Shipped from abroad, Italy: Inter loses, becomes the most important team in Italy

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Bizarro Juve showed up again, but we’ve decided to accept them for what they are. They’re a team that, despite their undefeated record, can give up an 85th minute equalizer on home soil to a 10-man relegation battler. If we were looking at the score in isolation, the result would surprise nobody, through how it came about was shocking. Electrocute-ingly shocking.

If there has been one constant this season, it’s been Gigi Buffon – arguably Europe’s best `keeper throughout the 2011-12 campaign. Juventus’s 19 goals allowed are nine (NINE!) less than anybody else in Italy, a number that includes the score he gifted Lecce on Wednesday. Buffon’s error – and it was a huge one (see below) – conceded the game tying goal to Luis Muriel, leaving the Old Lady with only one point from the league’s 18th-ranked team.

Milan, on the other hand, got a strong three points from an Atlanta side that would be in the race for Europe had they not been forced to give six points back to the house. Robinho’s late score provided insurance to Sulley Muntari’s early opener, bookend goals being as seminal a format to late-season soccer as ABABCB is to pop music.

And so it is that a team with five more losses than the league’s leaders will go into the weekend only one point back. Unfortunately, while Juventus travels to 14th place Cagliari, Milan will face their biggest rivals – an Inter Milan side that’s clawed their way back into Europe-contention despite being on their third coach.

That coach, Andrea Stramaccioni, suffered his first loss on Wednesday. Three second half goals, including one from former Inter trainee Jonathan Biabiany, leave Inter three back of a Champions League spot. Thankfully, they remain slotted for Europa League, but having been dealt their first major set back under Stramaccioni ahead of their biggest game, their ability to bounce back suddenly becomes the most important facet of Serie A soccer.

If Inter was looking beyond Parma to Milan, they may still be a side that can pave Juventus’s road to the scudetto. If, however, the air’s out of the balloon, Milan’s run-in has suddenly become a lot easier.

Five losses worse than the team you’re chasing: It’s not your typical title defense.

Tuesday’s results
Chievo 0-0 Roma
Napoli 2-0 Palermo

Wednesday’s results
Milan 2-0 Atalanta
Catania 0-1 Bologna
Genoa 2-1 Cagliari
Parma 3-1 Inter Milan
Juventus 1-1 Lecce
Fiorentina 2-2 Novara
Lazio 1-1 Siena
Cesena 0-1 Udinese

Races

Champions League: Juventus (78 points, 36 games), Milan (77, 36), Napoli (58, 36)

Europa League: Udinese (58, 36), Lazio (56, 36), Inter Milan (55, 36)

Survival (relegation): Genoa (39, 36), Lecce (36, 36)

Player Taunts Coach; Coach Attacks Player

The big story out of Italy is not the title race but Delio Rossi. The Fiorentina manager – strike that, former Fiorentina manager – took a swing at one of this players on Wednesday. Yes – ee tried to punch one of his players in the middle of a game.

The moment came near the half-hour mark when Rossi, looking to change his team after falling behind two goals early, brought off Adam Ljajic, seeking to replace him with Ruben Olivera. Ljajic responded with an incredibly rude but not original sarcastic clap directed at his coach.

Rossi’s response? He attacked Ljajic, choking him in the dugout before taking a swing at him.

It really is the type of composure you want from people in management positions, though one itsy, bitsy detail is important: Ljajic is 20. Rossi is 52.

Can you imagine getting into a fist-fight with one of your Dad’s friends at an AYSO game?

Good times.

After the match, Rossi was dismissed, an easy choice for a club that sits a disappointing 14th. Rossi’s reaction may have also been a function of that disappointment, with the former Palermo-man bringing only minimal improvements to Florence since his November appointment.

Elsewhere in Italy

  • Rome is still crumbling. Lazio’s now winless in five. Roma: four. Were it not for Roma being seventh (the next team in line for Europe), Lazio might actually be in danger of falling from a Champions League to outside Europa. Six points up on eighth-place Parma, they’re probably safe.
  • Lazio was part of a four-way tie (on points) for third coming into the week. Now, Napoli holds that last Champions League spot, having taken four points from Udinese this season.

Up next: Expect some offshore drilling of Sunday’s big match at the San Siro, a match that overshadows the rest of the league’s weekend. However, a win by Juve (at Cagliari) coupled with a loss or draw by Milan will give the Old Lady the title.

Highlights fun

Buffon’s boo boo, courtesy of Al-Jazeera.

Want more shipped from abroad? OK, click here – but it’s coming COD.

Gareth Barry’s historic longevity: Incredible stats, top goals

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Gareth Barry is expected to make Premier League history on Monday.

If Barry, 36, appears (he is expected to start) for West Bromwich Albion in their game against Arsenal (Watch live, 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) at the Emirates Stadium he will make his 633rd appearance in the PL, breaking Ryan Giggs‘ record.

After making his PL debut in the 1997-98 campaign for Aston Villa, Barry has gone on to play for Manchester City, Everton and now West Brom who he signed for in the summer.

In a recent interview the left-footer said he could go on playing until the age of 40 but he only has a contract through the end of this season at the Hawthorns after turning down a new two-year deal at Everton.

