Valencia Plan Champions League Comeback Against  Atalanta In Empty Stadium

(FromL) Valencia’s Portuguese defender Thierry Correia, Valencia’s French midfielder Francis Coquelin, Valencia’s Portuguese midfielder Gongalo Guedes and Valencia’s Spanish midfielder Ferran Torres arrive for a training session at the Paterna Sports City in Paterna on March 09, 2020 on the eve of the UEFA Champions League Group H football match between Valencia and Atalanta which will be played behind closed doors in light of the coronavirus outbreak.
JOSE JORDAN / AFP

 

Valencia will attempt an unlikely comeback without their fans on Tuesday when they play Atalanta in the Champions League behind closed doors due to the outbreak of the coronavirus.

Retrieving a 4-1 defeat from the first leg in Italy was always going to be a formidable task for Valencia but looks even more so after UEFA instructed their home tie at Mestalla be played in an empty stadium to limit the spread in Spain.

Atalanta are based in Bergamo in the Lombardy region of northern Italy, one of the worst-hit areas in the country. Italy had registered more than 7,000 cases of coronavirus on Monday.

Spain has been less affected so far, with just under 1,000 confirmed cases on Monday and 37 in the Valencian Community, which includes Castellon, Valencia and Alicante.

Valencia announced on February 28 they would be suspending all non-sporting activity with the club’s first-team players after a journalist attending the opening fixture against Atalanta on February 19 was confirmed to have been infected.

READ ALSO: Bergwijn Adds To Tottenham’s Injury Woes

It meant all engagement with the media before and after subsequent matches against Real Betis on February 29 and Alaves on Friday was cancelled, while a tribute to the club’s former player David Villa was also called off.

But the last-16 meeting with Atalanta will be Valencia’s first to be contested behind closed doors and, in theory, puts them at a significant disadvantage in their bid to reach the Champions League’s quarter-finals.

Indignant

Valencia captain Dani Parejo expressed anger last week at what he perceives as inconsistency in the approach of the authorities to football matches.

“I am the first to be concerned about the crisis and that is why I am also first to feel indignant when I see the measures taken are not consistent,” Parejo said.

“I don’t understand how a global crisis can be managed in Spain depending on the region in which you live.”

Parejo added: “If it’s dangerous for people to attend Mestalla, it’s also dangerous at the Parc des Princes, at Anfield, at the Red Bull Arena, at the Etihad [Stadium], at Camp Nou, at the Allianz [Stadium] in Turin and at the Allianz [Arena] in Munich.”

Despite heavy restrictions on travel in and out of northern Italy, Atalanta were able to fly to Spain on Monday morning although media events usually scheduled for the day before a Champions League fixture were cancelled.

Atalanta have played only once since their thumping first-leg victory over Valencia, a 7-2 win on March 1 away at Lecce, who are based in southern Italy. Atalanta fans attending the game underwent medical checks before entering the ground.

Only five Serie A matches were staged on Sunday, with all of the games played in front of empty stands.

Italian sports minister Vincenzo Spadafora has insisted matches should be suspended completely and accused Serie A of being “irresponsible” for allowing some to go ahead.

AFP

Four-Goal Atalanta Near Champions League Quarter-Final After Victory Against Valencia

Atalanta’s Italian goalkeeper Pierluigi Gollini (L) and teammates acknowledge the public at the end of the UEFA Champions League round of 16 first leg football match Atalanta Bergamo vs Valencia on February 19, 2020 at the San Siro stadium in Milan. Vincenzo PINTO / AFP

 

Atalanta defeated Valencia 4-1 on Wednesday to take a giant step closer to reaching the Champions League quarter-finals for the first time.

Hans Hateboer scored twice after 16 and 62 minutes, sandwiching further goals from Josep Ilicic (42) and Remo Freuler (57).

READ ALSO: RB Leipzig Beat Tottenham In Champions League Last 16 First Leg

Denis Cheryshev pulled one back for Valencia in the first leg of the last 16 tie at the San Siro, the same stadium where the Spanish side lost the 2001 Champions League final.

