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Serie A: Higuain scores twice to send Juve 9 points clear again

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MILAN (AP) Gonzalo Higuain is coming back into form at just the right time for Juventus.

Higuain hadn’t scored for five matches before netting two against former club Napoli midweek as Juventus progressed to the Italian Cup final. And the forward netted another double to fire the Bianconeri past Chievo Verona 2-0 in Serie A on Saturday.

Juventus moved nine points clear of second-placed Roma, which visits Bologna on Sunday.

Massimiliano Allegri will be hoping Higuain can make it three out of three when Juventus hosts Barcelona in the first leg of the Champions League quarterfinals on Tuesday.

“It will be a very difficult match in the Champions League, we’re facing a really great team, but we have to remain calm and get to it in top condition,” Higuain said. “As we respect them, they respect us, too.”

He broke the deadlock in the 23rd minute, thanks to a fantastic assist from Paulo Dybala, who skipped down the right flank before pulling back for his teammate to fire into the far bottom corner.

Higuain nearly doubled his tally on the hour mark with a swiveling effort which flew just past the right corner.

He had other chances to score before he finally got his second, six minutes from time, after more good work from Dybala in picking out Stephan Lichtsteiner, who crossed for Higuain to control and curl into the bottom right corner.

It was Juventus captain Gianluigi Buffon’s 616th Serie A appearance, moving him to second on the all-time list behind Paolo Maldini, who retired after 647.

Team GP W D L GF GA GD Home Away PTS
 Juventus 31 25 2 4 62 20 42 16-0-0 9-2-4 77
 Roma 30 22 2 6 66 26 40 14-0-1 8-2-5 68
 Napoli 30 19 7 4 69 33 36 10-4-2 9-3-2 64
 Lazio 30 18 6 6 52 31 21 10-2-3 8-4-3 60
 Atalanta 31 18 5 8 52 34 18 10-2-3 8-3-5 59
 Inter Milan 30 17 4 9 56 33 23 10-2-3 7-2-6 55
 AC Milan 30 16 6 8 43 33 10 10-2-3 6-4-5 54
 Fiorentina 30 14 9 7 47 37 10 8-7-0 6-2-7 51

Atalanta’s hopes of sneaking into the Champions League diminished as it was held by Sassuolo, leaving it a point behind fourth-placed Lazio and five behind Napoli, which occupies the last Champions League spot.

Bryan Cristante cancelled out Lorenzo Pellegrini’s opener for Sassuolo but the hosts couldn’t snatch a winner.

Lazio hosts Napoli on Sunday.

“Other teams would have collapsed after going behind in such matches,” Atalanta coach Gian Piero Gasperini said. “We can have a bit of regret that we didn’t take our chances in the second half, but the result still allows us to fight for Europe until the end of the season.”

Sassuolo took a surprising lead in the first half when Mattia Caldara made a rare mistake and the Atalanta defender was robbed of the ball by Pellegrini, who sprinted forward, rounded goalkeeper Etrit Berisha, and slotted home.

Alejandro Gomez scored a hat trick in Atalanta’s 5-0 win over Genoa last weekend and he was instrumental in the equalizer in the 73rd, floating in a free kick for Cristante to head into the back of the net.

Gomez, who hit the post early, put in another great cross moments after the equalizer but Sassuolo goalkeeper Andrea Consigli pulled off a good save to deny Alberto Grassi.

Caldara almost went from villain to hero but Consigli finger-tipped his effort away.

Empoli was not safe from relegation after being held by bottom club Pescara.

Empoli was 17th, six points above Crotone, which hosts Inter Milan on Sunday.

Pescara remained nine points behind Empoli. Palermo was the other team in the bottom three.

Adidas reveals away kits for Mexico, Argentina, 7 other World Cup squads

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Fans of El Tri, La Albiceleste, Die Mannschaft and more can now get their hands on another set of 2018 World Cup jerseys.

Adidas unveiled the latest designs for the away kits of nine World Cup squads, including Mexico, Argentina and the defending champions Germany, with some of the team’s star players modeling the kits. Carlos Vela, Lionel Messi and Toni Kroos are all pictured in Adidas’ photo shoots with the new kits, and the uniforms are inspired by the kits worn at previous World Cups.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Sweden, Colombia, Japan, Belgium and the host nation Russia are also included.

“For adidas, the World Cup has always been the stage to showcase some of our most iconic products, innovations and designs,” Juergen Rank, Senior Design Director said in a statement. “Many of these classic designs remain hugely popular with fans, and we want to continue to celebrate them while introducing new innovations, combining authenticity with progression.

“The new official World Cup away kits feature both the latest product technologies to ensure peak performance on the pitch and easily identifiable classic looks, making them perfectly suited to both the stadium and the street.”

Check out the latest kit release from Adidas below.

Ronaldo: “I always believe I am the best”

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You’ve got to appreciate the over-sized ego of Cristiano Ronaldo, even if it is deserved.

The 33-year-old Real Madrid striker was bestowed the 2017 Player of the Year award from the Portugal FA, earning 65 percent of the vote. But more than winning yet another trophy to add to his burgeoning case was what he told the media after accepting the award.

“We have to defend what is ours because there is always a Portuguese in the fight (for the top awards),” Ronaldo said, via AS. “I always believe and say that I am the best, whatever they say, and then I show it in the field. We are in the fight year after year.”

Ronaldo did score 42 goals last year for Real Madrid and has scored 18 goals in 2018 alone already for Los Blancos as the club look to go back-to-back-to-back in the UEFA Champions League.

Miazga: “We’re all ready to make an impression” with USMNT

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Last October, for reasons unknown, Matt Miazga didn’t make the U.S. Men’s National Team squad for its final two World Cup qualifiers.

Five months later, he’s risen to the top of the centerback depth chart.

[MORE: Digging into the USMNT roster]

The hulking centerback spoke on Tuesday as the USMNT started off its training camp in Cary, N.C., noting that the youth-laden squad wanted to make an impression to stay in the picture moving forward. With four years until the next World Cup and still more than a year until competitive matches, there is still plenty of shuffling and expanding of the player pool to do before then.

Have a listen to Miazga and enjoy the sights and sounds of the USMNT training camp ahead of its friendly match against Paraguay.


Banker Gaetano Micciche elected Serie A president

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MILAN (AP) Bank boss Gaetano Micciche has been elected president of Serie A.

Micciche, the president of Banca IMI, was chosen unanimously on Monday by the Italian league’s 20 clubs.

He succeeds Maurizio Beretta, who left the position nearly a year ago.

[ MORE: Serie A scores, schedule ]

The league has been under emergency leadership, first by former Italian football federation president Carlo Tavecchio then by Italian Olympic Committee president Giovanni Malago.

Malago recommended Micciche for the position.

The federation remains under emergency leadership following Tavecchio’s resignation in the wake of Italy’s failure to qualify for the World Cup.