Papu Gomez extended his scoring streak as Atalanta crushed Cagliari 5-2 for a third consecutive win this season, but champions Juventus’s clash against Napoli later Sunday remains in doubt after coronavirus cases at both clubs.
Atalanta struck hard in their first home game this season in Bergamo, bringing their tally to 13 goals in three games played, to sit top of the Serie A table.
“This team is going through an excellent period,” said coach Gian Piero Gasperini.
“They did not suffer much, the goalkeeper was not very busy. The score could have been much bigger.
“We’ve given the maximum in three games, now there is the (international) break that interrupts this momentum.
“After that we will immediately have Napoli and then the Champions League, we have to pick up where we left off.”
Gasperini’s side were four goals up at the break with Luis Muriel opening after seven minute.
Gomez blasted in the second from a distance just before the half-hour mark, five minutes after Uruguayan defender Diego Godin had pulled Cagliari level on his debut since moving from Inter Milan.
Mario Pasalic and Duvan Zapata also scored in a five-minute spell before the break.
Joao Pedro reduced the deficit for the Sardinians after the break but Sam Lammers marked his first home game with an impressive solo effort with nine minutes to go.
Atalanta have the maximum nine points, but can be joined by Inter Milan who play Lazio later, with Hellas Verona and AC Milan also looking for their third wins against Parma and La Spezia.
– Napoli risk forfeit –
Napoli are also looking for a third straight win, against nine-time holders Juventus, who have four points from two games.
But their match remains uncertain with Gennaro Gattuso’s side remaining in Naples, complying with a decision by regional health authorities.
Both Napoli and Atalanta announced new cases among their players on Saturday.
Gennaro Gattuso’s side now count midfielder Eljif Elmas among those with the virus after Poland international Piotr Zielinski on Friday.
Atalanta said their unnamed player had “a low viral load” and was “asymptomatic”.
Juventus confirmed they would “take to the field” as scheduled despite two positive tests among their staff with coach Andrea Pirlo naming his match-day squad.
The Lega Serie A confirmed that the match between the title rivals remains scheduled for Turin at 1845 GMT despite Napoli remaining at home in Naples.
If Napoli do not play Gattuso’s side would forfeit the game 3-0.
The Lega Serie A are applying UEFA rules whereby a match can take place as long as a side have 13 healthy players, including a goalkeeper.
The only possible exemption would be a club which has an active outbreak of Covid-19 with more than ten new positive cases in a week.
In this case, the club can request a postponement, but only once in the season.
Genoa’s game against Torino on Saturday was postponed with the Ligurian club, who lost 6-0 to Napoli last weekend, now counting 22 cases, including 17 players.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic will remain at AC Milan next season having reached agreement on a new deal reportedly worth 7 million euros ($8.3m) without bonuses, according to multiple reports in Italy on Friday.
Ibrahimovic, who turns 39 years in October, on Friday posted a photo of himself on social media wearing an AC Milan jersey with the number 11 written over the 21, and his arms wide: “As I said, I’m just warming up.”
The Swedish forward also posted a photo showing him lying relaxing with the caption “The quiet before the storm.”
Gazzetta Dello Sport reported that Ibrahimovic was expected back in Milan ahead of the new season on August 29, the same day he first joined the club back in 2010.
Ibrahimovic rejoined Milan in January on a six-month contract after leaving Los Angeles Galaxy, on a deal worth 3.5 million euros ($3.9 million) with the option for an additional season.
The former Manchester United, Paris Saint-Germain and Barcelona player had a big impact, scoring 11 goals in 20 games.
“I think that we can all see that Ibra has played an important part in our season and our growth,” AC Milan CEO Ivan Gazidis said this week.
“We are doing everything we can to see that this can continue.”
The former seven-time European champions moved up from 11th on his arrival to sixth, finishing the league season on a 12-game unbeaten run.
Ibrahimovic helped AC Milan to the last of their 18 Serie A titles in 2011.
