That is all for Sportsday for Tuesday. We'll be back tomorrow for the final installment before Christmas. So join us for all the rolling sports news you could possibly need from 08:00 GMT.
- Fifa president Blatter will contest eight-year ban
- Guardiola 'knows his next club'
- England beat South Africa A by an innings and 91 runs
- GET INVOLVED Who will win the Premier League? #bbcsportsday
- Copyright: PA
Wasps director of rugby Dai Young has confirmed they are one of "six or seven" clubs interested in signing Wales full-back Leigh Halfpenny - and expects him to make a decision on his future in the next couple of weeks.
The 27-year-old, who is currently recovering from a knee injury, could leave French club Toulon in the summer.
"I couldn't say what Leigh's going to do, but I know he's looking to make a decision over the next two weeks and we're one of the clubs that's an option to him," Young told BBC Coventry and Warwickshire.
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Former New Zealand fly-half Nick Evans has signed a new contract with Premiership title contenders Harlequins.
Evans has been the club's first-choice playmaker since arriving from the Blues in 2008 and is their record points scorer with 2,024 from 181 games.
The 35-year-old is also the leading points scorer in the Premiership this season.
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Ricky Evans has asked for Christmas Day off work to help him prepare for his PDC World Darts Championship second-round match with Jamie Caven.
The 25-year-old petrol station attendant earned a shock victory over number 10 seed Simon Whitlock and faces world number 22 Caven on Boxing Day.
"I am meant to working but I don't want to do Christmas Day," Kettering's Evans told BBC Radio Northampton.
"I don't want to prepare for my Boxing Day clash by working in a garage."
French city Toulon will host the fifth America's Cup World Series event in September 2016.
The World Series event - which is part of a two-year schedule to determine the challenger to face Team Oracle in the 2017 America's Cup in Bermuda - will be held in the Mediterranean city from 10-11 September.
Other events in 2016 are scheduled to take place in Muscat, Oman, along with New York, Chicago and Portsmouth.
He's one of the greatest basketball players of all time. Former Milwaukee Bucks and Los Angeles Lakers centre Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is the NBA's all-time leading points scorer, won six championships and made 19 All-Star appearances.
He has also been talking to Sportsworld's Lee James about being a high-profile American Muslim, an author, an actor, an ambassador, a political commentator and an NBA fan.Copyright: Getty Images
Moeen Ali is set to return to the number eight spot when England take on South Africa this winter. And the all-rounder, who has been tested at opener, is looking forward to playing with freedom.
"I can't wait, I'm actually looking forward to going back to eight and playing a few shots, hopefully freeing up," said Moeen, who took six for 77 as the tourists beat a South Africa A side by an innings and 91 runs in Pietermaritzburg on Tuesday.
"Obviously opening didn't work. I enjoyed it and it was a really good experience but I didn't score the runs I'd have liked. I probably got caught in two minds at times whether to attack or not but things like that happen. I'm happy and I don't mind where I bat, I'll just look to do my job wherever I bat."Copyright: Getty Images
It is a bad time to be a West Indies fan at the moment. They were humiliated in the opening Test against Australia, losing by an innings and 212 runs.
Former captain Dwayne Bravo has criticized their Cricket Board over its strained relationship with players and a lack of facilities for the sport in the Caribbean, plus it's only last year the players went on strike over a contract dispute.
BBC World Service's Lee James spoke with the West Indies legend Curtly Ambrose, now abowling consultant, who admits they need to make changes.Copyright: Getty Images
Bolton have released a statement following their internal investigation into newspaper allegations about manager Neil Lennon.
It was alleged in the Sunday Mirror that the 44-year-old former Celtic boss made a threat to somebody he was said to be romantically involved with.
The paper also claimed Lennon tried to ban them from publishing the article.Copyright: PA
The statement read: "Bolton Wanderers Football Club can announce that they have now concluded an internal investigation into an article published in The Sunday Mirror on Sunday 20 December.
"The club has dealt with the matter internally and acted accordingly, details of which will remain private.
"Neil Lennon will remain in charge of the first team squad."
Things just get better and better for Watford. Quique Sanchez Flores’ team are seventh in the table after a remarkable first half of the season following last year's promotion. And, according Sky Sport Italia (and subsequently picked up by the Independent) they could be poised for a sensational January transfer swoop for Roma’s Juan Manuel Iturbe - a man once dubbed the new Lionel Messi.
The 22-year-old forward has started just five matches for Roma this season.Copyright: AFP
Not sure why but the Premier League have just tweeted this.
If nothing else, reminds us what a great player the man now assistant boss to Louis van Gaal at Manchester United really was.
Preston have won an appeal against goalkeeper Jordan Pickford's one-game suspension for his sending off at Leeds.
The on-loan Sunderland player was dismissed for handling outside the box during North End's 1-0 loss at Elland Road.
