Alessandro Florenzi

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Pair of Italy stars back in squad for WC playoff vs. Sweden

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MILAN (AP) Simone Zaza and Alessandro Florenzi are back in the Italy squad for the first time in a year, and there was also a surprise call-up for Jorghino for the World Cup playoff against Sweden.

Zaza has been recalled after eight goals in his last seven league games for Valencia. Roma’s Florenzi returns after twice rupturing the ACL in his knee.

Italy coach Gian Piero Ventura has always left out Brazilian-born Jorginho, saying he does not fit into his tactics, but has now included the Napoli midfielder amid reports Brazil has expressed interest.

Italy travels to Stockholm for the first leg on Friday and hosts Sweden at San Siro in the decider three days later.

Andrea Belotti, Marco Verratti and Daniele De Rossi return from injury.

La Liga & Serie A roundup: Villarreal firm in 4th; Roma dominate Rome derby

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A roundup of Sunday’s action in Spain and Italy’s top flights…

[ MORE: Saturday’s La Liga & Serie A roundup ]

Eibar 1-2 Villarreal

With seven games to go, Villarreal currently hold an eight-point lead in the race for Spain’s fourth and final UEFA Champions League place after winning away to ninth-place Eibar on Sunday. The hosts went ahead on 22 minutes, but Adrian and Roberto Soldado bagged goals either side of halftime (35th and 50th minutes) to break El Submarino Amarillo’s (The Yellow Submarine) four-game winless skid and reaffirm their grip on fourth.

Elsewhere in La Liga

Athletic Bilbao 1-1 Granada
Malaga 1-1 Espanyol
Sevilla 1-2 Real Sociedad


Udinese 3-1 Napoli

Napoli were the last side with any chance of preventing a half-decade of Serie A dominance by Juventus, but Sunday’s loss away to Udinese leaves Maurizio Sarri’s side six points back of Juve with seven games to play — a seemingly insurmountable deficit at this point.

Bruno Fernandes opened Sunday’s scoring from the penalty spot on 14 minutes, though Gonzalo Higuain’s 30 league goal of the season (31 games) equalized for the visitors 10 minutes later. Fernandes bagged the winner and his brace less than a minute into the second half, and Cyril Thereau added an insurance just before the hour mark.

Lazio 1-4 Roma

Four points behind Napoli, you’ll find Roma, who thrashed and embarrassed their capital rivals, Lazio, in what could be the final Rome Derby of Francesco Totti’s brilliant, one-club career (Totti was an unused substitute on Sunday). Stephan El Shaarawy put the “visitors” (they share the Olympic Stadium) ahead after 15 minutes (his sixth goal in nine league games since joining the Romans in January), and Edin Dzeko made it 2-0 just after the hour mark.

Marco Paolo pulled one back for the “hosts” with 15 minutes left to play, but Alessandro Florenzi and Diego Perotti provided the insurance and exclamation point goals in the 83rd and 87th minutes. Roma’s lead on Fiorentina and Inter Milan in the race for Italy’s third and final Champions League place currently stands at seven and eight points, respectively, with seven games to go.

Elsewhere in Serie A

Fiorentina 1-1 Sampdoria
Inter Milan 1-2 Torino
Chievo 3-1 Palermo
Genoa 4-0 Frosinone
Atalanta 2-1 AC Milan

Florenzi believes Roma deserves to beat Real Madrid: “This result is not fair”

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As Roma captain Alessandro Florenzi was beaten by Cristiano Ronaldo for the opening goal of Wednesday’s UEFA Champions League match at the Stadio Olimpico, one of precious few mistakes from the Serie A side’s defense.

[ UCL WEDS: Real beats Roma | Gent, Wolfsburg thrill ]

Real got goals from Ronaldo and Jese Rodriguez to pick up a 2-0 win that was anything but comfortable. Mohamed Salah and Edin Dzeko both failed to convert strong scoring chances for i Lupi, and Florenzi slipped while marking Ronaldo on the goal.

“We played one of our best matches this season. Sometimes you also need a bit of luck, because we actually played well and this result is not fair. Our fans applauded us.

