Juventus 2-0 Cremonese: Bianconeri close in on top-four finish despite Pogba blow

By Sports Desk May 14, 2023

Juventus moved to the brink of Champions League qualification with a 2-0 Serie A win over Cremonese on Sunday, though their victory was marred by another injury suffered by Paul Pogba.

With one eye on Thursday's decisive Europa League semi-final clash with Sevilla, Massimiliano Allegri made seven changes to his line-up, handing Pogba his first Serie A start since returning to Turin.

Pogba's outing lasted just 24 minutes as he was substituted in tears after appearing to suffer a thigh injury, and though his withdrawal initially affected Juve, fellow midfielder Nicolo Fagioli broke Cremonese's resistance with a powerful drive after half-time.

Bremer headed a late second as Juve went eight points clear of fifth-placed Milan with three games remaining, leaving them favoured for a top-four finish, provided their 15-point deduction is not restored.

Juve struggled to break Cremonese down in a low-key opening, and they suffered a huge blow when Pogba pulled up innocuously, before exiting the field visibly upset seven years to the day after his last Serie A start.

Danilo was unable to convert the rebound when Marco Carnesecchi spilt Bremer's header 32 minutes in, and that was as close as the Bianconeri came before being booed off at half-time.

Federico Chiesa blazed over the crossbar as Juve sought an improvement after the break, while Adrien Rabiot forced Carnesecchi into action with a powerful 25-yard strike.

Chiesa turned provider as Juve broke the deadlock after 55 minutes, though Fagioli was deserving of all the credit as he hammered the winger's lay-off into the roof of the net from 20 yards out.

A VAR review denied Juve a second goal when Arkadiusz Milik converted with 16 minutes remaining, but the contest was over five minutes later when Bremer reacted quickest to nod in following a corner.

 

What does it mean? Juve edge towards finish line

Juve's hopes of Champions League qualification have been under threat on several occasions this season, including when they were hit with a 15-point deduction in January, and more recently when they ended April with a four-match winless run in Serie A (D1 L3).

However, Allegri's men have hit form just as their rivals have faltered, winning three successive games to move well clear of Milan.

Off-field matters could yet have an impact, but on the pitch, Juve know any further slip-ups from the Rossoneri will confirm their place in the top four.

Pogba woes continue

Pogba returned to Turin from Manchester United with much fanfare last year, but it's fair to say his Juve comeback has not been successful. 

Beset by injuries since pre-season, Pogba has made just six league appearances this campaign, featuring for a total of 84 minutes.

Fagioli steps up

Following Pogba's withdrawal, Juve needed somebody to step up and provide some attacking inspiration.

Fagioli, who spent a period in Cremonese's youth system and enjoyed a loan spell with the club last season, did just that. 

Following his thunderous strike, he is one of just two midfielders born this century to score three goals and register three assists in Serie A this term, alongside Udinese's Lazar Samardzic.

What's next? 

It's all to play for as Juventus head to Sevilla for the second leg of their Europa League semi-final tie on Thursday, following a 1-1 first-leg draw.

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  • Copa America 2024: Can Messi and Argentina continue their era of dominance? Copa America 2024: Can Messi and Argentina continue their era of dominance?

    It took 28 years, but Argentina finally ended a long wait for a major international trophy when they triumphed at the 2021 Copa America.

    Lionel Messi starred throughout that tournament in Brazil, which was played partly behind closed doors due to the COVID-19 pandemic, scoring four goals and laying on five more, though it was Angel Di Maria who proved Argentina's hero in the final, scoring the winner against the Selecao.

    That triumph marked Messi's first piece of silverware on the international stage, while Argentina won a trophy for the first time since 1993.

    It paved the way for Argentina to go from continental champions to world champions less than 18 months later, as Messi inspired them to glory in Qatar.

    And now the world champions will look to cement this era of dominance by retaining the Copa America crown.

    With the help of Opta data, we preview the key storylines ahead of the Copa America.

    THE HOSTS

    USA

    This year's Copa will be held in the United States, which was also the host nation for the 2016 edition, which was won by Chile.

