Such was the scale of Japan's Rugby World Cup victory over South Africa four years ago, they made a movie - 'The Brighton Miracle' - to commemorate one of the great sporting upsets.

There will surely be a sequel on the way after this year's Brave Blossoms reached the quarter-finals for the first time by beating Scotland, and box-office sales could soar through the roof if history repeats itself on Sunday when they face the Springboks again.

South Africa will start the last-eight contest as overwhelming favourites to gain revenge, with their star-studded cast including Cheslin Kolbe, Faf de Klerk and Pieter-Steph du Toit.

Japan also have no shortage of talent to play leading roles and will be backed by a raucous crowd when they attempt to break new ground once again on home soil.

As the Boks plot to spoil the party for their hosts, we reflect on how Japan pulled off a monumental shock at the last World Cup in England, as well as looking at the prospects of lightning striking twice.

 

Hesketh and Goromaru rock Boks

Japan were not given a prayer in the opening Pool B match given Zimbabwe were the only team they had previously beaten in a World Cup match – and that win was way back in 1991.

Yet Eddie Jones' side humiliated a vastly experienced Springboks team with their exciting brand of rugby, coming from behind to secure the most dramatic and unlikely of victories.

Karne Hesketh crossed right at the death and Ayumu Goromaru claimed a 24-point haul to leave the two-time champions not knowing what had hit them following a 34-32 loss.

 

Meyer fronts up to 'Boklash'

Heyneke Meyer came under fire after his side lost the plot and rampant Japan made them pay.

The then-head South Africa coach said: "I have to apologise to the nation. It was just not good enough. It was unacceptable and I take full responsibility.

"Every game is going to be tough but there are no excuses."

 

Jones: I had to look at the scoreboard

Jones, who landed the England job after his success with Japan in 2015, was pinching himself after the underdogs snatched victory with their last throw of the dice. 

The Australian said: "Japan beating South Africa? I had to look at the scoreboard at the end just to see if it was true or not. We kept hanging in there. It looked at one stage when they got seven points ahead that they would run away with it.

"That would have been the normal scenario, like the horror story where the woman goes for a shower after midnight and you know what's going to happen. Normally they would score three or four, it ends up 50-20 and everyone says, 'Well done Japan, you tried hard, you were brave'. But we were more than brave."

 

What happened next?

Jones said the objective for Japan was to go on and reach the quarter-finals after downing the two-time champions, but they fell agonisingly short.

A heavy defeat to Scotland turned out to be crucial as Japan finished third in Pool B after failing to pick up any bonus points.

South Africa, Scotland and the Brave Blossoms all won three and lost one of their four games, but it was Japan who missed out.

 

Hope springs eternal for revenge-seeking Boks

Although Japan are riding on the crest of a wave as they prepare for their first World Cup knockout match, South Africa have looked formidable despite making a losing start against New Zealand.

Potent in attack and solid in defence, the Springboks have turned their fortunes around under Rassie Erasmus and dethroned the All Blacks in the Rugby Championship.

They also hammered Japan 41-7 in a pre-tournament warm-up match and is it hard to envisage them suffering another upset at the hands of their next opponents.

CC Sabathia has made his final appearance for the New York Yankees after the team confirmed they had removed the veteran pitcher from their roster.

Sabathia, who confirmed in February the 2019 MLB season would be his last, exited the Yankees' defeat to the Houston Astros on Thursday with a shoulder injury.

The 39-year-old pitcher has now been removed from the Yankee's roster for the remainder of the American League Championship Series (ALCS), having suffered a subluxation of his left shoulder joint.

Sabathia will be replaced by pitcher Ben Heller and is ineligible to return this postseason.

The home crowd gave Sabathia a standing ovation in what has now become his final appearance at Yankee Stadium.

Over his 19-year career with the Cleveland Indians, Milwaukee Brewers and Yankees, Sabathia posted a 251-161 regular-season and a 3.74 ERA.

Earlier this season, he became just the third left-handed pitcher in MLB history to record 3,000 strikeouts in their career.

