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Serie A: Another loss for AC Milan; Belotti scores two for Torino

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The old adage goes, “Sometimes things have to get worse before they get better,” so why isn’t anything getting better for AC Milan?

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Italian soccer’s second-most winningest club with 18 top-division titles, Milan haven’t finished in Serie A’s top-four since 2013. Eight managers have sat on the hot seat in the six-plus seasons since then

Five games into the 2019-20 season, Marco Giampaolo’s side has just six points and doesn’t appear destined to snap that streak. The Rossoneri suffered another defeat, their third of the season, 2-1 at the hands of Torino on Thursday.

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Milan led through Krzysztof Piatek’s penalty kick in the 18th minute, but Andrea Belotti spearheaded a quick comeback with a pair of goals just four minutes apart beginning in the 72nd minute. That’s four goals in five games for Belotti, who scored 15 last season and 26 just three seasons ago.

Milan currently sit 11th in the Serie A table, three points back of the fourth-place logjam and already nine off the pace of Inter Milan’s perfect start to the season, which included a comfortable 2-0 victory over their Milan rivals last weekend. Torino, meanwhile, are one of the three teams with nine points jostling for fourth place, alongside Cagliari and Napoli.

Europa League preview: Torino peeved at ref crew v. Wolves

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Serie A side Torino is here for the mind games, and claims Wolves will have an unfair advantage due to the referee appointments for Thursday’s Europa League playoff round first leg.

[ MORE: UCL qualifying wrap ]

Wolves will head to the Olimpico di Torino for the first leg, and Torino is reportedly “bewildered” that UEFA has appointed Portuguese referees for the match because Wolves boss Nuno Espirito Santo and seven of his first team players hail from Portugal.

The head referee, Artur Soares Dias, has worked numerous high-profile games deep into the Europa League, Champions League, and EURO qualifying.

Nuno doesn’t care.

“We represent the colours of Wolverhampton, it’s an English team,” he said. “Our native language is English, everybody speaks English to each other. There is no issue.”

Torino has also cruised through the qualifying rounds and has not had the benefit of being tested by league play. Serie A begins this weekend.

Kickoff is at 3 p.m. Thursday, with the second leg at the Molineux set for Aug. 29 at 2:45 p.m. ET. The winner qualifies for the UEL group stage.

Also in action this Thursday are a few North Americans. Among them: Romain Gall is coming off a league goal for Malmo, and may start at home to Israeli Premier League side Bnei Yehuda.

Timothy Chandler remains a part of Eintracht Frankfurt’s crew and will be in France to meet Strasbourg, while Brooklyn-born Canadian striker Jonathan David is with Gent against Rijeka.

The rest of the post may deliver entertainment based on the schedule. The UEL main stage provides some unusual names from the European landscape, so it’s even wilder prior to that.

Thursday’s Europa League playoff round first legs

Astana v. BATE Borisov — 10 a.m. ET
Avan Academy v. Dudelange — 11 a.m. ET
FK Suduva v. Ferencvaros — 1 p.m. ET
Malmo v. Bnei Yehuda — 1 p.m. ET
Feyenoord v. Hapoel Beer-Sheva — 1:30 p.m. ET
Ludogorets v. Maribor — 1:30 p.m. ET
Copenhagen v. Riga — 1:45 p.m. ET
AEK Athens v. Trabzonspor — 2 p.m. ET
Legia Warsaw v. Rangers — 2 p.m. ET
FCSB v. Vitoria — 2:30 p.m. ET
Gent v. Rijeka — 2:30 p.m. ET
PSV Eindhoven v. Apollon Limassol — 2:30 p.m. ET
Strasbourg v. Eintracht Frankfurt — 2:30 p.m. ET
AZ Alkmaar v. Antwerp — 2:30 p.m. ET
Celtic v. AIK — 2:45 p.m. ET
Linfield v. Qarabag — 2:45 p.m. ET
Braga v. Spartak Moscow — 2:45 p.m. ET
Espanyol v. Zorya — 3 p.m. ET
Torino v. Wolves — 3 p.m. ET
Partizan v. Molde — 3 p.m. ET
Slovan Bratislava v. PAOK — 3 p.m. ET

Europa League preview: Wolves return to Europe

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Surely when PSV Eindhoven knocked Wolverhampton Wanderers out of the 1980-81 UEFA Cup, the West Midlands club didn’t think a nearly 40-year wait to return was in the cards, but that angst has given way to joy.

