Miralem Pjanic's stunning effort and a late header from Cristiano Ronaldo saw Juventus move top of Serie A with a 2-0 victory over struggling SPAL.

Juve dominated throughout Saturday's encounter in Turin, but they found visiting goalkeeper Etrit Berisha in fine form.

It took a sublime strike from Pjanic to beat him - the playmaker breaking SPAL's resistance with a wonderful effort in the 45th minute.

Having been denied by Berisha once more just after the hour, Ronaldo finally had his goal with 12 minutes remaining, heading home from Paulo Dybala's pinpoint cross to cap off a dominant Juve performance.

On his return after missing the victory over Brescia, Ronaldo had Juve's first sight of goal, drawing a smart stop from Berisha.

Ronaldo did beat Berisha in the 19th minute, but his deflected effort crept wide of the right-hand upright.

Berisha soon came to SPAL's rescue twice more, tipping Dybala's strike wide before he brilliantly kept out Aaron Ramsey's close-range header.

But his work was undone on the stroke of half-time - Pjanic curling home an exceptional first-time finish from the edge of the area after SPAL's goalkeeper mistakenly elected to punch, rather than catch, a cross.

Berisha made another outstanding stop early in the second half - this time getting down to repel Sami Khedira's header.

Dybala and Ronaldo tested Berisha in quick succession as Juve looked to press home their dominance, though it was not until the duo combined that the hosts finally had their second.

Having raced clear down the left, Dybala picked out his strike partner with an exquisite delivery from which Ronaldo made no mistake, though there was still time for Berisha to make a final stop to prevent the Portugal forward doubling his tally in the final minute.

 

What does it mean? Juve back on top... for now

It does not look likely to be an easy ride for Maurizio Sarri's side in Serie A this season, though the champions moved into pole position with this win, temporarily at least.

Inter, however, would move back above the Bianconeri if they keep up their perfect start to the season against lowly Sampdoria.

Berisha blunts Juve's attack

Juve's dominant performance should have resulted in a far more convincing scoreline, and it would have done if not for Berisha. However, SPAL's star performer did make an error when he flapped at a cross prior to Pjanic's opener and he could also have done better with Ronaldo's goal.

Juve's wasteful attack a cause for concern

Sarri shoehorned both Dybala and Ronaldo in to his team, but while the individual quality of Juve's star attackers is not in doubt, as a partnership they failed to click until the Argentina international teed up the former Real Madrid star for the hosts' second.

Meanwhile, the supporting cast did not offer enough and, had SPAL been able to offer more of a threat up front, Juve may well have failed to take the points from a match they dominated from the off.

What's next?

Juve host Bayer Leverkusen in the Champions League on Tuesday, while SPAL face Parma in their next Serie A outing.

Brescia have been hit with a partial stadium closure following racial abuse aimed at Juventus' Miralem Pjanic, although the punishment is suspended.

The midfielder hit the winning goal in a 2-1 victory for the Serie A champions on Tuesday but was reportedly subjected to chants of "zingaro", which in English translates as "gypsy".

Bosnia-Herzegovina international Pjanic subsequently condemned "demented racists" in a post on Instagram about the incident.

Serie A disciplinary chiefs stated in a bulletin on Friday that Brescia's 'Curva Nord' section of their stadium would be closed for one home game; however, it added that the punishment has been suspended for a period of 12 months.

Earlier this season, Cagliari avoided punishment from the league after Inter striker Romelu Lukaku was racially abused.

Lukaku was subjected to monkey chants, yet it was ruled by the sporting justice panel of the Italian FA that there was too much shouting and whistling to identify the "discriminatory" nature.

The recent Serie A game between Atalanta and Fiorentina was also suspended for a short period after racist insults were aimed at Viola defender Dalbert.

Roma this week banned a fan for life after sending Juan Jesus racist messages via social media.

"Are you really serious about tackling racism in Italian football, @SerieA? It's time for zero tolerance," Roma posted on Twitter on Friday.

The Lega Serie A account replied, suggesting Roma had been slow off the mark themselves in one respect, stating: "Dear @ASRomaEN, we're all on the same side. Together, we're building the Serie A TIM team against racism: we've been eagerly awaiting the name of your ambassador for three weeks!"

