Khedira Out For Three Months After Knee Surgery

From L) Juventus’ players and goalkeeper acknowledge the public at the end of the UEFA Champions League Group D football match Juventus Turin vs Atletico Madrid on November 26, 2019 at the Juventus Allianz stadium in Turin. Marco Bertorello / AFP

 

Juventus midfielder Sami Khedira has been ruled out for three months after undergoing knee surgery, the Italian champions said on Wednesday.

The 2014 World Cup winner had surgery in his native Germany.

“The operation was perfectly successful and the player will be able to start rehabilitation immediately,” Juventus said in a statement.

“The expected recovery time is around three months.”

The 32-year-old has played a key role in Maurizio Sarri’s team this season.

He has featured in 13 of Juventus’s 14 league games, only missing last weekend’s 2-2 draw against Sassuolo where the Turin giants lost their first points at home this season to slip to second behind Inter Milan.

The former Real Madrid and Stuttgart player joined Juventus in 2015 and has won four Serie A titles and three Coppa Italia trophies.

AFP

‘We Didn’t Use Our Heads’, Sarri Berates Players For Poor Performance

Juventus’ Italian coach Maurizio Sarri gives instructions during the Italian Serie A football match Atalanta Bergamo vs Juventus on November 23, 2019 at the Atleti Azzurri d’Italia stadium in Bergamo. Miguel MEDINA / AFP

 

Lautaro Martinez’s first-half brace sent Inter Milan top of Serie A on Sunday with a 2-1 win over SPAL after champions Juventus were held at home by Sassuolo.

“We didn’t use our heads,” lamented Juventus boss Maurizio Sarri after his side dropped their first points at home this season.

Cristiano Ronaldo scored from the spot to rescue a 2-2 draw but Juventus slipped one point behind Antonio Conte’s Inter.

READ ALSO: Liverpool To Play Everton In FA Cup Third Round

Argentinian Martinez put Inter ahead on 16 minutes at the San Siro, and then headed in Antonio Candreva’s cross to score his eighth league goal this season.

Mattia Valoti pulled a goal back, but second-from-bottom SPAL fell to their ninth defeat of the campaign.

Conte has guided Chinese-owned Inter to 12 victories in 14 league games for the first time, and they reclaimed the top spot which they had previously held until their 2-1 defeat by Juventus on October 6.

“When a team like Juventus drops points, you need to make sure that you make the most of that,” said former Juve coach Conte.

In Turin, Leonardo Bonucci struck early for the eight-time reigning champions but Ivorian Jeremie Boga and Francesco Caputo hit back for Sassuolo before Ronaldo’s intervention.

Sassuolo, in 12th, claimed their first ever point at Juventus, and held Sarri’s unbeaten champions to their third draw this season.

“We got into trouble on our own, we didn’t use our heads in the first half, as the goals conceded show,” said Sarri.

“But we were coming off two games in which we used up a lot of energy against Atalanta and Atletico Madrid. We woke up after going behind.”

Veteran Gianluigi Buffon endured a nightmare in the Juventus goal.

The 41-year-old was making just his fifth start this season, putting him two short of Paolo Maldini’s record of 647 Serie A appearances.

Boga dinked the first Sassuolo goal on 22 minutes over the onrushing Buffon, who then fumbled in Caputo’s second after the break following a mix-up between Juan Cuadrado and Matthijs de Ligt.

Napoli crisis intensifies 

By contrast, 18-year-old Stefano Turati made an impressive debut in the Sassuolo goal, and pulled off a string of fine saves, denying a Ronaldo free-kick, Gonzalo Higuain and Paulo Dybala late on.

Ronaldo’s penalty pulled the hosts level in the 68th minute after Filippo Romagna fouled substitute Dybala.

It was the Portuguese star’s fifth Serie A goal this season, with the five-time Ballon d’Or winner also having an effort ruled out for offside.

“Ronaldo has regained stamina, the next step will be to recover brilliance, but the road is right,” insisted Sarri.

Lazio consolidated third place — seven points behind Inter — with a 3-0 win over Udinese thanks to a double from Serie A top scorer Ciro Immobile, including one from the spot, to bring his tally to 17 goals this season, and a Luis Alberto penalty.

Roma moved up to fourth, two points behind their city rivals, after a 3-1 win at midtable Verona, ahead of Cagliari, who host Sampdoria on Monday.

Justin Kluivert score after 17 minutes in Verona with Diego Perotti converting a penalty just before the break, and Henrikh Mkhitaryan adding a third in injury time.

