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Serie A 2018-19: Empoli, Parma, Frosinone make return

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MILAN (AP) The Italian league begins this weekend with Parma returning to the top flight only three years after being declared bankrupt.

Empoli and Frosinone are also back in Serie A.

The three promoted clubs replace Crotone, Hellas Verona and Benevento, which were relegated last season.

Spal was the only promoted team not to go back down last season.

[ MORE: Ramos takes shots at Klopp ]

Here’s a look at the new teams in Italy’s top division:

EMPOLI

Empoli, which is in the city of Florence, bounced back up to Serie A after only one season in the second division.

The Tuscan team won Serie B with four matches remaining and went on to finish 13 points ahead of second-place Parma.

Much of the credit goes to former Roma coach Aurelio Andreazzoli, who replaced Vincenzo Vivarini in December, with the team in fourth place.

It was Andreazzoli’s first managerial role since 2013 but, under the 64-year-old coach, Empoli went on a remarkable 23-match unbeaten run to the end of the season.

When it was last in Serie A, Empoli spent three seasons in the top flight before being relegated on the final day of the 2016-17 campaign after it failed to beat Palermo.

Andreazzoli has made astute signings, bringing in defenders Luca Antonelli and Matias Silvestre as well as young forward Antonino La Gumina.

Francesco Caputo was the top scorer in Serie B last season with 27 goals, six more than teammate Alfredo Donnarumma, who has since moved to Brescia.

The 31-year-old Caputo has scored only one Serie A goal, for Bari in the 2010-11 season.

[ MORE: PL Club Power Rankings ]

PARMA

Parma earned promotion to Serie A only three years after being declared bankrupt, becoming the first Italian club to earn three straight promotions.

Parma beat Spezia on the final day to finish second in Serie B after Frosinone conceded a late goal to draw 2-2 at home against Foggia. They finished level on points but Parma clinched second because of its head-to-head record.

Parma also became embroiled in an attempted match-fixing case after it was revealed forward Emanuele Calaio had sent text messages to Spezia defender Filippo De Col, encouraging him and another former teammate to not try too hard in the game.

Calaio insisted he was joking but Parma risked being demoted back to Serie B. It was deducted five points from the upcoming season but that was reduced to a fine on appeal.

Calaio, who was originally banned for two years, is suspended until Dec. 31.

Parma has signed a number of players, including Portugal defender Bruno Alves and Inter Milan trio Jonathan Biabiany, Federico Dimarco and Alessandro Bastoni.

It could also sign Antonio Cassano, who is looking to make a comeback after two years out of the game.

[ MORE: VAR at World Cup changed our brains ]

FROSINONE

Frosinone recovered from missing out on automatic promotion to win the playoffs and earn a second season back in Serie A.

Frosinone, which is south of Rome, advanced with a controversial 3-2 aggregate victory over Palermo. It had lost the first leg but won the return match 2-0, although players were accused of intimidating the referee, while substitutes threw balls onto the field to delay play.

Palermo complained but the Italian soccer federation ruled that the promotion was not going to be overturned. However, Frosinone will have to play its first two home games on neutral ground.

Frosinone opened its Benito Stirpe Stadium last season, more than 40 years after construction began, including 30 years of inactivity.

In its only previous campaign in Serie A, Frosinone finished 19th out of 20 clubs in 2016.

More AP Serie A coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/SerieA

WATCH LIVE: Wolves vs. Everton

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Two clubs dreaming of monumental seasons begin their campaigns at the Molineux Stadium in Wolverhampton on Saturday (Watch live, 12:30 p.m. ET on NBC and online via NBCSports.com).

Nuno Espirito Santo’s Portuguese-flavored Wolves host countryman Marco Silva and big-spending Everton to kick off both teams’ Premier League seasons.

