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Serie A: AC Milan on winning streak, Fiorentina woes deepen

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AC Milan secured its first winning streak since mid-September as Krzysztof Piatek and Theo Hernandez led the way to a 3-2 road win over Bologna.

Piatek was the first on the scoresheet, opening the scoring from the spot after the Polish striker was bundled over on the break by Mattia Bani. He utilized a heavy stutter in his run-up, but wrong-footed Bologna goalkeeper Lukasz Skorupski for the conversion. Hernandez was next up, latching onto a perfect through-ball from Suso that sprung the former at the far post.

Bologna pulled one back before halftime on a Hernandez own-goal, but Giacomo Bonaventura restored the two-goal lead just seconds after the restart. Nicola Sansone’s late penalty made no difference in the result and Milan sits 10th in the league table, level on points with Torino.

Fiorentina slumped to its fourth straight loss as they fell at Torino 2-1. The visitors were soundly beaten on goals by Simone Zaza and Cristian Ansaldi, only able to grab a consolation strike from Martin Caceres in stoppage time. They put just four of their 17 shots on net and had very few true chances until Caceres’s late goal. With the loss, Fiorentina drops to 13th in the table, just five points above the relegation zone. Vincenze Montella’s job is on the line, having just returned to the club in April for a second stint in charge after the departure of Stefano Pioli.

Cagliari failed to pull away from Roma with a 2-2 draw on the road at 14th placed Sassuolo. A comeback was required after falling down 2-0 before halftime. João Pedro brought the visitors one back just six minutes after the break, and Daniele Ragatzu rescued the point as he snuck one in at the near post a minute into added time. They also survived what could have been the game-winning goal as Domenico Berardi clattered the crossbar from the penalty stop on a chance that would have put the home side 3-1. Instead, Cagliari moves level with Roma on 29 points, clinging to the fourth Champions League spot on goal differential.

Genoa survived the final 13 minutes with just nine men, securing a 2-2 draw with Lecce that keeps them in the hunt for Serie A safety. Goran Pandev and Domenico Criscito had put Genoa 2-0 up before halftime, but they had coughed up the lead by the 70th minute. Still, things could have been worse as Kevin Agudelo was sent off with 20 minutes to go after conceding a penalty, while Pandev was given his marching orders in the 77th minute. The goals in this game were spectacular, with Pandev’s opener coming from nearly 40 yards out as he chipped Lecce goalkeeper Gabriel who was off his line, while Filippo Falco scored a fine curler to mark Lecce’s first on the hour mark.

Brescia topped SPAL 1-0 to leave the latter at the bottom of the Serie A table, with the lone goal coming via Mario Balotelli in the 54th minute as he collected a bobbling ball on the break and fired it in at the far post. The win was critical, moving 19th-placed Brescia to 10 points on the year, two from safety.

Parma defeated Sampdoria 1-0 on a 21st minute goal from Juraj Kucka that left Claudio Ranieri‘s squad just a point off the relegation zone.

Aston Villa gets its man in prolific Tanzanian captain Samatta

Aston Villa signs Tanzanian captain
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Aston Villa has captured its center forward, signing Tanzanian national team captain Mbwana Samatta in its bid for Premier League safety.

Samatta turned 27 last month and has 51 caps with 18 goals for Tanzania. He’s ineligible to play for Villa when it hosts Watford on Tuesday (Watch live at 2:30 p.m. ET online on NBCSports.com).

The fee is reported as $13 million.

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“I’m so excited. It’s a huge step for me and my career. For all the people from Tanzania, it’s a big step for the country as well. Everybody is so on it, they are looking to see one Tanzanian guy who can play in the Premier League. Here today I’m him, and I’m so happy.”

The striker scored 26 times last season for Genk, and has 76 goals for the club since arriving in 2015. He scored against Liverpool and twice versus Red Bull Salzburg in this season’s Champions League group stage.

He spent time with Congolese club TP Mazembe and Tanzanian side Simba SC before that.

Villa’s 22 points are back of the Premier League’s safe spaces, and the Midlands club is a win away from the League Cup final. The semifinal second leg at Leicester City takes place Jan. 28.

Real Madrid adds Brazilian teen phenom Reinier Jesus

Real Madrid adds Reinier Jesus
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Barcelona and Real Madrid may be neck-and-neck in the short-term, but the Madrid side keeps landing stars for the bigger picture.

The latest add is Reinier Jesus, a $33 million price affixed to the teenage phenom from Brazilian side Flamengo. As Joel Soria wrote earlier this month, the victorious fee is around half of Reinier’s reported release clause.

