Aaron Ramsey felt right at home in a midfield three for Juventus as he scored what proved to be the winner against lowly SPAL.

In a game where Cristiano Ronaldo marked his 1,000th career appearance with the opening goal, it was Ramsey's strike that was decisive as SPAL went on to cut the deficit with a late penalty.

The Wales international confidently collected Paulo Dybala's incisive pass and lifted a deft finish over Etrit Berisha to score his first Serie A goal since September, moving Juve four points clear at the summit. 

Having often been employed in a more advanced role behind the strikers, Ramsey was pleased to settle into his rhythm as part of a midfield trio.

"Of course, this is my position, it's where I wanted to play when I came here, it's where I played my whole career," the former Arsenal player told Sky Sport Italia.

"I have the chance to make runs into the box and also score goals, so that is where I feel most comfortable."

Juve were not at their fluent best at Stadio Paolo Mazza on Saturday but got the job done against the division's rock-bottom side.

With a Champions League trip to Lyon and the visit of Inter for a crunch clash in the title race coming up next, Rasmey was pleased just to come away with the points.

"It's very big, it's always difficult to come to places like this," he said,

"It was important to stick at it, we got the three points. It's a big week for us and this is an excellent way to start."

 

Bundesliga side Paderborn have confirmed the death of a 14-month-old girl during Friday's match at Bayern Munich.

Bayern won 3-2 at Allianz Arena, but the result has been overshadowed by Saturday's announcement that a child died after collapsing at the venue.

The club also revealed the girl, who was taken to a Munich hospital but could not be resuscitated, was the niece of Streli Mamba, their forward who was substituted after 53 minutes of the fixture.

"Paderborn are deeply shaken and expresses its deepest sympathy to the family," a club statement read. "The club asks to respect the privacy of the player's family and, like the family, will not comment on this incident."

Bayern also issued a statement, offering their condolences to the family.

"The whole of FC Bayern is devastated and expresses deepest sympathy and condolences to the girl's family," the Bundesliga champions said.

Martin Braithwaite enjoyed a strong second-half cameo on his Barcelona debut following a controversial transfer - and he vowed to not wash his jersey after receiving a hug from Lionel Messi.

After a difficult week for the club, Barca demolished struggling Eibar 5-0 at Camp Nou, with four-goal Messi in inspirational form as he netted a first-half hat-trick.

Before the match many Barca supporters waved white handkerchiefs towards president Josep Maria Bartomeu and chanted for his resignation after he was forced to deny allegations earlier in the week that the club had hired a firm to "damage the image" of players past and present, including Messi.

Then there was the controversial signing of Braithwaite, who arrived from Leganes as an "emergency" purchase to cover the absence of Ousmane Dembele and seen as an underwhelming acquisition.

But the Denmark international made an immediate impact, having a hand in Messi's fourth before getting involved in Arthur's goal that rounded out the scoring.

When asked about what Messi said after helping him score, Braithwaite told reporters: "He congratulated me, he's a great guy.

"He tried to make me comfortable [after being brought on], he looked for me with his passes. I won't wash my clothes after the hug he gave me," he quipped.

"Honestly, I'm very happy to have been able to give him assistance. I felt very well here, surrounded by fantastic players.

"I tried to run and move, which is what I have to do, and the team-mates have found me, so it has been amazing. I am very happy."

Barca coach Quique Setien was pleasantly surprised by Braithwaite, accepting the forward had more of an impact than anticipated.

"Braithwaite did more than I expected, much more," he said. "Honestly, he was very good and I think we have got an extraordinary signing.

"He'll adapt perfectly to what we do, he was involved in two goals and he understands the game so well. He's powerful and technically very proficient – he's a worker and has many things that will help us."

Barca are in action again on Tuesday in the Champions League against Napoli, before returning to LaLiga action against Real Madrid next Sunday.

Cristiano Ronaldo marked his 1,000th career appearance with a goal as Juventus beat rock-bottom SPAL 2-1 to move four points clear at the top of Serie A.

