Australian Open 2017: Champion Angelique Kerber cruises into last 16

Australian Open 2017: Champion Angelique Kerber cruises into last 16

Australian Open 2017
Venue: Melbourne Park, Melbourne Dates: 16-29 Jan
Coverage: Daily live commentary on BBC Radio 5 live sports extra; live text on selected matches on the BBC Sport website; TV highlights on BBC Two and online from 21 January.

Defending champion Angelique Kerber gave a much-improved performance as she beat Czech Kristyna Pliskova for the loss of just four games to reach the last 16 at the Australian Open.

The German top seed, who needed three sets in her opening two matches, won 6-0 6-4 in Melbourne.

Kerber goes on to face Coco Vandeweghe in round four after the American beat Canada’s Eugenie Bouchard 6-4 3-6 7-5.

Andy Murray, Roger Federer and Stan Wawrinka are in action later on Friday.

Russian eighth seeded Svetlana Kuznetsova was another winner early on day five, although she needed three hours and 36 minutes to beat Serbia’s Jelena Jankovic 6-4 5-7 9-7.

  • Live scores, results and order of play
  • How to follow the Australian Open on the BBC

More to follow.

Why Tottenham keep on improving and Man City are struggling – Jermaine Jenas

Why Tottenham keep on improving and Man City are struggling - Jermaine Jenas

You can see highlights of Manchester City v Tottenham on Match of the Day at 22:30 GMT on Saturday on BBC One and the BBC Sport website.

I am not surprised that Tottenham are doing so much better than they were at this stage last season, because I always thought what happened to their players when Leicester went on to win the league would help them go on to the next level this year.

Spurs face another big test at Manchester City on Saturday but they will be full of confidence after putting in one of their best performances of this campaign when City came to White Hart Lane at the start of October.

Back then, City had a 100% record in the league under Pep Guardiola but I still thought Spurs would beat them, and make a statement of intent. They did.

I also said then that I thought Mauricio Pochettino’s side would go the distance in the title race this time, and part of the reason I felt that was because the experience of being in one, and losing it, builds strength of character.

Their younger players like Dele Alli and Harry Kane have developed in other ways too. They have both taken a step up, in fact the whole team has.

Why Tottenham keep on improving and Man City are struggling - Jermaine Jenas

‘The most powerful central midfield in the PL’

Spurs have had some criticism over some of their summer signings, but you do not need to go and buy lots of players when the ones you have already got are dramatically improving year on year.

I still think their squad is stronger now, though, especially in the central midfield which is key.

Last season, when Eric Dier and Mousa Dembele played together there, Spurs looked solid – they only lost one out of 26 league games with them both in the team.

In the games I saw, it was not the same whenever Pochettino switched things round in that department. The tempo dropped and it seemed some of the team’s belief disappeared too. They lost five of the 12 league games they played without at least one of them.

So the addition of Victor Wanyama, who joined from Southampton for £11m in the summer, was massive.

Why Tottenham keep on improving and Man City are struggling - Jermaine Jenas

Having Wanyama there means Pochettino can play Dier at centre-half without losing anything in the middle of the park.

Far from it, in fact, because Wanyama and Dembele have formed the most powerful central midfield partnership in the Premier League.

Pochettino has gone up a level too

Why Tottenham keep on improving and Man City are struggling - Jermaine Jenas

The other reason I think Spurs have progressed is their manager. Pochettino has gone up a level too.

Antonio Conte has rightly been given a lot of praise for his results in his first season at Chelsea after switching formation in September to play with three at the back.

But he has used that system throughout the majority of his coaching career, and he knows how it works.

It would have been more of a surprise if Conte had come to England and played with a 4-4-2 or 4-2-3-1 and cracked the Premier League that way.

Nobody expected Pochettino to play with three centre-halves – before the start of this season he had only done it on one occasion since he arrived in English football with Southampton in January 2013.

But he has now used it five times since the start of November, starting with the derby against Arsenal at Emirates Stadium, when Spurs were struggling in the Champions League and missing several key players.

Everyone said it was a good time to play them, but Pochettino switched things round, got an unbelievable point and almost won the game right at the end.

Why Tottenham keep on improving and Man City are struggling - Jermaine Jenas

Since then, Pochettino seems to be able to switch between a four and a three whenever he likes and be as successful. That has allowed him to adapt his side as the season goes along, reacting to where they were struggling.

