moments for managers and clubs.

"It's his opinion. I'm pretty sure that his big boss Sir Alex has a different opinion about it," Mourinho said, speaking ahead of his Tottenham side's clash with United on Sunday.

"But I respect what Solskjaer thinks. I think different. Freedom of thinking, freedom of ideas, and if that's the way he thinks that's fine for me.

"It's not being disrespectful for anyone. But I believe his big boss and the biggest of Premier League history has a different view in relation to that."

Ferguson's first United trophy was the FA Cup in 1990, which led to a European Cup Winners' Cup the following year, and in 1991-92 his team added a League Cup success.

It was the beginning of an era where United harvested trophies season by season, moving on to the Premier League and peaking at the end of the decade with their most famous Champions League triumph, Solskjaer famously scoring a stoppage-time winner against Bayern Munich.

It was an empire that was built on a foundation of cup success, with that essentially being United's entry level to the most dominant period in their history.

Mourinho and Tottenham had their tails up in October as the visitors rampaged to a 6-1 win at Old Trafford, but they have since slid from title contention to their current sixth place.

They have an EFL Cup final against Pep Guardiola's Manchester City coming up on April 25, however, which could see Spurs secure their first major trophy since 2008, when they won the same competition.

Needing a strong run-in to barge into the top four, it would be hugely helpful to Spurs this weekend if they could end United's 22-match unbeaten away record (W14 D8) in the Premier League and complete a first league double over the Red Devils since the 1989-90 season.

Should they achieve that feat, Mourinho would be the first former United manager since Dave Sexton in 1981-82 with Coventry City to manage such a double.

United will inevitably be wary of the threat posed by Tottenham's Harry Kane, who scored a double in the Old Trafford game and is one goal short of hitting 20 in a Premier League season for the fifth time.

Kane would be just the fourth player in the Premier League era to achieve this feat after Alan Shearer (7 times), Sergio Aguero (6) and Thierry Henry (5).

If anyone gives Tottenham value for money, it must be Kane.

Mourinho spoke about the financial muscle of Manchester City, who rewarded Kevin De Bruyne with a bumper new contract this week, reportedly worth over £16million per season.

The Spurs boss has no problem with De Bruyne doing so well out of his City career, and only wishes he could pay Tottenham's biggest stars such money.

"Good for him. He deserves it, he's a fantastic player," Mourinho said.

"If Pep [Guardiola] or any coach of the top teams has X millions to spend, good for them. No problem. I enjoy to work in my club, I enjoy to do what I'm doing, and I'm not jealous of the ones that can do other things. I would love my players to get the same contract as David de Gea or Kevin De Bruyne."

Indian Premier League matches could soon be held in London, according to city mayor Sadiq Khan.

Surrey, who play at The Oval, are in initial talks with IPL and BCCI authorities in India to explore the possibility.

Khan would like to see IPL matches in London and later the rest of England after similar moves were made by the big US sports leagues – the NFL, NBA and MLB – in holding competitive matches abroad.

County cricket clubs are exploring all options to make up lost revenue caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

"Surrey are speaking to teams in India and colleagues in the BCCI and IPL," Khan said.

"The first step will be friendlies and exhibition matches. 

"We want to get them going, maybe even this year if we make progress as we are doing with the pandemic. It has to be Covid-safe, of course."

Khan is seeking re-election in London and sport is central to his vision of the city's future.

He added: "We have to bang the drum for our city, and sport is one way to do this.

"This is part of my plan to build a better London after the pandemic.

"I know Londoners are hungry to see more of the likes of Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma and Rishabh Pant.

"With two of the world's greatest cricket grounds in Lord's and The Kia Oval, London is ideally placed to host IPL matches. 

"I know we can see our capital confirmed as the undisputed sporting capital of the world."

The 2021 edition of the IPL began on Thursday, as five-time champions the Mumbai Indians look to defend their title.

IPL matches being played outside India is not unprecedented. Last year, the whole tournament was played in the United Arab Emirates without spectators because of the pandemic.

The tournament was held in South Africa in 2009 and in the UAE for two weeks of the 2014 season, in both cases due to elections in India.

Pep Guardiola thinks Kevin De Bruyne can achieve whatever he wants at Manchester City after committing his long-term future to the Premier League leaders.

De Bruyne penned a two-year extension this week until June 2025 that will take him up to a decade with the club if he sees out the terms.