The Portugal superstar, rested for the 2-0 win over Brescia last time out, scored in an 11th consecutive Italian top-flight game, matching a feat previously achieved by Gabriel Batistuta and Fabio Quagliarella.

Maurzio Sarri's side, who were far from convincing, added a second through Aaron Ramsey before Andrea Petagna's penalty offered SPAL late, but ultimately fruitless, hope. 

The reigning champions will now watch on with interest when title rivals Lazio and Inter both play on Sunday. 

SPAL started brightly as Petagna tested Wojciech Szczesny inside the opening three minutes.

However, Ronaldo, who scored in the reverse fixture back in September, had a goal ruled out for offside at the other end, while the unmarked Juan Cuadrado blasted high and wide with an ugly first-time effort.

Juve began to build pressure and SPAL had to put their bodies on the line to thwart Cuadrado, with Etrit Berisha smothering the Colombian's deflected shot. 

Szczesny had a brief scare when Gabriel Strefezza's low strike threatened to nutmeg him, but the Pole recovered just in time.

After Paulo Dybala had struck the post with a curler, Ronaldo celebrated his milestone outing – his 1,000th for club and country – with a measured 39th-minute finish at the end of a move instigated by Ramsey, with Cuadrado providing the assist.

Giorgio Chiellini's first starting appearance since August came to an end just before the hour mark, and the ovation for the Juve stalwart had barely finished when Ramsey doubled his side's lead.

Picked out incisively by Dybala, Ramsey kept his cool to loft a fine finish over Berisha for his first league goal since September.

SPAL stuck at their task and halved the deficit when Simone MissirolI was felled in the box by Daniele Rugani, Petagna slotting in the spot-kick for a worthy consolation before Ronaldo's late free-kick hit the crossbar.

 

What does it mean?

Lazio and Inter will need to respond on Sunday, facing Genoa and Sampdoria respectively, or else Juve might begin to make themselves comfortable at the summit.

Ronaldo's class is permanent

The numbers behind Ronaldo's stellar career continue to defy belief, with this his 725th career goal. Having recently turned 35, we might be seeing the twilight years of an all-time great. Make the most of it.

Rugani a weak link

Rugani clumsily conceded the penalty from which SPAL pulled a goal back, but even aside from that the centre-back's display was scruffy, with a passing accuracy of 75.4 per cent, which dropped to 52 per cent in the opposing team’s half.

What's next?

The Champions League takes centre stage for Juve with Wednesday's game in Lyon, though next Sunday's visit of Inter in a crunch Serie A clash will certainly be on their radar. As for SPAL, they are off to Parma next weekend. 

Cristiano Ronaldo has joined Gabriel Batistuta and Fabio Quagliarella in the Serie A record books after scoring in an 11th successive league game.

Ronaldo, on his 1000th professional appearance, put Juventus ahead after 39 minutes of Saturday's clash with SPAL, tucking in from Juan Cuadrado's cross.

The goal took 35-year-old Ronaldo level with Fiorentina icon Batistuta and Sampdoria star Quagliarella, both of whom had previously scored at least once in 11 straight Serie A matches.

While Batistuta achieved the feat in the 1994-95 campaign, Quagliarella – also aged 35 at the time – did so last season.

Neither player could make it 12 games on the run, however, meaning Ronaldo will have the chance to set a new record when Juve face Inter in a crucial match in the title race on Sunday.

Leeds United beat Reading 1-0 at Elland Road to move five points clear of the chasing pack in the race for automatic promotion from the Championship.

Third-placed Fulham were held 1-1 by Derby County on Friday and Brentford in fourth played out a 2-2 draw with Blackburn Rovers.

Nottingham Forest and Bristol City also dropped points, drawing 0-0 with QPR and losing 3-0 to leaders West Brom respectively, with the Baggies maintaining their four-point gap on Leeds.

Elsewhere, Wigan Athletic and Barnsley picked up wins to boost their survival hopes.

LEEDS, WEST BROM PULLING AWAY

Pablo Hernandez's 57th-minute strike earned Leeds back-to-back 1-0 home wins.

West Brom appear over their mid-season wobble after making it four wins in five matches with a comfortable victory.