AFP

Atalanta Sign Colombian Striker Duvan Zapata

Inter Milan’s Uruguayan defender Diego Godin (L) vies with Atalanta’s Colombian forward Duvan Zapata during the Italian Serie A football match Inter Milan vs Atalanta on January 11, 2020 at the San Siro stadium in Milan.
MARCO BERTORELLO / AFP

 

Atalanta has completed the purchase of Colombian striker Duvan Zapata at the end of his two-year loan deal from league rivals Sampdoria, the Serie A club confirmed on Friday.

The Bergamo club spent a total of 26 million euros ($29 million) to bring the 28-year-old to Bergamo.

“I’m very happy,” said Zapata. “First of all, I want to thank Atalanta for this further demonstration of confidence in me.

“We are building something important and can achieve great things together.”

Zapata, who has played 15 times for Colombia and scored three goals, also previously played for Napoli and Udinese.

He joined Atalanta on loan in 2018 and last season was the second top scorer in Serie A with 23 goals scored helping lift the club into the Champions League for the first time.

This season he has scored seven goals in all competitions, despite missing nearly three months with a thigh injury.

Atalanta are through to the Champions League last 16 and next play Spanish club Valencia.

AFP

Swedish Teenage Sensation Set For Juventus Move

(FILES) In this file photograph taken on October 26, 2019, Parma’s Swedish midfielder Dejan Kulusevski (L) and Inter Milan’s Croatian defender Marcelo Brozovic fight for the ball during the Italian Serie A football match Inter Milan vs Parma at The San Siro Stadium in Milan. Promising Swedish teenager Dejan Kulusevski is poised on January 2, 2020, to complete a move to Juventus from Atalanta after undergoing his medical, the Serie A champions confirmed

 

Promising Swedish teenager Dejan Kulusevski is poised on Thursday to complete a move to Juventus from Atalanta after undergoing his medical, the Serie A champions confirmed.

“The Swedish midfielder arrived at the medical centre located at the Allianz Stadium and began his tests,” the club said in a statement.

The 19-year-old has had a breakthrough season since going on loan from Atalanta to Parma in June, scoring four goals and setting up another seven in 17 games.

Maurizio Sarri’s Juve won the race to sign him ahead of Antonio Conte’s Inter Milan, who are trying to end their rivals’ run of eight straight Serie A titles.

The Swede has reportedly signed for 35 million euros ($39 million) plus nine million euros in performance-related bonuses.

Kulusevski, who joined Atalanta in 2016 from Swedish side Brommapojkarna, has agreed a five-year deal worth 2.5 million euros a season, according to reports.

He could remain at Parma, who are seventh in Serie A, four points off the European places, until the end of the season.

Kulusevski played for Macedonia’s Under-17 team, the country where his mother was born, but made his Sweden debut in November against the Faroe Island

AFP

Champions League Debutants Atalanta Reach Last 16

 

 

Atalanta reached the Champions League last 16 in their first season in the tournament on Wednesday after a 3-0 victory over Shakhtar Donetsk in Group C.

The Italians, who were without a point until their fourth game in the campaign, joined Manchester City in the knock-out stages as Dinamo Zagreb failed to beat the English champions in Croatia, losing 4-1.

Timothy Castagne, Mario Pasalic and Robin Gosens scored in the second half for the side who finished third in Serie A last season to reach the top tier of European football for the first time.

READ ALSO: Jesus Hat-Trick Powers Man City Into UCL Round Of 16

The defending Ukrainian league and cup champions, who play their home matches in the city of Kharkiv due to the ongoing conflict in the east of the country, will play in the last 32 of the Europa League after the defeat.

Shakhtar coach Luis Castro kept faith with the side which beat Olimpik Donetsk on Friday, starting goal-scoring defenders Ismaily and Mykola Matviyenko.

