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Italy roundup: Buffon dismissal sees Juventus’ win streak end at 12

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Three months later, Juventus has finally dropped points again in Serie A, with the method of their Saturday draw underscoring the remarkable nature of the 12-match run. After Gianluigi Buffon’s 24th minute dismissal at Lazio, however, the Bianconeri finally had a scenario they couldn’t overcome. The two-time defending champions, eight points up on second place going into the weekend, would be held to a 1-1 draw.

As mud as any of the win they’ve collected since losing at Fiorentina on Oct. 20, the disappointing result did the holders’ credit. Down a man for over an hour, Juventus faced circumstances that make most teams fold. They were on the road, down goal, and facing a team that had gathered momentum since head coach Edy Reja’s return. Lazio may not be a title contender, but with those advantages, Reja’s team should have been closed out the game.

Juventus, however, refused to play along. Controlling the ball while keeping the Aquile without an open play shot on goal for 76th minutes, the  Old Lady’s disadvantages disappeared for much of the match. Once Fernando Llorente equalized in the 60th minute, Juventus seemed destined to their streak, 10-men or no. If the final 30 minutes played out like the match’s middle third, Buffon’s dismissal would become a footnote on Juve’s quest to tie Inter’s all-time record (17 straight wins).

By match’s end, however, Lazio had woken up. After wasting their advantages for most of the day, the home side finally pushed, hoping to build on Candreva’s opener. Ultimately, and thanks to Marco Storari (Buffon’s replacement), there wasn’t enough time. Be it through Juve’s skill or Lazio’s desire to preserve their one-goal lead, the favorites salvaged a result, albeit one that ended their three-month run.

When Roma beat Verona on Sunday, reducing Juve’s lead to six, faint chatter about a possible title race began. Unfortunately for hopefuls, Buffon isn’t going to get sent off every weekend. And the one time he did, Juventus was still able to salvage a result.

Even when not winning, Juventus looks like a champion.

Elsewhere in Italy

  • Napoli 1, Chievo 1 – Head coach Rafa Benítez claimed Napoli were unlucky to be drawn in one of his team’s least convincing performances of the season. Were it not for defender Raul Albiol, they wouldn’t have gotten that much. The Spaniard converted a rebound from close range in the 88th minute to salvage a result at the San Paolo.
  • Verona 1, Roma 3 – Goals from Adem Ljajic, Gervinho, and Francesco Totti helped the Giallorossi post their third straight victory, allowing Rudi Garcia’s team to gain two points on the seemingly title-bound Bianconeri.
  • Livorno 3, Sassuolo 1 – A battle of two relegation-entangled squads saw Leandro Greco, Paulinho, and Marco Benassi put the home side up three by the 26th minute. With the loss, Sassuolo, drops to 18th.
  • Parma 1, Udinese 0 – The match featured only one goal, Amauri’s 35th minute winner, but the post-game was defined by the number four. Parma’s fourth straight victory pushes the club to seventh place, while Udinese’s only three points off the drop after their fourth straight loss.
  • Cagliari 1, AC Milan 2 – Approaching full-time, the process Milan had shown in Clarence Seedorf’s coaching debut had been fully blunted, near misses seeing the Rossoneri down 1-0 after losing mid-week to Udinese. In the last three minutes, though, goals by Mario Balotelli and Giampaolo Pazzini gave Seedorf his second victory in as many league games.
  • Torino 1, Atalanta 0 – After having a third minute goal waved off, Alessio Cerci converted from the spot on the hour, leaving Torino one point back of fifth place.
  • Sampdoria 1, Bologna 1 – A late penalty drawn by Lazaros Christodolopoulos was converted by Alessandro Diamanti, pulling back Manolo Gibbiadini’s 61st minute opener.
  • Inter Milan 0, Catania 0 – A listless match sees the Nerazzurri’s winless streak reach four, with an eight-point gab still separating Walter Mazzarri’s team from fourth place Fiorentina.
  • Fiorentina 3, Genoa 3 – Alberto Aquilani’s hat trick had la Viola up going into the match’s final quarter-hour, but Sebastian De Maio’s 77th minute equalizer salvaged a point for Gian Piero Gasperini’s men.

