Roberto Mancini will not recall Mario Balotelli to the Italy squad just to make an anti-racism statement but is adamant the Brescia striker is still young enough to make an impact for the Azzurri.

Balotelli, 29, was subjected to racist abuse by Hellas Verona fans in a 2-1 defeat this month and threatened to walk off the pitch.

Verona were ordered by Serie A to play a match with a partial stadium closure, while the club banned head ultra Luca Castellini for 11 years after he defended the fans' actions in a radio interview.

Balotelli returned to the Italy fold in 2018 after a four-year absence but has been back in the international wilderness since a 1-1 draw with Poland last September.

Mancini, the coach who gave him his big break at Inter in 2007, insists he is eager to see Balotelli play his way back into the squad, but he will not call up the forward for anything other than his performances.

"Football is a sport and as such it must unite people and not get destroyed by those few who make mistakes," Mancini told reporters.

"I love Mario. I played him when he was a teenager. He is still young enough to give much to the sport, but for me it is important to state that if I am to call him up, it's because he deserves it and can help us.

"Then, after what happened, I could have called him up, as the [Italian Football Federation] president [Gabriele Gravina] said, but I think it's important I call him when he technically deserves it, not to send a message. He still has other chances.

"We are nearly in 2020 and skin colour... It is not very easy for some people to change their attitude, unfortunately.

"We called up some young players [instead] because from now until March we will not have the chance to see them live [for Italy]."

Italy are due to face Bosnia-Herzegovina and Armenia in their final two Euro 2020 qualifiers on Friday and the following Monday, respectively.

The Azzurri are already assured of a place at next year's tournament.

Italy confirmed Marco Verratti, Domenico Berardi and Leonardo Spinazzola have withdrawn from the squad for upcoming Euro 2020 qualifiers against Bosnia-Herzegovina and Armenia, but Sandro Tonali has been added to the roster.

Paris Saint-Germain star Verratti played 80 minutes of their 2-1 win at Brest on Saturday but was withdrawn – according to reports in Italy – due to a calf strain.

Similarly, Italy have not confirmed the issue in-form Sassuolo attacker Berardi has sustained, though it is claimed he injured his thigh during the 3-1 defeat of Bologna.

Spinazzola is reported to have suffered a muscular problem in action for Roma on Sunday.

Verratti is the only player to have been replaced, with highly rated 19-year-old Tonali, who has impressed in his debut Serie A season with Brescia, in line to earn his second cap.

Italy have already qualified for Euro 2020. Their two remaining qualifiers see them face Bosnia away on Friday, before hosting Armenia three days later.

AC Milan, Bologna, Perth Glory, Inter and even Juventus have been linked to Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

Ibrahimovic's LA Galaxy contract is set to expire before the end of the year and the veteran striker is not short of suitors.

And a return to Old Trafford could be on the cards for the 38-year-old.

 

TOP STORY – UNITED TARGETING IBRAHIMOVIC

Manchester United are preparing to make a move for former striker Ibrahimovic, reports Mail Online.

Ibrahimovic left United for MLS outfit LA Galaxy in 2018 and he has flourished in the United States, where he has scored 53 goals across two seasons.

But with Ibrahimovic – who has been linked to AC Milan, Bologna and A-League side Perth Glory – coming off contract and United looking to bolster their attacking options following the departures of Romelu Lukaku and Alexis Sanchez, a Manchester comeback has been mooted.

ROUND-UP

Inter are set to back Antonio Conte in the January transfer window. Following Conte's outburst over a lack of squad planning after Inter's Champions League defeat to Borussia Dortmund, Calciomercato says the Nerazzurri are ready to sign Parma duo Matteo Darmian and Dejan Kulusevski. Darmian only arrived from Manchester United at the start of the season, while teenage midfielder Kulusevski is on loan from Atalanta.

- Pressure is mounting on Unai Emery but Arsenal are not worried. According to the Mail, the Gunners will not be panicked into sacking head coach Emery – whose side have gone four league games without a win and sit sixth, eight points outside of the top four. Former Spain and Barcelona boss Luis Enrique has emerged as a possible replacement.