He also won three league titles with Inter Milan and two with Juventus which were both revoked because of the ‘Calciopoli’ match-fixing scandal.
The Italian season kicks off again on September 19.
Bologna coach Sinisa Mihajlovic, who has undergone treatment for leukaemia since last year, tested positive for COVID-19 and is in isolation, the Serie A club announced on Sunday.
The Serbian coach is “absolutely asymptomatic”, the club said on its website.
“When he returned to Bologna on Friday, he underwent a control test for COVID-19 with positive results.”
Bologna are due to start pre-season training on Monday, but Italian football protocols mean the 51-year-old coach, whose contract has just been extended for another year until 2023, will have to remain in isolation for two weeks.
All the squad and staff must also be tested on Monday.
As players and staff return from their brief holidays, tests have already revealed cases at several clubs, all asymptomatic.
These include four players (Filip Bradaric, Luca Ceppitelli, Alberto Cerri, Kiril Despodov) at Cagliari in Sardinia, a coronavirus hot spot.
Roma’s substitute goalkeeper Antonio Mirante has also said he is positive. Sassuolo announced striker Jeremiah Boga was positive while Napoli said the same of striker Andrea Petagna. Torino reported two cases, without revealing names and Benevento also had an unnamed player test positive.
The Serie A season is due to start on September 19.
Roma on Thursday announced a change of ownership, with US billionaire Dan Friedkin buying the Serie A club for 591 million euros ($700 million).
Friedkin, 54, takes over the Italian side from American businessman James Pallotta, 62.
“AS Roma can confirm that an agreement has tonight been reached between AS Roma SPV, LLC, the majority shareholder of AS Roma S.p.A, and The Friedkin Group regarding the sale of the club,” the club said in a statement.
“The operation is valued at around 591 million euros,” the club added. The final sales agreement must be signed before the end of August.
Pallotta bought two-thirds of the club’s shares in 2012, but has had 100 percent ownership since 2014.
Houston-based Friedkin is the chief executive of the Friedkin Group, a consortium notably involved in the automotive and hotel and entertainment industry.
“All of us at The Friedkin Group are so happy to have taken the steps to become a part of this iconic city and club,” said Friedkin in a statement.
“We look forward to closing the purchase as soon as possible and immersing ourselves in the AS Roma family.”
According to Forbes, his fortune is estimated at just over four billion dollars (3.6 billion euros), which would make him the 504th richest man in the world.
Friedkin’s son Ryan will reportedly be involved in the day to day running of the club.
“Over the last month, Dan and Ryan Friedkin have demonstrated their total commitment to finalising this deal and taking the club forward in a positive way,” said Pallotta.
“I am sure they will be great future owners for AS Roma.”
Boston-based Pallotta had been unpopular among club fans for his rare appearances in Italy and his handling of player transfers and the departures of club legends Francesco Totti and Daniele De Rossi who were both pushed out of the club.
Roma have had recurring financial difficulties and been sanctioned by European football’s governing body UEFA for breaches of financial fair play.
As a result the club are very active in the transfer market, regularly selling off their best players, to the chagrin of fans.
Pallotta’s great project had been the construction of a new stadium in the south of the capital which was delayed because of legal and bureaucratic issues, and remains at the planning stage.
The high-point of Pallotta’s reign was the club’s sensational Champions League 3-0 second leg comeback in 2018 to beat Barcelona, before losing to Liverpool in the semi-finals.
The club won their third Serie A title in 2001, but have not lifted any silverware since the Italian Cup in 2008.
This season they finished fifth, missing out on elite European competition for the second year in a row.
Argentine footballer, Paulo Dybala, has beaten his Juventus teammate Cristiano Ronaldo to the Italian Serie A Player of the Year award for the 2019/2020 season.
Serie A announced Dybala as the winner of the annual prize on Tuesday, stopping Ronaldo from retaining the title he won in his first year at the Allianz Stadium.
