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Serie A: Milan in financial trouble? Napoli run rampant, remain top

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A roundup of all of Sunday’s action in Italy’s top flight…

[ MORE: Marcelo (not that one) swats ref’s yellow card, gets upgraded to red ]

Napoli 3-0 Cagliari

Only two sides in Europe’s top five leagues remain perfect on the season, not a single point dropped thus far: one of them you might have guessed — Barcelona — but the other you almost certainly wouldn’t have seen coming before the season began. Napoli, courtesy of a routine 3-0 victory over Cagliari, kept pace with their La Liga counterparts (who played in front of an empty Camp Nou) on Sunday.

Marek Hamsik got Maurizio Sarri’s men off to a dream start with a goal after four minutes. Dries Mertens (40th minute) and Kalidou Koulibaly (47th) completed the scoring, pushing Napoli’s goal differential to +20 (25 scored, 5 conceded) after seven games.

Atalanta 2-2 Juventus

Juventus entered the weekend among the unbeaten, but a blown 2-0 lead and Paulo Dybala’s failed attempt from the penalty spot resulted in the five-time defending champions’ first dropped points of the season.

Federico Bernardeschi opened the scoring for Juve after 21 minutes, and Gonzalo Higuain doubled the lead three minutes later to set Massimiliano Allegri’s on the path toward what appeared to be another easy win. Mattia Caldara pulled Atalanta back to 2-1 just after the half-hour mark, and Bryan Cristante completed the comeback in the 67th minute.

AC Milan 0-2 Roma

As if things weren’t already looking dire for Milan following their summer spending spree of $200 million dollars and the ensuing slow start to the Serie A campaign, this week also brought news of problems along the business side of the club. Li Yonghong, who became chairman after leading a takeover from Silvio Berlusconi and Co. back in April, is reportedly seeking additional investors “to share the financial burden” of helping Milan spend their way back into the stratosphere of Europe’s elites. Li is essentially bankrolling the club on his own after previous investors backed out from their commitments.

As for the on-the-field happenings, Sunday didn’t bring any better news for the Rossoneri, as Vincenzo Montella’s side was beaten by Roma, 2-0, and held scoreless for a second straight league game. Edin Dzeko bagged his seventh goal of the season to keep him within touching distance of Golden Boot leader Dybala (10), and extend his streak of games with a goal to five (all competitions). Alessandro Florenzi made it 2-0 in the 77th minute, five minutes after Dzeko’s opener.

Elsewhere in Serie A

Lazio 6-1 Sassuolo
Torino 2-2 Verona
Chievo 1-2 Fiorentina
SPAL 1-1 Crotone

Newcastle linked with targets as Benitez begins transfer quest

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Newcastle United’s players have canceled their Christmas party, as manager Rafa Benitez admits he’s working on January gifts for the St. James’ Park set.

The Magpies have one point from their last eight matches, and face Arsenal, West Ham, and Manchester City in the run-up to the New Year, closing off a run of five matches in 16 days with Brighton and Stoke.

[ PL PREVIEW: Man City vs. Spurs ]

Benitez says he’s begun talks with managing director Lee Charnley about the January window. The team is expected to make moves whether Mike Ashley completes a reported sale of the team or not. From Sky Sports:

“At this time it is just to talk about ideas,” he said. “You might say ‘I would like to sign this player’ and someone will say ‘£40m’ – maybe it is not realistic.

“The main thing, we had this conversation, then we have to move forward quickly. I don’t know the details but at least we were talking about that. We have to progress and it is so obvious that we have to improve things.”

Newcastle has been linked with a number of notable names a few weeks from the start of the January market, including Arsenal’s Jack Wilshere, prolific Besiktas striker Cenk Tosun, as well as Liverpool’s Danny Ings and Manchester United’s Luke Shaw.

Premier League Preview: Leicester City vs. Crystal Palace

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  • Leicester leads all-time 26W-18D-23L
  • Foxes 3W-1D vs. Eagles since Oct. 2015
  • Palace won at Leicester in Feb. 2015

The Claude Puel revolution at Leicester City has the Foxes surging up the Premier League table, and Saturday’s visitors from Crystal Palace are making moves of their own (Watch live Saturday at 7:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

Leicester has won four-straight matches, the latest a 4-1 beatdown of Southampton at St. Mary’s, and returns to King Power Stadium with a chance to make a dent on the five-point deficit between the Foxes and the Top Four.

 

WATCH LIVE, ONLINE, HERE

After beginning the season 0-7, Crystal Palace has claimed 14 of 30 points to move from 20th to 18th on the table. Roy Hodgson’s men have two wins and four draws in their last six matches.

What they’re saying

Leicester’s Harry Maguire on the task at hand:

Palace’s Ruben Loftus-Cheek on his high-flying loan spell from Chelsea: “It’s what you aspire to be when you’re younger. Right now it’s a case of trying to improve as much as I can and to keep the performances up. As long as I’m enjoying it I think I’ll do well, so I’m really happy. The experience of playing week in week out and the physical side of things, getting my body used to playing games – sometimes three in a week – has been a massive thing for me, especially when I haven’t played for two years regularly. That was one of the main reasons I wanted to get away from Chelsea, to play regular football, get my body used to it, get more robust and I think once you have that then it’s a platform to play better.”

Prediction

This could be a fun one, with names like Zaha, Townsend, Loftus-Cheek, Vardy, Mahrez, and Gray ready to bless the match with pace and creativity. Goals have come in bunches when Leicester’s on the pitch, and we’ll call it 2-1 to the Foxes.

RBNY’s Grella heads to Columbus (through Colorado)

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Mike Grella didn’t get to pick No. 20 of the MLS Re-Entry Draft, but that didn’t stop Columbus from getting their hands on the New York Red Bulls veteran.

Colorado selected Grella with the third overall pick, then sent him to Columbus for a second round pick in the 2019 MLS SuperDraft.

[ MLS: Ousted “blacklisted” by MLS? ]

The only other pick was made by Minnesota United, who took Tyrone Mears from Atlanta United.

Grella, 30, is a well-traveled Duke product who has played in England and Denmark. He scored 18 times with 13 assists in 89 matches for the Red Bulls, but missed most of the 2017 season with a pair of knee injuries.

It’s a good gamble for the Crew, and an extra draft pick for 2019. Second-round picks have become long odds to make MLS rosters, with Tommy McNamara and Aaron Long the last impact players to come out of the round. That was in 2014, and both needed changes of scenery before hitting their MLS strides.

John Cena makes entertaining Premier League predictions

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We do not recommend putting any money on John Cena’s Premier League predictions for this weekend.

The actor and WWE star was the guest picker on the BBC site on Friday, and admitted his soccer knowledge doesn’t extend much further than Cristiano Ronaldo and a tour of Tottenham (he has a fondness for Spurs, it seems).

[ PL PREVIEW: Chelsea vs. Southampton ]

But his actual selections are quite amusing. From picking matches based on species to trying to anger his fiancee’s Arsenal supporting brother, Cena brought the goods.

Our favorites:

Why West Ham will win at Stoke: “Who doesn’t love a good ham? It provides you with nourishment, happiness and a sense of community. It is always served at a big family function gathering. I like West Ham. 0-1.”

Why Southampton will win at Chelsea: “From where I am from, in Massachusetts, Southampton is a pretty cool place, so I am going to have to pick them, only because of how it relates to the States.”