[ STREAM: Wolves vs Everton live ]

LINEUPS

Wolves: Patricio, Doherty, Boly, Coady, Bennett, Otto, Neves, Moutinho, Jota, Costa, Jimenez. Subs: Ruddy, Enobakhare, Gibbs-White, Saiss, Vinagre, Hause, Bonatini

Everton: Pickford, Baines, Keane, Jagielka, Coleman, Schneiderlin, Sigurdsson, Gueye, Richarlison, Tosun, Walcott. Subs: Stekelenburg, Holgate, Digne, Sandro, Niasse, Davies, Calvert-Lewin.

Alexis leads Man United past Real Madrid; Spurs, Roma win

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The International Champions Cup brought some power matches to the preseason pitch on Wednesday, and two of the three brought some real entertainment.

[ MORE: Modric interested in Inter ]

Manchester United 2-1 Real Madrid

Alexis Sanchez’s wonder assist joined his opening goal to make him the easy Man of the Match as Jose Mourinho’s men emerged victorious from Miami Gardens.

Karim Benzema scored for Real Madrid, but the reigning UEFA Champions League victors couldn’t find a second against United’s defense.

Now back to Alexis’ assist. Consider the athleticism involved in nodding this Juan Mata cross into the path of Ander Herrera. Insane.


Tottenham Hotspur 1-0 AC Milan

Georges-Kevin N’Koudou’s early second half hammer in Minneapolis was enough to let Spurs leave the ICC with two wins and a loss in penalties.


Barcelona 2-4 AS Roma

Rafinha gave Barcelona a 1-0 lead before Justin Kluivert fed Stephan El Shaarawy to leave it level at the break in Arlington.

New winger Malcom restored Barca’s lead from an assist courtesy former Montreal Impact man Ballou Tabla, but that was about all she wrote for the Blaugranas. Alessandro Florenzi, Bryan Cristante, and Diego Perotti scored thrice in eight minutes to hand Barca its first loss of the preseason.

Rafinha’s goal was pretty nice, though.

Prosecutors seek 11-year sentence for ex-Barca president

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MADRID (AP) Spanish prosecutors are seeking an 11-year prison sentence for former Barcelona president Sandro Rosell on charges of money laundering involving the sale of television rights for Brazil matches.

[ MORE: La Liga schedule ]

The prosecutors also want Rosell to pay a fine of 59 million euros ($69 million) on the charges of money laundering and forming part of a criminal organization.

Rosell’s wife and four other individuals also have been charged in the case in which Rosell is accused of misappropriating money coming from the sale of TV rights for matches featuring Brazil, as well as from a sponsorship contract between Nike and Brazil.

Prosecutors on Wednesday also accused Rosell of hiding money that was allegedly achieved illicitly by former Brazilian soccer federation president Ricardo Teixeira.

Rosell, a former Nike executive in Brazil who presided over Barcelona from 2010-14, has been in custody since his arrest last year.

Rosell and those accused have denied any wrongdoing.

De Rossi inspired for electric Serie A race

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When we last spoke with Daniele De Rossi, he was cautiously optimistic that his club — and we very much mean his club — AS Roma was charting a path toward greatness.

The one-club man, 34, captained La Lupa to its first UEFA Champions League semifinal berth in three decades, and also led Roma to third place in Serie A.

[ MORE: Wolves set to add Moutinho ]

This summer, De Rossi remains cautious about over-promising anything, but the band has mostly stayed together. Alisson and Radja Nainngolan have left, but anyone else who played 1000-plus minutes is still there and the club also bought Justin Kluivert (Ajax) and Javier Pastore (PSG).

Now seven games from 600 appearances with Roma, De Rossi renewed acquaintances with PST ahead of the club’s International Champions Cup matches talking about the season that was, Juventus adding Ronaldo, and missing out the World Cup.

Roma plays Tottenham in San Diego on Wednesday before traveling to Arlington for a July 31 date with Barcelona. I Lupi then meet Real Madrid on Aug. 7 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.