Since signing for City from Wolfsburg in 2015, the Belgium playmaker has scored 41 goals and supplied 76 assists in 176 Premier League matches.

In terms of creativity, that puts him far above his peers, with ex-Tottenham midfielder Christian Eriksen (51) the only other player to have laid on more than 50 goals during the same period, with former and current team-mates David Silva (44) and Riyad Mahrez (41) up next.

De Bruyne's 535 chances created since his goalscoring City debut against West Ham in September 2015 displays an even bigger gulf, with Eriksen (413) and Mesut Ozil (400) the only other men to reach 400.

Such returns lead Guardiola to believe anything is possible for a 29-year-old who will hope to inspire City to elusive Champions League glory this term, having opened the scoring in Tuesday's 2-1 quarter-final first leg win over Borussia Dortmund.

"We will see from Kevin what he wants to be. His type of player, what he wants will be possible. It depends on him," Guardiola said ahead of Saturday's Premier League home game versus Leeds United.

"I never involved in signing contracts for the players. That belongs to Txiki [Begiristain, City's director of football] and the club, but my personal opinion is I’m more than delighted for the time we've spent together in the past and hopefully, in these two months we still have ahead, we can do a good step forward and in the future.

"If the club and Kevin are satisfied, then if a third person is satisfied, it's me. Congratulations to Kevin, his family and Manchester City."

Such longevity will give De Bruyne the chance to enshrine his place alongside modern City greats such as Silva, former captain Vincent Kompany and outgoing club record goalscorer Sergio Aguero.

Guardiola concedes players spending such a long time with one team is unusual in the modern era, having himself committed to the longest tenure of his coaching career.

"Yes, it's not normal but some players are not normal," he said. "We are delighted with these players.

"Hopefully they can join more players in this position. I can talk for myself. I’m here five years and I will be two more, in principle, if the situation is going well.

"The club helps us and I'm glad important players like Kevin, who has all the world in his hands and all the clubs would be delighted to have him, decide to stay with us. I think it's a big compliment for all Manchester City."

As usual before facing his old mentor, there were big compliments from Guardiola for Leeds boss Marcelo Bielsa, who said the ex-Barcelona and Bayern Munich coach imbues his teams with a "magical quality" this week.

"I'm overwhelmed, I feel weird. He’s a huge competitor," Guardiola said of the praise.

"He's the most honest person, when I was able to speak with him, I'm pretty sure what he says is what he believes. He doesn't say anything for the media for himself. That's why I'm overwhelmed, everyone knows the admiration and respect – the way he helped me in my beginnings.

"Always he'll be there in my heart and that's why I am always 'wow'. I always feel I don't deserve it."

Mauricio Pochettino promised Paris Saint-Germain will fight to keep Kylian Mbappe amid the latest round of reports linking the France striker to Real Madrid.

There were claims from various Spanish media on Thursday that Mbappe has told PSG he wants a close-season switch to Madrid, the club that have been long-time admirers of the World Cup winner.

Mbappe has a contract that runs only until the end of next season, meaning there is an urgency about getting his situation resolved.

The 22-year-old's importance to PSG was reflected in his two-goal showing against Bayern Munich in the Champions League this week, with Mbappe firmly established among the world's most coveted forwards.

With his stature comes the guarantee that other clubs will be casting admiring glances his way, and the possibility that Mbappe will be tempted to leave the Parc des Princes.

Asked about the reports, PSG head coach Pochettino said: "This is something we are used to. When we talk about top clubs and top players such as Kylian Mbappe, who is world class, rumours will always be there.

"The most important thing is that Kylian Mbappe stays calm and focused on helping the team achieve its targets.

"He is very mature despite his young age. As I have already said, the club and the player are focused on trying to reach an agreement so that Kylian can stay with us for a long time.

"That is the club's wish and we are working on everything. Something that happens on the outside is something we cannot control, but will it affect the team in terms of performance or the atmosphere here? No, not at all."

Mbappe has 32 goals and nine assists across all competitions this season, with only Robert Lewandowski (42) and Erling Haaland (33) ahead of him on the goals front among players from Europe's 'top five' leagues. Those goals from Mbappe have come at an average of one every 91.78 minutes.

Pochettino says the "mood is positive" in the PSG camp after their 3-2 win at Bayern, which puts them in the driving seat ahead of Tuesday's home leg of the quarter-final.

Saturday sees his team face Strasbourg in Ligue 1, and it remains to be seen what team Pochettino fields, given PSG have ground to make up on leaders Lille.

