Serie A has confirmed a one-match partial stadium closure for Hellas Verona after supporters racially abused Brescia's Mario Balotelli, while the club have banned their head ultra for 11 years after defending the discriminatory chants.

Balotelli kicked the ball into the stands and threatened to walk off the pitch in the second half of his side's 2-1 defeat at Stadio Marcantonio Bentegodi on Sunday after hearing monkey chants.

The referee brought play to a halt before following protocol, with a statement read out in an attempt to resolve the situation, and Balotelli was persuaded to play on, later scoring Brescia's goal.

But Verona coach Ivan Juric subsequently insisted there was no racist chanting, while the club's president claimed he did not hear any abuse, and Luca Castellini – the head of their ultras – was involved in a controversial radio interview.

In the conversation, Castellini said the racial element was only "in [Balotelli's] own head", that Balotelli cannot be considered "completely Italian" and the fans' chants were to "make fun" of the striker, rather than racially abuse him.

Serie A's disciplinary commission on Tuesday confirmed the closure of the Poltrone Est stand by way of punishment, opting against more severe sanctions because the chants only came from that sector.

The confirmation of the punishment came shortly after Verona released a statement condemning Castellini's comments and barring him from attending matches until June 30, 2030 for "expressions seriously contrary to those that distinguish the ethical principles and values of our club".

Matthijs de Ligt will miss Juventus' Champions League clash with Lokomotiv Moscow due to an ankle injury.

After scoring the winner in the derby against Torino in Serie A on Saturday, centre-back De Ligt was diagnosed with "a slightly sprained left ankle".

The 20-year-old was consequently left out of a Juve team that will clinch qualification from Group D with a victory over Lokomotiv in Moscow.

Maurizio Sarri will hope to have De Ligt available to face AC Milan at Allianz Stadium on Sunday.

Adrien Rabiot was included in the 20-man group for the trip to Russia after sitting out the 1-0 victory over Torino because of a suspension.

Antonio Conte has challenged his Inter side to play with "personality" in Tuesday's mouth-watering Champions League clash with Borussia Dortmund.

Inter ran out 2-0 winners over the Bundesliga outfit a fortnight ago to leave both sides on four points in Group F, three points behind leaders Barcelona.

Conte believes Barca are assured of a place in the knockout stages and knows his side will have to stand strong in the face of a red-hot atmosphere at Signal Iduna Park to ensure they join them in the last 16.

"It's an important match as we are on equal points," he told a media conference. "Barcelona have already guaranteed their place. 

"We were good when we beat [Dortmund] at home and we know the difficulties we will face tomorrow. We face a strong and proven club, who have been in the Champions League for many years. 

"The environment will be hot and electric; we know what motivation Dortmund fans can give to their players. It will be important for us to play with personality.

"We want to play offensively everywhere. If it is a defensive game, it will be only because Dortmund have forced us to do it. Our mentality is to always hurt the opponent. We always want to attack."

Meanwhile, Conte had strong words for the Hellas Verona supporters who racially abused Brescia striker Mario Balotelli in Sunday's Serie A clash, describing them as "ignorant" and "morons".

Former Inter star Balotelli kicked the ball angrily towards Verona supporters early in the second half after hearing abuse, before threatening to walk off the pitch.

The referee brought play to a halt before following protocol, with a statement read out to the crowd in an attempt to resolve the issue.

Balotelli was persuaded to stay on and see out the game by team-mates and Verona players, before he scored a stunning late goal in Brescia's 2-1 defeat at Stadio Marcantonio Bentegodi.

"I was not in the stadium, but I believe it is necessary to be very strict and inflexible," Conte said. "We must punish these ignorant people. The morons must be punished. It is absurd that, in 2019, we are still faced with things like this."

Napoli head coach Carlo Ancelotti has praised Mario Balotelli's reaction to the racist abuse he received during Brescia's Serie A clash with Hellas Verona on Sunday.

Balotelli kicked the ball angrily towards Verona supporters early in the second half after hearing abuse, before threatening to walk off the pitch.

The referee brought play to a halt before following protocol, with a statement read out to the crowd in an attempt to resolve the issue.

Balotelli was persuaded to stay on and see out the game by team-mates and Verona players, before the former Manchester City and Inter striker scored a stunning late goal in Brescia's 2-1 defeat at Stadio Marcantonio Bentegodi.