ProSoccerTalk: Daniele, when we spoke last year you were hesitant to declare AS Roma a contender given all the new pieces but had a good feeling about the club. Given how it came together, is that hope tank a bit fuller?

Daniele De Rossi: “I’m pretty confident with this team, with the coach, because it’s his second year and everything will probably easier because he is not starting from the beginning. He can count on a base of team, players who already know what he wants. It’s going to be easier to insert young players in the team.”

PST: What struck us about the manager (Eusebio Di Francesco) is how he was very calculated with how to respond to your side whether you had won 3-0 over Barcelona or fallen to Shakhtar in the first leg of a Champions League tie. It seems he carries some of the same characteristics as a coach that you do as a player. Did he impress you as a manager?

DDR: “Yes, and I’ve known him for a long time. I met him when I was 18 and he’s always been like this. Even as a player, he wanted everything. He wanted to do better as a player, and now as a coach. The job is different, full of pressure, but he’s a winner in his mentality and he’s trying to get it to the team as well.”

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PST: You’ve spoken of Roma as a club and Rome as a city as classics, and that the team can reflect that. It seemed last year’s UCL run had the area buzzing.

DDR: “Last year we showed all the world what a city and a team like ours can do. We did something incredible and probably because of our talent, because of our organization, and even because it’s a club that the fans trusted us. Everything went very good. Even the relationship between us and the fans was something that we talked about last year. It’s something we found during the season at every step, much more than before.”

PST: Has that raised expectations for you?

DDR: (laughing) “Eighteen years that I’m hoping and trying to bring something to Rome. Very easy to say but very hard to get. We will try to do something unbelievable because the teams that reached the first and second position are even better than last year.

“Juventus bought one of the best players in football history and this is a sign. They are trying to make their team better but we are trying to do the same. Nothing in football is written. Even the last World Cup showed that things can go in different ways than you thought before a match, league, or tournament begins. That’s what we think, we hope.

“We are a good team. We are close to them. They are trying to win Champions League and make a big hole between them and the other teams, but we’re trying to fill it up.”

PST: Last year you showed the capability to beat teams like Barcelona and Liverpool by multiple goals, but also to find a way to win 1-0 when needed. Roma conceded just 28 times in the league, and that was in Di Francesco’s first season. Does this mean we may see even more variety in terms of tactics and approaches?

DDR: “The time can help the team to understand better, not just our coach but every coach needs time. We hope that what happened last year, so many matches where we scored a lot of goals but sometimes conceded as well. We tried to become a more balanced team, and it’s something you can achieve with more experience. It’s going to be better from this side, but it’s never written. We’re not gonna start from the semifinal of the Champions League, or third place in Serie A. We start on zero points, the same as Cagliari or Juventus.”

Daniele De Rossi of AS Roma celebrates his sides victory with Alessandro Florenzi (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

PST: You mentioned the World Cup earlier. Watching the tournament from home was something new for both you and Italy. What did you make of it?

DDR: “It’s been a weird tournament because a lot of teams we thought could reach the semifinals did not. Not because of them, but because the whole world is improving, the way to play football, the way to look and study football. Even the smallest team in the world, it’s not as 15-20 years ago where you can play against Panama and Costa Rica, and score 10 goals every match. Teams are going to be smarter than before because everybody sees a lot of football, with software and the Internet. Even the coaches are smarter than before. That’s some of the problems like Argentina or Brazil found in the last World Cup. At the end a big, big team still won the World Cup. It’s not so easy for every team.”

PST: So there’s hope for United States?

DDR: (laughing) “It’s not so easy for them as well, but I can’t talk because I’m on the same side as the U.S., the other side of the TV I’m watching the World Cup and it’s so sad.”

Roma at the ICC

Wednesday: vs. Tottenham Hotspur (San Diego)

July 31: vs. Barcelona (Arlington)

Aug. 7: vs. Real Madrid (East Rutherford)