The loss of Jan Vertonghen for a few weeks with an ankle injury is big because of the stability he brings to the team, but I am sure Kevin Wimmer will slot in pretty smoothly if they continue with a three.

Pochettino’s sides are always solid at the back but a few weeks ago he felt as if he wasn’t getting as much out of his attacking players as he could, and that is not the case now with that formation.

Tottenham’s defensive combinations in the Premier League 2016-17
Who played together? Games started together Minutes together W D L Win %
Alderweireld & Vertonghen 8 705 4 3 1 50%
Dier & Vertonghen 7 675 3 3 1 43%
Alderweireld, Dier & Vertonghen 3 261 3 0 0 100%
Alderweireld, Dier & Wimmer 1 90 1 0 0 100%
Dier, Vertonghen & Wimmer 1 90 1 0 0 100%
Alderweireld & Dier 1 84 1 0 0 100%

No weak links in Tottenham’s strongest XI

While Tottenham don’t have the strongest squad in the Premier League, I can understand why some people think they have got the best team.

When everyone is fit, they do not have a weak link in their strongest XI – everyone fits perfectly together into their style of play.

Spurs clearly have some outstanding individuals too of course. Hugo Lloris is arguably the best goalkeeper in the top flight – I don’t think you can split him, Thibaut Courtois or David de Gea.

Why Tottenham keep on improving and Man City are struggling - Jermaine Jenas

For me, Danny Rose and Kyle Walker are by far the best full-backs in the league and I said last season that I saw Vertonghen and Toby Alderweireld as the two best centre-halves.

They are definitely the best defensive pairing in the Premier League anyway, but I am still confident Spurs will be able to cope while Vertonghen is injured.

As I have already said the midfield unit is extremely strong, and you could make a great case for Harry Kane being the best striker too.

Kane won the golden boot last season and is on fire at the moment too, but if I were to dissect every single position then there would be players from other clubs that, on paper, are better than what Spurs have got.

Having them instead might weaken Tottenham as a team, though. For example I would have Eden Hazard ahead of Christian Eriksen but without Eriksen you might lose some of the things that make the whole team tick.

Eriksen does not give you everything that Hazard would but he and Dele Alli have just started to get their almost telepathic understanding with Harry Kane going again.

The way those three link up is a good example of why Spurs are doing so well, and all over the pitch they have units or partnerships that have the same sort of understanding.

Why City are struggling in defence and attack

Why Tottenham keep on improving and Man City are struggling - Jermaine Jenas

The biggest contrast between City and Tottenham at the moment is at the back. I think that is because unlike Pochettino, City boss Pep Guardiola does not have the players to play the way he wants to.

Guardiola has also tried playing with three centre-halves but it did not work because he used Raheem Sterling and Leroy Sane as his wing-backs when they do not suit that role.

In the centre of defence, City have not found a partnership that is anything like the one Vertonghen and Alderweireld have either, and it does not help that they constantly chop and change their backline.

Guardiola has been tweaking things in attack too and, again, I am not sure it has helped some of their players.

Kevin de Bruyne was playing brilliantly at the start of the season, creating chances, scoring lots of goals and also winning the ball, but that was when he was playing centrally and he did not have the same impact when he was pushed wide.

I don’t get why Guardiola did that. In September he was talking about De Bruyne being second only to Messi in terms of players he has coached. Well, you don’t move Messi, do you?

Why Tottenham keep on improving and Man City are struggling - Jermaine Jenas

Sergio Aguero has not been his usual deadly self in front of goal recently either, and I think he has been up and down all season.

Aguero has been sent off twice, including the retrospective red card he got against West Ham, and both incidents came through frustration.

You would not want to take that will to win out of his game because it is part of what makes him so brilliant but he does not look like a happy player at the moment.

That might be down to the system, but he is so good that at some point he will find form again and really take it out on the opposition – I just hope it is not Tottenham who take the hit.

Spurs should be wary of Pep’s pride

Why Tottenham keep on improving and Man City are struggling - Jermaine Jenas

Tottenham are flying at the moment – on a six-game winning run in the league, scoring goals for fun and probably playing better than ever under Pochettino.

They will have seen the way Manchester City have been defending recently and it will fill them with confidence ahead of their trip to Etihad Stadium on Saturday, as will the results of their recent meetings – Spurs have won the last three.

When they met at White Hart Lane in September, I knew Pochettino would look to press high up the pitch, and I looked at the way City were playing and thought it would play into Tottenham’s hands. It did.