Atalanta’s Gian Pero Gasperini made three changes to the starting lineup from the weekend’s victory over Verona including bringing in Gosens for the injured Josip Ilicic.

The visitors, who drew with City in November to avoid defeat for the first time in the European campaign, started the more positive.

Attacking midfielders Pasalic and Alejandro Gomez both failed to open the scoring despite superb chances in the first quarter of an hour.

Castagne broke the deadlock for the travelling side on 67 minutes despite VAR checking if captain Gomez was offside.

Midfielder Castagne slotted home from Gomez’s cross after tidy build-up play on the edge of the Shakhtar box.

The home side’s hopes of reaching the knockouts were dealt a blow after a bizarre refereeing decision.

Thorsten Schiffner sent defender Dodo off on 77 for striking an opponent but the right-back seemed to make minimal contact with Remo Freuler.

Gasperini’s men clinched their place in the club’s history books with nine minutes to play as Pasalic beat Andriy Pyatov with the slightest of touches from a Ruslan Malinovskyi free-kick hit from near the corner flag.

Gosens added the third in the fourth minute of injury time after a Taras Stepanenko defensive howler in his own penalty area.

Champions League: Sterling Shines As Man City Humiliate Atalanta

Manchester City’s English midfielder Raheem Sterling (R) scores their fifth goal to complete his hattrick during the UEFA Champions League Group C football match between Manchester City and Atalanta at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester, northwest England on October 22, 2019. AFP

 

Raheem Sterling hit a brilliant 11-minute hat-trick as Manchester City inflicted a 5-1 thrashing on Atalanta in the Champions League on Tuesday.

Pep Guardiola’s side were rocked by Ruslan Malinovsky’s first half penalty at the Etihad Stadium.

But City responded superbly as Sergio Aguero struck twice before the interval.

Sterling had provided the assists for both of Aguero’s goals, but the England winger was just getting warmed up.

After the interval, Sterling struck three times to complete a personal masterclass that underlined his rise in the Guardiola era from enigmatic playmaker to lethal finisher.

Sterling has emerged as City’s driving force over the last 18 months and his second hat-trick of the season confirmed his place among the world’s best players.

The only frustration for Guardiola was a late red card for young midfielder Phil Foden.

City’s third successive Group C victory leaves them top of the table, five points clear of second placed Dinamo Zagreb with three games left.

Atalanta, making their Champions League debut this season, are still searching for their first point after a third consecutive defeat.

Guardiola had called on City to show they have the mentality to conquer the “little margins” needed to win the Champions League for the first time.

This was the perfect response as they erased a slow start.

Kyle Walker, back in the City defence after illness, let Robin Gosens scamper down the wing to whip in a cross that Timothy Castagne headed over from close-range.

After going 22 minutes without a single shot, Guardiola’s men finally threatened when Aguero’s drive forced a save from Pierluigi Gollini.

But it was Atalanta who struck first in the 28th minute.

For the second successive game, Guardiola had responded to City’s defensive injury problems by deploying midfielders Fernandinho and Rodri as his two centre-backs.

Sterling sparkles 

It was an uncomfortable arrangement and when Josip Ilicic advanced into the City area, Fernandinho rashly stuck out a leg to trip the Atalanta winger and concede a penalty.

Malinovsky sent Ederson the wrong way with the spot-kick as City conceded their first goal in this season’s tournament.

That blow woke City from their slumber and Aguero made up for his earlier miss with the 34th minute equaliser.

Sterling deserved much of the credit for a penetrating run and delicate cross that allowed Aguero to peel off his marker for a clinical close-range finish.

City had their rhythm back and Sterling was the catalyst again when they took the lead in the 38th minute.

Surging into the Atalanta area at pace, Sterling was clearly tripped by Andrea Masiello and Aguero stepped up to drill the penalty past Gollini.

It was Aguero’s 10th goal in all competitions this season, ending a three-game drought for City’s record scorer.