But Napoli’s winless run stretched to eight games in all competitions with a 2-1 defeat at home by Bologna, leaving last season’s runners-up in seventh.

Bologna got their first win since October 27 with coach Sinisa Mihajlovic back on the bench following a bone marrow transplant as he fights leukaemia.

Despite taking a point in their Champions League game at Liverpool in midweek Carlo Ancelotti’s Napoli are five points off the top four.

“It’s a very delicate time for us,” said Ancelotti.

Fernando Llorente put Napoli ahead four minutes before half-time, but Dane Andreas Skov Olsen volleyed in an equaliser just before the hour with Nicola Sansone scoring the winner 10 minutes from time.

Llorente thought he had scored a 95th-minute leveller, but it was ruled offside by VAR.

AC Milan, struggling in 11th, got their first win in a month, 1-0 at Parma.

AFP

Ronaldo Rescues A Point For Juve Against Sassuolo

#

 

Cristiano Ronaldo scored from the spot to rescue a 2-2 draw for Juventus at home against Sassuolo to leave the way open for Inter Milan to claim top spot in Serie A later on Sunday.

Leonardo Bonucci had scored early for the eight-time reigning Serie A champions but Jeremie Boga and Francesco Caputo hit back for Sassuolo before Ronaldo’s point-saving intervention.

Juventus have a two-point lead on top of Serie A but now can be overtaken by Inter Milan, who host struggling SPAL.

Sassuolo claimed their first-ever point at Juventus and handed Maurizio Sarri’s unbeaten champions their third draw of the season.

The side from Emilia-Romagna, are 12th in the table.

Ronaldo started upfront for Juventus, having missed last weekend’s league game with a slight knee problem, with Champions League hero Paulo Dybala starting on the bench.

Eighteen-year-old Stefano Turati made an impressive debut in the Sassuolo goal, and pulled off a string of fine saves, denying Ronaldo, Higuain and Dybala late.

But Juventus counterpart Gianluigi Buffon had a difficult game in Turin as the 41-year-old, making just his fifth start this season, had a role in Caputo’s goal just after the break.

Bonucci had gotten Juventus off the mark with a long-range effort on 20 minutes.

But three minutes later Boga pounced on a Caputo cross sending in past an out-rushing Buffon from an angle.

Back after the break Caputo added a second for the visitors following a mix-up between Juan Cuadrado and Matthijs De Ligt in the Juventus defence, with Buffon then fumbling the effort as it slipped into the back of the net.

Turati got down low to deny Higuain after getting his hand to send a Ronaldo free kick over the bar.

Ronaldo’s penalty pulled the hosts level on 68 minutes after Filippo Romagna fouled substitute Dybala.

It was the Portuguese star’s fifth Serie A goal this season.

Later, Inter host SPAL with third-placed Lazio at home against Udinese and city rivals Roma at Verona.

Ronaldo ‘Improving’ But In Doubt For Atletico Clash

File photo of Juventus’ Portuguese forward Cristiano Ronaldo 
Marco BERTORELLO / AFP

 

Cristiano Ronaldo remains in doubt for Tuesday’s Champions League clash against Atletico Madrid in Turin, Juventus coach Maurizio Sarri said on Monday.

The 34-year-old Portuguese international was rested for Saturday’s Serie A game against Atalanta which Juventus won 3-1 thanks to a Gonzalo Higuain double to stay top of the Italian league.

“Cristiano trained with his teammates yesterday (Sunday),” said Sarri.

“It seems that his condition is improving but we still have to evaluate between today and tomorrow.

“The positive thing he was able to play throughout the training session with his teammates.”

Defender Matthijs de Ligt, who suffered a dislocated shoulder, and forward Federico Bernardeschi, who bruised his chest, also need to be evaluated, Sarri said.

Ronaldo was substituted in Juventus’s previous two games including their Champions League game at Lokomotiv Moscow with a slight knee problem.

The five-time Ballon d’Or winner and hit back with four goals to help Portugal qualify for Euro 2020.

“My relationship with Cristiano is good,” said Sarri, “if a player who has won so much is angry about being substituted, it means he still has a lot of motivation, and this is something positive.”

Juventus are already through to the last 16 and want to finish top of Group D with second-placed Atletico needing a win to guarantee their place.

“Atletico are a difficult side to play against, we have to think we want to qualify being the leader of the group that is our target for tomorrow,” said Sarri.