Others

Lazio 1, Juventus 1

Standings

Team GP W D L GF GA GD Home Away PTS
Juventus 21 18 2 1 51 15 36 10-0-0 8-2-1 56
Roma 21 15 5 1 45 11 34 9-2-0 6-3-1 50
Napoli 21 13 5 3 44 23 21 7-3-1 6-2-2 44
Fiorentina 21 12 5 4 40 23 17 6-3-1 6-2-3 41
Inter Milan 21 8 9 4 38 24 14 5-5-1 3-4-3 33
Torino 21 8 8 5 34 27 7 5-5-1 3-3-4 32
Parma 21 8 8 5 32 27 5 5-4-2 3-4-3 32
Verona 21 10 2 9 35 34 1 8-0-3 2-2-6 32
AC Milan 21 7 7 7 34 31 3 5-3-2 2-4-5 28
Lazio 21 7 7 7 27 29 -2 6-2-2 1-5-5 28
Genoa 21 7 6 8 23 27 -4 5-3-2 2-3-6 27
Atalanta 21 7 3 11 21 30 -9 6-2-2 1-1-9 24
Sampdoria 21 5 7 9 25 32 -7 3-4-4 2-3-5 22
Cagliari 21 4 9 8 20 31 -11 4-4-3 0-5-5 21
Udinese 21 6 2 13 20 32 -12 4-1-5 2-1-8 20
Chievo 21 4 6 11 16 27 -11 2-2-6 2-4-5 18
Bologna 21 3 9 9 20 36 -16 2-6-3 1-3-6 18
Sassuolo 21 4 5 12 22 46 -24 3-1-6 1-4-6 17
Livorno 21 4 4 13 19 37 -18 3-3-5 1-1-8 16
Catania 21 3 5 13 13 37 -24 3-4-3 0-1-10 14

“Ronaldo, Messi too old to play for us” say Bundesliga club

Barcelona's Lionel Messi,foreground, escapes Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo during the Spanish La Liga soccer match between FC Barcelona and Real Madrid at the Camp Nou in Barcelona, Spain, Saturday, Dec. 3, 2016. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)
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RB Leipzig currently sits top of the Bundesliga and they’ve taken the German soccer scene by storm.

[ MORE: Ranking the PL superstars

They’ve also upset plenty of traditionalists in Germany with the Red Bull energy drink company bankrolling their rise through the German leagues and after being founded in 2009, just seven years later they are top of the Bundesliga, three points clear of Bayern Munich after 13 games of the season.

Now, Leipzig may have upset Cristiano Ronald and Lionel Messi.

Speaking to the Associated Press, the man who has been plotting Leipzig’s success since 2012, sporting director Ralf Rangnick, had the following to say about Messi and Ronaldo hypothetically signing for Leipzig.

“It would be absurd to think that it could work with them here,” Rangnick said. “They are both too old and too expensive.”

Wow.

Ronaldo is 32 and Messi is 29 and both seem to have at least five or more years left in the tank for Real and Barca respectively.

However, Rangnick’s comments are perhaps more about the make up of Leipzig’s team which is the youngest in the Bundesliga and as the architect of this squad he has purposefully constructed a strong youth element which has helped his side rise from the fourth division and up into the German top-flight.

RB Leipzig is widely disliked in Germany for being owned by Red Bull who have spent huge sums of money, and now they’ve just blown their chance of ever signing Ronaldo or Messi.