At the same time they would not want to risk key players being injured ahead of the Bayern return game, and Pochettino said in his Friday news conference there are "a lot of players that will be unavailable".

PSG have won just one of their last six away games against Strasbourg in Ligue 1 (L2 D3), after winning five of their previous six (D1).

Their form after Champions League games is also a cause for concern, having lost after each of their last three European matches.

There is little room for another such slip-up this weekend, with PSG having already suffered eight defeats after 31 games in their domestic league campaign.

That is their highest tally of losses at this stage of a season since 2009-10, when they were beaten 12 times and finished 13th in the French top flight.

At least PSG have strong recent away form in Ligue 1, having won on each of their last four trips.

Pochettino spoke about the challenge of balancing domestic and Champions League commitments, which make for a busy schedule at this stage of the season.

Pochettino went through similar when he led Tottenham to the 2019 Champions League final, and he said the task "is not easy for the players".

But there is a distinct difference this season, as Pochettino pointed out.

"At Tottenham there was no pandemic we are experiencing now and that makes things more complicated," he said. "The COVID-19 factor cannot be managed. It is something that affects every team in a completely different way.

"I think that is something we will find out more about over time in terms of how it affected the players, but we have to adapt as well as we can to be competitive."

Depleted South Africa will have to do without new captain Temba Bavuma as they look to quickly bounce back from ODI disappointment in a four-match Twenty20 series against Pakistan.

The Proteas went down by 28 runs in a high-scoring decider in the third and final one-dayer on Wednesday, coming up short in their run chase after the tourists had posted 320-7.

Bavuma suffered a strained hamstring while batting and will not be available for the first T20 contest on Saturday, which takes place at the Wanderers Stadium in Johannesburg and will play no part in the series.

Heinrich Klaasen will lead the Proteas in the absence of batsman Bavuma, while the in-form Rassie van der Dussen is undergoing treatment on a quad muscle strain and Dwaine Pretorius misses out with a fractured rib.

Reeza Hendricks is also absent following the recent birth of his first child, with Quinton de Kock, David Miller, Kagiso Rabada and Anrich Nortje playing in the Indian Premier League.

Aiden Markram, Andile Phehlukwayo, Daryn Dupavillon and Wiaan Mulder have been retained from the ODI squad.

Pakistan, meanwhile, will be hoping for further white-ball success, having come out on top by a 2-1 scoreline when they hosted their opponents in T20 action earlier this year.

They have added Fakhar Zaman to their squad following his outstanding form in the 50-over fixtures on South African soil.

The opening batsman followed up his 193 in a losing cause in the second game last Sunday with a crucial knock of 103 in the winner-takes-all showdown, with back-to-back centuries moving him up to number 12 in the ICC rankings.

However, Shadab Khan is ruled out due to a fractured toe. The all-rounder will be sidelined for a month, meaning he will also miss the upcoming tour to Zimbabwe. Zahid Mahmood has been named as his replacement for the T20 games on that trip.

 

Opportunity knocks in absence of Proteas stars

South Africa have failed to win their last five series' in the shortest format and you have to go back to the 2019 whitewash of Sri Lanka for their last triumph.

Miller was man of the series in that 3-0 triumph but the dangerous batsman is among the key absentees for the Proteas' next assignment.

With a T20 World Cup to come in India this year, the players who get their opportunity must grasp it and stake a claim for a place in the squad.

Will Fakhar get his chance?

The left-hander's twin hundreds boosted his career average in ODI action to 49.17. However, his T20 record at the highest level is not so hot, as he has averages 22.05 in his previous 40 appearances.

Pakistan are not short of options to bat at the top of the order, either. Captain Babar Azam has tended to open the innings, while Mohammad Rizwan scored a century - just his country's second in the format - when batting there in the home series against South Africa earlier this year.

The Western Force snatched a dramatic 16-15 victory over the Rebels on Friday as the home side failed to capitalise on their dominance at AAMI Park.

Despite enjoying 65 per cent of the possession and more than twice as many passes and carries, the Rebels were thwarted by their own lack of cutting edge against a rigid rearguard.

Force then made them pay with the only try of the contest in the 78th minute, Tim Anstee touching down after a rolling maul and Domingo Miotti adding the extras.

Matt Toomua's penalty had given the Rebels a 15-6 lead midway through the second half but a further kick that struck the upright proved a costly miss in an error-strewn contest.

