Angelo Carconi/ANSA via AP

Serie A: Roma close gap to Juve; Fiorentina, Napoli in 3-3 thriller

Leave a comment

A roundup of Thursday’s action in Italy’s top flight…

[ MORE: Thursday’s transfer rumor roundupWednesday | Tuesday ]

Roma 3-1 Chievo

The gap between runaway leaders Juventus (who now have a game in hand) and second-place Roma has been reduced to just four points, after the Giallorossi came from a goal behind to win 3-1 at home against 10th-place Chievo. Jonathan De Guzman put the visitors ahead in the 37th minute, but that advantage wouldn’t last long, as Roma blitzed the Mussi Volanti (Flying Donkeys) as soon as the second-half whistle had gone.

Stephan El Shaarawy equalized less than 60 seconds into the second half, followed in short order by Edin Dzeko (13th goal of the league season — tied-2nd-most in Serie A), just six minutes later, and Diego Perotti converted from the penalty spot to complete the scoring in the second minute of second-half stoppage time. Serie A will now take more than two weeks off for its annual winter break before returning to action on Jan. 7.

Fiorentina 3-3 Napoli

Napoli fell to three points adrift of Roma in the race for second, though it looked a near certainty that the gap would be four points after 92 minutes at the Stadio Artemio Franchi. Lorenzo Insigne scored an absolute stunner to put the visitors ahead after 25 minutes, but Federico Bernardeschi brought Fiorentina level six minutes into the second half.

Dries Mertens, who scored four on the weekend, put Napoli back in front after 68 minutes, only to see Bernardeschi and Mauro Zarate fire Fiorentina into the lead inside the ensuing 13 minutes. Mexican national teamer Carlos Salcedo committed an undeniable foul inside the penalty area well into second-half stoppage time, and Manolo Gabbiadini converted the spot kick to rescue a point and keep the Azzurri within touching distance of the second and final automatic qualifying spot for the UEFA Champions League.

Elsewhere in Serie A

Cagliari 4-3 Sassuolo
Palermo 1-1 Pescara
Sampdoria 0-0 Udinese
Torino 1-0 Genoa

Team GP W D L GF GA GD Home Away PTS
 Juventus 17 14 0 3 36 14 22 9-0-0 5-0-3 42
 Roma 18 12 2 4 39 18 21 9-0-0 3-2-4 38
 Napoli 18 10 5 3 40 21 19 6-2-1 4-3-2 35
 Lazio 18 10 4 4 32 21 11 6-1-2 4-3-2 34
 AC Milan 17 10 3 4 27 20 7 6-2-1 4-1-3 33
 Atalanta 18 10 2 6 27 21 6 6-0-3 4-2-3 32
 Inter Milan 18 9 3 6 28 21 7 6-2-1 3-1-5 30
 Torino 18 8 4 6 36 27 9 6-2-1 2-2-5 28
 Fiorentina 18 7 6 5 28 24 4 4-5-0 3-1-5 27

Guardiola hails “incredibly positive,” healthy De Bruyne

Photo by Yifan Ding/Getty Images
Leave a comment

A variety of injuries derailed Kevin De Bruyne‘s 2018-19 season at Manchester City, as the prolific Belgian playmaker was held to just two goals and two assists in Premier League play.

[ RECAP: Wolves top Man City ]

That season came on the heels of a long World Cup run with Belgium, and Pep Guardiola thinks a summer off can go a long way toward helping De Bruyne reproduce the form that led City to 14 goals and 35 assists over the previous two PL campaigns.

De Bruyne was fantastic on Saturday as City lost to Wolves in penalties at the PL Asia Trophy. Guardiola is salivating after winning the league mostly without De Bruyne.

From The Manchester Evening News:

“Last season he didn’t have holiday but he has had more time to rest and he came back like he did two seasons ago. Hopefully he can keep his level.

“He’s incredibly positive in his mind and his quality speaks for itself. He made an incredible first half, really good.”

De Bruyne was rarely at full speed last season, as Bernardo Silva was one of many to step up in his stead. City drew Liverpool and lost to Chelsea while De Bruyne was out.