The midfielder, a former England international, won an FA Cup and a Premier League title while at Man City and has played as a left back, center back and in central midfield. Steady, composed and dependable, Barry is the kind of seasoned pro who are worth their weight in gold.

In the video above you can watch Barry’s top five goals in the Premier League, while below are some incredible stats from his near 20-year career in England’s top-flight.

  • Most starts in Premier League history: 600
  • Most minutes played: 52,871
  • Most yellow cards: 119
  • Ranked 10th all-time in wins with 261
  • 17 current PL players were not born when Barry made his Premier League debut on May 3, 1998

Trio of USWNT players stay in locker room for national anthem

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USWNT players Megan Rapinoe, Sydney Leroux and Becky Sauerbrunn were among players from both the Seattle Reign and FC Kansas City who did not appear for the national anthem at a NWSL game on Sunday.

Rapinoe was the first USWNT player to kneel during the national anthem as she joined the protests led by NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick calling for racial equality and against police brutality.

With several NFL teams on Sunday taking a knee during the anthem and the Pitstburgh Steelers, Tennessee Titans and Seattle Seahawks staying in the locker room during the playing of the Star Spangled Banner, U.S. President Donald Trump has responded angrily to sports teams who decided to kneel during the national anthem.

Here’s more info from Sounder At Heart on SB Nation:

This time Megan Rapinoe is not alone. Several players from both teams joined her, staying in the locker room during the flag and anthem ceremony.

Elli Reed, Megan Rapinoe, Madalyn Schiffel, Lauren Barnes and Diana Matheson from the Reign did not take the field. Former Sounders/Reign player Sydney Leroux was among the FCKC starters who were not out for the ceremonies. Yael Averbuch, Becky Sauerbrunn, and Desiree Scott round out that group. Sauerbrunn is currently the United States captain. Leroux and Rapinoe are both regulars with the USWNT.

With U.S. Soccer bringing in a new bylaw earlier this year which states players must stand for the national anthem, could we see male and female U.S. stars following this option by not going out onto the pitch for the national anthem in upcoming international games?

All eyes will be on USWNT captain Sauerbrunn, plus midfielder Rapinoe and Leroux, during the anthem when Jill Ellis’ side play against South Korea on Oct. 19 and Oct. 22.

The actions of Bruce Arena’s USMNT side will also be heavily scrutinized ahead of their upcoming World Cup qualifiers against Panama and Trinidad & Tobago on Oct. 6 and Oct. 10 respectively.

Valencia coach Marcelino pulls muscle celebrating winner

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MADRID (AP) It was a bittersweet celebration for Valencia coach Marcelino after his team’s winning goal against Real Sociedad in the Spanish league on Sunday.

Marcelino pulled a thigh muscle in his left leg while celebrating Simone Zaza‘s 85th-minute winner at Anoeta Stadium.

Marcelino put his hand on the back of his leg and immediately started limping, visibly in pain.

Television images later showed him wincing in pain on the bench, and he limped every time he went out to the coach’s area to give instructions to his players.

“I’m older, I need to control myself in certain situations,” the 52-year-old Marcelino said, with a smile. “When it’s the coach getting injured, it’s not a problem.”

Valencia won 3-2 to stay unbeaten and move to fourth place in the standings.

Antonio Conte admits he misses Italy, plans to return home

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This is not exactly what Chelsea’s fans will want to hear on a Monday morning after a resounding 4-0 win at Stoke as the Blues moved up to third in the Premier League table.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Antonio Conte, who delivered the Premier League title in his first season in charge of the Blues, and his first season in England, in 2016-17, has been speaking of his desire to return to his homeland.

Conte, 48, spoke to Italian radio station RadioUno about his experience in the Premier League and left the door wide-open for a return to Serie A in the coming months as he admitted he misses Italy.

“I miss it, that’s beyond doubt,” Conte said. “Italy is my homeland, so once I have had some good experiences, formative experiences, important and life-changing experiences, I’ll be back. I don’t know when but that’s the aim.

“It’s always difficult to predict the future. Us managers have the most precarious job of all. Today you’re working, tomorrow you’re out. I want to succeed, to finish one project and make the right decision about the next. This experience has given me so much, has improved me so much, but perhaps in the future I won’t be a manager. Perhaps I’ll work as a director of football. I don’t know.”

Conte has been linked with the managers job at Inter Milan and with comments like this, those links will not go away.

Adding further fuel to the fire was his decision to only signed an improved contract over the summer rather than extending his stay at Stamford Bridge. Conte’s current deal is due to expire at the end of the 2018-19 season.

After a tough summer and a tough start to the season which saw a feud with Diego Costa dominate the talk surrounding Chelsea, a loss to Arsenal in the Community Shield, an opening day defeat at home to Burnley, plus some questionable dealings in the transfer market, the pressure was piling on Conte.

His team have responded with five wins in their next six games in all competitions and are right up there with the early pacesetters in the Premier League.

That said, the fact that Conte was under any pressure whatsoever was a joke considering what he had achieved last season when nobody expected Chelsea to seriously challenge for the title. Therein lies why he could want out when his current deal at Chelsea is up, or maybe even sooner than that.

In situations like this I often think about what Eric Cantona did: leave before anybody else expects you to and you’ll go out, and remain, a hero.