Miotti also missed a kick prior to the visitors' critical try, before a last-gasp wayward drop goal attempt from Reece Hodge brought the contest to a frustrating end for the Rebels.

It was a 10th successive Super Rugby meeting between the sides decided by a single-digit margin.

And the Rebels are now just a point ahead in the Super Rugby AU standings as the battle for semi-final places hots up.

Jose Mourinho is confident his Tottenham side are ready for the challenge as they attempt to inflict a second major blow of the season on his former club Manchester United.

After a stunning 6-1 win at Old Trafford in October, Mourinho's Tottenham will bid to end United's 22-match unbeaten away run in the Premier League on Sunday.

United sit second in the table, with Spurs down in sixth, but five successive home wins in all competitions may give the hosts an edge ahead of the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium clash.

Mourinho, sacked as United boss in December 2018, expects a game that is a world away from their earlier meeting this season.

"I think that 6-1 doesn't reflect the reality," he said. "It can happen sometimes between two big clubs, these crazy results, but they happen in an isolated way. I go much more in the direction of the other two previous matches between us and United.

"We lost 2-1 at Old Trafford with a penalty and we drew 1-1 at home last season also with a penalty.

"For me, this is more the reality. We are not far from each other. I think it's going to be a difficult match for both."

United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has said he expects his team to use their savaging at Spurs' hands as motivational fuel for the trip to north London.

Mourinho said: "If it was the opposite, my team losing 6-1 against them, I would say to my guys that it happened once but it's not going to happen twice, the game is going to be tight and we can win. But I don't know. Maybe Solskjaer thinks in a different way."

Tottenham were knocked out of the Europa League by Dinamo Zagreb last month, and Mourinho, though regretful of that result, says there has at least been the positive knock-on effect of being able to work extensively on the training pitch this week.

"I go with confidence because I believe in us, I believe in the work we are doing this week to try to prepare the match the best we can," he said.

"I don't want to go to the match with other things in mind other than we are ready.

"We are working well during this week, for the wrong reasons, which is that we were knocked out of the Europa League. For the wrong reasons, we were able to have a week to work - we didn't have many during the season.

"Now, we had it. And that makes me positive. I enjoyed the work this week and I'm positive."

United have had penalties against Tottenham in their past three Premier League meetings, but Mourinho brushed off that factor.

"I cannot go to a football match concerned, I don't think it's the right frame of mind," he said.

The Portuguese admires United's away form in the league but does not consider the visitors unbeatable this weekend, as Tottenham chase a first league double over United since the 1989-90 season, when Terry Venables was Spurs manager.

United have won just one of their past eight away Premier League matches against Spurs (D4 L3), a 1-0 win at Wembley in January 2019.

"I'm not going to comment on the record, apart from to say many congratulations," Mourinho said.

"I know that is very, very difficult for different reasons, but that record is not going to stop us to think and feel we can win, and it is not going to stop us to fight to win.

"At the end of the match, maybe the result is different and their record becomes even better. But it's not the record that is going to stop us thinking we can win."

United have not conceded more than seven goals - achieved by four clubs - against any opponent over their two meetings in the Premier League era, a record that could be broken on Sunday.

The last team to score more than seven against United in a top-flight season were Spurs, who netted eight against the Red Devils in 1962-63.

Thomas Tuchel says Chelsea retain "faith and trust" in struggling forwards Timo Werner and Kai Havertz.

Both players were substituted with 25 minutes left in the 2-0 Champions League win over Porto in Seville on Wednesday.

Tuchel said after the quarter-final first leg that the two players had not given him what he was looking for.

But ahead of the short trip to play Crystal Palace in the Premier League on Saturday, he insisted both players remain a key part of his plans and that his substitutions were specific only to that match.

Tuchel accepts Werner is lacking in confidence but does not have any concerns over Havertz.

Werner has been directly involved in more Premier League goals this season than any other Chelsea player (11, with five goals and six assists). 

However, the Germany striker has scored with just one of his last 42 shots in the competition, a strike against Newcastle United in February.

"Look at the games Porto played in the Champions League," said Tuchel in defence of Werner and Havertz.

"If you can show me any nice, fluid and pretty games of any opponent we can talk again. I did not find it. 

"They make your life very tough, especially for offensive players. They went through the group with 13 points. You can ask in the group how easy it was to play against them. 

"They did not have the easiest task up front. They had a big impact defensively and they worked hard for us, both Kai and Timo. 

