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Bernardeschi strike earns Juve hard-fought win

Published in Italy Serie A
Sunday, 07 January 2018 09:41

Juventus remained within a point of Serie A leaders Napoli ahead of the winter break as Federico Bernardeschi's second-half strike secured a 1-0 win at Cagliari.
Bernardeschi, one of three players to hit the woodwork in the first half, converted from close range in the 74th minute, with Cagliari left angry that play had not been halted moments earlier when Leonardo Pavoletti took an arm in the face from Medhi Benatia.
An entertaining opening 45 minutes saw Paulo Dybala and Bernardeschi strike bar and post respectively before Wojciech Szczesny turned Diego Farias' shot against Juve's upright.

It was certainly not the most comfortable of outings for Massimiliano Allegri's second-placed side - they lost Dybala and Sami Khedira to injury after the break - but a sixth win in seven league matches was sealed in the end.

And it means, with a two-week hiatus now beginning, the points difference between the champions and Napoli remains what it was prior to the latter's 2-0 win over Hellas Verona earlier on Saturday.
As 16th-placed Cagliari came under early pressure, Dybala curled a free-kick against the bar and Gonzalo Higuain sent a shot wide after collecting Khedira's pass.

Juventus rattled the goal frame again soon after, with Bernardeschi's excellent strike coming back off a post, and the visitors then had the ball in the net in the 21st minute, although Benatia's finish was ruled out for offside.

Just prior to that Pavoletti had directed a header off target at the other end and in the 26th minute he brought a great, point-blank save out of Szczesny with another headed effort.

Szczesny, again playing in the absence of the injured Gianluigi Buffon, then denied Cagliari in fine style once more as he diverted Farias' shot on to a post just before the break.

Things were not going as smoothly for Juventus as they might have expected and that continued as the second half got under way.
Dybala was forced to come off in the 49th minute with an apparent hamstring problem and Khedira followed only a few minutes later after being involved in an aerial collision with Szczesny, Douglas Costa and Mario Mandzukic coming on to replace them.

As the away side tried to build some momentum, Miralem Pjanic shot wide and Giorgio Chiellini headed over, sustaining a head injury in the process. The skipper was able to continue playing, but only after having a bandage wrapped around his head.

Juventus then made the breakthrough, with Bernardeschi tucking the ball past Rafael from Costa's delivery.

Moments before the goal, Pavoletti was left on the ground having been caught in the face by Benatia's arm, with play being allowed to continue.

The Cagliari man, backed by team-mates, protested in animated fashion to the referee after the goal went in, but it only resulted in him being booked.

Inter Milan stay top of Serie A after frustrating Juventus in goalless draw

Published in Italy Serie A
Sunday, 10 December 2017 08:55

Inter Milan remain in top spot in Serie A after holding Juventus to a goalless draw in Turin.

Victory for Juve would have seen the defending champions usurp their Derby d'Italia rivals but they could not find a breakthrough despite dominating the chances.
At times it seemed like a contest between Mario Mandzukic and Inter keeper Samir Handanovic, with Juve having 19 shots to just six from the visitors, only one of which was on target.

But the statistic that really counted left the teams level and preserved Inter's two-point advantage and their unbeaten record.

Inter began well and dominated possession in the early stages, although they were very nearly behind in the ninth minute.

A Juan Cuadrado cross from the right somehow made its way through a number of Inter defenders in the middle of the box and found Mandzukic in space.

The Croatian probably should have scored but Handanovic produced an excellent save and then, when the ball came back to Mandzukic, his follow-up header was cleared from just in front of the line by Miranda.
Handanovic was in for a busy evening while his opposite number Wojciech Szczesny, a stand-in for the injured Gianluigi Buffon, was largely a spectator.

The next test for Handanovic arrived in the 36th minute, when he got down sharply to keep out Sami Khedira's volley.

The Slovenian was beaten just before half-time when Mandzukic showed tremendous determination to meet Cuadrado's cross with a powerful header only for the ball to come back off the bar.

Juve's dominance intensified after the break.

A sublime turn from Gonazlo Higuain set up another shooting opportunity for Mandzukic but his effort was too close to Handanovic.

The keeper was called on to keep out his own man in the 60th minute when a lovely one-two between Cuadrado and Higuain saw the Argentinian send in an inviting ball that Ivan Perisic got a head to.
He could only direct it towards his own goal but Handanovic stuck out a hand to push the ball over the bar.