- Despite Southampton's poor form, the Premier League strugglers are still behind boss Ralph Hasenhuttl according to The Sun. The Saints are 19th and three points adrift of safety amid a seven-match winless streak in the league – highlighted by a record 9-0 humiliation against Leicester City.

Dries Mertens could be set to leave Napoli. Second on the club's all-time scoring list, Corriere dello Sport and Gazzetta dello Sport claim Mertens has agreed to join Inter as a free agent at the end of the season. The 32-year-old has called Naples home since arriving from PSV in 2013.

Maurizio Sarri said he is "not worried" about the knee problem that contributed to Cristiano Ronaldo's second-half substitution against AC Milan on Sunday.

Ronaldo was taken off with the Serie A result still in the balance for the second game in succession and the Juve superstar appeared frustrated with the decision.

The 34-year-old forward jogged straight down the tunnel and reportedly left the Allianz Stadium before the final whistle in Turin.

His replacement, Paulo Dybala, later produced an excellent goal to secure Juve a 1-0 victory over struggling Milan.

Ronaldo had underperformed in his 55 minutes on the pitch, leading Sarri to explain the nature of his injury issue.

"He was hit in a training session. He suffered a knee bruise. Maybe the right knee, if I remember correctly," the Bianconeri head coach said.

"It's not a big issue, no twist, only a bruise at the collateral ligament. When he steps he can't push as usual, but I am not worried about it."

Sarri's withdrawal of Ronaldo when three points were up for grabs mirrored the move he made in the midweek Champions League win over Lokomotiv Moscow.

The former Real Madrid man's failure to reappear on the bench attracted criticism from ex-Juve coach Fabio Capello.

"The fact that he didn't sit on the bench and said bad words to Sarri is not a pretty picture," Capello told Sky Sport Italia.

"One must be a champion even when he is replaced, not only when things are going well. Right now, Dybala is in great shape.

"The truth is that Ronaldo has not dribbled past an opponent for three years. I remember it when he went past players and left them there. Now it doesn't happen anymore, while Douglas Costa and Dybala do it.

"If I had been in Sarri's place I would have reproached him in the changing room. I would have told him that he must have respect for his team-mates and if I take him off it is because I want to try to win the game."

Dybala's intervention means Juve remain a point ahead of Serie A title rivals Inter going into the international break.

Blaise Matuidi could be forced to pull out of the France squad following further medical assessment on a suspected rib fracture, Sarri confirmed.

Cardel Benbow got the crucial goal for Mount Pleasant as they made ground on the Red Stripe Premier League (RSPL) leaders on Sunday.

The slippery Benbow found the back of the net in the 15th minute with Dunbeholden unable to find a way back into the game.  The hosts were reduced to 10-men in the 88-minute when Shevan James received a second yellow card.

League leaders Waterhouse were forced to battle from behind to earn a share of the points.

Shai Smith gave Portmore United an unexpected lead in the 19th minute but Colorado Murray finally managed to pull the teams level with a goal in the 75th minute.

Second place Molynes United were also forced to settled for a share of the points but were pegged back after Sergeni Frankson 26th minute penalty established an early lead.  Newton Sterling found the back of the net for a second straight week, however, after Tivoli struck back in the 45th minute.

In other games, Cavalier and Vere United played to a 0-0 draw while Humble Lion and UWI also had to settle for splitting the points after playing to a 1-1 tie.  Renae Lloyd put UWI in the lead in the 20th but Thorn Simpson brought the home team back on level terms 10 minutes later.

 

Eintracht Frankfurt sporting director Fredi Bobic criticised captain David Abraham for barging over Freiburg head coach Christian Streich in a wild Bundesliga clash.

Abraham was sent off after a shoulder charge on Streich, which sparked a mass brawl in stoppage time of Sunday's 1-0 defeat away to Freiburg.

Trailing to Nils Petersen's 77th-minute goal following Gelson Fernandes' red card prior to half-time, Eintracht star Abraham was dismissed in the 96th minute after knocking over Streich on the touchline.

Freiburg's Vincenzo Grifo – who had earlier been substituted – also saw red as chaos ensued deep into stoppage time at Schwarzwald-Stadion.

"David Abraham shouldn't do something like that," Bobic said. "His emotions got the better of him and he felt like he was being provoked, but something like that shouldn't happen. There will be consequences for all involved."

