Ronaldo Scores First Serie A Hat-Trick As Ibrahimovic Returns To Italy

A photo combination of Juventus’ Portuguese forward Cristiano Ronaldo and AC Milan’s Swedish forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic. AFP

 

Cristiano Ronaldo scored his first Serie A hat-trick to lift Juventus top of the table with a 4-0 win over Cagliari on Monday, while Zlatan Ibrahimovic made an “emotional” return for AC Milan in a goalless draw against Sampdoria.

Ronaldo struck for the fifth consecutive league game as the champions bounced back from their Italian Super Cup defeat by Lazio to move ahead of Inter Milan who play Napoli later Monday.

“I’m happy with this first (league) hat-trick. But the important thing is the team, which played very well,” said Ronaldo, who brought his league tally to 13 goals in 15 games this season.

“We had to win today and put pressure on Inter.”

READ ALSO: Nadal On Fire As Spain Crush Uruguay At ATP Cup

Cagliari held off Maurizio Sarri’s Juve early on, but the second half was all one-way traffic with 34-year-old Ronaldo breaking the deadlock just after the interval.

The Portuguese striker added a second from the penalty spot on 67 minutes then set up Gonzalo Higuain who came off the bench to strike a third nine minutes from time, before completing his hat-trick a minute later.

Juve are three points ahead of Inter in the table with Antonio Conte’s side travelling to eighth-placed Napoli looking to keep pace with the eight-time defending champions.

‘Like A God’

Ronaldo’s heroics overshadowed Swedish star Ibrahimovic’s return for Milan as he came off the bench in the 55th minute against Sampdoria.

The 38-year-old had not played since leaving MLS side LA Galaxy in October.

He came on for Poland striker Krzysztof Piatek to deafening applause from the San Siro crowd after rejoining the club last week.

But there was little else to cheer for the hosts who extended their winless run to three games and remain 12th in the table.

“I felt a lot of adrenaline, emotion, it brought me back nine or 10 years,” said Ibrahimovic, who was top scorer in Serie A with Milan in the 2011-12 campaign before leaving for Paris Saint-Germain.

“I wanted to get on the pitch, score a goal and then celebrate like a God in front of the Curva! But it will happen next time.”

The seven-time European champions are 13 points off Champions League qualification, a competition they have not played since the 2013-14 season.

“You can see that the team is lacking confidence and aggression in scoring goals,” said the Swede.

“I will try everything possible to get Milan going again. There is a lack of faith here.”

Five-Star Atalanta

Milan coach Stefano Pioli said the team were still reeling from their 5-0 defeat by Atalanta last time out.

“The disastrous defeat in Bergamo has remained within us,” said Pioli. “It is a shame not to have won. Ibra’s impact was absolutely positive.

“He immediately gave support, but the team is not yet used to his presence, we could look to him more.

“His physical prowess gives us some more solutions, but we lacked quality from everyone.”

Atalanta continued their fine form, closing to within a point of fourth-placed Roma, who lost 2-0 to Torino on Sunday, with another 5-0 rout, this time of seventh-placed Parma.

Atalanta were already three goals up before the break thanks to Papu Gomez, Remo Freuler and Robin Gosens, with Josip Ilicic adding a second-half double.

New Fiorentina coach Giuseppe Iachini had to settle for a 1-1 draw against Bologna in his first game after taking over from Vincenzo Montella.

The Tuscany side had led for most of the game after Marco Benassi volleyed in on 27 minutes but Riccardo Orsolini grabbed a point for Bologna deep into injury time.

Udinese secured back-to-back wins for the first time this season thanks to a late Rodrigo De Paul winner at Lecce.

