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Serie A: Napoli scraps to draw, Inter tops SPAL

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Napoli failed to restore its eight-point lead over AC Milan in the Serie A table as Carlo Ancelotti’s squad required an 86th minute goal to earn a 1-1 road draw at Sassuolo.

Domenico Berardi put the home side up 52 minutes in as a cross from the right flank was blocked by a sliding Allan at the near post but the ball stayed in play and pinged around to Berardi who popped it into the back of the net from close range off the fingertips of a scrambling David Ospina. Gianluca Pegolo stopped Amadou Diawara’s long-range effort on 74 minutes, but Napoli managed to draw level in the 86th minute as Lorenzo Insigne collected a deflected cross and rifled it into the far corner.

Inter, meanwhile, popped off 15 shots on the SPAL defense, and while they only put two on target, they buried both those attempts in a 2-0 win thanks to goals from Matteo Politano and Roberto Gagliardini.

The hosts had the opener on the half-hour mark, but VAR ruled the goal out for a handball as Lautaro Martinez controlled a cross at the top of the box before rifling into the back of the net. After the break, Politano’s opener came on the 66th minute, collecting the ball thanks to a fortunate deflection off Pasquale Schiattarella before delivering a wonderful finish tucked inside the far corner. Gagliardini killed off the game with a sloppy volleyed effort from the penalty spot in the 77th minute and Inter moved six points in the final Champions League spot ahead of three teams level on points behind them.

Torino and Atalanta both kept pace with victories, moving up to 44 points to pull level with Roma and sit six back of Inter in fourth. Roma plays tomorrow, visiting Empoli.

Andrea Belotti bagged a winning brace as Torino went to Frosinone and came from behind to win 2-1, condemning the hosts to another week of relegation talk. Frosinone went ahead as Luca Paganini expertly headed home a corner into the far corner, giving the 19th-placed side hope. After the break, Belotti brought Torino level as he responded with a header of his own, meeting Iago Falque’s free-kick at the far post. His second featured an acrobatic finish, a low overhead kick that met Ola Aina’s headed cross in the 77th minute.

Lazio, meanwhile, fell behind the pace, slumping to a 1-1 draw with Fiorentina as Luis Muriel’s second-half goal cancelled out a Ciro Immobile opener. Lazio weathered 13 shots from the hosts, and while Fiorentina put just one on target, they scored with it as Kevin Mirallas did excellent work on the right flank and rifled in a cross to the middle where Murial simply redirected it into the far corner.

Robin Gosens was the one to send Atalanta through with a road win of its own, scoring the winner with a stunning 77th minute touch from an unbelievably tight angle nearly on the byline. Mario Pasalic’s cross was tipped by a diving Emil Audero, and with the goal open, Gosens redirected the ball over the goal line. His goal broke a 1-1 scoreline after Duvan Zapata and Fabio Quagliarella had cancelled each other out each with second-half goals.

Finally, Bologna pummeled Cagliari to earn a 2-0 win at home. The hosts ripped off a whopping 21 shots, putting nine on target that led to goals by Erick Pulgar and Roberto Soriano. The former scored from the spot in the 34th minute to open the scoring while Soriano finished it off with 13 minutes to go after great individual work on the ball at the doorstep.

Coronavirus: Italy may lift ban on sporting events by Monday

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MILAN (AP) The Italian government could lift its ban on sporting events by Monday in areas affected by the coronavirus if the number of cases stabilizes.

The outbreak forced a number of sporting events to be called off throughout the country this past weekend, including four Serie A matches in the north of Italy.

This week, the ban on sporting events was extended from Lombardy, Veneto and Piedmont – the areas hardest hit by the outbreak – to also include the regions of Friuli Venezia Giulia, Emilia Romagna and Liguria, until March 1.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

“If, as I hope, the statistics don’t give us different signs then maybe already by Monday these measures won’t be continued,” Sports Minister Vincenzo Spadafora said. “But it’s only Tuesday today and we have to wait and see what happens over the next few days. The health of the Italian citizens is the most important thing.”

Italy reported a 45% increase in the number of coronavirus cases Tuesday, from 222 to 300. Ten people have died, all of them elderly or suffering from other ailments.

“Obviously, I can’t say I’m not worried because I don’t want anyone to think we’re underestimating this emergency,” Premier Giuseppe Conte said before meeting with visiting World Health Organization representatives. “But we trust that with the measures we have implemented, there will be a containing effect in the coming days.”

Italy has closed schools, museums and theaters in the two regions where clusters have formed and troops are enforcing quarantines around 10 towns in Lombardy and the epicenter of the Veneto cluster, Vo’Euganeo.

Serie A matches this weekend are set to be played behind closed doors, including Juventus’ key match against Inter Milan. That game is not only potentially crucial to the title race but also sees the return of former Juventus coach Antonio Conte.

Inter’s Europa League match at home to Ludogorets on Thursday will also take place without any fans allowed in.

Serie C canceled all games in two leagues which have teams in the north. Volleyball and rugby games were also suspended nationwide through next weekend.