Rodri limped off before half-time, prompting John Stones’ introduction after missing six games with injury, but not before Guardiola, pounding the dug-out seat in frustration, appeared to chastise the City defender for his slow rise from the bench.

Guardiola had suggested this week that City aren’t clinical enough, even though they are the top scorers in the Premier League.

But Sterling had the perfect riposte with his man of the match display and he made it three in the 58th minute.

Kevin De Bruyne found Foden and he alertly laid off to Sterling, who drilled into the roof of the net.

Sterling wasn’t finished yet and he raced onto Ilkay Gundogan’s pass before deftly cutting back onto his right foot for a fine finish into the far corner in the 64th minute.

Capping a memorable evening for Sterling, five minutes later he scored his 11th goal of the season with a close-range finish from Riyad Mahrez’s cross.

Foden, making a rare start in midfield, saw red for two bookings in quick succession in the 82nd minute.

AFP

Atalanta Fined For Dalbert Racist Abuse

Dalbert of ACF Fiorentina during the Italian championship Serie A football match between AC Milan and AFC Fiorentina on September 29, 2019 at Giuseppe Meazza stadium in Milan, Italy. Fabrizio Carabelli /A

Atalanta were fined 10,000 euros ($11,000) by the Italian league on Tuesday for racist abuse by their fans aimed at Fiorentina defender Dalbert during a Serie A match last month.

Italian football federation (FIGC) sports judge Gerardo Mastrandrea imposed the fine based on Dalbert’s evidence, adding that the chants had not been “clearly heard” by officials at the game.

The 26-year-old Brazilian asked the referee to halt play because of the abuse half an hour into the game on September 22 at the Stadio Ennio Tardini in Parma.

Play was suspended for three minutes while a warning was broadcast to jeers and whistles from a section of the crowd, before play resumed. Fiorentina won the match, 1-0.

The next day, during The FIFA Best Football Awards ceremony in Milan, FIFA president Gianni Infantino responded by urging Italian football to tackle racism.

“This is not acceptable any more, we have to say ‘no’ to racism in society. We have to kick racism out of football and society once and for all,” said Infantino.

The problem is a recurring one in Italian football.

This season Inter Milan’s Belgian striker Romelu Lukaku and AC Milan’s Ivorian midfielder Franck Kessie have been targeted by monkey calls without any sanctions being applied.

Blaise Matuidi, Kalidou Koulibaly and Moise Kean were also victims of racist abuse last season.

Ronaldo, Zapata Lock Horns As Juventus Tackle Atalanta In Coppa Italia

Ronaldo, Zapata Lock Horns As Juventus Tackle Atalanta In Coppa Italia
Juventus’ Portuguese forward Cristiano Ronaldo reacts during the Italian Serie A football match Juventus vs Sampdoria on December 29, 2018 at the Juventus stadium in Turin. Marco BERTORELLO / AFP

 

Cristiano Ronaldo locks horns again with Colombian ace Duvan Zapata as Juventus travel to Atalanta on Wednesday with a Coppa Italia semi-final berth at stake.

Juventus have won the last four editions of the competition — sealing a record 18th last season by beating AC Milan in the final.

But their path towards another title after lifting the Italian Super Cup this month could be hampered by quarter-final opponents Atalanta.

Zapata scored a double against Juventus as the side from Bergamo held the champions to a 2-2 draw in Serie A on December 26.

The league leaders had travelled to Bergamo with Ronaldo on the bench but were forced to call on the Portuguese star after a Zapata brace threatened their unbeaten run this season.

READ ALSO: Robben Mulling Tokyo Move After Bayern Exit

Both Ronaldo and Zapata are in form having scored 15 goals in Serie A so far, and are vying for top scorer.

Ronaldo slotted in the penalty that gave Juventus a hard-fought 2-1 win over Lazio on Sunday.

In Bergamo, Zapata missed a penalty but less than a minute later scored the equaliser as his side came from three goals down to hold Roma 3-3.