Cristiano Ronaldo is fit to face SPAL after an adductor injury and could be played in tandem with Gonzalo Higuain and Paulo Dybala, according to coach Maurizio Sarri.

Ronaldo missed Tuesday's slender 2-1 win at Brescia due to the injury, having scored the winner from the spot three days earlier against Hellas Verona.

Higuain and Dybala led the line in Ronaldo's absence, and Sarri could resist dropping one of them in order to fit last season's top-scorer back into the starting XI.

He sees no problem in playing all three together, with Juve yet to win by more than one goal across all competitions this term.

"Yes, Ronaldo can play and he can coexist with Higuain and Dybala," Sarri told reporters at his pre-match news conference.

"Higuain is a guy with great technical skill, Dybala is technically super fine and Ronaldo is a champion.

"I think they can therefore coexist in pairs and in certain phases of the game even in a three."

Adrien Rabiot made his first start for Juve in the win over Brescia and Sarri's post-match comments were interpreted as criticism by some, with the coach suggesting he expects more from the Frenchman.

But Sarri insists he was not being critical of the 24-year-old, rather realistic having not featured in a competitive match since December last year.

When asked if he was unsatisfied by Rabiot's display, Sarri hit back: "I didn't say that.

"Surely he can do much more. In 2019, Rabiot has never played, so we need to be patient without expecting everything right away.

"He has good qualities, even in physical terms. He has good strength and is technically strong. He must be supported and must get used to our football."

Gonzalo Higuain said star Juventus team-mate Cristiano Ronaldo has matured since the pair's time together at Real Madrid.

Juve striker Higuain and Ronaldo have reunited in Turin after the duo won three titles with LaLiga giants Madrid before the former departed for Napoli in 2013.

Higuain eventually joined Juventus in 2016, while Ronaldo arrived in 2018-19, prompting his ex-Madrid team-mate to move to Serie A rivals AC Milan on loan and then Chelsea last term.

Higuain and Ronaldo – who won the Scudetto in his first season – are now together again under Juventus head coach Maurizio Sarri, and the former Argentina international hailed the five-time Ballon d'Or winner.

"We had already played together with Real," Higuain, who has impressed for the Serie A champions this season, told Fox Sports.

"Many years have passed, and I have found another player, a more mature person, with a family.

"I enjoyed playing alongside him before and I am glad that we are back together."

Higuain is contracted to Juve until 2021 and he did not rule out a return to Argentine giants River Plate.

The 31-year-old made a name for himself at River, emerging from the youth team in 2005 and scoring 15 goals in total before being lured to the Santiago Bernabeu by Madrid in 2007.

"I have this year and next year left [at Juventus]," Higuain added. "I never close the door to anything.

"[At River] there is a great coach and several team-mates of mine who I have a great affection for.

"The people of River were always spectacular with me. But hey, right now I'm trying to think in the present and enjoy my time here in Italian football."

Cristiano Ronaldo is available to face SPAL on Saturday, Juventus have confirmed.

Juventus said on Thursday that Ronaldo was back training with the group after missing the midweek trip to Brescia due to "slight fatigue in the adductor" following three games in the space of eight days.

In his absence, Juve fell behind early but came back to win 2-1 thanks to a Jhon Chancellor own goal and Miralem Pjanic's 20-yard volley.

Left-back Alex Sandro was an absentee from Thursday's training session due to family reasons.

Ronaldo has scored twice in four league appearances this season, with Serie A champions Juve two points behind early pace-setters Inter.

This week he finished third in the voting for The Best FIFA Men's Player award, behind Virgil van Dijk and winner Lionel Messi.

Former defender Andrea Barzagli has returned to Juventus in a role that will see him work closely with the first team.

Barzagli, 38, retired from playing at the end of last season after helping Juve claim an eighth successive Serie A title - all of which he was involved in.

The 2006 World Cup winner, capped 73 times by Italy, is now making a return to the Bianconeri as part of Maurizio Sarri's backroom staff.

Juventus described him as a 'technical collaborator of the first team' when announcing the appointment, and said Barzagli would be present at training on Thursday.

Barzagli was signed from Wolfsburg in 2011 and went on to make over 250 appearances for the current Serie A champions, who play SPAL on Saturday.

Sarri's team remain unbeaten after coming from behind to beat Brescia 2-1 on Tuesday evening.