Sarri conceded he was spoilt for choice up front between Ronaldo, Paulo Dybala and Higuain.

“We have three very strong strikers for just two roles, I think it is an ideal situation, nobody will be able to play 65 matches, including with the national team,” continued the Juventus coach.

“Playing Dybala, Higuain and Cristiano all together is difficult because of their characteristics, but all three know how to play really well and are comfortable with each other.”

Higuain, who has scored five goals this season, sat alongside Sarri in the press conference, and praise his coach, who he also played under at Napoli and Chelsea.

“Obviously I spent some of the best season’s of my career with Mr Sarri, I know exactly what he wants,” said the 31-year-old Argentine who joined the veteran coach at Chelsea last season after an unhappy five-month loan spell at AC Milan.

“Compared to last year I had to change something in my head and he (Sarri) helped me a lot.

“Mentally and physically I’m in great shape and the manager has been helping me a lot.”

Cuadrado Extends Juventus Deal Until 2022

 

Colombian international Juan Cuadrado has followed Leonardo Bonucci’s example by extending his contract with Juventus, penning a deal until 2022, the Serie A champions announced on Thursday.

The 31-year-old winger joined Juventus on loan from Chelsea in 2015, making the move permanent two years later for 20 million euros ($22 million).

Cuadrado has won the Serie A title four times, along with three Italian Cup and an Italian SuperCup, scoring 15 goals and contributing 28 assists in 151 games.

This season Maurizio Sarri has used Cuadrado mainly as a full-back because of an injury crisis among the defenders.

The Colombian has spent most of his career in Italy with Udinese, Lecce and Fiorentina before moving to Chelsea where he won the Premier League in 2015.

Juventus Join Bayern In Champions League Last 16

Juventus’ Brazilian forward Douglas Costa celebrates with Juventus’ Argentine forward Paulo Dybala after scoring a goal during the UEFA Champions League group D football match between FC Lokomotiv Moscow and Juventus at Moscow’s RZD Arena stadium on November 6, 2019.
Dimitar DILKOFF / AFP

 

Substitute Douglas Costa’s injury-time winner secured Juventus their spot in the Champions League last 16 on Wednesday after a 2-1 victory over Lokomotiv Moscow.

The Brazilian winger struck a magnificent, last-gasp solo goal for the Italian champions after Aleksei Miranchuk had canceled out Aaron Ramsey’s fourth-minute opener.

Juve is three points clear of Atletico Madrid at the top of Group D ahead of the Spanish side’s game at Bayer Leverkusen, who will likely battle Lokomotiv for a Europa League place.

Lokomotiv coach Yuri Semin made one change from the weekend’s draw at Ufa as on-loan Inter Milan midfielder Joao Mario came in for Murilo Cerqueira.

Juve’s Maurizio Sarri brought in seven new faces from Saturday’s Turin derby victory which included handing Wales midfielder Ramsey his first start for the club in the competition.

Ramsey, whose appearances for his new side this season have been restricted by injury, opened the scoring early after Lokomotiv goalkeeper Guilherme fumbled Cristiano Ronaldo’s free-kick.

Ronaldo fired his effort from the corner of the box straight at Guilherme who spilled the ball through his legs, allowing Ramsey to poke home from the goal-line on the greasy surface.

READ ALSO: BREAKING: Bayern Through To Champions League Last 16 After Olympiacos Win

The Russians equalised eight minutes later after Juve took their foot off the gas.

Maciej Rybus whipped a cross towards Miranchuk who tapped in unopposed with Wojciech Szczesny on the floor after his header bounced back off the post.

The equaliser seemed to inspire Lokomotiv and they could have taken the lead less than 10 minutes later.

Miranchuk wasted a chance to double his tally after glancing his header over the crossbar from a chipped cross by Rifat Zhemaletdinov.

Ronaldo troubled Guilherme from a set-piece once again three minutes into the second half, the Brazil-born Russia international nervously parrying away the long-range effort.

Guilherme denied Ronaldo again nine minutes later sending the Portugal attacker’s powerful shot over the bar with an impressive save.

Ronaldo was substituted off for Paulo Dybala on 82 minutes with Sarri potentially keeping an eye on Sunday’s Serie A game against AC Milan, despite the former Real Madrid forward’s frustration at the decision.

Juve dominated the final moments and Costa clinched their sixth straight last 16 appearances with a tidy side-footed finish in injury time for his first Bianconeri goal since January.

