Aaron Ramsey

Getty Images

Serie A roundup: Dybala, Ramsey strike against Inter, put Juventus back on top of Serie A

Leave a comment

Juventus’ complete performance against Inter Milan highlights Sunday’s Serie A action.

 [ MORE: Serie A scores, schedule ]

Juventus 2-0 Inter Milan

Aaron Ramsey and Paulo Dybala each scored, as Juventus ran past Inter Milan in front of an empty Allianz Stadium, which, like all other sporting events in Italy until April 3, was empty due to the coronavirus outbreak.

The victory sends the Old Lady back to the top of Serie A, giving them a one-point lead on second best Lazio and a nine-point lead on third-place Inter. Juventus are one of three Serie A teams with an active three-match winning streak.

After a standstill during the first 45 minutes, Cristiano Ronaldo touch inside the box found a opportune Ramsey, who belted the ball into the back of the net. It’s the Wales international’s second goal in back-to-back Serie A bouts, and Maurizio Sarri is happy with his effectiveness.

“He [Ramsey] maintains that he needs to see more of the pitch in front of him, or he gets a little lost,” said the Juve coach. “He is doing well in this role, although in fairness he’s also in much better physical condition now than he was when playing as a trequartista.”

For a team that dominated the league during the first half of the season, not all is well for Antonio Conte and Inter, losers of their last two league matches. The Italian was quick to mention that his players must grown from such defeats, quickly.

“We tried to stay in their slipstream, but must learn from defeat and take the lessons of comparison to grow in terms of character, quality and strength,” he said.

“It’s a loss that must help us to grow and understand how far away we are,” he added. “It certainly shouldn’t make us distraught, as we knew there was a gap and we lost both meetings with them. The results speak clearly, they won two and we got zero points.”

With a win in hand, Juventus steer their attention towards Friday’s match against Bologna, while Inter host Getafe in Europa League’s Round of 16 action.

Elsewhere in Serie A 

Parma 0-1 Spal

Sampdoria 2-1 Hellas Verona

AC Milan 1-2 Genoa

Udinese 0-0 Fiorentina 

Matthijs de Ligt taking a student role at Juventus

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Matthijs de Ligt is at Juventus to win, but the 20-year-old is quite self-aware. He knows he’s also at Juventus to become a better player.

“I was told: ‘You are a great player, but above all learn from these lads. We need you this season,’” de Ligt told Dutch website Ziggo Sport in an interview.

De Ligt, who joined Juventus this past summer from Dutch side Ajax, was immediately thrown to the wolves thanks to an ACL injury to Juventus legend Giorgio Chiellini just minutes into the season. The young defender has struggled at times this season with defensive errors resulting in occasional fan backlash, but he is soaking in the opportunity to grow, particularly with the presence of Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci.

“There are more eyes on you and people expect a great deal, all of which is new compared to my time at Ajax,” De Ligt said. “Bonucci and Chiellini are just players, but they are players who won everything for nine years and know what it’s all about.”

There were early bumps in the road, but the Dutchman feels he is already beginning to see improvements in his performances.

“I think that I’ve done well in every match since the start of November and I am happy that the club has faith in me,” de Ligt said. “I was on the bench for a little while and talked it over with the coach. I then had that problem with my shoulder and then a groin strain, so I couldn’t train. The coach told me very clearly: ‘Calm down, we need you further along in the season and in your best shape, so there’s no rush.’”

De Ligt spoke of the language barrier being a serious hindrance to his early development, but he developed a friendship with fellow new arrival Aaron Ramsey thanks to their mutual grasp of English, and eventually he was able to learn Italian and become more settled in the squad.

Since Chiellini’s return, Juventus manager Maurizio Sarri has rotated the center-backs heavily, with de Ligt, Chiellini, Bonucci, and Daniele Rugani all seeing time in league play. Juve has not seen the field since February 22 thanks to coronavirus fears causing recent postponement of play in Serie A.

Colossal Juve-Inter clash could be played in empty stadium

Photo by Daniele Badolato - Juventus FC/Juventus FC via Getty Images
Leave a comment

MILAN — Inter Milan coach Antonio Conte probably won’t have to sit through a torrent of boos when he returns to Turin for the first time to face former club Juventus.

That’s because there could be no fans there to see it.

[ MORE: Jurgen Klinsmann’s parting shots cause anger at Hertha Berlin ]

The Derby d’Italia, one of the season’s biggest matches, may be played in an empty stadium on Sunday because of the virus outbreak in northern Italy. The epicenter of the outbreak is in the Lombardy region, and Milan is its capital.

“I hope that from today there will be a regression in the diffusion of the virus so that I, too, can go see Juventus-Inter,” said Attilio Fontana, the governor of the Lombardy region. “We’re monitoring the situation. I’m very calm. We need to see what the situation is. It’s the same as for the schools. We’ll do a check Saturday and then we’ll see.”