Sabathia was a six-time All-Star and won the Cy Young Award in 2007 with Cleveland. He was named ALCS MVP in 2009 on the way to a World Series title with the Yankees.

Zion Williamson's regular season NBA debut has been put on ice due to the New Orleans Pelicans rookie's knee injury, according to reports.

The Pelicans confirmed on Thursday that Williamson, the number one overall draft pick, would miss Friday's final preseason game against the New York Knicks due to "right knee soreness".

The 19-year-old instead remained in New Orleans for further testing and evaluation.

ESPN reported on Friday that the issue was set to keep Williamson out for a number of weeks, meaning he would miss the start of the NBA season, although he was said to have avoided serious injury.

Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry told reporters that the team believe Williamson hurt his knee on Sunday against the San Antonio Spurs.

Gentry told ESPN the former Duke sensation remained in high spirits, though, adding: "He's not dead, guys."

Williamson featured in four preseason games prior to the Knicks game, averaging 23.3 points.

New Orleans open the 2019-20 season against defending champions the Toronto Raptors at Scotiabank Arena on Tuesday.

Jurgen Klopp believes Liverpool are at the centre of a circus surrounding this weekend's blockbuster clash with Manchester United and has told his players to ignore the hype.

Liverpool travel to Old Trafford on the back of a 17-game winning run in the Premier League, including eight in a row at the start of the campaign to sit top.

United are 15 points worse off than their bitter rivals in 12th, their poor form seeing the pressure build on Ole Gunnar Solskjaer in his first full season in charge.

Given the sides' contrasting fortunes in recent times, certain pundits have claimed this week that no United player would make it into Liverpool's starting line-up, but Klopp has accused the media of setting up his side up to fail.

Asked how he copes with the talk that comes with such a high-profile fixture, Klopp said: "Ignore it! This game is so easy, the game everyone around it plays.

"Sky made a combined line-up and had 11 Liverpool players. That's like a joke, like building a banana skin. The world in the moment is a circus, and we are at the centre - a couple of people want us to win, a couple want us to lose."

He added: "I love [the occasion], but the talk is so loud. It's exciting for the media. All the stats, the things around it ... in the end we have to play football. That's all I am concerned about, this mix between outstanding attitude and really brave football. That's what we have to try.

"But all the things you wrote or said in the last few weeks, they don't have any influence on the game. It just makes them more desperate to change the situation. They will try that, 100 per cent, but we will try to improve our situation. We will see who wants it more."

Sunday's match will be the first time Liverpool have faced United in a Premier League contest while being top of the table since October 1996.

The hosts will be without key man Paul Pogba, while David de Gea and Anthony Martial are doubtful, but Klopp suggested Solskjaer may be playing mind games with his mixed messages over the fitness of the trio.

"Four days ago, I think Ole said 'no chance' for De Gea and Pogba. Today it's a 'maybe', tomorrow it's a '100 per cent', Martial will back, all that stuff," he said at his pre-match news conference.

"That's how all these games are played - I've got no problem with that. But in the end, I'm old enough, we are experienced enough to judge all the things in the right way."

Krasimir Balakov has resigned as head coach of Bulgaria four days on from the 6-0 Euro 2020 qualifying loss to England that was marred by racist abuse.

The Bulgarian Football Union (BFU) confirmed Balakov's departure following a meeting of its executive committee on Friday.

In a statement, the BFU attributed the 53-year-old's resignation to substandard performances.

Bulgaria succumbed to a heavy defeat against the Three Lions in Sofia but not before their supporters subjected England players to racist chants, which forced the match to twice be halted in the first half.

"The performance of Bulgaria's men's national team in recent months has been described as unsatisfactory, which is why the national coach Krasimir Balakov resigned, which was accepted by the members of the [executive committee]," the BFU's statement read.

Balakov initially said he did not hear the abuse directed at England's players at Vasil Levski National Stadium but later apologised to Gareth Southgate's squad and condemned the behaviour of the fans responsible.

