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Top of the table clash gives Milan derby extra edge



(Last Updated On: September 14, 2023)

It is impossible to know whether the result of Saturday’s Milan derby will prove crucial in the title race but a win for Inter or AC Milan would definitely bring some much-needed breathing space at the top of Serie A.

With defending champions Napoli losing at home to Lazio in the last round of games, the two Milanese clubs are alone at the top after picking up three wins from three, Reuters reported.

The match at the San Siro will be the first time since 1962 that the Milan sides meet while top of the table. Though on the previous occasion they also shared first place with Fiorentina.

Inter had the upper hand last season.

They won the last four of the pair’s five meetings, including both ties in their Champions League semi-final, and a win on Saturday would mark the first time they have won five consecutive derbies.

But this Milan side are a different proposition from the team who put up such a disappointing defense of their league title last season, Reuters reported.

With so many new faces in the squad there was a fear that Stefano Pioli’s side would need time to gel but maximum points from their opening three games has put paid to that theory.

Three new signings have already proved fundamental to Milan’s strong start, with Tijjani Reijnders, Christian Pulisic and Ruben Loftus-Cheek starting in their three league wins.

Pulisic scored in the opening two games and gave Milan a threat on the right, bringing balance to the side after relying on Rafael Leao on the left for so long.

Loftus-Cheek has added muscle to the midfield and has two assists to his name, and along with playmaker Reijnders they have allowed Milan to overcome the sale of Sandro Tonali to Newcastle.

Concerns over Olivier Giroud’s ability to keep knocking in the goals when he is about to turn 37 have so far proved unfounded. The French forward has four so far, one fewer than Serie A’s top scorer Lautaro Martinez of Inter.

Martinez netted 21 league goals in both the past two seasons but has already made a better start to the current campaign than ever before.

While Inter coach Simone Inzaghi no longer has forwards Romelu Lukaku or Eden Dzeko at his disposal, new signing Marcus Thuram got off the mark in Inter’s 4-0 demolition of Fiorentina last time out.

Preparations for the derby will mostly come down to the last few days with most of their starting players returning from international duty.

Milan have a concern over Giroud after he went off injured in France’s win over Ireland last week but are hopeful he can recover. If not, Luka Jovic, their recent loan signing from Fiorentina, is waiting for his chance to shine, Reuters reported.

Milan have defender Fikayo Timori suspended with Simon Kjaer expected to come in.

A draw in Milan would suit Juventus just fine.

Two points behind in third place, Juve can close the gap with a win over Lazio, who got their first win of the season at Napoli last time out.

Napoli look to get their title defense back at promoted Genoa while surprise package Lecce put their unbeaten start to the season on the line with an away trip to Monza on Sunday.

Jose Mourinho’s AS Roma, with just one point from three games, will try to kick-start their season when they host Empoli on Sunday.


International Sports

Former chairman of Chinese Football Association charged with bribery



(Last Updated On: September 26, 2023)

Chinese authorities have charged the former chairman of the national football association with bribery as part of an anti-corruption investigation into the soccer federation, state broadcaster CCTV reported on Tuesday.

Authorities in central Hubei province charged Chen Xuyuan, the ex-head of the Chinese Football Association (CFA), with utilizing his position and authority to “seek benefits for others” and “illegally accept other people’s property and possessions”, CCTV reported.

Chen’s case was now before the public prosecutor, CCTV added.

Chen could not be reached for comment. The CFA did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comments.

Chen was also the deputy party secretary for the football organization.

In August, Chinese state media reported that senior soccer official and chairman of the Chinese Super League Liu Jun had been taken away by authorities for investigation.

In January, two former CFA officials were investigated for suspected “severe violations of the law”, according to statements posted by the sports regulator.

Another two leading soccer officials were investigated for suspected serious violations of the law in March.

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International Sports

Dortmund need win against Wolfsburg as storm clouds gather



(Last Updated On: September 21, 2023)

Borussia Dortmund host in-form VfL Wolfsburg in the Bundesliga on Saturday hoping for a victory that will dispel the storm clouds that have been gathering amid their poor start to the season.

With only two wins from four league matches so far, and a disappointing 2-0 Champions League loss at Paris St Germain on Tuesday, last season’s Bundesliga runners-up are in danger of being left behind both at home and in Europe, Reuters reported.

Coach Edin Terzic said his players had not been brave enough against PSG.

“You can say it politely and say we showed too much respect, or you can simply say we lacked courage,” he added.

From losing possession to a complete lack of pressure and some very weak defending, Dortmund’s game against PSG was indicative of their season so far.

Dortmund, who will likely be without injured midfielder Marcel Sabitzer, scored two late goals last week to beat Freiburg and needed a last-gasp winner against Cologne in their season opener.

They spectacularly squandered a two-goal lead at home against promoted Heidenheim to draw 2-2, leaving fans wondering whether players are still feeling the effects of last season’s dramatic finale.

Dortmund missed out on their first Bundesliga in 11 years when they slipped up with a home draw against Mainz 05 in the last game of the campaign.

They will need to pluck up as much courage as they can muster against Wolfsburg, winners of three of their four Bundesliga matches, if they are to avert a crisis with the season only a few weeks old.

Dortmund have their 17-match unbeaten run at home in their favour and have gone 10 home games without defeat in the Bundesliga against the Wolves.

Wolfsburg, however, have hit the ground running with their second best start to a league season thanks largely to Jonas Wind, the first player in the club’s history to have scored five goals in the first four league games.

The 24-year-old Dane has also delivered one assist to help them move up to nine points, one behind leaders Bayer Leverkusen and champions Bayern Munich, and one ahead of Dortmund.

Bayern, fresh from their 4-3 Champions League win over Manchester United on Wednesday, take on VfL Bochum with striker Harry Kane looking to add to his four league goals.

Xabi Alonso’s Leverkusen host Heidenheim while third-placed RB Leipzig travel to Borussia Moenchengladbach.

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International Sports

Crowds hail Ronaldo’s arrival in Iran ahead of match



(Last Updated On: September 18, 2023)

Al-Nassr captain Cristiano Ronaldo received a warm reception in Iran on Monday, in the first visit of a Saudi team to Iran since 2016 ahead of the beginning of the group stage of the Asian Champions League.

Al-Nassr face Iranian side Persepolis in Group E on Tuesday, while Qatari side Al-Duhail play Istiklol Dushanbe of Tajikistan.

The streets were crowded with fans who raised welcome banners and pictures of Ronaldo upon the arrival of the Saudi Arabian team in Iran after the restoration of relations between the two countries, Reuters reported.

The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) announced that matches between Saudi and Iranian teams would be held on a home-and-away basis after the agreement of the two local federations.

Matches had been played on neutral territory since 2016 because strained diplomatic ties between the two countries meant Saudi nationals were not permitted to travel to Iran.

Supporters invaded the team’s hotel, despite attempts by security personnel to prevent them.

The fans chanted Ronaldo’s name, with children and women carrying pictures of the Portugal captain.

Al-Nassr posted several photos of Ronaldo receiving a luxurious hand-made Iranian carpet from Persepolis supporters.

“Mr. Cristiano Ronaldo, welcome to Iran. A token of appreciation, an original hand-woven piece of art made by Iranian artists to commemorate your presence in Iran, on behalf of Persepolis’s fans,” the fans wrote.

Children wore Al-Nassr and Portugal shirts bearing Ronaldo’s name and number, and some fans performed the famous celebration of the former Real Madrid player.

The Saudi Pro League has become an attractive destination for Europe-based players since Ronaldo moved to Al-Nassr last January.

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