Oh wait, they didn’t want them anyway…

One man takes blame for Swansea’s poor season

SWANSEA, WALES - DECEMBER 20:  Swansea Chairman Huw Jenkins (C) attends the Barclays Premier League match between Swansea City and West Ham United at the Liberty Stadium on December 20, 2015 in Swansea, Wales.  (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)
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Huw Jenkins has been with Swansea City through the good times and the bad.

He is blaming himself for the recent bad spell.

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The long-time chairman of the Swans — Jenkins was part of a consortium which saved the south Wales club back in 2002 when it was teetering on the brink of extinction — has been at the forefront of their incredible rise from the fourth-tier to the Premier League plus becoming League Cup winners and also competing in the knockout stages of the UEFA Europa League.

Yet, this season Swansea’s progress has stalled as they currently sit two points adrift at the foot of the Premier League table and three points from safety with a massive relegation six-points against Sunderland at the Liberty Stadium coming up this Saturday (Watch live, 10 a.m. ET online via NBCSports.com).

Speaking about their struggles, Jenkins put the blame squarely on his shoulders.

“I fully understand their feelings, being a supporter myself,” Jenkins said. “When things don’t go well somebody has to take the blame and I fully accept the responsibility. But let’s not forget there’s a long way to go this season, and we’ve got a lot of choices to make between now and then to make sure we survive in this league.”

The local businessman has told it like it is, as well as admiting some errors with player recruitment over the summer as both Andre Ayew and Ashley Williams were allowed to leave and you easily argue they weren’t sufficiently replaced at the Liberty Stadium.

All of this has led to current manager Bob Bradley (he replaced Italian coach Francesco Guidolin after the Swans picks up just four points from their opening seven games of the season) reportedly already being under pressure, as a report in the Daily Telegraph suggested that a huge review is currently taking place at the request of American owners Steve Kaplan and Jason Levein who took sole control of the club in July.

Jenkins, who has been left in control of day-to-day matters by Kaplan and Levein, has also been taking plenty of stick from the fans for selling 8.2 percent of his 13.2 percent stake in the club which allowed the Americans to take their holdings up to 68 percent and take full ownership of the club. The local businessman made himself just over $10 million in the process which angered many. All is not well on and off the pitch in south Wales right now.

With Bradley’s team conceding 19 goals in his seven PL games in charge so far, the obvious area where they have to improve is in central defense. If given time, there’s no doubt Bradley can improve that but the most concerning thing for the Swans is the quality of players, especially defenders, they currently possess.

Until that changes (i.e. acquistions in the January transfer window) then Bradley’s hands are tied.

Jenkins believes the club will be able to spend big in the upcoming transfer window and boy will Swansea need to do some shrewd, and extensive, business if they’re going to drag themselves out of trouble and up the Premier League table.

The good news out of all of this is the next six games are pivotal in their season. Between now and Jan. 2 Bradley’s side face Sunderland, West Ham and Bournemouth at home, plus have trips to West Brom, Middlesbrough and Crystal Palace. All of those games are against direct relegation rivals and quite simply the Swans must win at least three or four to give themselves a fighting chance of staying up.

Report: Alexis Sanchez offered $505,000 per week to play in China

LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 24:  Alexis Sanchez of Arsenal celebrates scoring his sides first goal during the Premier League match between Arsenal and Chelsea at the Emirates Stadium on September 24, 2016 in London, England.  (Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images)
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This is outrageous.

Alexis Sanchez, 27, has reportedly been offered a contract worth over $505,000 a week (that’s around $26.2 million a year) to play in China.

[ MORE: Ranking the PL superstars ]

The Daily Mail claims that several clubs from the Chinese Super League have already reached out to Sanchez and have offered the huge contract to try and entice him to play in China.

With just 18 months left on his current contract at Arsenal, the Chilean forward is in the form of his life with 11 Premier League goals in the opening 14 games of the season. That included a hat trick in the 5-1 demolition of West Ham last weekend which underlined just how important “El Nino Maravilla” is to the Gunners.