Callum Robinson put Slaven Bilic's side on course for an 11th away win of the campaign with a fortuitous opener and Hal Robson-Kanu netted twice, either side of Romaine Sawyers' straight red for grabbing Jamie Paterson by the throat.

CHASING PACK FALTER

Brentford fought from two goals down to draw 2-2 with Blackburn as they joined west London rivals Fulham in dropping points.

Ollie Watkins scored an impressive volley and Said Benrahma netted from the penalty spot to cancel out Adam Armstrong's double.

Forest missed out on the chance to move up to third after failing to break down QPR in a stalemate at City Ground, while Preston North End recovered from a goal down to beat Hull City 2-1.

HOPE FOR WIGAN, BARNSLEY

Shaun Hutchinson's own goal was enough for Wigan to earn just an eighth league win of the campaign at home to Millwall, while Barnsley built on their shock 3-0 win at Fulham last weekend with a 1-0 victory over Middlesbrough.

Wigan and Barnsley are now two and five points adrift of 21st-placed Huddersfield respectively following the Terriers' 3-1 defeat at Swansea City.

Luton Town are now occupying bottom place, with Lyle Taylor's double earning Charlton Athletic a 3-1 win.

Elsewhere, a Callum Paterson own goal and a scrambled finish from Joe Allen saw Stoke City earn a 2-0 home win against Cardiff City that leaves them three points clear of the drop-zone.

SIX-GOAL THRILLER AT ST ANDREW'S

Birmingham City and Sheffield Wednesday remain locked on 45 points following a 3-3 draw.

Garry Monk was denied a winning return to one of his former clubs by Scott Hogan's equaliser in added time, the Aston Villa loanee's fourth goal in five matches.

Wednesday had twice battled back from a goal down before Jacob Murphy put them in front, but they are now winless in six outings.

Lionel Messi was in inspirational form as he scored four goals – including a first-half hat-trick – to lead Barcelona to an easy 5-0 win over Eibar at the end of a difficult week for the club.

Messi had gone over a month without a goal in LaLiga before Saturday but once he found his groove there was no hope for hapless Eibar, as Barca's talisman tore the visitors apart at will.

Much of the build-up to the contest had been dominated by off-field matters, including the controversial out-of-window signing of Martin Braithwaite and president Josep Maria Bartomeu denying the club hired a firm to "damage the image" of players past and present, including Messi.

Yet Messi appeared unencumbered by the controversies, the Argentina superstar scoring a wonderful treble in the first half before adding a fourth after the break. A goal for Arthur late on completed a handsome triumph ahead of a potentially season-defining week, which includes clashes with Napoli and Real Madrid.

The white handkerchiefs were being waved with vigour in the direction of Bartomeu by many supporters even before kick-off, and for a moment early on in the contest they looked to have another reason to fume, as Sergi Enrich emphatically headed in Jose Angel's cross.

But the offside flag spared Barca from falling behind and Messi soon took charge, opening the scoring with a remarkable goal – coolly clipping a delicate effort past Marko Dmitrovic having nutmegged Anaitz Arbilla and held off Papa Diop.

It was 2-0 in the 37th minute, Messi again driving into the box and picking out the bottom-right corner with aplomb.

And he swiftly completed his treble, turning in from close range after Antoine Griezmann wasted an opportunity to shoot.

The hosts appeared to ease off after the break, with the only notable opportunity before the hour-mark seeing Ivan Rakitic thwarting by Dmitrovic after Griezmann's cross.

However, Barca eventually increased the deficit in the final three minutes – Messi scoring his fourth after toying with the Eibar defence before Arthur's straightforward finish, with substitute Braithwaite showing his usefulness by having a hand in both.

Inter boss Antonio Conte is not concerned about Lautaro Martinez's head being turned after the striker was lauded by Barcelona star Lionel Messi.

Martinez has been strongly linked with a move to Camp Nou as a long-term replacement for Luis Suarez and was this week hailed as "spectacular" by compatriot Messi.

The 22-year-old reportedly has a €111m release clause in his contract and has also been touted as a possible target for Manchester United, Manchester City and Real Madrid.