    Like in 2016, 16 teams will feature at the tournament this year, with the USA one of six CONCACAF nations involved.

    Gregg Berhalter left his role after the 2022 World Cup, but was then reappointed. While he has a talented group at his disposal, it does feel as though he cannot quite get the required level of consistency out of them.

    The two sides of the USA were on show in their warm-up matches: A 5-1 hammering at the hands of Colombia was followed by a 1-1 draw with heavyweights Brazil.

    In Christian Pulisic, the USA have an influential playmaker who comes into the tournament on the back of his best goalscoring season, having netted 15 times in all competitions for Milan.

    Folarin Balogun has netted three times for the Stars and Stripes since switching allegiance from England, while Antonee Robinson, Tyler Adams, Weston McKennie and Yunus Musah have plenty of top-level experience. But Berhalter has to find a way to put it all together.

    THE FAVOURITES

    Argentina

    It is easy to see why La Albiceleste are the big favourites. They are the best team in the world, according to the FIFA rankings, and in Messi, they still have a player who is arguably the best in the world, even heading into his late thirties.

    Messi has already been involved in 21 MLS goals for Inter Miami this season, and everything is set to revolve around him once again for Argentina.

     

    As soon as he features for Argentina at this tournament, Messi will become the Copa America’s all-time record holder for appearances – he is tied with Chile great Sergio Livingstone on 34, as it stands.

    Messi has scored 13 Copa America goals, which puts him joint-seventh on the all-time list, alongside fellow Argentina great Gabriel Batistuta. If he is able to replicate his four goals from the 2021 edition, then Messi could join Norberto Mendez and Zizinho at the top of the all-time charts – that is unless Peru's Paolo Guerrero and/or Chile's Eduardo Vargas were to net at least four times each to set a new record.

    Since the start of the 2011 Copa, Messi has had 102 shots – more than any other player. Surprisingly, his conversion rate stands at just 10.78 per cent, which is the second-lowest out of any player to have netted at least five goals in the competition in that time.

    With 15 titles to their name, Argentina are the joint-record winners of the Copa America, alongside Uruguay. They have played more Copa matches (201) and scored more goals in the tournament (474) than any other team, too.

    They are clearly the team to beat.

    Brazil

    This Brazil is not exactly the vintage of the 1990s or 2000s. With no Neymar, there's less flair, and more streetfighter grit, in Dorival Junior's squad.

    Vinicius Junior does provide a flavour of the archetypal Brazilian international, though, and he is set to be the Selecao's talisman at this Copa.

    He comes into the tournament on the back of an exceptional season with Real Madrid, having scored 24 goals across all competitions.

    Vinicius outperformed his 20.96 xG, while also providing nine assists and creating 56 chances for his team-mates.

    The forward spent much of the domestic campaign playing down the middle for Carlo Ancelotti's team, whereas for his country, he is likely to play wide left.

    Who occupies that centre-forward spot is perhaps up for debate. Endrick is a superstar in the making, though will Brazil's coach trust the youngster to lead the line from the off?

    Gabriel Martinelli is better on the flanks, though could do a job if required. However, with no Richarlison or Gabriel Jesus, that striker position does seem a possible weakness.

    There's no Casemiro, following his poor performances for Manchester United, but Douglas Luiz, Bruno Guimaraes and Lucas Paqueta form a steely midfield trio with genuine quality.

    With Ederson injured, Alisson is the clear number one, with Eder Militao and Marquinhos seemingly set to pair up at the back, with Gabriel Magalhaes and Bremer quality options in reserve, too.

    They face Colombia, Paraguay and Costa Rica in their group, and despite their struggles in World Cup qualifying, they are still the favourites to top that pool.

    Uruguay

    Now under the guidance of the enigmatic Marcelo Bielsa, Uruguay are being tipped by many to emerge as serious challengers in the United States. 

    A hat-trick from Liverpool's Darwin Nunez helped them thrash Mexico 4-0 in a pre-tournament friendly last week, while they also sit second in the CONMEBOL 2026 World Cup qualification standings, having beaten Brazil and Argentina last year.