Ancelotti believes Balotelli was right to highlight the abuse and suggested the stoppage shows football is making advances in its efforts to combat racism.

Speaking ahead of Napoli's Champions League clash with RB Salzburg on Tuesday, Ancelotti said: "He did the right thing, he had the right reaction.

"There have already been a couple of episodes when the match has been stopped, so we are on the right path."

Ancelotti's Napoli are top of Champions League Group E and will qualify for the knockout stages if they beat Salzburg while Genk fail to beat Liverpool in the pool's other game.

The former AC Milan coach says it would be "exceptional" if they qualified with two games to spare but the experienced boss is refusing to get carried away.

"The Champions League is a way shorter competition than Serie A," he added. "For this reason, we have to be focused and our first goal is to go through.

"If we can manage it with two matchdays to spare, it would be exceptional. Tomorrow we have this chance and all our energy will be spent on getting it done. Then we will see.

"Many things can change and usually the Champions League is decided on little details."

The writing has long been on the wall for Gareth Bale.

Zinedine Zidane wanted him gone from Real Madrid before the previous transfer window closed, but a move did not materialise.

But as the January window approaches, Bale is reportedly ready to leave.

 

TOP STORY – GARETH WANTS TO BALE

Gareth Bale wants to leave Real Madrid in January amid links to the Chinese Super League, according to Cadena Ser.

Bale was poised to make a shock switch to China after being told to move on by Madrid head coach Zinedine Zidane, though the Welshman remained at the Santiago Bernabeu.

However, Bale is reportedly desperate for a January exit and wants Madrid to listen to offers from the CSL.

 

ROUND-UP

- According to Calciomercato, Zlatan Ibrahimovic has offered himself to former club Juventus. Bologna have confirmed their interest in the LA Galaxy striker, whose contract is set to expire. A-League team Perth Glory want to bring the 38-year-old to Australia. Ibrahimovic spent two years at Juventus, however, the Serie A champions are reportedly not prepared to bring back the veteran as they look to trim their squad in January.

Roma are close to reaching an agreement with Manchester United for on-loan defender Chris Smalling. Calciomercato reports the Serie A side are preparing to present a €17million (£14.6m) offer for the Englishman.

William Saliba is yet to play a match for Arsenal but he could already be on the move. Saliba signed for the Gunners in July before he was immediately loaned back to Saint-Etienne for the 2019-20 season. However, Defensa Central claims Real Madrid are eyeing the 18-year-old French defender. Monaco's Benoit Badiashile and Boubacar Kamara of Marseille are also on the list to potentially replace Raphael Varane.

- The Telegraph says Liverpool midfielder Adam Lallana is a target for clubs in the Chinese Super League and MLS. Lallana is out of contract at the end of the season.

Ronald Koeman dominates the frontpage of Monday's SPORT newspaper. The Netherlands boss is heavily linked to Barcelona having revealed a release clause in his contract, and amid growing pressure on head coach Ernesto Valverde .

- Former Juventus head coach Massimiliano Allegri and ex-Arsenal midfielder Mikel Arteta are among the candidates to replace Unai Emery should the Gunners sack the Spaniard, according to the Mirror. Allegri has also been linked to Bayern Munich and Manchester United, while Arteta is serving as Pep Guardiola's Manchester City assistant. Jose Mourinho has also reportedly emerged as an option.

Brescia have sacked head coach Eugenio Corini as the club languish in the Serie A's relegation zone.

Sunday's 2-1 loss at Hellas Verona proved to be the final straw for Brescia's hierarchy, with the Italian side one point adrift of safety after 10 games.

Brescia turned to former Juventus and Napoli midfielder Corini in September last year as the club struggled in Serie B.

Corini – who emerged from Brescia's youth team in 1986 and enjoyed two spells with his boyhood club – led the squad to an unexpected promotion to Italy's top flight last season.

However, three consecutive defeats and six games without a win prompted Brescia to part with the 49-year-old.

AC Milan head coach Stefano Pioli believes his side are moving in the right direction despite suffering a sixth loss in just 11 Serie A matches this season.

Lazio beat Milan 2-1 at San Siro on Sunday, Joaquin Correa's 83rd-minute winner proving decisive as the victors climbed to fourth in the standings.

Milan remained mired in midtable mediocrity, sitting 11th, and they are already eight points off the European places and 16 behind leaders Juventus.

