Juventus face Cagliari on opening weekend of new Serie A season

Juventus will host Cagliari in their first match of the new Serie A season, while Roma take on Atalanta and AC Milan play Crotone.

Italian champions Juventus will play Cagliari on the opening weekend of the Serie A season, while AC Milan visit Crotone and Roma travel to Atalanta.

Massimiliano Allegri’s side start their title defence at home on the weekend of August 19/20 and will hope to repeat last season’s 4-0 victory over Cagliari, when Gonzalo Higuain was among the goalscorers.

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Meanwhile, Milan’s high-profile signings Leonardo Bonucci, Lucas Biglia and Andre Silva will have their first chance to impress against last season’s 17th-placed side Crotone.

The pick of the first round of matches sees last season’s seventh and eighth-placed sides face each other as Fiorentina travel to Inter.

Initially, midweek fixtures have been set for September 20, October 25 and April 18, with the season finishing on May 20, 2018.

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Higuain: I need to score more in Europe

The Argentine striker agrees with his boss Massimiliano Allegri’s assessment that he should score more goals in the Champions League

Gonzalo Higuain knows he needs to improve his Champions League scoring record and says Juventus are determined to make amends for their defeat in last season’s final.

The Argentine striker has scored 18 goals in Europe’s top competition over the course of his career at Real Madrid, Napoli and Juventus, five of which came last season, when the Bianconeri were beaten 4-1 by Zinedine Zidane’s Blancos in the final.

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Higuain’s return from 12 games in Europe last term pales in comparison to Lionel Messi’s 11 goals from nine games, or Cristiano Ronaldo’s 12 in 13, and he agreed with Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri’s assertion that he can improve.

“Allegri says I need to score more in the Champions League? He’s right,” the 29-year-old was quoted as saying by Football Italia.

“We’re thinking of the new year, which will be harder and longer. We’re motivated and we really want to make up for last year.

“I always want to win and score more, even if we’d won the Champions League last year we couldn’t have let up.”

Higuain Juventus Real Madrid

Ronaldo’s pair of goals either side of half-time badly damaged the hopes of a Juventus side that had conceded just three times en route to the final in Cardiff, but Higuain is keen for his team-mates to bury those memory by going one better in 2017-18.

“We had a very good approach, for the first 10 or 15 minutes we were better than Madrid,” he said.

“In the second half they were more angry, we relaxed and they massacred us. We could have done more, but the past is the past.

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“Allegri is right when he says the final shouldn’t discredit our whole season. In two days we went from being the best team in Europe to an ordinary one.

“We don’t feel like the best team in Europe, but we’re not ordinary either. We can fight with the best.”

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‘I can’t put a gun to his head’ – Higuain wants Dybala to snub Barcelona

The Argentine attacker has been reported as the main target to replace Neymar at Camp Nou, but his team-mate hopes he continues to develop in Italy

Juventus striker Gonzalo Higuain is eager for Paulo Dybala to ignore reported interest from Barcelona but admits that he “can’t point a gun at his head and tell him to stay”.

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Dybala has been linked with a move to Camp Nou as a replacement for Neymar, should the Brazil star complete a world-record €222 million switch to Paris Saint-Germain.

Higuain, who spent six years in La Liga with Real Madrid, understands the attraction of joining one of the country’s top clubs but insists that his team-mate would be better served by staying in Turin.

“Dybala is at a delicate age,” he told La Gazzetta dello Sport. “I went to Real Madrid at 19 and I was there until I was 25, but I was at an important club for a long time.

Paulo Dybala Juventus

Dybala Higuain Empoli Juventus Serie A

“Everyone wants to play with great players and I can’t point a gun at his head and tell him to stay. Everyone should do what makes them happy, just like he is here. We all want him to stay.

“Last year we were convinced we could win [the Champions League] and we got to the final; this year will be tougher because other teams have strengthened.

“He shouldn’t just stay to win the Champions League, but for the seventh Scudetto and a fourth Coppa Italia in a row. If we then get that particular trophy, so much the better.

“He’s been at Juve for two years, he has consistency here. He’s young, he’s very happy here, the club and the fans all love him, as do we, and Juve helped him grow.

“Paulo will know what’s best for him to do.”