Wolves are back in Europe, and begin a Europa League campaign on Thursday.

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“Tomorrow is a big game for the club, for the years without European football,” said manager Nuno Espirito Santo. “It’s up to us to make something special so people are proud of us once again. It’s fantastic to be back at Molineux, what Molineux gives us is huge and a real adrenaline punch that we must take on to the pitch.”

The opponents at the Molineux are Northern Irish side Crusaders, but 1950s, 60s, and 70s saw some of the biggest names in world football arrive to Wolves, with Schalke, Juventus, Barcelona, and Porto on the docket.

An extended UEFA Cup run in 1971-72 saw Wolves come up one-goal short of silverware against Spurs at White Hart Lane.

So this isn’t new, even if it’s new.

“I have visited the museum a couple of times, so know the history of the club, and it proves how big Wolves are,” Espirito Santo said.

The first and second legs should give Wolves a leg-up for one of the most interesting matches of the Premier League’s first week: Wolves at Leicester City.

Europa League fixtures and results
Avan Academy 2-0 Lincoln Red Imps — Tuesday
HB 2-2 Linfield — Tuesday
Shkendija 1-2 Dudelange — Tuesday
Santa Coloma 0-0 Astana — Tuesday
Tre Penne 0-5 FK Suduva — Tuesday
Slovan Bratislava 2-1 Feronikeli — Wednesday
Pyunik v. Jablonec — 9:30 am. ET Thursday
FK Ventspils v. Gzira United — 10:45 a.m. ET Thursday
Gabala v. Dinamo Tbilisi — 11 a.m. ET Thursday
Partizani v. Sheriff — 11:30 a.m. ET Thursday
AEK Larnaca v. Levski Sofia — 11:30 a.m. ET Thursday
Utrecht v. HSK Zrinjski Mostar — 12:30 p.m. ET Thursday
Chikhura Sachkhere v. Aberdeen — 12:45 p.m. ET Thursday
Budapest Honved v. Uniersitatea Craiova — 12:55 p.m. ET Thursday
Lechia Gdansk v. Brondby — 1 p.m. ET Thursday
Haugesund v. SK Sturm Graz — 1 p.m. ET Thursday
Arsenal Tula v. Neftchi — 1 p.m. ET Thursday
Mlada Boleslav v. Ordabasy — 1 p.m. ET Thursday
Flora v. Eintracht Frankfurt — 1 p.m. ET Thursday
Alashkert v. FCSB — 1 p.m. ET Thursday
Shakhtyor v. Esbjerg — 1 p.m. ET Thursday
Yeni Malatyaspor v. Olimpija NK — 1 p.m. ET Thursday
Molde v. Cukaricki — 1 p.m. ET Thursday
CSKA Sofia v. Osijek — 1:30 p.m. ET Thursday
Connah’s Quay Nomads v. Partizan — 1:30 p.m. ET Thursday
Hapoel Be’er Sheva v. Kairat — 1:30 p.m. ET Thursday
Lokomotiv Plovdiv v. Spartak Trnava — 1:30 p.m. ET Thursday
Piast Gliwice v. Riga — 2 p.m. ET Thursday
Norrkoping v. Liepaja — 2 p.m. ET Thursday
Vidi v. Vaduz — 2 p.m. ET Thursday
Luzern v. KI — 2:15 p.m. ET Thursday
Aris v. AEL — 2:30 p.m. ET Thursday
Dunajska Streda v. Atromitos — 2:30 p.m. ET Thursday
Gent v. Viitorul — 2:30 p.m. ET Thursday
Jeunesse Esch v. Vitoria — 2:30 p.m. ET Thursday
AZ Alkmaar v. BK Hacken — 2:30 p.m. ET Thursday
Domzale v. Malmo — 2:45 p.m. ET Thursday
Strasbourg v. Maccabi Haifa — 2:45 p.m. ET Thursday
Rangers v. Progres — 2:45 p.m. ET Thursday
Wolves v. Crusaders — 2:45 p.m. ET Thursday
Buducnost v. Zorya — 2:45 p.m. ET Thursday
Shamrock Rovers v. Apollon Limassol — 3 p.m. ET Thursday
Valur v. Ludogorets Razgrad — 3 p.m. ET Thursday
Torino v. Debrecen — 3 p.m. ET Thursday
Espanyol v. Stjarnan — 3 p.m. ET Thursday
Legia Warsaw v. KuPS — 3 p.m. ET Thursday