Juventus have been left with a shortage of options at right-back after Danilo was ruled out for at least three matches due to a thigh injury.

The defender was forced off in the 19th minute of Tuesday's 2-1 win at Brescia and will not return until after the international break in October.

He is set to miss Serie A games against SPAL and Inter, in addition to a Champions League meeting with Bayer Leverkusen, but could return for the home clash with Bologna on October 19.

Mattia De Sciglio, Juve's other recognised right-back in the first-team squad, is to remain sidelined for the same period after suffering an identical problem at the start of September.

Juan Cuadrado replaced Danilo at Stadio Mario Rigamonti and could be asked to fill the void on a temporary basis.

Maurizio Sarri's men moved top of Serie A with their triumph at Brescia but will drop down to second if Inter avoid defeat at home to Lazio on Wednesday.

After requesting a move away from Paris Saint-Germain, who would have thought Neymar could be in line to sign a contract extension?

Neymar was determined to return to LaLiga champions Barcelona but a deal did not materialise prior to the transfer window closing.

Now, Neymar's long-term future could be in Paris…

 

TOP STORY – PSG HOPEFUL OF EXTENDING NEYMAR CONTRACT

Paris Saint-Germain are hopeful of signing superstar Neymar to a new contract, reports Le10Sport.

LaLiga champions Barcelona were in talks to re-sign Neymar from PSG after the Brazilian's world-record €222million transfer in 2017, however, an agreement could not be reached.

Neymar, though, has reportedly held talks with PSG over extending his contract in the French capital.

 

ROUND-UP

- The Sun says Manchester United will target Juventus veteran Mario Mandzukic in January. The 33-year-old Croatian was linked with a move to Old Trafford before the window shut. But with United facing a crisis following injuries to Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial after Romelu Lukaku and Alexis Sanchez's exits, the Red Devils are believed to be weighing up Mandzukic.

AC Milan turned down the chance to sign Chelsea sensation Tammy Abraham, according to Tuttomercatoweb. The 21-year-old has already scored seven Premier League goals this season. However, Milan reportedly pulled the plug on the deal due to his apparent inexperience at the top level.

United and Juventus are reportedly scouting Brescia midfielder Sandro Tonali. According to Gazzetta dello Sport, a United scout was in attendance for Tuesday's Serie A clash between Brescia and Juve. Bundesliga outfit Borussia Dortmund are also reportedly eyeing the 19-year-old.

Napoli are in talks with centre-back Nikola Maksimovic over a new long-term contract, reports Corriere dello Sport.

- Sky Sports claims Atletico Madrid are tracking Boca Juniors sensation Agustin Almendra. LaLiga rivals Sevilla and Valencia have also reportedly inquired about the 19-year-old.

Maurizio Sarri admitted Juventus must improve defensively despite the champions moving to the top of Serie A with victory over Brescia.

Juve came from behind to win 2-1 at newly promoted Brescia on Tuesday as they climbed above rivals Inter, who have played a game less, at the summit.

Alfredo Donnarumma had given Brescia an early lead before a Jhon Chancellor own goal and superb striker from Miralem Pjanic transformed the contest on what was Mario Balotelli's debut for Juve's opponents.

Juve achieved the result without superstar Cristiano Ronaldo, who was left out as a precautionary measure with an adductor problem.

While there were plenty of positives for Sarri to take, the former Chelsea head coach conceded there remains work to be done, particularly in a defence which has now conceded five times in their opening five league matches.

"We improved our passing with the 4-3-1-2 formation played," Sarri told DAZN. "I saw some steps forward in the chances created.

"We need to improve the defence. Which formation will we use? We can use both solutions. We struggle with offensive wingers at this time while we have a lot of quality midfielders so it seemed obvious to try this formation.

"Then, if a month from now the wingers find their form, we can evaluate the options, but the team must be prepared with both formations."

Asked about the performances of defender Matthijs de Ligt, a €75million close-season arrival, Sarri added: "He's improving a lot, he needs time."

Sarri was impressed with the performance of out-of-favour attacker Paulo Dybala, who played a part in both goals for his team 

"Dybala had a good match both offensively and defensively," Sarri said. "He was excellent with quick passes and he left the pitch hurting. We hope he can recuperate for the next game [SPAL on Saturday]."