He will now be free to face Huddersfield on Boxing Day.Copyright: Getty Images
Former Newcastle goalkeeper Pavel Srnicek is "healing" after suffering a cardiac arrest on Sunday. The 47-year-old's agent, Steve Wraith, has told the Chronicle:
“Pav has had a stable night and his body is healing, however there is a long, long way to go. Wednesday is an important day. The hospital are hoping to perform a CT scan. If they can, we should know a lot more about his chances.
“If they can’t perform the CT scan tomorrow then we are looking at two-three days time (before we know more).”Copyright: PA
Wolves have agreed to sign Poland international winger Michal Zyro from Legia Warsaw, subject to the player passing a medical.
Left-footed Zyro, 23, is comfortable playing anywhere across the forward line and has won four caps for Poland.
"We have a deal agreed and it'll be kicking in at the start of January," head coach Kenny Jackett told BBC WM.
"He can play in any of the attacking positions and, being left-footed, he brings a balance."
The group clubs who are keen to sign Bayern Munich's Polish striker Robert Lewandowski have been dealt a blow with news that Carlo Ancelotti has insisted he is not sold as one of the stipulations for him succeeding Pep Guardiola as the German club's manager.
Spanish paper AS report that Ancelotti is well aware that the 27-year-old is high on the wish-list of Real Madrid and has moved to head off any chance of the move happening.Copyright: AP
Chelsea and Vitesse Arnhem have been cleared of having an improper relationship, the Dutch football association (KNVB) said on Tuesday.
The independent probe established no undue influence by the Premier League champions over the Dutch club, to whom they have been regularly loaning players over the past five years, including five this season.
The KNVB had ordered an investigation into the ownership and structure of the club following allegations by former owner Merab Jordania that Chelsea heavily influenced policy at the club.
But the association said its investigation had shown no written agreement between the two clubs and all loan agreements had been arranged in line with the regulations.
Leicester boss Claudio Ranieri has told Riyad Mahrez he must learn to deal with his increased profile. The winger has scored 14 goals this season to help the Foxes top the Premier League table.
Mahrez has been linked with a move away from the club, but Ranieri said: "He wants to stay with us, we want to keep him and that's it. He has to improve and when he improves, the team improves and when that happens why would he want to go away? He's a king here.
"He can grow with the team because if you stay at the bottom and fight no-one knows you but now everybody is talking about you and that is maybe a bit of pressure.
"You have to manage this kind of pressure. It's important for him to manage this stress. It's important he understands on the pitch is one thing and the TVs and newspapers are another thing."Copyright: Getty Images
Mesut Ozil is very much the assist king this season. The Arsenal midfielder was at it again last night against Manchester City, by setting up his 15th goal of the season...
Jose Mourinho isn't Manchester United manager yet (Louis van Gaal hasn't even left the role) but the former Chelsea boss is already plotting his first Old Trafford signing, according to the Sun.
The player in question? Dutch midfielder Wesley Sneijder, who played under him at Inter Milan and is currently playing for Turkish side Galatasaray.Copyright: Reuters
BBC Africa Sport
Former Wigan and Ivory Coast defender Steve Gohouri is still missing, 11 days after he was last seen.
A spokesman for fourth-tier TSV Steinbach told the BBC that they have not heard from the 34-year-old since he attended his German club's Christmas party on 11 December after which he was due to head to see his family in Paris.
The club said the Ivory Coast embassy in Germany has been in touch as well to ask for updates. Steinbach are currently on their winter break and so Gohouri has not missed any training or matches with the squad due back on 6 January.Copyright: Getty Images
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Ireland flanker Sean O'Brien has signed a new three-year contract with the Irish Rugby Football Union that will keep him at Leinster until after the 2019 World Cup.
O'Brien made his debut for the three-time European champions in 2008 and won the first of his 41 caps a year later and has made two Test appearances for the British and Irish Lions.
Remember that image of David Beckham, Prince William and David Cameron in their best blazers, hopes high of England being the host country for World Cup 2018?
Well, you'll also remember then that it all went pear-shaped, no one voted for us - and a cheesed-off English FA said they would not bid again while Blatter remained president.Copyright: Getty Images
But in the last few minutes, FA chairman Greg Dyke has said that Blatter's eight-year ban from Fifa has removed a significant barrier to another England bid.
"There is nobody who wouldn't love to have the World Cup in England but the process has to be done in a fair, honest and transparent way, not carved up by a bunch of crooks which is what happened last time," added Dyke.
"I think it's the end for Blatter whatever happens in the appeals process. The important thing is that we never get anyone with the same sort of power that Blatter had again."
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Davis Cup captain Leon Smith says Great Britain can build on their success and inspire a new generation of players.
GB won the team of the year award and Andy Murray was voted BBC Sports Personality of the Year on Sunday.
Murray has previously said that talking to the Lawn Tennis Association about the future of British tennis was "a waste of time".