"It was difficult for them to find spaces and create something, so we changed after 65 minutes but we will not lose faith and trust. 

"We accept sometimes it's hard sometimes to have a big impact. Maybe Timo misses a bit of confidence in his finishing but Kai, I feel, is very self-confident. 

"There are no bigger concerns. It was just in this game we tried to change the momentum."

Chelsea are yet to lose on the road under Tuchel in the Premier League (W3 D2).

The Palace clash comes after a dramatic week for the Blues, with the Porto win following up a shock 5-2 home reverse against West Brom.

Tuchel is keen to ensure his players do not get too up or down based on one result.

He added: "It's my job to learn every day and from every game, from every situation we have to face. 

"I don't have a big conclusion after the two games with the down and up we had in terms of results. 

"It's important to share experiences and make my experiences with the team. It's the first time we lost, a big loss, an unexpected loss in a weird game. 

"We have a lot of positives together so we needed to adapt and react to it. 

"I'm very happy we bounced back immediately. We were unlucky in some situations in the game. It's important for us now that we went through this. 

"Hopefully we can start a winning streak again."

Palace have kept five clean sheets in the Premier League at Selhurst Park since the turn of the year, two more than in the entirety of 2020.

But manager Roy Hodgson has lost six consecutive Premier League matches against Chelsea. 

The only opponent he has lost seven consecutive games against as a manager in the competition is Tottenham in a run that lasted between 2011 and 2019.

Ronald Koeman needs his whole Barcelona squad playing at their top level alongside Lionel Messi in Saturday's crucial Clasico, while he welcomed the return of Gerard Pique to his squad.

A patchy run of form from Atletico Madrid, in which the leaders in LaLiga have won only four of their past 10 top-flight matches, means Barca are only a point off top spot with Madrid just three back.

Saturday's contest, at Madrid's Estadio Alfredo Di Stefano, could now have a huge bearing on the outcome of the title race in Spain this season.

Messi is the top scorer in El Clasico for all competitions (26) and in LaLiga (18) but has not scored in his previous six encounters against Madrid, matching his longest run without a goal in the fixture.

"Hopefully Messi will be decisive for us tomorrow," Koeman told a pre-match news conference.

"We need the best Messi, but above all we need the best Barca. And obviously we need Leo to have a good game, a good attack."

Barca's squad for the trip to Madrid has been boosted by the return of veteran centre-back Pique, who has been sidelined for just over a month since spraining his knee in the 3-0 win over Sevilla that secured a comeback 3-2 aggregate win in their Copa del Rey semi-final.

The versatile Sergi Roberto is also included in the squad having been out since February with a thigh issue.

"They are two important players due to their quality and personality," Koeman added.

"They lack rhythm but they are physically well, very excited to help the team, and it is important to have almost all the players available.

"For me, every player has to be in good physical and mental condition, so they all have a chance to play. 

"Every player has to prove this, and my role will be to pick the 11 best players to start the match."

Barca have been on a sensational run in LaLiga, going unbeaten in 19 matches and winning 13 out of the past 14.

The last time these sides met, Madrid ran out 3-1 winners at Camp Nou and Los Blancos are aiming for a third straight win in this match for the first time since 1978 and a first LaLiga double since the 2007-08 campaign.

But Koeman insists the outcome of this game will not be decisive in determining the end-of-season outcome at the top of LaLiga.

"The result in principle is not decisive because there are still many games to go and it will be difficult to win every game," Koeman said.

"But it is true that the team that wins will see their morale increased.

"El Clasico is a different game from the others, there is always a lot of emotion. Barca are having a great season, with many points achieved that allows us to fight for La Liga, but Madrid is still Madrid and we have to respect them and be at our best.

"We have improved a lot from the last Clasico. Although in the last Clasico, we played well, in my opinion. 

"We were better in the first half, but we lost in the second half with the intervention of the VAR. But we have improved in effectiveness."

Joe Burrow showcased enough in his Ohio homecoming to suggest he has a chance to be the Cincinnati Bengals' saviour at quarterback.

But, after the first overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft saw a promising rookie season snuffed out by a serious knee injury, there is as much tension as there is excitement surrounding the Bengals.

Burrow tore his ACL and his MCL in a Week 11 meeting with the Washington Football Team, the Bengals losing four of their six games with him on the sideline to finish 4-11-1.

The relatively smooth transition Burrow made to the pros should raise hopes he can be the man to eventually bring success to a franchise that has not won a playoff game since the 1990 season.