Champions Juventus moved top of Serie A despite the absence of Cristiano Ronaldo after Miralem Pjanic's second-half strike saw them come from behind to beat Brescia 2-1 on Tuesday.

A fourth-minute strike from Alfredo Donnarumma handed Brescia, who gave a debut to Mario Balotelli, an early advantage.

Maurizio Sarri's team levelled shortly before the interval courtesy of Jhon Chancellor's own goal before Pjanic's stunning strike just after the hour mark.

The victory sees Juve leapfrog Inter at the Serie A summit as they continued their unbeaten start - and the result was all the more impressive given they did so without star man Ronaldo, who was left out as a precautionary measure with an adductor problem.

 

Lionel Messi says his rivalry with Cristiano Ronaldo is only on the pitch.

Messi and Ronaldo were seen chatting at August's UEFA awards ceremony as Virgil van Dijk claimed the Men's Player of the Year award.

The same trio were nominated for the Best FIFA Men's Player award with Messi pipping Van Dijk into second and Ronaldo in third at Monday's Milan prizegiving.

Messi and Ronaldo have each won five Ballons d'Or having spent their careers vying for individual honours, as well as for team trophies with Barcelona and Real Madrid respectively.

Released results for the Best FIFA Men's Player award showed Messi put Ronaldo second in his vote while the Portugal superstar did not include the Barcelona captain in his selection.

Asked why people are surprised to see him getting along with Ronaldo, Messi told FIFA's official website: "Because of the big sporting rivalry that's developed between us over the last few years. Because one us played for Barcelona and the other for Madrid, and because we won individual awards.

"People perhaps think the rivalry goes beyond football, but it doesn’t. We both want what’s best for our teams and neither of us like losing. It's something we don't accept.

"That's why there's that competitiveness between us. The important thing is that it stays there, out on the pitch."

Messi is now helping to develop Barcelona's 16-year-old forward Ansu Fati, who has exploded on to the scene in LaLiga this season.

"I really like him and I try to help and support him," the Argentina attacker added. "He's an amazing player and he's got what it takes to succeed.

"But if I look at it through my eyes, I'd like them to bring him on gradually, like they did with me when I started, taking things nice and easy and without putting pressure on him.

"You have to remember that he's only 16. I hope he keeps on enjoying it and that all the fuss around him doesn't have a negative impact on him because he has the quality to become one of the best."

Vicente del Bosque prefers Neymar to Kylian Mbappe at Paris Saint-Germain, even though he thinks the Brazil star's behaviour can cause problems.

Neymar has made an impressive return to first-team action with the Ligue 1 champions, having missed five of their opening seven games in 2019-20 in all competitions.

The forward's pre-season was blighted by an ankle injury that saw him miss the Copa America, and he was then kept out of the PSG side by head coach Thomas Tuchel during an uncertain transfer window.

The 27-year-old failed to secure a return to Barcelona before the transfer deadline, though, and has scored exceptional late winning goals in his performances against Strasbourg and Lyon since.

Despite raising concerns over whether he could ever be considered an "example" in the game, former Real Madrid and Spain boss Del Bosque would gladly have Neymar at his disposal.

Speaking to Cadena SER, he said: "Between Neymar and Mbappe, I like Neymar right now. He does a lot of b******t and he's not an example for anything, but as a player he's terrific.

"Mbappe has qualities to be the successor to Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, but he still needs to refine things a little. It's a little like it is with Vinicius [Junior]."

Del Bosque was speaking after Barcelona captain Messi was awarded The Best FIFA Men's Player prize for 2019, ahead of Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk and Juventus forward Ronaldo.

"For me, yes, Messi is the best ever, but that's not to detract from Ronaldo," was Del Bosque's assessment.

"Last year, someone dared to claim that Cristiano Ronaldo was finished, that it didn't matter if he left [Madrid]. Messi and Cristiano have no limits."

Del Bosque has been out of football since leaving his Spain post following Euro 2016, where they lost to Italy in the last 16.

The 68-year-old won the 2010 World Cup and Euro 2012 with the national team, having previously won two LaLigas and two Champions Leagues in a four-year spell as Madrid head coach.

Given those achievements, he has no desire to come out of retirement.

"I don't miss the dugout. Would I come back? No way - not a chance. I don't miss anything. I've already been in the two best places I could be," Del Bosque said.