But Smith said: "We've had really good discussions with everyone at the LTA recently to really take it up a gear. On the court, we need to keep winning but off the court we have a great chance to do something."
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A final word from Mark Hughes, and it's on the contract situation with Erik Pieters and Marko Arnautovic.
"We are still talking to them both and hopefully we will be able to come to a conclusion," he tells the media.
"We have made progress with Erik so hopefully we can get that sorted out sooner rather than later."
And that's it, all over here.
Big game this on Saturday. If Stoke win - and until defeat by Crystal Palace last time out they were going along great guns - then the pressure on Louis van Gaal will be immense. We shall see what happens...
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Back to the Britannia - that's the beauty of Sportsday, from Italy to Stoke-on-Trent in the blink of an eye (or a bit of typing on a keyboard) - and Potters fans will be interested in Mark Hughes' next answer.
He's asked about possible activity in the January transfer window.
"We will certainly have a look at who is out there but there is certainly no urgency on our part to get anything done," said Hughes.
"I have a good quality, healthy squad at my disposal so I don't foresee anything too drastic.
"Of course, if something crops up which is attractive to us then we will look to act, but it has to be somebody who will enhance us. We are looking now and we will have further discussions in the coming weeks I am sure."
He's given away precisely nothing there.
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We'll break off from Stoke matters for a moment for some interesting news from Italy with a touch of the Eric Canona about it.
Inter Milan midfielder Felipe Melo has been banned for three matches for aiming a kung-fu kick at Lazio's Lucas Biglia.
The Brazil international received a straight red card for the 90th-minute incident that came moments after he had given away a penalty for a foul on Sergej Milinkovic-Savic on Sunday.
The penalty was missed but Antonio Candreva scored on the rebound to secure 10th-placed Lazio a 2-1 win over table-topping Inter.
"Unfortunately Melo did two stupid things," said Inter coach Roberto Mancini.
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Next a bit of team news from the gaffer.
"Geoff Cameron will be touch and go right up until the two games at the end of the week," says Mark Hughes.
"It's more likely that he will miss the games at this moment I would suggest, but we will have a look at him at the end of the week.
"Peter Crouch is training again but he isn't ready yet.
"Stephen Ireland will be missing until the New Year as he is struggling a little bit with his hamstring.
"Other than that we are OK but there are still a few days until the match so we will reassess things further down the line."
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More from Mark Hughes on his old club.
"Manchester United will know themselves that they are in a period of transition and are in a different cycle now," he says, with all the diplomacy of a seasoned politician.
"Things are changing and sometimes things can take a while before you become successful again.
"We are certainly taking nothing for granted because we are fully aware as to how difficult a challenge they will pose to us on Boxing Day.
"I am looking forward to the game though, it is a great fixture for Boxing Day."
Big game at the Britannia Stadium on Boxing Day, when Louis van Gaal's United visit Mark Hughes' Stoke.
It's the latter manager who has arrived to face the media, taking questions on the game.
"They are a huge club and they have a very good squad of players there," says Hughes, who had two spells at United in the 80s and 90s.Copyright: Getty Images
"I have been asked whether this is a good time to play them but I am always wary of that because these sort of clubs more often than not bounce back emphatically.
"The players there are representing a global brand and the players have a responsibility to produce the goods more often than not, so they will be desperate to get back on track at the weekend."
BBC SportCopyright: Getty Images
If Gus Hiddink does play more of the promising Chelsea youngsters (see 11.42) he could do worse than 19-year-old Belgian Charly Musonda – a YouTube hit fordoing keepy-uppies with a rolled up sock.
One of the most highly-rated members of the Blues back-to-back FA Youth Cup-winning squad, Musonda signed a four year contract with Chelsea in March.
But he is yet to make his first-team debut and has been linked with permanent moves to Manchester United and Manchester City, ahead of the January transfer window.
A number of scouts have also watched Liverpool teenager Jerome Sinclair. The 19-year-old, who is out of contract in the summer, played in Monday night’s 0-0 Under-21s draw at Norwich.
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The second Women's Super League transfer of the day has seen Chelsea's Laura Coombs move to Liverpool Ladies on a season-long loan.
The 24-year-old, who has won two England caps, said: "I had a great year with Chelsea Ladies last season winning the double but this is a brilliant move for me."
A home draw with struggling Aston Villa last time out prevented Newcastle making it three wins out of three, but Steve McClaren is determined for his side to be positive against Everton.
"The draw was frustrating. We'd have taken seven points before the Liverpool game but it's gone now and we move on to Everton. They are tough opponents; a very good team. They have great balance and Roberto Martínez has done a terrific job.Copyright: Getty Images
"It's about us and that's what we've focused on. Working hard, matching our opponents. We have players who can cause teams problems."
Newcastle are unbeaten in their last three games and host Everton on Boxing Day and their manager Steve McClaren is speaking to the press. First, some injury news...