Transfer Rumors: Arsenal wants defenders, Fernandes odds slashed

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Arsenal is one of the most active Premier League clubs in the current transfer market, if the reports on Tuesday morning are to be believed, as the Gunners look to bolster the back line after conceding 51 goals in the Premier League last season.

According to widespread reports on Tuesday morning, Arsenal is after Celtic left-back Kieran Tierney and is hoping to secure a deal worth around $23 million. Both The Guardian and The Telegraph report that Arsenal has already seen a $19 million bid rejected by Celtic and could continue haggling given the club’s high wage bill and tight expenses this summer. However, The Telegraph report states there “is optimism” among the Arsenal negotiation team that the 22-year-old will be moving to The Emirates soon.

Tierney made 20 league appearances for Celtic last season as they won the Scottish Premiership title on their way to a historic “treble-treble” after securing the domestic triple for the third consecutive season. He was a member of the first-choice starting eleven, only seeing his playing time reduced by a hip injury that forced him out for nearly three months through the winter. Otherwise, he racked up over 1,600 league minutes and regained his starting spot after returning from injury in late February.


Another Gunners defensive target has been identified in 27-year-old Italian center-back Armando Izzo. The Italian international, who earned his first and only cap back in March with a substitute appearance against Lichtenstein, currently plays for Torino whom he only joined last summer in a $10 million deal with Genoa. He had a stellar first season with Torino, appearing in all but one league match and completed the full 90 minutes in all but the first and last league games of the campaign, scoring four goals along the way.

Izzo has four years left on the five-year deal he signed last summer, and was asked about speculation on Monday, telling reporters that he is happy at Torino but adding, “Everyone likes to be courted. I don’t like just being called a good player. I’m worth more.”

Most of the reports on Izzo at this point are in the tabloids, with The Mirror saying he could cost around $28 million, a healthy turnaround for Torino after just one season. Everton is also said to be in the hunt and could give Arsenal a run, potentially upping the required bid. Italian journalist Gianluca di Marzio has also connected the Gunners to Izzo, saying that Izzo’s agent met with Torino president Urbano Cairo, although di Marzio’s report stated that at this point Cairo is not anticipating a sale, instead hoping to lure Izzo back with an improved contract.


Odds have been slashed on Bruno Fernandes to Liverpool after a string of recent bets, with the Reds now heavy favorites to sign the Portuguese international. Some bookmakers in England have slashed odds to as little as 1/9 with reports that Manchester United are not keen on Sporting CP’s price tag of $89 million.

Still, according to the Liverpool Echo, it’s unlikely that the Reds will be spending that kind of money this summer, with Jurgen Klopp not feeling it necessary to fill that large of gaps in the squad.

Following the 24-year-old’s excellent club season that saw him score 20 goals in 33 league matches, Fernandes then went to join up with the Portuguese national team where he played a significant role in helping the team secure the inaugural Nations League crown.


According to a report by the BBC, Brighton & Hove Albion is close to a move for Genk winger Leandro Tossard. The 24-year-old made 24 league appearances last season, scoring 11 goals and assisting four more. He struggled with hamstring problems that saw him struggle down the stretch of the season, but he scored six goals in the first eight games of the campaign to bolster his numbers.

The report does not give a specific total value of the deal, but does say that the cost of signing Tossard will not eclipse the club record of $21.6 million needed to sign Alireza Jahanbakhsh last summer. The deal will make Tossard Brighton’s second signing of the summer after securing Matt Clarke from Portsmouth.


Chelsea has just a week to decide whether to sign Mateo Kovacic on a permanent deal or send him back to Real Madrid, and there is no indication yet what that decision will be.

Because the 25-year-old is already registered with the club after spending last season on loan, the transfer ban does not affect his ability to sign with the club permanently. With Frank Lampard expected to be named manager within the next 48 hours, a decision on Kovacic is likely to be one of the new boss’s first actions. Kovacic made 32 Premier League appearances under Maurizio Sarri, but with the Italian having departed the club after just one season, it’s unclear how Lampard will view the Croatian.