"I would like to say very clearly: since there were cases of racial discrimination in Sofia, I would like to sincerely apologise to the English footballers and to all those who felt offended," Balakov wrote in a letter posted to his official Facebook page.

Balakov's decision to quit after five months in charge follows that of BFU president Borislav Mihaylov, who was urged to stand down by Bulgarian prime minister Boyko Borissov.

The organisation's former vice-president Mikhail Kasabov has been temporarily installed as Mihaylov's replacement after two others rejected the opportunity, with an extraordinary congress to elect a new board on the agenda.

The BFU is facing disciplinary proceedings from UEFA in response to the ugly scenes at Monday's match, during which several supporters appeared to perform Nazi salutes.

Dan Biggar is confident he is 100 per cent ready to return to action in Wales' Rugby World Cup quarter-final clash with France, according to Warren Gatland.

Biggar missed Wales' final Pool D match against Uruguay with concussion after suffering head knocks in consecutive matches against Australia and Fiji.

However, the Northampton Saints fly-half has been passed fit to start against France in Oita on Sunday.

It is a decision Gatland insisted has not taken lightly, but the Wales coach affirmed Biggar has no doubts over his fitness.

"We went through, made sure in terms of consulting the right people and making sure that they were aware of everything, getting him scanned, the independent consultant - that was important," said Gatland in a news conference.

"Dan's been fit for three or four days in terms of having passed those [concussion protocols], so we are taking all the proper precautions.

"But he's very confident that he's 100 per cent."

Gatland did, however, concede extra caution will have to be taken with Biggar should he sustain another head injury.

"He's desperate to play," Gatland added.

"We've just got to make sure if it does happen, if he gets a knock in the next few games, the next couple of months, obviously there would probably be a different course of action."

Wales skipper Alun Wyn Jones has also been selected and will join Brian O'Driscoll in third on the all-time list for international Test appearances with his 141st cap.

"It's one chance to stay or you know where you are going," he said of Wales' ambitions for Sunday's clash.

"It's funny because the planning for this has probably been in Warren's head for the last 10 years rather than the last four years, two years, or 18 months.

"He is constantly building and what we have achieved or have not comes down to this moment."

South Africa captain Faf du Plessis joked he is considering sending another player to the toss for the third Test against India as he aims to correct his side's recent woes.

The Proteas are 2-0 down in the series after suffering heavy defeats in Visakhapatnam and Pune.

With the three-match series already lost, South Africa head to Ranchi looking to restore some pride as a frustrating 2019 draws closer towards a conclusion.

Du Plessis cited winning the toss as a crucial factor but, with South Africa having lost their last nine coin-flips on Asian soil going back to 2015, failing to win any of the subsequent Tests – the Proteas' skipper conceded he might have to send out a substitute in order to change their luck.

"We've felt that we've done it [compete] in stages, more probably in the first Test, so hoping that we can start with the toss tomorrow," Du Plessis told reporters.

"Probably I will [send] somebody else to the toss, I'll give you that, because my record so far hasn't been great, and then, yeah, if we put big runs on the board in the first innings, that's where we need to start."

Du Plessis also acknowledged his side – who lost the first Test by 203 runs and the second by an innings – can only regain confidence by taking the fight to India.

"It is tough when you're losing," he said.

"For us, we're very, very competitive people, so it does take a dent out of your confidence, but international sport is supposed to be hard, and the guys who've stayed at the top for a long time will tell you that it comes with ups and it comes with downs, personally and from a team point of view.

"So it's important for us to understand that we have to fight our way out of these last two losses. We can't expect things just to happen."

South Africa's task has been made harder by the absence of batsman Aiden Markram, who will miss the final Test due to a wrist injury he sustained while "lashing out at a solid object" following his second-innings dismissal in Pune.

Inter midfielder Stefano Sensi is set to miss out on a reunion with Sassuolo after suffering another injury to his right thigh.

The on-loan Italy international was being reintegrated into training ahead of this weekend's Serie A fixture when he reported a "small" problem, according to an Inter statement.

An MRI scan on Friday detected a strain in the same thigh he injured in the 2-1 loss to Juventus before the international break.