AFP

Full List Of 2019 Ballon D’Or Winners

Former Ivorian forward Didier Drogba (L) and French English tv host Sandy Heribert host the Ballon d’Or France Football 2019 ceremony at the Chatelet Theatre in Paris on December 2, 2019.
FRANCK FIFE / AFP

 

The winners and other top finishers in the four trophies awarded at the 2019 Ballon d’Or ceremony on Monday in Paris:

Men’s Ballon d’Or

  1. Lionel Messi (ARG/Barcelona)
  2. Virgil van Dijk (NED/Liverpool)
  3. Cristiano Ronaldo (POR/Juventus)
  4. Sadio Mane (SEN/Liverpool)
  5. Mohamed Salah (EGY/Liverpool)
  6. Kylian Mbappe (FRA/PSG)
  7. Alisson Becker (BRA/Liverpool)
  8. Robert Lewandowski (POL/Bayern Munich)
  9. Bernardo Silva (POR/Manchester City)
  10. Riyad Mahrez (ALG/Manchester City)

Women’s Ballon d’Or

  1. Megan Rapinoe (USA/Reign FC)
  2. Lucy Bronze (ENG/Lyon)
  3. Alex Morgan (USA/Orlando Pride)
  4. Ada Hegerberg (NOR/Lyon)
  5. Viviane Miedema (NED/Arsenal)
  6. Wendie Renard (FRA/Lyon)
  7. Sam Kerr (AUS/Chicago Red Stars)
  8. Rose Lavelle (USA/Washington Spirit)
  9. Ellen White (ENG/Manchester City)
  10. Dzsenifer Marozsan (GER/Lyon)

READ ALSO: De Ligt Wins Young Player Gong At Ballon D’or Awards

Kopa Trophy

(Best player under 21 on December 31)

  1. Matthijs de Ligt (NED/Ajax Amsterdam then Juventus)
  2. Jadon Sancho (ENG/Borussia Dortmund)
  3. Joao Felix (POR/Benfica then Atletico Madrid)

Yashin Trophy

(Best goalkeeper, presented for the first time)

  1. Alisson Becker (BRA/Liverpool)
  2. Marc-Andre ter Stegen (GER/FC Barcelona)
  3. Ederson (BRA/Manchester City)

AFP

Ronaldo Leaves Stadium Before Final Whistle After Being Substituted

Juventus’ Portuguese forward Cristiano Ronaldo (L) goes directly to the changing rooms after being substituted during the Italian Serie A football match Juventus vs AC Milan on November 10, 2019 at the Juventus Allianz stadium in Turin. Marco Bertorello / AFP

 

 

Cristiano Ronaldo reportedly left the Allianz Stadium before the final whistle of Juventus’ 1-0 Serie A win over AC Milan on Sunday after being substituted for the second match in a week.

Paulo Dybala replaced Ronaldo on 55 minutes with the Argentina striker going on to score the winning goal 22 minutes later to keep Juventus top in Serie A ahead of Inter Milan.

Five-time Ballon d’Or winner Ronaldo looked glum as he came off and directed some words at coach Maurizio Sarri before heading to the changing rooms and Sky Sport Italia reported that the 34-year-old had left the stadium three minutes before the match finished.

However Sarri said he did not know whether Ronaldo had left the stadium early.

READ ALSO: Dybala keeps Juventus At Serie A Summit, Lazio And Cagliari Into Top Four

“Disrespectful to his teammates? Like I said, I don’t know,” Sarri said. “If it’s true that he left before the end it is a problem to be resolved with his teammates.”

“I have no problem with Cristiano, he should be thanked because he made himself available despite not being in the best condition,” said Sarri.

“In the last month he has had discomfort in his knee and this is a little problem for him.”

Ronaldo had reacted furiously after been substituted in his team’s 2-1 win against Lokomotiv Moscow midweek which saw Juventus advance to the Champions League last 16.

“The important thing is that he made himself available. If he gets angry when he comes out this is part of the game,” continued the Juventus coach.

“It’s only natural a player is going to be irritated about leaving the pitch, especially when he worked so hard to be there.

“All players who are trying to give their best will have at least five minutes of being annoyed when they are substituted, but a coach would in general be much more worried if he didn’t seem upset.”

Van Dijk Battle Ronaldo, Messi For FIFA Award

Liverpool’s Dutch defender Virgil van Dijk poses with his trophies of Best Men’s player in Europe of the Year and Best Defender at the end of the UEFA Champions League football group stage draw ceremony in Monaco on August 29, 2019. Valery HACHE / AFP

 

Liverpool centre-back Virgil van Dijk is on the shortlist to add FIFA’s best player award to his UEFA Men’s Player of the Year honour.