Premier League top six head-to-head 2016-17
Team P W D L F A Pts
1. Liverpool 6 3 3 0 9 6 12
2. Chelsea 6 3 0 3 10 9 9
3. Tottenham 6 2 2 2 7 5 8
4. Man City 5 2 0 3 5 8 6
5. Man Utd 6 1 3 2 4 8 6
6. Arsenal 5 1 2 2 9 8 5

On form alone, I should probably be even more certain of a Spurs win this time, but the thing that keeps sticking in my mind is Guardiola’s pride.

It has taken a massive hit in the last few weeks, especially in last week’s 4-0 thumping at Everton which was his heaviest domestic defeat in more than nine years as a manager.

People like Pep are seriously dangerous when that happens, because they are born winners.

Just when you think things are going to get really hard for them, they dig deeper and find something within themselves to make their situation drastically different.

City have got lots of world-class players who can win games on their own. They are not playing particularly well at the moment, but it only takes one of them to perform on Saturday, and Spurs could be in trouble.

Jermaine Jenas was speaking to BBC Sport’s Chris Bevan.

New tackle laws ‘may restrict Pacific players’, says former Samoa captain Dan Leo

New tackle laws 'may restrict Pacific players', says former Samoa captain Dan Leo

New tackle laws may have a huge impact on Pacific Island rugby, according to former Samoa captain Dan Leo.

World Rugby introduced tough sanctions on high tackles earlier this month in a bid to improve player safety.

Leo feels the new regulations may compromise the traditional strengths of players from the Pacific Islands, who are renowned for their physicality.

“My main concern is it will eventually restrict our employment opportunities,” Leo told BBC 5 live.

“There are long-term implications that these laws could have, not just on us as individuals, but on our economies long term.”

Leo, who won 39 caps for Samoa as well as representing Wasps, Perpignan and London Irish, has set up a programme to help with the welfare of Pacific Island players in England.

  • Listen to 5 live’s special programme – High tackling: Where does rugby go from here?
  • High tackles: New rules explained
  • Jonathan Davies: Problems with new high tackle laws
  • Listen: Wigglesworth fears new rules could ruin rugby

It is estimated that around 18% of all professional rugby players worldwide are of Fijian, Samoan, or Tongan heritage, with 72 playing in the Aviva Premiership.

And Leo feels education is key if those from the islands are going to continue to thrive.

“We are going to have to start tackling lower, and being a lot more conscious of those risky tackles,” he added. “We are going to have to look at ourselves.

“We can’t just be known as the enforcers and the guys renowned for those big hits.

“We are going to have to do that within the laws; the laws are constantly changing, and there is a lot of work to be done in the process of re-educating ourselves.”

Leo fears Pacific Island players may suffer more than most under the new guidelines, which will see yellow and red cards awarded for reckless challenges to the head area.

New tackle laws 'may restrict Pacific players', says former Samoa captain Dan Leo

“One of the big things we have on our hands is trying to break down that perception we are dirty players,” added Leo.

“The only thing that really differentiates Trevor Leota and Brian Lima, who retired in the mid-2000s, from Chris Hala’ufia and Mat Luamanu – who has had three red cards in the past year – is the times and the laws.

“I don’t think players are tackling any harder than they were back then, but the game has moved on. It’s definitely an education process that needs to happen outside what is being offered.

“There is a fair bit of concern around. The majority of Pacific Island players in the Premiership have been brought over here to do a job that seems to have been frowned upon now.

“There is going to be a lot of work in re-defining how we play.”

And Leo feels Pacific Island players could be lost to rugby union if the new tackle sanctions reduce their effectiveness.

“The game had to change, and it had to get safer, but there are a lot of other sports which Pacific Islanders could play,” Leo said.

“We have all of these other sports contending for our players: the rugby league NRL, American Football, boxing.

“The reason rugby is so attractive to Pacific Islanders is the contact element, and if we aren’t going to get our [contact] fix through rugby, then we will get it elsewhere.”

Senegal 2-0 Zimbabwe

Senegal 2-0 Zimbabwe

Liverpool forward Sadio Mane scored as Senegal beat Zimbabwe to become the first team to reach the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations quarter-finals.

Mane tapped in the opener from close range in the ninth minute from Lazio forward Keita Balde Diao’s low cross.

Henri Saivet, on loan at St Etienne from Newcastle, then struck home a brilliant 20 yard free-kick four minutes later.