Sensi lasted until the 34th minute of that match and could now miss next week's crucial Champions League clash against Borussia Dortmund, along with Sunday's trip to face the club he left in July.

"Today's tests revealed a strain to the psoas muscle," Inter's statement read. "His condition will be assessed in the next few days."

Sensi is on loan at Inter from Sassuolo but is widely expected to make the move permanent for a reported €25million fee at the end of the campaign.

The 24-year-old has been one of the key factors in the Nerazzurri's strong start under Antonio Conte, scoring three goals in seven league appearances.

Manchester City midfielder Rodri is amazed by the intensity of Liverpool's play under Jurgen Klopp, saying his teams attack their opponents "like animals".

Defending Premier League champions City trail last term's runners-up Liverpool by eight points after eight matches following shock early defeats to Norwich City and Wolves.

Rodri has started seven times in the league since arriving from Atletico Madrid in July and also played a full part in August's Community Shield clash with Liverpool, which City won on penalties following a 1-1 draw.

The Spain international was immediately struck by Liverpool's breathless brand of football, but City are still preparing to pounce on any slip-ups.

"I touched down [in England] to find one of the best teams I've seen in recent years," Rodri told the Guardian.

"Liverpool get seen as a counter-attacking team, but they dominate, score from set-plays, the attacking mechanisms are well-worked, they have variety.

"Klopp's teams are tough, physical. They go at you like animals. They're like a knife - one comes at you, then another.

"But every team has their bad moment and we have to be there [if they do]."

City travel to Crystal Palace on Saturday, while Liverpool take on bitter rivals Manchester United at Old Trafford the following day.

Warren Gatland is happy for Wales to fly under the radar at the Rugby World Cup, even if they are strong favourites to see off France and reach the semi-finals.

Australia coach Michael Cheika labelled the reigning Six Nations champions as favourites ahead of the Wallabies' clash with Gatland's side in Pool D.

Wales edged out Australia 29-25 on their way to finishing top of the group with a perfect record, yet Gatland believes other teams still left standing in the tournament are getting "a lot more talk" in the media.

Still, they will be strongly fancied to see off France in an all-European quarter-final tie, having come from 16-0 down to beat them 24-19 in Paris in their opening Six Nations match.

"If you take out the World Cup warm-up games, we have won 18 competitive games in a row, we are Grand Slam champions and we know, as we go on in tournaments, we get stronger and more confident and more cohesive as a unit," Gatland said.

"We are building nicely, going under the radar. There is still a lot more talk about other teams and games and that suits us. We've had a great record against France - we've won seven of the last eight games.

"There was an edge to this week and the players have been incredibly professional in the way they've prepared.

"The message to the players is you've got two choices – we are either on the plane on Monday going home or we are here until the end of the tournament."

Maxime Medard acknowledged France must rise to the challenge on Sunday, or else Wales will dominate them at Oita Stadium.

"If we don't raise our level, the Welsh are going to ride all over us," the full-back told the media. "The Welsh have to be favourites. The team has been one of the best in the world for several years.

"You have to keep in mind that the difference between the big teams and the rest is that, in games where you're in trouble, where it turns into an arm wrestle, the big teams don't give in. Wales are a very big team."

 

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Wales – Josh Adams

Dan Biggar's availability is a boost to Wales, the fly-half fit to feature following a blow to the head against Fiji, but it is Josh Adams who seems most likely to grab the headlines.

Adams has scored five tries already and the Cardiff Blues wing will be eager to propel Wales into the last four.

France – Guilhem Guirado

Having been left out of France's past two matches following a reported bust-up with coach Jacques Brunel, hooker Guilhem Guirado will return to lead Les Bleus as captain.

If ever there was an opportunity to show his worth, then this will surely be it for the 33-year-old.

KEY OPTA FACTS

- France beat Wales 9-8 in the only previous World Cup meeting between the sides - the 2011 semi-final. Wales captain Sam Warburton was sent off after 18 minutes of the contest.