The Dutch international denied Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi for the European title last week and the same trio are in the running for the FIFA accolade to be announced in Milan on September 23.

Van Dijk starred in Liverpool’s triumphant Champions League campaign.

READ ALSO: Van Dijk Wins UEFA Men’s Player Of The Year Award

England full-back Lucy Bronze won UEFA’s women’s award and is on FIFA’s shortlist with the United States’ World Cup-winning duo Megan Rapinoe and Alex Morgan.

Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola is up against Liverpool’s Jurgen Klopp and Mauricio Pochettino of Tottenham for best men’s coach.

Phil Neville, who led England’s women to a World Cup semi-final, is up for the women’s coach award with the USA’s Jill Ellis and Sarina Wiegman who guided European champions the Netherlands to the World Cup final.

FIFA Best shortlists

Men’s player:

Cristiano Ronaldo (Juventus/Portugal), Lionel Messi (Barcelona/Argentina), Virgil van Dijk (Liverpool/Netherlands)

Women’s player:

Lucy Bronze (Lyon/England), Alex Morgan (Orlando Pride/USA), Megan Rapinoe (Reign FC/USA)

Men’s coach:

Pep Guardiola (Manchester City), Jurgen Klopp (Liverpool), Mauricio Pochettino (Tottenham)

Women’s coach:

Jill Ellis (USA), Phil Neville (England), Sarina Wiegman (Netherlands)

Women’s goalkeeper:

Christiane Endler (Paris St-Germain/Chile), Hedvig Lindahl (Wolfsburg/Sweden), Sari van Veenendaal (Atletico Madrid/Netherlands)

Men’s goalkeeper:

Alisson (Liverpool/Brazil), Ederson (Manchester City/Brazil), Marc-Andre ter Stegen (Barcelona/Germany)

Puskas award (for best goal):

Lionel Messi (Barcelona v Real Betis), Juan Quintero (River Plate v Racing Club), Daniel Zsori (Debrecen v Ferencvaros)

AFP

Cristiano Ronaldo Will Not Face Rape Charges In Nevada

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

 

Juventus star Cristiano Ronaldo will not face any charges over an alleged rape in the US state of Nevada a decade ago, prosecutors said on Monday.

The Clark County District Attorney’s Office said it had declined to prosecute the Portuguese star because it “cannot be proven beyond a reasonable doubt” that a sexual assault occurred.

Kathryn Mayorga, a former model, has claimed that Ronaldo raped her in a Las Vegas hotel in 2009.

The former Manchester United and Real Madrid star reached a financial settlement with her following the incident but has denied allegations of sexual assault.

The district attorney’s office said it had received a report from Mayorga — who it identified only as “V” — on June 13, 2009, reporting that she had been the victim of a sexual assault.

Police were unable to conduct an investigation at the time because she declined to say who assaulted her or where it occurred, the office said in a statement, but Mayorga contacted police in August of last year to ask that the case be reopened, at which point she named Ronaldo as the alleged assailant.

“Based upon a review of the information presented at this time, the allegations of sexual assault against Cristiano Ronaldo cannot be proven beyond a reasonable doubt,” prosecutors said. “Therefore, no charges will be forthcoming.”

Ronaldo is widely considered one of the greatest footballers in the history of the game, having won the Champions League title five times — once with Manchester United and four times with Real Madrid.

He also led Portugal to the Euro 2016 title in France.

AFP

Portugal Rely On Ronaldo To Get Better Of Van Dijk

Ronaldo, Zapata Lock Horns As Juventus Tackle Atalanta In Coppa Italia
Juventus’ Portuguese forward Cristiano Ronaldo
Marco BERTORELLO / AFP

 

Portugal’s meeting with the Netherlands to decide the first ever winners of the Nations League on Sunday sees the unstoppable force of Cristiano Ronaldo face the immovable object in Virgil van Dijk.

Ronaldo sat out the early stages of UEFA’s new competition to save his 34-year-old legs for his first season at Juventus but returned in time to ride to the host nation’s rescue once more in Wednesday’s semi-final against Switzerland.