Inter were struggling to cope with Juve's attacking threat and Khedira was the next to go close, shooting wide after Handanovic had come out of his goal to meet a cross.

The Inter keeper was then in action again, this time getting down well to keep out Kwadwo Asamoah's fierce effort.

Juventus sent on top scorer Paulo Dybala for Khedira for the final stages but had to settle for a frustrating point.

Napoli boss Sarri hails Higuain a "phenomenon" as Juventus edge Serie A win

Published in Italy Serie A
Saturday, 02 December 2017 12:01

Gonzalo Higuain was hailed a "phenomenon" by his former coach after he showed what money can buy with the only goal in Juventus' 1-0 win against his old club Napoli.

The Argentinian left Naples in 2016 after Juve paid his 90million euro release clause and his 12th-minute strike handed the Azzurri their first Serie A defeat of the campaign.
Juventus closed to within a point of the leaders with victory and Napoli boss Maurizio Sarri was left wondering what might have been had Higuain still played for his side.

"He is very good in those situations. Pipa (Higuain) was very cold," Sarri told Gazzetta dello Sport.

"They have 90million less, but three points more because they have a phenomenon.

"The Neapolitans booed him but in this case I can not agree. Here he always gave his best, then that clause..."
Sarri was disappointed the game did not have a more traditional feel, as the hosts did not wear their usual light blue jersey while Juventus' famous black-and-white stripes were not on show, either.

He added: "I was hoping to die before seeing a Napoli-Juventus game with yellow and grey jerseys. A real sadness."

Higuain had surgery on a broken bone in his left hand earlier this week and was a doubt for the game.

Juventus boss Massimiliano Allegri had little option, due to an injury to Mario Mandzukic, but said he had no problems with starting the Argentinian striker.

In quotes reported by Gazzetta, Allegri told Premium Sport: "Mandzukic is injured and I threw him in. He is an extraordinary player and he is in excellent condition, technically doing magic things."

Allegri praised his side's start to the game but highlighted room for improvement ahead of their Champions League trip to Olympiacos in midweek, where a victory will seal qualification to the knockout stages.

"For us, tonight was a good test," he said.

"The guys started well in the first half, playing well technically and creating scoring opportunities. In the second half Napoli dominated possession, but had few chances and against them you have to make a big defensive effort.

"In the first half we came out better from their first pressure, but in the second I'm less happy. We return to Turin with a good result, but Tuesday evening, another important match awaits us."
Despite Juve closing the gap to just a point, Allegri believes Napoli are still the team to beat in the title race.

He added: "Napoli remains the favourite for the Scudetto. They play great football and still have a point advantage.

"To get to the top it will be necessary to go beyond what others will do."

However, this is a view Sarri disagrees with.

He said: "Inter, Roma, Juve are all clearly stronger teams than us. Talk of Napoli as the favourite for the Scudetto is wrong."

Juve beaten at Samp, hapless Benevento lose in stoppage time

Published in Italy Serie A
Monday, 20 November 2017 11:43

Titleholders Juventus were sent crashing to a 3-2 defeat at Sampdoria on Sunday and hapless Benevento were denied their first point of the season when they lost 2-1 to Sassuolo in stoppage time.

Federico Peluso's 94th-minute winner for Sassuolo, which came minutes after his team missed a penalty, meant that bottom team Benevento were condemned to a record-extending 13th straight defeat.

Second-placed Juve trailed 3-0 at Sampdoria before stoppage-time goals by Gonzalo Higuain, from a penalty, and Paulo Dybala made the score more respectable.

Juventus rested goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon and defender Andrea Barzagli, who both confirmed their international retirements after playing in Monday's 0-0 draw with Sweden which meant that Italy failed to qualify for the World Cup.
The visitors missed a host of first-half chances then collapsed after the break as Sampdoria maintained their perfect home record.

Duvan Zapata headed Sampdoria ahead in the 52nd minute, Lucas Torreira blasted the second and Gian Marco Ferrari turned in Fabio Quagliarella's cross from the byline for the third.

Juve dropped four points behind leaders Napoli who beat AC Milan 2-1 on Saturday.
Benevento gifted Sassuolo the lead as a backpass was intercepted by Simone Missiroli who then left Alessandro Matri to tap into an empty net after 57 minutes.

In a game that summed up Benevento's season, Samuel Armenteros equalised eight minutes later but they almost immediately had Gaetano Letizia sent off for a second booking.