It does not appear there is a clause in his loan to make the signing permanent, but reports indicate that Real Madrid does not see Kovacic as a first-team player and therefore would be willing to negotiate a deal in the range of $56 million. However, once Kovacic’s loan expires, his registration with the Chelsea squad is nullified and his ability to sign with the Blues disappears as the transfer ban takes effect.


Aaron Wan-Bissaka‘s potential Manchester United deal has dominated the headlines over the past few days, and it seems there’s still work to do on that front.

According to the Evening Standard, the two sides are nearing a deal worth around $76 million, which would be a record transfer value for a British defender.

However, according to BBC reporter Simon Stone, the “talks continue” and no fee has yet to be agreed upon. That idea was corroborated by Press Association reporter Simon Peach who said both sides are motivated to complete a deal before the upcoming start of pre-season but nothing is secured just yet. Peach noted that the massive growth in financial power of the Premier League means that even smaller top-flight clubs in England have “financial muscle” and it’s harder for top clubs to “bully” them than it was even two years ago.

Serie A: Roma steals win late, Torino tops Atalanta

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Defensive calamities appeared to prove deadly with Roma barreling towards a disappointing draw with relegation-threatened Frosinone, but Edin Dzeko stole victory from the jaws of defeat, scoring in the fifth minute of stoppage time to seal a vital three points amid a fight for Champions League qualification in a 3-2 win at Stadio Benito Stirpe.

Roma was tragically bad at the back from the opening whistle. Frosinone scored the opener just five minutes in after Steven N’Zonzi’s horrible back-pass was stolen, and while Robin Olsen saved the shot from Camillo Ciano with a diving effort, but the ball popped up into the air with crazy spin and when it came down near the line, it bounced back into the net.

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Frosinone nearly had a second in the 11th minute but Ciano blasted it over the bar while all alone at the back post. Down the other end, Marco Sportiello was required to tip a dangerous Stephan El Shaarawy header over the bar. Roma built into the game and finally equalized right on the half-hour mark as Edin Dzeko picked the pocket of clueless Frosinone defender Edoardo Goldaniga in the box and his shot pinged off the left post and spun into the back of the net. They took the lead just a minute later and turned the game on its head as Dzeko fed El Shaarawy on the break, and while his shot to the far post was tipped by Sportiello, Lorenzo Pellegrini was on hand to deliver a sliding tap-in at the far post as the ball trickled away.

El Shaarawy was lucky to stay on the pitch after a bad challenge late in the first half only produced yellow despite an apparent stamp, and the referee was not buzzed by VAR to take another look. Frosinone was struggling to regain a foothold in the match until the 68th minute when they came so close to an equalizer as Andrea Pinamonti came flying in to meet a cross with a flying ninja kick but he was out of control and whiffed on the effort. They would find the leveler with 10 minutes to go, pegging back Roma on the break as Pinamonti finished the counter that left both Aleksandr Kolarov and Daniele De Rossi looking silly.

It could have been worse had Olsen not made a spectacular save in the 85th minute to keep out a cut shot from substitute Marcello Trotta that nearly found the back of the net, but instead trickled safely away off the goalkeeper’s fingertips. With a disappointing result on the horizon, Dzeko was there to snatch victory, bundling home a short cross from El Shaarawy in the 95th minute. The win moved Roma back to within a point of fourth-placed AC Milan, erasing doubts the draw would have left with the club potentially three points back in fifth.

Elsewhere, Torino topped Atalanta 2-0 at home on goals from Armando Izzo and Iago Falque that neatly bracketed halftime. Just before the break, Izzo put the home side in front on a messy goal that eventually pinged its way to the 26-year-old defender at the far post for the opener. Just a minute after they returned from halftime, Torino found its second as a whipped delivery from Soualiho Meite passed Andrea Belotti but found Falque near the penalty spot who rifled in a low, scything effort that found the back of the net.

The win moves Torino into seventh, well in the thick of the crowded top half of the Serie A table. They’re level with both Lazio and Atalanta on points with 38, but still five back of fifth-placed Roma after their win.