Italy Soccer Serie A

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

Leave a comment

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.

Watford “Behind The Badge” airs third installment; Catch up on Episode 2 here

Leave a comment

Catch up on Watford’s look “Behind The Badge” ahead of Sunday’s third episode of the four-part glimpse into one of the Premier League’s promoted sides.

The Hornets sit 11th, currently 7 points clear of relegation danger, and are giving fans a better idea of what’s been going on at Vicarage Road.

[ MORE: Behind the Badge archive

In an exclusive series, NBC Sports followed around the Hornets in a very similar fashion to HBO’s Hard Knocks which joins the preseason camp of one NFL team each summer.

Below is the schedule for the three remaining episodes on Watford, which you can watch on NBCSN and live online via NBCSports.com in the coming weeks, plus a link to watch episode one in full from last week.


First episode: Watch full episode, here
Second episode: Embedded above
Third episode: Sunday, Dec. 11, 2 p.m. ET – NBCSN
Fourth episode: Sunday, Dec. 18, 2 p.m. ET – NBCSN

Follow @NicholasMendola

MLS Cup Final preview: Seattle, Toronto battle subzero temps for first Cup

Toronto FC captain Michael Bradley walks off the field after a training session, Friday, Dec. 9, 2016, in Toronto, for the MLS Cup soccer championship. Toronto hosts the Seattle Sounders on Saturday. (Chris Young/The Canadian Press via AP)
Chris Young/The Canadian Press via AP
Leave a comment
  • First MLS Cup Final for both
  • Sounders all-time 7W-2L-2T
  • TFC joined in 2007, Seattle 2009

It’ll be in the high twenties (-1 Celsius) when Toronto FC and Seattle Sounders kick off the MLS Cup Final on Saturday night in Ontario (Kickoff is Saturday at 8 p.m. EDT).

Combine the visible breath and slight chance of snow with a BMO Field which has been relentlessly loud throughut TFC’s playoff run, and we have the makings of an all-timer.

[ MORE: PST’s MLS Cup roundtable ]

Toronto and Seattle met up at the same venue on July 2, the 1-1 draw perhaps a bit deflated by the absence of Clint Dempsey for Seattle and TFC’s American duo of Michael Bradley and Jozy Altidore.

Seattle superstar Nicolas Lodeiro wasn’t there, either, still weeks away from arriving from Boca Juniors.

This is the second MLS Cup Final at BMO Field, after Colorado defeated FC Dallas in 2010. TFC men Drew Moor and Clint Irwin were part of the championship-winning Rapids in that one.

Seattle Sounders forward Jordan Morris greets fans who gathered to send off the team after MLS soccer training, Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2016, in Tukwila, Wash. The Sounders were scheduled to travel to Toronto later Wednesday to prepare to face Toronto FC in the MLS Cup Saturday, Dec. 10, 2016. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Seattle’s Jordan Morris (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

[ MORE: PST’s Michael Bradley interview ]

Toronto will bring star power to go with a challenging formation; While accolades rightly go to Jozy Altidore, Michael Bradley, and Sebastian Giovinco, the Reds’ 3-5-2 under Greg Vanney features versatile wide men in Steven Beitashour and Justin Morrow.

Seattle is powered through Nicolas Lodeiro, the ex-Boca Juniors playmaker who has been nearly as effective as Giovinco (albeit with a smaller MLS sample size). Goalkeeper Stefan Frei, the ex-TFC man, has been very good at the back, but can the Sounders’ back line handle Altidore and Giovinco?

The metronomes could be the difference. Bradley’s been good for TFC, but Osvaldo Alonso gave an MLS MVP caliber performance this season.

[ MORE: PST talks with Ozzie Alonso ]

What they’re saying

Toronto FC keeper Irwin on the weather: “It’s probably the most difficult part. As a field player, you can move around. You’re warmer, more active. At this point, there’s not much we can do other than bundle up, and I’ll stay moving back there.”

Seattle forward Jordan Morris on Lodeiro“The first thing Lodeiro said to me is, ‘When I get the ball, you just run.’ I think of him like a quarterback.”