Yet recoveries from injuries as severe as that of Burrow's are far from guaranteed and the holes on a roster that still looks some way from legitimate contention could mean another year of struggle for Cincinnati.

That may spell trouble for head coach Zac Taylor, who heads into year three as head coach with just six wins to his name.

What do the Bengals need to do to produce more tangible signs of progress in 2021? 

We used Stats Perform data to look back on their 2020 and their offseason moves so far to identify areas of focus for the coming year.

Offense

The set-up in Cincinnati was not conducive to success for a rookie quarterback, and the numbers bore that out in 2020.

Cincinnati ranked 30th in yards per play with an average of 4.92 while they were 28th in yards per pass play (5.48).

Yet Burrow's individual numbers from his 10 games suggest he was the right pick for a team that has been nothing short of moribund since their trip to the postseason in 2015.

Burrow ranked seventh in the NFL in yards per game (268.8) across his 10 appearances for Bengals from Week 1 to 11, with his average impacted by his injury against Washington.

He had five 300-yard passing games and averaged a poor throw every 13.1 attempts, a better rate than Josh Allen (11.4), Deshaun Watson (11.9) and Lamar Jackson (12.5).

However, Burrow's numbers as a deep-ball passer were very disappointing. His 23 pass completions of 20 yards or more were two fewer than Dak Prescott, who played only five games, and he completed just eight of his 42 attempts of at least 21 air yards.

Burrow's passer rating on those throws was 53.9, 26th of 28 quarterbacks with at least 25 such passes.

He likely would have fared better going downfield had he benefited from greater protection. Burrow was sacked on 7.34 per cent of his dropbacks, the 10th-highest rate among quarterbacks with at least 200 dropbacks.

But Burrow can have confidence in his receivers. Tee Higgins' 908 receiving yards were the third-most among rookies in 2020 and both he and Tyler Boyd, who had 841 yards, proved dependable options on third down.

Twelve of Higgins' 14 third-down receptions went for a first down, while Boyd moved the chains on 15 of his 19 third-down catches.

Cincinnati's rushing attack was just as inefficient as the passing game, the Bengals ranking 27th with 4.06 yards per attempt.

Only four teams had fewer runs of 10 yards or more than the Bengals' 37, with Joe Mixon averaging only 3.6 yards per rush across his six games after signing a contract extension, his year prematurely ended by a foot injury.

Burrow and Mixon having their seasons curtailed cut short any intrigue surrounding the Bengals in 2020, and they won't be interesting in 2021 unless their signal-caller receives better assistance from the offensive line and a defense that ranked among the league's most porous last season.

Defense

The most complimentary thing you could say about the Bengals' defense last year was that it showed some signs of developing into a 'bend but don't break' unit.

Cincinnati allowed 6.10 yards per play in 2020, ranking 28th, yet they were closer to the middle of the pack in terms of points conceded.

The Bengals were 22nd in offensive points allowed (410), and 21st in opponent scoring efficiency, allowing a touchdown or field on 78 of 180 opponent drives.

While those numbers were far from the worst in the NFL, the Bengals defense still bent and broke far too often for Cincinnati to compete on a week-to-week basis.

Simply put, the Bengals did not do enough to put opposing offenses in difficult situations.

Cincinnati's tally of 67 negative plays forced was 30th in the NFL, with the negative play yardage of minus 208 yards the lowest in the league.

Only four teams produced fewer takeaways than their 17 turnovers, which produced a total of 47 points that ranked tied for 25th.

An anaemic pass rush was a critical reason for their inability to take the ball away. Cincinnati had the fewest sacks in the NFL (17) and the fourth-fewest quarterback knockdowns (66).

As was the case on offense, the running game provided little relief for Cincinnati, the Bengals continually gashed by opposing ground games.

Only the Houston Texans (5.20), allowed a higher yards per carry average than the 5.11 yards per attempt the Bengals gave up.

Additionally, opponents racked up 73 runs of 10 yards or more against the Bengals defense, 22 more than the league average of 51.

Despite a busy free agency, there isn't much to suggest Cincinnati will be drastically improved on that side of the ball in 2021.

Offseason

The Bengals lost their most disruptive pass rusher from last season as edge rusher Carl Lawson departed for the New York Jets in free agency.

Lawson had only 5.5 sacks but racked up 32 quarterback hits, with his combined hurries and knockdowns tally of 65.5 tied for ninth in the NFL.