Freiburg boss Streich said: "I'm not a particularly vindictive person. He has apologised and the matter is done.

"Football is a contact sport. That was on the wrong side of it, though," he continued. "It was a heated game, we need to calm down, it's done, and not have silly talk about it now. At 54 you can be run over by a young buffalo; you can’t hold yourself against it anymore."

Eintracht coach Adi Hutter added: "Congratulations to Freiburg on the win, the club is playing better than ever. The end of the match got a little hectic.

"Emotions are part and parcel of football. This was our sixth match in 18 days and we put in a good performance, both tactically and in terms of the ground we covered.

"We were the ones building from the back and creating the better chances and could have come away with a point, which would have been well deserved. It's a shame to travel back home empty-handed."

Arsene Wenger revealed he will not take over as Bayern Munich head coach despite confirming he was approached by the Bundesliga giants.

Bayern sacked Niko Kovac after a 5-1 loss to Eintracht Frankfurt earlier this month and former Arsenal manager Wenger was linked with a move to the Allianz Arena.

However, the 70-year-old – who has been out of management since leaving Arsenal in May last year – ruled himself out of taking over at Bundesliga champions Bayern.

"I'm out of this. First of all, I never was candidate. I have been approached and I'm not in the running for the job," Wenger told beIN SPORTS.

"I'm not a candidate for the job."

Asked if that meant he was done with management, Wenger said: "No, not necessarily."

Hansi Flick has led Bayern to wins over Olympiacos in the Champions League and Borussia Dortmund in the Klassiker as interim coach.

Bayern are third in the Bundesliga, four points behind leaders Borussia Monchengladbach, after their 4-0 rout of rivals Dortmund.

Argentina pair Marcos Rojo and Roberto Pereyra have been ruled out of the country's international friendlies against Brazil and Uruguay.

As Lionel Messi prepares to make his comeback following a three-month suspension, Argentina defender Rojo and midfielder Pereyra have withdrawn from Lionel Scaloni's squad.

Rojo was ruled out following Manchester United's 3-1 Premier League win over Brighton and Hove Albion on Sunday in which he appeared at Old Trafford, while Watford's Pereyra succumbed to a hamstring injury.

Argentina have drafted in Boca Juniors' Alexis Mac Allister for Friday's showdown with South American rivals Brazil in Saudi Arabia and the November 18 fixture against Uruguay in Tel Aviv.

Messi is back in the squad after the Barcelona and Argentina captain was banned by CONMEBOL in August and fined $50,000 for accusing the governing body of corruption following his side's semi-final loss to Brazil at the Copa America.

The 32-year-old has missed Argentina's past four matches – all friendlies – which has seen the country rout Ecuador (6-1) and Mexico (4-0), and draw with Chile (0-0) and Germany (2-2).

Maurizio Sarri has no qualms with Cristiano Ronaldo's frustrations at being substituted and says Juventus must thank the superstar forward for attempting to play through the pain barrier.

Eyebrows were raised when Ronaldo was withdrawn after 55 minutes of Sunday's 1-0 Serie A win over AC Milan with his replacement Paulo Dybala scoring the winner in Turin.

It came just five days after Ronaldo was substituted with eight minutes remaining against Lokomotiv Moscow and in need of a goal, which eventually arrived from Douglas Costa deep into injury time of the Champions League clash.

Ronaldo gave a sulky reaction on that occasion and headed straight down the tunnel when brought off against struggling Italian rivals Milan.

Juve head coach Sarri again insisted Ronaldo – who reportedly left the Allianz Stadium before the final whistle – is struggling with a knee injury that is affecting his performance and believes his frustrated reactions are a result of that.

"We must thank Ronaldo, because he made a sacrifice to be there at all tonight in a difficult situation," Sarri told Sky Sport Italia.

"He did everything possible to play, but I saw he was not well and thought it best to take him off.

"It's only natural a player is going to be irritated to leave the pitch, especially when he worked so hard to be there. 

"Over the last month, he has had this little knee problem, he had a knock in training and it hurt the collateral ligament. 

"When he trains at high intensity or plays, it unbalances him, so he ends up overcompensating and it damages the calf and thigh muscles.

"It is affecting his performances and he is not at his best at the moment. 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."