Mane also had a lob cleared off the line by Costa Nhamoinesu.

Stoke’s Mame Biram Diouf should have increased Senegal’s advantage, but blazed his left-foot shot over the crossbar.

Khama Billiat wasted a good chance for Zimbabwe just before half-time when he fired tamely at Abdoulaye Diallo. The keeper also produced a good block to keep out Nyasha Mushekwi’s drive.

The Lions of Teranga have a maximum six points from two games in Group B. Tunisia are second with three points and both Algeria and Zimbabwe have a point each.

  • Line-ups
  • Match Stats
  • Live Text

Line-ups

Senegal

  • 1Diallo
  • 21GassamaBooked at 57mins
  • 2Kara Mbodji
  • 3Koulibaly
  • 4M'Bengue
  • 22Saivet
  • 8KouyatéBooked at 31minsSubstituted forNdoyeat 85'minutes
  • 5Gueye
  • 20Balde Diao
  • 10ManéSubstituted forSarrat 90+1'minutes
  • 9DioufSubstituted forSowat 63'minutes

Substitutes

  • 6Diedhiou
  • 7Sow
  • 11Ndoye
  • 12Diamé
  • 13Konate
  • 14Toure
  • 15Diop
  • 16N'Diaye
  • 17Ndiaye
  • 18Sarr
  • 19Ciss
  • 23Ndiaye

Zimbabwe

  • 16Mukuruva
  • 4Zvirekwi
  • 5Muroiwa
  • 2Nhamoinesu
  • 6Bhasera
  • 14Katsande
  • 18Nakamba
  • 7RusikeSubstituted forRusikeat 45'minutes
  • 20Billiat
  • 10MahachiSubstituted forNdoroat 45'minutes
  • 9MushekwiSubstituted forMalajilaat 83'minutesBooked at 89mins

Substitutes

  • 1Donovan
  • 3Phiri
  • 8Rusike
  • 11Ndoro
  • 12Kangwa
  • 13Malajila
  • 15Hadebe
  • 17Musona
  • 19Mhlanga
  • 21Kadewere
  • 22Machapa
  • 23Mawaya

Referee:Rédouane Jiyed

Match Stats

Home TeamSenegalAway TeamZimbabwePossessionHome58%Away42%ShotsHome24Away14Shots on TargetHome9Away3CornersHome4Away1FoulsHome16Away18

Live Text

Posted at

Match ends, Senegal 2, Zimbabwe 0.

Full Time

Posted at 90'+3'

Second Half ends, Senegal 2, Zimbabwe 0.

Posted at 90'+3'

Foul by Ismaila Sarr (Senegal).

Posted at 90'+3'

Onismor Bhasera (Zimbabwe) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

Posted at 90'+2'

Keita (Senegal) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Posted at 90'+2'

Foul by Willard Katsande (Zimbabwe).

Posted at 90'+2'

Foul by Cheikh M’Bengue (Senegal).

Posted at 90'+2'

Evans Rusike (Zimbabwe) wins a free kick on the right wing.

Substitution

Posted at 90'+1'

Substitution, Senegal. Ismaila Sarr replaces Sadio Mané.

Booking

Posted at 89'

Cuthbert Malajila (Zimbabwe) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.

Posted at 89'

Kalidou Koulibaly (Senegal) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Posted at 89'

Foul by Cuthbert Malajila (Zimbabwe).

Posted at 89'

Kalidou Koulibaly (Senegal) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Posted at 89'

Foul by Cuthbert Malajila (Zimbabwe).

Posted at 88'

Attempt missed. Khama Billiat (Zimbabwe) right footed shot from the right side of the box is high and wide to the right. Assisted by Cuthbert Malajila with a headed pass.

Posted at 86'

Hand ball by Marvelous Nakamba (Zimbabwe).

Posted at 86'

Attempt missed. Willard Katsande (Zimbabwe) right footed shot from outside the box is high and wide to the right. Assisted by Cuthbert Malajila.

Substitution

Posted at 85'

Substitution, Senegal. Cheikh Ndoye replaces Cheikhou Kouyaté.

Posted at 84'

Foul by Keita (Senegal).

Posted at 84'

Tatenda Mukuruva (Zimbabwe) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Posted at 84'

Attempt blocked. Keita (Senegal) right footed shot from the centre of the box is blocked.

Posted at 83'

Attempt saved. Moussa Sow (Senegal) right footed shot from the right side of the box is saved in the bottom right corner. Assisted by Keita with a cross.

