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.

Report: FIFA president Infantino in hot water

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The more things at FIFA change, the more they stay the same.

According to a bombshell report from The Guardian, FIFA president Gianni Infantino was under investigation by the FIFA Ethics Committee before the president disbanded the committee in May. The report states that Infantino spent around $1.16 million on his election campaign, despite declaring publicly he had only spent around $583,000 on flights around the world to meet with national FA presidents.

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The report claims Infantino was also being investigated by then committee chairman Cornel Borbely over whether he influenced the election of a new president in the Confederation of African Federations, or CAF.

FIFA rules state that presidential candidates must declare campaign expenditures publicly.

The latest bad press on FIFA follows the arrest of Spanish Football Federation president and UEFA vice president Angel Maria Villar and his son among other national and regional officials on charges of corruption and improper management.

Villar appeared in court on Thursday, and a judge denied he and his son bail.

Transfer Rumor Wrap: Liverpool rejects Barca bid for Coutinho, Roma offer for Mahrez turned down

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Liverpool isn’t planning on cashing in on one of the Premier League’s stars this summer.

Jurgen Klopp and Co. gave Barcelona a resolute “no” after Barcelona submitted a transfer bid of more than $93 million for Philippe Coutinho. Coutinho signed a new five-year contract with the club in January.

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“The main thing I think about is how we can make the next step with the players we had last season,” Klopp told reporters in Hong Kong earlier this week. “The good news is that actually we didn’t lose – and we will not lose – a player we want to keep this summer. That’s the best news actually and then we’ll see who can bring into the squad.”

Coutinho signed for Liverpool in 2013 but had a breakout year in 2015-2016, earning the PFA Young Player of the Year. Last year Coutinho became an even more consistent goal-scorer and playmaker, scoring 13 goals with seven assists in 34 Premier League appearances.

Keeping Coutinho is of supreme importance for Liverpool, which is back in the UEFA Champions League for the first time since the 2014-2015 season.

(more…)

La Liga releases schedule: First El Clasico coming in December

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It’s Christmas in July for fans of La Liga Friday as the Spanish league published its schedule for the upcoming season.

Defending champions Real Madrid travel to Deportivo La Caruña on August 20, the opening match of the season while its rival Barcelona hosts Real Betis.

As it’s La Liga, the first date most fans searched for was the first El Clasico of the season, and the biennial battles between Real Madrid and Barcelona will take place on December 20 and May 6, with Real Madrid hosting the first match.

The first match comes just ahead of the Spanish winter break, while the second match comes at a busy period at the end of the season, where both teams will be hoping to still be competing in the UEFA Champions League.

Other interesting matches to keep an eye on in the first few weeks of the season include Real Madrid hosting Valencia in week two, the Barcelona derby between Barca and Espanyol in week three and Atletico Madrid taking on Sevilla in week six.

Here’s a look at this year’s La Liga schedule.

Conte: Costa “situation was very clear” in January

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At this point, there is no doubt Diego Costa‘s future lies away from London and Stamford Bridge.

Chelsea manager Antonio Conte broke his silence on the Brazilian-born Spain international striker, saying he’s been ready to move on from Costa since January, when Costa and Conte had a disagreement following a big-money offer from Chinese club Tianjin Quanjian during the winter transfer window.

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“I don’t like to talk about players who are not here but the only thing I can tell you [is that] in January, the Costa situation was very clear, for the club for him and his agent,” Conte told reporters Friday. “For me the situation is closed.”

It’s an amazing turn of events after Costa scored 20 Premier League goals in Chelsea’s title-winning 2016-2017 season, including 14 goals through the end of December. But after falling out with Jose Mourinho a year earlier, the same issue happened again under Conte, with Costa proving much less effective down the stretch.

But Conte and Costa were able to put their differences aside on the field, photographed multiple times hugging after wins, as well as after winning the title.

Costa is reportedly now agitating for a move back to his former club Atletico Madrid, but the Spanish club’s transfer ban until the next window complicates matters. In a World Cup year, would Costa be willing to sit out half a season just to leave Chelsea?

If Costa’s time in the Premier League is up, he’ll go down as one of the league’s best pound-for-pound goalscorers. He scored 52 goals in 89 Premier League appearances, with seven more cup goals in his three-year spell at Chelsea.

And if he is gone, defenders across the Premier League will sure be happy to wave goodbye.