Atalanta

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Europa League preview: Arsenal joined by Champions League outcasts

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Arsenal’s path to the UEFA Champions League is looking more and more like it will require a Europa League triumph, and that trek continues in Sweden on Wednesday.

[ MORE: Ronaldo, Real top PSG 3-1 ]

There are plenty of other big names left in the Europa League, with Borussia Dortmund, Napoli, and Atletico Madrid also beginning Round of 32 ties on Thursday.

Ostersund vs. Arsenal

Arsene Wenger‘s men will tangle with an Ostersund side which has some impressive European wins under its belt.

Drawing Galatasaray in the second qualifying round, Ostersund won 3-1 on aggregate before beating Luxembourg’s Fola Esch by the same score in the third qualifying round and getting by PAOK on away goals in the playoff.

Ostersund was also a surprise second place team in a group with Hertha Berlin, Zorya Luhansk, and group-winning Athletic Bilbao, and did not lose at home. This won’t be easy for the Gunners, who will hope to pile up away goals.

Midfielder Ken Sema is the player to watch for the Allsvenskan side. Arsenal will not have ineligible Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, as well as injured Jack Wilshere, Laurent Koscielny, and Petr Cech.

Borussia Dortmund vs. Atalanta

Christian Pulisic and Michy Batshuayi‘s fast friendship gets a Europa League test from Serie A visitors Atalanta, which has dropped to eighth in Serie A this season after selling Franck Kessie in the offseason. 22-year-old Italian striker Bryan Cristante is the club’s leading scorer, and longtime Fiorentina man Josip Ilic isn’t far behind the youngster.

Full schedule
Red Star Belgrade 0-0 CSKA Moscow — Tuesday

11 a.m. ET
Astana vs. Sporting Lisbon

1 p.m. ET
Ostersund vs. Arsenal
Borussia Dortmund vs. Atalanta
Real Sociedad vs. Red Bull Salzburg
Spartak Moscow vs. Athletic Bilbao
Marseille vs. Braga
Nice vs. Lokomotiv Moscow
Ludogorets Razgrad vs. AC Milan

3:05 p.m. ET
Napoli vs. RB Leipzig
Lyon vs. Villarreal
Celtic vs. Zenit Saint Petersburg
Partizan Belgrade vs. Viktoria Plzen
Copenhagen vs. Atletico Madrid
AEK Athens vs. Dynamo Kyiv
Steaua Bucuresti vs. Lazio

Malta captain mutes goal celebration after journalist slain

AP Photo/Elisabetta Baracchi
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Malta captain Andre Schembri says the car bomb slaying of a Maltese investigative journalist prompted him not to exult after scoring an historic goal.

Schembri’s temporary equalizer for Cypriot club Apollon in a 3-1 loss to Italian side Atalanta in the Europa League on Thursday made him the first Maltese player to score in proper European competition – excluding qualifying.

[ PL PREVIEW: Saints vs. West Brom ]

But instead of pumping his fist or leaping in joy over the achievement, Schembri hung his head as teammates mobbed him.

Schembri wrote on Facebook on Friday, “Celebrating my goal didn’t feel right after what happened in Malta this week.”

Malta has been stunned since Monday by the slaying of Daphne Caruana Galizia, an anti-corruption reporter whose targets included Malta’s leading politicians.

“When they killed Daphne I wasn’t able to sleep for three nights,” Schembri told the ANSA news agency. “Malta is Europe, it’s not the third world. We need to be united when faced with grief like this, to say that we’re better than all of this.

“I love my country and with that goal it came naturally to me to think about a reporter’s freedom and the life of a mother of three children.”

AC Milan signs Ivory Coast midfielder Kessie from Atalanta

Photo by Gabriele Maltinti/Getty Images
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MILAN (AP) AC Milan has acquired Ivory Coast midfielder Franck Kessie on a two-year loan from Atalanta, as the Rossoneri attempt to make a big impact in the transfer market.

The deal requires Milan to purchase Kessie’s full rights after the loan period ends.

Financial details were not released.

[ MORE: Everton to snag bargain Sandro? ]

The 20-year-old Kessie helped Atalanta to a club-record fourth-place finish in Serie A last weekend, scoring six goals in 29 appearances in his first season in the top division.

Kessie is Milan’s second signing of the transfer period after center back Mateo Musacchio joined from Villarreal on Tuesday.

The Gazzetta dello Sport has also reported that Milan is hoping to sign striker Alvaro Morata from Real Madrid for 60 million euros (nearly $70 million).

AC Milan wins Franck Kessie sweepstakes, according to report

Photo by Tullio M. Puglia/Getty Images
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He’s been linked to Arsenal. And he said his favorite club was Manchester United, but that he loved Chelsea’s Michael Essien and Man City’s Yaya Toure.

Oh, and Liverpool, Everton, and Paris Saint-Germain also wanted Franck Kessie.

Instead, DiMarzio reports, the card-collecting 20-year-old Ivorian defensive midfielder is opting for a move inside of Serie A, choosing AC Milan over Roma.

[ RECAP: Man City 3-1 West Brom ]

Atalanta will reportedly net $31 million dollars for Kessie. If it’s true, the midfielder can learn a thing or two from Milan captain Riccardo Montolivo.

Kessie has seven goals and four assists this season. He’s been capped 15 times by the Ivory Coast.

Juventus bumped by Atalanta at the death

Associated Press
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Juventus is still in firm control of the Serie A title race, but they were dealt a slight setback as Atalanta secured a 2-2 draw with a dramatic 89th minute equalizer in Bergamo.

Dani Alves had given Juventus the lead in the 83rd minute on a header after a brilliant far-post cross by Miralem Pjanic, but Remo Freuler answered late as he grabbed a point.

The goal came on a fortunate bounce as Pjanic and substitute Stephen Lichtensteiner got tangled up on the ball and failed to clear, and the ball squirted to Freuler who suddenly found himself free in front of Gianluigi Buffon. The Juventus keeper came off his line to smother the chance, but he failed to completely collect, and the ball again popped free. Freuler followed up the loose ball, and with a trio of Juventus defenders flying in, the 25-year-old Swiss attacker knocked it in.

The draw was deserving for Atalanta, who had controlled the game for much of the first half, and went ahead just seconds before the break on a goal by Andrea Conti. Atalanta outshot Juventus 7-4 in the first half, 3-1 on shots on target. Juventus took over control in the second half, and got back on level terms just five minutes after the break as Juventus loanee Leonardo Spinazzola put one in his own net.

Alves’ goal put Juventus in front, but that lead only lasted six minutes. Juventus goes nine points clear at the top of the Serie A table with the draw, but Roma has the chance to cut that to six if they can beat Lazio at home on Sunday.