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Matuidi says he endured more racial abuse this weekend

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After suffering racial abuse last week in a 3-1 away win at Hellas Verona, Juventus midfielder Blaise Matuidi says he was subject of yet more abuse in a 1-0 win at Cagliari on Saturday.

Serie A handed Hellas Verona a €20,000 fine and a one-year suspended sentence in the wake of the incident, meaning part of the Stadio Marcantonio Bentegodi will be closed if there is any further violation. The league has not officially announced anything yet against Cagliari.

“Today I experienced racism during the match,” Matuidi wrote in French, Italian, and English on his Facebook page. “Weak people try to intimidate with hate. I am not a hater and can only be sorry for those who set bad examples.

“Football is a way to spread equality, passion and inspiration and this is what I am here for. Peace.”

The incident reportedly took place just before halftime at the Sardegna Arena. Matuidi received a yellow card in the 42nd minute, although that was for a foul on Nicolò Barella. Juventus eventually won 1-0 on a goal scored by Federico Bernardeschi in the 74th minute.

Racial abuse in the Italian league is nothing new, and that sentiment was confirmed by Chelsea defender Antonio Rudiger after his move to England from AS Roma.

Paulo Dybala awaits results on injured hamstring

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Juventus striker Paulo Dybala was reportedly in tears as he trudged off just after halftime of Juventus’s 1-0 win over Cagliari on Saturday in Serie A play. The reason? A hamstring problem.

The 23-year-old Argentinian star came off injured in the 50th minute, replaced by Douglas Costa who assisted the eventual winner 24 minutes later.  “We don’t know how bad it is now, but he will have tests,” manager Massimiliano Allegri said after the match.

In a World Cup year, players are easily spooked by these types of injuries, and no doubt Dybala had some scary thoughts as he came off in pain. However, with Juventus on a two-week break, he will have time to recover without missing too many club matches.

Dybala has scored 14 goals in Serie A play this season in 19 appearances. He had a brace in a 3-1 win over Hellas Verona back on New Year’s Eve. Douglas Costa, meanwhile, could benefit from Dybala’s injury, as the Brazilian has only started eight of his 20 league appearances this season and just twice since the start of December.

Juventus sits just a point back of Napoli in the league table, although the two aren’t scheduled to play again until late April.

Serie A: Napoli win to stay top of the table ahead of winter break

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Napoli will go into the delayed winter break top of Serie A after beating relegation-threatened Hellas Verona 2-0 on Saturday.

Kalidou Koulibaly and Jose Callejon scored as Napoli stayed one point clear of second-place Juventus, which won 1-0 at Cagliari in the late game.

Juventus has won the title in each of the last six seasons, while Napoli is bidding for its first since 1990.

“We know that Juve has years of experience,” Napoli coach Maurizio Sarri said. “We know they can easily surpass the 90-point mark, while we can’t say the same thing about us.

“But we also have players who can make the difference in matches, such as Callejon and (Lorenzo) Insigne … our job is only to put them in the best conditions to express themselves.”

Roma could have moved level with third-place Inter Milan, which is nine points below Napoli, but lost 2-1 at home to Atalanta and is fifth.

After playing over the festive period for the first time, Serie A will resume on Jan. 21.

Napoli had ended 2017 and the first half of the season as winter champions, but was eliminated from the Italian Cup on Tuesday following a surprise quarterfinal defeat to Atalanta.

Sarri’s team dominated from the start against Verona and had several chances, with Dries Mertens and Insigne hitting the woodwork.

Mertens also had a goal ruled out for offside before Napoli finally broke the deadlock in the 65th minute, when Koulibaly headed in Mario Rui’s cross.

The goal was awarded after checking with the video assistant referee but Verona coach – and former Napoli player and assistant – Fabio Pecchia was dismissed for his protests.

Napoli all but sealed the match 12 minutes from time when Callejon rushed in at the far post to volley in Insigne’s cross from the left.

Verona remained two points from safety.

Ciro Immobile netted four goals and moved top of the scoring charts as Lazio won 5-2 at struggling Spal to move fourth.

Mirco Antenucci had converted a penalty for Spal to cancel out Luis Alberto‘s opener before Immobile’s first-half hat trick.

Immobile got his first in the 19th, running onto Luis Alberto’s flicked pass over the defense and lifting the ball over Alfred Gomis.