    That latter victory makes them the only team to defeat La Albiceleste since they won the World Cup in Qatar. Messi and company have won the other 13 of their 14 matches as world champions.

    Nunez, who ranked joint-fifth in the Premier League for total shots (108) and eighth for xG (16.39) in 2023-24, is an ideal fit for the all-action attacking approach favoured by Bielsa, while tireless midfielder Federico Valverde brings balance alongside enforcer Manuel Ugarte and the cultured Rodrigo Bentancur.

    Luis Suarez, meanwhile, has received a surprise call-up despite not featuring in Uruguay's pre-tournament friendlies, having scored 12 goals and assisted five in 16 MLS appearances for Inter Miami this term.

    Neutrals should expect entertainment from a side that leads all teams in South American World Cup qualifying for xG (9.05), but as is so often the case with Bielsa's teams, there are questions at the other end. 

    Ecuador (4.52) and Venezuela (4.78) are among those to have allowed opponents a lower xG total in the CONMEBOL qualifiers than Uruguay (4.97 xGA), and goalkeeper Sergio Rochet can expect to be worked after usurping Fernando Muslera, who helped La Celeste finish fourth at the 2010 World Cup and win the Copa America one year later.

    Panama and Bolivia look unlikely to offer much of a challenge in Group C, making Uruguay's final match against the United States vital. Should they top their pool, they will land on the opposite side of the bracket to the Group A victors, widely expected to be Argentina. 

    Uruguay held the record for most Copa America victories outright between 2011 (their 15th title) and 2021 (Argentina's 15th). If we see Bielsa-ball in full flow, they could be contenders to reclaim their status as South America's top dogs.

    Colombia

    Colombia are the form team heading into the Copa America.

    They are unbeaten in 23 games, winning the last eight of those, including hammerings of the USA and Bolivia in pre-tournament friendlies.

    Luis Diaz scored one and set up another in that latter match - a 3-0 win - and he was the breakout star of the 2021 Copa America, scoring four goals to finish level with Messi at the top of the charts.

    Those four goals came from a combined xG of just 1.0, with Diaz netting an overhead kick against Brazil in the group stage, and lashing in a supreme strike from outside the area as Colombia beat Peru in the third-placed play-off.

    Diaz is Colombia's most potent goalscoring threat, but they also have James Rodriguez to rely on further back.

    James' club career has become a nomadic one, but for his country, the former Madrid playmaker is a superstar once again under coach Nestor Lorenzo, who has made the 32-year-old the main man.

    Having been left out of Colombia's squad for the 2021 edition, James will be eager to make up for lost time.

    Colombia are more than just dark horses. They should be considered among the very best teams at this tournament.

    THE BREAKOUT STARS

    Endrick is the obvious pick here. The teenager looks set for stardom, and he'll be linking up with Vinicius, Jude Bellingham and Kylian Mbappe at Real Madrid next season. He has scored three goals in his last four outings for Brazil, including a late winner against Mexico earlier in June.

    Alejandro Garnacho is now an established Premier League player, but he is only just finding his way for Argentina. He is yet to score for his country, but has stepped up in big moments for Manchester United this season, none more so than in the FA Cup final, in which he scored the opening goal in a 2-1 win over Manchester City.

    Colombia forward Jhon Duran  is reportedly of interest to Chelsea, and the Aston Villa attacker could be something of a wildcard for Lorenzo off the bench. His five Premier League goals in 2023-24 came from just 2.0 xG.

    THE OPTA SUPERCOMPUTER SAYS...

    As mentioned, Argentina are the clear favourites, with Opta's model handing them a 31 per cent chance of winning their 16th Copa crown.

    Brazil, as would be expected, rank second - their win likelihood is 23 per cent .

    Uruguay come in with a 13 per cent chance, ahead of the USA ( seven per cent ), Colombia ( six per cent ) and Mexico ( six per cent ).

    Two teams - Jamaica and Bolivia, who are the worst-ranked side in this year's edition of the tournament - are given a zero per cent chance of winning the trophy.