Stefano Pioli rued AC Milan's profligacy in the 1-0 defeat to Juventus, especially given he felt his side "were at least on a par" with the Serie A leaders.

Milan put in one of their better performances of the season at Allianz Stadium but a mixture of questionable finishing and excellent goalkeeping from Wojciech Szczesny proved the Rossoneri's undoing as substitute Paulo Dybala scored a 77th-minute winner.

Head coach Pioli was unable to hide his frustration and urged Milan to be more clinical following Sunday's loss in Turin.

"We were at least on a par with our opponents, if not more, but if you don't turn those chances into goals, you are going to pay," Pioli, whose side are 14th, told Sky Sport Italia in quotes reported by Football Italia.

"We've got to keep working and improving. Our current position is unworthy of Milan and that must keep us worried and concentrated at all times.

"Unfortunately, it's the same thing I said last Sunday after Lazio, which is that we had the opportunities and I don't think many have 15 shots on goal the way we did at the Juventus Stadium, but we need to convert more of them.

"We also conceded a goal when we should've been tighter in our defending and marking. I can only underline that the performance is good, but we need the results too. We have to improve our position in the table, it's time to take some punches and work hard.

"I see improvements every day, I saw them in recent matches, as we were by no means inferior to Lazio or Juventus. We must understand that at this level, every single ball can be decisive.

"We haven't had as many points as we expected, nor as many as we probably deserved lately, but the performances have been there."

Ross Barkley and Tom Heaton have been ruled out of England's Euro 2020 qualifiers due to injury.

The pair will miss the fixtures against Montenegro and Kosovo, it was announced on Sunday.

Sheffield United goalkeeper Dean Henderson – on loan from Premier League side Manchester United – will replace Aston Villa's Heaton.

However, there is no replacement for England and Chelsea midfielder Barkley in Gareth Southgate's squad.

England are three points clear at the top of Group A as they prepare to host Montenegro on Thursday before travelling to Kosovo on November 17.

Seattle Sounders won the MLS Cup for the second time in their history after goals from Kelvin Leerdam, Victor Rodriguez and Raul Ruidiaz earned them a 3-1 victory over Toronto FC.

Brian Schmetzer's side were second best for much of the game at CenturyLink Field but triumphed after a stroke of luck gifted Leerdam a deflected opening goal.

Rodriguez lit up the game with a tremendous solo effort 14 minutes from time and Ruidiaz added a third as the Western Conference Final winners were crowned champions for the first time since 2016.

The result was cruel on Toronto, who scored late through Jozy Altidore and played the better football, but Seattle claimed revenge for their defeat to the same opponents in the 2017 final.

Roman Torres lifted a shot over the crossbar from 12 yards as the Sounders pressed hard early on, but Toronto grew in confidence and the hosts needed a good one-handed save from goalkeeper Stefan Frei to keep Jonathan Osorio from grabbing the opener.

The best chance of a goalless first half fell to Ruidiaz when he controlled Nicolas Lodeiro's cross from the right but could only shoot straight at Quentin Westberg, who parried his angled drive away.

Seattle broke the deadlock against the run of play after surviving a period of intense Toronto pressure, Leerdam controlling Ruidiaz's pass and turning Nicolas Benezet before scoring with a low shot that took a wicked deflection off Justin Morrow's foot.

Toronto sent on Altidore for his debut in these play-offs but moments after his introduction Rodriguez, on as a substitute just after the hour mark, collected the ball just outside the box and hammered a powerful right-footed strike into the far corner of the net.

Ruidiaz missed a golden chance to make it three moments later but made amends when he powered past Chris Mavinga and latched onto Gustav Svensson's long pass before clipping a shot over Westberg to start the celebrations.

Playing for pride in the dying seconds, Toronto mustered a consolation when Altidore met Alejandro Pozuelo's cross with a powerful header beyond Frei but it was too little, too late for the visitors.

Paulo Dybala vindicated Maurizio Sarri's decision to introduce him for the underwhelming Cristiano Ronaldo as the Argentina international clinched underwhelming Juventus a slender 1-0 win over AC Milan on Sunday.

Sarri's men were well below par for the visit of Stefano Pioli's Milan and Ronaldo was no different, as the Portugal star failed to inspire an Old Lady attack that looked bereft of creative ingenuity until matchwinner Dybala replaced the five-time Ballon d'Or winner.