"We're assessing Papiss Cisse as to the severity of his injury but he's a struggle and a doubt for the weekend. Jamaal [Lascelles] trained this morning, Rolando [Aarons] will by the end of the week and Emmanuel Riviere next week. Steven Taylor is coming along well."
Still wondering what to get the missus for Christmas? Looking for a big gift to immortalise your love?
Look no further. Former Spurs striker Roberto Soldado, now at Villarreal, has unveiled this delightfully tasteful portrait of himself and Mrs S.
Will the novelty of having giant images of themselves watching over them as they enjoy a TV dinner ever wear off? It's not for Sportsday to say...
He's a nice fella is Leicester boss Claudio Ranieri. Here he is saying nice things about Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp...
“I appreciate Klopp a lot. I watched him in last season’s winter break and saw how he worked. Liverpool have a very good manager.”
Leicester boss Claudio Ranieri: “We have [Riyad] Mahrez, but Liverpool have two of Mahrez in [Philippe] Coutinho and [Adam] Lallana.”
That is very modest of you Claudio, but I think I'd rather have your boy on current form!
Table-topping Leicester manager Claudio Ranieri is the man of the moment and he is currently speaking to the press ahead of the Boxing Day match at Liverpool.
"I’m proud of my players and our fans. The fans are dreaming and I don’t want to wake them up," says Ranieri. "We must enjoy, play free and without pressure. If the world are speaking about you then you enjoy and continue to play.”
BBC Radio 5 Live
At 21:00 GMT tonight, BBC Radio 5 live will be look back at the top ten moments from the 2015 Rugby World Cup, where the home nations suffered heartache and failure, and the southern hemisphere dominated with New Zealand taking the Webb Ellis trophy.
Liverpool's Philippe Coutinho has told the club's website that the Reds will end their trophy wait in 2016.
"We're in a very good position," Coutinho said. "It's the goal of everyone involved, we're all focused on fighting for the trophies and I think we have a great chance in the competitions we're in this year.
"We're going to fight for that and I hope we win a trophy this year."Copyright: Getty Images
It can't be easy when another manager is continually linked with your job. That is the situation Manuel Pellegrini currently finds himself in, with Pep Guardiola heavily tipped to succeed him, and former Manchester City defender Danny Mills believes this is undermining the Chilean's position.
"The Pep situation is an interesting one," he told Talksport. "I almost think the club has to come out and make some sort of statement or at least tell Pellegrini the situation.
"Speculation was rife at the start of the season and Pellegrini has always been under pressure, and now we know that Pep is definitely available. Manuel Pellegrini must feel a little undermined.
"The players will be thinking that the manager might not be with them for much longer, and sometimes that can just drop five per cent off your performance."Copyright: AFP
File this under 'least surprising sports news of 2015'... Serena Williams and Novak Djokovic have been named the women's and men's players of the year by the International Tennis Federation.
Both won three of the four Grand Slams in 2015 and are well clear in the world rankings.
This is the sixth time Williams has won the award and a fifth time for Djokovic.
West Brom forwards James McClean and Salomon Rondon have been suspended for three matches by the Football Association.
The pair were sent off during Saturday's 2-1 home defeat by Bournemouth in the Premier League, Irish international McClean for serious foul play and Venezuelan Rondon for violent conduct.
McClean and Rondon will miss Saturday's match at Swansea City, the home game with Newcastle United on Monday and a visit from Stoke City on 2 January.Copyright: Getty Images
Sheel Jhaveri: Leicester City deserve it this season. I hope maherez and vardy stay till the end of the season
Orange Eddie: No reason why Spurs cant win it. Decent buy or two in January. Most open title race ever.
It'surkid: MUFC, but with Jose in charge.
Dead Pixel: (A United fan) We've more chance of winning the Super Bowl than the league this year...
Keep your title predictions coming in on Twitter at #bbcsportsday, via text to 81111, and on the BBC Sport Facebook page.
Blatter was banned yesterday for eight years following an investigation by the Fifa ethics committee into a payment he made to Fifa vice-president Michel Platini.
Platini was also banned for eight years. Reports in France suggest he too may appeal the sanction.
Fifa president Sepp Blatter is to appeal his eight-year ban from football.
A statement released by his attorney said: "The evidence clearly demonstrates the relationship with Mr. Platini was in all respects appropriate. President Blatter is prepared to take all legal steps to clear his name."
Everything seems to point to Pep Guardiola taking charge at Man City - but the Spaniard's spouse could yet have the final say. And the Daily Mail reports that Cristina Serra has her heart set on a move to London.
"Chelsea are hoping the lure of a London lifestyle could be their trump card," Neil Ashton writes.
Pep, Sportsday feels your pain. The promise of the 'Manchester lifestyle' isn't such a winner with the ladies.Copyright: Getty Images
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England midfielder Karen Carney has joined Chelsea Ladies from Birmingham City on a two-year contract.