The Swiss enjoyed the better of the game in Porto, but the five-time world player of the year was lethal in scoring his 53rd career hat-trick with three exquisite finishes.

“It’s the preparation of my work ethic. I still feel good despite being 34 years of age,” Ronaldo told UEFA.com.

“The most important thing is your head, to feel motivated and happy, and to follow my path as a player because I think I still have a lot to give.”

Portugal’s run to the last four without their all-time record top goalscorer showed why hopes are high the European champions will remain a force even when Ronaldo does eventually depart the international scene.

READ ALSO: Mesut Ozil Gets Married With Turkish President As Best Man

The talent of Bernardo Silva, Joao Felix, Ruben Neven and Bruno Fernandes among others promises much, but Ronaldo remains Portugal’s X-factor.

“We know sometimes it is impossible to have good defending against Cristiano Ronaldo,” said the Netherlands coach Ronald Koeman.

“I think the best that we can do is keeping the ball, to have good ball possession because when we have the ball he can do nothing in attack.”

– Van Dijk transformative –
However, Koeman is blessed with the man most capable of keeping Ronaldo quiet in world football at the moment in Van Dijk.

The world’s most expensive defender has more than justified his 75 million ($95 million) price tag since swapping Southampton for Liverpool 18 months ago.

His transformative effect has brought back the glory days at Anfield, capped by winning the Champions League last weekend.

And now Van Dijk is also leading his country back to where they belong as a European powerhouse after failing to even qualify for the last two major tournaments.

Koeman boasted about having the best central defensive partnership in Europe even before the tournament with Ajax captain Matthijs de Ligt lining up alongside Van Dijk.

Yet, while the 19-year-old may well succeed his skipper as the world’s most expensive defender in the coming weeks, Holland’s 3-1 semi-final victory over England showed why he is not yet the finished article.

De Ligt’s error in conceding a first half penalty could have cost his side a place in the final.

Van Dijk was first to console his young teammate and that assurance helped De Ligt to atone in perfect fashion as he scored the Dutch’s equaliser before easing past an error-strewn England in extra-time.

Ronaldo may be keen for revenge against De Ligt as he also scored the winner when Ajax shocked Juventus in the Champions League quarter-finals this season.

Despite the Italian champions’ elimination, Ronaldo scored his side’s two goals in that tie.

But he is yet to net when faced with the more imposing and composed figure of Van Dijk.

In their only two previous meetings, Real Madrid beat Liverpool in last season’s Champions League final thanks to two calamitous goalkeeping errors from Loris Karius and a wonder goal from Gareth Bale in what proved to be Ronaldo’s last ever game for the Spanish giants.

The last time the two nations met, it was Van Dijk who was on target in a 3-0 friendly win for the Netherlands last March.

A five-time Ballon d’Or and Champions League winner, who has also won league titles in England, Spain and Italy, there is little left for Ronaldo to prove.

Yet, the chance to win an international tournament on home soil and avenge the pain of defeat in the Euro 2004 final as hosts will not come round again.

Fifteen years on, Portugal’s hopes still rely Ronaldo rising to the challenge of overcoming the world’s best defender.

Ronaldo Opens Hair Transplant Clinic To Thank Fans Who Love Him

Champions League: Ronaldo Returns For Juventus Against Ajax

 

Cristiano Ronaldo said Friday his decision to open a hair transplant clinic in Madrid was his way of thanking “the people who love me” after spending the best part of a decade at Real Madrid.

The 34-year-old Portuguese star’s hair implant centre in the Spanish capital opened its doors in March even though he has been a Juventus player since last year.

“The Spanish people treated me well, I wanted to thank them by giving them work,” Ronaldo told El Pais newspaper.

“I know that the people love me, they know that I gave a lot to the club (Real) and that they also gave me a lot.”

READ ALSO: Ronald Sinks Blade Into Torino Hearts In 1-1 Derby Draw

Ronaldo, who won two La Liga and four European Champions League titles with Real, said that he hasn’t ruled out becoming a coach when his playing days are over but still has his critics to defy.

“I see football as a mission: to be on the field, to win, to improve, I feel extra pressure, people always judge, they say it’s over, that I’m 33, 34 or 35, and I should stop,” added the five-time Ballon d’Or winner.