Substitution

Posted at 83'

Substitution, Zimbabwe. Cuthbert Malajila replaces Nyasha Mushekwi.

Posted at 82'

Corner, Senegal. Conceded by Tatenda Mukuruva.

Posted at 82'

Attempt saved. Keita (Senegal) right footed shot from the left side of the box is saved in the centre of the goal. Assisted by Henri Saivet.

Posted at 82'

Attempt saved. Moussa Sow (Senegal) right footed shot from the centre of the box is saved in the bottom right corner. Assisted by Keita.

Posted at 80'

Attempt missed. Henri Saivet (Senegal) right footed shot from outside the box is close, but misses to the left. Assisted by Moussa Sow.

Posted at 77'

Attempt missed. Moussa Sow (Senegal) right footed shot from the centre of the box is high and wide to the left.

Posted at 77'

Idrissa Gueye (Senegal) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

Posted at 77'

Foul by Willard Katsande (Zimbabwe).

Posted at 74'

Hand ball by Henri Saivet (Senegal).

Posted at 74'

Attempt blocked. Henri Saivet (Senegal) right footed shot from outside the box is blocked. Assisted by Idrissa Gueye.

Posted at 73'

Kara (Senegal) wins a free kick on the right wing.

Posted at 73'

Foul by Nyasha Mushekwi (Zimbabwe).

Posted at 72'

Attempt missed. Khama Billiat (Zimbabwe) right footed shot from outside the box is close, but misses to the left. Assisted by Willard Katsande.

Posted at 72'

Attempt saved. Nyasha Mushekwi (Zimbabwe) left footed shot from outside the box is saved in the centre of the goal. Assisted by Khama Billiat.

Posted at 72'

Attempt saved. Keita (Senegal) right footed shot from the right side of the box is saved in the centre of the goal.

Posted at 71'

Attempt missed. Khama Billiat (Zimbabwe) right footed shot from outside the box is high and wide to the right. Assisted by Evans Rusike with a headed pass.

Posted at 70'

Attempt missed. Tendai Ndoro (Zimbabwe) left footed shot from the left side of the box misses to the left.

Posted at 70'

Offside, Senegal. Sadio Mané tries a through ball, but Cheikh M’Bengue is caught offside.

Show more updatesgoal

Jan Vertonghen: Tottenham defender expected to be out for six weeks

Jan Vertonghen: Tottenham defender expected to be out for six weeks

Tottenham defender Jan Vertonghen is expected to be out for six weeks with an ankle ligament injury, according to his manager Mauricio Pochettino.

The 29-year-old centre-back turned his left ankle during the second half of last Saturday’s 4-0 win over West Brom.

“When your mind is positive it’s easier to recover,” said the Argentine boss. “He doesn’t require surgery.

“We have players that can perform in his place and we are very happy with the squad and the players we have.”

Vertonghen has played in 20 out of 21 league matches this season, forming part of a defence that has conceded just 14 goals – the best record in the league.

Pochettino, however, was unsure as to when attacking midfielder Erik Lamela would return to action. The 24-year-old has been sidelined since the end of October with a hip problem.

“He will have a scan on Friday,” he added.

“Still it is difficult to give the time that he can come back. We need to wait tomorrow because there is still some problems, and we are still not sure of the diagnosis.”

Oakland Raiders: NFL team apply to move to Las Vegas in 2020

Oakland Raiders: NFL team apply to move to Las Vegas in 2020

NFL team Oakland Raiders have applied for relocation to Las Vegas in 2020.

The Raiders plan to move from the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum to a proposed 65,000-seater stadium which is expected to cost $1.9bn (£1.54bn).

Relocation to the USA’s famous gambling destination must be approved by three-quarters of NFL team owners (24 of 32).

The Raiders extended their lease on their current stadium by a year for the current season and will remain there until they move.

The NFL website states that owners will vote on the team’s relocation proposal at a meeting in March.

Lawro’s Premier League predictions v Split star James McAvoy

Lawro's Premier League predictions v Split star James McAvoy

BBC Sport’s football expert Mark Lawrenson will be making a prediction for all 380 Premier League games this season against a variety of guests.

Lawro’s opponent for this week’s Premier League fixtures is actor James McAvoy, star of new film ‘Split’.

McAvoy is a Celtic fan and says he grew up supporting them for many reasons.

