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.

Mourinho reportedly close to Man Utd contract extension

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Jose Mourinho is scheduling an extended stay at Manchester United.

[ MORE: Donovan unveiled by Leon ]

The 54-year-old has a contract through the end of next season, the dreaded third at a club for Mourinho, but reports say United is keen to keep him around through 2021.

Mourinho has not tasted a fourth season with a club despite winning league titles at Porto, Chelsea, Inter Milan, and Real Madrid.

The 2019-20 season at Old Trafford would be Mourinho’s fourth. According to the BBC:

Talks have progressed well and it is now just a matter of time before Mourinho commits to remain at Old Trafford beyond the expiry of his present deal in 2019.

Somehow, this feels it should be deemed another loss for Antonio Conte.

Barkley ineligible to make Chelsea debut in FA Cup replay

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Ross Barkley was expected — and himself expected — to make his Chelsea debut on Wednesday, when the Blues host Championship side Norwich City in a third-round FA Cup replay at Stamford Bridge.

Alas, the 24-year-old English midfielder has been ruled ineligible due to a lesser-known and -applied rules surrounding transfers and player registration.

[ MORE: Tuesday’s 3rd-round replay roundup | Wednesday preview ]

Barkley completed his move from Everton to Chelsea, for $20 million, on Jan. 5, the day before Chelsea and Norwich drew 0-0 at Carrow Road. In order to be eligible for Wednesday’s replay, Barkley is required to have completed his transfer prior to the noon cut-off the day prior to the original tie. While the time of official approval is unknown, Barkley’s move wasn’t announced by the club until after 5 p.m. in the UK.

As such, Chelsea will attempt to set up a behind-closed-doors friendly this week, in order to provide Barkley a bit of game action as he builds fitness and sharpness ahead of a potential debut against Brighton & Hove Albion on Saturday (Watch live, 7:30 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com). Barkley hasn’t seen a single minute of first-team action this season after suffering a serious hamstring injury in the summer.

FA Cup preview: Three more PL sides face 3rd-round replays

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Three more Premier League sides, including a top-four fighter, attempt to join a dozen of their top-flight contemporaries in the fourth round of the FA Cup on Wednesday…

[ MORE: Tuesday’s 3rd-round replay roundup ]

Chelsea and Swansea City host Championship opposition in the form of Norwich City and Wolverhampton Wanderers, respectively, while Bournemouth will make the 500-mile roundtrip to take on League One side Wigan Athletic.

The Blues, who now sit fourth in the PL after their disappointing 0-0 draw with Leicester City, could manage only a scoreless draw with the Canaries at Carrow Road earlier this month. They are winless in their last four games across all competitions — all draws — including their League Cup semifinal first-leg draw with Arsenal last week; the last three of those all finished without a single goal scored. Chelsea, who are tied with Liverpool with the fourth-most FA Cups in their history (7), lost out to Arsenal in last season’s final at Wembley Stadium.

Swansea are undoubtedly the side on highest Cupset alert, as Wolves are the runaway leaders and champions-elect in the Championship (10 points clear after 27 of 46 rounds played), thus able to devote more attention to the FA Cup than the typical second-division side. With the two sides separated by just a single place in the English footballing pyramid (Swansea, 20th in the PL; Wolves, 1st in the Championship), they appear destined to swap places by the end of May.

Meanwhile, Bournemouth’s punishment for conceding a pair of early goals to a side currently 32 places below them in the pyramid, is the long, midweek trip from the south coast to the DW Stadium in the northwest of England. It was the Premier Leaguers who needed a two second-half goals, including Steve Cook‘s 90th-minute equalizer, to draw level at home in the first meeting.

Tuesday’s FA Cup replay actionFULL ROUNDUP

Leicester City 2-0 Fleetwood Town
West Ham United 1-0 (AET) Shrewsbury Town
Mansfield Town 1-4 Cardiff City
Sheffield Wednesday 2-0 Carlisle United
Reading 3-0 Stevenage

Agent: 37-year-old Ronaldinho has retired

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SAO PAULO (AP) The brother and agent of 2005 Ballon d’Or winner Ronaldinho announced Tuesday that the former Brazil and Barcelona playmaker has retired from football.

Roberto Assis made the announcement to Brazilian media on behalf of the 37-year-old midfielder, who played his last professional match in 2015 for Brazil’s Fluminense.

“Ronnie’s professional career is over. He wants to be a football ambassador, do charity, and work with his friends in music from now on,” Assis told The Associated Press.

Assis hopes to schedule some farewell matches for Ronaldinho after the World Cup in Russia, which ends July 15. The initial plan is to play games in Brazil, Europe and Asia and to also get Brazil’s national team involved, Assis said.

Last July, Ronaldinho said on the sidelines of a friendly in Chechnya that was he was “too old” to return to action.

The Brazilian’s decorated career also includes one World Cup title (2002), one Champions League victory (2006) and two Spanish league titles with Barcelona, and two FIFA world player of the year awards (2004 and 2005).

Ronaldinho started his professional career at Gremio in southern Brazil in 1998. He left for Paris Saint-Germain in 2001 and was signed by Barcelona two seasons later.

At the Camp Nou, he was the engine of a team that took Barca back to the limelight. However, after a series of club trophies, Ronaldinho’s career took a downturn. He was often accused by Brazilian and Spanish media of lacking professionalism, despite his mentoring of a then youthful Lionel Messi.

In 2008, with Messi then leading Barcelona, Ronaldinho left for AC Milan. Despite being part of a team that won Serie A in 2011, he failed to reach his previous heights as a player.

When returning home became a real option, Ronaldinho frustrated Gremio’s efforts to re-sign him and joined Flamengo instead.

Disappointing performances in Rio de Janeiro took him to Atletico Mineiro, a club that then was more often fighting against relegation than for titles.

Yet a more mature Ronaldinho took Atletico to a different level.

In his last great run, Ronaldinho carried Atletico with his superb passes and dazzling dribbles to second place in the 2012 Brazilian Championship.

A year later, he was the key to his club lifting its first Copa Libertadores, South America’s most prestigious club trophy, but his hopes of playing at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil were dashed.

Ronaldinho left to play for Mexico’s Queretaro in 2014-15, but was mostly on the bench.

He played his last seven matches as a professional for Fluminense, though his performances were a far cry from his best days in Spain.

Now living in Rio, he has appeared in advertisements all over the world since leaving Fluminense.