- Wales won all of their pool stage matches for the first time since 1987. This four-game winning streak is their joint longest at the World Cup and they have never won five in a row in the competition.

- Since the start of 2018, France have lost six Test matches in which they have been leading at half-time.

- Alun Wyn Jones is in line to play a record 19th World Cup match for Wales, surpassing Gethin Jenkins' tally of 18 appearances.

Kyler Murray and Daniel Jones meet for the first time on what promises to be a mouthwatering Sunday of NFL action.

The New England Patriots travel to face the New York Jets on Monday looking to make it seven wins from seven.

Here is a look at Week 7's Bullet Points with data supplied by Stats Perform.

 

SUNDAY (All Times Eastern)

Raiders (3-2) at Packers (5-1), 1pm

Josh Jacobs rushed for 123 yards and a pair of touchdowns in Oakland's victory in London. It was the first time since 2011 (Darren McFadden) that an Oakland player rushed for 120-plus yards and two touchdowns in a game. Jacobs has four rushing touchdowns in 2019, matching Doug Martin’s team-leading total from the 2018 season.

The Packers have had consecutive big games out of their running backs. Aaron Jones had 182 scrimmage yards and four rushing touchdowns at Dallas two weeks ago, while Jamaal Williams totalled 136 yards and a TD reception on Monday. Wide receiver Allen Lazard had four receptions for 65 yards and a TD against the Lions – all of them coming in the final 10 minutes.

Among quarterbacks in NFL history with at least 100 career TD passes, Aaron Rodgers has the highest touchdown/interception ratio at 4.22 (346 TD passes, 82 interceptions). Fourth on the list is Derek Carr at 2.25 (128 and 57). Carr is 14-27 (.341) on the road in his career, while Rodgers is 64-17-1 (.787) at home.

Rams (3-3) at Falcons (1-5), 1pm

After totalling a combined 912 passing yards in Weeks 4 and 5, Jared Goff threw for a career-low 78 yards in the Rams’ 20-7 loss against the 49ers. The Rams had 48 net passing yards in that game, the fewest by the team since recording 22 against the 49ers in Week 17 of the 2010 season.

At 1-5, the Falcons are off to their worst six-game start to a season since also beginning the 2007 season with a 1-5 record. Atlanta have allowed 1034 total yards in its last two games, the most surrendered by any team in a two-game span this season.

Atlanta is the only team in the NFL this season to have four different players with at least 300 receiving yards: Austin Hooper (480), Julio Jones (467), Calvin Ridley (343) and Mohamed Sanu (310).

49ers (5-0) at Redskins (1-5), 1pm

San Francisco are 5-0 for the first time since it won its first 10 games in 1990 and have already eclipsed their four-win total from last season. Another victory would make the 49ers the fifth team since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger to start 6-0 after winning four or fewer games the previous season (2013 Chiefs, 1999 Rams, 1988 Bengals, 1973 Cardinals).

San Francisco have outscored opponents 86-31 in the second half, the second-largest point differential in the NFL this season (Patriots, +67). The 49ers are the first team to score a touchdown on their opening drive of the third quarter in five straight games since the Colts did so from October 23-December 4, 2005.

After ranking 31st in the NFL in rushing yards per game (49.8) in four September games, the Redskins have rushed for 145 yards in back-to-back contests to begin October. They are the first team since the 1957 Lions to average over 140 rushing yards per game in October after averaging under 50 prior to the month.

Texans (4-2) at Colts (3-2), 1pm

The last 10 regular-season meetings between the Colts and Texans have all been decided by a single-digit margin. That is tied for the third-longest streak in NFL history between two divisional opponents, behind only the Colts and Patriots (11 straight from 1988-93) and the Eagles and Redskins (11 straight from 1991-96).

All five of the Colts’ games this year have been decided by seven points or fewer, their longest such streak to start a season since 1995 (six straight).

Deshaun Watson has accounted for at least one touchdown in all 29 career games thus far, the longest streak in NFL history by a player to start his career.