Italian football’s main governing body named the 26-year-old forward as the season’s most valuable player, while the club’s newest signing Dejan Kulusevski clinched the Young Player of the Year prize for an outstanding campaign at Parma.
Dybala has scored 11 goals in 33 Serie A appearances for Juventus this term and also recorded 11 assists.
He struggled to adapt to a new role in the team following Ronaldo’s arrival from Real Madrid in 2018 but has enjoyed good form since Maurizio Sarri’s appointment last summer.
Ronaldo might have thought he’d done enough to retain Serie A’s top individual accolade after contributing 31 goals to the Bianconeri’s cause, but his final tally was still five behind Lazio top striker Immobile, who earned the Capocannoniere – the title awarded to the highest goalscorer in the league.
There was more celebration for Juventus as Wojciech Szczesny received the best goalkeeper award.
Inter Milan’s Stefan De Vrij, Atalanta’s Alejandro Gomez, and Lazio’s talisman Ciro Immobile were acknowledged in defensive, midfield and forward roles.
Serie A champions Juventus on Thursday unveiled their new home kit for the 2020-21 season, returning to the traditional stripes which they dropped this term.
Cristiano Ronaldo and his teammates this season wore a half-and-half jersey with white on the right and black on the left.
“Tradition is represented by the return of the black and white stripes which present themselves in a new and more modern form,” Juventus said.
The stripes are black “brush strokes” of an artist on a white background, with the club logo and sponsorship details in gold.
“The stripes are designed as a single brush stroke on the front and the sleeves, giving the kit a new and attractive design, all while maintaining the DNA of the club as well as showcasing the beginning of a new era.”
Juventus sealed their 36th Serie A title, and ninth in succession, last weekend.
The club were founded in 1897, but players have worn black and white stripes of various types since 1903.
Cristiano Ronaldo is eyeing more records as Juventus head for Udinese on Thursday with a ninth consecutive Serie A title within their grasp.
Ronaldo scored a double on Monday against Lazio to bring his tally to 51 Serie A goals since arriving in Turin in July 2018.
The 35-year-old not only became the first player to achieve a half century of goals in Italy, Spain and England, but was also the fastest, doing so in 61 league games.
Last year the five-time Ballon d’Or winner scored 21 goals in his first season in Italy, but thanks to his brace against Lazio he brought his tally to 30 this term, with four games remaining.
Another goal would see him match former Italy World Cup winner Felice Borel, who was the last player to score 31 goals for Juventus in the 1933-34 season.
For Ronaldo the title of top scorer — ‘Capocannoniere’ — is up for grabs, as he is currently level on 30 with Lazio’s Ciro Immobile.
And he could even overtake Bayern Munich’s Robert Lewandowski, the top scorer in Europe with 34 goals in the Bundesliga this season.
There is also the record of Argentine teammate Gonzalo Higuain, who was Serie A top scorer under Sarri at Napoli in the 2015–16 season with 36 goals.
“Cristiano is unpredictable,” said Sarri. “If he puts his mind to something, he’s very determined.
“Not only physically, but, above all, mentally: he is a champion with his feet, but also with his head.”
– ‘Give your all’ –
“Very important victory! We’re almost there guys! Let’s go,” Ronaldo wrote on Instagram after the Lazio game.
Juventus can seal the title with a win over 16th-placed Udinese, but it depends on Inter Milan, who are eight points behind the champions, losing to Fiorentina at the San Siro on Wednesday.
Otherwise they could win their 36th Scudetto on Sunday, at home against Sampdoria, giving Sarri, 61, his first league title.
It would allow them to start preparing for the Champions League, and overturning a 1-0 first-leg deficit against French club Lyon in the last 16 next month.
“Juventus are still the best side in the league,” said Inter boss Antonio Conte, who coached the Turin side to the first three titles in their current run of league triumphs.
“They’re set to win their ninth Scudetto in a row. We can learn from them.
“We’ve got to keep trying to improve, to be more involved in the title race, so we can eventually get our hands on the Scudetto.”