Real Madrid have set their sights on Mauricio Pochettino to be their next coach and they are also interested in a Premier League star, according to reports.

Pochettino has regularly been linked with a move away from Tottenham, where he has impressed since taking charge in 2014.

And the LaLiga giants are said to be eyeing the Argentinian amid pressure on Zinedine Zidane.

 

TOP STORY – REAL MADRID EYEING POCHETTINO, STERLING

Real Madrid are ready to make an approach for Pochettino, according to The Mirror.

The Tottenham manager will be Madrid's top target if they decide to replace Zidane, the report says.

Madrid eased the pressure on Zidane with a 1-0 win at Sevilla on Sunday, moving them level on points with LaLiga leaders Athletic Bilbao.

Meanwhile, The Athletic reports Madrid met with Manchester City star Raheem Sterling's representatives during the off-season and the attacker is keen to play for the LaLiga giants one day, while the Premier League champions are confident the England international will stay.

 

ROUND-UP

- Manchester United have made a poor start to the season, but Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is set to get backing in January. The Daily Mail reports United will back Solskjaer if he wants to strengthen his team, who are eighth in the table.

- Needing to bolster their defence, Juventus could make a move for Paris Saint-Germain full-back Thomas Meunier in January, according to Tuttosport. A deal could include midfielder Emre Can heading to Paris.

- Previously linked with Manchester United, Sergej Milinkovic-Savic is set to renew his contract at Lazio, according to Il Messaggero. The deal, to be worth €3m per season, will reportedly be done by December.

- Mario Mandzukic is still unsure about his future. Tuttosport reports clubs in Qatar are still trying to sign the Juventus striker, but the Croatian may instead wait for a move to the Premier League in January.

- Italy youth international Sandro Tonali is catching the eye at Brescia. AC Milan and Manchester United are monitoring the 19-year-old midfielder, according to Calciomercato.

- Staying at Milan, Calciomercato says the Serie A giants are still looking at PSV forward Donyell Malen. The 20-year-old Netherlands international has scored seven goals in six Eredivisie games this season.

Cristiano Ronaldo posted a philosophical message on Instagram after opting to skip the FIFA awards ceremony, where Lionel Messi was named the Best Men's Player.

Ronaldo finished third behind Messi and Liverpool star Virgil van Dijk, but decided not to attend the ceremony in Milan on Monday.

The 34-year-old has been ruled out of Juventus' Serie A clash against Brescia on Tuesday due to an adductor injury.

After the awards ceremony, Ronaldo posted a philosophical message on Instagram.

"Patience and persistence are two characteristics that differentiate the professional from the amateur," he wrote.

"Everything that is big today has started small. You can't do everything, but do everything you can to make your dreams come true.

"And keep in mind that after night always comes dawn."

Ronaldo claimed the Best FIFA Men's Player award in 2016 and 2017 before finishing second to Luka Modric last year.

The forward has scored two goals in five games this season for Juventus, who are second to Inter in the Serie A table.

Lionel Messi put Cristiano Ronaldo second in the Best FIFA Men's Player award voting, but the Portugal star did not return the favour to the eventual winner.

Messi claimed the prize, rebranded in 2016, for the first time on Monday, beating Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk and Ronaldo.

But the votes made for interesting reading, with Ronaldo and Portugal coach Fernando Santos snubbing Messi.

Ronaldo voted for Matthijs de Ligt, Frenkie de Jong and Kylian Mbappe, with Santos handing his to the former two and his star international captain.

Messi, though, put Ronaldo second in his voting, in between Liverpool star Sadio Mane and De Jong.

Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni decided on Messi, Mbappe and Mane in that order.

As for Van Dijk, he put Messi first ahead of his team-mates Mohamed Salah and Mane, who helped Liverpool win the Champions League last season.

 

Who voted for who?

Lionel Messi: Sadio Mane, Cristiano Ronaldo, Frenkie de Jong.
Virgil van Dijk: Lionel Messi, Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane.
Cristiano Ronaldo: Matthijs de Ligt, Frenkie de Jong, Kylian Mbappe.
Fernando Santos: Cristiano Ronaldo, Frenkie de Jong, Matthijs de Ligt.
Lionel Scaloni: Lionel Messi, Kylian Mbappe, Sadio Mane.

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