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Serie A roundup: Struggling Napoli stun leaders Juventus (video)

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Napoli’s much-needed win against leaders Juventus highlights Sunday’s busy Serie A action.

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Napoli 2-1 Juventus

Second-half goals from Piotr Zielinski and Lorenzo Insigne earned Napoli a hard-earned 2-1 win over leaders Juventus in San Paolo. 

Gli Azzurri’s win marks their first in three Serie A bouts and ended the Old lady’s five-game winning streak.

Cristiano Ronaldo managed to extend his goalscoring streak to eight games in the final minutes of the match, but Juventus failed to go six point clear of second best Inter Milan, who drew on Sunday.

Following the game, the visitor’s boss, Maurizio Sarri, was delighted for Napoli, who he managed from 2015 to 2018.

“I am happy for the lads, as I will always be fond of them,” he told Sky Sport Italia. “If you have to lose, I guess I’d rather it be here to help Napoli get out of their current problems. I’d rather they started winning next week, of course.”

“Clearly, the game takes over and you have to detach yourself from everything around that,” he added. “Napoli represented a special moment in my life and it’s always pleasing and emotional to be back here.”

As for Napoli, the home league victory – their first since October – takes loads of pressure from their back. The club, under the guidance of Gennaro Gattuso, had been struggling.

The club stands 10th with 27 points after 21 games, but has a long ways to go, according to Gattuso.

“We beat two good teams now, fine, but we are still in trouble, still a long way back and need to keep pushing,” he said. “I congratulate the lads for the work they’ve done over the last seven days, but we have to keep going like this now, do not let up, focus on Napoli 24 hours a day.”

Up next for Napoli is Sampdoria, while Juventus host Fiorentina.

Elsewhere in Serie A 

Inter Milan 1-1 Cagliari

Parma 2-0 Udinese

Sampdoria 0-0 Sassuolo 

Verona 3-0 Lecce

Roma 1-1 Lazio

Serie A roundup: Ronaldo sets record with brace in Juventus win over Parma (video)

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Cristiano Ronaldo’s two-goal performance against Parma highlights Sunday’s Serie A action.

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Juventus 2-1 Parma

Cristiano Ronaldo scored two goals as Juventus edged visiting Parma 2-1, going four points clear of Inter Milan, who drew with Lecce on Sunday.

Ronaldo opened the scoring at Allianz Stadium in the 43rd minute and added his second in the 58th minute, extending his scoring mark to seven straight games – the first Juventus player to reach that mark since Frenchman David Trezeguet in late 2005.

With the double to count for, the Portuguese sees his overall count move up to 16 goals this season, seven behind Serie A’s leading scorer Ciro Immobile, who has put together an extraordinary season.

Surpassing the 15-goal mark, Ronaldo becomes the only player within top five European leagues to at least score 15 goals in each of the last 14 campaigns. A big boost for the 34-year-old recent form has been Paulo Dybala, who provided the assist for the match-winning goal.

After a slow start this season, questions were asked about the chemistry between Ronaldo and the Argentine. But as Juventus coach Maurizio Sarri noted after Sunday’s game, Ronaldo is unlike others: he can create a world of trouble, but manage to resolve it all on his own.

“You have a world class player who might cause you a few problems every now and then, but can also resolve 100 of them,” Sarri said about Ronaldo after Juventus’ victory. “So you have to take him into account and work around his characteristics.”

Juventus will hope Ronaldo remains on what has been his best form this season as they host AS Roma in the Coppa Italia quarterfinal on Wednesday. For Parma, the campaign that is to crack the top six resumes on Sunday against Udinese.

Elsewhere

Milan 3-2 Udinese

Lecce 1-1 Inter Milan

Brescia 2-2 Cagliari 

Bologna 1-1 Verona

Genoa 1-3 AS Roma

Sarri: ‘Annoying’ that Ronaldo has less Ballons d’Or than Messi

Maurizio Sarri praises Ronaldo over Messi
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Maurizio Sarri has a lot of work to do as Juventus boss.

The former Chelsea manager needs to battle critics of his style and background, all while tending to the egos of one of the biggest teams in the world.

And one of those egos is possibly the largest on record.

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That’s Cristiano Ronaldo, who did not take part in Juve’s 4-0 cup win over Udinese on Wednesday but still got plenty of airtime in Sarri’s post-match presser.

Sarri went to great lengths to describe the details of Ronaldo’s sinus infection, which comes with Ronaldo in red-hot form. The Portuguese 34-year-old has nine goals in his last six games.

The manager went on to take a shot at Lionel Messi on his player’s behalf, seemingly at random. From Football-Italia:

“I would like to help Ronaldo win a sixth Ballon d’Or, as seeing someone out there with one more than him is a little annoying… In future, Dybala can challenge for the same objective, as he can make his mark on world football for years to come.”

Without even getting into the discussion of whether there’s a single season that Messi won the Ballon d’Or over Ronaldo and didn’t deserve it (and vice versa) well… what now?

What’s Sarri doing? Assuming no one planted this bug in his ear, it’s an odd one. Your team just waxed a Serie A opponent, and Paulo Dybala got to shine without sharing the spotlight with CR7 for once. Two goals and one assist and he gets to hear about how one day he might be on his sick teammate’s level? Nah.