Benevento held out until stoppage time when Sassuolo were awarded a penalty for handball which Domenico Berardi smashed against the bar.

The home team's relief was short-lived, however, as Peluso headed in from a corner for the winner from the next attack.

In other matches, Luca Rigoni's early goal gave Genoa a 1-0 win at Crotone and a winning start to Davide Ballardini's third stint as their coach after he replaced Ivan Juric.

Torino and Chievo drew 1-1 as did SPAL and Fiorentina while Cagliari won 1-0 at troubled Udinese.

Napoli maintain perfect start as Juventus held

Published in Italy Serie A
Monday, 02 October 2017 07:26

Napoli continued their 100 percent start to the season and stretched their lead at the top of Serie A to two points with a 3-0 win over Cagliari at the Stadio San Paolo on Sunday

Marek Hamsik handed the hosts an early lead by scoring his first goal of the campaign with a low, angled shot in the fourth minute.

Top-scorer Dries Mertens then netted his ninth goal in all competitions this season by slotting home from the penalty spot five minutes before the interval.
Kalidou Koulibaly rounded off the win by finishing from close range two minutes into the second period. Napoli have now netted 33 goals in all competitions this season. с
Second-placed Juventus had started the day on the same number of points as Napoli but lost their perfect Serie A record when they were held to a 2-2 draw away at Atalanta.

Federico Bernardeschi and Gonzalo Higuain put the champions 2-0 up inside 24 minutes, but Mattia Caldara and Bryan Cristante scored either side of the interval to earn the hosts a point.

Massimiliano Allegri's side have been joined on 19 points by Inter Milan, who defeated Benevento 2-1 away thanks to a Marcelo Brozovic double.
Juventus retain second place in the table thanks to a superior goal difference.

Lazio will go into the international break in fourth place, five points adrift of Napoli, after beating Sassuolo 6-1 at the Stadio Olimpico.

Luis Alberto and Marco Parolo both scored braces for Simone Inzaghi's side, while Stefan de Vrij and Ciro Immobile completed the rout.

Juventus vs Torino: Preview and Prediction

Friday, 22 September 2017 12:50

Juventus huffed and puffed, but managed to see off Fiorentina to ensure they made it five wins out of five. They next face cross-town rivals Torino in the Derby della Mole, and it’s always more than just a match when the Granata come to town.

As for Torino, they hung on to secure all three points in an exciting five-goal thriller against Udinese. The last meeting between the two sides ended as a 1-1 draw and the Granata will be hoping to do what they haven’t done in decades – to beat La Vecchia Signora at their own ground for the first time since April 9, 1995.

Juventus vs Torino: Head-to-head statistics

Juventus are unbeaten in the last five meetings with Torino in all competitions, 4 wins and a draw. The stalemate happened in the corresponding Serie A fixture of last season, 1-1 at the Juventus stadium.

Both teams have scored in the last six Serie A meetings between them.

The Old Lady won 8 and drew 3 of the last 11 home matches against Torino.

Torino have scored in the last three Serie A matches at the Juventus stadium, having fired blanks in previous 5.

Juventus vs Torino: Prediction

Torino are coming on the back of an excellent form and this is a huge confidence booster for the team when taking on a team like Juventus. But, we need to understand that their 5-match unbeaten streak at the start of the season came against teams that finished outside the top six in Serie A last season.

Yet, it is extremely difficult to take points away at the Juventus Stadium. The only thing that punter must consider here is a much better competitive effort from the visitors. So, both teams to score and over 2.5 goals are all probable happenings in this fixture. But, the Old Lady are expected to bag all three points when the final whistle blows.

Real Madrid, Juventus join Barcelona in race for Liverpool's Sadio Mane

Published in England Premier League
Tuesday, 19 September 2017 06:59

Barcelona are not the only club chasing Liverpool’s Sadio Mane, while Manchester City are keen to reward the efforts of Gabriel Jesus. 

Euro giants in for Mane

Following reports that Barcelona have turned their attentions to Sadio Mane after missing out on his Liverpool team-mate Philippe Coutinho, The Sun reports that Juventus and Real Madrid are also keen on landing the Senegal forward. Mane, 25, has been one of Liverpool’s standout performers so far this season, particularly while Coutinho was out with his, er, back injury…The will-he-won’t-he surrounding Coutinho and Barcelona dominated summer headlines and proved to be an unwanted distraction during Liverpool’s preseason preparations. It appears the Reds will have to fend off interest from European heavyweights for another one of their prized possessions. They rightly do not want to be a feeder club to the bigger sides on the continent, but it’s difficult for a player to say no when clubs of this calibre come knocking.

