Shipped from abroad, Italy: For Juventus, this undefeated thing is really happening

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Because most of the season featured Juventus’s case as the least impressive undefeated team in history, most expected the Old Lady to be dealt a loss by this point. On Sunday, however, Juve not only transcended their final remaining top-half hurdle, they did so with style.

Arturo Vidal, one of Europe’s most astute summer acquisitions, had the Old Lady up two within eight minutes on rival Roma. When Maarten Stekelenburg saw red (and Andrea Pirlo put home the rebound of the ensuing penalty kick), Juventus had guaranteed three points after less than a half hour’s work. A goal just after halftime from Claudio Marchisio (who drew the foul on Stekelenburg) gave Juventus a 4-0 victory, their biggest home win of the season.

After a February-March run that saw Juventus draw five of six (and give up the league lead), Juve’s won five in a row, outscoring their opponents 13-1. They’re now up three points in holders Milan, the 10-man Rossoneri needing a 90th minute goal from Zlatan Ibrahimovic to salvage a draw from visiting Bologna. The results were enough to have Milan coach Max Allegri conceding Juventus are now favorites.

Sitting three points clear, the Old Lady need only navigate a field of minnows to claim both a title and an undefeated season. The highest ranked team left on their schedule is 14th-placed Atalanta. The rest of their opponents: 16th, 18th, 19th, and 20th.

The odds of getting through May 13th are finally starting to turn in their failure. If you give them a 90 percent chance of at least drawing each remaining match, they’re likely to make it through their finale without a loss (56 percent probability). Any lower than that, however, and Juventus are still running uphill.

Elsewhere in Italy

All results

Parma 3-0 Cagliari
Chievo 0-0 Udinese
Catania 2-0 Atalanta
Napoli 2-0 Novara
Fiorentina 0-0 Internazionale
Milan 1-1 Bologna
Lazio 1-1 Lecce
Cesena 2-2 Palermo
Genoa 1-4 Siena
Juventus 4-0 Roma

Races

Champions League: Juventus (71 pts/33 gp), Milan (68/33), Lazio (55/33)

Europa League: Udinese (52/33), Napoli (51/33), Roma (50/33)

Stuff that stuck out:

  • Erik Lamela will miss three games after spitting in the face of Juventus defender Stephan Lichtsteiner on Sunday. The 20-year-old Argentine, bought from River Plate last summer, has three goals in 27 appearances during a contentious first season in Italy.
  • For most, Genoa stole the headlines from Juventus on Sunday. Now sitting just above the drop, Genoa were dealt an embarrassing home loss, one which saw ultras jump on to the pitch and delay the match by half and hour as they demanded their players give up their shirts. Select fans have since received five match bans, Genoa will play their last two home games behind closed doors, and the club has fired coach Alberto Malesani (for the second time this year).
  • Amid rumors that Italy national team coach Cesare Prandelli will join them this summer, Inter Milan has continued their matriculation toward Europe. While Sunday’s draw at Fiorentina could be seen as a missed opportunity, the Nerazzurri have pulled within one point of a European spot (provided Napoli stays in the top five). Even more reason for hope: Inter kept their first clean sheet under interim boss Andrea Stramaccioni.
  • Napoli’s win over Novara snapped their three-game losing streak, a span which (according to star striker Edinson Cavani) had the club on the edge of crisis. Now the team that impressed so many in this year’s Champions League is only four points back of Serie A’s last UCL spot.
  • The Cavani rumors, however, ignited last week when the Uruguayan refused to confirm he’d be with the club next season. Saying such things are club business, Cavani did little to quell rumors that he could move on this summer. One of the world’s best at his position, his sale would represent a huge payday for Napoli. Just a hunch, but Pep Guardiola could see him as a missing element for a Barça side in need of options.

Up next: Mid-week action starts on Tuesday with two games, the match of the round seeing Inter Milan visit Udinese for what both sides could see as a must-win.

Extra: Here’s video of the pitch invasion at the Luigi Ferraris. Nothing to see here. Genoa players approached the whole affair with the detached resignation of a team that could be beat at home 4-1 by a mid-table side.

Wenger, Kroenke meet; Arsenal board will be told decision Tues.

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Wenger watch is entering its final hours.

The BBC is reporting that Arsenal owner Stan Kroenke met with longtime manager Arsene Wenger on Monday to discuss the Frenchman’s future, and that the decision was going to be made together.

[ MORE: Wenger would pay Sanchez, Ozil ]

It seems almost certain that Wenger is going to come back to the Emirates Stadium. From the BBC:

The outcome is unclear but the decision rests solely with Wenger and Kroenke and will be relayed to directors at a Tuesday board meeting.

Fresh terms were agreed in principle some months ago, but nothing is signed.

There have been questions about whether Wenger would accept a sporting director being placed above him, and if Kroenke believes the repercussions of keeping the boss would negatively impact the business.