AFP

‘Phenomenon’ Ronaldo Stretches Torino’s 24-year Wait For Win At Juventus

 

Cristiano Ronaldo headed in a late equalizer to spoil Torino’s dream of a first win at city rivals Juventus in nearly a quarter of a century and frustrate their bid to move into the Champions League places.

Sasa Lukic had fired Torino ahead after 17 minutes in a match brought forward a day to avoid clashing with Saturday’s 70th anniversary of the air disaster that wiped out the all-conquering ‘Grande Torino’ team of the 1940s.

But Ronaldo headed in for 1-1 after 84 minutes to leave Torino in sixth place, two points off the Champions League berths with three games left to play.

Juventus have already sealed the Serie A title for the eighth season in a row, but Torino still have all to play for as they target a first-ever qualification for elite European competition.

READ ALSO: Ronaldo Opens Hair Transplant Clinic To Thank Fans Who Love Him

Torino have not won at Juventus since 1995 with their only win since then against their city rivals at home in April 2015.

Ronaldo — who had scored the only goal with a penalty in the reverse fixture in December — was partnered up front by teenage striker Moise Kean.

Kean threatened early along with Torino captain Andrea Belotti.

But Serbian midfielder Lukic broke through following a Miralem Pjanic error to slot in his first goal for Torino.

Ronaldo came close to an equaliser soon after with his powerful strike just wide with Salvatore Sirigu denying Blaise Matuidi.

But Juventus increased the pressure after the break with Ronaldo rising hightest to latch on a Leonardo Spinazzola cross to beat Sirigu and deny Torino a third consecutive victory.

It was Ronaldo’s 21st league goal this season and moves him two behind Sampdoria’s Fabio Quagliarella, who leads the Serie A scoring charts.

For Juventus it was a second consecutive stalemate after after last weekend’s 1-1 draw against Inter Milan.

Juventus are nevertheless 19 points ahead of second-placed Napoli, who host Cagliari on Sunday.

Inter Milan, eight points behind Napoli, will look to consolidate third position and their Champions League berth on Saturday at Udinese.

Torino stay sixth, one point behind Roma, and two adrift of fourth-placed Atalanta.

AFP

After Ronaldo Bruising, Japan’s Shoji Now Eyes Stopping Mbappe

Colombia’s midfielder James Rodriguez (C) fights for the ball against Japan’s defender Gen Shoji (L) and midfielder Gaku Shibasaki (R) during their friendly football match in Yokohama on March 22, 2019. Kazuhiro NOGI / AFP

 

Japan defender Gen Shoji has already endured a bruising experience against one global superstar in Cristiano Ronaldo but hopes that experience will work in his favour when he confronts another in the shape of French World Cup winner Kylian Mbappe on Sunday.

Shoji gets his chance to shut out Mbappe, one of football’s hottest properties, when his Toulouse team take on mighty Paris Saint-Germain in Ligue 1.

The 26-year-old, who arrived in France in the winter transfer window, came off worse when Ronaldo bagged a hat-trick in a 4-2 win for Real Madrid over Kashima Antlers at the 2016 World Club Cup.

“With my Japanese club, we tried to stop Ronaldo collectively. In France, when we defend, I feel as if the individual duel is more important so I will have to adapt the way I do things against Mbappe and the others,” said Shoji.

“To compare Ronaldo and Mbappe, I will have to have played both of them. I should have a better idea after the game but it will be complicated.”

Shoji, a native of Kobe, left Kashima Antlers — his only previous club — after 11 years and has helped Toulouse to a respectable mid-table place in Ligue 1.

“I wanted to have new experiences,” said Japanese international Shoji who admitted he has had to quickly adapt to a vastly different culture in France.

“You have to get out of your shyness. In Japan, if you are a little reserved someone will come to you; here, if you don’t make the effort, no one will come to you.”

To help him integrate in La Ville Rose (The Pink City), Toulouse have drafted in Japanese compatriot Toru Ota, who has played in the women’s teams at Lyon and PSG.