Paulo Dybala hits hat-trick as Juventus see off Sassuolo to go top

Published in Italy Serie A
Monday, 18 September 2017 06:58

Paulo Dybala scored a hat-trick in his 100th game for Juventus as they beat Sassuolo 3-1 to return to the top of the Serie A table.

The Argentina forward opened the scoring with a brilliant effort from range - his 50th goal for the club - before notching twice in the second half to put the game beyond the reach of Sassuolo.

Sassuolo were given hope when Matteo Politano pulled one back just two minutes after Dybala's second goal but Juve found another gear and eased to victory.

Massimiliano Allegri's side have now won all four of their league games this season and sit top of the table, level on points with Inter Milan.
Juventus started brightly and had a great chance to break the deadlock in the 10th minute when Alex Sandro found Gonzalo Higuain in space in the middle of the area.

The former Real Madrid striker fired a shot towards the bottom corner from 10 yards but home goalkeeper Andrea Consigli got down well to keep it out and Francesco Acerbi was on hand to clear to safety.

But Juve did not have to wait long for the opener.

Mario Mandzukic burst down the left wing in the 16th minute before playing in Dybala, who sent his first-time shot curling into the net from 25 yards.

Sassuolo grew into the game as the first half wore on and had a number of chances to level things up but could not find a way past Gianluigi Buffon.

The veteran Italy goalkeeper slid out to deny Diego Falcinelli from close-range in the 27th minute but the linesman's flag was raised anyway.
Buffon was called into action again six minutes later when Politano let fly from just outside the area but the shot was tame and dealt with easily by the 39-year-old shot-stopper.

A dangerous cross from Pol Lirola, on loan at Sassuolo from Juventus, caused confusion in the box in the 36th minute but no one in a Sassuolo shirt could get on the end of it.

Juventus flew out of the traps in the second period and doubled their advantage courtesy of another brilliant Dybala strike.

The 23-year-old stabbed the ball into the bottom corner from just inside the area after good work from Juan Cuadrado.

Sassuolo hit back almost immediately, however, when Politano bundled in from close range two minutes later after Claud Adjapong's cross was scrambled into his path by Falcinelli.

But after Dybala had been brought down 22 yards from goal, he completed his hat-trick with the resulting free-kick, curling it past Consigli to score his 52nd goal for the club in the 63rd minute.

Juventus were denied a fourth seven minutes from the end when Cuadrado's effort from the right side of the box was blocked by Adjapong.

Lionel Messi magic leads Barcelona to Juventus win

Published in Champions League
Wednesday, 13 September 2017 06:14

Champions League, Camp Nou – Barcelona 3 (Messi 45’, 69’ Rakitic 59’) Juventus 0

A magical performance from Lionel Messi, who scored a brace, led Barcelona to a 3-0 win over Juventus in their opening Champions League group game.

Barcelona gave Ousmane Dembele his full debut and he briefly threatened with his pace from the right, but the early running was made by Juventus who forced Marc-Andre ter Stegen into two good stops from outside the box.

Just before half-time, Messi scored his first goal against Gianluigi Buffon when a one-two with Luis Suarez gave him room to drill into the corner.
Ernesto Valverde's first European game for the club became easier to enjoy when a revitalised Messi teed up Ivan Rakitic, before adding a trademark solo for his second.

Juventus had a late, convincing appeal for a penalty turned down after Gerard Pique handled a Medhi Benatia header on the line, but by then the game was settled.

TALKING POINT

Are Barcelona on their way back? It's clearly too early to be sure, but the signs were there. This was the classic Barcelona approach to football. They suffocated Juventus across the pitch, and were incessantly pressing at the back. They kept the ball confidently, but also broke with ruthlessness when the chances were given to them. They had looked sluggish under Luis Enrique. Perhaps they didn't need an overhaul of the squad, simply a change of methods behind the scene.
MAN OF THE MATCH

Lionel Messi (Barcelona): From a man suffering from what appeared to be a terminal case of mardiness last season, he was transformed back to the old Messi. He was lithe and direct, and he barely put a foot wrong throughout the match. The speed of foot and thought kept Juventus rattled from the moment he scored, and in this form he could make Ernesto Valverde's job a lot easier.
PLAYER RATINGS

Barcelona: Ter Stegen 7, Semedo 7, Pique 6, Umtiti 6, Alba 6, Sergio 6, Rakitic 7, Iniesta 7, Suarez 6, Messi 9, Dembele 7. Subs: Paulinho 7, Sergi Roberto 6, André Gomes 6.