Barcelona to keep goalkeeper Ter Stegen until 2022

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Barcelona says it has reached a deal to extend the contract of goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen until June 2022.

The club said the new agreement, which has a buyout clause of 180 million euros ($201 million), will be signed on Tuesday.

[ MORE: Yaya to stay at Man City ]

Ter Stegen has been with the club since 2014, helping it win nine titles in three seasons.

The German goalkeeper has played 93 matches with Barcelona, conceding 90 goals in 71 wins, 10 draws and 12 losses.

Barcelona has already renewed the contracts of Javier Mascherano, Luis Suarez, Neymar, Sergio Busquets and Ivan Rakitic. It is still working on new deals for Andres Iniesta and Lionel Messi.

Report: Wenger ready to pay Ozil, Sanchez club record deals

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Arsenal knows its departure from the UEFA Champions League has to be a short one, and that keeping its two best attackers around is imperative.

That’s why Arsene Wenger is preparing to make Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez the top paid players in Arsenal history, according to a report from The Telegraph’s Jeremy Wilson.

The contract status of both players has been a touchy one this season, and Sanchez especially has been linked with some of the biggest clubs in Europe (including London neighbors Chelsea).

[ MORE: Yaya to stay at Man City ]

But perhaps the Gunners’ FA Cup triumph over Chelsea has Ozil and Sanchez feeling good vibes about the Emirates Stadium set, and Arsenal is ready to pounce. According to the report:

Wenger has told the board that he thinks he can win the Premier League if this group stays together and is supplemented by no more than two or three key additions. Ozil is understood already to have been offered more than £250,000 a week and the club are ready to go to around £280,000 for both him and Sanchez.

The Gunners need both players healthy and happy heading into next season, and appropriate additions as well (A top striker is a must. Again). Wage structure is important, but Arsenal will have a blessing in disguise if another player can make a legit case he deserves to be paid like Ozil and Sanchez any time soon.

West Ham, Everton, and the superstar striker’s need for the Champions League

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Come up with a list of active elite level strikers, and it’s likely to be a short one filled with names from UEFA Champions League clubs.

Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Diego Costa, Luis Suarez, Robert Lewandowski, Edinson Cavani, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Sergio Aguero, Gonzalo Higuain, Harry Kane, even Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

Rarely do names like these move to a non-UCL club while in their prime, and it’s just as uncommon to see them stay at clubs which have failed to qualify for the UCL.

The money, the prestige, the endorsements; All are amplified by the world stage. Given the massive import of their domestic stage and spotlight, Premier League sides have bucked this trend on occasion — see Romelu Lukaku — but it’s the exception to the rule.

That’s what puts an ambitious club like West Ham United between a rock and a hard place. The Irons have been vocal about their desires to bring in a top-end striker, and it’s likely they’d be happy to spend what it takes to attract Alexandre Lacazette, Aubameyang, or Cavani to town.

Lyon reportedly rejected a $45 million bid for Lacazette last season, admitting that ultimately the player’s desires would determine his future. Higuain, too, was linked to chairman David Gold’s wallet before moving to Juventus. Carlos Bacca also saw his future connected to the Irons.

Instead, Gold landed Andre Ayew from Swansea, and had to hope Andy Carroll could stay healthy or Enner Valencia would deliver. Not a striker, Dimitri Payet apparently decided to skip town soon after West Ham’s Europa League exit at the hands of Astra Giurgiu.

Now it’s Kelechi Iheanacho being linked to the London Stadium, another hopeful swing from the Irons that points a strong finger at the problem: West Ham can be as ambitious as it likes, but it’s going to need a miracle to pull an elite striker to London without European football.

And it shouldn’t happen, but what if Everton is bumped from the UEL in the third qualifying round or playoff next year? Will Lukaku follow Payet’s lead and sink another team from joining the discussion? Though an argument can be made it’s better for Everton to lose those summer games, the Toffees very much need to succeed in the UEL qualifying and also show signs of strength in the early PL docket. That’s the unforgiving life of sitting on the outskirts of the powerful tier.

Every team at every level is searching for the next elite striker. Some, like West Ham, will need to luck into a young buck on the rise or a flawed striker finding his potential. And how do they hold onto that player, one who will have alerted the big boys to his arrival, without qualifying for Europe? It’s improbable.

The ability of teams like Chelsea and Liverpool to compete for a European slot in the PL standings thanks to missing out on the UCL the year before signals hope for clubs like Everton and West Ham. And five Premier League sides competing in the UCL this year could extend an invitation to stay longer in the Top Seven discussion for sides like Southampton and Leicester City, too.

So this summer’s striker captures are huge for Slaven Bilic and David Gold. This is a window the league’s “next group” won’t have open annually, and West Ham’s hopes of barging into the discussion again hinge on who shows up by August.