Pioli only took over from Marco Giampaolo in October and feels the Rossoneri are getting better, even if results remain mixed.

"In my view, the team is improving," former Inter boss Pioli told Sky Sport Italia.

"Of course, for the table and the situation, it was important to win, but the performance was there tonight.

"We took a few risks in order to create danger for the opponents, matching them all the way to the end, and I believe we are on the right path now.

"All we can do is keep improving along these lines. I saw a team that fought hard for 95 minutes. I did not see a team that was struggling, afraid or let their heads drop.

"We do still make a lot of mistakes, such as passing when we should keep it, and vice versa, but I saw these players looking anxious and afraid when I arrived. I don't see that in them now."

Pioli also made a point of mentioning Rafael Leao, who he felt failed to impact the contest off the bench.

"I expected more from him tonight. When coming on, he was meant to give changes of pace, fresh energy, work with the team," he added.

"He has a lot of potential, but he absolutely has to do more. His contribution tonight was not up to his standards."

Lazio coach Simone Inzaghi was happy with his side after they won a Serie A match at Milan for the first time since 1989.

"We won an important game, I think deservedly, against a side that in my view had a good performance but Lazio played very well and did everything to win," Inzaghi told Sky Sport Italia.

"It wasn't easy after the equaliser but we wanted to break this 30-year taboo, especially as we won here last season in the Coppa Italia semi-final.

"I told my players we needed more hunger and determination than Milan."

Ciro Immobile scored his 100th Lazio goal in the victory, which helped the capital club move above Atalanta in the table and within one point of third-placed rivals Roma.

Brescia striker Mario Balotelli says those who deny he was racially abused during Sunday's Serie A match at Hellas Verona are not "real men".

Balotelli kicked the ball angrily towards Verona supporters early in the second half after hearing abuse, before threatening to walk off the pitch.

The referee brought play to a halt before following protocol, with a statement read out to the crowd in an attempt to resolve the issue.

Balotelli was persuaded to stay on and see out the game by team-mates and Verona players, with the former Manchester City and Inter Milan striker going on to score a stunning late goal in Brescia's 2-1 defeat at Stadio Marcantonio Bentegodi.

Speaking after the game, Verona's head coach Ivan Juric and president Maurizio Setti claimed they heard no abuse directed at Balotelli, with the former stating: "I'm not afraid to say it: today, there was nothing, no racist booing."

Alongside a video showing his reaction to the abuse and his goal on Instagram, Balotelli wrote: "Thanks to all the colleagues on and off the field for the solidarity expressed toward me and all of the messages received from fans. A heartfelt thanks. You've shown yourself to be real men, not like those who deny the evidence."

Balotelli also reposted a video taken by a fan of him being abused, and the Italy international wrote: "To the 'people' in this end who made the monkey noises: shame on you. Shame on you. Shame on you in front of your children, wives, parents, relatives, friends and acquaintances…shame."

The result leaves Brescia in the relegation zone, with the club announcing after the game they had sacked head coach Eugenio Corini.

Goals from Joaquin Correa and Ciro Immobile helped Lazio to a 2-1 win at AC Milan on Sunday that saw them climb to fourth in the Serie A table.

The victory was Lazio's first away from home against Milan in Serie A since September 1989, ending a 29-match winless run in the fixture.

Immobile's 100th Lazio goal put the capital club in the lead but mid-table Milan quickly levelled after Krzysztof Piatek's flick was diverted into his own net by Bastos.

After an end-to-end first half, both sides struggled for momentum after the interval and it took an exquisite pass from Luis Alberto to set up Lazio's winner.

The Spaniard cleverly found Correa and he did the rest, charging into the penalty area to slot an 83rd-minute winner.

Immobile started the match with 12 Serie A goals this season - two more than Milan - and after starting brightly, he hit the crossbar with a curling 22nd-minute effort.

The prolific striker was not to be denied and gave Lazio the lead with a superb glancing header from Manuel Lazzari's terrific cross from the right.

Lazio were more than deserving of their lead but were pegged back in the 28th minute through Bastos' own goal, and Milan were inches away from taking the lead when Hakan Calhanoglu's corner caught goalkeeper Thomas Strakosha off guard and nearly crept in.