Inter Milan, who have not won the title since their historic treble in 2010 under Jose Mourinho, are however assured of a Champions League place next season.
“It’s great that we’ve achieved this goal,” continued Conte, “it was one of the club’s main requests, to improve our results compared to previous seasons and to steady the ship so that things aren’t so hectic at the end of the season.”
Against Franck Ribery’s Fiorentina they were held 1-1 earlier this season, with the 12th-placed Tuscany side coming off back-to-back wins.
“They’ve got a good squad of players, they’re a good team and Giuseppe Iachini is doing a great job as coach,” added Conte.
“They’ll be unfazed by us, but when you’re up against Inter you always have the motivation to give your all.”
Lazio, in fourth, play at Cagliari after their league hopes were dashed at Juventus on Monday. They too are also poised to return to the Champions League after 13 years, as they are 11 points clear of fifth-placed Roma.
Inter Milan blew a goal and a man advantage to lose 2-1 at home to Bologna on Sunday and saw their Serie A title challenge all but ended in dramatic fashion.
Antonio Conte’s men needed a win to move back to within eight points of leaders Juventus, and one of second-placed Lazio, but despite leading through Romelu Lukaku’s 20th league goal of the campaign and playing against 10 men, contrived to collapse to defeat.
Juventus sit seven points clear at the top after beating Torino in the Turin derby on Saturday, when second-placed Lazio were thumped by AC Milan.
Inter are now 11 points off the pace with only eight matches of the season remaining.
The third-placed hosts forged ahead midway through the first half as Lautaro Martinez headed Ashley Young’s left-wing cross against the post, but Lukaku was on hand to tap in.
It was the Belgian’s 20th league goal since joining Inter from Manchester United last year and his 26th in all competitions.
Mid-table Bologna always carried a threat, though, and Riccardo Orsolini twice went close to equalising before half-time.
But Inter were gifted a golden opportunity to take total control 12 minutes into the second half when Bologna midfielder Roberto Soriano was sent off for dissent.
A crucial three points appeared almost certain when Martinez stepped up to take a 61st-minute penalty, but the Argentinian striker saw his effort saved by visiting goalkeeper Lukasz Skorupski.
That was the cue for Inter, chasing a first league title since winning the treble under Jose Mourinho in 2010, to collapse in the closing stages.
Musa Juwara, on as a substitute, fired home a 74th-minute leveller through the weak attempted save by Inter stopper Samir Handanovic, before the home side also saw their numerical advantage disappear shortly afterwards as Alessandro Bastoni was dismissed for a second yellow card.
The comeback was completed with 10 minutes left, as Gambian striker Musa Barrow finished off a sweeping Bologna counter-attack with a fine left-footed shot past Handanovic.
Inter piled on the pressure during six minutes of injury time, but failed to rescue even a point, with Alexis Sanchez denied by Skorupski.
Bologna moved up to ninth, five points off the Europa League places.
Gianluigi Buffon set a new Serie A appearances record on Saturday as Juventus beat Torino 4-1 in the Turin derby to move seven points clear at the top of the table.
The 42-year-old goalkeeper passed the previous record of 647 appearances he jointly held with AC Milan great Paolo Maldini as he started the game at the Allianz Stadium.
“Maybe… He definitely won’t beat the record for scoring goals, though,” coach Maurizio Sarri told Sky Sport Italia when asked if Buffon could still play the 35 games he needs to equal Alessandro Del Piero’s overall record total of Juventus appearances.
Cristiano Ronaldo was among the scorers, becoming the first Juve player to score 25 Serie A goals in a season in 59 years, as Sarri’s men moved further clear of second-placed Lazio, who host in-form AC Milan later on Saturday.
“We were a bit chaotic at the start of the second half, but when fatigue set in, that’s when our quality emerged,” added Sarri.
Buffon, who spent last season at French club Paris Saint-Germain before rejoining Juve this term, signed a one-year contract extension earlier this week.
It was the eighth Serie A appearance this campaign for Buffon, with Polish international Wojciech Szczesny usually the defending champions’ number one.