Despite the growing interest in Martinez, however, Conte is confident the Argentina international is only focused on helping Inter.

"The boy is fully concentrated," Conte said at a news conference on Saturday. "He is doing well and must continue in this way. 

"He has grown a lot over the last year and is only 22. He is committed and I am happy to have him available."

Inter recovered from back-to-back defeats in the league and cup with a 2-0 win over Ludogorets in the first leg of their Europa League last-32 tie on Thursday.

Conte's men face a quick turnaround for Sunday's visit of Sampdoria in Serie A and the head coach is anticipating a difficult test against the relegation battlers.

"Playing on a Thursday makes things difficult as you only have one day to prepare for the next game," he said. "It is something we will get used to over time.

"Sampdoria are in good shape, despite losing last week. We will have to be very focused to get the three points.

"They have a highly experienced coach in Claudio Ranieri and experienced players like Fabio Quagliarella, who amazes me every year."

Conte will wait until Sunday before making a decision on whether to start Marcelo Brozovic, who has been struggling with a knock but took part in training on Saturday.

Brozovic's return could see Christian Eriksen used in an advanced midfield position behind Martinez and Romelu Lukaku, with Conte happy to try out different formations.

"It depends on the game and the opponent. You can try different things but don't forget you have to field a balanced team," he said. "We will see if this is the right time to do it."

The Serie B match between Ascoli and Cremonese has been postponed as a preventative measure against the spread of the coronavirus after two people died in the Lombardy and Veneto regions.

The coronavirus - officially named Covid-19 – first emerged in China towards the end of last year but has spread to a number of other countries since, including Italy.

It was confirmed on Saturday that two Italian people who had been infected have died - a 78-year-old man from Padua, Veneto, as well as a woman in Lombardy.

According to Italian news agency ANSA, 88 amateur football matches scheduled to take place in Lombardy on Saturday had been postponed, while Serie C and Serie D games were also impacted.

Ascoli's home match with Cremonese – who are from Cremona, Lombardy – in the eastern Marche region is the most high-profile match to be called off, following a decision from the Operational Safety Group (GOS).

This comes after the Cremonese youth team's match with Brescia in Primavera 2 did not go ahead due to the "health emergency" in Cremona.

A Lega Serie B statement, confirming the postponement of the youth fixture, read: "Due to the health emergency following contagions for coronavirus which is involving Cremonese, which has also led to the closure of all schools in the city by order of the mayor, and in agreement with the two clubs, Lega B postpones the Primavera 2 match between Cremonese and Brescia scheduled for the Arvedi sports center today, Saturday 22 February, at 2.30 pm."

Carles Perez has hit out at Barcelona for the manner of his exit and suggested his former club no longer have patience to bed in academy players.

The 22-year-old joined Roma on an initial loan deal in January that will be made permanent at the end of the season if various clauses are triggered.

And after marking his first start for his new side with the only goal in Thursday's 1-0 Europa League win over Gent, Perez admitted to being hurt by Barca's decision to cash in.

"Am I in pain? Mostly, because of the way it happened," he told Mundo Deportivo "I think they didn't behave well in the end, but I'm grateful to Barcelona.

"I'm a guy who has given everything for Barcelona since I was a kid. My dream was to make it to the first team; I achieved that and they took it away from me for no reason. 

"And especially with the performances I was having. They talk a lot about the academy and in the end, they show the opposite.

"Anyway, I don't view Barcelona in a bad light; I am grateful, but I don't like the way it was handled. Nothing else."

As well as offloading Perez to Roma, Barcelona also sent fellow academy product Abel Ruiz to Braga in a deal worth a reported €8million.

Those sales have been brought into focus following the emergency signing of Martin Braithwaite, which Perez claimed offers further evidence of Barca's priorities shifting.

"Sometimes you make good decisions and sometimes you don't," he said. "And now they have to make a life for themselves.

"I think about what Marc Cucurella previously said: at Barcelona, you always want to win but don't have the patience with academy products anymore."

Perez made 14 first-team appearances for Barcelona, including five LaLiga starts this term, and has not ruled out the possibility of returning to Camp Nou one day.