Goalmouth action was minimal after the break but Lazio thought they had won a penalty after a challenge from Theo Hernandez on Lazzari. Referee Gianpaolo Calvarese was not interested, though.

Milan goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma was alert to keep out a good Francesco Acerbi effort, too, as Lazio pressed for a match-winning goal.

And it came seven minutes from time when Alberto picked out Correa and the Argentina international calmly scored his third goal in five matches.

What it means

While Lazio moved up to fourth, Milan's indifferent start to the season is shown by the fact they sit 11th, already 16 points behind league leaders Juventus.

Immobile's milestone night

The Lazio striker showed why he is Serie A's top scorer with another terrific performance. Immobile's movement for his first-half header was outstanding, the forward cleverly creating space with a darting run before heading home in style. He could have easily scored more than once and linked superbly with the equally sharp Luis Alberto.

Tears of frustration

Milan midfielder Samuel Castillejo looked lively and creative in the early stages. The 24-year-old is pushing to be a first-team regular for Milan but was forced off with injury in the 36th minute and he was emotional as a result.

What's next?

Lazio host Celtic in a crucial UEFA Europa League fixture on Thursday, while Milan have all week to prepare for a tricky trip to Juventus on Sunday.

Goals from Joaquin Correa and Ciro Immobile helped Lazio to a 2-1 win at AC Milan on Sunday that saw them climb to fourth in the Serie A table.

Immobile's 100th Lazio goal put the capital club in the lead but mid-table Milan quickly levelled after Krzysztof Piatek's flick was diverted into his own net by Bastos.

After an end-to-end first half, both sides struggled for momentum after the interval and it took an exquisite pass from Luis Alberto to set up Lazio's winner.

The Spaniard cleverly found Correa and he did the rest, charging into the penalty area to slot an 83rd-minute winner.

Hellas Verona president Maurizio Setti says he did not hear any racist abuse aimed towards Brescia striker Mario Balotelli during Sunday's Serie A clash.

Balotelli kicked the ball angrily towards Verona supporters early in the second half after hearing abuse, before threatening to walk off the pitch.

The referee brought play to a halt before following protocol, with a statement read out to the crowd in an attempt to resolve the issue.

Balotelli was persuaded to stay on and see out the game by team-mates and Verona players, with the former Manchester City and Inter Milan striker going on to score a stunning late goal in Brescia's 2-1 defeat at Stadio Marcantonio Bentegodi.

Setti insists he did not hear any of the abuse, and he rejects accusations that Verona supporters are racist.

"We did not hear anything," Setti told reporters. "I arrived in Verona eight years ago and immediately saw that the Verona fans are ironic, but absolutely not racist. When Balotelli made his debut here for AC Milan six years ago there were episodes of racism, and we condemned it. We have always done.

"It is wrong to generalise and speak for all 20,000 fans when a couple of people have said something. If there are two or three people who have said something, we are ready to take action against them because we condemn any episode of this type.

"But to speak of Verona as we were 30 years ago is wrong. We are a club that only has sport in our real DNA. There are many players of colour who wear the Gialloblu from the youth team to the first.

"Racism is a path that doesn't exist for us and Verona is not a correct position for generalisations. In eight years of my presidency, you could confirm this. The attitude of our fans is absolutely correct."

Verona coach Ivan Juric shares Setti's view, earlier telling Sky Sport Italia: "I'm not afraid to say it: today, there was nothing, no racist booing.

"There was a lot of booing and teasing of a great player, but there was nothing really racist today."

Hellas Verona head coach Ivan Juric insists fans did not racially abuse Brescia striker Mario Balotelli in Sunday's Serie A match.

Balotelli kicked the ball into the stands and threatened to walk off the pitch in the second half of his side's 2-1 defeat at Stadio Marcantonio Bentegodi.

The referee brought play to a halt before following protocol, with a statement read out in an attempt to resolve the issue.

After appeals from his team-mates and Verona players, Balotelli decided to stay on the pitch and see out the game.

The striker, who has had a fractious relationship with Verona fans, went on to score a stunning goal five minutes from time and there were chants of support for the player from large sections of the crowd after the initial incident.

Croatian Juric, a former Genoa player and coach who has been subjected to discriminatory chants in his time in Italy, admits there is a serious problem with racism in the country but is adamant the taunts aimed at Balotelli were not of that nature.

"I'm not afraid to say it: today, there was nothing, no racist booing," Juric said to Sky Sport Italia.

