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Khedira injured again, likely out for Juventus against SPAL

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At 31 years old, Juventus midfielder Sami Khedira seems to be caught in a never-ending battle with his own fitness, and losing.

The Italian club confirmed early Saturday that Khedira suffered a sprained ankle during a Saturday morning training session and is unlikely to face SPAL next weekend. The German had only just returned last weekend from a six-week absence, playing the final 16 minutes in Juventus’s win over AC Milan.

Khedira joined Juventus in the summer of 2015 on a free transfer from Real Madrid, and has actually maintained a relatively clean bill of health the last two campaigns after just 20 league appearances his first season in Turin. However, this season has been a different story, with just five Serie A appearances and eight overall.

Multiple reports now say he’s a doubt to play against SPAL next weekend, a critical match as Juventus looks to hold its six-point lead at the top of the table. Inter and Napoli behind them play 19th placed Frosinone and 20th placed Chievo Verona respectively, so a win is critical for the Old Lady.

Coming up for Juventus after the SPAL game is a Champions League meeting with Valencia in Spain, followed by league matches against Fiorentina and Inter all by December 7. Ankle sprains can linger depending on the severity, so a spell on the sidelines for Khedira that encompasses those matches is not unfathomable.

Argentine midfielder Rodrigo Betancur has been the most direct beneficiary of Khedira’s absence, without a start through four matches until Kherida’s knee injury, at which point he received seven starts over the next eight Serie A games. Emre Can would be in the mix but he has missed the last three Serie A matches after having thyroid surgery. These absences have forced Miralem Pjanic into a deeper role with Blaise Matuidi alongside him.

Juventus executive: Bring season Serie A game abroad

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Juventus chief revenue officer Giorgio Ricci likes La Liga’s idea of taking a regular season match outside of its domestic borders.

Ricci would like Serie A to explore a similar move, saying Italian soccer can only benefit from putting its brand in other markets.

[ MORE: PL Club Power Rankings ]

Serie A lags behind other top European league in TV money, which has hindered its ability to recruit top end talent relative to its competitors.

Ricci says if American sports see value in bringing their top leagues to Europe, it holds that the reverse would be true. From the BBC:

“If we look at some other more developed leagues in terms of commercial strategy; the NBA and NFL, they are exporting one or two of their matches abroad, to the UK or elsewhere in Europe. I think it is a good strategy. It is a way to export something that is not an exhibition.”

Would a regular season match bring any more eyes or attention than the International Champions Cup, at least enough to offset the sacrifice of atmosphere? It seems doubtful, but the money is the key here. Italy wants to catch up with Spain, Germany, and England.

Ronaldo scores as Juventus beats AC Milan 2-0

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Mario Mandzukic and Cristiano Ronaldo scored as Juventus beat AC Milan to move six points clear at the top of the Serie A table.

Mandzukic opened the scoring in the eighth minute, towering over the back of Ricardo Rodriguez and heading in an Alex Sandro cross. Juventus dominated the match, ripping off 15 shots to AC Milan’s five, and Ronaldo finally finished it off in the 81st minute as Joao Cancelo’s shot from a tight angle was saved by Gianluigi Donnarumma, and the rebound fell right to the Portuguese star who couldn’t miss on the doorstep.

On the other side, Gonzalo Higuain faced his parent club for the first time since moving to AC Milan on loan this summer, and he had a rough day. Higuain had a penalty saved in the 41st minute, with Wojciech Szczesny coming up big after VAR awarded a spot-kick for a Medhi Benatia handball. Before Higuain took the penalty, Ronaldo – his former teammate at Real Madrid – was seen giving whispering something to Szczesny, presumably some advice on potentially defending Higuain’s take.

Then, in the 83rd minute, after receiving a yellow card for a challenge with Benatia, Higuain went absolutely berserk, at which point he was immediately sent off by referee Paolo Silvio Mazzoleni. It took forever for players to calm Higuain down as he tried to shake off teammates and opponents and get to the referee.

The presence of Benatia in the lineup was in and of itself a talking point even before kickoff, as Juventus manager Maximiliano Allegri dropped fellow center-back Leonardo Bonucci in favor of the Moroccan. Bonucci was sat against his former club, having departed Juventus last summer before returning after just one year.

With the loss, Milan now sits outside the Champions League places in fifth, a point back of Lazio and four behind rivals Inter.

Serie A: Napoli fight back to win, stay close to Juventus

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MILAN (AP) In a match which had to be suspended for nearly 15 minutes because of rain, Napoli almost saw its Serie A title hopes washed away.

Napoli fought back from a goal down and needed a late own goal to win at Genoa 2-1 on Saturday and keep within sight of leader Juventus.

Carlo Ancelotti’s side cut the gap to three points to Juventus, which visits AC Milan on Sunday.

Inter Milan can move back level on points with a win at Atalanta, also on Sunday.

Genoa was the only team to have taken points off Juventus in Serie A but came into the match having lost at Inter 5-0 last weekend.

Lorenzo Insigne hit the post for Napoli early on but it was Genoa which took a surprise lead in the 20th minute when Christian Kouame headed in Romulo’s cross.

It was raining heavily in Genoa and the match was halted in the 59th minute for about 13 minutes until the rain stopped and the pitch could be partly drained.

Napoli leveled shortly after play resumed, thanks to its two halftime substitutes. Mertens flicked on Allan‘s pass for Fabian Ruiz to slot past Ionut Radu.

And Napoli completed its comeback four minutes from time when Genoa defender Davide Biraschi deflected Mario Rui’s free kick into his own net.

Ronaldo, Chiellini: “We had been in total control” before Man Utd comeback

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To say Juventus feels a bit stung by Manchester United’s smash-and-grab in Turin is an understatement.

The hosts were in control of the match for most of the 90 minutes, going ahead through a sensational Cristiano Ronaldo goal in the 65th minute.

[ MORE: Recap | Mourinho reaction ]

But substitute Juan Mata curled a delightful free kick past Juve keeper Wojciech Szczesny, and the Italians bungled a late Ashley Young effort for an own goal in a 2-1 loss, their first at home in a group stage match since 2009.

All told, Juve out-attempted United 21-9, with both clubs registered three shots on target.

“Manchester United did nothing to win the game,” Ronaldo said. “You can’t even talk about luck, because you have to find your own luck and in this case we just gifted it to them.

“Now we’ve got to lift our heads, as we played really well and are still top of the group. … Manchester didn’t do much, they had two chances on set pieces. I know English teams are always looking for set pieces.”

One of Ronaldo’s defenders, Giorgio Chiellini, sounded equally unimpressed.

“We had been in total control, but were very wasteful and forgot the details, because we knew where Manchester United could be dangerous,” said Chiellini. “If we’re going to lose Champions League games like this, it’s best we do it now rather than later on.”

Manager Max Allegri shared similar thoughts, adding that he felt the loss was okay because it was “the least important game” of the group stage.

That’s still a bit weird, considering the away game at United would’ve traditionally been viewed as such (although they did have that win in pocket when Allegri made his comments). From Football-Italia.net:

“I think it’ll do us good in the long run, as we need to learn not to fall asleep in these situations. I saw Manchester United play the same way in the Premier League at the weekend, they did very little for 80 minutes and then won in very similar circumstances.”