    Panama, who reached the CONCACAF Gold Cup final last year, can perhaps consider themselves hard done by to be given just a one per cent chance, however.

  • McKenna relishes 'amazing start' with Ipswich to face Liverpool and Man City McKenna relishes 'amazing start' with Ipswich to face Liverpool and Man City

    Kieran McKenna is relishing the prospect of Ipswich Town starting life in the Premier League with matches against Liverpool and Manchester City.

    Ipswich are back in the top flight after a 22-year absence, having won consecutive promotions from League One and the Championship under McKenna.

    The Premier League fixtures for 2024-25 were announced on Tuesday, with Ipswich discovering they will start their campaign at home to Arne Slot's Liverpool on Saturday August 17.

    Ipswich then play away to champions Man City, the winners of four straight league titles, on Matchday 2.

    Despite being handed a daunting start on paper, McKenna cannot wait to get going.

    "It is a fantastic start," he said to Sky Sports. "Everyone is going to be so excited, two of the biggest clubs in world football with a home start against Liverpool – it brings it all to life and it is an amazing start for us.

    "We are delighted to have a home game first. We know the atmosphere that has been created over the last few years at this stadium and we know it will carry on, even more so this year.

    "It's great to have a home start and to have one of the best teams in the league is for sure a big challenge. 

    "Of course, they have a new manager, but we are not going to underestimate the scale of the challenges we are going to have all season.

    "Certainly, Liverpool will be [a big challenge] on the first day but at the same time the atmosphere is going to be fantastic. The players will be as ready as they possibly can be and it is a game we will really look forward to."

    Ipswich’s success led to McKenna being linked with major jobs at the likes of Chelsea and Manchester United in the aftermath of his team's promotion.

    McKenna ultimately signed a new four-year contract to remain with Ipswich and is now determined to look forward.

    "When you have had the success we have had over the last couple of years then there is going to be interest," said McKenna, who was previously assistant manager at Man Utd.

    "Those are private decisions. In everyone's career, you have to weigh things up and see what's right for you and your family, and things like that. That's a natural process.

    "There's always a professional decision to make but there's also always the personal decision to make.

    "I'm so, so happy to have secured my future here at Ipswich. It's the first year in 22 years back in the Premier League. We're one of the first teams to get a double promotion back to the Premier League in a very long time and I wanted to be part of that.

    "It's going to be an amazing season for the football club and I'm just so excited that I'm going to be the one leading the team out through those fixtures, and we'll work really hard to continue the journey we've been on.

    "Of course those sorts of things happen naturally whenever clubs or players or staff members have success, but everyone is now just looking forward to the season ahead and the challenges we have.

    "The club took a chance on me and gave me the opportunity at 35-years-old and we've had a fantastic couple of years together. It is a wonderful football club that I'm so proud to manage.

    "I know we are going to give a really good account of ourselves."

  • Mbappe avoids surgery after breaking nose in Austria win Mbappe avoids surgery after breaking nose in Austria win

    France have confirmed that Kylian Mbappe suffered a broken nose against Austria on Monday but will not need surgery on the injury.

    Les Bleus were able to hold onto a 1-0 victory over Ralf Rangnick's side, courtesy of a first-half own goal by Max Wober, who turned in Mbappe's cross.

    However, the France captain was involved in an aerial collision with Kevin Danso, hitting his face on the defender's shoulder, and needed lengthy treatment before being forced off in the final minute of normal time.

    The French Football Federation (FFF) confirmed on Tuesday that Mbappe had broken his nose and would need to wear a mask for the rest of the Euros but no update was given on whether he would be available for their game against the Netherlands on Friday.

    "He has returned to the base camp of the French team," the FFF said.

    "He will undergo treatment in the coming days, without undergoing surgery immediately."

    Mbappe also took to social media, seeing the bright side to his injury, with a post on X saying: "Any ideas for masks?"

    The 25-year-old, who has scored 47 goals in 80 appearances for France, is still yet to find the back of the net at the Euros.

    He has had 18 shots at the European Championships without converting, while he registered 12 goals from 39 attempts at the World Cup.

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