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Juve slips to draw, Napoli wins ahead of scudetto-defining Sunday

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For Juventus supporters, let me start by coming clean: I’m not a hater, and what The Old Lady does on an annual basis is unbelievable.

But for once in this decade, it’d be kinda cool if at least we could get a Serie A scudetto race last into the final week of the season.

[MORE: Man Utd wins | Mou praises Pogba]

That’s still possible after Juve slumped to a 1-1 draw at Crotone on Wednesday and Napoli came back from an early deficit to beat Udinese 4-2.

The two sides square off in Turin on Sunday.

Here’s how the table looks with five matches to play in Italy. Juve also had a Coppa Italia Final to contend.

Team GP W D L GF GA GD Home Away PTS
 Juventus 33 27 4 2 78 19 59 14-1-1 13-3-1 85
 Napoli 33 25 6 2 70 23 47 13-2-2 12-4-0 81

And here are the remaining fixtures:

Juve: vs. Napoli, at Inter, vs. Bologna, at Roma, vs. Verona

Napoli: at Juve, at Fiorentina, vs. Torino, at Sampdoria, vs. Crotone

Serie A: Juventus hammer Sampdoria to go 6 clear of Napoli

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MILAN (AP) — Juventus took a major step toward a seventh straight Serie A title on Sunday as it beat Sampdoria 3-0 after Napoli was held to a 0-0 draw at AC Milan.

Douglas Costa changed the game when he came on for the injured Miralem Pjanic, providing three assists for Mario Mandzukic, Benedikt Hoewedes and Sami Khedira.

Juventus moved six points clear of Napoli with six matches remaining — including the two sides playing each other.

“We have to thank Pjanic for getting injured because maybe at that moment I wouldn’t have changed things,” Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri joked. “Douglas and (Gonzalo) Higuain are two players who I wanted to use to change the match. I chose the Brazilian to stretch Samp.”

Roma hit the woodwork twice but drew 0-0 against 10-man Lazio in an intense derby match which was crucial for both teams’ Champions League chances.

The top four from Serie A qualify for Europe’s premier club competition. Roma and Lazio are third and fourth, respectively, on the same number of points. They are one point above fifth-place Inter Milan, which drew 0-0 at Atalanta on Saturday.

Juventus was looking to bounce back from the disappointment of Wednesday’s Champions League exit to Real Madrid, decided by a stoppage-time penalty in the second leg when seconds away from forcing extra time at 3-0.

Allegri had mixed feelings about Sunday’s win.

“Is it a decisive step toward the title? Absolutely not. But it was important to win after Madrid and the guys were good because it wasn’t easy after such a tiring match,” Allegri said.

Juventus struggled to find a way through the Samp defense and the visitors almost took the lead but Gianluigi Buffon, who was sent off midweek, managed to parry a close-range header from Fabio Quagliarella.

Pjanic limped off two minutes before the break and was replaced by Douglas Costa who had an instant impact as he whipped in a cross for Mandzukic to volley in under the bar.

Juventus doubled its lead on the hour. The ball was passed from the right to the left of the penalty area and Douglas Costa set up a diving header from an unmarked Hoewedes on only his second match for the club.

Douglas Costa was again decisive 15 minutes later with another cross for Khedira to fire into the bottom left corner.

The Brazil midfielder almost capped his performance with a goal but fired narrowly wide of the left post late on.

Rossoneri goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma made history as the youngest ever player to reach 100 Serie A appearances, at 19 years, 1 month, 21 days, and he proved decisive in denying Napoli a last-gasp winner.

It was a strange match for Napoli goalkeeper Pepe Reina, who has agreed a free transfer to Milan at the end of the season.

Reina was immediately called into action against his future teammates, fingertipping an effort from Giacomo Bonaventura around the base of the post.

Lorenzo Insigne went close to giving Napoli the lead 10 minutes before halftime, weaving his way through defenders before curling an effort inches wide of the right post.

Milan thought it had taken the lead four minutes later but Mateo Musacchio was offside when he fired in a rebound after Reina had parried Hakan Calhanoglu’s powerful effort.

The match continued to be open after the break, with both sides seeking the win they needed for their respective ambitions.

Napoli came agonizingly close to snatching a stoppage-time winner as Arkadiusz Milik had time and space to control before shooting from six yards but Donnarumma pulled off a stunning save to send the ball around his left post.