AFP

Serie A: Lecce Hold Juventus To Draw

Juventus’ Argentine forward Paulo Dybala shoots to score a penalty and open the scoring during the Italian Serie A footbal match Lecce vs Juventus on October 26, 2019 at the Stadio Comunlae Via del Mare in Lecce. Alberto PIZZOLI / AFP

 

Paulo Dybala scored but Juventus were held 1-1 at lowly Lecce on Saturday with the defending champions in danger of being overtaken by Inter Milan at the top of the Serie A table.

Both goals came from penalties with Dybala’s strike from the spot after 50 minutes cancelled out by Lecce’s Marco Mancosu’s effort six minutes later.

The Italian champions have 23 points from nine games, but could be overtaken by Antonio Conte’s Inter who are two points behind before hosting Parma later on Saturday.

Juventus rested Portuguese star Cristiano Ronaldo after Tuesday’s 2-1 Champions League win over Lokomotiv Moscow, and ahead of two Serie A matches in four days next week.

But Dybala, who scored both goals against the Russians, started up front alongside Gonzalo Higuain, with Federico Bernardeschi just behind the Argentine strike duo.

Maurizio Sarri gave starts to Emre Can and Danilo with Blaise Matuidi and Juan Cuadrado starting on the bench.

Promoted Lecce, a side from the heel of Italy, are struggling above the relegation zone, but managed to pull through for a precious point despite being dominated by the visitors.

Slovenian midfielder Zan Majer forced a save from Juventus goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny after just two minutes.

Dybala was targeted early by the Lecce defenders with Luca Rossettini and Marco Calderoni picking up yellow cards early for fouling the Argentine forward.

Higuain looked as he had the opener after a quarter of an hour finishing off Alex Sandro’s cross, but his effort was ruled for offside.

Gabriel denied Dybala and Bernardeschi then failed to connect with a Danilo cross just before the break.

But Dybala put Juventus ahead five minutes into the second half with his sixth goal in five games following a disputed foul on Miralem Pjanic.

But captain Mancosu pulled his side back level from the spot six minutes later after a Matthijs De Ligt handball.

Gabriel denied Higuain on the line after 68 minutes and Leonardo Bonucci also sent over as the Turin giants pushed forward unsuccessfully for the winner.

The bruising encounter could prove costly for the champions with Pjanic, Higuain and Rodrigo Bentancur all taking knocks.

Inter host Parma later Saturday with Genoa playing their first game under new coach Thiago Motta at home against Mario Balotelli’s Brescia.

Dybala Double Gives Juventus 2-1 Victory Against Lokomotiv Moscow

Lokomotiv Moscow’s Russian goalkeeper Guilherme fails to stop Juventus’ second goal during the UEFA Champions League Group D football match Juventus vs Lokomotiv Moscow on October 22, 2019 at the Juventus stadium in Turin. Miguel MEDINA / AFP

 

Paulo Dybala struck a quick-fire second-half double as Juventus came from behind to beat Lokomotiv Moscow 2-1 in their Champions League Group D clash in Turin on Tuesday.

The Italian champions had trailed the Russians with 13 minutes to go in the Allianz Stadium after Aleksei Miranchuk had put the visitors ahead after half an hour.

But Dybala pulled the hosts level on 77 minutes and added a second two minutes later to keep Juventus on course in Group D with seven points after three games.

Maurizio Sarri’s side had drawn with Atletico Madrid and beaten Bayer Leverkusen 3-0 in the last two games.

Atletico also have seven points, after beating Leverkusen 1-0 in Spain on Tuesday, with Lokomotiv third with three points.

Cristiano Ronaldo missed the chance for another record of scoring against a 34th different Champions League club.

The Portuguese star drew a blank in Turin firing over from a Juan Cuadrado cross early as, despite dominating possession, Juventus struggled to break down the Russians.

Lokomotiv broke through with their first clear chance.

Miranchuk shrugged off Leonardo Bonucci and the Juventus defence to find on-loan Inter Milan midfielder Joao Mario whose effort was cleared by Polish keeper Wojciech Szczesny into the path of the Russian forward who finished.

Dybala looked as if he had scored the equaliser before the break but play had stopped following Ronaldo’s tackle on Lokomotiv goalkeeper Guilherme.

Dybala fired over just after the break with fellow Argentine forward Gonzalo Higuain coming on in place of Sami Khedira.