The record comes 25 years after Buffon made his Serie A debut for Parma and 19 years after he first signed for Juventus.
Ronaldo breaks free-kick duck
The hosts wasted little time in taking the lead as Paulo Dybala put them ahead in the third minute with an excellent individual goal, collecting Juan Cuadrado’s pass before jinking past two defenders and firing a left-footed shot into the roof of the net.
The advantage was doubled just before the half-hour mark as Ronaldo charged forward before laying the ball off for Cuadrado to drill a low drive into the bottom corner.
Torino gave themselves hope when Andrea Belotti scored a penalty past Buffon in the sixth minute of first-half injury-time.
Simone Verdi was denied an equaliser early in the second half by the linesman’s flag, but Ronaldo put the game to bed in the 61st minute with a brilliant free-kick.
It was the first time the five-time Ballon d’Or winner had scored a free-kick in Serie A and it was his 25th league goal of the campaign, making the Portuguese the first Juventus player to achieve that feat since Omar Sivori in the 1960-61 season.
“I really needed that free-kick goal so I could get some confidence back,” Ronaldo told Sky Sport Italia, after scoring his first direct free-kick at the 43rd attempt for Juve.
“We knew it would be a difficult game, but we worked hard, won and are now putting pressure on Lazio. We achieved the objective today.”
Juve were not done there and made it four with three minutes remaining as Torino defender Koffi Djidji put through his own net.
Torino remain 15th in the table, six points above the relegation zone with eight matches to play.
Free-scoring Sassuolo moved up to ninth with a 4-2 victory over relegation-threatened Lecce, who stayed 18th and one point adrift of safety after a sixth straight league defeat.
Lecce have conceded 25 goals in those six losses, while Sassuolo have netted 14 times in five matches since Serie A’s return following the coronavirus lockdown.
Juventus moved seven points clear at the top of Serie A on Friday after hammering struggling Lecce 4-0 in Turin and piling the pressure on title rivals Lazio.
A superb Paulo Dybala strike and Cristiano Ronaldo’s penalty just after the hour mark made sure of the result at the Allianz Stadium before two late strikes from Gonzalo Higuain and Matthijs de Ligt completed the rout against a Lecce team who had to play for an hour with 10 men.
The away side meanwhile stay third-from-bottom, level on 25 points with Genoa a place above them and a point behind Sampdoria in 16th.
Juve started the match off the pace and while Adrien Rabiot forced a good save and Ronaldo flashed a powerful shot wide, Lecce comfortably kept the hosts at bay right until Fabio Lucioni got himself sent off.
The 32-year-old got tangled up on the ball under no pressure on the half way line and then clumsily bundled over Rodrigo Bentancur.
Maurizio Sarri’s team were still below their best but should have been at least a goal up at half-time after Ronaldo and Federico Bernardeschi both blazed over from point-blank range just before the break.
Juve pressed ahead after the restart, with Leonardo Bonucci’s header forcing a smart stop from Lecce keeper Gabriel and Dybala whipping a curling effort just wide.
Argentine Dybala was not to be denied however, when he picked the ball up on the edge of the area in the 53rd minute and crashed a high shot home to break brave Lecce’s resistance.
Ronaldo then bagged his goal from the spot in the 62nd minute after being tripped by Luca Rossettini.
However the Portuguese will be kicking himself that he didn’t come away from this game with more goals after missing several presentable chances.
By that time Lecce were playing for damage limitation but two quickfire goals made the scoreline a more accurate representation of the balance of play.
Higuain, who had already gone close just seconds after being brought on as a 77th-minute substitute, pounced on Ronaldo’s deflected backheel with seven minutes left before sweeping a fine left-footed finish high over Gabriel.
Dutchman de Ligt then bundled home the fourth two minutes later, stooping low to head in Douglas Costa’s whipped cross from the right to leave Lazio having to win their home clash with Fiorentina on Saturday evening to cut the gap back to four points.