The Italy forward doubled his tally seven minutes later, firing home Sergej Milinkovic-Savic’s through-ball, but Spal reduced the deficit almost immediately, with Antenucci grabbing his second of the match.

However, Immobile headed in Dusan Basta’s cross four minutes before the break to complete his hat trick.

The Spal defense left Immobile completely unmarked six minutes after halftime and he drilled in a corner for his 20th league goal of the season, two more than Inter Milan forward Mauro Icardi.

Spal hit the post, had the follow-up cleared off the line and also had a goal ruled out.

AC Milan defender Leonardo Bonucci scored his first goal for the club in a 1-0 win over Crotone – although the Italy international knew little about it.

Milan broke the deadlock nine minutes into the second half when Crotone goalkeeper Alex Cordaz flapped at a corner, sending it onto Bonucci’s back and the ball rebounded into the back of the net.

“2018 couldn’t have started better,” Bonucci said. “People had been asking me for a while when I would score and the goal finally arrived.

“But what matters is the spirit we showed in the first half and the willingness to all suffer together at the end.”

Bonucci joined Milan from Juventus in the offseason for a fee of more than 40 million euros ($45 million).

Franck Kessie thought he had doubled Milan’s lead but it was ruled out on video review as he had fouled Rolando Mandragora.

Milan had also hit the woodwork in the first half as Cordaz fingertipped Suso’s effort onto the post.

Ten-man Atalanta beat Roma 2-1 after first-half goals from Andreas Cornelius and Marten De Roon, who was sent off in the 45th for a second yellow card.

Edin Dzeko grabbed one back for the hosts 10 minutes after the break.

Juventus kept the pressure on leader Napoli after finally breaking through Cagliari’s defense with a 74th-minute goal from Federico Bernardeschi. Juve dominated the game with 14 shots to Cagliari’s five attempts.

After waiting 19 rounds for a first Serie A victory, Benevento made it two in two matches as it came from behind to beat Sampdoria 3-2.

It remained bottom of Serie A, eight points from safety.

Elsewhere, Walter Mazzarri got off to a winning start in charge of Torino as he steered his new side to a 3-0 win over Bologna.

Genoa beat Sassuolo 1-0.

Transfer rumor roundup: Coutinho out, Mahrez in; Hart on the move

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A roundup of all the day’s biggest transfer rumors involving clubs in the Premier League, and elsewhere…

[ MORE: Thursday’s transfer rumor roundup | Wednesday | Tuesday ]

With Liverpool set to demand $220 million for Coutinho — and Barcelona apparently only just short of willing to pay it — the rumor mill has moved a step further in the Brazilian’s six-month-long transfer sage, now focusing on which players Liverpool will spend all that money to replace Coutinho and further improve the squad.

One could surmise that the Reds’ $100-million deal for Virgil Van Dijk was a proactive piece of business with a massive windfall of cash expected to arrive either in the next three weeks or in six months’ time. If so, that leaves just one critically important need in the Liverpool squad: the attacker to replace Coutinho. According to French newspaper L’Equipe, it’ll be Leicester City star Riyad Mahrez, whose transfer fee could also approach nine figures. Mahrez spent most of the summer trying to engineer a move away from the King Power Stadium, but to no avail. Suffice to say, he’d be receptive to the idea.

[ MORE: Liverpool, Man United advance thanks to late winners ]

Joe Hart moved away from Manchester City because Pep Guardiola was never going to play him, and now it appears the former/perhaps-still-current England no. 1 will have to leave West Ham United, where he’s currently on loan, because David Moyes doesn’t appear interested in playing him either. According to the Daily Mirror, the three aforementioned parties could all agree to terminate his current loan in order to facilitate a move — whether temporary or permanent is unknown — to Newcastle United, where Rafa Benitez attempted to sign Hart in the summer before losing out to West Ham.

[ MORE: Mourinho hits back in ongoing feud with Conte ]

According to Sky Sports, Mousa Dembele could leave Wembley Stadium/the new White Hart Lane for a spell at the San Siro — for either AC Milan or Inter Milan. Both of the Milan giants still-somewhat-big-sides are reportedly interested in the 30-year-old Tottenham Hotspur midfielder who has spent a worrying portion of the last two seasons dealing with nagging foot injuries which have turned into long-term absences. Tottenham would likely prefer to wait until the summer to move Dembele on, unless an obvious replacement were to unexpectedly become available and make him surplus to requirements.