Szczesny denied Joao Mario after an hour while at the other end Higuain missed two quick-fire chances before Dybala finally rifled in the equaliser.

Alex Sandro was denied two minutes later but Dybala was on hand to follow up to keep Juventus unbeaten in all competitions this season.

AFP

Ronaldo Happy With ‘More Attacking’ Juventus

Juventus’ Portuguese forward Cristiano Ronaldo reacts during a press conference on October 21, 2019 in Turin. Marco Bertorello / AFP

 

Juventus forward Cristiano Ronaldo gave coach Maurizio Sarri a vote of confidence on Monday when he said he was happy with the “more attacking” approach the club had adopted since Sarri came on board in the summer. 

“I think the team is getting better,” said Ronaldo on the eve of Juve’s Champions League Group D meeting with Lokomotiv Moscow.

“We are getting more and more confident. We are playing a different brand of football, more attacking.

“I like the way he (Sarri) wants the team to play. We are creating more opportunities, we have more confidence in ourselves, I’m happy with these changes.

“Maybe we could score a little more but I’m proud of what we are doing.”

So far this season, Ronaldo has scored five goals in nine games and was on target at the weekend when Juventus beat Bologna 2-1 to consolidate top spot in Serie A.

“My role hasn’t changed, perhaps I have a bit more freedom,” he said.

“I am happy because, bit by bit, we are getting to where Juventus ought to be. We have a difference coach, a different system, new players. We changed in order to improve.”

Last week, the five-time Ballon d’Or winner scored his 700th career goal while playing for Portugal.

“That’s already in the past. I want to move on, reach new heights to help the team. I want to play and help the team win trophies.

“Of course I am proud of the individual records but the priority is to win games for Juventus and Portugal.”

The Italian champions top Group D in the Champions League having drawn with Atletico Madrid and beaten Bayer Leverkusen 3-0 in the last round of games.

Inter Milan Keep Pace With Juventus As Sampdoria Hold Roma

FromL) Inter Milan’s Belgian forward Romelu Lukaku, Inter Milan’s Argentinian forward Lautaro Martinez and Sassuolo’s Italian goalkeeper Andrea Consigli go for the ball during the Italian Serie A football match Sassuolo vs Inter Milan on October 20, 2019 at the Mapei stadium in Reggio-Emilia. Miguel MEDINA / AFP

 

Inter Milan held off a late Sassuolo surge to win 4-3 and keep pace with leaders Juventus in Serie A on Sunday as Claudio Ranieri settled for a goalless draw against former club Roma in his first game as Sampdoria coach.

Romelu Lukaku and Lautaro Martinez each bagged a brace for Inter in a seven-goal thriller to keep Antonio Conte’s side second, a point behind Juventus who beat Bologna 2-1 on Saturday.

The match at Sassuolo’s Mapei Stadium was briefly interrupted before the break after a parachutist inexplicably landed on the pitch just as Lukaku was about to take a penalty.

The man was quickly led off by security agents as players and fans looked on bewildered. Then the former Manchester United striker slotted in to give Inter a 3-1 lead.

Martinez had opened the scoring after two minutes. He added a penalty after 71 minute, following Lukaku’s quick-fire double on 38 and 45 minutes.

Inter were in control 4-1 with 20 minutes to go, when Antonio Conte brought on winger Matteo Politano and midfielder Valentino Lazaro for their first appearances this season.

Then Filip Djuricic (74) and Jeremie Boga (81) hit back for the hosts to add to Domenic Berardi’s first-half goal.

Inter held on for a win after consecutive defeats against Barcelona in the Champions League and Juventus in Serie A.

“Once it goes to 3-1 and 4-1, it should be over,” said Lukaku who has now scored five Serie A goals in eight games.

“In the first half, we did everything well. However, we should have scored in the first 15 minutes after the restart to really kill off the match.

“The positive we take is that we got the three points, but we need to defend better than that.

“It was very important to get this win.”

Sassuolo fell to their fifth loss of the season and sit 16th just above the relegation zone.

“For more than an hour we played very well, then there was a blackout that we will analyse in detail,” said Inter assistant coach Cristian Stellini speaking as Conte missed the post-match conference because of illness.

“We did well, but we still have a lot of work to do.”

AS Roma’s injury crisis grew worse as they lost both Bryan Cristante and Nikola Kalinic early as they settled for a fourth draw in eight games against Ranieri’s basement club Sampdoria.

Edin Dzeko came on for Kalinic with his face protected by a mask after breaking a cheekbone two weeks ago.