The Italian Winter Sports Federation suspended all of its events throughout the country for an entire week, although it said that “for now” next weekend’s World Cup ski races in La Thuile in the Valle d’Aosta region were still set to go ahead. Those races are operated by the International Ski Federation, which has already canceled races this season in China that were slated to test the course for the 2022 Beijing Games.

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

El Tri winger Jurgen Damm headed for MLS this summer

Jurgen Damm
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This season’s Liga MX invasion of MLS continues with Jurgen Damm announcing that he’ll leave UANL Tigres this summer after five years with the club.

TUDN has the destination as Atlanta, though previous reports have linked Damm to the LA Galaxy is the spot.

And MLSSoccer.com scribe Tom Bogert says the Houston Dynamo have his “discovery rights” (which remains the worst concept in the entire league).

Reports emerged over the past 48 hours that the El Tri man was headed for an MLS club.

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The 12-times capped winger has one goal for Mexico, but has not been capped since Oct. 2018. He has spent his entire career in Liga MX.

Damm spent the early part of his career with Tecos and Pachuca, but has been with UANL Tigres since 2015.

He won four league titles with UANL, as well as the 2018 Campeones Cup.

Ex-Arsenal man Gnabry: “London’s still red” after Bayern beats Chelsea

Serge Gnabry
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Ex-Arsenal man Serge Gnabry still has love for the club.

Gnabry tweeted that “London is still red” after he scored twice for Bayern Munich in a 3-0 beating of Chelsea on Tuesday in the first leg of a UEFA Champions League Round of 16 tie.

This after scoring four times against Spurs in a previous Champions League group stage match and Tweeting that “North London is Red.”

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So what’s with the London form?

“I’ve got a lot of friends here,” Gnabry said after the game. “A lot of them were in the stands tonight, and it seems they give me a lot of good power.”

Gnabry only scored once during his time in England with Arsenal and West Brom but is a bona fide star in the Bundesliga.

With a three-goal advantage over Chelsea heading to Munich for a second leg, however, he’s not got his head in the clouds.

“Three goals ahead gives us a little bit of confidence, but we need to be prepared for the second leg. We can’t take it not seriously enough. … We’ve seen it last year with Liverpool beating Barcelona, so we have to be careful. We have to go into the second leg with all of our focus.”

Gnabry now has 51 goals and 29 assists in four seasons since returning to Germany from Arsenal. Not terrible production for a player the Gunners offloaded to Werder Bremen for under $6 million in 2016.

What color will London be when Chelsea buys him next year? We kid, we kid…

Champions League preview: Real Madrid renews rivalry with Pep; Lyon hosts Juve

UEFA Champions League preview
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The final two ties of the UEFA Champions League’s Round of 16 begin Wednesday when Manchester City and Juventus head to Spain and France.

The focus for many will be on the former, as City continues to weather UEFA drama while its manager prepares for his fiercest foe as a player and manager.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

Pep Guardiola has managed against Real Madrid 17 times and boasts a 9-4-4 record between Barcelona and Bayern Munich.

The Catalan wizard has lost his last three versus Real, two with Bayern and once in his final El Clasico as Barca boss.

Even as Guardiola stresses preparation and plan, he knows there will be bounces and that both teams will have to cope with them.

“We have to be strong, have quality and need to have luck,” he said, via The Manchester Evening News. “At this stage, it’s important but we cannot control that. We can control what we can control and we will see. This competition, last season, against Liverpool, there are decisions. You have to overcome. You need incredible concentration in our game and game plan plus try to be a little lucky.”

Real Madrid living legend Sergio Ramos has earned the ire of Guardiola on plenty of occasions, one of the few things Liverpool and City fans have in common.

Ramos wouldn’t get drawn into rivalry talk, sying the stage somewhat negates the opponent.

“I have a lot of respect for him,” Ramos said via the club’s web site. “I think he’s a fantastic coach, with loads of experience, and his numbers speak for themselves. We’re motivated by the Champions League, regardless of the players or coaches who may have been rivals in the past. We’re up for the Champions League and our next task is to beat City. From a personal point of view, I’m just focused on making the next round.”

[ MORE: Key battles for Real-Man City ]

Wednesday’s other match sees a club long linked with Guardiola, as Juventus will play the role of heavy favorites against Lyon.

Maurizio Sarri‘s side is to bidding to win what’s eluded all Juve bosses since Marcello Lippi beat Ajax in 1996. If they succeed, it will be by going down a different path than it’s traveled in recent years.

Here’s Leonardo Bonucci, via Football-Italia:

“What the coach asks of us now is basically the opposite of what the previous coach did,” Bonucci mused. “It was usually individual against individual, now it’s more about organized team movements. Obviously, you need to train consistently to get that down and playing every three days makes it difficult. But we started this journey well aware of the positives it could bring and the difficulties of getting there.”

Lyon has been maddeningly inconsistent this season, sitting seventh in the Ligue 1 table, but has the tools to surprise if Juve doesn’t bring its best. That starts in France on Wednesday.