Reports on Tuesday claimed that both Sanchez and Mesut Ozil (the latter also only has 18 months left on his current contract) want over $370,000 per week from Arsenal if they’re going to sign new deals. That would put them in line with the top earner in the Premier League, Manchester United’s Paul Pogba, but it is believed the Gunners do not want to break their wage structure and pay any player over $252,000 per week.

In truth, in world soccer right now only Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi are above Sanchez with the Chilean forward strutting his stuff out wide and up top in a center forward role.

Ronaldo is currently paid $34.3 million per year by Real Madrid and Messi is paid $42.9 million a year by Barcelona. So, you can see why Sanchez’s head is being turned as he continues to churn out world-class displays for Arsenal and huge offers are coming his way.

With Arsene Wenger‘s future uncertain as his contract runs out at the end of this season, if he can’t entice Sanchez and Ozil to remain at the Emirates Stadium by this summer then Arsenal will have to think about selling both of their attacking superstars or else they’ll lose them for nothing in the summer of 2018.

And when it comes to China there’s no real surprise that this kind of money is being offered to Sanchez, if the reports are true.

Over the past 12 months a huge influx of foreign stars have joined the CSL with China’s President Xi Jinping a huge soccer fan and eager to not only grow the domestic game but links with European clubs and also develop top players for the Chinese national team moving forward with world-class facilities popping up and soccer is now on the school curriculum nationwide too.

Graziano Pelle. Jackson Martinez. Hulk. Ramires. Alex Teixeira. They’ve all joined the CSL in recent years on huge wages. Is Sanchez the next man to make the move if Arsenal can’t pay him what he wants, and probably deserves?

Man United announce squad for crunch Europa League clash

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 29: Memphis Depay of Manchester United in action during the Premier League match between Manchester United and Burnley at Old Trafford on October 29, 2016 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Mark Robinson/Getty Images)
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Jose Mourinho has named his 19-man squad for Manchester United’s final group game in the UEFA Europa League.

There are some surprising omissions.

[ MORE: Europa League schedule ]

Both Memphis Depay and Morgan Schneiderlin aren’t included in the squad for the game at Zorya Luhansk in the Ukrainian city of Odessa, as Zorya cannot play games in their home stadium due to the ongoing conflict with Russia in eastern Ukraine.

United need a draw to guarantee their passage into the Round of 32 in the Europa League but a defeat to Zorya would see the Red Devils crash out of Europe’s second-tier club competition.

With Chris Smalling and Luke Shaw out injured they haven’t traveled, plus Bastian Schweinsteiger is ineligible after not being registered for the tournament and veterans Michael Carrick and Antonio Valencia have been rested. It is the exclusion of Memphis, Schneiderlin and Matteo Darmian which will raise eyebrows and it suggests they have no future at Old Trafford under Mourinho.

[ MORE: Europa League standings ]  

Plenty of teams such as Everton and Fenerbache have already shown interest in signing Memphis on loan in January and the Dutch winger is way down the pecking order in Mourinho’s forward options. As for Schneiderlin, with Pogba’s arrival, Ander Herrera‘s good form and even Schweinsteiger getting some minutes recently, his time at United looks up.

Darmian also looks set for a move with Timothy Fosu-Mensah preferred for this trip and it is telling that Memphis, Schneiderlin and Darmian are all seen as some of the biggest disappointments of Louis Van Gaal‘s era. Mourinho obviously wants to clean house and he is sending them the message loud and clear that they aren’t needed, even if he doesn’t say it publicly.

Below is the full squad for United’s trip to Ukraine, which kicks of at 1 p.m. ET on Thursday.

Man United squad vs. Zorya Luhansk: De Gea, Romero, Johnstone; Fosu-Mensah, Jones, Bailly, Rojo, Blind, Young; Fellaini, Herrera, Pogba, Lingard, Mata, Mkhitaryan; Martial, Rashford, Rooney, Ibrahimovic.