Vikings (4-2) at Lions (2-2-1), 1pm

All five of Detroit’s games this season have been decided by four points or fewer. Only one team has begun a season with six straight games decided by four points or fewer: 1935 Chicago Cardinals (six). The Lions played in just four games decided by four points or fewer in the entire 2018 season.

When facing the blitz this season, Matthew Stafford is 39-for-54 (72.2 per cent) with 530 passing yards, four passing TDs and zero interceptions. Minnesota’s defense has limited opposing QBs to a 60.9 completion percentage and one touchdown pass when blitzing this season.

Stefon Diggs recorded 167 receiving yards and three touchdown receptions last week, becoming the first Viking with 150+ receiving yards and three receiving TDs in a single game since Randy Moss did so in Week 4 in 2003 (172 rec yds and three rec TD).

Jaguars (2-4) at Bengals (0-6), 1pm

The Bengals are 0-6 for the ninth time in franchise history. Cincinnati has lost four of its six games by six points or fewer. The Bengals have allowed at least 16 points in 34 straight games, the second-longest such streak in the history of the NFL (Saints allowed 16+ in 36 straight games between 2014 and 2017).

The Jaguars average 5.1 yards per rush, third best in the NFL; the Bengals allowed 5.3 yards per rush, worst in the NFL. The Jaguars are second-worst in the NFL in yards per rush allowed, giving up 5.2 per tote.

Gardner Minshew II is the third quarterback since 1950 to have 800+ passing yards and zero interceptions through his first three career road starts. The other two were Marcus Mariota with Tennessee in 2015 and Elvis Grbac with San Francisco in 1995.

Cardinals (2-3-1) at Giants (2-4), 1pm

The game will pit the first two quarterbacks picked in the 2019 draft against one another in Arizona’s Murray (No. 1 overall) and New York’s Jones (No. 6). It will the sixth time since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger that two QBs taken in the top six picks have gone head-to-head as rookies, and the first since Tampa Bay (Jameis Winston) and Tennessee (Mariota) met in the 2015 opener.

The Giants hope to have leading rusher Saquon Barkley back after missing two games with an ankle sprain he suffered at Tampa Bay in Week 3. Barkley has totalled 100 scrimmage yards or more in 15 of 19 career games. Only one player (Edgerrin James) has done so in 16 of his first 20 NFL games.

After generating 514 total yards in a Week 5 win at Cincinnati, the Cardinals gained 442 in last week’s 34-33 victory over Atlanta. The 956 combined yards are the franchise’s highest amount over a two-game span since it had 962 from November 10-17, 1996.

Dolphins (0-5) at Bills (4-1), 1pm

The Dolphins are allowing a passing touchdown on 9.9 per cent of opponent pass attempts, on pace to be the highest in a single season since the 1966 Giants (10.1 per cent). The Dolphins are the second team in NFL history to allow 14 passing touchdowns with one interception or fewer through five games of a season, joining the 2018 Buccaneers (16 TD, 1 INT).

The Bills have held opponents to 17 points or fewer in every game this season, the first time in franchise history they have done so in each of the first five games of a season. Buffalo forces its opponents into a 3-and-out on 36.7 per cent of drives, best mark in the NFL.

The Bills have outgained their opponents by 97.4 total net yards per game, fifth best in the NFL. The Dolphins have been outgained by 205.6 yards per game, worst in the NFL (the Jets are second at -137.8).

Chargers (2-4) at Titans (2-4), 4.05pm

Los Angeles have been held to 35 rushing yards or fewer in both games since Melvin Gordon III returned to the team. It is the first time the Chargers have had back-to-back games with 35 rushing yards or fewer since 1996, and only one team in the Super Bowl era has had three straight (2005 Eagles).

Last week was the 32nd time in his career (including postseason) that Philip Rivers has thrown for 300+ yards in a loss, tying Eli Manning for third most all-time behind Drew Brees (45) and Peyton Manning (35). Rivers is 104 passing yards behind Ben Roethlisberger for sixth on the all-time list.