List of US cities to host ICC games revealed

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With the International Champions Cup heading to the United States of America once again this summer, the host cities for the marquee preseason games have been revealed.

Premier League teams Tottenham Hotspur, Manchester City and Manchester United have all confirmed they will be heading Stateside this summer, while the likes of Liverpool, Chelsea and Arsenal will also be involved in the competition but have yet to confirm where they will be playing as games also take place in Europe and in Singapore.

Stadiums selected in the USA include Michigan Stadium (“The Big House”) in Ann Arbor, Michigan, which hosted Real Madrid against Manchester United in 2014 in front of a record crowd of 109,318 for a soccer game, while the Rose Bowl, Solider Field, AT&T Stadium and MetLife Stadium are all included.

Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, Benfica, Borussia Dortmund, PSG, Sevilla, Roma, Inter Milan, AC Milan, Atletico Madrid and Juventus have also confirmed they will take part in the tournament this summer.

The full schedule for the games will be released this Tuesday, here.

Below is the full list of cities which will host ICC games this summer.

LIVE, Europa League: Arsenal, Atletico aim to reach semifinals

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The second legs of the UEFA Europa League quarterfinals take place on Thursday with plenty of the big boys taking big leads on the road as they aim to make the final four.

[ LIVE: Europa League scores ]

Arsenal have a 4-1 leading against CSKA Moscow ahead of their second leg in Russia but we’ve all seen how precarious a three-goal first leg lead can be this week…

Arsene Wenger‘s men are the heavy favorites and they should be joined in the semifinals by Atletico Madrid who take a 2-0 lead to Sporting Lisbon and Lazio who have a 4-2 advantage from their first leg at home against Red Bull Salzburg.

The only tie which hangs in the balance is Marseille against Red Bull Leipzig as the French giants have a one-goal deficit to overturn in the second leg at the Stade Velodrome.

Below is the schedule for the games on Thursday, while you can hit the link above to follow all the action live.

We will have analysis and reaction from the quarterfinal second legs right here on Pro Soccer Talk.

Thursday’s UEFA Europa League schedule second legs
CSKA Moscow vs. Arsenal (1-4) – 3:05 p.m. ET
Lazio vs. Red Bull Salzburg (4-2) – 3:05 p.m. ET
Marseille vs. Red Bull Leipzig (0-1) – 3:05 p.m. ET
Sporting Lisbon vs. Atletico Madrid (0-2) – 3:05 p.m. ET

Roma’s Dzeko, Di Francesco relish Barcelona stunner

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Like Liverpool, AS Roma’s domestic season hasn’t gone according to plan. In a battle for third, not first, i Lupi is not in the running for an elusive scudetto.

Like Liverpool, they don’t care much about that right now.

[ RECAP: Roma 3-0 (4-4 agg.) Barcelona ]

AS Roma has reached its first UEFA Champions League semifinal, and has done it in stunning fashion by defeating a Barcelona team which is unbeaten in league play and has lost a single match — a Jan. 17 Copa del Rey first leg — since La Liga’s slate started Aug. 20.

Oh, and that defeat was a 3-0 home romp which overturned a 4-1 away deficit.

Edin Dzeko scored the away goal, one which looked like a mere door prize at the time, and also scored Tuesday as Roma rallied for glory. He was asked if the best was yet to come.

“The best came tonight but it could come again in a few weeks’ time! We can beat anyone playing the way we did tonight. We could have scored more too. We got at them right from the off – I’ve never seen Barcelona struggle like that before.”

Dzeko told PST before the season that he’d love to meet old club Man City in the Champions League. We’re sure he didn’t expect to outlast them.

Manager Eusebio Di Francesco is relishing the win, a second time he’s split results against Ernesto Valverde in his career dating back to last season’s Europa League group stage split between Sassuolo and Athletic Bilbao.

“You must always aim higher, but we’d produced some great performances in the league too. We’re reaping the rewards for all the hard work we’ve put in. I’m the coach so I’ll take the praise just as I take the criticism but I want to look forward. Why shouldn’t we believe we can reach the final? That has to be our target. I don’t want to stop here.”

Who should Roma want to draw in the next round (assuming Bayern Munich and Real Madrid hold onto their leads over Sevilla and Juventus)? The easy answer is Liverpool, but one thing’s for sure: When you control Barcelona in the second leg after deserving better in the first, no one’s going to take you for granted.