Prediction

Look to the engine rooms here. Alonso is a handful and a magnificent passer of the ball. On his day, Bradley is even better. Will it be? Neither player will shirk from pressure. We’re thinking extra time after a 1-1 match. And Toronto’s depth and home field will propel it to a 2-1 win.

Follow @NicholasMendola

Premier League Preview: Leicester City vs. Manchester City

LEICESTER, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 29:  Bacary Sagna of Manchester City clears the ball from Riyad Mahrez of Leicester City during the Barclays Premier League match between Leicester City and Manchester City at The King Power Stadium on December 29, 2015 in Leicester, England.  (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images
Leave a comment
  • Man City leads all-time 53W-29D-28L
  • Leicester took 4 of 6 pts last season
  • MCFC won previous four

To cure what ails, Leicester City has to knock off one of the top contenders to its Premier League throne: Manchester City (Watch live at 12:30 p.m. EDT Saturday on NBC and NBCSports.com).

There are some advantages for Leicester, though, as Fernandinho and Sergio Aguero are suspended for their red cards picked up the loss to Chelsea. Pep Guardiola used Pablo Zabaleta next to Fernando in the UCL draw with Celtic, and looks set for the same come Saturday.

Leicester rested the majority of its starters in a 5-0 loss at Porto this week, following up a 2-1 setback at Sunderland that left the champs just two points ahead of the 18th and 19th placed clubs in the PL.

What they’re saying

Leicester boss Claudio Ranieri on the task at hand: “I was waiting for a period like this. Now it’s important to react with a big effort together from the team. That is my focus now. We have to be focused on these matches until Christmas Day. We have to get points. We need points and we have to fight. This part of the season is our key moment. I think every match gives us an opportunity. We have to fight. I repeat, we have to fight.”

Man City’s Pep Guardiola on Zabaleta’s positional change“But I think Pablo Zabaleta can play in the middle – he is very experienced and he can play there as he did very well against Celtic. I think in the last years of his career he’ll play more in the middle and it gives us another option.”

Prediction

As much as the injuries hurt Man City, there’s certain harm in the wounded unit that fell 3-1 to Chelsea. We believe the Foxes will strike, but Kelechi Iheanacho has proven more than a suitable fill-in for Aguero. Man City 2-1.

Follow @NicholasMendola

Prince-Wright’s Premier League picks – Week 15

Leave a comment

Week 15 of the Premier League is here.

[ STREAM: Every PL game live ] 

If you, like me, love to dissect all the games and predict what the score will be and which team will win, I encourage you to get involved in the comments section below. Let’s have a bit of fun.

Okay, so I’ve consulted my crystal ball and here’s how we see things panning out. Click play on the videos below to hear my score prediction and preview of each game.

[ VIDEO: Previews of every PL game – Week 15 ]

With the first section labelled “basically, free money” for the picks I think are dead certs. The section labelled “don’t touch this” means if you’re betting I advise you to stay clear, while the “so you’re telling me there’s a chance” section are the longshots. If it is better odds you are after, those are the picks to go for.


BASICALLY, FREE MONEY

Chelsea 3-0 West Brom – (Sunday, 7 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM]

Liverpool 4-1 West Ham – (Sunday, 11:30 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM]

Leicester City 1-3 Man City – (Saturday, 12:30 p.m. ET, NBC) – [STREAM]

Arsenal 2-0 Stoke City – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM]

DON’T TOUCH THIS… 

Swansea City 2-3 Sunderland – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, CNBC) – [STREAM]

Watford 0-1 Everton – (Saturday, 7:30 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM]

Burnley 1-2 Bournemouth – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, Premier League Extratime) – [STREAM]

Southampton 1-1 Middlesbrough – (Sunday, 9:15 a.m. ET, Premier League Extratime) – [STREAM]

“SO YOU’RE TELLING ME THERE’S A CHANCE…”

Man United 1-2 Tottenham – (Sunday, 9:15 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM]

Hull City 2-1 Crystal Palace – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, Premier League Extratime) – [STREAM]