Four Serie A matches scheduled for last weekend were postponed, including Inter’s match against Sampdoria. Italy has the most cases of the virus in Europe.

Serie A president Paolo Dal Pinto sent a letter to the government on Monday asking that games no longer be postponed in the affected areas but played without fans in attendance, something which Sports Minister Vincenzo Spadafora said they were in agreement with.

[ MORE: Man City makes statement, comes back in Madrid ]

However, no official decree has been made by the Turin council and Serie A’s governing body has also yet to release a statement, giving rise to the hope fans could be allowed in.

Italy had 447 virus cases as of Wednesday. Twelve people have died, all of them elderly or suffering from other ailments, or both.

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

Inter’s Europa League match against Ludogorets was scheduled to go ahead in an empty stadium on Thursday.

On Sunday, Conte will return to Juventus as opposition coach for the first time since he left the club in 2014. Conte led Juventus to the first three of its eight straight league titles and also spent most of his playing career with the Bianconeri.

[ MORE: Alan Pardew confronted by frustrated Den Haag fans on training field ]

“Soccer needs the crowd, to hear the atmosphere around it,” Conte said. “That’s the best thing about the game, the atmosphere around the soccer being played. These decisions have been taken with public health in mind but I hope that everything returns to normal as soon as possible.”

Inter trails the Serie A leaders by six points, although it has played a match less. Juventus, meanwhile, will have to bounce back from Wednesday’s surprise 1-0 loss at Lyon in the Champions League.

“We didn’t play the match we wanted. We have a lot of work to do,” Juventus midfielder Aaron Ramsey said. “Let’s focus on ourselves and do better than we did today, starting on Sunday with Inter.”

Ronaldo matches record in 1,000th game as Juve beats Spal

Getty Images
Leave a comment

MILAN — Cristiano Ronaldo shows no sign of slowing down as he marked his 1,000th official match by scoring a record-equaling goal to help Juventus win 2-1 at Spal in Serie A on Saturday.

Ronaldo scored for an 11th straight league game, matching the Serie A record set by Gabriel Batistuta in 1994 and equaled by Fabio Quagliarella last season.

Ronaldo also hit the crossbar with a free kick late on and had an early goal disallowed.

Aaron Ramsey doubled Juve’s lead in the second half before Andrea Petagna got Spal back into the match with a penalty.

Juventus visits Lyon in the first leg of the Champions League round of 16 on Wednesday.

Serie A leader Juventus extended its advantage to four points above Lazio, which visits Genoa on Sunday. Third-place Inter Milan is also playing a relegation-threatened team on Sunday as it hosts Sampdoria.

Spal remained firmly bottom of the table, eight points from safety, after a fifth successive defeat.

Ronaldo thought he had given Juventus the lead in the fifth minute but it was ruled offside on video review.

However, the Portugal forward did get on the scoresheet six minutes from the break, rushing in at the far post to volley Juan Cuadrado‘s cross into the roof of the net.

It took Juventus until the hour mark to double its lead when Paulo Dybala sent in a delightful through ball for Ramsey, who lifted it above Spal goalkeeper Etrit Berisha.

Spal reduced the deficit nine minutes later after Juventus defender Daniele Rugani fouled midfielder Simone Missiroli. After a lengthy wait and the use of video review, a penalty was awarded and Petagna fired it into the bottom right corner.

AC Milan was playing at Fiorentina later. Bologna drew 1-1 at home to Udinese earlier.

Juventus midfielder Pjanic avoids serious injury

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Juventus was worried that Miralem Pjanic would miss significant time after the Bosnia international limped off just eight minutes into his substitute appearance in the 2-0 win over Brescia on Sunday.

Thankfully for The Old Lady, it was just a scare. The club announced Monday that tests on Pjanic’s injury “excluded any muscle injuries” and that “only a slight strain to the right adductor was observed.”

[ MORE: USMNT injuries piling up ]

While the club stated officially that “his condition will be evaluated in the coming days,” reports are that Pjanic could be in the mix for Saturday’s league match against SPAL as well as next week’s Champions League knockout game against Olympique Lyonnais. The club also has a massive title bout with Inter the following weekend.

Inserted into a deeper-lying role, Pjanic has been a workhorse for Juventus this season, already logging over 2,500 minutes across all competitions. Since scoring three Serie A goals and assisting three others before the end of October, Pjanic’s production has dropped off the table, with no goals and an assist since that time. He was ineffective against Chievo Verona in the road loss last weekend, seeing him dropped to a substitute role against Brescia in favor of Aaron Ramsey, with Rodrigo Bentancur dropping into the defensive midfield role.

It’s not the only good news Juventus has seen of late in the injury department. 35-year-old captain Giorgio Chiellini just returned against Bresica from an ACL tear, his first appearance since going down after the opening match of the season. Douglas Costa is out 2-3 weeks with a hamstring injury, but that certainly could have been worse. One of the deepest teams in Europe continues to plug along.