[ MORE: FA investigating potential racial incident between Firmino, Holgate ]

Elsewhere, Liverpool have Emre Can‘s contract situation hanging over their heads, as they face losing the 23-year-old German midfielder on a free transfer this summer. According to the Guardian, Juventus have already offered Can a five-year contract which would pay him $115,000 per week, plus a “sizable signing-on fee.” Liverpool paid just $13 million to sign Can in 2014, thus it wouldn’t be the biggest loss on their original investment, though his value is easily twice — if not three times — that in the current transfer climate.

Serie A: Juve keep pace with, trail Napoli; Inter winless in 4

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Inter Milan’s crisis deepened as it was held to a 0-0 draw at home by Lazio on Saturday to leave it without a win in four league matches.

Inter was undefeated and top of Serie A only two weeks ago. But it is now seven points behind leader Napoli and six below Juventus, which won 3-1 at relegation-threatened Hellas Verona.

Roma is two points further back after a 1-1 draw with Sassuolo, while Lazio remained fifth.

The two capital sides have played a match less than the top three.

“When you’re part of a team like Inter there are no alibis or excuses, we just have to get good results,” Inter coach Luciano Spalletti said. “For the moment we’re meeting our targets, which means that the group is working hard.”

Inter moved top of Serie A with a credible 0-0 draw at Juventus on Dec. 9. However, that was mainly down to the performance of goalkeeper Samir Handanovic, and its struggles in front of goal have continued.

Three days later, Inter needed penalties to get past third-division Pordenone in the Italian Cup after a goalless draw. That was followed by league losses to Udinese (3-1) and Sassuolo (1-0) before Wednesday’s surprise Cup defeat to AC Milan.

Inter has scored just one goal in its past six matches in all competitions.

It was the visitors who went closest to scoring at the end of the first half when Inter midfielder Borja Valero attempted to head clear Lazio’s corner and it came off the crossbar.

Valero almost scored at the right end for Inter but Lazio goalkeeper Thomas Strakosha did well to turn his effort onto the post.

Lazio was awarded a penalty on the hour mark but, after reviewing the incident on video (VAR), the referee revoked his decision as Ciro Immobile’s cross had hit Milan Skriniar’s leg before bouncing up onto his arm so the handball was involuntary.

“My appraisal of VAR is completely negative because it takes emotions out of football, now you don’t even celebrate after a goal,” Lazio coach Simone Inzaghi said. “We would’ve had an extra seven points this season without VAR.”


Paulo Dybala broke his goal drought by scoring two goals to help Juventus keep up the pressure on Napoli at the top of Serie A.

Dybala hadn’t scored in the league since Nov. 19 but he restored Juve’s lead in the 72nd and doubled his tally five minutes later.

Earlier, former Juventus player Martin Caceres had canceled out Blaise Matuidi’s opener.

Juventus bettered one of its own Serie A records, having now scored in 23 consecutive away matches.


Sassuolo was revitalized under new coach Giuseppe Iachini and had won its previous three league matches, but fell behind in the 31st minute against Roma when Edin Dzeko rolled the ball across the area for an unmarked Lorenzo Pellegrini to fire into the far bottom corner.

Pellegrini left Sassuolo in the offseason along with current Roma coach Eusebio Di Francesco.

Simone Missiroli headed in the equalizer in the 78th

Edin Dzeko had a goal for Roma ruled out for offside as did Alessandro Florenzi, who was making his 200th appearance for the club.


Benevento recorded its first Serie A victory with a 1-0 win over Chievo Verona.

Benevento had the worst start to a season in modern history among Europe’s five major leagues, losing 17 of its previous 18 matches in its debut season in Serie A.

Massimo Coda netted the historic goal for Benevento in the 64th minute, flicking Marco D’Alessandro’s chipped pass beyond Chievo goalkeeper Stefano Sorrentino.

Benevento picked up its first Serie A point at the beginning of the month when goalkeeper Alberto Brignoli’s injury-time equalizer secured a 2-2 draw against Milan.


Teenage goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma marked his 100th appearance for Milan by helping it rescue a 1-1 draw at Fiorentina.

Donnarumma made several crucial saves, notably palming Gil Dias’ header onto the crossbar from close range in first-half injury time.

Hakan Calhanoglu scored for Milan to cancel out Giovanni Simeone’s opener.

Elsewhere, Cagliari upset Atalanta 2-1, while Udinese won at Bologna by the same score. Sampdoria beat Spal 2-0 and Torino drew 0-0 with Genoa.