Leonardo Bonucci

Juventus
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Juventus ‘could tell something wasn’t switched on’ in Lyon

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Juventus’ obsession with winning another European Cup has the club on edge after a 1-0 first leg loss to Lyon on Wednesday in the first leg of the Round of 16.

Stalwart defender Leonardo Bonucci, defender Danilo, and manager Maurizio Sarri were less than pleased with the performance.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

Bonucci was spotted yelling at substitute midfielder Blaise Matuidi in warm-ups, and that was a prelude to a poor performance from most of the team.

“I didn’t tell Matuidi off, I told him the team includes those who are on the bench and we must all be ready to contribute,” Bonucci said, via Football-Italia. “I could tell something wasn’t switched on with the XI starters either. We’ve got to sort this out, as these are the things that make the difference.”

Sarri, the system man, is quite upset with his players after what he said was a lightning-fast training session on Tuesday.

“I don’t know why, I cannot get the players to understand the importance of moving the ball quickly,” said the flummoxed ex-Chelsea man. “This is fundamental, we’ll keep working on it and sooner or later this concept will get into their heads.”

Sarri was happier with the ball movement in the second half, and will expect Juve to do the same in its home second leg.

Danilo had a decent day in the loss. He didn’t sugar coat the performance.

“We cannot just gift the first half to the opposition in such an important tournament. We are aware that we did that and need to work harder,” Danilo said.

Champions League preview: Real Madrid renews rivalry with Pep; Lyon hosts Juve

UEFA Champions League preview
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The final two ties of the UEFA Champions League’s Round of 16 begin Wednesday when Manchester City and Juventus head to Spain and France.

The focus for many will be on the former, as City continues to weather UEFA drama while its manager prepares for his fiercest foe as a player and manager.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

Pep Guardiola has managed against Real Madrid 17 times and boasts a 9-4-4 record between Barcelona and Bayern Munich.

The Catalan wizard has lost his last three versus Real, two with Bayern and once in his final El Clasico as Barca boss.

Even as Guardiola stresses preparation and plan, he knows there will be bounces and that both teams will have to cope with them.

“We have to be strong, have quality and need to have luck,” he said, via The Manchester Evening News. “At this stage, it’s important but we cannot control that. We can control what we can control and we will see. This competition, last season, against Liverpool, there are decisions. You have to overcome. You need incredible concentration in our game and game plan plus try to be a little lucky.”

Real Madrid living legend Sergio Ramos has earned the ire of Guardiola on plenty of occasions, one of the few things Liverpool and City fans have in common.

Ramos wouldn’t get drawn into rivalry talk, sying the stage somewhat negates the opponent.

“I have a lot of respect for him,” Ramos said via the club’s web site. “I think he’s a fantastic coach, with loads of experience, and his numbers speak for themselves. We’re motivated by the Champions League, regardless of the players or coaches who may have been rivals in the past. We’re up for the Champions League and our next task is to beat City. From a personal point of view, I’m just focused on making the next round.”

[ MORE: Key battles for Real-Man City ]

Wednesday’s other match sees a club long linked with Guardiola, as Juventus will play the role of heavy favorites against Lyon.

Maurizio Sarri‘s side is to bidding to win what’s eluded all Juve bosses since Marcello Lippi beat Ajax in 1996. If they succeed, it will be by going down a different path than it’s traveled in recent years.

Here’s Leonardo Bonucci, via Football-Italia:

“What the coach asks of us now is basically the opposite of what the previous coach did,” Bonucci mused. “It was usually individual against individual, now it’s more about organized team movements. Obviously, you need to train consistently to get that down and playing every three days makes it difficult. But we started this journey well aware of the positives it could bring and the difficulties of getting there.”

Lyon has been maddeningly inconsistent this season, sitting seventh in the Ligue 1 table, but has the tools to surprise if Juve doesn’t bring its best. That starts in France on Wednesday.

Serie A roundup: Ronaldo sets record with brace, Juventus top Serie A (video)

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Juventus’ routine win, which puts them level with leaders Inter Milan, highlights Sunday’s Serie A action.

 [ MORE: Serie A scores, schedule ]

Juventus 3-1 Udinese

Cristiano Ronaldo scored a brace as Juventus picked up its first win after dropping points in two consecutive Serie A outings.