Look, Ronaldo is a wonderful player, and generational talent and one of the best to ever put on boots. At some point, his insufferable ego cloys the dish. Yes, it’s on brand, but there are a lot better roads to trod.

Then again, it’s probably of extreme import for Sarri to stay on his man’s good side.

Juve leads Inter in the scudetto race by two points after 19 match days.

Report: Pogba to leave Man United this summer

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Paul Pogba is expected to leave Manchester United this summer, according to a report from our partners at Sky Germany.

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Pogba, 26, is said to favor a move to Real Madrid in the summer and it is believed his former club Juventus are also keen on a deal for the World Cup winner.

After Pogba stated last summer that he wanted to move on, he remained at United but has played just seven times this season in the Premier League amid several lingering foot and ankle injuries after two failed comebacks.

Due to the complications of selling and buying in January, the report states that United are holding on to Pogba until the summer but it also states they want a transfer fee of over $195 million for their star midfielder.

Given Mino Raiola, Pogba’s agent, and Man United having a frosty relationship to put it kindly, this saga will rumble on all summer long. Pogba currently has a contract which runs until the summer of 2021 with an option of a further year.

One thing is for sure, it appears United are already trying to move on from Pogba as they’re in talks with Sporting Lisbon’s attacking central midfielder Bruno Fernandes. The Portuguese international has end product and is a player they wanted to sign in the summer but Sporting’s president refused to sell.

However, with reports stating that Fernandes now wants to move in January, it could appear United and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer are lining up their dominoes to fall ahead of a possible Pogba departure.

Pogba’s quality is undoubted and in his most recent comeback before getting injured he dazzled in United’s 4-1 win against Newcastle and in a brief cameo against Watford.

His talent is undoubted and although this season he’s been injured, the noises around Pogba suggest he is already thinking about his next challenge. Maybe United are now just going to play him sparingly and not risk a further injury to Pogba, given his huge value in the transfer market.

It would be best for everyone concerned if Pogba moves on this summer and it seems increasingly likely that United and his agent will be locked in an almighty battle during the summer window.

Sarri sheds stubborn style at Juventus, finds success

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ROME — Maurizio Sarri must have learned something from those awful losses midway through last season at Chelsea, when he was getting ridiculed for stubbornly sticking with his highly technical passing system.

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Or from those near misses at Napoli, when his teams twice were on top at the league’s midpoint only to miss out on the title on both occasions.

Half a season into his tenure at Juventus, it’s often been difficult to discern traces of “Sarri-ball,” the style of mesmerizing short, vertical passes that boosted Sarri to prominence first at Empoli then at Napoli.

Yes, there were the now-famous 24 touches before Gonzalo Higuain’s winner against Inter Milan in October; but there was also a gritty 2-1 win at Roma on Sunday when Juventus stormed out to an early 2-0 lead then almost fell apart near the hour-mark before holding on for a potentially decisive victory that sent the Bianconeri two points clear at the top of Serie A.

After the game in Rome, Sarri was asked if he felt his current side plays like his previous teams.

“Well, according to the numbers, which are completely different from Juventus’ numbers last season, my answer is yes,” Sarri said. “But you’ve also got to respect your players’ characteristics. Either I coach by myself and I simply don’t care about my players’ characteristics or I (adapt) to them.

“This is a team which is not particularly brilliant from a physical point of view. They don’t have the characteristics that Napoli had in regard to the ability of moving the ball in close spaces. This is an incredibly strong team from other points of view.”

With the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo in attack plus Leonardo Bonucci and Matthijs de Ligt in defense, Juventus possesses more talent than any other squad that Sarri has coached.

“If with my Napoli we had defended in the last 25 meters for the last 25 minutes as we did tonight, we would have lost, that’s for sure,” Sarri said. “So, this team has different qualities and if I tried to re-do what I already did in other teams, I would be coaching myself, not the team.”

Another key difference from his previous teams is that Sarri now appears much more willing to rotate his players from game to game – unlike when he relied on the same starting 11 and same two or three substitutions for nearly every match with Napoli.

“At Napoli it was important to provide continuity,” Sarri said last week. “At Juve it’s totally different from my past experiences. Considering the quality of the players, when you change two or three of them it might change something in terms of individual characteristics but not much in terms of the playing philosophy.”

TEARS OF PAIN

Roma midfielder Nicolo Zaniolo cried on the pitch after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee during the loss to Juventus.

The 20-year-old Zaniolo is considered Italy’s most talented young player and the injury will almost certainly rule him out of the Azzurri squad for this year’s European Championship.

Fortunately for Italy coach Roberto Mancini, midfield is the position where Italy is strongest. Marco Verratti and Jorginho have been consistent starters for the national team while other options include Lorenzo Pellegrini, Nicolo Barella, Stefano Sensi and Sandro Tonali.

LAZIO LEAVES IT LATE

Riding a club-record 10-match winning streak, Lazio’s ability to transform matches in the final minutes has been decisive.

Including Ciro Immobile’s 82nd-minute strike in Saturday’s 1-0 win over Napoli, Lazio has scored 13 of its 41 goals in the last quarter-hour of its matches – translating to six games won with late goals.

Aiming for its first Serie A title in two decades, Lazio is in third place, six points behind Juventus and four behind Inter Milan with a game in hand.

The Roman squad also recently won the Italian Super Cup with its second victory over Juventus this season.