Belying the form table, Milan looked considerably more fluent and inventive in attack during the opening 45 minutes, but questionable finishing and a wonderful save from Wojciech Szczesny prevented them going into half-time ahead.

Juve remained short of ideas going forward initially in the second period and that resulted in the withdrawal of Ronaldo – who was also hooked in the Champions League against Lokomotiv Moscow.

While the Portugal captain looked utterly unimpressed as he headed straight down the tunnel, Dybala made the difference late on with a fine goal to retain Juve's status as Serie A pacesetters.

Milan should have taken the lead with 18 minutes on the clock, but Krzysztof Piatek miscued his header from Suso's excellent delivery from deep, before Szczesny thwarted Lucas Paqueta's nodded effort.

It took Ronaldo until the 42nd minute to threaten the Milan goal, but his 25-yard strike was easily kept out by Gianluigi Donnarumma.

Sarri's response to Juve's ineffectiveness in front of goal was to withdraw Ronaldo for Dybala before the hour, while Douglas Costa – the hero in Wednesday's 2-1 win in Moscow – came on soon after.

The Brazilian went as close as any of his team-mates with a 30-yard strike that Donnarumma stopped, before Blaise Matuidi curled just off target.

But fittingly it was Dybala who got the decisive goal, as he played a one-two with Gonzalo Higuain on the edge of the box and then swept home right-footed 13 minutes from time, confirming an undeserved defeat for Milan, who have not won at Juve since March 2011.

What does it mean? Juve remain top as Ronaldo's mortality becomes clear

Inter's 2-1 comeback win against Hellas Verona put Antonio Conte's men top and that looked to be where they would stay until after the international break before Dybala's strike.

But arguably more signficant than the result is Ronaldo's status in the squad. Having spent much of his career as an untouchable, that no longer appears to be the case.

Szczesny gives Juve a hand

While Dybala was undoubtedly vital to victory, it is fair to say Juve owe much thanks to Szczesny in goal. The Poland international was dependable on every occasion and had he not been at this level Milan probably would have won.

Ronaldo fades into the background

With just one shot and a single key pass to show for his efforts, there is no doubt Ronaldo was not missed when he made way. Suddenly the hosts had more energy and impetus in attack, not usually something one could say about a team that hooks Ronaldo.

What's next?

After the international break, Juve face a tricky trip to Serie A's most prolific team Atalanta, while Milan host Napoli and former Rossoneri boss Carlo Ancelotti.

"THANK YOU SO MUCH! THANK YOU SO MUCH!"

Pep Guardiola's gargantuan sarcasm when he greeted referee Michael Oliver and his officials at full-time certainly matched the magnitude of a ferocious and frenetic Anfield encounter.

The Manchester City manager had long been in a righteous funk at missed chances and rejected penalty appeals as Liverpool closed out a 3-1 victory that puts them eight points clear at the top of the Premier League.

That's right, eight. Not nine. They're nine points clear of fourth-placed City.

Guardiola probably reached the midway point of his tether as early as the sixth minute. Trent Alexander-Arnold handled in the Liverpool box – the fact Bernardo Silva inadvertently did so just beforehand probably saving the England right-back in the final VAR analysis – and Liverpool played to the whistle to a greater extent than their opponents.

Ilkay Gundogan's clearance was as wretched as Fabinho's strike from outside the box was magnificent.

City picked themselves up off an all-too familiar Merseyside canvas and got back on the front foot. Kevin De Bruyne's deliveries were not to their usual standard but Raheem Sterling and Sergio Aguero both probably should have scored from them. City's two world-class attacking figureheads are still yet to find the net on this ground.

The 13th minute brought a brutally brilliant second, displaying one the key facets of Liverpool's triumph. Alexander-Arnold toiled under Sterling's examination at times, but his cross-field pass to fellow full-back Andy Robertson was glorious.

Those diagonal balls tested City's makeshift defence all day and Robertson's cross found Mohamed Salah lurking between career midfielder Fernandinho and greenhorn left-back Angelino to head gleefully home.

Guardiola repeated how proud he was of his team's performance after the match and, even if this was primarily a was to avoid an FA ban by giving his own take on Oliver's efforts, it was understandable.