With two goals – which easily could have been four if he had not struck the bar – the Portuguese made history in front of the home crowd, becoming the first player to record double digit goals in 15 consecutive seasons within Europe’s top-five leagues.

The storied attacker opened the floodgates in the ninth minute, when a softly deflected ball landed in front of the same right foot that belted the ball past Udinese’s man between the sticks.

It wouldn’t take long for Ronaldo to record his second of the night.

In the 37th minute, one of the 34-year-old’s best techniques made scoring a possibility: positioning. Keeping track of the defender marking him and Udinese’s backline, Ronaldo made a run forward, meeting a perfectly-placed ball from Gonzalo Higuain and striking it home. 

Before the first half came to an end, Leonardo Bonucci headed home the home side’s third of the night, putting the game out of reach. In consolation time, however, Udinese spoiled Gianluigi Buffon’s clean sheet as Ignacio Pussetto tap in inside the box found its way into the goal.

It’s a quick turnaround for Juventus as they travels to Sampdoria midweek, while Udinese host Cagliari over the weekend.

Elsewhere

Verona 3-3 Torino

AC Milan 0-0 Sassuolo

Bologna 2-1 Atalanta

Roma 3-1 SPAL

Fiorentina 1-1 Inter Milan

Juve’s Bonucci condemns racism following widespread criticism

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Leonardo Bonucci has been widely criticized by the media and his peers for his post-match reaction to the racial abuse hurled at Juventus teammate Moise Kean on Tuesday.

The 19-year-old Kean had been booed and heard monkey noises chanted at him during Juve’s 2-0 win over Cagliari, including a number of jeers after he scored the second goal and spread his arms wide to the crowd.

[ RECAP: Chelsea 3-0 Brighton and Hove Albion ]

Bonucci claimed the blame was “50-50” between Kean and the fans, saying the player provoked the angry reactions. Most of the world said that racism is never okay, even if provoked, and Bonucci now claims he was misunderstood after the heat of a 90-minute match.

A senior leader on the team, Bonucci’s needed 24 hours to back his teammate on Instagram.

“After 24 hours I want to clarify my feelings. Yesterday I was interviewed right at the end of the game, and my words have been clearly misunderstood, probably because I was too hasty in the way I expressed my thoughts. Hours and years wouldn’t be enough to talk about this topic. I firmly condemn all forms of racism and discrimination. The abuses are not acceptable at all and this must not be misunderstood.”

There’s something to the “I wasn’t thinking straight” and Bonucci did not have a catalog of bad actions prior to his “50-50” comments, so his straight-up condemnation of racism is a good start (though an “I’m sorry” would’ve been nice).

Bonucci criticized for saying Kean “50-50” to blame for racist abuse

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Leonardo Bonucci has been roundly criticized for comments he made after teammate Moise Kean was subjected to racist abuse during Juventus’ 2-0 victory over Cagliari on Tuesday.

[ MORE: Allegri asks for lifetime bans after Kean racially abused ]

Whereas Juve manager Massimiliano Allegri called for the fans hurling racist abuse at Juve and Italy’s 19-year-old rising star to be banned for life, Bonucci said, “I think the blame is 50-50, because Moise shouldn’t have [celebrated like that] and the [fans] should not have reacted that way.”

A number of the game’s most prominent black stars, including Raheem Sterling and Memphis Depay, hit back directly at Bonucci for all to see, while the likes of Paul Pogba, Blaise Matuidi and Mario Balotelli, among others, have posted full-throated support of Kean on social media.

(Google Translate: As captain of Juventus I am disappointed in your reaction, the boy can rejoice as he wants. His role is essential for his team and he plays with great pride for his country Italy. He must be respected for this.)

Cagliari president Tommaso Giulini’s comments on the matter were equally un-empathetic and slanted — quotes from the Guardian:

“I don’t want people to start being self-righteous about it, because I heard that already, whereas Juventus players came to me afterwards and confessed Kean was wrong to celebrate that way.

“We cannot go around calling the entire Cagliari crowd offensive things. If there were racist jeers, then our fans got it wrong, but it happened because of the celebration and would’ve happened even if the goalscorer had a different color of skin.”