"I haven't thought about that since I left," he said. "Barcelona is the past and I am focused on Roma, although I don't know what will happen in the future."

Thomas Tuchel admitted he was "very surprised" by leaked footage that showed Paris Saint-Germain's players partying into the early hours of the morning this week.

A number of PSG's first-team stars attended a lavish joint-birthday party for Edinson Cavani, Mauro Icardi and Angel Di Maria in Paris on Thursday.

The extravagant bash was held two days after the French champions' 2-1 loss to Borussia Dortmund in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie.

Footage on social media showed some players, including forward Neymar, topless and bouncing around the room.

And with a Ligue 1 clash against Bordeaux to come on Sunday, Tuchel has questioned the actions of his players.

"I was really surprised yesterday afternoon when watching the video," he said at Saturday's pre-match news conference. 

"You can be sure that we talked internally. I don't want to talk about it now, but we talked about it within the club and it has to stay that way."

He added: "You can be sure that we are not happy with this image. We talked together as a team and it is now an internal matter.

"I am here to improve my group. I cannot give advice to the club, that is not my role."

Marquinhos was in attendance at the exclusive Pavillon Dauphine and defended the decision to throw the triple birthday party.

"The leaked footage was a mistake," he told reporters. "However, it had been planned for a long time. We needed to get together. 

"We must be careful, though, as there are people who travel miles to follow us.

"There has been frustration at the result and poor performance [against Dortmund]. We know our strengths, especially at home.We must work hard and with a good mentality."

Neymar suggested after the loss to Dortmund that he has been unhappy with PSG's management of his rib injury, insisting he was ready to return to action earlier.

However, Tuchel has reiterated that he cannot risk the Brazil international's fitness at a key point in the season.

"As I said before, it was a discussion between the club, medical staff and myself. With each injury we have to make many decisions, that's the way it is," he said.

"Imagine if we let him play, the injury got worse and he was out for three months. You would have asked the same questions, whether it was a mistake to play him.

"We have to think about why we are making these decisions and you have to trust me. We have talked a lot and it is the same with every player.

"Obviously I want him to play every game and we have to make decisions together. This is the decision we made between us. Now he needs to regain his rhythm."

Tuchel also confirmed Thomas Meunier and Colin Dagba are out of Sunday's clash with Bordeaux at the Parc des Princes, where he is hoping for a quick response from his side.

"It is never easy to start again after a defeat, but that is the challenge," he said. "I have the impression that all the players want to prove themselves.

"Sometimes the players are more competitive when things aren't comfortable. That is exactly the mindset we are looking for."

New Newcastle Jets head coach Carl Robinson was denied a first home win despite a dominant first half against Melbourne Victory on Saturday.

Former Vancouver Whitecaps boss Robinson was appointed prior to a home success against Central Coast Mariners earlier this month but watched that match from the stands.

The Jets subsequently drew 1-1 at Western Sydney Wanderers and were then held by the same scoreline by the Victory.

Newcastle twice had early Abdiel Arroyo goals ruled out, the first after referee Alireza Faghani inadvertently deflected a cross into the striker's path.

But Melbourne's luck ran out when Roy O'Donovan blasted Dimitrios Petratos' cutback against the crossbar and, after a short delay, the VAR ruled the ball had bounced over the line.

However, half-time killed the Jets' momentum, and visiting captain Ola Toivonen headed an equaliser four minutes after the restart to claim a share of the spoils.

It was also 1-1 between Brisbane Roar and Perth Glory in Saturday's earlier game.

Perth climbed to second with a point but were denied all three by former Newcastle United defender Macaulay Gillesphey, who cancelled out Bruno Fornaroli's first-half opener five minutes from time.

Gareth Bale's move from Real Madrid to Jiangsu Suning fell through because Los Blancos asked for a transfer fee at the last moment, the Chinese Super League club's head coach has said.

Wales forward Bale appeared destined to depart the Santiago Bernabeu in July having reportedly agreed a deal that would have seen him earn £1million per week.

But Bale, who joined Madrid in August 2013, remained in the Spanish capital after talks broke down at the last minute.