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Marca brands the kid a physically-gifted player in the Kaka mold, which is lofty praise given the latter won a Ballon d’Or.

Reinier, an attacking midfielder, joins wingers Rodrygo and Vinicius Junior in forming a young Brazilian heart of the squad’s future.

Renieir, no relation to Man City forward Gabriel Jesus, turned 18 on Sunday. He is coming off six goals and two assists in 17 senior appearances for Flamengo and is expected to be one of the stars of Brazil’s Olympic qualifying fight, which is currently underway in Colombia.

That team, should they qualify, would be terrifying at full strength. Brazil could utilize Douglas Luiz, Rodrygo, Thiago Maia, Wendel, and Renan Lodi.

 

Prince-Wright’s Premier League picks

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Here are the latest Prince-Wright‘s Premier League picks ahead of Matchweek 24 in the Premier League, the midweek slate of games.

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If you, like me, love to dissect all the games and predict what the score will be and which team will win, I encourage you to get involved in the comments section below. Let’s have a bit of fun.

Okay, so I’ve consulted my crystal ball and here’s how we see things panning out. Listen carefully, because this is very specific.

While you can download the NBC Sports Predictor app (below) and play the Premier League Pick ‘Em game yourself to predict the scores and win the prizes.

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With the first section labelled “basically, free money” for the picks I think are dead certs. The section labelled “don’t touch this” means if you’re betting I advise you to stay clear, while the “so you’re telling me there’s a chance” section are the long shots. If it is better odds you are after, those are the picks to go for.


BASICALLY, FREE MONEY

Everton 2-0 Newcastle– (Tuesday, 2:30 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Gold) – [STREAM

Aston Villa 0-2 Watford – (Tuesday, 2:30 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Gold) – [STREAM]

Tottenham 3-1 Norwich – (Wednesday, 2:30 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Gold) – [STREAM]


DON’T TOUCH THIS…

Bournemouth 2-1 Brighton – (Tuesday, 2:30 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Gold) – [STREAM]

Leicester 1-1 West Ham – (Wednesday, 12:30 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Gold) – [STREAM

Wolves 1-2 Liverpool – (Thursday, 3 p.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM

Crystal Palace 1-1 Southampton – (Tuesday, 2:30 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Gold) – [STREAM

Man United 2-2 Burnley – (Wednesday 3:15 p.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM]


“SO YOU’RE TELLING ME THERE’S A CHANCE…”

Sheffield United 2-1 Man City – (Tuesday, 2:30 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Gold) – [STREAM

Chelsea 1-2 Arsenal – (Tuesday, 3:15 p.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM

USMNT’s Bradley suffers serious ankle injury; Altidore hits out

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USMNT midfielder Michael Bradley will reportedly be out for up to four months due to an ankle injury he suffered playing for Toronto FC in the 2019 MLS Cup final against Seattle. That was the MLS Cup final, in November.

The TFC skipper, 32, suffered the serious ankle injury during the game and per reports he has been rehabbing the ankle over the past two months. However, that hasn’t had the desired effect and now ankle surgery is his only option.

Via Joshua Kloke from The Athletic, TFC’s General Manager Ali Curtis confirmed that Bradley will have ankle surgery in New York City on Tuesday. Curtis added that “surgery was a last resort and club believed they could rehab injury.”

Bradley’s teammates with Toronto and USMNT, Jozy Altidore, then hit out at the handling of the situation as Toronto will be without their leader for almost half of thee MLS season.

“Make no mistake. In my opinion, for me, it was handled poorly,” Altidore told reporters as TFC returned to practice on Monday, as he insinuated that Bradley was put in a tough position by the club over his injury.

The injury will reportedly keep him out for at least four months, meaning he will miss a huge chunk of the MLS season and also the USMNT’s friendlies against the Netherlands (March 26) and Wales (March 30).

This is a hammer blow for Toronto as Bradley led the organization on and off the pitch since he arrived in 2014, reaching three MLS Cup finals in the last four seasons. He only signed a new contract with Toronto FC over the offseason as his previous deal expired but it will be intriguing to see how this all plays out as Altidore obviously believes this situation could have been handled a lot better.

USMNT fans will now focus on having some of their younger players take the lead in central midfield in March and maybe beyond, with Tyler Adams now back to full fitness as he looks set to become Gregg Berhalter’s go-to guy in midfield.

Bradley’s displays in recent seasons have been lamented by USMNT fans but Berhalter has made him an integral part of his plans and he is one of the few players who survived the massive cull from the 2018 World Cup qualifying debacle. Losing Bradley for this amount of time is a big blow for club and country.