“I think your choice of football club quite often is not your choice,” he told BBC Sport. “It is thrust upon you by your family, wherever you grew up, or sometimes even your religion, so it is a kind of environmental thing that you just soak up.

“That is why I am a Celtic fan but why I enjoy being a Celtic fan is different and I have much more power over that.

“In London, I keep an eye on Arsenal but I am not really an Arsenal fan. I am more of a plastic Gooner just because I used to live two doors away from the East Stand when they played at Highbury.

“That was amazing. When I couldn’t get tickets, which was quite often, I would be able to watch the game on TV, open the windows and turn the sound down, and just have the roar of the crowd in the background.”

You can make your Premier League predictions now, compare them with those of Lawro and other fans by playing the BBC Sport Predictor game.

Premier League predictions – week 21
Result Lawro McAvoy
SATURDAY
Liverpool v Swansea x-x 3-0 1-0
Bournemouth v Watford x-x 2-1 2-1
Crystal Palace v Everton x-x 1-1 0-0
Middlesbrough v West Ham x-x 1-1 0-2
Stoke v Man Utd x-x 1-1 1-1
West Brom v Sunderland x-x 2-0 2-1
Man City v Tottenham x-x 2-2 3-3
SUNDAY
Southampton v Leicester x-x 1-1 2-1
Arsenal v Burnley x-x 2-0 3-0
Chelsea v Hull x-x 3-0 2-0

A correct result (picking a win, draw or defeat) is worth 10 points. The exact score earns 40 points.

Last week, Lawro got four correct results, including one perfect score, from 10 Premier League matches. That gave him a total of 70 points.

He beat UFC star Michael Bisping, who got three correct results, with no perfect scores, for a total of 30 points.

Total scores after week 21
Lawro 1,900
Guests 1,590

LAWRO’S PREDICTIONS

All kick-offs 15:00 GMT unless otherwise stated.

SATURDAY

Lawro's Premier League predictions v Split star James McAvoy

Liverpool v Swansea (12:30 GMT)

Liverpool have lost some of their attacking lustre in recent weeks so it is important for them to have Philippe Coutinho back in action, and getting sharper with each game he plays.

I just wonder if the Reds’ form has tailed off a bit because Jurgen Klopp has been changing his team around for various cup games – it might help if he sticks with a team that is going to play regularly for the next couple of weeks.

Swansea have made a couple of signings since Paul Clement’s first game in charge – Saturday’s 4-0 home defeat by Arsenal.

Norwich left-back Martin Olsson and Tottenham midfielder Tom Carroll have both come in but Clement will need to do more than that to solve his side’s defensive issues.

Lawro’s prediction: 3-0

James McAvoy’s prediction: 1-0

Lawro's Premier League predictions v Split star James McAvoy

Bournemouth v Watford

Watford have not won any of their last six league games, and they have not signed anyone in the transfer window yet to try to arrest their slump in form.

Bournemouth’s recent form is better than the Hornets, but they are an inconsistent side. Hull beat them last time out and their defence is not exactly reliable.

This is a hard one to call but Watford are struggling at the moment, and the Cherries will create chances against them.

Lawro’s prediction: 2-1

James McAvoy’s prediction: 2-1

Lawro's Premier League predictions v Split star James McAvoy

Crystal Palace v Everton

Everton have got energy and enthusiasm in their team with youngsters like Mason Holgate and Tom Davies in their line-up, and they have been getting stuck into teams.

Sam Allardyce is yet to win a league game as Crystal Palace boss after three attempts and I don’t think it will be easy for him here either.

Allardyce signed Jeffrey Schlupp from Leicester this week and it is safe to say he will not be the last new face to arrive at Selhurst Park before the January transfer window closes.

Lawro’s prediction: 1-1

James McAvoy’s prediction: 0-0

Lawro's Premier League predictions v Split star James McAvoy

Middlesbrough v West Ham

Middlesbrough have bolstered their attacking options by signing Patrick Bamford. They are in more danger of being dragged into the relegation dog-fight than West Ham, but both clubs have a bit of breathing space over the bottom four.

Lawro's Premier League predictions v Split star James McAvoy

A point would probably suit them and the Hammers because it will keep them ticking over.

Even if West Ham lose Dimitri Payet, as looks likely now they are saying he can leave for the right price, I think they will be fine.

Lawro’s prediction: 1-1

James McAvoy’s prediction: 0-2

Lawro's Premier League predictions v Split star James McAvoy

Stoke v Man Utd

I don’t see the issue with Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho going a little bit route one as his side came back to earn a point against Liverpool last weekend.