"There was a lot of booing and teasing of a great player, but there was nothing really racist today.

"I am Croatian, and I've often heard 's***** gypsy', so chants like this and racist insults make me sick. The whole of Italy is moving in this direction, but there was nothing at all today."

When asked why Balotelli reacted in such a way if he had not been racially abused, Juric replied: "You'll have to ask him. I only heard teasing, nothing else.

"I have no problem reporting allegations if there are any, even those against our own fans. This is something that can't be accepted in 2019. But, today, there was nothing at all.

"I repeat, I am the first to condemn racism, but today I only heard a lot of jeering of a great player.

"We're not talking about racism, because that's a lie. We're not creating a case where there isn't one."

In his post-match news conference, Juric added: "I think, on a human level, being racist is an absolute low. In this case, I don't think anything has happened. I spoke with the fourth official, too.

"There was only teasing of a great player. I don't want to say anything against Mario. It may have happened to him elsewhere."

Mario Balotelli almost walked off the pitch during Brescia's Serie A visit to Hellas Verona on Sunday after being subjected to racial abuse.

The 29-year-old kicked the ball into the stands and started to walk off during the second half of his side's 2-1 defeat at Stadio Marcantonio Bentegodi.

The referee brought play to a halt before following protocol, with a statement read out in an attempt to resolve the issue.

After appeals from his team-mates and Verona players, Balotelli decided to stay on the pitch and see out the game.

Chants of support for Balotelli from large parts of the crowd were heard after the incident.

The former Manchester City and AC Milan striker, who has historically had a fractious relationship with Hellas Verona supporters, went on to score in the 85th minute.

Out of work and looking for a job – Massimiliano Allegri could be poised for a return to the dugout.

Allegri left Juventus at the end of 2018-19 after guiding the Old Lady to five consecutive Serie A titles.

The Italian coach has been linked to Manchester United but, with Niko Kovac on the brink at Bayern Munich, Allegri could find himself in Bavaria.

 

TOP STORY – BAYERN GO FOR ALLEGRI

Bayern Munich want former Juventus head coach Massimiliano Allegri to replace Niko Kovac, according to Corriere dello Sport.

Kovac is on the verge of being sacked after Bayern's humiliating 5-1 defeat to Eintracht Frankfurt on Saturday, with the Bundesliga champions cancelling Sunday's public training session as pressure mounts.

Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino and Ajax's Erik ten Hag have been linked but Bayern have reportedly identified the man to take over in Munich.

 

ROUND-UP

- The Mirror claims Manchester United are ready to hijack Liverpool's move for RB Leipzig striker Timo Werner. Champions League holders Liverpool have been linked to Werner, however, United want to bring the Germany international to Old Trafford in January.

Perth Glory are still optimistic they can lure Zlatan Ibrahimovic to Australia, reports The West Australian. After revealing an approach for Ibrahimovic on a guest-player contract, A-League side Perth have seen Serie A outfit Bologna confirm their interest in the 38-year-old striker ahead of the January transfer window. Ibrahimovic's LA Galaxy contract will expire before the end of the year.

Tottenham are eyeing a January swoop for Ajax goalkeeper Andre Onana. With Hugo Lloris out injured, Spurs are on the lookout for a new keeper and £35million could see Eredivisie champions Ajax sell the Cameroon international.

- According to the Guardian, Arsenal have joined United and Juventus in the transfer chase for Salzburg sensation Erling Haaland.

- Mundo Deportivo says Barcelona have dropped their interest in Inter centre-back Milan Skriniar. The Slovakia international has established himself as one of the best defenders in the world since joined Inter in 2017.

United and Paris Saint-Germain are leading the race to sign Juventus midfielder Emre Can, according to Corriere dello Sport.

Juventus head coach Maurizio Sarri said it is "premature" to describe the Serie A title race as a two-horse race between the defending champions and Inter.

Saturday's 1-0 Derby della Mole win away to Torino saw Sarri's Juve return to the top of the table ahead of rivals Inter.

Matthijs de Ligt's second-half goal ensured Juve stayed a point clear of Inter following 11 games, after the latter edged Bologna 2-1.

However, Sarri dismissed suggestions the Scudetto battle is now a fight between Juve and Inter, with Atalanta able to close within four points of the lead by beating Cagliari on Sunday.

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