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.

Pochettino calls out Xavi for Dele Alli-Man City “lie to lie to lie”

Photo by Dan Istitene/Getty Images
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“He tried to destroy our focus to win because he hates me because he’s Barcelona.”

Even half-kidding, the Derby Barceloni is alive and well for longtime Espanyol man Mauricio Pochettino and Barcelona legend Xavi.

At least that’s why the latter is trying to sabotage the former’s Premier League title fight, Pochettino says.

[ RECAP: Chelsea 4-2 Saints ]

Speaking from his club team in Qatar, Xavi claimed that Manchester City is going to bid high for Spurs’ young star Dele Alli.

Tottenham boss Pochettino says that’s just not true. Pochettino was joking a bit when he answered questions on the topic, but then told a story about Xavi diving for a penalty in the derby. Here are a few of his thoughts, from The Telegraph:

“It wasn’t a penalty but Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored for Barcelona and they won the game. After in the replay it was very funny because it was clear no one touched him. Come on! It goes from lie to lie to lie.”

“He is working for Manchester City, maybe? He wants to help Guardiola and [Vincent] Kompany.”

Boa Esporte goalkeeper back to prison as murder appeal denied

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The risk clearly wasn’t worth it for Boa Esporte.

The Brazilian club signed Bruno Fernandes de Souza in March, not long after the convicted murderer and goalkeeper was released from prison on appeal.

Fernandes, 32, had been jailed for ordering the murder of a lover, who was fed to dogs by the killer. Boa Esporte lost several big sponsors for signing him, but vocally defended the move.

The owner, Rone Moraes da Costa, said he’d rather move the team than not give Fernandes a chance to revive his career. Fernandes admitted his mistakes but said he wasn’t “a bad guy”.

According to the Associated Press:

“Brazil’s Supreme Court decided on Tuesday to deny an appeal to Boa Esporte goalkeeper Bruno Fernandes de Souza, who was released in March while appealing a 22-year sentence in the 2010 killing of Eliza Samudio.”

So it’s back to jail for Fernandes, and we’ll be waiting with baited breath to hear from Boa Esporte’s owner.

Conte: Chelsea “ready to fight to the end”

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Following Saturday’s FA Cup semifinal win over Spurs and Tuesday’s blowout of Southampton — the 4-2 score line didn’t tell the story of the second half — Antonio Conte is fired up for Chelsea to complete its Premier League title run.

The manager admits that his side was under pressure after Spurs narrowed the table gap to four points last week, but the wins have eased the Blues’ burden.

Chelsea had lost two of four PL matches before the weekend.

From Football.London:

“I think we passed a big, big psychological step after the defeat to United. We lost three points and had to prepare a semi-final against Tottenham and then another tough game in the league. In that moment we had a really important test and our answer was very good.

“We must think that this race is open, we have reached the final of the FA Cup. The situation in the league is totally open. We are ready to fight to the end. We must be proud for the job we are doing and to fight to the end.”

Spurs can bring the gap back to four with a win at Crystal Palace on Tuesday, but have a tougher run-in with five matches to play. As long as the gap is within six points, anything is possible, but the Blues have certainly answered the bell over the past four days.

Chelsea: Big win “feels like a massive step” to title

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“It feels like a massive step to be honest,” said game-changing goal scorer Gary Cahill of Chelsea’s 4-2 win over Southampton at Stamford Bridge on Tuesday.

Chelsea’s Premier League lead stands at seven points after the win, which saw a dominant second half from the hosts.

[ RECAP: Chelsea 4-2 Saints ]

Perhaps it was cued up by Cahill’s first half stoppage time header, which boosted the Blues to a 2-1 lead just before the whistle.

Cahill darted in front of Diego Costa‘s scissor kick attempt to power a header past Fraser Forster.

“(Costa) tried to claim it afterward as well,” Cahill said. “When the ball’s just lofted over, it’s dying to be attacked. We went into halftime with our tails up and it was a big boost for us.”

Cesc Fabregas said Southampton surprised the Blues tactically, leading to an entertaining first half that could’ve seen either side ahead before half.

“We needed a little bit of time to adapt to what they did because we prepared for something else,” he said.

Fabregas said the win was big with second-place Spurs watching at home. Tottenham plays at Crystal Palace on Wednesday.

“We needed a good response after the Man United game. We have to keep going with five games to go, to keep it up and make the last push. It would be a big shame if now we relaxed. We just have to push now more than ever,” he said.

“It’s a statement for (Spurs), for us, for everyone, but most of all for us.”
Eden Hazard agreed.
“We scored four beautiful goals,” said the Belgian, who scored the game’s first goal. “It’s good to play before and put pressure on them.”