If you have got Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Marouane Fellaini, who are both really good in the air, then you use them to get your team a goal.

Mourinho is the manager, and too often managers are criticised for not having a ‘Plan B’. He had one, and he used it because ‘Plan A’ was not working.

This is another tough game for United, though.

Stoke were one of the teams to frustrate them at Old Trafford before Christmas when they were drawing a lot of home games, and I can see them sharing the points again on Saturday.

Lawro’s prediction: 1-1

James McAvoy’s prediction: 1-1

Lawro's Premier League predictions v Split star James McAvoy

West Brom v Sunderland

I watched Sunderland lose to Burnley in the FA Cup on Tuesday and it is clear that Black Cats boss David Moyes lacks quantity and quality in his squad – injuries have left him very short.

I actually think Sunderland are almost at the point where the manager has a conversation with the chairman about whether he wants him to start preparing for next season in the Championship.

That sounds a bit defeatist because there are still loads of points to play for but with all those injuries, and the fact Moyes has not been given any money to bring in new players, I do not see them getting out of trouble.

West Brom are always tough opponents and carry a threat from set-pieces. Having watched what Sunderland are like at the back, I cannot see them holding out.

Lawro’s prediction: 2-0

James McAvoy’s prediction: 2-1

Lawro's Premier League predictions v Split star James McAvoy

Man City v Tottenham (17:30 GMT)

Tottenham are flying right now and I don’t think Jan Vertonghen’s injury will affect them because in Kevin Wimmer and Ben Davies they have got a couple of potential replacements at the back.

I like their 3-5-2 formation because it really suits their players and you could argue that, at the moment, they are the best team in the league.

Lawro's Premier League predictions v Split star James McAvoy

I would expect some improvement from Manchester City after last week’s heavy defeat against Everton but they are struggling defensively and this Spurs team will definitely create chances against them too.

Put it this way, I can see there being a few goals at both ends.

There has been a lot of debate about City’s £50m defender John Stones of late.

Stones is a really good footballer who is a bit unlucky that Nicolas Otamendi is his centre-back partner, and City’s full-backs are not good enough.

But Stones has got to start making good defensive decisions himself. He needs to become a defender who can manage the game, because City do not have one at the moment.

Lawro’s prediction: 2-2

James McAvoy’s prediction: I am looking for a thriller. 3-3

SUNDAY

Lawro's Premier League predictions v Split star James McAvoy

Southampton v Leicester (12:00 GMT)

Both of these teams are in the bottom eight when they would expect to be a lot higher up the table.

Southampton have lost their last four league games, and it seems their manager Claude Puel swaps his side around more than anyone. His rotation policy is not working.

Meanwhile, Leicester’s form remains completely up and down.

The Foxes still have not won away from home, and do not look anything like the team they were last season. I do not see that changing here.

Lawro’s prediction: 1-1

James McAvoy’s prediction: 2-1

Lawro's Premier League predictions v Split star James McAvoy

Arsenal v Burnley (14:15 GMT)

Burnley are 10th despite taking only one point from nine away league games this season.

They gave Arsenal a good game at Turf Moor and the Gunners only grabbed a winner in injury time.

I do not see this game being anything like as close, such is the difference between Burnley at home and Burnley away.

The Clarets have not really been ripped apart since West Brom beat them 4-0 in November.

They will be competitive and difficult to play against at Emirates Stadium, but they just don’t make enough chances to win games on the road.

Lawro’s prediction: 2-0

James McAvoy’s prediction: I still keep an eye on Arsenal, and they just surprise you every now and again with the most ridiculous result. I am going to be positive here, though, and say they will take Burnley apart. 3-0

Lawro's Premier League predictions v Split star James McAvoy

Chelsea v Hull City (16:30 GMT)

Hull have a battle on their hands to keep their best players as well as stay up – Jake Livermore and Robert Snodgrass are both being linked with moves away.

It appears new manager Marco Silva will get any money he raises from sales to spend on new players, but who is he going to attract to Hull in their predicament?

By the looks of things, Diego Costa will be back in the team on Sunday and I think Blues boss Antonio Conte has done quite well with the way he has handled him, because it has taken him more than six months to have his first bust-up.

The Tigers have won two of their last three games but it is a step too far to think they can challenge the leaders at Stamford Bridge.