In other words, top-end De Bruyne means more silverware for City.

Zidane quizzed on Pogba: ‘We know what we want to do’

AP Photo/Rui Vieira
Leave a comment

Zinedine Zidane’s open flirtation with Paul Pogba continues, as the Real Madrid manager was asked about Manchester United’s star midfielder again on Saturday.

“We need to respect everybody, but the only thing I can say from the club is we know what we want to do,” Zidane said. “Something could happen before the end of August. We could have some changes.”

[ MORE: Wolves beat Man City in pens ]

On paper the purchase of Pogba makes sense to reloading Real, but the problem here is the sheer amount of paper the Madrid side has spent on players this season.

While sales of James Rodriguez, Dani Ceballos, and Gareth Bale could put Real in okay position regarding Financial Fair Play, buying Pogba would move the needle hard in the other direction considering the club has bought Ferland Mendy, Eden Hazard, Eder Militao, Luka Jovic, and Rodrygo.

Plus, Florentino Perez likes to buy only one Galactico per transfer session, and Hazard is undoubtedly this summer’s model.

That said, Real has assets that United could use in Ole Gunnar Solskjaer‘s overhaul of the Old Trafford set.

UEFA gives partial stadium bans to Bulgaria, Romania for fan racism

UEFA
Leave a comment

NYON, Switzerland (AP) Bulgaria will have to close part of its national stadium for European Championship qualifiers against England and the Czech Republic because of fan racism.

UEFA issued the order, saying Bulgarian fans were racially abusive during a 2-1 loss to the Czech Republic and a 3-2 loss to Kosovo last month.

Bulgaria hosts England on Oct. 14 and the Czech Republic on Nov. 17.

Romania has also been ordered to close part of its home stadium for a future under-21 game after UEFA ruled its fans behaved in a racist manner during the European under-21 championship last month.

Another racism case against Latvia was dropped.

UEFA also handed out various fines to Romania, Ukraine, and Greece for rowdy behavior by fans.

Transfer rumor roundup: Everton join Zaha chase; Matuidi to Man Utd?

Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images
Leave a comment

A roundup of Saturday’s biggest transfer rumors from around the world, including those involving a few Premier League clubs…

[ MORE: PL refs told to defer to VAR more, go to the monitor “sparingly” ]

Wilfried Zaha is one of the most wanted men in England, with Arsenal reportedly hot on his trail all summer. An deal between the Gunners and Crystal Palace is yet  to transpire, though, which has perhaps left the door open for Everton to sneak through and sign the 26-year-old Ivory Coast international.

Arsenal would obviously pay more in wages, but are yet to meet Palace’s valuation of their talisman. If Everton is the club that calls with the requisite figures on offer, it wouldn’t be the worst landing place for Zaha. With Arsenal yet to make a meaningful signing this summer, and the likes of Aaron Ramsey and Laurent Koscielny already gone or on their way out, the 2019-20 season could see the Gunners take a step back, opening the door for — you guessed it — Everton to break into the top-five… or -four.


Speaking of Ramsey, his arrival at Juventus has perhaps made Blaise Matuidi surplus to requirements, which means he could be available for cut-rate price.

Manchester United seem to be perennially in need of influential central midfielders, especially this summer after the departure of Ander Herrera and the failure of a signing that was Fred last summer. Man United have reportedly been in contact with Juve about the 32-year-old, as have Paris Saint-Germain and Everton.


Sergej Milinkovic-Savic is another midfielder who’s been linked with United, but he’ll likely just as much as, if not more than, the $59-million fee paid for Fred. Milinkovic-Savic seemed a surefire target for the world’s top clubs after a star’s showing at last summer’s World Cup in Russia, but the 24-year-old remained at Lazio and is still yet to move 12 months later.


Patrick Cutrone was one of Europe’s breakout stars of the 2018-19 season, now the 21-year-old AC Milan forward is reportedly high atop Wolverhampton Wanderers’ shopping list this summer. He won’t come cheap — Milan are expected to demand nearly $30 million — but he could offer some serious insurance in the event of an injury to Raul Jimenez.