City continued to plug away, Angelino often to the fore in tandem with Sterling down the left and prodding a typically immaculate De Bruyne pass against the post.

But they were vulnerable in the transition as they chased the game and this is Klopp's domain. As in the riotous 4-3 win over City in January last year, Georginio Wijnaldum was magnificent – an indomitable cocktail of power and intelligence, as deft as he was destructive.

Then there was Jordan Henderson, who will surely see this season as a failure if he does not lift the league title Liverpool supporters have pined for over an interminable three decades.

Shifted to the right flank after the break, Henderson's cross for Sadio Mane's third made sure of victory and City's persistent threats during the final half hour, when Bernardo Silva pulled a goal back, were notable for coming after James Milner replaced his captain.

Naby Keita and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain might sit on the bench as more technically astute footballers than Henderson, but they will never exceed his worth to Klopp's cause.

Guardiola was left to lament "the boxes" in his post-match interview following Liverpool's clinical clinic. It was something he pondered often during his first season in charge of City, before back-to-back titles, 198 points, five major trophies and all that.

Another relic of that time, Claudio Bravo, was back. The veteran Chile international was helpless when beaten by Liverpool's first two shots on target - even if Klopp's admission that he encouraged his players to shoot from distance felt telling – but his reaction to Henderson's teasing 51st-minute delivery was atrocious.

Selecting such a strong side to face Atalanta in midweek, losing Ederson in the process, damaged City's chances. As did the decision not to reinforce at centre-back after Vincent Kompany's departure, while rushing back Rodri to protect a patched-up backline he is yet to show he can adequately screen since signing from Atletico Madrid was another questionable move.

Calls made before this weekend went a long way to sealing Guardiola's fate as City's wait for an Anfield win goes on. Liverpool's relentlessness is magnified by the fact his side have slipped slightly and significantly from the peerless heights of the past two seasons.

All it takes is a few mis-steps in these circumstances, so maybe this title race isn't over. But if City do make it three in a row, Guardiola should be bellowing thanks all over again. Liverpool faltering decisively from this position would amount to delivering gift-wrapped glory to Manchester.

Jurgen Klopp acknowledged Liverpool's pulsating 3-1 win over title rivlas Manchester City was "pretty wild".

The clash between the warring teams at Anfield lived up to its billing as a match full of thrills, spills and controversy saw Liverpool emerge victorious to open up an eight-point lead at the top of the Premier League.

Fabinho's sixth-minute thunderbolt came shortly after City were incensed not to be awarded a penalty for handball against Trent Alexander-Arnold.

Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane goals put Liverpool in command before Bernardo Silva's 78th-minute effort for City set up a frantic finale.

Liverpool boss Klopp revelled in taking the points at the end of a barnstorming fixture.

"The intensity of the game was incredible. Pretty wild. For us, it's not too unusual that the game is wild," Klopp said. 

"City usually control the game more - it was not possible against us today, but they were good, oh they were good. We had to defend with all we had. And we scored incredible goals. 

"I really have to think about what I say before the game, because today I asked for finishes from outside the box. I should ask that [more often]. It's my fault that it's probably the first goal from outside the box this season. But Fabinho, what a goal. 

"Then what a counter-attack, what a pass from Robbo [Andy Robertson], what a header from Mo. Giving the game this kind of direction is incredible. It was so tough to play - you saw that - of course the intensity of the game kills you. 

"It's a little bit too long, a football game. We put all that in against an opponent like City. But it was all worth it, eh? It was all worth it. Really great."

City, who are now nine points adrift of Liverpool, turned the screw after Silva's strike and threatened more than once to produce a late revival.

Klopp conceded he was concerned by City's threat but says it was always to be expected.

He added: "Look, we saw the City situations they had. They passed the ball from outside, Raheem Sterling, what a player. The thing is how did we defend him until then? How good was that?

"You see the moment we don't defend him anymore what happens immediately. They are great players, that's just how it is. They do so many good things. 

"But the boys were completely focused, concentrated, really composed. It was just so good to see. It's the only way we can beat City. Maybe some teams can do it a different way - I don't think a lot of teams can do it - but this is the way we can. What the boys did today is just incredible."

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