Carney has won 110 caps and helped England finish third at the World Cup earlier this year.
"There is no doubt that the Liverpool squad needs strengthening in January."
This is how former Red John Aldridgeopens his latest column in the Liverpool Echo. After the 3-0 loss at Watford, few will disagree with him.
Aldridge continues: "In terms of positions where we need to buy, you could go right through the spine of the team - centre-half, centre midfield, striker."
He also calls for Jurgen Klopp to buy "battlers".Copyright: PA
Massimiliano Allegri is a candidate to become Chelsea manager in the summer if they cannot lure Pep Guardiola or Diego Simeone to Stamford Bridge, according to the Evening Standard.
The Juventus coach has impressed the Stamford Bridge hierarchy with his work in Turin after leading his team to the domestic double last season, as well as the Champions League Final.Copyright: EPA
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Great Britain forward Alex Danson believes the women's team have a great chance of winning Olympic gold for the first time in Rio next year.
The 30-year-old, who was recently nominated for the world Player of the Year award, predicted that the Olympic competition will be an "absolute spectacle".
She told BBC South Today: "The 16 athletes that go will be the fittest, the fastest, the best technically we have ever been."
Fifa president Sepp Blatter - banned from football for eight years - has been stripped of the honorary degree he received from Leicester's De Montfort University.
The Swiss received the honour 10 years ago, but the British higher education establishment revealed that it took the step of removing his title two months ago.
A spokesperson for De Montfort University said: "The university has long been concerned by the nature of the allegations, had been closely monitoring events at Fifa, and in October formally withdrew the honorary doctorate in Arts and Humanities awarded to Mr Blatter in 2005."Copyright: BBC
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Cardiff say manager Malky Mackay will remain in charge for the "foreseeable future" in a statement on the club's official website.
The announcement came after club owner Vincent Tan sent Mackay an email in which he heavily criticised the Scot before demanding he resign, or face the sack.
However, it was temporary relief. Mackay lost his job not long after - ousted as Bluebirds boss two days after Christmas with the team just above the Premier League relegation zone.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer replaced Mackay, but to no avail -the Bluebirds were relegated by the start of May.
John: I'm a Spurs man, but hope it will be Leicester they deserve it. Anyone but Arsenal...
Football Guru: If Leicester City actually did win the league ahead of the big money boys, would it not be the greatest sports story ever.
Patrick Zougbede: So am I the only one to still believe that Manchester United will win the League? First United, second City, third Arsenal.
Ambitious Patrick. Any United fans agree with that? Or City fans for that matter?
Steve Sidwell. Remember him? The midfielder has been trying to force his way into the Stoke midfield and failing this season. And, according to Talksport, he is ready to call it quits and seek out a new club.
The 33-year-old former Chelsea and Fulham man is out of contract in the summer so would be available for a nominal fee in January.Copyright: Getty Images
Lionel Messi eat your heart out.
A 29-year-old who works in insurance has a chance to write himself into the Guinness World Book of Records after firing four hat-tricks in as many games.
Graeme Rose, who plays for Swanage Town and Herston in the Dorset Premier League, has scored an astonishing 12 goals in his last four outings
And another treble - in the next game, Hamworthy United on 2 January - would take him past the current record holder for most consecutive hat-tricks, former Japan international Masashi Nakayam.
"It would be unbelievable to be included in Guinness World Records," a slightly bemused Rose told the Bournemouth Echo. " I never thought I'd get close to getting in it unless it was for something completely wacky."
Michel Platini has called Fifa's eight year ban a "kick in the teeth" but vowed that he will fight on for the presidency of world football's governing body.
In an interview with AFP, the 60-year-old Frenchman said: "I will fight. But then I'll take my responsibilities according to what happens.
"I'm fighting against this injustice, from one court to another.
"But there you go, in the meantime, my name has been dragged through the mud in the press.
"Whatever happens, my reputation has been sullied, I've been kicked in the teeth."Copyright: AFP
Keep your opinions coming on Twitter. In the meantime, here are a selection of comments from the BBC Sport Facebook page.
Irfan Baig: Leicester are first at Xmas and stats show in the last five seasons, four teams going into Xmas top have won the league. So I’m going for Leicester, but I think Arsenal are playing really good football this season and they will be up there fighting.Copyright: Getty Images
Matthew Rose: Christmas is a good indication of where teams will end up but it's still too early to say for certain. With Kompany still to return for City and Aguero back in the team, I'd give them the edge. As Wenger does seem confident (and why not), they'll push them to the wire and could nick it. If Leicester City can keep Mahrez and Vardy fit - who knows..?
Andy Jarv: Jamie Vardy to score a hat-trick at Chelsea last game of the season to win it!
Football: Arsene Wenger says the win over Man City gives Arsenal belief in the title race.
Football: Michel Platini says he will pursue his bid for the Fifa presidency despite his eight-year ban from football.