Lawro’s prediction: 3-0

James McAvoy’s prediction: 2-0

Lawro was speaking to BBC Sport’s Chris Bevan.

Lawro v Guests
P21 W14 D0 L7
SCORE GUEST LEADERBOARD
150 Elis James
130 Boris Becker, Tim Vine
120 Robbie Williams
110 Michael van Gerwen
100 Joe Clarke
90 Lawro (average after 21 weeks)
90 Josh Franceschi, Colin Murray
80 Nicole Scherzinger
70 Dave Bautista, Sam Burgess, Athletico Mince
60 Rick Astley
50 Charlie Sloth, Laura Kenny
40 Ed Balls
30 Michael Bisping, Blossoms, American hip-hop duo Run The Jewels
20 Lloyd Griffith

Lawro’s best score: 130 points (week 13 v Tim Vine)

Lawro’s worst score: 30 points (week four v Dave Bautista)

Lawro's Premier League predictions v Split star James McAvoy

+/- DENOTE POSITION DIFFERENCE BETWEEN LAWRO’S TABLE AND ACTUAL POSITION
POS TEAM P W D L PTS +/-
1 Arsenal 21 15 6 0 51 +1
2 Liverpool 21 15 6 0 51 +3
3 Man Utd 21 15 5 1 50 +3
4 Man City 21 15 4 2 49 +1
5 Chelsea 21 14 3 4 45 -4
6 Leicester 21 14 3 4 45 +9
7 Tottenham 21 13 6 2 45 -5
8 Everton 21 6 12 3 30 +1
9 West Ham 21 8 6 7 30 +3
10 Crystal Palace 21 6 7 8 25 +7
11 Stoke 21 6 6 9 24 -2
12 Sunderland 21 5 6 10 21 +7
13 West Brom 21 5 6 10 21 -5
14 Bournemouth 21 4 6 11 18 -3
15 Middlesbrough 21 4 5 12 17 +1
16 Burnley 21 3 5 13 14 -6
17 Southampton 21 3 5 13 14 -4
18 Watford 21 2 5 14 11 -4
19 Swansea 21 2 4 15 10 +1
20 Hull 21 0 2 19 2 -2

Tom Arscott: Sale Sharks winger sacked over team information leak to Bristol

Tom Arscott: Sale Sharks winger sacked over team information leak to Bristol

Sale Sharks winger Tom Arscott has been sacked after he leaked confidential team information to Bristol before their Premiership game on 1 January.

The 29-year-old gave details to brother and Bristol back Luke when he visited their team hotel ahead of the match which the West Country side won 24-23.

Sale suspended Arscott on 4 January and carried out an internal investigation.

Bristol boss Mark Tainton had said “nothing of any sporting value” had been passed on to his coaches.

Tom Arscott, who can also play full-back, spent three years at Bristol between 2007 and 2010 before joining Sale from London Welsh in 2013.

He suffered a serious knee injury in March last year that kept him out for eight months.

More to follow.

Lachlan Burr: Leigh Centurions sign Bradford Bulls forward

Lachlan Burr: Leigh Centurions sign Bradford Bulls forward

Super League newcomers Leigh Centurions have signed forward Lachlan Burr from liquidated Bradford Bulls on a one-year contract.

The 24-year-old Australian agreed to join the Bulls in October but became a free agent after the club’s demise.

He played in the NRL with Canterbury Bulldogs and Gold Coast Titans.

“I have no doubt at all he will have a big contribution in helping us achieve our goals this year,” head coach Neil Jukes told the club website.

The deal also includes a two-year option at the end of the 2017 season.

Masters 2017: Ronnie O’Sullivan beats Neil Robertson to reach semis

Masters 2017: Ronnie O'Sullivan beats Neil Robertson to reach semis

Dafabet Masters 2017
Venue: Alexandra Palace, London Dates: 15-22 January
Coverage: Watch live on BBC TV, Connected TV, Red Button, BBC Sport website and app.

Defending champion Ronnie O’Sullivan beat Neil Robertson 6-3 to reach the semi-finals of the Masters at Alexandra Palace in London.

Australia’s Robertson started with 74, but O’Sullivan made 63 and 51 as the pair shared the first six frames.

Neither player were at their best but Englishman O’Sullivan won the seventh, and a fluked red help him take the next, before winning with a 68 break.

O’Sullivan faces Marco Fu or Mark Allen in Saturday’s semi-final.

  • Masters: Tournament schedule and BBC coverage times

More to follow.

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