Tennessee are expected to start Ryan Tannehill for the first time after Mariota threw his first two interceptions of the season last week. The Titans have had fewer than 25 completions in 18 straight games, the longest active streak in the NFL.

Ravens (4-2) at Seahawks (5-1), 4.25pm

The Ravens moved to 4-2 on the season with a 23-17 win against the Bengals in Week 6. So far this season, Baltimore’s opponents have combined for a .300 winning percentage, tied with San Francisco for the easiest schedule played in 2019.

Lamar Jackson had 236 passing yards and a career-high 152 rushing yards in Baltimore’s Week 6 win. Jackson’s 152 rushing yards were the fourth most all-time by a QB in a single game, and he is just the second player all-time (including postseason) with 200+ passing yards and 150+ rushing yards in a single game (Colin Kaepernick on January 12, 2013 in the NFC Divisional playoffs).

Russell Wilson (14 TD and 0 INT) is the first QB all-time with at least 14 touchdown passes and zero interceptions through six team games in a season. Wilson has thrown 210 touchdown passes in his career, fourth most all-time by a QB through eight career NFL seasons: Manning (244), Dan Marino (241) and Brett Favre (213).

Saints (5-1) at Bears (3-2), 4.25pm

Chicago have lost five straight coming off of a bye week, the longest active streak in the NFL. The Bears allowed 24 points in their loss to the Raiders in Week 5, the most they have allowed in a regulation game since Week 7 of last season in a 38-31 loss to the Patriots.

In 19 games with the Bears, Khalil Mack has 17 sacks, the most by any Chicago player through 20 games with the team all-time. He has forced 10 fumbles since joining the team in 2018. Mack has eight games with at least one sack and one forced fumble since last season, most in the NFL.

Teddy Bridgewater moved to 4-0 as a starting quarterback this season, throwing for 240 yards and one touchdown in New Orleans’ win over Jacksonville. Bridgewater is 15-6 as a starter since 2015 – only Tom Brady (53-13) and Patrick Mahomes (17-6) have a better record in that time (minimum 20 starts).

Eagles (3-3) at Cowboys (3-3), 8.20pm

Dallas have lost three straight games, falling to the Saints, Packers and Jets (11-6 combined record) after opening the season 3-0 against the Giants, Redskins and Dolphins (3-14 combined). In Weeks 1-3, the Cowboys ranked fourth in the NFL in both points per game (32.3) and opponent points per game (14.7), but are tied for 23rd in points for (18.7) and rank 16th in points against (23.3) since.

Philadelphia are 18-2 when scoring in the first quarter since 2017, the best record in the NFL. The Eagles have been outscored by 13 points in the first quarter this season, the second-worst differential in the NFC (Atlanta, -24).

Carson Wentz and Dak Prescott will face each other for the sixth time in their careers (Dal 3-2), tied for the fourth most frequent QB matchups in the history of this rivalry. The other matchups to occur exactly six times are Ron Jaworski versus. Roger Staubach and Donovan McNabb against Tony Romo.

MONDAY

Patriots (6-0) at Jets (1-4), 8.15pm

New England has a +142 point differential through six games, the third best in the Super Bowl Era behind only the 1999 St. Louis Rams (+154) and the 1968 Dallas Cowboys (+149).

The Patriots have won seven straight games against the Jets, tied for their longest streak versus New York all-time and for their fourth-longest streak against any single opponent. New England is 16-3 versus New York since 2010 – Pittsburgh are the only team with a better record facing a divisional foe over that time (15-2-1 versus Cleveland).

Sam Darnold averaged 10.56 yards per attempt in the win over Dallas, the highest mark in a game in his career. The last Jets quarterback to average 10.0+ yards per attempt in a game with at least 30 attempts was Ryan Fitzpatrick in 2016; before that, you have to go back to Ken O’Brien in 1986.

Samuel Umtiti and Junior Firpo have been passed fit to play a part in Barcelona's LaLiga clash with Eibar on Saturday.

Centre-back Umtiti is yet to feature this season and has been out for the past six weeks with a foot injury.