Cricket: England beat South Africa A by an innings and 91 runs in the final warm-up match before the Test series.
Speaking of young Joe Root, some colleagues on the BBC cricket desk have put together a rather wonderful infographic on his year in cricket. Click here to view.
You can also find out how many nights out Root has enjoyed this year (clue: more than Sportsday's combined total).Copyright: PA
England beat South Africa A by an innings and 91 runs earlier today.
Meanwhile, Chelsea interim manager Guus Hiddink has been instructed to give more first-team action to the Blues' most talented youngsters, according to the Daily Mail.
The paper states that there was major frustration within the Chelsea hierarchy about the lack of academy players that made the breakthrough during Jose Mourinho's reign and this was one of the factors that led to the Portuguese's sacking.Copyright: Getty Images
Chelsea keeper Thibaut Courtois says new manager Guus Hiddink can get the Blues back up the table.
Chelsea lie 15th and sacked manager Jose Mourinho last week.
But Courtois told the club's website: "Hiddink was here before, he did very well and I think he’s a very good manager.
"Hopefully together we can climb back up the table and we’re looking forward to starting working with him.
"We know we have to react, we’ve started well and have to move forward. Whatever has happened stays in the past and now we want to work hard with the new manager to get a good result against Watford."
Christmas Day 1995. Such a happy time to be a Newcastle United fan. Little did they know of the heartbreak to come.
On 25 December that year, Kevin Keegan's men held a 10-point advantage over Manchester United at the top of the Premier League. They actually extended that to 12 by mid-January.
Then the wheels came off in spectacular fashion and a run of five defeats in eight games between 21 February and 8 April gave Sir Alex Ferguson's United the chance to overtake them, which they did. One of those defeats was the 4-3 away defeat at Liverpool, widely regarded as the best game in Premier League history.
Newcastle finished the season second, four points behind the Old Trafford club.Copyright: Getty Images
According to the Guardian,Alan Pardew is to be rewarded for his good work over the past year by being offered a new contract at Crystal Palace.
The Eagles have been soaring since former player Pardew returned as manager and find themselves sixth in the table. In his 35 league matches in charge so far, Palace have won 60 points.Copyright: Getty Images
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Essex have announced James Foster is no longer their club captain after five years leading the Division Two side.
However the 35-year-old has been offered a contract extension at Chelmsford.
Foster, who made his debut for the county in 2000, became vice-captain in 2007 before taking on the captaincy from Mark Pettini in 2010.
"The club would like to thank James for his service as captain and look forward to him being a major part of Essex's future," a club statement said.
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Nottingham Forest left-back Daniel Pinillos is likely to miss the rest of the season after rupturing knee ligaments.
The 23-year-old Spaniard suffered the injury in Saturday's 2-1 victory over MK Dons.
Pinillos has started 19 of Forest's 22 Championship games this season after joining them from Cordoba in the summer.
Manchester United’s under pressure manager Louis van Gaal addressed players and staff and called for unity during the club’s Christmas lunch at their Carrington training ground.
After a run of three consecutive defeats in all competitions, which included Champions League elimination, the Dutchman said he hoped 2016 would be better.
I am told he spoke from the heart and was applauded warmly afterwards.
United face Stoke at the Britannia Stadium on Boxing Day with speculation that sacked Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho could be set for Old Trafford if Van Gaal suffers another damaging defeat.
Hassan Anfield: Arsenal to win the league. Leicester City 2nd. 3rd and 4th place are up for grabs. MCFC, MUFC, TOT, LFC or even CFC.
King Sal: Backing Leicester to do the unthinkable.
John McEnerney: A few smart buys (experience, versatility) in January and Wenger can set AFC up for the title. A closer and two decent utility men needed.
A 'closer', John? It's not Glengarry Glen Ross!
Tottenham will have to wait until mid-January before they get the green light to begin work on the £400m redevelopment of White Hart Lane to make it into a 61,100-seater stadium.
Haringey Council gave its approval last week, but the club must have the plans rubber-stamped by London mayor Boris Johnson, who is set to make his assessment next month. The mayor is in favour of the construction.
Work will begin in Spring 2016 once the club receives full permission.
Tottenham intend to play away from their home ground for the 2017-18 season "to enable a faster construction of the new stadium" before opening it in time for the 2018-19 campaign.Copyright: Tottenham
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Right then, time for you to have your say.
Who's going to win what looks like ti might turn out to be one of the most exciting Premier League campaigns in years.
Leicester are flying, Arsenal look genuine contenders, but Man City will still fancy their chances.
Then there's improving Tottenham, and Man United if Van Gaal (or Mourinho if the papers are to be believed ) can revive the Reds fortunes.
Let us know who you're backing by voting now.
Jeremain Lens is not a very happy man at the moment. The 28-year-old Holland international midfielder is considering his options after failing to nail down a starting spot at the Black Cats since joining last summer.