It was the 27-year-old Colombian’s 14th goal in the last eight league games.

He also scored in the Coppa Italia last 16 tie against Cagliari.

Ronaldo, 33, has scored in his last eight away games, along with the winner in the Italian Super Cup final and a Champions League goal for a total of 17 for Juventus.

But Juventus looked sluggish for an hour on Sunday with second half substitutes Joao Cancelo and Federico Bernardeschi saving the day in Rome.

“Those who come off the bench are essential,” said Massimiliano Allegri. “I was sad to leave Bernardeschi out initially, but we have a big game coming up against Atalanta.”

Juventus will be without defender Leonardo Bonucci who sprained his ankle at the weekend, but Miralem Pjanic, Sami Khedira and Mario Mandzukic are all back training.

– AC Milan v Napoli round two –

Napoli travel back to the San Siro on Tuesday for round two after being held to a goalless draw there by AC Milan in the league on Saturday.

Carlo Ancelotti’s side are trailing 11 points behind Juventus in Serie A and the former AC Milan, Chelsea and Real Madrid boss is desperate to win some silverware in his first season.

Brazilian midfielder Allan returns after being dropped from Napoli’s last game in Milan following speculation of a transfer to Paris Saint-Germain, with Ancelotti declaring “the matter over” and the player staying in Italy.

AC Milan’s new signing Krzysztof Piatek is in line to make his full debut, having appeared as a substitute at the weekend.

Roma travel to Fiorentina midweek with Inter Milan hosting Lazio on Thursday, after falling 1-0 against Torino.

Fixtures (all times GMT)

Tuesday

AC Milan v Napoli (1945)

Wednesday

Fiorentina v Roma (1715), Atalanta v Juventus (1945)

Thursday

Inter Milan v Lazio (2000)

AFP

Ronaldo Rescues Point For 10-Man Juventus At Atalanta

Juventus’ Portuguese forward Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates after scoring an equalizer during the Italian Serie A football Match Atalanta Bergamo vs Juventus on December 26, 2018 at the Atleti Azzurri d’Italia stadium in Bergamo. Marco BERTORELLO / AFP

 

Cristiano Ronaldo came off the bench to score a late equaliser as 10-man Juventus salvaged a 2-2 draw at Atalanta on Wednesday to move nine points clear of Napoli at the top of Serie A.

Carlo Ancelotti’s Napoli visit third-placed Inter Milan later in the day, though, with the chance to cut the gap to the reigning champions.

Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri decided to rest Ronaldo as the former Real Madrid man did not start a league game for the first time since moving to Italy, but the 33-year-old was needed to level in the 78th minute after Duvan Zapata’s double had put the hosts in front following Berat Djimsiti’s own goal.

Ronaldo’s efforts keep Juventus unbeaten in Serie A, ahead of the final game before the winter break against Sampdoria on Saturday.

“It’s a shame because we still wanted to win, but the team did well,” said Allegri.

Everything appeared to be going to plan for Juve when they grabbed the lead in only the second minute when Atalanta center-back Djimsiti completely miskicked Alex Sandro’s deflected cross into his own net.

But Zapata put a spanner in the Juve works with a fantastic individual goal midway through the first half, spinning center-back Leonardo Bonucci with ease before drilling a left-footed strike into the far corner.

Douglas Costa fired wide just after the half-hour mark as the visitors looked to restore their advantage, but the Turin giants were reduced to 10 men eight minutes after half-time when Rodrigo Bentancur was shown a second yellow card for a poor tackle on Timothy Castagne.

Colombian striker Zapata wasted little time in making Bentancur pay, bundling in from almost on the goal line to put Atalanta ahead and score his ninth league goal of the season.

Allegri sent on Ronaldo with 25 minutes remaining, and less than 60 seconds after Robin Gosens wasted a golden opportunity to seal the victory for Atalanta, the Portuguese star pounced to nod home from close range.