“I have been a little unlucky with Ronaldo’s shot, I managed to deflect the ball but it ended exactly where Wojciech [Szczesny] couldn’t reach it.”

Roma was pesky and did deserve a bit better than a 2-0 home loss, but Real did everything it needed to do to set itself up for the quarterfinals. Florenzi needed to be perfect in marking Ronaldo; He almost was, but ay, there’s the rub.

Florenzi won’t like it, but Roma needed to avoid big mistakes like his and convert on its chances. That’s obviously a big ask, but not as big as winning by two or more at the Bernabeu next month.

UCL roundup: Arsenal, Barca start slow; Chelsea win

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Just like that, Matchday 1 of the 2015-16 UEFA Champions League group stage is done and dusted. For the four sides representing the Premier League, it wasn’t the best 24 hours England’s top flight has ever had — one win and three defeats in four games played.

Dinamo Zagreb 2-1 Arsenal MORE

Olivier Giroud had a really, really bad night out in Croatia. The French striker had a pair of close-range chances saved in before the hour mark and was eventually sent off shortly before halftime. With just 10 men on the field, Arsenal shipped a second goal to the reigning Croatian champions and currently find themselves third in Group F.

Chelsea 4-0 Maccabi Tel Aviv MORE

Back in London, Chelsea made fairly easy work of Maccabi Tel Aviv, despite a stumble out of the blocks that included a skied penalty attempt from Eden Hazard. Willian, Oscar (penalty), Diego Costa and Cesc Fabregas provided the Blues’ haul of goals on the evening, sending the reigning Premier League champions top of Group G.

Roma 1-1 Barcelona

Roma midfielder Alessandro Florenzi did this, which was pretty memorable. On second thought, it was an all-time great Champions League goal. Luis Suarez scored Barcelona’s only goal of the game off a header from close range. Lionel Messi appeared in the 100th Champions League of his career, and for what seems like the first time ever, failed to mark the occasion with a goal.

[ MORE: Champions League standings ]

Olympiakos 0-3 Bayern Munich

Not wanting to feel left out in the wake of Florenzi’s stunner, Thomas Mueller scored a cheeky chip of his own, though it felt more like a wayward cross that crept inside the far post. That made it 1-0 in the 52nd minute. Mueller completed his brace in the 89th minute, two minutes after Mario Goetze had made it 2-0 to the Bavarian giants. The reigning Bundesliga champions are top of Group F.

Bayer Leverkusen 4-1 BATE Borisov

Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez scored his first goal for Leverkusen (WATCH HERE), which made the score 3-1 in the 58th minute. Hakan Calhanoglu, who is widely recognized as “the free kick master,” bagged a brace as Leverkusen rolled to a 4-1 victory and the top spot in Group E.

Valencia 2-3 Zenit St. Petersburg

Hulk bagged a brace, including one particularly notable laser beam from 25 yards out — typical Hulk stuff, you know — to cancel out a goal scored by Andre Gomes and an own goal pushed over the line by Zenit midfielder Axel Witsel. It was Witsel, though, who scored the eventual winner in the 76th minute to put the reigning Russian champions top of Group H.

[ MORE: Champions League schedule ]

Dynamo Kyiv 2-2 Porto

Porto’s Vincent Aboubakar bagged a brace of his own, but goals scored by Oleg Gusev and Vitaliy Buyalsky — the latter coming not until the 89th minute — meant the points were to be split between the reigning Ukrainian champions and Portuguese league runners-up.

Gent 1-1 Lyon

Christophe Jallet gave Lyon a 1-0 lead int he 58th minute, but Danijel Milicevic equalized 10 minutes later for the reigning Belgian champions to rescue a point at home.

VIDEO: Roma’s Florenzi scores 50-yarder vs. Barca

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Alessandro Florenzi, you filthy, filthy animal.

[ MORE: Wednesday’s UCL roundup ]

You did not just (intentionally) lob Barcelona goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen from just past the halfway line and all the way out wide on the sideline.

You know what? I take that back, because Florenzi, the 24-year-old Roma midfielder, just scored the goal of the 2015-16 UEFA Champions League. It was also the first Champions League goal of Florenzi’s career.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s UCL coverage ]

We might as well just cancel the rest of the tournament, right?