Lens told Fox Sports: "It's definitely annoying. I am not playing and I did not come to the Premier League to sit on the bench. Something will have to change anything. What, we will see though.
"A transfer in the winter? That could happen. Once the window is open, we will see what will happen."Copyright: AP
Tour de France organisers have announced that the 2017 edition of the race will begin in Dusseldorf in Germany.
London turned down the chance to host the 'Grand Depart'. It will be the fourth time Germany hosts the start of the Tour and the 22nd time in total that the 'Grand Depart' has taken place outside of France.
It will also be the third time in four years that the world's most prestigious cycle race begins outside of its homeland following 2014 in Leeds, England and 2015 in Utrecht, Netherlands.
It's all over in Pietermaritzburg, where England have beaten South Africa A by an innings and 91 runs.
Moeen Ali took 6-77 in South Africa A's second innings to wrap up victory.
England begin the Test series against South Africa in Durban on Boxing Day.
How long ago does Christmas Day 1998 feel for Aston Villa fans right now? Villa currently prop the rest of the Premier League up, five points adrift. But on 25 December 1998 they led everyone by three points.
However, a spectacular downturn in form in 1999 meant John Gregory's side fell from the top and tumbled down to sixth by the end of the season, a whopping 24 points behind winners Manchester United.
Leicester, you have been warned.Copyright: Getty Images
Can Aston Villa avoid relegation, Remi Garde is asked. They are currently 10 points adrift of safety.
Garde says: "Leicester were in a similar position to us last season. I must look at how and why they've done that. I'm working on that. I still believe we can do it.
"We need the crowd behind the team. I've already said that it's difficult for the fans to get behind the team when we're not playing well or don't score the first goal at Villa Park. Without the support of the fans it will be more and more difficult."
Remi Garde says he will be making the Aston Villa players train on Christmas morning.
"The players will train and then spend some time with their families," he says.
Aston Villa manager Remi Garde is asked about Saturday's opponents, West Ham.
He says: "West Ham are a solid side. They're very efficient away. They don't concede a lot of goals. They defend very well and are dangerous on the counter-attack. It will be tough.
"We'll need to find the balance of playing the home game with some good attacking play but wary of the counter-attack. Beating West Ham would be the best Christmas gift for myself and the players."
Remi Garde says: "In terms of bringing players in in January it is not as easy as that. I have some ideas. We need to be in a better situation than the one we're in today.
"It's hard to say how many points we'll need. I think 10 victories. That might not be enough. We must keep working hard."
Aston Villa manager Remi Garde is in the hotseat at the club's Bodymoor Heath training ground, ready to face the media ahead of the Boxing Day game against West Ham...Copyright: Aston Villa FC
With Leicester continuing to defy the odds by topping the Premier League, we are asking you; who will win this year's title?
To help you make an educated decision, we'll also provide you with some information on previous seasons, specifically relating to the teams who were top at Christmas and where they ultimately finished in May.
Recent history seems to be on Leicester's side because five times in the last six years, the team sitting top on 25 December have been there at the end. The one interloper? Manchester City climbed from third to first in the 2013-14 season after Liverpool had been top by goal difference at Christmas.Copyright: Getty Images
Mark Winstanley: I love all this talk of Leicester winning the league, but I think most fans are realistic. Survival is pretty much assured, which is our goal. Mid table a probability, which is great. Europe possibly, which would be fantastic. Champions League? Who knows, we can only dream!
Dave Heathcote: I think Arsenal will be the most consistent of any team matched by Leicester but think more experience and strength in depth will see them win by 3 to 5 points than Man City second and Leicester in third place and in the Champions League with Spurs a close 4th!
New Zealand captain Brendon McCullum has announced that he's set to retire from international cricket.
The 34-year-old batsman has confirmed that the two-Test series against Australia in February will be his last - meaning Kane Williamson will captain New Zealand at the World Twenty20 in India in March.
"I've loved my opportunity to play for, and captain the Black Caps. But all good things have to come to an end, and I'm just grateful for the wonderful experience," he said.
- Copyright: Getty Images
Wales scrum-half Gareth Davies has signed a new contract at Scarlets, tying him to the region until at least the end of the 2017-18 season.
The 25 year old scrum half made a name for himself on the global stage at the Rugby World Cup when he scored five tries in five games, earning him a place in the top five try scorers of the tournament.
"Interest from elsewhere has been flattering but I always wanted to remain here and continue my development at the region I've been supporting since I was a child," said Davies.
Appointing Jose Mourinho as manager would be a "desperate" move for Manchester United, says former Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher.
With boss Louis van Gaal on the ropes, sacked Chelsea coach Mourinho has been mentioned as a possible replacement at Old Trafford.
But Carragher said on Sky Sports: "Bringing young players through, no, he doesn't tick that box. Exciting football, cut-throat football, going for every game? No, he doesn't tick that box either.