Cincinnati immediately replaced Lawson by signing Trey Hendrickson to a four-year, $60million deal after his breakout season with the New Orleans Saints.

The Bengals are banking on Hendrickson being able to consistently replicate a 2020 season that saw him record 13.5 sacks, though that may be a more difficult task playing in front of a secondary that lost arguably its best player with William Jackson III leaving for Washington.

Jackson had double-digit pass deflections in three of his four seasons with Cincinnati and is coming off a year in which he had a burn percentage in coverage of 46.5, his lowest since his rookie campaign (34.7).

They filled the void he left by gambling on the athleticism of former Dallas Cowboy cornerback Chidobe Awuzie, whose burn percentage of 59.5 for his career is significantly worse than Jackson's 48.2.

Cincinnati can afford to have more confidence in Mike Hilton's reliability as a nickel cornerback. Hilton comes across from the Pittsburgh Steelers having posted a career-high three interceptions in just six starts last season.

The Bengals demonstrated their understanding of the need to better protect Burrow by signing left tackle Riley Reiff to a one-year deal after he allowed only two sacks and was penalised just once in 15 games for the Minnesota Vikings in 2020.

But Reiff is entering the latter half of his career at 32, meaning his arrival certainly should not prohibit the Bengals from targeting a top-tier offensive line prospect like Penei Sewell or Rashawn Slater with the fifth overall pick in the first round.

With wide receiver A.J. Green ending his long association with Cincinnati by signing with the Arizona Cardinals, there may be a temptation to give Burrow, who has already endorsed the potential selection of former LSU team-mate Ja'Marr Chase, a dynamic third option to go with Higgins and Boyd.

However, after their failure to protect Burrow left him facing a lengthy recovery process to get back to the field, the Bengals must prioritise players who can give him a clean pocket from which he can put the franchise back on the road to prominence.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is "pretty, pretty sure" his Manchester United players will be looking to prove a point when they visit Tottenham on Sunday.

United lost the reverse fixture 6-1 at Old Trafford, their joint-heaviest Premier League defeat and worst since another home humbling in the 2011 Manchester derby.

Spurs looked like title contenders while United were marooned in the bottom half of the table, their hapless display - in which Anthony Martial was sent off - described by former captain Gary Neville as "spineless" and "absolutely pathetic".

But United have recovered to sit second in the table, albeit 14 points behind Manchester City, while Tottenham are sixth.

Jose Mourinho's men are desperate for points but will face motivated opponents at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, Solskjaer suggested.

"I think the players will remember that game with a lot of pain," Solskjaer said. "Their pride has been hurt, their professional pride. The manner we lost is not ourselves and our team-worthy. We know that.

"We gave ourselves a difficult game by having 10 men, pre-season was short and we were not up to the standard required, but we were so poor.

"I'm pretty, pretty sure we'll see some players wanting to prove we're better than that."

United took the lead in that match through a second-minute Bruno Fernandes penalty, but that was one of just five shots while Spurs attempted 22.

Solskjaer felt his side's early-season fitness issues were a key contributing factor in that October defeat.

"The biggest thing that we've improved on is our fitness levels," he said. "We were way short of what [Tottenham] were at.

"It was our third game, was it? And we didn't look anything like [ready]."

While that is no longer an issue, there are concerns about the status of Marcus Rashford, who played through a persistent ankle problem at Granada on Thursday and scored a vital goal.

Across Europe's 'top five' leagues, no player has made more appearances in all competitions this season than Rashford (47 - tied with Fernandes).

Indeed, the three most-used players all represent United, with captain Harry Maguire third (46 appearances). Aaron Wan-Bissaka is in a tie for fourth (44).

With 3,466 minutes in the tank despite an injury issue that kept him out of the recent international break, Solskjaer was asked if England should be worried about Rashford ahead of the European Championship.

"I don't think you need to be concerned about his fitness, no - of course, barring any injury," Solskjaer said.

"His fitness is really good, he's an athletic boy, a fit boy, a strong boy. When he goes into headers and challenges, he can look after himself.

"But at one point, of course, you hope to get to a position where he doesn't have to play every game, every minute.

"At the moment, we have to take him off because he's a little bit sore. Hopefully that will improve as the season goes on."

Rashford has been relied on so heavily in part due to Edinson Cavani's limited involvement.

Widely linked with a move to Boca Juniors, Cavani has started only 14 games this term, playing 1,474 minutes, although his tally of seven goals is a match for Martial and outperforms Mason Greenwood (six).