 Pressure mounts on Gattuso 

Earlier on Wednesday, AC Milan’s push for a top-four finish in Serie A took a hit as Gennaro Gattuso’s side were held to an uneventful 0-0 draw at struggling Frosinone.

The seven-time European champions have now failed to score in four consecutive league games for the first time since 1984, managing three goalless stalemates in the process.

“To reach our objective of Champions League qualification we can’t play the way we did in the first half,” Gattuso told DAZN.

“I’m the captain of this ship, so it’s only right that I take all the responsibility. It’s important for me to understand how to make my players play their best because right now they’re performing below their ability.

“There’s no calmness and they look nervous, that’s what I need to think about. As for the rest, anything can happen.”

Milan slipped to sixth, behind fourth-placed Lazio by three points in the race for Champions League qualification.

Capital club Lazio won 2-0 at Bologna, while Sampdoria leapfrogged Milan into fifth by seeing off rock-bottom Chievo 2-0.

Milan have said they will appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport after UEFA threatened to ban them from European competition for a season if they do not break even by June 2021.

The club won a previous appeal to CAS earlier this year, following a Europa League ban for breaching Financial Fair Play regulations.

But their efforts to secure European football for next season suffered a setback against a resolute Frosinone outfit who almost snatched a dramatic 93rd-minute winner when Camillo Ciano was denied by visiting goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma.

Ciano had already seen a goal ruled out by VAR for a foul eight minutes before half-time.

Frosinone remain second-bottom above only winless Chievo, having managed just one victory all season.

Roma are a point behind Milan in seventh after easing to a 3-1 win over Sassuolo, while Torino climbed to the eighth courtesy of a 3-0 defeat of Empoli.

AFP

Roma Fight Back In Six-Goal Atalanta Stalemate

Roma Fight Back In Six-Goal Atalanta Stalemate
Roma’s Argentinian midfielder Javier Pastore (L) celebrates with teammates after scoring during the Italian Serie A football match between against Atalanta at The “Olympic” Stadium in Rome on August 27, 2018. Andreas SOLARO / AFP

 

Javier Pastore scored his first AS Roma goal after two minutes but an Emiliano Rigoni brace helped Atalanta leave the capital with a share of the spoils in a 3-3 draw in Serie A on Monday.

Roma got off to a blistering start with former PSG player Pastore scoring minutes into his first match at the Stadio Olimpico with a spectacular back-heel after a pinpoint Cengiz Under cross.

“It’s certainly harder in Serie A than Ligue 1, the first two games have been such a struggle,” said Argentine Pastore.

“I think after our goal, we got a bit too relaxed and allowed them to have the ball.

“We came out for the second half with more intensity and managed to get it back on track. We could even have won it at the end.”

Atalanta — revamped ahead of their crunch Europa League playoff game this week — proved dangerous, taking advantage of sloppy Roman defending to pull ahead 3-1 at half-time.

Belgian defender Timothy Castagne tapped in the equaliser after 19 minutes and within three minutes Argentine Rigoni got his first goal with the second on 38 minutes.

Roma coach Eusebio Di Francesco shuffled his side at the break with World Cup winner Steven Nzonzi coming on for his debut after arriving from Sevilla, along with Justin Kluivert.

Alessandro Florenzi pulled a goal back on the hour mark before limping off injured with Patrik Schick thrown into the attack in his place.

But it was Greek defender Kostas Manolas who pulled the hosts level seven minutes from time, tapping in a Pastore free kick.

Roma, who finished third last season, have four points from two games and face a difficult task on Friday at AC Milan, who are reeling after throwing away a two-goal lead to fall 3-2 to Napoli.

“This leaves us with a very bitter taste in the mouth, we went very close to winning,” said Atalanta coach Gian Piero Gasperini, whose side are also on four points after winning their opening match.

Champions Juventus’ 2-0 win against Lazio and Napoli’s comeback against AC Milan meant both start their campaigns with the maximum six points.

AFP