Meanwhile, versatile left-back Junior last featured in the 2-0 win over Getafe on September 28, scoring his first Barca goal, before a hamstring complaint.

Both players were named in Thursday's travelling squad and then took part in Friday's training session ahead of the early kick-off on Saturday.

The LaLiga champions, who are second in the table after three straight wins, confirmed the duo had been cleared to play.

Pep Guardiola admitted "the broadcasters are the bosses" in response to Manchester City's rearranged festive fixture list - but again called for players to receive greater protection amid punishing schedules.

City were initially set to travel to Wolves on Boxing Day but that game has been pushed back by 24 hours for live coverage, with the Sheffield United home game moved to December 29.

Still, they have less than 48 hours of rest between those two fixtures - with the reigning Premier League champions then starting 2020 by hosting Everton on January 1.

While a fan of playing during the Christmas period, a custom that he has become used to since moving to England, Guardiola fears the desire to squeeze in so many matches is a major concern.

He used the example of Neymar - who suffered a hamstring injury while playing for Brazil in a friendly against Nigeria last week, ruling him out for up to four weeks - as an example of the risks of playing too often.

Asked for his thoughts about City's fixture changes announced this week, Guardiola told the media: "It is what it is. Since I came here, every season it happened the same.

"The broadcasters are the bosses in this situation. I love to play Boxing Day and winter time when everybody stops, when families and kids go the stadiums and enjoy the games. I like it.

"The problem is the same. So now Neymar is injured again, but they travel for friendly games in Nigeria or Abu Dhabi, or wherever far away, then come back.

"We don't protect the players – the system doesn't protect them. It's too much. Honestly, it's too much."

Guardiola was speaking ahead of Saturday's trip to Crystal Palace - a game that could see both Kevin De Bruyne and John Stones return from injury.

While stopping short of confirming the duo will be available to feature at Selhurst Park, the City boss was upbeat over their outlook.

"Some of them are better. Kevin is back and John trained in the last two days and is good," he said. "[Benjamin] Mendy as well, maybe later, but as well."

Sergio Aguero was involved in a minor car crash in midweek, but Guardiola had positive news on the striker's status: "He is fine. The car is not fine."

N'Golo Kante will miss Chelsea's Premier League clash with Newcastle United, with Frank Lampard expressing frustration he did not come back from international duty with France earlier.

Kante sustained a groin injury in the warm-up for France's Euro 2020 qualifying clash with Iceland and did not return to Chelsea until after Les Bleus' game with Turkey on Monday.

France coach Didier Deschamps had joked ahead of the qualifiers that Lampard could consider playing striker Olivier Giroud more often, having revealed the Chelsea boss had spoken to him about not selecting Kante.

However, while Lampard was able to see the funny side of that comment, he was far from amused with the way the world champions handled the situation around Kante's injury.

"Before the international break, Didier Deschamps mentioned in jest a little bit about Giroud and that was light-hearted and I get it. We all have our selection problems, he had his in the two games," Lampard told a news conference.

"But the Kante one was not a laughing matter because we communicated before the last international break, because he was injured he couldn't go.

"Let's think of what benefits [there are] to play, he didn't go, we both agreed on that. That's how things should work.

"After the first game when he pulled out, he then had a fitness test the day before the second game, it was clear he couldn't play. He then sat on the bench the evening of the game, so that's not communication.

"I understand that when a player is on international duty that they are their players, but it was clear that he wasn't fit."

While Kante will be reduced to the role of spectator for the visit of the Magpies, Lampard may be able to call on Mateo Kovacic in the midfield, though Andreas Christensen (hamstring) and Antonio Rudiger (groin) are out.

"Kovacic had a knock on his thigh but has trained the last couple of days so he's in contention," said Lampard.

"Andreas Christensen has got a hamstring injury which will see him out for the next two weeks.

"Rudiger is training outside with the physios, which is a progression for him. He had a tough injury with some stop-start [features], which has been unfortunate for everybody.

"But he's outside, it's positive - a bit of work to be done for him for match fitness but it's really positive for us that he's outside."

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