"I've kept in touch with Edi, of course," Solksjaer said. "We keep an open dialogue. He's still unsure what he wants to do next season, which I find fine.

"It's not been an easy year either for him or the rest of the world, so he still wants time to make his mind up.

"I'm very sure that we'll get a good version of Edinson for the rest of the season. Hopefully we can keep him fit the next six, seven weeks."

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has doubled down on his claims Jose Mourinho should not have been content with guiding Manchester United to second place during his Old Trafford reign.

Solskjaer and United again go head-to-head with Mourinho on Sunday as the Red Devils visit Tottenham looking to avenge their 6-1 home defeat earlier this season.

Mourinho is looking to become the first former United manager since Dave Sexton in 1981-82, then Coventry City boss, to complete a league double over the club following his departure.

The Portuguese won the EFL Cup and Europa League at Old Trafford but his best league finish was second in 2017-18.

Mourinho claimed that performance, behind record-breaking rivals Manchester City, as one of his "greatest achievements".

But Solskjaer, at the time in his previous role as Molde coach, responded: "I don't think any of the Man United supporters, ex-players or players are happy with second place."

Solskjaer subsequently took charge of United in late 2018 and has only now guided them back to second, again behind City.

Given the opportunity to backtrack and hail both his own and Mourinho's achievement ahead of the Spurs match, Solskjaer refused.

While United have shown signs of progress this season, their manager wants more.

"We should never settle for second place at Man United," he said. "We'll never settle for second place.

"That's the point here - we have seen the heights and know what this club is capable of.

"For me, I've been here now a little while myself and it's taken time for us to be in this position. Hopefully we can be better next season, because this is below our ambitions."

Tottenham could become the first team to record a Premier League double over Solskjaer's United. The ex-Molde coach was last beaten twice by the same side in a league season by Ranheim in the 2018 Norwegian Eliteserien.

In fact, Spurs have never claimed a Premier League double over United, last doing so in the league in the 1989-90 campaign under Terry Venables.

Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel acknowledges it is "a rough time" for out-of-favour striker Tammy Abraham.

Abraham's chances of being selected for England at Euro 2020 appear to be slipping away, but Tuchel insists he cannot pick players on that basis.

With Chelsea away to Crystal Palace in the Premier League on Saturday, the prospect of a recall to the starting XI for Abraham seems slim.

The former Aston Villa loanee has not played for Chelsea since February 20 and has been subbed off by half-time the last three times he started in the Premier League.

Ahead of the Palace clash, Tuchel was asked about whether Abraham's recent return from injury and his hopes of representing England at the Euros meant he would play more before the end of the season.

"I cannot do a decision on the personal goals of players," replied Tuchel. "I've got to do what I believe is best for Chelsea. 

"Kepa has the goal to play for Spain but this can't influence my decisions. 

"Tammy has had a rough time. He started twice or three times and substituted for tactical reasons at half-time. 

"He's not had the impact we wish and demand from him. 

"He then got injured, lost the connection and possibility to play for his place the squad. Now suddenly we are in the decisive part of the season, where it's not so easy to bring injured players into the shape. 

"We've only got three changes and a big handicap. It's up to Tammy to do everything possible. 

"We have 22 players on the pitch and it's very hard to select 18 for Premier League matches. 

"In the offensive position, it's possible to have a huge impact in small minutes. We demand a lot of Tammy, he demands a lot of himself."

Chelsea lost 5-2 to West Brom in their last league outing, a first defeat under Tuchel after the German had made a fantastic start to his reign.

They bounced back well with a 2-0 win over Porto in their Champions League quarter-final first leg and now look to continue a strong recent run against Palace.

Palace have lost their past six Premier League matches against Chelsea, their worst ever losing run against the Blues in league football.

Tuchel added: "Crystal Palace are a physical team with two key players up front that we need to take care of. 

"It's a pleasure to be on the sideline with Roy Hodgson on the other side. It means a lot to be there. 

"We'll do everything we can to beat them but we expect a tough away game.

"I met him once years ago. He is a gentleman and open to sharing his experience in coaching. His teams are calm, experienced and very, very solid." 

Chelsea have won 1.82 points per game in Premier League London derbies, the best ratio amongst sides from the capital. 

By contrast, only Fulham (0.81) have averaged fewer points per game in such matches than Palace (0.93).

None of the past 19 Premier League meetings between Palace and Chelsea have ended as a draw. 

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