She interprets for Shoji in the dressing room and translates tactical tips being passed on to the pitch from the bench. A French teacher is also in the process of being hired.

Shoji opted against joining Toulouse after the World Cup last summer because he wanted to help Kashima win the Asian Champions League for the first time.

French Quality

With that ambition achieved in November, Shoji was free to move to France in a three-million-euro deal.

“He learns very quickly. He has been a good purchase,” said Toulouse coach Alain Casanova.

For his part, Shoji believes that from a technical perspective “the Japanese championship is perhaps better” but “Ligue 1 is superior when you add in the speed and physicality”.

“I was very surprised by the quality of French football,” added the 15-time capped international who was left heartbroken by Japan’s World Cup elimination in a 3-2 last-16 loss to Belgium in Russia last summer after they had led 2-0.

“But you will see and I do not know when, maybe it will be after me, but one day, Japan will go very, very far at the World Cup,” he predicted.

In his brief Ligue 1 career, Shoji has endured some sobering experiences — a 5-0 rout at the hands of Lyon was particularly painful.

“In Japan, with Kashima, we won all the time. I have never thought that I have made a bad choice. I don’t have any experience of a team that has these kind of difficulties. It’s important to have this kind of experience.”

Casanova is confident that Shoji will be a success story in France. To help his new recruit, he has even picked up a smattering of Japanese.

“I have mastered the main words — hello and goodbye!”

Leaving Ronaldo And Zidane Was A Terrible Decision – Fans React To Madrid’s Loss

 

A youthful Ajax side ended Real Madrid’s reign in the Champions League on Tuesday, with a brilliant performance that stunned the defending champions at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Following the defeat, accusing fingers have been pointed in various directions, debates also have been stirred as to the cause of Madrid’s downfall.

Fans have taken to various social media platforms to air their views about Madrid’s woe, with many linking what can now be called a nightmare, to the exit of Cristiano Ronaldo and Zinedine Zidane.

Below are some comments by fans and critics on Twitter.

READ ALSO: Madrid Failure Puts Solari Under Fire And Faith In Youth To The Test

Martial Can Reach Ronaldo’s Level, Says Solskjaer

Manchester United’s French striker Anthony Martial celebrates after scoring their third goal during the English FA Cup fourth / AFP

 

Anthony Martial has the talent to reach Cristiano Ronaldo’s level if he puts his mind to it, according to Manchester United caretaker boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

Martial had looked set to leave the club in the summer after falling out with Jose Mourinho but battled his way back into the Portuguese manager’s plans.

Last month, with Solskjaer now at the helm at Old Trafford, he signed a deal keeping him at the club until at least 2024.

The France international marked his first start since that contract with an assist and a superb second in the 3-0 win against Fulham, where his fine solo goal led ex-United captain Gary Neville to compare it to a Ronaldo effort at Craven Cottage in 2007.

READ ALSO: Martial Can Take Inspiration From Ronaldo, Says Solskjaer

“He does have similarities, of course,” said Solskjaer, who replaced the sacked Mourinho in December. “If he wants to be at Cristiano’s level, Anthony knows what he has to do. It’s up to him. He has the talent.”

“I am glad he is in my team,” the Norwegian added. “He has contributed to so many chances, so many goals. He is a Manchester United player. He excites the crowd. He excites the manager. He excites his teammates. And he is a great character around the place.”

Martial, 23, who became the most expensive teenager in history when he moved to United from Monaco in 2015 for an initial £36 million ($46 million), has scored 47 goals for the club.

Ronaldo scored 118 goals in 292 appearances for United, winning the Premier League three times and the Champions League.

United play Paris Saint-Germain in the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final on Tuesday, bolstered by Neymar’s injury, but Solskjaer said the absence of the Brazilian would be a loss.

“When you play against the best teams, you want to play against the players,” he said. “The crowd want to see the best players. Too bad for Old Trafford.

“I have played a couple of games when we played Real Madrid and (Brazil’s) Ronaldo and (Luis) Figo and all those were coming to Old Trafford. That gives it an extra edge.

“Unfortunately for Neymar he is injured but of course he is a quality player. I think our right-back thinks it is not too bad he will not be here.”

AFP

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