Juventus: Buffon 6, De Sciglio 6, Barzagli 5, Benatia 6, Alex Sandro 6, Bentancur 5, Pjanic 6, Matuidi 6, Douglas Costa 5, Higuain 6, Dybala 6. Subs: Sturaro 6, Caligara 6, Bernardeschi 6.

KEY EVENTS

6' - TER STEGEN SAVE - Juve break down the pitch, work the ball to De Sciglio, and Ter Stegen leaps to his right to tip the ball around the post to stop a shot from distance.

38' - DEMBELE CHANCE - A huge chance for Dembele. A defensive mix-up as De Sciglio's pass runs to Dembele, and he gets a shot away that Sandro deflects just wide.
45' - GOAL! Barcelona 1-0 Juventus. Messi scores - Dembele finds Messi, who plays in Suarez. Suarez plays the one-two back, and Messi places a low shot into the far corner.

52' - MESSI HITS THE POST - Messi receives the ball, 25 yards out, and he blasts a shot at goal that hits the post, bounces off Buffon and spins out of play.

56' - GOAL! Barcelona 2-0 Juventus. Rakitic scores - Messi sprints in from the right, and passes into the six-yard box. Barzagli falls as he punts the ball away, but it's straight to Rakitic to clip into the net.

69' - GOAL! Barcelona 3-0 Juventus. Messi scores - Iniestia finds him 40 yards out of goal as Barca counter, so Messi simply jogs into the box, never letting the ball go, and drives his low shot past Buffoon.

KEY STAT

Lionel Messi has 59 Champions League goals in 58 appearances.

Barcelona vs. Juventus: Preview

Monday, 11 September 2017 08:30

A surging Juventus squad will travel to Catalonia on Tuesday to take on Barcelona in their first UEFA Champions League match of the 2017-18 season.

The two teams are favourites to make it out of Group D, one of the toughest in the competition, with Olympiacos and Sporting also present. A good start would go a long way toward qualifying, and for the Bianconeri, the match comes at a great time.

Here's everything you need to know about the upcoming clash.

 Date: Tuesday, September 12

Time: 7:45 p.m. BST/2:45 p.m. ET

Venue: Camp Nou, Barcelona
Preview

Juventus have enjoyed a perfect start to the 2017-18 Serie A season and continued their solid form on Saturday, beating Chievo 3-0 at home.

As shared by the Champions League's official Twitter account, Paulo Dybala got on the scoresheet yet again, and his start to the campaign has been sensational:
La Joya sank Barcelona last year with a brace in the first leg of their quarter-final meeting, arguably his best outing of the season. He moved back into a midfield role and saw his scoring numbers shrink as a result but seems to have recovered this year.

The Bianconeri have one or two minor health concerns, as Mario Mandzukic left the contest with a knock and Alex Sandro was sidelined with the flu. Juan Cuadrado will also be suspended after his red card in last year's final, but Douglas Costa started Saturday's match and is a natural replacement.

Barcelona also enjoyed a productive weekend, as Lionel Messi bagged a hat-trick in a 5-0 win over local rivals Espanyol. ESPN FC's Samuel Marsden was impressed:
The Catalans did not have a great summer and looked very vulnerable in the Supercopa loss against Real Madrid, but their start to the La Liga season has been good so far―even if they've yet to face a good team.

In many ways, the visit of Juventus is the perfect test to find out just how good his side is for manager Ernesto Valverde. He's unlikely to give Ousmane Dembele or Paulinho a debut and will instead rely on the players who powered the squad last year.
That includes an in-form Messi and Ivan Rakitic, who was everywhere against Espanyol. Luis Suarez was unlucky with his finishing but also showed his form is improving.

Juventus have shown some defensive weaknesses this season―to be expected after the departure of Leonardo Bonucci―and Real cut through the Blaugrana defence like butter. There could be a lot of goals in this match, which would be good news for neutrals.

Prediction: Barcelona 2-2 Juventus

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