Jiangsu coach Cosmin Olaroiu said Madrid had originally agreed to allow Bale to leave on a free transfer but changed their mind, making a deal unviable for the Chinese side.

"It was very close," Olaroiu told The National. 

"The club agreed with his agent, his agent was there. We agreed with Madrid and in the last month - I don't know what happened there, they lose some friendly games by a big score - Madrid changed their mind.

"First they said they would release him and we would have to pay his salary, then suddenly they said 'No, you have to pay for the transfer'.

"And paying the transfer and his salary was a little bit over the budget and so we looked for another player.

"But, actually, I know that it was done 90 per cent in the evening, and then in the morning everything changed. But Real Madrid, not us."

Bale has made 17 appearances in all competitions for Zinedine Zidane's men this term, scoring three goals, but was left out of the squad to face Levante on Saturday reportedly due to illness.

The 30-year-old has won LaLiga and Copa del Rey medals with Madrid, as well as four Champions Leagues and three Club World Cups.

Manchester City's Champions League ban could have some serious consequences.

While City are planning to appeal UEFA's two-season suspension from European competition after an investigation found the club broke financial fair play regulations, rivals are circling.

City's stars are reportedly attracting interest from far and wide.

 

TOP STORY – BARCA EYE BERNARDO SILVA

LaLiga champions Barcelona are targeting Manchester City star Bernardo Silva, according to the Transfer Window Podcast.

The report comes following City's Champions League suspension handed down to the Premier League giants by UEFA.

City team-mate Raheem Sterling has already been linked to Real Madrid.

 

ROUND-UP

- Marca says Madrid are ready to make a move for Rennes teenager Eduardo Camavinga. The 17-year-old has starred for the Ligue 1 outfit and is reportedly valued at €70million.

Paul Pogba has also been linked to Madrid but Goal claims he could be offered a new contract by Manchester United, who expect the Frenchman to leave at the end of the season. Former club Juventus are also reportedly tracking the midfielder.

Paris Saint-Germain are looking to either Juventus head coach Maurizio Sarri or Massimiliano Allegri amid uncertainty over the future of Thomas Tuchel, reports La Gazzetta dello Sport.

- Lille defender Gabriel is being monitored by Arsenal, Everton, PSG and now Leicester City, according to Le10 Sport.

- The Mirror says Arsenal are set to raise transfer funds through the sale of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and potentially Matteo Guendouzi as the Gunners eye Valencia's Carlos Soler and RB Leipzig defender Dayot Upamecano.

Manuel Neuer was "relieved" after Bayern Munich survived a scare against Bundesliga's bottom team Paderborn thanks to Robert Lewandowski's brace.

Lewandowski scored twice – including the 88th-minute winner – as Bayern maintained their lead atop the table with a hard-fought 3-2 victory on Friday.

Bayern twice saw a one-goal lead erased by lowly Paderborn but managed to see off the visitors in unconvincing fashion at Allianz Arena.

Reflecting on the result, which ensured Bayern will remain top of the standings ahead of RB Leipzig, goalkeeper Neuer said: "I'm really relieved!

"The three points had been our goal. It was important to keep our foot on the gas and to believe we can win the match. It was annoying that we had to toil after the second equaliser.

"We achieved it together, it was a team effort. We had to change our formation a bit due to the one-match bans, so it was clear we couldn't play as we had in the last few weeks."

German champions Bayern are on a nine-match unbeaten streak in the Bundesliga, without a loss since December 7.

"I'm satisfied with the result," Bayern head coach Hansi Flick said. "Paderborn pushed us to our limits. We tried everything after the second equaliser.

"A compliment to my team, we fought. It's part of it to put up a fight as a team after setbacks and to force victories. We switched to a back three, so it was clear not everything would work out perfectly. We allowed them hardly any chances in the first half, but we didn't finish our moves well in some situations. We addressed that at half-time.

"It wasn't an easy match, but we'd told the team beforehand. Paderborn play well, they try again and again to find positive solutions and attack with determination. At the end of the day I'm glad we've taken three points."

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