"If that is someone that they go for, they are going to forget some of the principles that have made the club what is has been over the last 50, 60 years and they're that desperate to get back to winning trophies."
It's always nice to see sportsmen and women staying humble and remembering their roots.
Erm, then there's Floyd Mayweather.Copyright: Getty Images
The boxer posted this on Instagram, a shot of him lying on a blanket of cash.
Can't imagine Andy Murray doing that.Copyright: Getty Images
Of course, no discussion of the Premier League title race would be complete without leaders Leicester.
But what has happened to the team top at Christmas in previous seasons? Do they usually go on to lift the trophy?
You can find all that information - and plenty of 90s nostalgia - in this piece.
Happy birthday to Welsh rugby union star Leigh Halfpenny, who was born on this day in 1988.
Other sporting birthdays today include former England bowler Chris Old (born 1948), ex-Chelsea, Southampton and Romania defender Dan Petrescu (1967) - and former Bolton, Aston Villa and Celtic midfielder Alan Thompson (1973).Copyright: PA
- Copyright: Getty Images
Rangers sign striker Kris Boyd from Kilmarnock in a deal worth around £500,000.
And what a bargain it turned out to be, Boyd finishing top scorer in each of his four seasons at Ibrox - smashing 101 goals in 143 games and passing Henrik Larsson as the all-time top scorer in the Scottish Premier League.
The frontman, now 32, is still going strong, signing a three-year deal at Kilmarnock in the summer.
It's all going rather swimmingly for England in their final warm-up match before the Test series against South Africa.
They've got South Africa A 110-7 in their second innings, with the hosts needing 168 more runs just to make England bat again. Moeen Ali has taken three wickets in the second innings.
The Test series begins on Boxing Day.
If you're looking for any pointers before making your Premier League prediction, our man Phil McNulty has been running the rule over Arsenal's title prospects.
His verdict? "The victory over Manchester City delivered a psychological blow.
"It was a result and performance that will only add to Arsenal's confidence and self-belief as they search for that inner X-factor that has eluded them when they have been in the hunt for the big prize in the barren title years.
"The Gunners will never have a better chance."
With that in mind, we want to hear from you. Who is going to win the Premier League this season? Is it now Arsenal's title to lose? Do you see Man City lifting the trophy come May? Or can Leicester do the unthinkable?
Let us know via the usual channels: on Twitter at #bbcsportsday, by text to 81111, or via the BBC Sport Facebook page.
Agree with BBC Sport's chief football writer?
Before we get going, a quick butcher's at some of the main stories on the website this morning.
FA chairman Greg Dyke says the eight-year bans imposed on Sepp Blatter and Michel Platini spell "the end" of their involvement in football.
Athletics' governing body the IAAF is under fire after it emerged that a key figure planned to strategically delay naming doping cheats.
And the design Tokyo's Olympic Stadium for the 2020 Games has been scaled down amid worries over spiralling costs.
More on that story on the front page of French daily L'Equipe, which says Platini now faces "his final match".
The paper adds: "Platini is determined to fight to clean his reputation and try to run for the Fifa presidency."Copyright: L'Equipe
On the continent, one story dominates this morning: the eight-year bans handed to Sepp Blatter and Michel Platini.
Spanish paper Marca has this cartoon of the duo on the back page, with the headline reading simply: 'Out!'Copyright: Marca
Arsenal's victory also makes it on to the Sun's back page, but the paper leads on the story that Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal has been placed under increased security in response to his team's slump in form.
The Dutchman was barracked after Saturday's defeat to Norwich and there are fears the mood could turn even nastier at Old Trafford if the Red Devils lose their next home match against Chelsea on December 28.Copyright: The Sun
Prize for festive headline of the day goes to The Times, which also leads on last night's result.
The paper's Henry Winter says: "Wenger’s joyous celebration at the final whistle signalled how significant a victory this was.
"This was the sort of disciplined, intelligent and resilient performance that brings real hope of a first Premier League title since 2004."Copyright: The Times
The Independent leads on Arsenal's victory, describing the performance of midfield creator Mesut Ozil as "inspirational".
"Grit and determination, two qualities not usually associated with Arsenal, carried Arsène Wenger’s team over the line," says chief football writer Mark Ogden.
"The question now is whether the same combination can carry them to the Premier League title."Copyright: Independent
Hello and welcome to Tuesday's edition of Sportsday.
A bumper day in store, with plenty of reaction to last night's big result in the Premier League and five press conferences looking ahead to the Boxing Day fixtures.
As ever, we'll also bring you the latest football news and the best of social media. But first, let's have a look at this morning's papers.
- Copyright: AFP
It was one of the biggest games of the Premier League season so far last night, and for Arsenal fans, it didn't disappoint.
Goals from Theo Walcott and Olivier Giroud saw the Gunners beat Manchester City 2-1 to move four points clear of their title rivals - with only surprise leaders Leicester ahead of them.
Could 2016 be the year Arsenal end their title drought?