Juve have already suffered the loss of a high-profile first-team star, with centre-back Leonardo Bonucci having made a shock move to AC Milan.

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Higuain is confident his side can cope without the Italy international, though, and has warned his old team-mate that he will not prevent him from scoring.

“Bonucci helped Juve to win for many years,” said the Argentina forward. “Now he’s gone to a direct rival but we are still very strong. We have the players to make sure we won’t feel his absence.

“Bonucci will be hungry but we will have the same determination to try to win a seventh title in a row. When he plays against me, I’ll score.”

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Ronaldo motivated by competition with Messi and Neymar: ‘We fight to be the best’

The forward named the Barcelona pair alongside an elite group of players who he believes push each other on to achieve greater things

Real Madrid star Cristiano Ronaldo says he is driven to be the best player in the world by the fear of being surpassed by the likes of Lionel Messi and Neymar.

The 32-year-old Portugal international, who won the Ballon d’Or in January, is a firm favourite to be crowned the world’s finest footballer for the fifth time following Madrid’s triumphs in La Liga and the Champions League in 2016-17.

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Ronaldo and long-time rival Messi have shared the Ballon d’Or and FIFA Ballon d’Or every year since 2008 and another triumph for the former Manchester United man would see him draw level with the Barcelona great on the all-time list.

And Ronaldo admits that the “healthy” competition between the world’s finest forwards, among whom he includes Bayern Munich’s Robert Lewandowski and Juventus’ Gonzalo Higuain, is what inspires him to strive for success.

“To mention one [player] is hard, but the level that I am is like in other sports: Formula One, NBA…The best players always follow the best players,” he told ESPN.

“They want to be in the top of the game because the other ones are there. You cannot rest, because the other ones will pass you.

“Of course we fight with everyone, with Neymar, with Messi, Lewandowski, Higuain, with the best players in the world. This is not ‘fighting’ but it’s healthy. We fight to be the best.

“It’s my motivation: to be better than them, year after year.”

Ronaldo has won 19 major trophies in a glittering career and was named by Forbes as the world’s highest-paid athlete in June this year, ahead of Messi and NBA star LeBron James.

However, the Madeira-born forward says the welfare of his family remains the most important thing in his life.

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He explained: “I was with Peter Lim, the owner of Valencia, and he said to me: ‘Cristiano, we have money, fame, everything. I have millions and billions. But the most important thing is family. Keep your family healthy, good. Take care of them’.

“You have your private life, your girlfriend, your cars, your houses, your fame, but in the beginning, your family is always with you, in good moments or bad moments.”

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Costa ‘has nothing to prove’ to Ancelotti after Juventus switch

Having finalised his move to the Serie A champions, the Brazilian has denied that he needs to show Bayern Munich that they have made a mistake

New Juventus signing Douglas Costa insists he has no problems with Carlo Ancelotti, but feels that he is joining “the perfect club at the perfect time”.

The Brazil international has switched to the Serie A champions from Bayern Munich on a season-long loan with the option of making the move permanent in 2018.

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Costa admitted last term that he was unsettled in Germany, although Bayern boss Ancelotti suggested that his comments came after pressure from his agent to attempt to broker a new contract at the club.

The 26-year-old has now said that he felt he could no longer develop at the Allianz Arena, but feels he has nothing to prove to his old club.

“I want to develop and I feel like I’ve joined the perfect team at the perfect time,” he told a media conference at his official Juve presentation.

“Problems with Ancelotti? No, he’s a good person. I’m thinking about myself, I want to develop and I didn’t have these possibilities at Bayern anymore. I’m very grateful to them.

“I don’t have to prove anything to them. I just want to show that Juve have done well to believe in me.”

Costa hopes to forge a devastating attacking partnership with Gonzalo Higuain in Turin, just as he did with compatriot Luiz Adriano at Shakhtar Donetsk between 2010 and 2015.

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“He’s an attacker that I really like,” he said. “There’s a good chance of scoring lot a lot of goals with him, just like there was with Luiz Adriano. That’s something else I can do here.”

Costa’s arrival comes just three days after Leonardo Bonucci completed a stunning move to Serie A rivals AC Milan for a reported €42million.

“I’m not in a position to evaluate this transfer,” Costa said of the deal. “He’s left Juve and I’ve left Bayern.”

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