The Romans also played the final five minutes a man down after Justin Kluivert was sent off for a second yellow card.

Roma fall to sixth in the table behind Cagliari who beat SPAL 2-0 as Sampdoria stay bottom but take their first point in four games.

Ranieri said he had made progress.

“I’m satisfied especially after only a week training together and against a very good Rome,” said Ranieri, who turned 68 on Sunday. “Now let me have time to get to know the players and then we will try to find solutions to score.”

Stefano Okaka’s header was enough to give struggling Udinese their second win of the season as Torino slipped to ninth.

Stefano Pioli takes charge of his first game as AC Milan coach later Sunday against Lecce.

Juve Need To ‘Lighten Up’ In Champions League Quest, Says Sarri

Juventus’ Portuguese forward Cristiano Ronaldo (L) throws the ball in next to Juventus’ Italian coach Maurizio Sarri during the Italian Serie A football match Juventus vs Spal on September 28, 2019 at the Juventus stadium in Turin. Andreas SOLARO / AFP

 

Juventus coach Maurizio Sarri believes his side need to enjoy themselves more if they are going to have any chance of ending their 24-year wait for the Champions League trophy.

The 60-year-old Sarri will oversee his first Champions League match at home in the Allianz Stadium on Tuesday.

Juventus host Bayer Leverkusen in their second Group D clash, having being held 2-2 at Atletico Madrid in their opener.

“The Champions League is really the top for a player and coach, but at the same time we should also have fun,” Sarri told a pre-match press conference in Turin.

“At the moment it’s difficult for Italian teams to be among the favourites. English teams are favourites for obvious reasons but we should be easier on ourselves.

“The idea is to really cheer up a little bit.

“Our goal is to go all the way until the Champions League final but it’s a competition that can only be determined in certain moments.

“I’m expecting a good result tomorrow.”

 Dangerous Leverkusen 

The eight-time reigning Italian champions are unbeaten so far this season.

They are up against a Bayer Leverkusen, who finished fourth in the Bundesliga last season, and are sixth this term.

The Germans slumped to a surprise 2-1 defeat at home against Lokomotiv Moscow in their opener.

Leverkusen won 3-1 the last time the two teams met in 2001-02, when the Germans reached the final.

Sarri said he would make his team selection after training on Monday, deciding who would play up front alongside Cristiano Ronaldo.

“Playing Ronaldo, (Paulo) Dybala and (Gonzalo) Higuain all together from the start is a fascinating suggestion, but we are not ready yet for the level of balance required,” said Sarri.

“For now we could only try this solution for parts of the match.”

Leverkusen’s danger man could be 20-year-old German midfielder Kai Havertz, a player Sarri tipped to “become one of the most important players in Europe”.

“Over the last three matches we have definitely improved from all points of view,” said the former Chelsea coach.

“The last matches we had 21 balls that could turn into goals and we need to be more aggressive in the opponents’ area.”

Bosnian midfielder Miralem Pjanic said the team were learning to understand Sarri’s strategy.

“A lot has changed,” said Pjanic.

“Everything can’t be perfect after just one month, there’s room from improvement.

“My playing style under (Massimiliano) Allegri was very different.

“I have more space and more freedom on the pitch.”

In the other game in Group D, Lokomotiv host Atletico Madrid in Moscow.

AFP

Italy Arrests Leaders Of Juventus Hardline Ultra Fans

Italian police on Monday arrested 12 leading Juventus hardline fans as part of a major investigation into violence and extortion linked to match ticket sales.

The suspects are accused of criminal association, aggravated extortion, money laundering and violence, police said.

The arrests were the culmination of a year-long probe centred on the alleged blackmail of ticketing officials by the “ultras”, who wanted cut-price blocks of tickets they could sell to fellow fans.

They reportedly began threatening to sing racist chants during matches — which would lead to the club being hit with fines and possibly having points deducted — after Juventus stopped distributing blocks of tickets for resale in 2017, Italian media said.

Police said the hardcore groups had set up a “widespread criminal strategy to ‘restore’ lost favours”.

Those arrested included the heads of the Drughi, Tradizione-Antichi Valori, Viking, Nucleo 1985 and Quelli … di via Filadelfia groups, police said in a statement.

Officers were carrying out 39 search warrants targeting those arrested and other suspects, with the help of police from cities across northern and central Italy, from Alessandria to Bergamo, Florence, Genoa, and Milan.

AFP